EEBA's High Performance Home Blog

Nominate a Juror for Solar Decathlon Build Challenge

The 2020 Solar Decathlon Build Challenge needs your expertise.
Nominate a Juror for Solar Decathlon Build Challenge

Next summer, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Build Challenge will take place in Washington, D.C. as part of the 2020 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Participants in the Challenge will demonstrate various solutions for a number of building types, focusing on efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy.

The teams will compete and exhibit their solutions before a panel of industry expert jurors and will be working on their designs and build outs for two years - culminating in Washington, D.C. June 25 - July 5, 2020.

5 countries will be represented from around the world including the U.S., Netherlands, Chile, South Africa, and Canada. The teams who will be participating are:

  • Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri
  • Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Valparaíso, Chile
  • University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
  • Weber State University, Ogden, Utah

The Solar Decathlon is currently taking nominations for qualified and respected leaders to serve as jurors during the event. They are currently looking for jurors for the following contests:

  • Engineering
  • Financial Feasibility & Affordability
  • Resilience
  • Architecture
  • Market Potential
  • Presentation

Contact Rachel Romero to nominate a qualified candidate!


Next Step Towards the High Performance Home Summit

Now that you’ve trekked in, it’s time to take a moment at base camp and evaluate where you are headed.
Next Step Towards the High Performance Home Summit

Base Camp: “a main encampment providing supplies, shelter, and communications for persons engaged in wide-ranging activities: as exploring, reconnaissance, hunting, or mountain climbing.”

When trekking into high altitudes, climbers sometimes spend weeks at base camp while acclimating their bodies. It’s a great place to identify upcoming goals and re-evaluate where you are, and where you’re headed.

In just a few months the EEBA High Performance Home Summit will be taking place in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. The theme of the conference is “Reach for the Summit: A Future Where Every Home is High Performing, Healthy and Resilient” and will be a great place to prepare for the next step of your journey towards high performing homes. The Summit is focused on providing the tools and networking that builders, raters, analysts, and architects need to take high performance, healthy, resilient homes to new heights.

Whether you’re just beginning or have “ascended” multiple times, you’ll have the opportunity to teach, learn, and network with others who are aiming to build healthy, resilient and affordable high performance and Zero-Energy Homes.

Join EEBA October 1 - 3, 2019 in Denver for the 37th Annual High Performance Home Summit. Next month we’ll look more at acclimatization - understanding the methodologies, materials and strategies to achieve success.

Zero Energy Ready Home Communities

A Virginia builder takes his long-time passion for energy efficient homes to Zero Energy Ready Home communities.
Zero Energy Ready Home Communities

Builder/Developer, Jay Epstein, owner of Health E Community Enterprises first began creating efficient homes in the 70’s. He won the very first Energy Value Housing Award for affordable homes in 1997 - the first year the program was offered. And after hearing about the U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home program in 2015, he built a home that eventually received a 2016 Housing Innovation Award.

Epstein’s first Zero Energy Ready Home community, Rocketts Landing, in Richmond, VA, consisted of 28 homes that all had solar panels installed. He was so convinced his customers would see energy savings that his company guaranteed to pay buyers’ energy bills if they exceeded $1.50/day averaged over the course of a year.

To achieve the Zero Energy Ready Home label, homes are required to have the following (as of May 1, 2019):

  1. ENERGY STAR for Homes Baseline
  2. Envelope - Fenestration shall meet or exceed ENERGY STAR requirements
  3. Duct System - Duct distribution systems located within the home’s thermal and air barrier boundary or an optimized location to achieve comparable performance. HVAC air handler is located within the home’s thermal and air barrier boundary
  4. Water Efficiency - Hot water delivery systems (distributed and central) shall meet efficient design requirements
  5. Lighting & Appliances - All installed refrigerators, dishwashers, and clothes washers are ENERGY STAR qualified. 80% of lighting fixtures are ENERGY STAR qualified or ENERGY STAR lamps (bulbs) in minimum 80% of sockets. All installed bathroom ventilation and ceiling fans are ENERGY STAR qualified
  6. IAQ - Certified under EPA Indoor airPLUS 10
  7. Renewable Ready - Provisions of the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home PV-Ready Checklist are Completed

Epstein’s current venture is Walnut Farm, a 75-home community in Virginia’s Williamsburg area that will be a Zero Energy Ready Home community. Homeowners will have three solar options: zero energy-ready, $1.50/day (with 5.4 kW of solar panels installed), or net zero (with 6.8 kW of solar panels installed). Without PV installed, the homes will have HERS ratings in the 40s.

Jay also recently made the switch to Trane’s XV20i and has taken advantage of the benefits of energy efficient variable speed mechanical equipment. Trane recognizes Epstein as a builder who understands it is no longer practical to separate the mechanical design from the building enclosure design.

“These systems are interrelated and therefore they must be designed simultaneously,” says David Maruna, Marketing Leader, Trane Residential. “The result is that we can build healthier homes, homes where people don’t get sick, where they feel comfortable, where they have very low utility bills and that have a lighter touch on the environment. Trane is proud to celebrate High Performance Home construction as it aligns with our overarching sustainability goals.”

Besides Virginia, Zero Energy Ready Home communities have also been built in Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Florida, and California. Learn more about Zero Energy Ready Homes.


Photo: Health E Community

Energy Updates

If you subscribe to various newsletters you probably find your inbox overflowing with emails every week. Here’s a quick update of some interesting energy happenings.
Energy Updates

Finding the time to read everything you’ve subscribed to can be stressful (because you want to read it all, but rarely have time). This week we’re going to do a quick recap and look at who is making interesting moves in the energy realm.

Tech Giants

No matter how you feel about Facebook as a company, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a goal for all their data centers and offices to utilize 100% renewable energy by 2020. They’ve already signed deals to buy wind and solar power near their other data centers around the world. This latest move will be to build a solar farm on land in West Texas, named Prospero Solar, which will be about five times the size of Central Park with a capacity of 379 megawatts. The project has a financing package alone of $416 million.


ASHRAE president, Sheila Hayter, and Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), recently signed an agreement to collaborate, “in the development and implementation of the safe use of next-generation refrigerants and concurrently improve equipment energy efficiency." Here are some of the goals found in the agreement:

  • Encouraging the continued development of voluntary consensus-based standards related to energy efficiency
  • Encouraging the use of advanced energy design concepts
  • Cooperation to provide and encourage the use of clear and consistent information to the building industry about building energy rating and labeling
  • Work within the building community and related professions to encourage the interoperability of building related software and integrated solutions


New Jersey released its roadmap for the conversion of its energy profile to 100% clean energy by 2050. It features a series of seven strategies:

  • Reducing transport sector energy consumption and emissions
  • Accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources
  • Maximizing energy efficiency
  • Reducing energy use and emissions from the building sector
  • Modernizing grid and utility infrastructure
  • Supporting and incentivizing community-level energy planning
  • Leveraging economic and environmental opportunities of clean energy

In 2018 New Jersey generated 75.255 million MWh of electricity, mostly through a combination of natural gas (51.6%) and nuclear (42.5%) power sources.

Cool Stuff

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is improving upon a biogenic (produced by living organisms) solar cell made with dye-producing bacteria. Previously, these types of cells were created using expensive and very complex processes and toxic solvents were used in the dye-removing process. The new approach leaves the dye as-is which makes it “higher yielding and about 10 times cheaper.”

The biogenic material used by UBC, in this case, was E.coli bacteria that were engineered to produce lycopene - a natural dye. Apparently, lycopene is great at harvesting light and turning it into electrical energy.

The new solar cells supposedly work well in cloudy skies or in full sun. In early testing, the solar cells have generated an electrical current “twice as strong as any from similar devices, its capacity is constantly being increased.”

What else are you seeing out and about that’s worthy of noting?

Trek In to High Performance Homes

The first step is sometimes the most difficult. Are you ready for the Trek In to High Performance Homes?
Trek In to High Performance Homes

It’s hard to believe but we’re just 4 short months away from the next EEBA High Performance Home Summit, October 1-3 in Denver. This year’s theme, Reach for the Summit, focuses on looking towards a future where every home is high performing, healthy, and resilient.

Getting to that goal though can sometimes feel like you’re literally climbing a mountain!

In the next months leading up to the Summit, we’ll look at the different levels of climbing that High Performance Home mountain and how you can prepare for each part of the journey. We’ll be your sherpas and offer guidance, support, and teamwork as you prepare to ascend the mountain.

The first step is the Trek In. It seems easy enough but the Trek In is often identified as “a long and difficult journey, especially in the mountains, as an adventure.” You may not like the word “difficult” in there, but what’s great about the Trek In is that it doesn’t have to be alone! And if you’re reading this and ready to commit to defining and building high performance homes, you’re there! You are on the Trek In.

EEBA is dedicated to helping you work through any roadblocks you may encounter on this journey by offering an array of educational sessions covering topics from healthy homes and water efficiency, to Zero-Energy homes, resiliency and affordable high performance products. And it doesn’t stop there. Network with the brightest minds in building science and get firsthand knowledge from some of the best in the industry including builders, raters, analysts, and architects.

After the conference ends you can continue your journey by signing up for an educational session in an area near you. These courses are designed to further your high performance home education. We hope to see you in Denver!

Around the World: Housing 4.0

A region in Europe is looking at how to improve building methods to help move towards EU 2030 energy goals.
Around the World: Housing 4.0

Framework climate and energy goals. As the most industrialized region in NWE, the private housing sector also accounts for almost one-third of all C02 emissions. The EU 2030 Framework goals are to cut C02 emissions by 40%, increase the use of renewable energy by 27% and to provide at least 27% energy savings across Europe.

Interreg North-West Europe project Housing 4.0 Energy (H4.0E) is a group of companies and individuals around NWE, working together to solve their housing and energy crisis. H4.0E is funded by € 2.5 Million in European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (perspective: the ERDF total budget is € 4.2 Million) and looks to develop low-energy, low-carbon, near-zero energy affordable housing that is easily repeatable using digitization.

H4.0E is focused on a Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) approach using digital design and self-building to simplify the building process. The 48 near zero energy/zero energy pilot homes will be built within the first 18 months of the three-and-a-half-year long project. Below are the project areas and goals for each area:

  • Almere, Netherlands
    • Goals: Demonstrate digital design and self-building in urban areas
  • Flemish Brabant, Belgium
    • Goals: Social good model - NZEH/ZEH units in rural areas will be rented to people on the waiting list of Belgium’s local social renting agency
  • Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany
    • Goals: Multiple NZEH/ZEH buildings will be built for student housing
  • Carlow, Kilkenny & Wexford, Ireland
    • Goals: Build NZEH/ZEH units for low-income groups in rural areas while monitoring user behavior

The data from each of the pilot projects will be collected for analysis and parallel testing will be conducted for big picture comparisons and educational purposes, however, each project area will stay focused on their specific goals. Learn more about this project and tell us how you think it could influence energy solutions in the U.S.

Where Energy Advancements Will Take Us

Where Energy Advancements Will Take Us

Last week we wrote about a couple funding opportunities through the Department of Energy. Another $33.5 million is now available through the Building Technologies Office for energy efficient, advanced building construction technologies and practices. The BTO’s focus will be to “develop deep energy retrofit and new construction technologies that holistically tackle a combination of envelope, heating, cooling, water heating, and ventilation issues, and hold appeal for both building owners and occupants.” Concept papers are due 6/10/19.

The topics of interest for this FOA are:

  1. Integrated Building Retrofits
  2. New Construction Technologies
  3. Advanced Technology Integration

Why should you care about these types of announcements? Because they are opportunities for us to advance our industry and to take advantage of the energy breakthroughs that are continuing to push down the cost of renewable energy.

Solar farms are showing up in communities and large corporations are signing contracts with wind farms. A deal in Chile was recently signed that should supply solar energy at 2.91 cents per kWh and drop energy costs for businesses there to around 25% by 2021.

Last fall, a northern Indiana utility company announced it will invest in renewable energy and by 2028 they expect 65% of the electricity they generate will come from wind, solar, and battery storage... and 0% from coal.  Additionally, JinkoSolar recently made a deal with the largest power generator in the U.S., which will be purchasing around 7 million panels over four years.

Both decisions were based on the economic case for renewable energy.

These advancements we’re seeing, including improvements in areas like battery storage, will only create greater opportunity in our industry to push innovation further - and get us closer to 100% renewable energy and a world filled with zero energy homes.

DOE to Invest $98 Million in Research and Development Programs

The DOE is prepared to invest $98 million towards domestic manufacturing of energy storage and technologies.
DOE to Invest $98 Million in Research and Development Programs

A recent Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) by the Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting proposals in three areas to improve U.S. competitiveness surrounding energy technologies and domestic manufacturing for energy storage. The FOA will look to support innovative, advanced manufacturing research and development programs focused on advanced materials, industrial efficiency and productivity, and the electrical grid.

"By focusing on energy-related advanced manufacturing technologies, we are building a new era of manufacturing that will stimulate the economy, create jobs and build American energy independence," says U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

$98 million in awards will be funded to high-impact, early to mid-stage research in three topic areas:

  • Topic 1: Innovations for the Manufacture of Advanced Materials
    Focuses on employing machine learning to develop better batteries, phase change storage materials for heating and cooling applications, and new semiconductors that convert temperature differences into electricity.  A key focus is on developing and scaling new, low-cost manufacturing processes to catalyze increased domestic battery manufacturing for vehicle and stationary applications.
  • Topic 2: Lower Thermal Budget Processes for Industrial Efficiency & Productivity
    With 70% of all process energy use related to heating, this topic focuses on novel research on industrial process drying technologies that increase energy efficiency throughput and product quality.  It also seeks new ideas on process intensification to reduce overall heating energy.
  • Topic 3: Connected, Flexible and Efficient Manufacturing Facilities and Energy Systems
    With recent advances in new, wide-bandgap semiconductors supported by DOE, this topic seeks application of more efficient industrial power conversion equipment and new opportunities for converting process energy to electrical energy and better integrating it with the electrical grid.  It also seeks advancements in combined heat and power that result in higher electrical efficiencies.

If you have an eligible project for which you’d like to submit a concept paper, or if you have questions, or would like to view examples of sub-topics, you can learn more here.  A cost-share of at least 20% will be required for research and development projects.  Concept papers are due on or before June 20, 2019.

Why I Love the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge!

A Former Competitor’s Take on the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge
Why I Love the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge!

by Nathan Kahre

Long nights, worrying over designs, stressing over deadlines, and more work than I have ever been put through before, this is what I remember from when I competed in what was Race to Zero, now the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge.  What I also remember is the time spent working with a team, iterations of energy models, and the joy of getting to present all my hard work.

I thank Solar Decathlon Design Challenge for the opportunities that I have had in the high-performance home industry.  The competition forced me to take the theoretical and make it real.  It also put me in connection with experts across the country and landed me my first job in the industry.  After spending a day of stressing over the competition, I ended up meeting this crazy production builder that was focusing on net zero homes and wanted to implement new products and techniques to improve the indoor air quality in their homes and hopefully impact the health of the occupants.  That twenty-minute conversation completely changed my perspective on what a production home builder could be, landed me a successful internship, and now 3 years later I have turned into that crazy production builder myself.  Finding ways to enable these types of conversations and connect students to all the great builders across the country is a passion of mine.  



I am lucky enough that the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge happens in my backyard and getting to attend the competition is a highlight of my year.  I am constantly impressed by the time commitment and skill each of the teams portrays.  This year was no exception with 45 teams competing from 37 collegiate institutions from across the United States, along with teams from England, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Panama, and Brazil.  The diversity of projects and solutions employed were thoughtful and showed a group of caring hardworking students excited about net zero construction.  The Solar Decathlon is truly developing the next generation of building scientists, architects, and construction professionals; and equipping them with the skills necessary to build high performance homes, apartments, office buildings, and schools.

Now in its sixth year, the design competition challenges students to develop market-ready net zero home designs across a variety of design divisions (single family urban and suburban, attached housing, small multifamily, office buildings, and schools).  Students can’t just develop a pretty home, but must also integrate building science knowledge, market analysis, and construction management skills, and wrap it up into a 20-minute presentation in front a panel of experts.  This leads to 6 division winners and one grand winner.  Take a look at this year’s winners and their presentations here.

What happens next?  There is a pool of talented students, many of whom are ready to enter the workforce, ready to contribute to the high-performance construction industry. Last year, for the first time, EEBA provided scholarships to representatives from each of the winning teams to come and experience the High Performance Home Summit in San Diego.  EEBA’s Next Generation Development Committee is working hard to make this happen again and bring team representatives from the winning residential teams to the 2019 Summit in Denver, CO.

View the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Overview 

Donate to EEBA's Student Scholarship Fund and help us connect the 2019 Solar Decathlon winners with the EEBA homebuilding community.











Nathan Kahre is High Performance and Healthy Home Manager at Thrive Home Builders, a production home builder focusing on Net Zero and Net Zero Ready construction in Denver, Colorado. 


Upcoming EEBA Educational Courses

Looking to refresh your knowledge and grab some CEUs? Attend an upcoming EEBA educational course and receive both!
Upcoming EEBA Educational Courses

Mike Barcik, Senior Engineer at Southface Institute, will be leading The HERS Associate & Taking the Performance Path: An Introduction to the HERS Index & IECC Compliance in Orlando, FL on May 14, 2019.

The HERS Associate & Taking the Performance Path: An Introduction to the HERS Index & IECC Compliance course is a one-day event that reviews the HERS Index, RESNET, and Building Science principles as they relate to the Performance Path option in the IECC.

Participants will learn about the strategies and tools used by HERS Raters to perform analysis of a house to produce a HERS Index Score. The last part of the session will be spent reviewing energy rating software that is most often used by HERS professionals, and manipulating various construction assemblies to see the effect of HERS Index scores.

CEUs are available for AIA/CES (HSW), BPI, ICC, NAHB, NARI and NATE. The course will be held at Trane North Florida DSO, 3401 WD Judge Road, Suite 110, Orlando FL 32808 from 8:30am to 4pm (check-in begins at 8am).

In addition to The HERS Associate class, the ever-popular course, Houses That Work, will be offered in Davidson, NC on June 4. And for those of you who have been patiently waiting for the High Performance Mechanicals class, you can attend that on June 13 in Carrollton, TX.

On June 5, we will be rolling out a brand new course, The EEBA Path to Zero Energy Homes in Denver. Participants in this class will learn design principles, equipment options, emerging technologies, materials selections, and construction practices that can be integrated into their building process. Strong emphasis is placed on ways to make the final product affordable for homebuyers.

We’ll also be announcing more courses in 2019, including our brand new Zero Energy course, so keep an eye out for announcements on our website or in our newsletter.

Page 3 of 7 << < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 > >>