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Twin Cities Area Adopts “Green” Fields in the MLS

This month, realtors and homebuyers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area will have the ability to seek out green-certified or energy-efficient homes with a new tool. The NorthStar MLS, a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for residential sales in Minnesota and a small part of western Wisconsin, added two new fields to their searchable database. Homes with green building certification and/or an energy efficiency rating can be searched independently or in conjunction with other home features. NorthStar MLS expands the availability of their services to meet the growing demand of energy efficiency and green building for new and existing homes. It follows similar data accessibility found in Chicago, IL; Elkhart County, IN; Traverse City, MI, and other MLS regions.

The new features are split into two new fields. First, the “Green Building Certification” field will include third-party green building standards such as the locally produced MN Green Path, MN Green Communities, MN GreenStar, and Wisconsin Green Built Home, as well as national programs like LEED for Homes, and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR certified new home program. Each of these whole home programs differs in complexity, sustainability qualities, and energy efficiency requirements. In order to list a home as green certified, the appropriate back-up information from the certification process is required to be uploaded to the MLS database.

The second field, “Energy Efficiency Rating,” will allow listing of a home’s Home Energy Ratings System, or HERS score. A HERS score is performed by a third-party RESNET-certified rater, and measures the tightness of the building envelope (the ability for outside air to infiltrate the exterior façade) and the energy efficiency of its heating and cooling system.  The lower the score equates to the more efficient the home. A baseline score of 100 would mean that the home meets the 2004 International Residential Code, whereas a score of zero signifies the home uses as much energy as it produces. Homes built to the latest national energy standard, the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, currently under consideration in Minnesota and adopted in Illinois will achieve a score around 72.

The addition of green fields to the Twin Cities Area MLS was led by many green building advocates in Minnesota, including Alison Lindburg at Fresh Energy. MEEA would like to applaud the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, who finally brought the effort over the finish line. MEEA’s work on this issue compliments our continued involvement in Minnesota – updating the building energy code to efficiency levels similar to that of the 2012 IECC, passage of a building energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinance in Minneapolis, as well as our efforts towards creation of data privacy policies of Rate-Regulated Energy Utilities in regards to energy disclosure.

The impact of the new MLS fields has far larger implications than as simply a search for green features and potentially lower utility bills. Inclusion of this data also has the potential to raise market values for energy efficient homes, as well as increase awareness and demand for energy efficiency improvements. Contact Steve Kismohr, Senior Technical Manager at MEEA for more information on green data fields in the MLS.