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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the successful completion of the first four homes in New Orleans to meet its Builders Challenge level of high energy performance. These homes in the Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans are the first four of 20 pilot homes being built by Project Home Again of New Orleans, La., a nonprofit development group created by the Riggio Foundation of New York, N.Y. DOE's Builders Challenge is a voluntary national energy savings initiative that calls for the U.S. homebuilding industry to build 220,000 high-performance, energy efficient homes nationwide by 2012. A high-performance home would use at least 30 percent less energy than a typical new home built to meet standards of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code, which is a generally recognized voluntary industry standard.

"DOE is pleased to be involved in this effort to provide energy-efficient housing to victims of Hurricane Katrina," Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Steve Chalk said. "It is estimated that each high performance homeowner will enjoy energy bills that are 30-40 percent lower, resulting in a savings of up to $1,000 per year over the life of the home."

The Builders Challenge is an initiative of the Building America program, DOE's industry-driven research program designed to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced building energy technologies in new and existing homes in partnership with industry. DOE provided technical assistance to Project Home Again through DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and one of DOE's Building America research partners, Building Science Consortium (BSC), to identify cost-effective strategies to achieve this high-performance standard.

These strategies include a very efficient building envelope that includes spray foam insulation and low-e windows; installing an efficient heat pump with whole-house dehumidification; ductwork within the conditioned space; and Energy Star certified lighting and appliances. In order to meet the Builders Challenge requirements, a high-performance home must score a 70 or lower on DOE's EnergySmart Home Scale (E-Scale), which rates a home's energy performance, enabling homebuyers to make smart energy decisions when purchasing a home. The Project Home Again homes will achieve an average E-Scale rating of 66.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, DOE provided New Orleans with on-the-ground-support and technical assistance to encourage energy conservation in the rebuilding of the city. In addition to working with residential builders, this assistance includes energy policy support to the City Council Utility Committee; energy audits on all existing K-12 schools to identify measures to lower energy use; and energy modeling support to design teams so new K-12 schools will achieve energy savings of 30 percent over the existing code requirements.

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Jennifer Scoggins (202) 586-4940