EEBA's High Performance Home Blog

A New York-based Home Builder’s Journey Toward Zero Energy Ready Homes

An aspiration to create durable homes leads this builder to higher home performance and a zero energy goal.

After building his own home, Greenhill Contracting president, Anthony Aebi, reflected on the way homes are built in the U.S., as well as the lack of higher code standards. His background in Swiss homebuilding, and a desire to build more durably, eventually led him to the use of Insulated Concrete Forms ("ICF") in all exterior walls of the homes he built. The noticeable improvement in home performance set in motion a quest towards zero-energy homes.

"[Since 2007 our] team has worked tirelessly to reduce the construction costs associated with high-performance homes, including developing continuous improvements...with the use of ICFs, spray foam thermal, and air-control strategies," says Aebi.

Photos: Amy Dooley

While there are no actual building code standards directed towards disaster resilience in the Esopus, New York area, homeowners automatically receive the benefits of durability because of the reinforcements ICFs provide. In addition, this type of construction allows a home to maintain indoor temperatures through multi-day power outages. Aebi confesses that while some buyers think the durability is “cool” most are much happier just knowing their home was designed using solid construction techniques.

And as for the actual energy-efficiency of the homes? "The last 15 homes we have built, homeowners are [paying] no electric bills," says Aebi. In fact, out of the 34 total Zero Energy Ready Homes Greenhill Contracting has constructed, there are only five homeowners paying any type of electric bill. "[We are proving] the DOE Zero Energy Ready threshold can be achieved without any significant costs over a code-built home."

Visit EEBA's education center to learn more about the Building Science for Cost Effective Approaches to Zero Energy Homes.

Selling Energy Efficient Homes

You've built an energy efficient, high performance home...but now how do you sell it?
Selling Energy Efficient Homes

Over thirty years ago, builders began approaching Gord Cooke about utilizing building science in their construction processes. Many expressed interest in incorporating energy strategies into their homes, but they also went back to their offices wondering how to actually sell it.

"The mistake is assuming that if it has to do with energy efficiency, to sell it as energy efficiency," says Cooke.

With over a decade of energy and marketing research studies, data from the Shelton Group shows that while many buyers are interested in energy efficiency, they are rarely motivated to buy a home simply because it will save them energy. Most buyers get caught up in other aspects of the home building process - the location, the paint colors, the countertops and cabinets - energy efficiency tends to get lost in the conversation.

But where does it fit it?

While Shelton’s group collects data through surveys and research, Cooke enjoys physically visiting sales centers for proof that people aren’t that interested in energy savings. Through his onsite experience, he believes the way to a buyer’s heart is to talk about a real emotional appeal.

"From a building science perspective, we want houses to be built tighter with a continuous mechanical ventilation system, provide them an opportunity to ventilate properly, and save money," says Cooke. "But [instead we should] talk about the healthy living environment - no bugs, no draft, no dust, fresh air. And then at the end of the conversation you say, 'By the way, besides these other things, you ALSO get all these great energy savings.'"

Cooke and Suzanne Shelton teamed up to create a very specific course aimed at teaching builders and their sales staff how to sell energy efficiency. Presented at the 2017 High Performance Home Summit, the full-day session is also available through EEBA's Houses that Work™ program and is especially beneficial for sales people. The class is one of 7 in the program and takes attendees through the building science of a home and turns every technical feature into a benefit for buyers.

Leading From the Ground Up

The Innovation Summit at EEBA’s High Performance Home Summit offered attendees a greater opportunity for meaningful discussion.
Leading From the Ground Up

Industry events can, at times, be predictable. Same speakers, same topics, same format. And while presenters are grasping for an opportunity to create an atmosphere of authenticity in their presentation, there’s rarely enough time left for a good discussion afterwards.

Last year’s conference in Atlanta not only offered PechaKucha, but also the first EEBA Innovation Summit. Assembling a panel packed with diverse backgrounds and expertise, Colby Swanson and Calvin Trumbo of Momentum Innovation Group, joined forces with Mike Hess of Panasonic CityNow, and Aaron Holm of Blokable to give attendees a taste of project and product innovation happening within the industry.

Hess explained how Panasonic is utilizing technology to build the smart city of tomorrow. Holm, an ex-Amazon exec, described the housing issues they are trying to help solve at Blokable, and Swanson and Trumbo went into detail about areas inside and outside the industry that are pushing the boundaries of innovation.

The second hour of the two-part session found Holm and Swanson sitting on the floor with attendees circled around them as the panel opened it up for questions and an open discussion. “Once you put down the PowerPoint and get off the stage, more engaging dialogue can happen,” says Swanson.

Look for the 2018 EEBA High Performance Home Summit to offer more interesting presentations and styles like this. Register today and join us in San Diego.

Upcoming HERS Associate Courses

The HERS Associate course will provide attendees with a greater understanding of what it takes to design a high performance, energy efficient home.
Upcoming HERS Associate Courses

EEBA will be offering the new HERS Associate course ("An Introduction to the HERS Index & IECC Compliance") in Atlanta and Raleigh during the month of May, and in June in Denver. The class is geared towards (but not limited to) builders, realtors, designers, architects, new home salespeople, manufacturing representatives, and sustainability students who are not certified HERS Raters.

Mike Barcik, Technical Principal at Southface Institute, will lead the day-long, 3-part course introducing attendees to the HERS Index and exploring how it’s used to comply with the building code.

"I really enjoy teaching this class. It covers the basic content of the energy code and demonstrates methods of compliance," says Barcik. "It also demonstrates how the HERS index is determined and how the Rating industry can help builders achieve code compliance and receive credit for beyond-code measures."

Each class will begin with basic Building Science principles and how they relate to the Performance Path option in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Participants will be introduced to the HERS Index and also spend time learning about the strategies and tools used by HERS Raters to produce a HERS Index Score, and how manipulating various construction assemblies effect the Score.

At the end of the course, those interested in earning RESNET's HERS Associate designation will (for an additional fee) have the opportunity to take a brief test and, upon passing, receive the designation certificate.

The HERS Associate course is approved for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) with the following organizations: AIA/CES (HSW), BPI, ICC, NARI, NAHB, and NATE.

Atlanta - May 15, 2018 (Registration Deadline: May 14)
Southface - Home Depot Training Center, 241 Pine Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
Session: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (Registration opens 8:00 am)
Registration: $175 after 5/8 | Optional: $45 fee for the HERS Associate Designation (pay when registering, or on-site by credit card or check made payable to “EEBA”)

Raleigh - May 31, 2018 (Registration Deadline: May 30)
Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, 5580 Centerview Drive, Suite 115, Raleigh, NC 27606
Session: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (Registration opens 8:30 am)
Registration: $160; $175 after 5/24 | Optional: $75 fee for the HERS Associate Designation (pay when registering, or on-site by credit card or check made payable to "EEBA")

Denver - June 14, 2018 (Registration Deadline: June 12)
Metro Denver HBA, 9033 E Easter Place, Suite 200, Centennial, CO 80112
Session: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (Registration opens at 8:00 am)
Registration: $190; $200 after 6/7 | Optional: $45 fee for the HERS Associate Designation (pay when registering, or on-site by credit card or check made payable to "EEBA")

Check the EEBA Facebook page for courses in a city near you.

High Performance Homes in Under 7 Minutes

Less is more when it comes to PechaKucha at EEBA's High Performance Home Summit

At this year’s High Performance Home Summit in San Diego, we'll be bringing back the highly rated PechaKucha. Last year's standing room only session gave attendees a chance to get a quick glimpse of multiple presentations.

PechaKucha is a style of presenting aimed at quickly and creatively conveying a message. Presenters have under seven minutes to keep the audience engaged through 20 slides while being as concise and informative as possible, and ending with a short Q&A.

Luis Imery presents during PechaKucha at the 2017 High Performance Home Summit in Atlanta (Click to View Video)

Winners from the Department of Energy's Housing Innovation Awards have participated in the last two PechaKucha events at EEBA's High Performance Home Summit. Facilitator and EEBA Board Member, Alex Glenn, hopes to see more industry leaders and innovative thinkers get involved this year.

"I like PechaKucha for many reasons, including how many ideas can be presented in such a short amount of time. If you love what you hear, you can network with the presenters afterwards and ask more questions. If you are not interested in what's being presented, just wait, because it only lasts seven minutes," says Glenn. "PechaKucha is a fun and effective way of sharing powerful ideas while at the same time challenging the presenter to get their message across quickly. It's great to see people take the creativity and ideas from the presenters and put them to work in their area of expertise."

The EEBA High Performance Home Summit is an educational conference focused on energy-efficiency and high-performance building and is a great place for builders, raters, analysts, and architects to learn, network and share ideas. The 2018 Summit will be held in San Diego October 16-18. Email if you’re interested in participating during the PechaKucha event.

What the Duck

The adoption of new technology can benefit everyone, if the right steps are taken to modernize infrastructure.
What the Duck

Our technology-driven world comes with great advancements and achievements, but also many challenges. Autonomous vehicles are a good example. The success and progression of this technology will require federal, state and local government input, as well as material manufacturers and automakers - all working together to help create and improve future infrastructure.

And how about solar? While California, Florida, and Arizona understand the benefits of utilizing solar panels, utilities are still figuring out some of the details. This is resulting in rate changes, or laws being put in place, to prohibit or reduce the amount of solar that can be installed. And that’s not progress.

So how do we adopt technologies in a way in which they actually benefit our infrastructure? This was just one of the questions Dan Wildenhaus and Shaun Hassel posed to attendees at the 2017 EEBA Summit in their lively, 90-minute session, "What the Duck".

"We're always looking early in the year to get the pulse for current hot topics, or what we feel is about to become important in the industry," says Dan Wildenhaus. "We're caught in a world where technology and what people want to put in their homes is heading in one direction, but at the same time there's a whole lot of issues happening to our utility grid structure. We think demand response of distributed energy resources is something a lot of the energy efficiency crowd talks about between themselves at the water cooler, or with a few clients."

Emphasizing storytelling as a key to their successful presentation style, Wildenhaus and Hassel took 60-minutes to pose multiple questions, and provide attendees with facts, ideas, and ample humor. Armed with a conviction that presentations should be a "conversation," they utilized the last 30-minutes to allow for Q&A and audience input. And because of the intimate setting EEBA offers as an industry conference, as well as a great blend of attendees, participants were able to share issues or solutions happening at a micro-level in their local areas, as well as their knowledge of technology that was beginning to address a particular issue.

"If we're proactive and put the right combination of technology together and work towards the idea of benefiting the infrastructure," says Wildenhaus, "It will benefit everyone."

The 2018 EEBA High Performance Home Summit will be held in San Diego from October 16-18. If you have an engaging presentation that will help move the industry forward, please submit it by April 27th.

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