From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

New program addresses energy-efficiency and quality-control needs specific to Wisconsin homes

(April 13, 2011) – Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities’ statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, recently debuted the Focus on Energy New Homes Program. The program pairs Wisconsin builders with leading energy experts in order to construct new homes that are safer, more durable, and are 10 to 100 percent more efficient than typical homes built to the state’s Uniform Dwelling Code. Builders throughout Wisconsin can enroll in the program, and prospective homebuyers can work with participating builders to choose one of four levels of efficiency.

ENERGY STAR® Roots – An Evolution for Wisconsin Homes
Focus’ New Homes Program is a natural progression from the national ENERGY STAR Homes Program that Focus sponsored locally in the past. When the ENERGY STAR Homes Program overhauled its criteria in 2010, Focus collaborated with state builders to determine if the changes were appropriate for Wisconsin.

“When the new ENERGY STAR requirements were released, we realized that while they provided some great general building standards, not all criteria addressed the unique needs of Wisconsin homeowners,” said Sara Van de Grift, residential programs director for Focus on Energy.

“A home in Wisconsin isn’t going to need the same features as a home in California. This is why we created the Focus New Homes Program, to provide a customized, cost-effective option for Wisconsin residents looking to build safe, smart, energy-efficient homes.”

With builder support, Focus decided to forego ENERGY STAR requirements that weren’t applicable to Wisconsin homeowners, and instead develop standards that could yield superior energy savings at a more affordable price. For example, the following are just a few of the Focus on Energy New Homes Program requirements that homeowners will benefit from:

Air tightness. Air leaking into and out-of a home is major source of energy loss and can make a home feel drafty and uncomfortable. Homes certified by Focus’ New Homes Program must meet a stringent air tightness standard, dramatically reducing uncontrolled air leakage.

Whole house ventilation. Because the home is air tight, it is important to manage its indoor air quality. This is why whole house ventilation is required in a home certified by the Focus New Homes Program. The program has adopted the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 62.2, allowing a homeowner the ability to manage their home’s indoor air quality.

Space heating and water heating design standard. Because homes certified by Focus’ New Home Program have such strict requirements when it comes to air tightness and ventilation standards, as a safety precaution, the program does not allow atmospherically ventilated space heating or water heating appliances. Reason, in a home that is more air tight the ventilation fans can cause an atmospherically ventilated combustion appliance such as a natural gas water heater or furnace to back draft, drawing carbon monoxide and other combustion by-products into a home.