EEBA's High Performance Home Blog

HVAC Design Strategies for High-Performance Homes

HVAC Design Strategies for High-Performance Homes

High-performance homes require better HVAC design strategies than code-built homes. Builders can more easily understand high-performance needs by familiarizing themselves with basic HVAC design concepts and strategies.

The first step is conducting a room-by-room load calculation.

Local climates determine whether a building’s HVAC system is designed to first meet cooling or heating needs. Heating-dominant climates require heating needs to be addressed before cooling, and vice versa. Load calculations are based on the coldest and hottest days of the year to ensure systems provide comfort at both extremes. In any climate, high-performance homes have significantly lower cooling and heating requirements than code-built homes, so the best options for them might be very different than a code-built home.

Split-ductless systems, for example, provide both cooling and heating in one highly efficient system, and are a great solution for high-performance homes. The systems are energy-efficient; come in a range of capacities; offer a variety of indoor unit options; and can combine multiple indoor units using one outdoor compressor system.

Step two in HVAC system design is selecting the right size system. Undersized systems do not adequately cool or heat, while oversized systems unnecessarily increase cost and often short cycle.

If ducted systems are used, determining ductwork design can be challenging. In high-performance homes, efficient ductwork needs to be inside the conditioned space. Ductwork run outside of conditioned space results in energy penalties and an increased risk of condensation. One benefit to using split-ductless systems is the elimination of ductwork challenges.

Builders are encouraged to look for an HVAC contractor who specializes in high-performance new construction. During the design process, teamwork between the builder and the HVAC contractor is essential. Other allies helpful in the HVAC design process are energy raters and HVAC manufacturers committed to helping high-performance builders find better HVAC strategies.

Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US understands that high-performance builders and HVAC contractors need help with new strategies as the cooling and heating loads for residential new construction continue to be lowered. Over the last few years, Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US has introduced its Performance Construction Team to provide continued support in this area. Find more information about the Performance Builder Program and the Performance Construction Team here.


Industry leaders create a way for DOE Race to Zero winners to attend the High Performance Home Summit.

For the last five years, the Department of Energy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has organized the “Race to Zero” Student Design Competition in Golden, Colorado. The event challenges college students and faculty from around the world through a design competition for zero energy-ready structures - both single-family and multifamily homes, as well as school buildings. This year’s event brought together 84 student teams from 68 collegiate institutions from nine different countries.

EEBA has officially kicked off their student scholarship fundraising efforts by offering free attendance for two students per team to the 2018 High Performance Home Summit in San Diego. Each scholarship of $1,500 provides one student with full Summit registration and meals, double-occupancy for three hotel nights, tickets for a networking event and a dinner cruise, and $500 for transportation.

The scholarship fund is the first initiative enabling interested students to attend and participate in regional trainings and future High Performance Summits. “Bring a Student to EEBA” is currently being financed by six of our generous industry firms: Thrive Home Builders, DuPont Tyvek, EnergyLogic, Mandalay Homes, Revive Properties, and TopBuild/Environments for Living. The goal is to raise $25,000. EEBA is accepting donations in any amount to help further fund these scholarships into 2019 and beyond.

Six schools have already committed 11 students to attend this year’s High Performance Home Summit, and more are anticipated. The “Race to Zero” students will be presenting short overviews of their winning projects during the “Pecha Kucha” Session at the Summit.

“With the huge labor shortages currently facing all builders, we want to provide Summit attendees with an opportunity to meet these talented students in San Diego,” says EEBA President Gene Myers. Myers has recruited several “Race to Zero” winners as interns at his homebuilding company in Denver.

In the future, the U.S. Department of Energy will be joining its two student building design competitions, Solar Decathlon and Race to Zero, into one national Solar Decathlon competition. Solar Decathlon 2019–2020 will offer two tracks that build on the strengths of previous DOE student competitions: (1) an annual “Design Challenge” (formerly known as the Race to Zero Student Design Competition), and (2) a “Build Challenge” that expands on the original Solar Decathlon.


If you’re interested in donating to the “Bring a Student to EEBA” scholarship fund, please contact or CLICK HERE to donate now.

Visit our registration page to sign up for the High Performance Home Summit in San Diego.


High Performance Home Education Happening Around the Country

It’s that time again. All over the nation, school is starting back up and we could not be more excited.
High Performance Home Education Happening Around the Country

And as you know, education is important to us and with the High Performance Home Summit right around the corner, we thought we’d provide you with a preview of additional upcoming classes being offered around the country.

Mike Barcik will be back at it again, leading The HERS Associate & Taking the Performance Path. This class, an introduction to the HERS Index and IECC Compliance, will allow attendees to obtain CEU’s for AIA/CES (HSW), BPI, ICC, NARI, NAHB, and NATE, as well as earn the HERS Associate designation. The session will be offered at the following locations, on the following dates:

Boston, MA - September 25, 2018

Baltimore, MD - September 26, 2018

Charleston, SC - November 15, 2018

Nashville, TN -  December 5, 2018

Andy Oding will be leading the High Performance Mechanicals for Houses That Work session in Boise, ID on October 10, as well as in Portland, OR on November 8. Andy has over 23 years of experience in the residential construction industry and is currently a Building Science Associate with Building Knowledge Canada.

High Performance Mechanicals for Houses That Work is a full day seminar for builders, designers, code officials, and trade allies that focuses on HVAC, ventilation, hot water, IAQ, and electronic home controls in high-performance housing. CEU’s will be available for AIA/CES (HSW), BPI, NATE, RESNET, ICC, and InterNACHI.

Visit our website for more details on each session and where they will be held.


PechaKucha to Celebrate Housing Innovation

Winners of the prestigious DOE Housing Innovation Awards will be awarded during the High Performance Home Summit Luncheon and PechaKucha in October.
PechaKucha to Celebrate Housing Innovation

The Department of Energy recently released their 2018 Housing Innovation Award winners. The program recognizes the best in innovation on the path to zero energy ready homes. Winners are selected for each of five categories and one Grand Winner will be announced from each category during the EEBA High Performance Home Summit in San Diego, October 16-18.

You won’t want to miss the Luncheon on Day 1 of the Summit as Sam Rashkin announces the Grand Winners and the Housing Innovation Winners take part in PechaKucha with Alex Glenn. These companies and organizations have designed homes that are independently certified to meet the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home guidelines and hail from all over the U.S. “Every year we see the caliber of winning homes rise. Thrive is honored to be in the company of such great HIA winners,” says Gene Myers, EEBA Board President and CEO of Thrive Home Builders in Denver.

Innovation in Affordable Homes winners received recognition for building homes at an affordable price point and include four nonprofit organizations, and two repeat DOE Housing Innovation Award winners - Thrive Home Builders is a four-time winner and Mandalay Homes has been awarded six times.

  • Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, Venice, FL
  • Habitat for Humanity of Catawba Valley, Hickory, NC
  • Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity, Kalamazoo, MI
  • United Way of Long Island, Deer Park, NY
  • Thrive Home Builders, Denver, CO
  • Mandalay Homes, Prescott, AZ


Other winners in each category include:


The Innovation in Custom Homes (SPEC)

  • Addison Homes, Greer, SC
  • BrightLeaf Homes, Hinsdale, IL
  • C & B Custom Homes, Cottonwood, AZ
  • Dwell Development, Seattle, WA
  • Leading Force, Yakima, WA
  • Meritage Homes, Orlando, FL
  • Tim O’Brien Homes, Pewaukee, WI


Innovation in Custom Homes (Buyer)

  • High Performance Homes, Gettysburg, PA
  • TC Legend Homes, Bellingham, WA
  • Imery Group, Athens, GA
  • Ferrier Custom Homes, Fort Worth, TX
  • Bellingham Bay Builders, Bellingham, WA


Innovation in Multifamily Homes

  • Health-E Community Enterprises of Virginia, Williamsburg, VA
  • Garbett Construction, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Revive Properties and Philgreen Construction, Fort Collins, CO
  • Off The Grid Design, San Rafael, CA



  • Revive Properties and Philgreen Construction, Fort Collins, CO
  • Thrive Home Builders, Denver, CO
  • Mandalay Homes, Prescott, AZ
  • Garbett Construction, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Insight Homes, Bridgeville, DE


Previous winners can be found on the DOE’s Tour of Zero page. And don’t forget to register for the High Performance Home Summit soon! Discounted pricing ends August 31.


Educational Sessions for California Net Zero Mandate

Whether or not you’re ready for it, California is mandating it net zero directive in 2020.
Educational Sessions for California Net Zero Mandate

On May 9, the California Energy Commission voted to mandate advanced efficiency measures and rooftop solar for all new houses, condos and apartment buildings (up to three stories tall), obtaining building permits after January 1, 2020. If a building isn’t suitable for a rooftop array, it will be required to have access to community solar or offset energy usage through alternative efficiency gains. Builders can also take advantage of “compliance credits” by installing batteries like the Tesla Powerwall or sonnenBatterie - and further reduce the size of the solar array.

As California builders, raters, analysts, and architects seek methods and solutions to meet this aggressive state policy, part of this year’s High Performance Home Summit will be aimed at putting all the information California builders need in one place, to help you reach the goal of compliance in time. Various classes will be offered revolving around the impact of policy, code, and Title 24 on design and construction.


  • Zero Made Easier – Simple Solutions from Award-Winning Builders of DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes.  This presentation provides a compilation of the techniques used by award-winning builders in DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program to achieve HERS scores of zero and lower. It will show several specific examples of techniques developed and used by builders as they strive for zero energy ready homes. Construction methods used in Zero Energy Ready homes are compared with those used in just-to-code new homes and existing homes for key components like wall assemblies and HVAC systems. The path to zero offered by the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program is described with overviews provided for national and new California-specific criteria. Presented by Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect, DOE Building Technologies Office, and Theresa Gilbride, PNNL.


  • ZNE Homes for All:  Perspectives from ZNE Homeowners Who Don’t Know What ZNE Is.  This presentation will give an overview of Southern California Edison’s involvements with ZNE homes in the California market, and will share how SCE has worked with industry leaders to unearth meaningful analytical findings as well as anecdotal insights. Perspectives from willing homeowners will be shared to shed light on the ZNE market at large. Lastly, in this presentation, SCE will describe how this information and work are being used to refine existing customer offerings, and to broaden customer participation in a collective clean energy future to help meet the state’s aggressive and visionary climate action goals.  Presented by Will Vicent, Southern California Edison.


  • Lessons Learned from the Greenstone Net Zero Demonstration Home.  This presentation will present the Greenstone Homes Net Zero Demonstration project and the lessons learned in moving a production builder to Net Zero Home building practices. In 2017, Greenstone Homes collaborated with Mitsubishi and Lifebreath to do a Net Zero Demonstration home that was certified as a DOE Zero Energy Ready Home with a solar array. Greenstone Homes made simple modifications to a standard home plan and was able to build a Net Zero home for less than 10% cost increase from its standard build. With the new Net Zero home building requirements in California, projects like this are valuable to show that Net Zero is achievable by production home builders with some simple and affordable modifications to standard building practices.  Presented by Greg Davenport, Mitsubishi Performance Construction Team.


Take a look at all of this year’s session descriptions and join building professionals in markets all over the country at this year’s High Performance Home Summit in San Diego.

New Educational Program at High Performance Home Summit

The one-day Site Supervisor Designation will be available to registered attendees at this year’s conference.
New Educational Program at High Performance Home Summit

EEBA will be rolling out a new one-day course designed for project managers and site supervisors at this year’s High Performance Home Summit. The Site Supervisor Designation course will provide knowledge, processes, and best practices gained from building science and will demonstrate how it all applies to residential construction projects.

For participants to successfully obtain the designation they will need to attend the required classes during the Summit, and pass a quiz at the end of the course. The curriculum is based off guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and topics will include:

  • Building science fundamentals
  • Whole building integration
  • Building testing
  • Quality Management
  • Applying experience from the job-site to integrated design


At the end of the class, attendees should be able to understand how building science applies to processes such as integrated design and how site supervisors can contribute to, and gain from, these processes. Participants will also come away with a more comprehensive understanding of how quality management, including crew training, building testing, data collection, and construction documents, contribute to construction processes and consumer satisfaction. Lastly, they will get a glimpse of free internet-based tools that can assist with crew training, sequencing, and installation.

The class will be led by Michael Baechler, Senior Program Manager in the Energy and Engineering Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The program will begin at 9:30 am on Tuesday, October 16 and will conclude at the end of Tuesday’s programming. Participants will be encouraged to raise questions, share their perspectives, and offer examples from their job sites. Similar job titles for a site supervisor include project manager, construction site manager, foreman, and field superintendent. All are encouraged to attend.


Growing a High Performance Home Network

Three decades later, EEBA’s network of knowledgeable building professionals is helping move the needle on energy efficiency.
Growing a High Performance Home Network

In 1982, the average sales price of a new home in the U.S. was $83,817 (U.S. Census Bureau), gas was $1.22/gallon, the Commodore 64 was released, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller made its debut.

In the same year, the Energy Efficient Building Association was formed an hour outside of Minneapolis in the little-known city of Pine Island, Minnesota. The founding members of EEBA consisted of a small group of building professionals representing the U.S., Canada, and Sweden who all held similar ideals for developing higher standards for energy efficient buildings.

Through the years, as environmental initiatives grew in the U.S., so did EEBA’s goals. Taking into consideration the strong partnerships they had formed, as well as a commitment to sustainable building practices, the Energy Efficient Building Association updated their name to the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance in 2008.

Now, over 35 years later, EEBA has built a network of educational and technical partners that continue to help push high performance, and energy efficient homes, forward. The free educational resources offered by EEBA partners are available on the website - many of which are climate-specific.

Don’t forget to take a look at the speaker lineup and register for this year’s High Performance Home Summit taking place in San Diego in October.

Serving Energy Efficiency Education to Those Who Have Served

EEBA offers eligible Veterans a scholarship to attend any of their energy efficiency educational trainings.
Serving Energy Efficiency Education to Those Who Have Served

More than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year.1 EEBA is a supporter of our Veterans and encourages their participation in moving the home performance sector forward. If you are a Veteran working in the construction industry, EEBA may be able to offer a scholarship for one of our upcoming energy efficiency education sessions.

The Houses That Work educational program is based on Department of Energy Building America research and consists of seven different modules ranging from Indoor Air Quality to Water Management and High Performance Mechanical Systems.

In addition, our new course, “The HERS Associate & Taking the Performance Path,” provides an introduction to RESNET and the HERS Index and relates the principles of building science as they apply to HERS.

“The many training opportunities we provide across the country each year offer a variety of curriculum, and the training is always customized for the climate and building practices of each location,” says EEBA Executive Director, Nancy Bakeman. “Whether you are new to the building industry, or have years of experience, we come to you with the most up-to-date, cutting-edge content to help you build better, more comfortable, more durable, and more efficient homes.”

Thousands of building professionals have benefitted from Houses That Work classes and have gained a better understanding of the “house-as-a-system” approach. Extensive climate-specific content is provided during the sessions including measurement tools, design concepts, application demonstrations and case studies.

And how is this program different from other programs offering energy efficiency education? Partnerships. EEBA brings together the knowledge from manufacturers, building science experts, and tradespeople to create practical solutions.

If you’re interested in learning more about this opportunity for Veterans, email us at



EEBA Named a Leading Industry Association

EEBA was recently recognized as a leading Industry Association for their commitment to high performance home education.
EEBA Named a Leading Industry Association

Green Builder Media, the leading media company in the North American residential building industry focused exclusively on green building and responsible growth, recently included EEBA as one of the nation’s leading Industry Associations. Featured in the May/June 2018 issue, EEBA is lauded for its “comprehensive and practical programs” offered at both their annual High Performance Home Summit, and various educational training held throughout the year around the country.

One of those programs is the HERS Associate training course which has already been well-attended in Atlanta, Raleigh, and Denver earlier in the year. The next HERS Associate training courses will be held in Dallas on August 7th, Boston on September 25th, and Baltimore, MD on September 26, 2018. For more information on the time and location, or to sign-up, email

In the article, Gene Myers, CEO of Thrive Home Builders in Denver, explains how his company has “benefitted from EEBA regional training events, the EEBA Summit and the ability to network with like-minded builders and manufacturers, as well as with experts from the DOE and EPA.”

In Milwaukee, Tim O’Brien Homes will be utilizing the knowledge they’ve obtained from the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Homes program in Wisconsin’s first net-zero-energy community. “We were first introduced to the ZERH program at the EEBA summit in St. Louis,” says Craig North, VP of Construction.

Read the full article from Green Builder®  magazine beginning on digital page 22 and join us at this year’s EEBA High Performance Home Summit in San Diego October 16-18.

Paving the Way for Resource Efficiency

A California builder goes beyond the basics to create a residence where home performance and resource conservation are essential.
Paving the Way for Resource Efficiency

Casa Aguila, a 4-bedroom home in Ramona, CA, was custom-built for homeowners looking to be grid-independent in the future. Designed and constructed by Alliance Green Builders to stringent California Title 24 Standards, the project includes numerous resource-saving highlights.

In a state where water is a scarce resource, Casa Aguila was built with water conservation in mind. One of their biggest hurdles was obtaining a blackwater permit in a County not known to be open to new ideas. While these systems typically use very complex machinery, the Casa Aguila design was much simpler and was created with a built-in backup system that utilized the existing septic tank and leach field. With the help of the project consultant, Bill Wilson, they were able to categorize the system as an “advanced wastewater treatment system”, allowing the home to become the first residential project in San Diego to obtain a blackwater treatment permit.

“If we had been going for a greywater permit alone, it would have probably been a pretty simple process. However, acquiring the greywater/blackwater permit was challenging,” says Katie Teare of Alliance Green Builders.

The home also employs four 10,000-gallon rainwater cisterns for potable water, four 10,000-gallon stormwater tanks for irrigation of ornamental landscaping, and one 10,000-gallon greywater tank that is specifically used for irrigation and fire suppression.

“The greywater and blackwater from the home are combined and flow through two consecutive tanks,” says Teare. “First the existing tank septic and then the new tank - and are filtered and distributed through irrigation lines to a permaculture Food Forest.”

As far as energy savings go, this home boasts 22.1-kW of PV, a 3.2-kW wind turbine, and backup battery storage, giving it a -92 CA Energy Design Rating (EDR). For comparison, a new home that is built and verified to meet the bare minimum Title 24 requirements is considered to have a Title 24 score of 0%.

Alliance Green Builders’ success on this project will allow the greywater/blackwater design to be used as a blueprint for others who would like to undertake similar projects and provide clients with the highest level of resource conservation and energy efficiency in California.

Interested in learning more about water efficiency in the construction process? Learn more about the EEBA Water Efficiency for Builders and Designers seminar.

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