What Builders Want From HERS Raters

Thu, 2016-09-15 09:17

Last Updated: 2017-08-31 03:48

Understanding builder expectations can improve communications between builders and HERS Raters, making it easier for both groups to work together and advance the common goal of "greener" homes. When builders need help delivering the energy-efficient, comfortable, and environmentally conscious homes customers and codes demand, they turn to HERS Raters.

For more information about what HERS Raters are, visit our RESNET HERS Rater overview series.

To deliver value to builders, HERS Raters must understand what builders want from them. In the first half of 2016, the Insulation Institute conducted two rounds of qualitative research to better understand how builders and HERS Raters interact.

What Builders Want from HERS Raters guide

This included a focus group of 10 builders, followed by a series of one-on-one interviews with 10 other builders. The residential builders involved in the research included a broad mix of regions, type, and number of homes built per year. What they all had in common was significant experience working with HERS Raters, ranging from two to ten years. Also, all but one of them still work with Raters.

What Residential Builders Think of HERS Raters

The Insulation Institute broke the responses down into three categories:

  • Why Builders Use HERS Raters
  • What Builders Expect from HERS Raters
  • How Raters Can Exceed Builders' Expectations

Why Builders Use HERS Raters

When asked why they use HERS Raters, the responses showed that builders find significant value in using Raters.

  • A HERS Score can help validate that a home was built properly and will achieve a certain level of performance.
  • Many builders view a good HERS Score as a way to promote themselves as credible builders. Getting a HERS rating score is an external proof point that the builder does good work.
  • Builders use HERS Scores to meet the qualification requirements for certain certifications and rebate or incentive programs.
  • HERS Scores help builders compete in competitive markets and give them an edge over the existing housing stock.
  • HERS Ratings provide marketing value to builders targeting homebuyers who are interested in "green" or sustainable homes.

What Builders Expect from HERS Raters

When asked to describe HERS Raters, builders' responses showed their respect for Raters and also indicated what they value most from them.

  • HERS Raters must be building science experts. Builders expect to rely on the Rater’s knowledge and expertise to validate the work that has been completed.
  • HERS Raters must advise, not just critique. If Raters point out issues but don’t offer constructive alternatives, they risk losing customers.
  • Builders take pride in building quality homes, and the HERS Rater provides the “evidence” that the builder has built a home that performs better than others.
  • HERS Raters should not make brand recommendations when working with builders; it causes suspicion that the Rater is trying to push a specific product and thus compromises the Rater’s credibility.

How HERS Raters Can Exceed Builders' Expectations

Builders believe that there are many things Raters can do to differentiate themselves.

  • Back the builder's approach - Sometimes homeowners question a builder's choices; supporting a builder with the homeowner reinforces his credibility and can help him ensure his customers are satisfied.
  • Inform and advise: don't just test and report - Builders appreciate when Raters explain how and why a building received a specific score. Raters deliver the most value when acting as trusted advisors and consultants.
  • Provide marketing assistance - When builders see value in HERS Scores and HERS Raters, most expressed a desire to extract more value for the score from homebuyers. With this in mind, builders suggested a few ways Raters could add value, including educating Realtors, educating homebuyers and even educating builders' sales teams on how to better sell "greener" homes. One example shared was a Rater who educated Realtors before a series of open houses to make sure they could talk up the efficiency of the homes. The builder who shared this story indicated it was a successful approach.
  • Help make lower HERS Scores mean more dollars - While there is a desire for general marketing assistance, the “holy grail” for builders is to extract incremental value as they proceed further and further down the HERS rating system toward net zero. Helping them crack the code on this would make a Rater invaluable.
  • Make building science understandable for homeowners - Builders want tosee scores, efficiency metrics, and the other outcomes associated with “green” homes translated into value propositions that can be understood by the average homebuyer. Raters who do this will differentiate themselves. In many ways, this is an enabling component of the previous bullet on marketing assistance.
  • Share your ideas - Builders indicated that they want Raters to offer ideas early on, not just accept their approach. This shows that builders consider Raters to be experts. The builders voiced the opinion that part of why they pay an expert is to get good ideas.
  • Train the trades - Builders were split on whether this part of a Rater’s job was a given or added value that a Rater could offer. Given the split, it would be helpful to set expectations on proper subcontractor training in advance with builders.
  • Save builders money - If Raters can offer different ways to deliver comparable performance outcomes (e.g., similar scores) for less money, builders want to be told about them. Examples of this would be valuable in a Rater’s marketing materials.
  • Provide a quick turnaround for scores - Builders felt that it took too long to get scores. Besides creating anxiety over results, score delay can impact work schedules should remediation be necessary.

Overall, builders think that as energy codes become more stringent, the need for HERS Raters will increase. HERS Raters can help builders better understand how to achieve target results and meet code requirements. Builders will be forced to change their practices to meet more stringent code requirements and will turn to the expertise and experience of HERS Raters.

If you've been thinking about becoming a HERS Rater, call us at 800-460-2575, and we can assist you with all of your HERS Rater training and certification needs.

To download this important research from the Insulation Institute, please click here. You will receive an email with a link to a printable or downloadable PDF document.