Those of you who may have built or bought a new home in the City of Santa Fe over the last few years may be familiar with the terms ‘HERS Rating’. HERS (Home Energy Rating System) is a tool for measuring the energy performance of a home. 

It has become the standard method across North America for ranking homes in terms of energy efficiency. Much like the MPG (miles per gallon) rating on a car; a HERS rating describes how energy efficient a home will be.  But energy performance is not the only way to quantify a home’s efficiency.

Going From HERS To WERS:

Water efficiency, as we all know, is all too important in this era of ever growing scarcity of water resources.  And homes are a major source of water consumption in any community. Santa Fe is known as one of the most water efficient cities in the country, and it would make sense that the City Different would spawn a Water Efficiency Rating System or WERS!

In fact we have. Thanks to the combined efforts of water efficiency experts from the Santa Fe Area Home Builder’s Association (SFAHBA), Santa Fe Community College and others from The Foundation for Building and Green Building Coalition, the launch of a new WERS tool is imminent. 

SFAHBA’s Green Building Council provided a portion of the seed money needed to design and develop a mathematical model for measuring and scoring a home’s water efficiency performance based on its design.

Developing the WERS Tool:

Major components of the tool include calculating typical water consumption from various plumbing fixtures based on the ‘gallons per minute’ or ‘gallons per flush’ rating of such fixtures, and the household occupancy level. It is a performance based method that allows home owners, architects and builders to prioritize which fixtures are best suited for their personal needs/desires while assuring overall water use reduction is attained. 

The WERS tool also encourages the use of both rainwater and grey water as a source for both outdoor irrigation and INDOOR use (with proper protocols for health and safety).

The local developers of the WERS tool worked extensively with experts from around the country to assure the method would be appropriate across a national platform. Major national players including RESNET (the licensing agent of the HERS Protocol) and major housing developers are taking notice of our efforts, as they look to adopt water efficiency tools by which to rate homes. 

And with the coming 60 day session of our state legislature, efforts to renew and refund the Sustainable Building Tax Credit will likely find broader support with the inclusion of a WERS type provision.

It is likely that national organizations like RESNET will be looking closely at our locally crafted WERS tool as they begin their process of including water conservation in their set of rating tools. This will only further bolster Santa Fe’s reputation as a leader in water conservation nationally, and help to influence law makers here at home for inclusion of water conservation requirements in new policies.