Here is the text version of the Zero Energy Ready Home webinar, "2018 Housing Innovation Awards: Application Process and Successful Strategies" presented in April 2018. Watch the webinar.

Alex Krowka:
Presentation cover slide:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home training webinar series. We're excited that you can join us today for 2018 Housing Innovation Awards, the application process and successful strategies. Our presenters today are Sam Rashkin, chief architect of DOE, and Joe Nebbia of Newport Partners. Today's session is one in a continuing series of training webinars to support our partners in designing, building, selling DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes, and in today's case, being recognized for it. My name is Alex Krowka, and I'm the account manager for the program. I'll take a moment to cover some general notes on webinar housekeeping. All attendees will be in listen-only mode, however, we do invite you to ask questions throughout the session in the questions section of the GoToWebinar program. We'll monitor these throughout the webinar and after the presentation we'll have some time to go over your submitted questions that weren't answered during the webinar. This session is being recorded and will be placed on the resources page of the Zero Energy Ready Home website. Please allow some time for this, since it does take a few days to a week to go through the process to be added online. We will notify everyone once everything is uploaded. Now I'm going to hand it over to Sam Rashkin to go ahead and get us started. Take it away, Sam.

Sam Rashkin:
Hey, thank-you, Alex. And what I'd like to do is before I hand off to Joe, give you a larger context for this Housing Innovation Awards program and how important it is to Zero Energy Ready Home. First a couple points. One is that DOE is absolutely convinced that zero-ready homes and buildings are the future. And if nothing else, what drives us to that belief is that these homes deliver such a superior homeowner experience that they have to be where the industry goes. We're in a world as you know where consumer experiences and peer reviews are driving virtually every industry, and every facet of living, working, and just having a total experience in these homes is so much better. So we go through all that in the presentations -- I won't review how and why we get to this outcome. But that is so much what's driving our confidence that the program is truly ready to take a dramatic turn in growth. In fact, we're seeing at this point there are over 10,000 homes committed to the program over the next few years through a tremendous amount of growing interest in what we're doing. So that's where we are, and we're so excited that you're here to at least learn more about the Housing Innovation Award process. We're so grateful to all of you for being partners in the program, and we're really encouraged that you see the benefit of taking advantage of this kind of differentiation. Some setting about what I want to talk about today, is that I want you to understand how important these awards are to the program. We use these awards, in fact, to inform a very significant effort for us to reach out to consumers, the Tour of Zero. So what you will notice as you go through the details with Joe is that a lot of what we ask you to provide in the Housing Innovation Awards application will in fact provide the content we need to populate the Tour of Zero for the homes that are winners or honorable mention homes from the awards process. So in fact, we've reverse-engineered what do we need to engage consumers to see this is the experience they want to have? So this will help you understand why we ask for what we ask. In addition, it helps our jurors really look at three key points for how to select homes. One is of course the technical aspects of the home and how it achieves a Zero Energy Ready Home performance. The second is the architectural appearance of homes because we know design is so critical to putting the best foot forward for Zero. And third will be the marketing solutions that you showcase because we know it's really important to communicate the benefits of Zero to successfully engage the American homebuying public this is the home they want. So that's what this is all about. And the last part I want to just go over before I hand off to Joe is in fact, this is a very tremendous growth period for the program. So that means this awards process is in fact much, much more competitive. It will be more difficult each year as it is this year to get this distinction. It's harder to get this recognition. So do listen carefully to Joe and the details of what you need to provide. We want to make sure that you all provide the best application you can to be considered for this award. So that's mostly what I want to say to queue this up. And again just say how grateful we are that you are participants in the program and in fact so engaged that you are considering this awards process. At this point, here's Joe, and he will give you the full background and details for how to apply.

Joe Nebbia:
Thanks, Sam. Great intro as always. I'm always excited when I hear anyone talk about the Housing Innovation Awards, and I'm especially excited this year. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Joe Nebbia with Newport Partners, and I serve as the operations director for the Zero Energy Ready Home program. I also, as one of my duties there, coordinate the Housing Innovation Awards each year. As Sam mentioned, this process is getting more and more competitive. We have better and better applications every year. So for those of you who are thinking of applying, there is some effort involved. And I'm going to hopefully make the process as clear as possible for you. I'm going to talk about that process. I'm going to then take you through an example application and show you how to fill out the form and upload it. And then finally, I'll talk about some of the tips that we've picked up throughout the years for successful applications and also some things to avoid. And as Alex mentioned, if we have time at the end, we'll do some questions. If we don't get to your question, please feel free to contact me afterward, and I'm happy to talk to anybody.

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So moving forward here, we have just an overview of the process, which I will take you through each of the steps. But I'll highlight the high-level things here. So first you download an application form, and it's important to look at that to see what's necessary. It's more than just address and things like that of the project. There's a lot of energy-savings calculation and a lot of narrative that goes into that application. So please take a look as soon as you can at the application. After you've completed the application and compiled all your supporting materials, things like pictures and floorplans, then you can upload the application. The application portal will be open starting tomorrow and will run through June 15. And then we will -- after you've begun your online application, which you can save and come back to, and uploaded all of your materials, don't forget to press "Submit" at the end so that we get the final product.

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As far as award categories go, we have five categories. First is custom home for buyer. So this is a home that has been built for a specific buyer who's obviously going to be making a lot of the design decisions. So here in this category, you'll be competing against other builders who also had a specific buyer they were designing their home for. And not against say a set floorplan or something of that nature. Next we have the custom spec category. That could be a custom home that's not built for a specific buyer, built to spec, or perhaps it was a home that had a buyer at first and the buyer dropped out and it had to be finished, something like that. It could be a demonstration home, something you're doing for a big show of some sort. And then in some cases it's a production buyer who's just tried one Zero Energy Ready Home, but they haven't implemented the process across a whole line or in a subdivision, and so they're going to compete based on that one-off home. Next we have production homes. So this is homes that are built to a production builder model. They're using standard floorplans with options possibly, but they're all meeting the Zero Energy Ready Home program. And we do have a very low bar to meet there, but you have to have at least certified four Zero Energy Ready Homes since last June -- that's our awards year, June to May -- in order to enter this. So if you are a production builder and you've only done one home or two homes, you would need to enter in that custom spec category. The production category for the awards is for builders who are actually building at some scale and certifying Zero Energy Ready Homes. Next we have multifamily homes. And that is for buildings with three or more dwelling units in them. These could be townhouses. They could be apartment buildings or condos. If you enter in this category, you're entering for the building, but we need you to give us an example unit in that building, as far as energy-savings numbers and HERS Indexes and that sort of thing. So please keep that in mind. And then finally, we have an affordable category. And this could be for-profit affordable builders. It could be nonprofit organizations. It could be government-funded projects. So there are a lot of different things that go into this category. But it's homes that meet an affordable price point. And please keep in mind that you do need to make the case for why this project is affordable if you're going to enter this category.

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New this year in the application: We have updated the application spreadsheet, which I will show you in just a few minutes here. And our scoring sheet that the judges use. A few of the updates that we've added have been requirements to describe cost-effectiveness. And this isn't in any way a means of discouraging high-end homes in this competition, but more focused on cost optimization. So maybe you've got all of the high-end [audio lost] but you have R-90 in the attic and you stop saving energy after R-65, or something like that. So that's the sort of thing that judges are going to look at in some of their scoring categories. Was this the best way -- most cost-effective way to achieve the performance desires of this project? Also, optimized efficiency, we are looking at that, or our judges are looking at that. So the concept there is we want to see energy efficiency optimized before adding renewable energy. And in fact, some of our projects don't use renewable energy at all. But there are some aspects of the application that will ask questions about how the design process and the building process optimize efficiency first before moving on to renewable energy, as opposed to say in building a minimally compliant home and then putting a whole lot of solar panels on the roof. So keep that in mind. We have added a delete button in the application portal. And this is hopefully to make the process easier on you. We had a number of times last year where builders would say, "You know, I uploaded an application, but then I decided I wanted to update a few things; I'd really like to be able to change things. Could you swap out the files?" And we were happy to do it, but there's a lot of back-and-forth that goes on there. So we have added that delete button so that if you added a file to your application you can take it back and substitute it for something else. Or if maybe you find a better photo or maybe you uploaded the same file twice accidentally, you can delete one of those files. Then finally, just a reminder there are no extensions. June 15 is the deadline. And we are asking for 5 p.m. Eastern time for all applications to be turned in. Last year, I think I was on the phone with at least two different builders at midnight helping them with their applications. And while I was happy to be staying up, I'm not checking my email every minute of the day, at midnight. So the responsiveness isn't necessarily going to be what it would be during office hours. So we're going to try to limit the application time period and end at 5 p.m. Eastern time so that I can actually be there and support you at the last minute.

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So what do the Housing Innovation Awards do for you as a builder? Well, first of all, we have quite a bit of recognition that comes with this. This is a national award, and the competitors in this award are all Zero Energy Ready Home builders, builders in the top 1 percent of the country. We have a great award ceremony at EEBA, at the high-performance home summit, every year. This year it's in San Diego in October. At that award ceremony we will present the winners with their award, and we do have a number of winners in each category. And then our judges also select one grand winner for each category. And those grand winners are not revealed until the award ceremony itself. So we'll have a big reveal there, where we'll celebrate all of the winners and especially the grand winners.

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At that conference, there will also be a poster on each of the winning homes that Pacific Northwest National Lab does a great job developing. Those will be on display at the EEBA summit. So you can as a builder stand next to the poster, talk to people who are interested about it, and really interact with people who are interested in high performance and energy efficiency. That's always a good time.

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Finally, you'll get an invite, if you reach the honorable mention level, the winner level, or the grand winner level. We will extend an invite to you to attend a builder roundtable the day before the summit starts. That's October 15 this year. And one of the great things about that opportunity is, it's a chance for you as participants in the Zero Ready program to give us feedback on what we're doing well, what we're not doing well, areas you need more help or more materials, more support, what can we change about the program to make it work better. So it's your chance to get in a room with peers, building the same type of homes, and then also talk to us directly about what you'd like to see moving forward in the program.

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And finally, builders have done a great job leveraging this award to promote themselves as builders and their projects, whether it's using sample press releases released by the Department of Energy, having local articles done on them in newspapers or magazines or indie news stories. There's been quite a bit of press about these awards for the builders who have won them.

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And then finally, builders using social media, Facebook, Twitter, to promote their awards. And this tends to be the largest driver toward builders' profiles on our website and their Tour of Zero profiles. So if you've got one of these homes highlighted on our website, builders who take advantage of social media to drive traffic to their site tend to be the builders who have the most visited sites. So that's a positive and something that you'll get out of this. The idea here is that we really want to celebrate you, the real innovators in this industry and the builders who are setting themselves apart.

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Now that I've talked a little bit about what the awards are, I'd like to talk about the application process. So I'm going to switch off from a PowerPoint here and go into an actual application.

Browser windows and sample sheets:
So this is what the application spreadsheet looks like. I'll show you where to get it. You can either get it on the Housing Innovation Awards site, which you'll see here on the screen; just Google "Housing Innovation Awards" and you'll get here very easily. You click, you can see applications open May 1, so tomorrow this should be changed to say applications are open. You'll see here there is a number of instructions about how to apply and you'll notice there's an application form link. This is where you can download that application spreadsheet. You can also download it from your DOE Zero Energy Ready Home partner profile, which I will show you in a minute. Finally, the other thing you can get on this page is our scoring sheet that the judges use to evaluate your application. It's helpful to look at this as a builder because it helps you to know the weighting of the different categories, what the judges are looking for specifically, and what you might be able to put in your application to make sure that you're catching their eye. Please do take a look at that as you go through the application spreadsheet. It's structured in the same way as far as order of categories as the application itself. So hopefully it will be easy to follow.

So back to the application spreadsheet. We have a number of tabs here. And this can look a little bit daunting if you haven't seen it before. But the purpose, as Sam mentioned, is that all of the details that we get in this spreadsheet are then used to create our online Tour of Zero. So none of this information is wasted. We're not asking you for information that we're not going to use. And if we don't get it in this fashion, then in the past what had to happen was the Pacific Northwest National Lab team would have to call you and interview you and have a whole lot of questions. And there may be some follow-up questions even now, but as it is, we've cut down significantly on that time by using this form. So if you look at the instructions, it's going to be the same thing that's on that website. It tells you the process and the deadlines and all that sort of thing. Now, if you go next to the documentation tab, you'll see this is a checklist for your benefit. It's to tell you, do I have everything, am I ready to apply? So application form, that's what we're working on now. Is my home Zero Energy Ready Home certified? Do I have the certificate on hand? My Indoor airPLUS certificate? Do I have all the photos I need? Because we do require a number of photos, and I'll talk about them in a moment. Do I have floorplans? Have I gotten any of my bonus categories in? And you'll see down at the bottom, now that I've checked the required checkboxes, it says good to go. So that gives me a little signal that I'm not forgetting anything. One of the biggest things that ends up disqualifying an application is that it's incomplete and it's not containing one of the required pieces of information. So that's the application tracker, and you can go back to that at any point. And -- or that's, excuse me, the documentation tab.

The application tracker will show you what's been completed. And you'll notice here that I checked off all my documentation, so that's now showing as complete. Everything else is incomplete. And as you fill out this application, you can keep going back to this application tracker and see, have I done everything? You don't want to, say, leave out the design category and not put any content there, and then find out you've missed out on those three points because you didn't fill it out. So you'll see the next tab is general information. So I can put -- I can see my different category options here. I can select my category. So let's say I'm going to do a multifamily project and I've got a multifamily building. You'll notice here I now have zero questions in this small subsection left to answer. But if I look here for the address, then it still tells me I have four questions. So this is meant to be a reminder, and if I put some information here, you'll notice that I will then have a completed section. So here we turn green and it tells me I've got zero left. So there's sort of a little feedback mechanism there. This is where we ask questions -- you know, what other certifications do you have? We're looking for what kind of energy-savings numbers you have. And just as a note here, your energy rater, your verifier, should be able to supply any of these numbers. The HERS Index, annual energy bill estimates, energy cost savings, and energy savings. All of these are possible to be generated using their HERS software. If you're using solar, we're looking for the numbers with and without solar. So again, we can distinguish between efficiency and generation. If you don't have solar, just put "n/a" in that category, so we know not to look for that.

Next tab deals with performance. And we're looking for details here about efficiency, durability, indoor air quality, what's going into the home. This is sort of a technical section, and we're looking for as much detail as you can give here. So don't just tell me it's a 2-by-6 wall. Tell me that it's a 2-by-6 wall at 24 on center with loose fill insulation, plus rigid foam. Tell me what R value you've got there. If there's some sort of specific technique you're using. Anything you can do to highlight the technical details about what makes this home special. And as you fill these out -- I'm just going to put something in each file -- or each cell -- so I can show you the end product. As you fill this out, you'll notice at the bottom you now have zero questions to answer. And if I look back at the application tracker, I now notice that performance is complete. And I've still got a few other categories to finish. But I know that I've done all my performance information.

Next we have land development. This is things like orientation, was it an infill project where you used an existing foundation, was it something where you were a builder who took over a development that had failed and finished it. Let us know what you've done with site development. Are there sustainable practices that you're using? So I'm just going to type something here, and now you'll see I've answered that question. Again, we're looking for much more detail than I'm typing here. Design: This is architectural style, it's interior decorating. Then it's also how are you using, in your design process, maximizing efficiency first before you're moving to generation, again. How are you maximizing the cost-effectiveness of the project? So that's what we're looking for in design. So I'll type something here. And you'll notice, again, that it's completed. Quality construction: We're looking for what kind of meetings you have with your team, with your subs, to ensure quality. What kind of inspection processes you have in place. Do you have a formal quality assurance program that you participate in? How are you getting everyone on board? I know one of the things we hear from a lot of our partners, a challenge to building these types of homes, is getting all of your subcontractors and trades on board with what you're trying to do, and make sure everybody's on board with the program requirements. So we'd like to see some narrative on that.

For business metrics, any details you can give on how Zero Energy Ready Home is a success for you as a builder. So we're not looking for something like, "Well, we sold the home, so it must have been a success." Looking for more detail than that. We know that, for example, there's not going to be a builder out there who continues building these homes if they're losing money on every home, right? So you have to be able to keep your business going. So we want to know why this process is successful for you. Is it cutting your time of sale? Is it increasing your media coverage? How is it benefiting you, from a business standpoint? So please give us details on that. If you're a nonprofit builder and business metrics aren't as important to you, you know, think about how is this program aligning with our goals or our mission and the mission of our organization?

Sales and marketing: This is, you know, marketing materials, what is your approach to marketing your Zero Energy Ready Homes, or your company in general. How are you reaching out to consumers? How are you telling the consumers about how their home works differently? We're looking for good examples of your marketing approach here.

And finally, we have a bonus category. And although this isn't required, I'm going to recommend that all of you do as much here as you can. It really can make a difference in the end, as far as the grand winner category goes, and winner selection goes. So again, please do fill these out if you have them. Homeowner testimonial: This could be a quote from the homeowner or occupant. We do also get the question, you know, "I'm a production builder, and I've got a whole bunch of homes. I'm using this one as my example, but it's not moved in yet. Can I use another homeowner quote?" And the answer is yes, you can. We'd like it to be from a similar type home, and also it does need to be from a Zero Energy Ready Home that's been certified. So we wouldn't be looking for a substituted quote from, say, one of your standard homes, and you've only done one Zero Ready Home. We're really looking for the experience that's happening in this home. And the judges will give first preference to a quote that obviously comes from the actual home. So that's the best case. So you can type the quote in there. Even better, if you have a homeowner or video or audio testimonial, or a recording of some sort, that's even more powerful. We can link that in the Tour of Zero if you have that. Please don't try to upload the video to your application. You can put a link, upload it to YouTube or something like that, put a link here or you can say, "Link in Word file," and you can upload that Word file with your application. Definitely don't try to upload a video file; the system won't accept it. Then next, if you have utility bills or if you're monitoring the home using some sort of equipment and can give actual energy performance data, those files you can also send. And again, say, "Utility bills in PDF," and you can attach that separately.

And then finally, for bonus categories, we have the "Your Story" section of the application, which has a lot to do with who you are as a builder and your relationship with the Zero Ready program. Again, these are used in the Tour of Zero profiles, and it helps our team to compile a story about who you are as a builder and what makes you special. So please take the time to fill this out, even if you have no homeowner quote or video and you don't have utility bills, everybody should be able to fill out this section and get at least one bonus point. So please don't skip it.

So I've gone through the whole application. And again, we're looking for as much detail as you can give us. And you'll see all of these sections are complete. Bonus will always just say optional, because you don't have to fill that out. Now, I have a few things that are still incomplete. So I can go to things like my general information. I notice I didn't put my energy savings in here. So if I put a whole bunch of numbers here, you'll notice that all of a sudden tells me I'm complete. And if I go back, that section is now actually completed, performance information. So you can do that. Once you see all green here, you know you're complete and that you're ready to start the upload. That's the application spreadsheet. Hopefully it's not too daunting. If you do have questions about it, please let us know.

I'll just show you this real quick, as well. This is the scoring sheet that judges will use when reviewing your application. You'll notice the criteria category sections are the same: performance, land development, design, quality construction, business metrics. All of these will mirror what's in the application. And we're looking for real complete answers in each of these sections. Please do download this and take a look at it. If you can't find it, I'm happy to send it to you in an email. But this will help you, hopefully, to really know what to shoot for, what to aim for, in your application.

So next I'm going to take you through an actual application upload. If you look here, this is our partner log-in site on the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home website. So you go here, you should have a user name and password. If you're not a registered Zero Energy Ready Home partner, you're probably a little bit late to the game for this round, but I'm happy to help you get signed up if you're not. So please let us know, and we can tell you how to do that. I'm already logged in over here, and I can show you how to upload an application. So this is the normal landing page for your partner profile, once you've logged in, where you can get your marketing materials, and upload your logos for your Zero Ready partner profile. But you'll notice there's also an HIA application link, Again, that won't be live today. It will be live tomorrow for you to start uploading application materials should you choose to do that. So if I can go to "HIA Applications," you see I've worked on a few here already. I'm going to create a new application. So I clicked on that. And you'll notice again that I have a chance to download that application spreadsheet here. I see my deadline and where the award ceremony will be. So if I were doing an application, this is where I would go first to download that application form. It's the easiest place to find it, once I'm in my partner profile. And I can start the process. At any point during this process, I can save this application, go out and do something else. So I'm going to do an application that's going to be multifamily this time. So I'm just going to name it "Multifamily 1." The name is because maybe you have applications in multiple categories. So if I save that, you'll see application name has been saved. And I'm going to choose down here my category, multifamily. I can save it as much as I want, and I can come out here, check my marketing materials for something, and come back, and you'll notice that it's saved in the system. I can go in and modify. If I decide, oh, you know, I should be going production with this, I can do that. But I can change it back to multifamily if I decide to do that. It's going to say "Update" instead of "Save" once you come back in, but it's still the "Save" button. The message says, "Application name has been saved," but it's actually the entire application.

Now you'll see here is where you're going to upload photos. This really helps us to avoid emailing big files -- you to me, and also from me to the judges. We can access all these files on a server. It prevents a lot of issues with large files. So first I'm going to find my application spreadsheet. Now once you've created an application, I really do recommend compiling all of the files that you're going to upload and getting them together. Use that checklist in the spreadsheet. Make sure you have everything and then start uploading. If I click "Add Files" here, I can go into my files and click my application. And then if you go down to the bottom of the screen, you'll notice "Start Upload." And I have this button here. And it takes a moment. But then I now have my application spreadsheet in. Now, let's say, like I mentioned before, I realize I have a typo in my spreadsheet and I want to change that. I can go in and delete that, or you can, rather. And now the file's gone again. I can go back up and add a file again, and I'll choose this one this time. And I'll see that and can upload it. Now it was possible in the old portal to upload all of your files at once, but we found that the system was losing files that way, and it would tell you to upload something you'd already uploaded. So you have to do one at a time. It'll take a few more seconds, but hopefully it will save a lot of time on the back end. Zero Ready Home verification report or certificate: You don't have one of these and your home's not fully certified, then you're not eligible to compete in this project. So ask your HERS rater for this, please; they can print it from their HERS software. And this is how we know the home is eligible. So you can upload that and go down and same process for each file.

Now I'm going to go to the floorplan section. We do require a floorplan for every application. Again, we include this in the online Tour of Zero. And I'm going to upload my floorplan. And it's in there. Now I'm going to go to photographs. And we do have a few requirements related to photographs. There's a minimum of 10 required. Many builders submit many more than 10. But you have to give us at least 10. I recommend as many photos as you can give us, to give the judges an idea of what makes your project special. I can add files here. So I go to my photos and I look for a front elevation finished file. We are looking in this for a high-resolution photo, and we've got some specs here we're asking for. That will be used in your poster. So now that I've uploaded that, I can go up and look for the other finished elevations. These don't have to be high-res if you don't have that. But the one photo, we are hoping to get a high-res photo. You'll notice down here I've got three elevations. We do require a minimum of three exterior elevations. And now I've uploaded all three. So I'm going to go to the next photo category.

So next I have finished interiors. We require a minimum of three interiors. I will grab three interiors here and submit those. And you'll see I now have them to upload, as well. And now that I've got my interior photos, I'm going to add some photos of the home under construction. Any construction detail you can give us that tell a part of the story of the performance of the home are good. So again, same process on these photos. And then finally, if you have anything that just doesn't fit any of those categories, or you've got more photos of one of those categories, you can put it in the other photo field and upload those photos. And then there are a couple of optional categories. Again, I recommend putting things in this category. If you have marketing materials like a flier, you can add that. If you have anything else like a link to a video, which we already talked about, you can add those documents. So I recommend giving us any detail you can to tell us about the success of your home. Articles that have already been published on the home, things like that.

Then once you have everything in place, don't forget to push "I Agree." This allows us to use all of these materials to create the online Tour of Zero. And then press "Submit." And you go up, and you should get this green message that says it's been submitted. You should receive an email. If you don't receive the email, don't worry. A lot of times it gets caught in spam. But also feel free to contact me and ask me if it's in. I can check. Now let's say after that I realize, oh no, I pressed "Submit," and I messed something up. I've got to change something. I go back and I look and I see this item here, you'll see has been submitted. When the application is live, you'll have an opportunity here to reopen the application. You can unsubmit it, so to speak. And if you have trouble with that, I can also do that on the back end, as well, and reopen something, as long as it's before the application deadline. And then you can resubmit. Please don't forget to push "Submit." Every year we have a few builders who work on an application and never submit it. And while I'll contact you and say, hey, you've still got an open application, in the end, you've got to be the one who submits it. So please do make sure you do that. So that's the application process. That's the portal. And I'll talk a little bit now -- we have a few minutes left here -- about what works, what doesn't work, and some things to remember.

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Common questions I get: Can I apply if my home is not a certified DOE Zero Energy Ready Home? The answer is no. This competition is entirely restricted to homes and builders participating in the Zero Energy Ready Home program. It's meant to highlight those builders, people who are participating in our program. So if it's a LEED Platinum or a National Green Building Standard certified, or it's Built Green, or it's some other program, that's great. It has to have officially gone through the Zero Energy Ready Home certification process in order to be able to compete. So those other programs, while impressive, don't actually qualify it unless you're also getting the Zero Energy Ready Home program certification, which many of them will certainly qualify for. Next is do I have to answer all of the required fields or all of the required sections? And the answer is yes. If you don't do that, your home will not be competitive. So let's say you just don't have anything to write on land development. You've got to find something to talk about. Three points in the application dedicated to that section, and you don't want to get a zero because you put nothing there. One other thing about certification of Zero Energy Ready Homes: We do require that the certification be finalized by the deadline. That doesn't mean that necessarily we've gotten the report yet, but the HERS rater needs to be able to print you the finalized certificate that's been released by their HERS provider, so that you could upload it into the system. The certificate does need to be done because we can't have a home that is submitted -- maybe it's in process and you think everything's going to qualify, and it gets selected for an award, and then we have to tell the judges midway through the judging, no-no, that actually didn't get a certificate. It failed in one area that was missed. And now you've done a lot of work reviewing a project that's not going to qualify. So that's important. Can I submit more than one home? The answer is yes, but I would recommend only doing that, first of all, if you have different categories. Possibly the custom homes, maybe you'd submit to in the same category. But if you've got maybe a production home and an affordable home, or a production home and a multifamily home, those are sort of different products that you could submit. If you're a production builder who does a hundred homes a year, we don't want a hundred homes submitted. Pick one as an example. Even if you're a custom builder, one of the mistakes I often see is people will put in multiple applications, but all of the applications are maybe B or C level, as opposed to an A level application. I would really recommend getting one A level application, really complete, solid application, in, and then if you've got the time to do a second home, do that. But don't let two homes suffer in their application because you didn't have the adequate time to focus on one. Next is where do I upload my application? Hopefully you all know that now, now that we've gone through that process. It's in the application portal in your partner profile. My files won't upload -- what do I do? Please email me or call me. I'll have my contact info up at the end of the webinar. I'm happy to help. I don't want anybody to not qualify because of a technical issue, so please do contact us with any issue you've got. Then finally, I submitted my application -- can I change something? Again, if you're in the portal and you've uploaded the file, you can delete it, and if you've uploaded the entire application, you can still edit it. I can open it for you, or you can open it. So there is a possibility to do that up until 5 p.m. Eastern time June 15.

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Next bit of advice I'll say is please use Chrome or Firefox when you're uploading files. We just find that this has the lowest number of occurrences of problems of any of the browsers. You're allowed to use a different browser, but we tend to see more [audio lost].

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Please do not put any complicated file titles in anything you're uploading. People love to do this, and I understand you have a specific filing system that you're using to keep yourself organized. For your application files, please keep it simple, even if it means breaking your naming system. People love to put punctuation and funny symbols in their file names, but it just gives the database a really hard time for some reason. It's not a reason I can explain to you, but we see a lot of problems with that. You'll see some examples down here at the bottom. If I'm putting in an application, I'm just calling it Newportapplication. If I've got my floorplan, I'm calling it Floorplan1. Don't put an @ in there. Don't put an ! in there. It's going to give you problems.

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Next is please don't upload photos of incorrectly installed material. This is a program that focuses on energy efficiency; don't give us a photo where the insulation is compressed. Or where maybe there's a gap in a spray foam job. Or where a window's got that flashing detail. If you do that, the judges -- this is the construction photo that the judges are looking at. And they think, well, how is this a good example of energy-efficient building? So please be sure to give us -- put your best foot forward in your photos.

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Don't give us photos where you can't see the subject material. Here we've got a photo with a lot of shadow, and it's not an interesting photo, really, to begin with. So make sure you're not doing things like that.

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The next problem we see a lot of is the wrong category. So here's an example, but we see this most often I'd say in affordable. Here we have a large custom home, maybe it's a high-end custom home, and they also have a separate living quarters for their nanny on the property. You see the smaller building in the upper right-hand corner. And they built this home to the Zero Ready specifications. This isn't really an affordable project, as we're thinking of for that category. And the judges are not likely to see it that way. You've got, again, a high-end custom building with a second building on the property; that's probably not going to be appropriate for affordable simply because there's a small living space on the property. So think about that -- is this appropriate for this category? -- before you apply.

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Finally, please don't wait until the last minute. Again, while I'm happy to talk to somebody last minute about your application, the fact is that if you wait until June 14 to download that spreadsheet and start gathering your data, you know, your HERS rater is going to be on a job and they're not going to be able to get you the energy-savings numbers. You're going to be doing five different closings that day and you won't be able to focus on it. There's going to be a computer problem where your Microsoft Excel stops working and you've got to redownload Microsoft or something like that. The DOE website might go down, and you won't be able to upload things, and you're going to be emailing me everything. So please don't wait until the last minute. It's just so much easier if you looked at this. I would recommend as soon as you can, starting tomorrow, looking at the application spreadsheet and portal. Start pulling together your information Don't wait until the last minute.

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Please don't do this: We've got a situation where all that they've entered under business metrics is "We've sold the home." This is not going to make your home competitive. It's not going to make it memorable compared to other DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes. We're looking for more of an understanding of how this process is successful to you as a business.

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And don't do this with insufficient details, you know, where we've got -- for air-sealing we've got "Caulk." Oh, OK, that's part of an air-sealing practice, but we want to know what the foam is. Did you use any specific approaches? How do you ensure the quality of that air-sealing? Give us as much detail as you can.

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Before you submit, again, did I forget anything? Did you have the Zero Ready certification done? Have you filled out the entire application, uploaded all your supporting materials, and have you pressed "Submit"? Please remember all those things. Difference-makers in applications are embracing Zero Energy Ready. In your narrative, talk in every section about how Zero Energy Ready is good for you as a builder, why you do it, why it's valuable.

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Don't forget the bonus categories. Anything you can fill out, please do. And don't forget [audio lost].

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Here's my contact information, phone number, email. Please feel free to contact me with further questions or with difficulties. And with that, I'm going to ask Alex to read a few questions. I will keep the contact info up.

Alex Krowka:
Alright. Thank-you so much, Joe. I think this is -- actually, we all think this is a fantastic opportunity for builders to distinguish themselves so we hope that everyone takes advantage of this opportunity. The first question is, are architects eligible to apply?

Joe Nebbia:
Anybody can fill out the application. So sometimes it's the builder's HERS rater, sometimes it's the builder, sometimes it's the architect. The competition is really a competition about the home and the builders. However, there are some situations in which let's say a designer is working with a homeowner who acts as the GC or something like that on the project, and the designer is really the driver of Zero Ready, that's fine. But we'd like someone to be signed up as the builder in this case. It can be the owner, or the designer can sign up as the builder. There is a requirement for Zero Ready certification that the builder be a registered partner. So someone has to act as the builder in that case.

Alex Krowka:
And speaking of the certification, I believe you already went over this, but just to be clear: Does the project need to have been DOE ZERH certified between June 2017 and May 2018 in order to be eligible?

Joe Nebbia:
That's a great question. It's actually June 15, is the day the applications are done. That's when we stop accepting new certifications and we are essentially looking for homes built within the past year. Now if your home was certified May 31 of last year and you didn't have time to enter it in last year's awards, even a little bit more than 12 months, we're still fine with that. So if you had a project that's a little bit more than a year old but there just wasn't time to get it in last year, you can certainly submit it. But our primary focus is homes that have been completed in the past year. If it's much more than a year, we're not going to consider it. If you've got a question, you wonder whether your home qualifies or not, give me a call or an email. I'll let you know whether it will be accepted.

Alex Krowka:
And then following up on that, for those unable to apply this year but building a home for next year: Is it possible to access a copy of the application, including the rubric, to aid as a checklist in the design of the home?

Joe Nebbia:
Absolutely. The files are publicly available and downloadable now, and the portal will be open tomorrow. Download them, look at them, use them. As far as for next year, I can't promise they'll be exactly the same in that we do, after the process, we go out and ask everybody who participated for feedback. So sometimes we tweak a few things. But they're not usually major things. And I'll cover any updates in this webinar next year. It will be primarily the same application. The other thing I'll say is please look at the Zero Energy Ready Home program requirements, which will give you the actual program requirements that should go into the design of the home, as well.

Alex Krowka:
And as a follow-on comment to that: If you have any questions regarding building a home, feel free to use us as a technical resource. Joe's contact info is on the screen. You can also email me, as well, and we can certainly help answer any questions that you may have, if you're just getting started building a Zero Energy Ready Home. And then this is the last question at the moment, so if anyone else has any other pressing questions, make sure to enter them into the GoToWebinar program, otherwise we'll end on this one. For the finished elevation photos, is it preferred that they are all from the house being submitted for an award, or can we also include photographs of the same finished home plan or similar floorplan?

Joe Nebbia:
That's a good question. We do need the photos to be of the actual house that's being competed. If you're doing a lot of the same model, you can add marketing materials about the plan in general. Maybe you've got a shot of the whole screen or something like that. But we do need the photos actually to be from the homes that are being entered.

Alex Krowka:
Great. Thank-you. So like I said, that was the last question. I'm just going to wait about 10 seconds here, just in case anyone else has any more questions that they thought of. Again, if you have any questions or concerns, Joe's contact info is up on the screen, or you can email me, as well. It looks like that is it for the questions that we have. So thank-you, Joe. Thank-you, everyone, for attending. We hope that everyone who has built an eligible home goes ahead and applies for the award. This is a great way to distinguish yourself from your competition, distinguish yourself as one of the top 1 percent of builders in the nation. And we encourage everyone to apply. So thank-you again, everyone, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. Have a good one. Bye.