Archive for the ‘Green Building’ Category

Santa Monica adopts Zero Net Energy Code for all new single family construction

Monday, June 19th, 2017

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On May 1, 2017 Santa Monica became the first city to adopt zero-net energy (ZNE) requirements.  The State of California is planning to implement such a code state-wide but this will not be implemented until the 2020 T-24 code cycle so Santa Monica is out in front with net-zero.

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The basic premise of ZNE requires projects to generate enough of their own energy from renewable energy sources (solar PV for example), to equal what they use from the utility grid over the course of a year.  For now this requirement only applies to new residential projects, not additions or alterations.

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However the ZNE requirement is parallel to the city’s Energy Reach Code which requires all new low-rise residential projects to be designed to use 15% less energy than the allowable energy budget established by the 2016 California Energy Code (Title-24).  This presents some challenges as projects that may comply with the reach code (15% better than T-24) may not comply as a ZNE project.  Conversely projects that can demonstrate ZNE compliance may still fall short of the 15% better than T-24 energy use.  One does not always equal the other.

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This new code update became effective May 1, 2017.  This emphasizes the importance of getting your Title-24 Energy Consultant involved in your project early in the design process as most projects will struggle to comply and will involve a lot of back and forth as different design and energy saving strategies are modeled, tested and revised to get the project over the finish line cost-effectively.

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Link to news release

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Link to detailed ZNE and Reach Code explanation

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Upcoming webinar: Understanding the new 2016 Title-24 Residential Energy Code

Friday, February 17th, 2017

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“That was one of the best webinars I’ve ever attended.  Clear, concise, linear, well moderated, and presented.  You’ve got my recommendation if you ever need it.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I thought the presentation yesterday was excellent!  You presented the material in an engaging fashion, and the information was easy to comprehend.”

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“Your webinar was extremely well done.  Please put me on your mailing list for future events.  I have recommended to my GC and his electrician that they should attend next month.”

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The new 2016 Title-24 Building Efficiency Standards take effect January 1, 2017.  These changes will have a significant impact on building design and construction.

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The new webinar will discuss the major changes to the new energy code and demonstrate compliance strategies that allow you to bring your project into compliance with the new code cost effectively and with more allowable glass area than you would think possible.

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This new webinar class will address the big questions from architects, builders, developers, and homeowners:

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How can we cost-effectively comply with the new Title-24 requirements?

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What forms are we responsible for?

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What HERS third party inspections are required and what forms/paperwork are required for these inspections?

This class will examine new Title-24 compliance strategies and options can provide essential leverage tools to allow even problem projects to comply with the new much tougher Title-24 energy code and avoid common mistakes that can jeopardize compliance and final inspections.

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Feedback from those who have attended our webinars

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Webinar date:

Friday, March 17th,  2017

9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

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Who should attend:

Architects, designers, contractors, LEED AP’s

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Cost:  $65.00

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Subscribe

New webinar: “The New 2013 Title-24 Residential Energy Code”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

“That was one of the best webinars I’ve ever attended.  Clear, concise, linear, well moderated, and presented.  You’ve got my recommendation if you ever need it.”

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“I just wanted to let you know that I thought the presentation yesterday was excellent!  You presented the material in an engaging fashion, and the information was easy to comprehend.”

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“Your webinar was extremely well done.  Please put me on your mailing list for future events.  I have recommended to my GC and his electrician that they should attend next month.”

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The new 2013 Title-24 Building Efficiency Standards take effect January 1, 2014.  These changes will have a significant impact on building design and construction.  If you’ve been worrying about the new Title-24 energy code this is the webinar you’ve been waiting for!

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The new 2013 Title-24 Energy Code is roughly 20-25% more restrictive than the current 2008 version.

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New forms, new mandatory requirements, and now for the first time solar photovoltaic panels can be used as credits in the compliance analysis.

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This new webinar class will address the big questions from architects, builders, developers, and NSHP applicants:

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How can we cost-effectively comply with the new Title-24 requirements?

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What forms are we responsible for?

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What HERS third party inspections are required and what forms/paperwork are required for these inspections?

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This class will examine new Title-24 compliance strategies and options which can take your project beyond the minimum Title-24 code requirements by 15%, 35% and more for Reach Codes such as LEED and the NSHP.

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Feedback from those who have attended our webinars

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Webinar date:

Monday,  January 20, 2013

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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Who should attend:

Architects, designers, contractors, LEED AP’s

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Cost:  Free


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Subscribe


Forget Big-Box Stores. How About A Big-Box House?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
The architecture firm HyBrid, which specializes in designing buildings from recycled shipping containers, created this solar-powered house for Sunset Magazine.

Amy EastwoodThe architecture firm HyBrid, which specializes in designing buildings from recycled shipping containers, created this solar-powered house for Sunset Magazine.

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May 30, 2012

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When it comes to architecture, sustainability and affordability can mean many things: Salvaged wood becomes new flooring, old newspapers are shredded into insulation.

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But a few architects are taking green building one step further: creating entire homes and businesses out of discarded shipping containers — an approach some have dubbed “cargotecture.”

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Approximately a quarter-million shipping containers pass through Oregon’s Port of Portland each year. These are big boxes — 40 feet long and weighing thousands of pounds.

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“As you look across the container terminal here, they look like giant, multicolored Legos stacked up out there,” says port spokesman Josh Thomas. Each one is full of cargo moving in or out of the Portland region.

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Shipping containers are ubiquitous on trucks, trains and ships today; about 20 million pass through American ports each year. But as critical as they are to modern life, the containers date back fewer than 60 years.

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“We started to see containerization,” the freight shipping system based on the boxy containers, in the 1950s, Thomas says. “And since then, increasingly, just about anything that can be shipped inside of a container is.”

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But traveling so many miles takes its toll, and eventually the containers are retired. Some are melted down, and some sit around old lots.

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And some become buildings — like taquerias.

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Portable Buildings With A Story

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The southeast Portland restaurant Aprisa Mexican Cuisine is one of them. Kirk Lance bought the old container that houses the restaurant for $2,500. He worked with architects and structural engineers to overhaul the steel frame, spray in insulation and cut out windows.

Before: Kirk Lance worked with architects and engineers to overhaul a steel shipping container to house his Mexican restaurant.

Aprisa Mexican CuisineBefore: Kirk Lance worked with architects and engineers to overhaul a steel shipping container to house his Mexican restaurant.

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“There’s no construction methods that are extremely intricate or technical,” Lance says. “Other than getting the blueprints permitted through the state of Oregon,” he adds. “That was technical. But the construction itself? Fairly simple.”

After: The cargo container is now home to Aprisa Mexican Cuisine in Portland, Ore.

EnlargeAprisa Mexican CuisineAfter: The cargo container is now home to Aprisa Mexican Cuisine in Portland, Ore.

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A cargo-based business is flexible, as well. It can be hauled to a new location or loaded on a cross-country train to set up a new franchise.

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But for Lance, cargotecture was about more than just portability.

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“This thing, it’s had a life,” Lance says. “It was born somewhere, and it’s traveled the world and hauled millions of pounds of who-knows-what. And it ends up as a little restaurant in a street corner in Portland, Ore.”

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The buildings are popping up elsewhere, as well. Cargotecture designs have been used for student housing in Amsterdam and a pop-up art studio at New York’s Whitney Museum.

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A Seattle firm, HyBrid Architecture, has used shipping containers to build cargotecture one-room cabins and multistory office parks.

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HyBrid co-founder Robert Humble says the containers pose some specific challenges: They have industrial paints and coatings to deal with, and they’re just steel boxes with no real frame. But essentially, he says, it’s a building material.

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“The mechanical equipment, the plumbing, the electrical, is really quite traditional,” Humble says. “But it is that wrapping in a container that allows the house to be so portable, so flexible and overtly sustainable on the outside.”

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Like many in the cargotecture movement, HyBrid emphasizes that sustainability in its designs. The company leaves on the original stickers, longshoreman’s marks, and all the other little dents and dings that, as Humble describes it, tell people the story of where the containers have been.

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“They can imagine the container on a ship, they’ve seen it on a truck, and they kind of take an emotional journey with that container,” Humble says. “And finally, it’s at rest, and they can live in it.”

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‘Better Than A Lot Of Apartments’

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As Nick Radecki and Kelly Cook do. They rent a bright turquoise house made from two welded-together shipping containers in southeast Portland.

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“It’s a big bathtub — shower up in the ceiling, pedestal sink, nice window,” Radecki says, showing off the bathroom. “It’s better than a lot of apartments.”

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More On Cargotecture

A front view of the shipping container office building

Building An Office Of Shipping Containers

Architects recycle the familiar steel boxes into relatively cheap, unique homes and living spaces.

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Cook, Radecki’s wife, initially took some convincing. And the couple has had to deal with the pros and cons of an open floor plan, as well as curious people who stop in to ask for a tour.

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But the couple likes that the home is recycled. And ultimately, Radecki says, it’s a good house.

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People often say they want a green house, Radecki says, but “truth be told, the only green home is a well-built home.”

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Although with two young boys, two dogs and a cat, Cook and Radecki both admit it may not be long before they outgrow this particular piece of green cargotecture.

Los Angeles DWP to relaunch Solar Incentive Program Sept. 1

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Solar panels

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L.A.’s Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved a plan Tuesday to relaunch its Solar Incentive Program, and the Department of Water and Power will resume accepting applications for the program Sept. 1 at 10 a.m. The program was placed on hold April 9 because demand for solar incentives exceeded available funds by a factor of three to one.

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“As we relaunch the Solar Incentive Program in September, it is extremely important that we leverage the incentives to achieve the most solar power and encourage as much participation as possible,” DWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols said in a statement. “We also want to grow solar at a steady and sustainable pace while being prudent about the cost to all customers who pay for this program through their rates.”

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The DWP has increased the budget for the Solar Incentive Program to $60 million for the current fiscal year. It anticipates adding $60 million to the program annually in 2012 and 2013 as well. The $60 million in rebates over the next three years will be funded with revenue collected from ratepayers’ electric bills.

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For an average four-kilowatt, $32,000 solar power installation, the program previously covered up to 45% of the costs for residential buildings. Through April of this year, the Solar Incentive Program reimbursement rate was $3.25 per watt, or $13,000 for a four-kilowatt system. Starting Sept. 1, the rebate amount will be $2.00 to $2.20 per watt, with the highest rebate amount going to the most efficient systems. A four-kilowatt system with optimum orientation and no shading would be reimbursed $8,800, a less-efficient system, $8,000.

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In a statement, DWP senior assistant general manager Aram Benyamin said, “Now that significant tax incentives are being offered by the federal government, we have an opportunity to reduce our incentive levels to be more in line with market pricing, which should give more customers the opportunity to build solar and increase the amount of solar [photovoltaic projects] that can be built through this program.”

Homeowners who install solar power between now and the end of 2016 can receive a federal tax credit equal to 30% of the system’s cost.

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Many of the area’s top solar providers, including Sungevity, SolarCity, Verengo and SunRun, oppose LADWP’s revamped Solar Incentive Program. They say the reduced incentives would require homeowners who install photovoltaic systems to pay more for electricity than they would without solar panels; the payback period would also increase to as much as 14 years — far longer than other areas in the state. [Updated 8-3-11, 1:10 p.m.: The original version of this post did not include feedback from solar installers.]

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According to Nichols, “In the next few months, we will come back with more leasing options and other proposals for lower-income households.”

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— Susan Carpenter L.A. Times

Photo: Rooftop solar panels. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

The Long, Hot Road to Modern Air Conditioning

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Great article on the origins of modern air conditioning on NPR today.

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Click here to read or listen to story

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Living Very, Very Narrowly

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

by ROBERT KRULWICH

There are two apartment buildings in my Manhattan neighborhood that share a block. They sit very close. One is about nine inches from the other. In the small vertical space between them, a horde of finches have built themselves nest upon nest upon nest rising for nine human floors. It’s a finch skyscraper. In March and April you can see finches busily flying in and out of this vertical crack, bearing twigs, grasses and nest-building material. By my estimate, at roughly 12 nests per human floor, these birds have created a tower that’s 108 nests high — more levels than the Empire State Building.

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Finches can do this because they’re small.

Now a person has decided to imitate a finch.

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Etgar Keret, a writer from Israel, has commissioned what looks to be the narrowest house in the world. Like the finch skyscraper, it will be wedged between two buildings on Chlodna Street and Zelazna Street in Warsaw, Poland. At its widest point it’s four feet across. At its narrowest, it’s just 28 inches, that’s the width of a front door. The bedroom is, by my count (I’m counting books at the head of the bed) 17 books wide: a trip from bed to toilet will require crawling down the mattress, over a chair, down a ladder and then sideways through the dining and kitchen area. Opening a refrigerator will require stepping into a different room, but hey, some people might find this charming.

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Here’s the space.

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Here’s the building-to-be.

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According to Suzanne LaBarre, senior editor at the journal Co.Design:

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When construction’s finished in December, it’ll be the thinnest house in Warsaw and possibly the whole world….[Polish Architect Jakub] Szczesny designed the house to be a work space and home for [Keret]. It’ll also be a “studio for invited guests — young creators and intellectualists from all over the world.” If, that is, they’re willing to drop half their body weight to fit inside.

Kidding, kidding. In all seriousness, though, the house is a pretty remarkable feat of architecture. If everything goes according to plan, Szczesny will manage to squeeze in designated rooms for sleeping, eating, and working. The place will have off-grid plumbing inspired by boat sewage technology and electricity lifted from a neighbor. To save space, the entry stairs will fold up at the press of a button and become part of the first floor.”

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Here’s what it looks like when the first floor is folded up from street level.

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I’m not sure why Mr. Keret wants to live so narrowly. It might be a money thing.

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He’s certainly not following one of the basic rules of ecology, called the “Size/Abundance Rule”, which says bigger animals live farther apart, smaller animals live closer together. Mr. Keret is hundreds (maybe thousands) of times bigger than a finch. His home territory should reflect that. Midsize mammals shouldn’t live like midsize avians.

Plus, says editor Suzanne LaBarre, the place is not all that beautiful.

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It’s been compared to everything from a pregnancy test to a sanitary napkin. (Our vote is for “pregnancy test.”) Our biggest concern, though, is that it’s hardly got any windows. How’s it going to…”become a significant platform for world intellectual exchange,” if it feels like a sensory deprivation chamber? Won’t Keret go insane? But maybe that’s the point. It’s not like he’d be the first artist to benefit from going [totally] crazy.

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The building will be completed in December. Mr. Keret will move in sometime after that. His admirers will be watching, anxiously.

Free Seminar: Understanding the Residential Mandatory Measures of the CAL Green Code

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

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Date:  Thursday, January 20, 2011  8:30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m.

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This course will give an overview of the new state-wide CAL-Green Code for new homes.  Training will concentrate on understanding the details of best practices in plan reviewing, construction, and field enforcing the residential CAL-Green mandatory measures.

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Location:

Southern California Gas Company

Energy Resource Center

9240 Firestone Blvd.

Downey, Ca. 90241

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click here to register

“National Green Building Standards” available

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

The “National Green Building Standard”, available thru BuildersBooks.com, provides ‘green’ practice that can be incorporated into multifamily and single-family new home construction, home remodeling and additions and site development.

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The standard covers lot design, resource, energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality, and owner education.

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Currently the first and only ANSI-approved green building rating system, the National Green Building Standard is the benchmark for green homes.

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To view or purchase this publication online, click here

FHFA Effectively Shuts Down PACE Financing Programs for Energy-Efficient Retrofits

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

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The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on July 6 effectively shut down Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs, which it said “present significant safety and soundness concerns,” and it directedFannie MaeFreddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks to take a number of steps to resolve problems with the first liens that are established by PACE loans.

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PACE programs have been embraced by the Obama Administration and state and local municipalities as a means to finance the upfront costs of energy-efficient retrofits for residential and commercial properties. The programs enable the costs for these upgrades to be repaid through a special assessment added to the home owner’s property tax bill. The assessment stays with the property and is transferred to subsequent owners until the retrofit costs are repaid.

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Under the programs, property owners borrow the money from their local government and repay the loans over 15 to 20 years. Funding comes from municipal PACE bonds that are sold to investors.

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PACE loans have run afoul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines because most establish liens that are senior to existing mortgage debt. In the case of a default, the municipality would be repaid for the PACE loan before Fannie and Freddie received any money on the mortgage.

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Some 22 states and hundreds of local governments have been developing PACE programs, with more than $100 million in federal support.

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First publicly raising concerns about the programs in a letter dated June 18, 2009, the FHFA has been working with states and localities since that time to resolve the issue through improved underwriting of the loans and most importantly to get them to accept a junior lien position, which for the most part they have been unwilling to do.

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On May 5, Fannie and Freddie issued letters to their seller/servicers cautioning them to be aware of PACE programs in their jurisdictions and reminding them that programs with liens superior to the mortgage run counter to their Uniform Security Instruments, which govern securities backed by Fannie and Freddie loan purchases.

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The letters did not provide guidance on how to handle existing PACE loans, putting a chill on existing PACE programs until further guidance was provided.

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In its July 6 statement, the FHFA said that it was directing Fannie and Freddie to waive their Uniform Security Instrument prohibitions against PACE loans with a priority first lien that were obtained by home owners before that date.

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The agency also said that Fannie and Freddie should protect their safe and sound operations by undertaking several actions to address PACE programs with first liens.

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This includes adjusting loan-to-value ratios to reflect the maximum permissible PACE loan amount available to borrowers. This varies by jurisdiction, but is typically 10% to 20% of the property value and can be as much as $50,000.

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Fannie and Freddie were also told to ensure that loan covenants require approval/consent for any PACE loan; to tighten borrower debt-to-income ratios to account for additional obligations associated with possible future PACE loans; and to ensure that mortgages on properties in a jurisdiction offering PACE programs satisfy all applicable federal and state lending regulations and guidance.

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It is not yet clear how Fannie and Freddie will implement this directive, but they are expected to come out with guidance for their seller/servicers. They could require that borrowers seek permission from lenders on each lien. They could also tighten lending standards for all borrowers in jurisdictions that have PACE programs.

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Significantly, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also released statements on PACE bonds echoing the FHFA’s concerns and advising banks that invest in mortgage-backed securities with PACE liens to consider the impact of the lien on the security valuation.

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NAHB has been monitoring developments on this issue, but has formulated no policy on PACE programs. Several home builders associations have expressed interest in these programs, particularly in California and Colorado.

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For more information, e-mail Chellie Hamecs at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8425.