Mandatory Energy Audits?

December 22, 2008

Governor Ted Kulongoski of Oregon is proposing a program that would require all buildings sold in the state to be tested and rated for energy efficiency.  The plan would take effect in 2011 for houses and 2012 for commercial buildings.

“With escalating energy prices, a homeowner or small business person has a right to know the energy performance of a home or building they invest in,” reads a draft of the bill provided by the governor’s office.  This quote points out the positive aspects of such a program.  It would provide incentives for new buildings to be built more efficiently, as they would qualify for special funding programs and would be more attractive to potential buyers.

There are some problems with the plan, however.

Older homes and buildings, which abound in Portland, would be rated lower than buildings built with new technologies and materials.  The good news is, many of these homes and buildings could be updated with windows and additional insulation, and would have greatly improved efficiency numbers.  This puts an additional burden on the seller, possibly, unless the buyer was willing to look past the less efficient building and purchase it for its historical character or some other reason.

The other problem with the plan is that there is no designated measurement tool to determine the efficiency of buildings.  Several programs are available, including the national Energy Star tool, and a local program called Earth Advantage.  Both programs require buildings to be at least 15% more efficient than code. 

The Energy Trust of Oregon is currently conducting a pilot project with 200 homes using the Earth Advantage certification program.  The aim of the project is to find the least expensive and quickest way to provide energy audits and provide certification to building owners.  Results are expected at the beginning of the new year.

“Hopefully this program will serve as a model for the state and the country,” said Kendall Youngblood, a residential sector manager for the Energy Trust. “We’re designing it as an education piece for the homeowner, so they start to understand homes are associated with carbon emissions.”


Photo courtesy of Sean Dreilinger on Flickr through a Creative Commons License.



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.