Zero Energy Ready Multifamily Homes!

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program has, since 2013, led the way to more efficient, durable, and healthy homes for Americans across the country.  As the nation strives to meet the goal of a decarbonized economy by 2050, the ZERH program has taken the next step by developing new program requirements for multifamily buildings. Previously, only multifamily buildings up to 3 stories tall were eligible for certification.  Now, the new ZERH program requirements allow projects of any height.  As part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, the New Energy Efficient Home Credit (often referred to as 45L) makes ZERH-certified multifamily buildings eligible for a tax credit of $1,000 per dwelling unit, which can increase to $5,000 per unit if certain wage requirements are met.

According to a 2021 report from DOE, “Integrating Health and Energy Efficiency in Multifamily Buildings,” approximately 80 million Americans live in some type of multifamily housing, and that number is growing. In 2022, the National Home Association of Builders reported that multifamily housing starts increased 9.3% compared to just 5.7% for single-family starts. Multifamily housing also plays an important role in the affordable housing sector as low-to-moderate income Americans occupy approximately 60% of multifamily housing units in the country, according to DOE’s Low-income Energy Affordability Data Tool. Multifamily housing is a critical segment of the housing industry. Growing interest in the ZERH program and IRA tax credits, including 45L, has made the creation of ZERH requirements for multifamily buildings of all heights a program priority.

The goal of the ZERH Multifamily Version 2 requirements is to increase the efficiency, performance, and electric readiness of new multifamily buildings, and to align the compliance and certification processes with the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction program. 

In March 2023, the ZERH program released a draft of the requirements for public comment. Feedback received during that public comment process has led DOE to update its Version 1 requirements, released as  Revision 9.0, to ease the  transition to Version 2 and allow for expanded eligibility to all multifamily buildings sooner.

Version 1, Revision 9.0 is required for multifamily projects with permit dates before Jan. 1, 2025 (based on permit issue date, not permit application date). The final ZERH Multifamily Version 2 program was published in November 2023 and will be required for projects with permit dates on or after Jan. 1, 2025 (based on permit issue date or permit application date). The implementation dates for all ZERH program versions are posted on the DOE ZERH Program Requirements webpage.

A summary of changes from Version 1 to Version 2 is available here. Key updates in Version 2 include:

  • Requires certification under ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Version 1.2.
  • Requires certification under Indoor airPLUS V1 (for permit dates on or before Dec. 31, 2025) and Indoor airPLUS V2 Certified tier (for permit dates on or after Jan. 1, 2026).
  • Increases the efficiency of envelope and window specifications.
  • Includes photovoltaic-ready and electric vehicle-ready checklists tailored for multifamily buildings.
  • Incorporates electric-ready provisions to accommodate future heat pump installations for space and water heating.
  • Provides three pathways for certification: Energy Rating Index (ERI), ASHRAE 90.1, and Prescriptive.
  • For projects using the ERI pathway to certification, scores in the 40s are typically required to meet the minimum required efficiency threshold. The ASHRAE and Prescriptive pathways are both designed to achieve a similar level of energy efficiency.


Home of the Month

Crown Street by Haynes Construction

2021 Housing Innovation Award Winner

This affordable, multifamily project in Seymour, Connecticut won a DOE 2021 Housing Innovation Award in the Affordable Housing category. Haynes Construction, in partnership with Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, achieved a per-unit airtightness as low as 0.5 air changes per hour at 50 pascals pressure differential, and each unit achieved a home energy rating score of 31 without photovoltaic. For this project, what makes the builder most proud is knowing that “every tenant is realizing significant energy savings and increased indoor air quality in a high-performance home.”

See the home on the DOE Tour of Zero!


ZERH In the News

Custom Builder: How the Zero Energy Ready Home Update Emphasizes Resilience and Decarbonization

Dallas Morning News: Beazer Homes is First National Homebuilder to Build 100% Zero Energy Ready Homes in D-FW 

Builder & Developer: Transforming the Residential Landscape (page 34)


Upcoming Education

The Energy & Environment Building Alliance is hosting two in-person training events this spring in Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minnesota (Apr. 30-May 1, 2024) and Denver, Colorado (May 8-9, 2024). These two-day trainings cover ZERH Version 2 and ENERGY STAR NextGen certification. More information and registration links are available here.



See this newsletter in its original format here.