Aim is to make sure Energy Star new-home rating signifies “meaningful improvement” in energy efficiencyIn a blog posting a couple weeks ago, GBA senior editor Martin Holladay summarized findings of energy consultants who had collected data on the performance of Energy Star homes.The consultants’ findings, which were presented during a workshop at the ACI Home Performance conference in Kansas City, made Energy Star look as if it was wheezing significantly behind the efficiency standards now at the forefront of green building, and even behind minimum building code in some communities.The Department of Energy’s Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the Energy Star rating program, has, to its credit, been hammering out new guidelines that it says will “ensure that homes that earn the label continue to represent a meaningful improvement in energy efficiency over homes that that are built to code or standard builder business practices.”Let the debate begin. The EPA says it will accept comments on its proposed Energy Star 2011 guidelines through July 10, 2009, and will post a summary of comments soon afterward. (Click here for a PDF of proposed national program requirements; click here for a PDF of proposed quality checklists.)To earn the Energy Star rating, the EPA says, houses will be required to undergo checklist inspections in the following areas:– Proposed quality framing– Proposed HVAC quality installation contractor– Proposed HVAC quality installation rater– Proposed thermal bypass checklist update– Proposed indoor air quality– Proposed water-managed constructionBased on the EPA’s proposed implementation schedule, homes permitted on or after January 1, 2011, will be required to meet Energy Star 2011 guidelines to earn the Energy Star. Homes permitted before January 1, 2011, can continue to be qualified using the current guidelines until July 1, 2011, when all homes must be qualified under ENERGY STAR 2011 regardless of the date of permitting.The EPA says the phase-in period may be accelerated in states with advanced energy codes to ensure that the Energy Star requirements are above-code in those states.