It seems like yesterday I was returning from Scottsdale, Arizona after attending the annual Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) conference during the last week of February 2020, when within a month, the world would come to a screeching halt.

Fast forward to last week in San Diego, which was the first full RESNET Conference since the pandemic. RESNET hosted several virtual conferences and one regionalized live conference in Austin, but there is simply no substitute for live, in-person networking. This year’s event had the feel of a reunion. The location was the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa in the Mission Beach district just outside the city.

The trade show included conference regulars such as The Energy Conservatory, Retrotec, Owens Corning, John Manville, Aeroseal, TruTech Tools, ICC, Broan, and Ekotrope. My colleague Mark Smith established a Phius presence with our own table and fielded numerous questions over the three days.  

After pre-conference sessions on Wednesday, I attended an evening event with the Northeast Home Energy Rating System Alliance (NEHERS). As a former board member and VP of this organization, it was great to see many of my colleagues from ABA, McGrann, PSD and others, and discuss issues affecting the rating industry in the Northeast and Phius requirements.

The conference kicked off in earnest Thursday morning with opening remarks by Executive Director Steve Baden and a video message from California Congressman Mike Levin. RESNET Board President Mark Johnson also took the opportunity to welcome everyone and recognize the RESNET staff, board members and volunteers that make the organization and conference work. Steve reviewed some of the goals for RESNET, including reaching the milestone of 1 million homes rated, per year by 2025, leveraging the Carbon Emissions Rating Index (CRI) as well as the HERS H2O and the 45L tax Credits through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) program certification.

"The HERS Industry is alive and well and with an ever-increasing awareness of Phius as the pinnacle of energy performance, interest in our program continues to grow."

This was followed by Rob Wick, Vice President of Finance and Corporate Development for Meritage Homes. Mr. Wick provided an outlook on the single-family homes market and in particular the build-to-rent market. The overall sense was the market was still robust despite rising inflation and interest rates. Builders will pivot to satisfy the market demands, most notably the shift to rentals as opposed to outright home ownership. He highlighted the essential need for high-performance, HERS rated homes as a value added to their housing stock.

Some themes of the Conference were the increasing demand for environmental/social/governance reporting, and many of the national builders are including HERS Index scores as part of their corporate reporting. As a result, RESNET has appointed a RESNET ESG Advisory Committee to look at and anticipate the needs of builders for this type of reporting.

Sessions provided throughout the afternoon on Thursday and all day Friday included updates and nuances of the 45L Tax Credits. EPA’s Jonathan Passe provided details on some of the language issues embedded in the legislation that are creating confusion with versions of the EPA and DOE Programs. The most notable is the language requiring Energy Star Certification for homes based on the acquisition date, as opposed to the DOE ZERh Program which is based on building permit date. The acquisition date has not been fully defined by the IRS and is causing consternation among builders and raters trying to comply. This has consequences for Phius projects since acquisition, permit and Phius certification dates can impact Phius projects in development.

I was able to finish the first day attending sessions on blower door testing methods used for multifamily buildings, updates within the 2024 IECC Residential Chapter, and the challenges of enforcing energy codes and how to improve the relationship between code officials and raters in an effort to increase compliance.

Friday’s opening session included remarks from Phil Crone of Leading Builders of America and an assessment of the near-term and mid-term outlooks for the housing market. He seemed to provide a positive outlook, despite the challenges with lingering supply chain issues, increased building material costs, high interest rates and an uncertain long-term financial outlook for the country. He noted, despite these challenges, homes are still being constructed and sold, with HERS Rated and high-performance homes providing features homeowners are looking for.

Yours truly provided a Phius 101 presentation featured as part of the “New Opportunities for the Rating Industry” track. I was able to discuss an overview of the Phus program standard, the various building and individual certification levels, the history of its development, the QA/QC process and why Phius was targeting experienced HERS Raters to become Phius Raters & Verifiers. We had a dozen or so individuals attend. Despite the light attendance, we did have 17 people express interest in Phius Rater or Verifier training.

I completed the day by attending two sessions. The first was a Department of Housing and Urban Development presentation on how they are considering requiring compliance with 2021 IECC as a baseline for qualifying for their mortgage products. The second was for updates to the EPA’s Indoor airPLUS program and the pending release of Version 2. This program has been significantly updated and will be released in early 2024. It includes two levels of certification, one with, and one without Energy Star Certification as a prerequisite. It has yet to be announced which of these will be required by the DOE ZERH program. This has significant consequences for Phius projects since both are prerequisite programs for Phius certification.

In closing, I was able to have a conversation with Steve Baden and keep the lines of communication well established between our two organizations. RESNET will have a regional conference next year in Washington DC that will be more focused on government affairs. They then plan to return to the traditional February/March schedule for their conference in 2025. 

Overall, the conference was attended by 300 + Raters and industry advocates from all across the US. The HERS Industry is alive and well and with an ever-increasing awareness of Phius as the pinnacle of energy performance, interest in our program continues to grow.