As the founding director of the EPA’s Energy Star for Homes program, Sam Rashkin – an unassuming fellow with a brilliant mind and passionate energy – almost single-handedly changed the way America builds houses. At a dinner last night at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. attended by 200 people, Rashkin was honored with the Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing and its $50,000 prize.
The Hanley Award is sponsored by The Hanley Foundation, EcoHome and Builder magazines, and their parent company, Hanley Wood, LLC.
Logging more than 100,000 air miles annually as the program grew, Rashkin crisscrossed the country for 17 years, enthusiastically pitching the advantages of Energy Star-qualified homes to builders, product manufacturers, consumers and anyone else who would listen. Meanwhile, inside the EPA, he steadily built a low- budget, high-impact program that few well-funded for-profit corporations could match.
Rashkin’s unwavering mission has paid off handsomely for builders and their buyers, as well as the environment. Energy Star for Homes, the oldest and largest national residential rating system, has qualified more than 1.3 million dwellings since its inception in 1995. The EPA, which administers the program, say those homes have saved nearly $350 million on utility bills while avoiding green house gas emissions equivalent to those produced by more than 450,000 vehicles.
Alex Wilson, founder of Environmental Building News, called Rashkin the ideal candidate for the Hanley Award. “Sam has done more to transform mainstream home building, making homes more energy efficient and more environmentally responsible, than anyone else,” says Wilson, the 2010 recipient of the Hanley Award and a judge in this year’s program.
Before Rashkin, a licensed architect, moved to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building America program last June, the EPA began phasing in more rigorous Energy Star for Homes Version 3 guidelines. Once fully implemented this year, the new guidelines will result in houses at least 15 percent more efficient than those built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), along with additional energy savings and improved performance from a comprehensive approach to building science.
For an in-depth profile about Rashkin and his years at Energy Star for Homes, see this story in the latest issue of EcoHome magazine that I wrote before joining Griffin & Company.