Time has come forWERS

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - WATERENERGYNEXUS - DOUG PUSHARD

I can’t be­lieve we are in the 21st cen­tury and we have no water-use rat­ing sys­tem. For al­most 20 years, the en­ergy sec­tor has had a home en­ergy rat­ing sys­tem (HERS), which yields a score for com­par­ing homes on a scale of 0 to 100, lower be­ing bet­ter. Very sim­i­lar to the gas mileage sticker on new au­to­mo­biles, it pro­vides a mea­sure of how a home should per­for­mover time with av­er­age us­age.

AlthoughHERS is not per­fect, it does al­low home shop­pers to com­pare new homes against each other. Most home builders through­out New Mex­ico have been build­ing with this tool for nearly a decade. It has spawned a newin­dus­try of in­de­pen­dent home en­ergy raters.

The new Santa Fe Green Res­i­den­tial Build­ing Code low­ers the ac­cept­able HERS num­ber for new homes from 70 to 65. “Most homes in the area are al­ready at 61,” per Kim Shana­han, ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders As­so­ci­a­tion, “so low­er­ing the score to 65 should not add to the costs of most new homes.”

The newWater Ef­fi­ciency Rat­ing Score (WERS) was in­vented with the as­so­ci­a­tion’s as­sis­tance and sim­i­larly rates homes on a scale of 0 to 100. It has been in de­vel­op­ment for over two years and tested on over a dozen homes in the Santa Fe area and nu­mer­ous homes in other ar­eas of the coun­try. One of the tool’s foun­da­tions is the EPAWaterSense pro­gram, which is a pre­scrip­tive ap­proach for new homes. The prior ver­sion of the city’s Green Build­ing Code, also based on theWaterSense pro­gram, was a com­pli­cated 33-page check­list of items from which builders could choose to be in com­pli­ance. There was min­i­mal on­site check­ing to en­sure th­ese items were in­stalled or work­ing prop­erly.

TheHERS pro­gramis based on in­de­pen­dent third-party ver­i­fi­ca­tion that is paid for by the builder and is re­quired to be turned in to the city prior to com­plet­ing the con­struc­tion of a home. The WERS pro­gram takes the same ap­proach of an in­de­pen­dent third-party rater with the costs borne by the home­builder. This sys­tem en­sures that some­one in­de­pen­dent is ver­i­fy­ing that what was sup­posed to be put in place is ac­tu­ally in­stalled and work­ing prop­erly. The city’s role will be to make sure the in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors are trained, in­de­pen­dent, and do­ing a good job of rat­ing homes.

“Water is the true limit to growth in the South­west,” said Shana­han. “Home build­ing must be­come rad­i­cally more water-ef­fi­cient. The WERS tool can prove that what is planned will be true. If homes dou­ble their ef­fi­ciency then we have twice as many homes that can be built. Cut it to zero and the lim­its to growth are abated. We knowhow to do this now.”

Santa Fe has been a leader in water con­ser­va­tion for sev­eral decades. Th­ese very suc­cess­ful ef­forts have driven down our over­all water de­mand, while the pop­u­la­tion has in­creased. WERS is the next-gen- er­a­tion ap­proach to water con­ser­va­tion. It eval­u­ates the whole-house water us­age, some­thing that has not been pos­si­ble be­fore. It is a new tool whose time has come.

Doug Pushard, founder of the web­site www.Har­vestH2o.com, has de­signed and in­stalled res­i­den­tial rain­wa­ter sys­tems for over a decade. He is a mem­ber of the Santa FeWater Con­ser­va­tion Com­mit­tee, a life­time mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Rain­wa­ter Catch­ment Sys­tems As­so­ci­a­tion, and an EPAWaterSense Part­ner. He can be reached at doug@Har­vestH2o.com.

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