Below we will discuss many different energy certifications and construction strategies to
consider when planning to build a high performance custom home. These sections include:

Energy Star
Zero Energy Ready Home
LEED Certification
Passive House


After you read about the Energy Certifications, you’ll then get down into some additional
information about other green and sustainable technologies including:

ZIP System Wall Sheathing
NuWool & Foam Insulation
Exterior Insulated Facade System
Photo-Voltaic Solar Panels
Geothermal HVAC Systems
Green Roofs and Purple Roofs
Solar Collector Water Heaters

View of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio from Adams Edge Apartment complex on Mt. Adams

Downtown Cincinnati as seen from our 63 unit, LEED certified Adams Edge Apartment building


Energy Star Logo


US Department of Energy and US Environmental Protection Agency

ENERGY STAR® is a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). Its goal is to help consumers, businesses, and industry save money and protect the environment through the adoption of energy-efficient products and practices. The ENERGY STAR label identifies top-performing, cost-effective products, homes, and buildings.

Since inception, ENERGY STAR has shown impressive results: in 2010 Americans saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars, while saving nearly $18 billion on utility bills.


Building a new home that complies with Energy Star requirements can offer numerous benefits, both in the short term and over the life of the home. Energy Star is a program created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in residential and commercial buildings. Here are some of the key benefits of building an Energy Star-compliant home:


– Lower Energy Bills: Energy Star homes are designed to be highly energy-efficient, resulting in reduced utility bills. These homes typically consume 20-30% less energy than standard homes, leading to substantial cost savings over time.



– Reduced Carbon Footprint: Energy Star homes use less energy, which means they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This helps mitigate climate change and reduce your home’s environmental impact.



– Consistent Temperatures: Energy Star homes are better insulated and equipped with high-performance windows and doors, leading to more consistent indoor temperatures and improved comfort year-round.

– Improved Indoor Air Quality: Energy Star-compliant ventilation systems help maintain a healthier indoor environment by reducing pollutants and allergens.



– High-Quality Construction: Energy Star requirements often entail higher construction standards and quality control, resulting in a more durable and longer-lasting home.

– Reduced Maintenance: Improved construction practices and materials can reduce the need for frequent repairs and maintenance.


Increased Home Value: Energy-efficient features, such as Energy Star appliances and insulation, can increase the resale value of your home, making it more attractive to potential buyers.



Financial Incentives: Many governments and utility companies offer incentives and rebates for building or upgrading to Energy Star homes, further reducing the initial construction costs.

Tax Benefits: In some regions, homeowners may be eligible for tax credits or deductions for energy-efficient home improvements.


Modern Technology: Energy Star homes often incorporate smart and energy-efficient technologies, such as programmable thermostats, which provide greater control and convenience.

– Noise Reduction: High-quality insulation and windows in Energy Star homes can help reduce noise from outside, creating a quieter living environment.



Water Efficiency: Energy Star homes may include water-efficient fixtures and appliances, helping reduce water consumption and lowering water bills.



Improved Health: Better indoor air quality and reduced exposure to pollutants can contribute to better overall health and well-being for occupants.



Meeting Energy Star requirements can help ensure that your home complies with local building codes and regulations, which may be increasingly focused on energy efficiency and sustainability.


Building an Energy Star-compliant home requires careful planning and attention to detail, but the long-term benefits in terms of cost savings, environmental impact, comfort, and resale value can make it a worthwhile investment. Additionally, it contributes to the broader goal of reducing energy consumption and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Zero Energy Ready Home Logo


US Department of Energy

What is a DOE Zero Energy Ready Home?

A DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a high-performance home that is so energy efficient that a renewable energy system could offset most or all the home’s annual energy use. Each DOE Zero Energy Ready Home meets rigorous efficiency and performance criteria found in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements. Most types of new homes in the U.S. are eligible to participate in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program, and the homes are verified by a qualified third-party as part of the certification process.


Building a new home that complies with Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) requirements offers numerous advantages, with a strong emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability. Zero Energy Ready Homes are designed to produce as much energy as they consume over the course of a year, making them highly efficient and environmentally friendly. Here are the key benefits of building a ZERH:


SIGNIFICANT ENERGY SAVINGS: Zero Energy Ready Homes are designed to be extremely energy-efficient, resulting in significantly lower energy bills compared to standard homes. These homes use advanced insulation, high-performance windows, and energy-efficient
appliances and HVAC systems to minimize energy consumption.



Reduced Carbon Footprint: ZERHs use renewable energy sources, like solar panels, to generate as much energy as they consume. This approach reduces the carbon footprint of the home, helping combat climate change.

Resource Efficiency: ZERHs often incorporate sustainable building materials and construction practices, reducing the overall environmental impact of the home.



Consistent Temperatures: ZERHs are designed to maintain consistent indoor temperatures throughout the year, providing greater comfort to occupants.

Better Indoor Air Quality: ZERHs often feature advanced ventilation systems that help filter and circulate fresh outdoor air, leading to improved indoor air quality.



High-Quality Construction: ZERHs typically adhere to stringent construction standards, resulting in a more durable and resilient home that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Reduced Maintenance: The use of high-quality materials and construction practices can reduce the need for frequent maintenance and repairs.



Lower Operating Costs: ZERH homeowners enjoy lower monthly energy bills, which can lead to significant long-term cost savings.

Increased Home Value: Energy-efficient features and renewable energy systems can increase the resale value of ZERHs, making them attractive to potential buyers.



Financial Incentives: Many governments, utilities, and agencies offer incentives and rebates for building or upgrading to Zero Energy Ready Homes, which can offset the initial construction costs.

Tax Credits:
In some regions, homeowners may be eligible for tax credits or deductions for energy-efficient and renewable energy improvements.


Reduced Reliance on Grid: ZERHs generate their own energy, reducing dependence on the grid and potential energy disruptions.


Improved Health: Better indoor air quality, fewer allergens, and a more comfortable living environment contribute to the overall health and well-being of occupants.


FUTURE PROOFING: ZERHs are designed with future energy standards and regulations in mind, ensuring that they remain energy-efficient and compliant with evolving building codes.


CONTRIBUTING TO SUSTAINABILITY GOALS: Building a ZERH is a significant contribution to reducing overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with global sustainability and climate goals.


While building a Zero Energy Ready Home may require a higher upfront investment compared to a conventional home, the long-term benefits in terms of energy savings, environmental impact, comfort, and resilience can make it a wise choice, especially for environmentally conscious homeowners looking to minimize their carbon footprint and energy costs.

US Green Building Council Logo


US Green Building Council

LEED certified green buildings are better buildings.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the world’s most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED certification provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings, which offer environmental, social and governance benefits. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, and it is backed by an entire industry of committed organizations and individuals paving the way for market transformation.


Building a new home that complies with the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements offers numerous benefits, encompassing sustainability, energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, and occupant health and comfort. LEED certification is a widely recognized and respected standard for green building practices. Here are the key benefits of building a LEED compliant home:



Reduced Environmental Impact: LEED homes are designed to minimize their environmental footprint by using sustainable materials, reducing energy and water consumption, and promoting responsible land use.



– Lower Energy Bills: LEED-certified homes are highly energy-efficient, resulting in significantly reduced energy bills compared to conventional homes. This is achieved through features like advanced insulation, high-efficiency HVAC systems, and renewable energy sources.



Reduced Water Usage: LEED homes incorporate water-efficient fixtures and landscaping, reducing water consumption and lowering water bills.



Enhanced Ventilation: LEED homes have superior ventilation systems that ensure a continuous flow of fresh air, promoting healthier indoor air quality.

Low-VOC Materials: The use of low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials and finishes reduces indoor air pollutants, benefiting the health of occupants.



Use of Sustainable Materials: LEED encourages the use of environmentally friendly and locally sourced building materials, supporting sustainable supply chains and reducing the carbon footprint of the home.



High-Quality Construction: LEED homes are built to rigorous standards, resulting in a more durable and resilient structure that can withstand extreme weather conditions.



Long-Term Savings: LEED certified homes typically have lower operating costs due to reduced energy and water consumption, making them cost-effective over the long term.



– Tax Credits and Incentives: Depending on the location, homeowners may be eligible for tax credits, rebates, or other financial incentives for building a LEED certified home. In Cincinnati, the City of Cincinnati and Columbia Township are two jurisdictions that provide for real estate tax abatements for LEED certified homes.



Increased Home Value: LEED certification can enhance the resale value of the home, as it signifies a commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency that appeals to environmentally conscious buyers.



– Positive Community Impact: LEED certified homes contribute to the development of sustainable and eco-friendly communities, promoting responsible urban planning and development.



Environmental Stewardship: Building a LEED certified home supports broader environmental goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving natural resources.



– Enhanced Comfort: LEED homes are designed to provide greater comfort for occupants through features like consistent temperatures and improved air quality.

– Healthier Living: Improved indoor air quality and the use of non-toxic materials contribute to the well-being of those living in LEED-certified homes.



Learning Experience: Building a LEED home can be an educational experience, helping homeowners understand sustainable building practices and encouraging responsible living.


While achieving LEED certification for a home may require careful planning and investment, the long-term benefits in terms of sustainability, energy efficiency, health, and cost savings make it an attractive choice for those committed to green building and environmental stewardship. LEED homes serve as a model for sustainable living and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future.

Passive House Institute US Logo


Passive House Institute US

Passive building is a set of design principles for attaining a rigorous level of energy efficiency while also creating comfortable indoor living spaces. These principles can be applied to all buildings, including single-family homes, multifamily apartment buildings, schools, skyscrapers and more. Using continuous insulation throughout the building envelope to minimize or eliminate thermal bridging. Building a well-detailed and extremely airtight building envelope, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air while increasing envelope durability and longevity. Employs high-performance windows (double or triple-paned) and doors – solar gain is managed to exploit the sun’s energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season. Using some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation to significantly enhance indoor air quality. Minimizing the space conditioning system because of lower space conditioning loads.


PRINCIPLES OF PASSIVE NET ZERO ENERGY BUILDING: These are the core concepts behind the holistic PHIUS passive building standard, creating structures that are better for people and planet.

THERMAL CONTROL: Thermal control helps keep the inside warmer when it’s cold outside, and cooler when it’s hot outside to maximize comfort and energy efficiency.

– High-Performance Enclosure – Continuous insulation throughout the entire building enclosure helps to reduce a buildings heating and cooling needs and improves comfort.

– Thermal Bridge Elimination – Thoughtful, thermal-bridge-free enclosure design eliminates “cold corners,” minimizes risk of mold growth on the interior, and improves comfort.

AIR CONTROL: Passive buildings achieve air control by air sealing the enclosure and then providing balanced, mechanical ventilation to achieve superior indoor air quality.

– Airtightness: Airtightness is cornerstone to passive building design for both durability of the enclosure as well as energy savings achieved by minimizing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.

– Balanced Ventilation with Heat & Moisture Recovery: With an airtight enclosure, continuous, balanced ventilation is absolutely critical to indoor air quality (IAQ). Passive buildings continually exhaust air from bathrooms, kitchens and other areas with stale air and supply fresh air to living and working spaces.

RADIATION CONTROL: Controlling solar radiation is key for optimized design and preventing overheating in passive buildings. PHIUS-optimized buildings balance solar radiation — taking advantage of it when needed and shading when not to lighten the cooling load and maximize energy efficiency.

– High Performance Glazing: Passive buildings employ high-performance windows (double- or triple-paned windows depending on climate and building type) and doors with additional focus on proper solar heat gain and orientation in design.

– Shading and Daylighting: Appropriate shading strategies exploit the sun’s energy in the heating season and minimize overheating during the cooling season. Daylighting can be a critical passive strategy to reducing lighting loads in non-residential buildings and improving indoor environmental quality (IEQ).

MOISTURE CONTROL: Passive buildings require special attention to moisture control both in proper vapor and moisture control design for the enclosure as well as the mechanical systems needed to maintain appropriate moisture levels in the space.

– Material Moisture: High performance enclosures in passive buildings require attention to detail when it comes to appropriate vapor control design.

– Air Humidity: Proper mechanical system selection and commissioning is critical to maintaining comfortable and safe moisture levels inside passive buildings.

BETTER FOR YOU, YOUR BOTTOM LINE AND THE PLANET: Passive design is a holistic approach that takes every last factor into account, down to heat emissions from appliances and occupants. The best way to build passive is the PHIUS standard and accounts for the overwhelming majority of passive buildings in North America.

– Unmatched Comfort: Superinsulation and airtight construction means you’re always comfortable, no matter the weather outside.

– A Healthy Environment: Breathe continuously ventilated, filtered air. Reduce contaminants. Prevent mold.

– Undeniable Value: Large buildings can achieve certification more easily thanks to efficiencies of scale, and carry lower cost premiums than smaller ones.

– Resilient, Durable Structures: PHIUS’ comprehensive approach to design, construction and quality assurance results in buildings that are resilient and built to last.

– Peaceful, Quiet Spaces: Being in a PHIUS building is like driving a luxury car: outside noise is nearly non-existent.

– The Fastest Track to Zero: Passive building principles offer to best path to net zero and net positive buildings, because they are built correctly from the start, reducing the renewables load.


– Building to the PHIUS standard costs only 3-5% more than conventional building methods.

– PHIUS certified buildings perform up to 85% better than conventional buildings.


ZIP System Wall Sheathing
NuWool & Foam Insulation
Exterior Insulated Facade System
Photo-Voltaic Solar Panels
Geothermal HVAC Systems
Green Roofs and Purple Roofs
Solar Collector Water Heaters

Photo Credit: Daley Design + Build


High Performance Air Barrier

Installing OSB (Oriented Strand Board) and Tyvek, as well as Huber’s ZIP System taped sheathing, are different methods used in the construction industry to create a weather-resistant barrier and improve the overall performance of a building envelope.


OSB and Tyvek:


 OSB (Oriented Strand Board): OSB is a type of engineered wood product made from layers of wood strands or flakes. It is commonly used as sheathing in wall construction.


 TYVEK: Tyvek is a brand of housewrap, a synthetic material that is used as a weather-resistant barrier. It is installed over the sheathing to prevent water and air infiltration while allowing water vapor to escape.


● Installation Process:

– OSB is typically attached to the framing of the building to provide structural support and create a surface for attaching other materials.

– Tyvek is then installed over the OSB, serving as a water-resistant barrier. It is typically attached to the framing as well.


● Durability:

– OSB provides structural strength and rigidity to the building. Its durability depends on factors such as the quality of the product, exposure to weather, and maintenance.

– Tyvek is durable and resistant to water, but its long-term performance is influenced by proper installation and maintenance.


Huber’s ZIP System Sheathing and ZIP System R-Sheathing:


● ZIP System Sheathing: Huber’s ZIP System is a combination of structural sheathing and a water-resistant barrier. It comes with an integrated water-resistant coating that eliminates the need for a separate housewrap like Tyvek.


● Installation Process:

– ZIP System sheathing is installed on the framing of the building, similar to traditional sheathing like OSB.

– The seams and joints of the ZIP System sheathing are then taped with a specialized tape provided by the manufacturer. This tape creates an superior air and water barrier.

● Optional Improved Insulation Value of ZIP System R-Sheathing:

– In addition to Huber’s standard line of Zip System wall sheathing, Huber has also released a ZIP System R-Sheathing product that has either 1/2″,  1″,  1-1/2″ or 2″ of rigid foam backing which provide an increased R-Value rating of R-3, R-6, R-9 or R-12 respectively.


● Improved Air Seal:

– The taped seams of the ZIP System sheathing create a much more effective air barrier compared to traditional methods. This can contribute to significantly improved energy efficiency by reducing (or almost eliminating) air leakage through the wall system. A good winter coat needs thick insulation and a wind-proof outer shell. The ZIP System sheathing provides that wind-proof outer shell for a new home.


● Durability:

– ZIP System sheathing is designed to provide both structural support and a water-resistant barrier. The integrated tape system enhances the durability and performance of the overall building envelope.


● Advantages:

– ZIP System sheathing is known for its ease of installation and the fact that it combines sheathing and a water-resistant barrier in one product.

– The taped seams contribute to an improved air seal, reducing the risk of air leakage, which can greatly impact energy efficiency and indoor comfort.


In summary, while both traditional OSB/Tyvek and ZIP System sheathing methods aim to provide a weather-resistant barrier, the ZIP System offers the advantage of integrated water resistance and improved air sealing through the use of specialized tape. The choice between the two methods may depend on factors such as local building codes, climate considerations, and builder preferences – we prefer using ZIP System sheathing when budgets allow.


Photo Credit:


Enhanced R-Value and Air Barrier

NuWool cellulose insulation, open-cell foam insulation, and closed-cell foam insulation offer several advantages over traditional fiberglass batt insulation, providing superior insulation value and enhanced air barrier properties for a building’s envelope.


● NuWool Cellulose Insulation:

NuWool cellulose insulation is made from recycled paper fibers treated with fire retardants and insect repellents. One key advantage of NuWool is its higher thermal resistance (R-value) compared to fiberglass. It effectively resists heat flow, offering better insulation performance. Additionally, NuWool is known for its ability to fill gaps and voids, providing a more seamless coverage that reduces thermal bridging and enhances the overall energy efficiency of a structure. As a blown-in insulation material, NuWool conforms to irregular spaces, ensuring a more complete and effective insulation barrier.


● Open-Cell Foam Insulation:

Open-cell foam insulation is a type of spray foam that expands and fills cavities when applied. It is characterized by its lightweight structure and lower density. Open-cell foam has a high expansion rate, allowing it to reach into tight spaces and adhere to various surfaces. While it has a slightly lower R-value compared to closed-cell foam, open-cell foam excels in providing an excellent air barrier. The foam’s structure restricts air movement, reducing the risk of heat loss or gain due to drafts. Additionally, open-cell foam is known for its sound-absorbing properties, contributing to improved indoor acoustics.


● Closed-Cell Foam Insulation:

Closed-cell foam insulation, another type of spray foam, is denser and has a higher R-value than open-cell foam. It forms a rigid structure after application, providing additional structural support to the building. Closed-cell foam acts as a highly effective air barrier, sealing off gaps and preventing air infiltration. Its rigid nature also adds strength to the structure, contributing to the overall integrity of the building envelope. Closed-cell foam is particularly advantageous in moisture-prone areas as it resists water absorption, helping to prevent mold and mildew growth.


● Advantages Over Fiberglass Batt Insulation:

Compared to traditional fiberglass batt insulation, NuWool cellulose insulation, open-cell foam, and closed-cell foam offer several benefits. They provide a more continuous and seamless insulation layer, reducing the likelihood of thermal gaps and air leaks that are common with fiberglass batts. The spray foam insulations, both open and closed-cell, conform to irregular surfaces, ensuring a tighter fit and minimizing the chances of heat transfer. Additionally, these alternatives are generally more resistant to moisture, preventing potential issues like mold growth, which can be a concern with fiberglass insulation.


In summary, NuWool cellulose insulation, open-cell foam insulation, and closed-cell foam insulation offer superior insulation performance and enhanced air barrier qualities compared to traditional fiberglass batt insulation. These alternatives provide effective solutions for creating more energy-efficient, comfortable, and durable building envelopes.

Building Facade, Custom Home, New Construction, Crabtree Lane, Indian Hill, Cincinnati, Ohio

Photo Credit: Daley Design + Build


Insulated Synthetic Stucco Facade System