How to Navigate the New Reality

EEBA builders lead the way on how to operate safely and virtually during and after COVID-19
How to Navigate the New Reality
In the transition to a 21st Century business model, builders have moved at wildly different speeds. Some have embraced digital business processes, while others have adopted them slowly, if at all. Of course, we're in a different world today than we were just a month ago. The COVID-19 crisis has put a fire under the backside of all industry players. Builders nationwide suddenly have no choice but to get good at using virtual platforms for coordinating employees, trade partners and customers, while at the same time protecting workers that have to be on the job. Industry publications have done a great job covering this topic in general terms. For instance, Professional Builder magazine just published the results of a coronavirus business impact survey that garnered more than 1500 responses. It's available here: https://www.probuilder.com/week-2-results-update-our-coronavirus-business-impact-survey For this article we decided to take a different approach. To get some ideas on how ... read more
 

Should a Builder Own a Blower Door?

Yes, according to this high-performance builder, who uses it to constantly raise the quality bar
Should a Builder Own a Blower Door?
By Ben Walker With codes and high-performance construction programs requiring airtightness testing, a small but growing cadre of home builders have been purchasing their own blower doors. They are finding that this tool's value goes beyond mere compliance. One of them is Arrow Building in Columbia, Missouri, which owner Jake Bruton says builds "durable, energy-efficient, aesthetically pleasing homes." Most of his projects meet Passive House standards, which specify a maximum air leakage of 0.6 Air Changes per Hour at a test pressure of 50 Pascals (0.6 ACH 50). However, he bought his first unit in 2014, before committing to those standards. He heard murmurs that air tightness testing would eventually be part of the code. No other builders in his market seemed to own one, so he figured that being the first would give him a competitive advantage. (Bruton builds custom homes, but some Zero Energy production builders also own blower doors. One is Thrive Homebuilders in Denver, ... read more
 

Top Multifamily Design Mistakes

If your business includes apartments or condos, beware of these common, performance-enhancing errors
Top Multifamily Design Mistakes
By Steve Klocke Although I'm an architect by training, I've worked for nine years as a sustainability consultant on low-rise multifamily projects. My designers and builders usually seek green building certification for their projects, whether ENERGY STAR or LEED for Homes. They want to be known for delivering high quality, high performance buildings. Good intentions notwithstanding, I see the same mistakes again and again. This article covers the top four, all of which concern envelope detailing. Few projects have all these errors, but every project I see suffers from at least one of them. These mistakes begin during design, which is why most of the live trainings I give on this topic are geared to architects. However, I also know that the most effective preventative measure is for educated architects and builders to help each other do good work. That benefits everyone. The four top design mistakes are as follows: 1. Overcomplicated Geometry Architects love to draw... read more
 

Air Sealing Triage

A simple protocol will make your results more predictable and consistent
Air Sealing Triage
By Mark LaLiberte High-performance builders have long understood the importance of good air sealing, but the topic is now attracting interest from conventional builders as well. With codes mandating confirmed air leakage numbers of 3 ACH 50 or better, those builders are realizing that they need help. Along with my business partners, Justin Wilson and Gord Cooke, I teach air sealing as part of the Applied Building Science classes at Construction Instruction. Again and again, we've seen builders of all types challenged by this important step. But the truth is that effective air sealing isn't mysterious, even if some builders seem intent on over-complicating it. Some complain that the amount of information on the topic is overwhelming and contradictory. Others point out that they can't know for sure before starting a house where the air leaks will be. While both of these objections may be true, they're really just signs that the builder lacks a defined air sealing... read more
 

The Rater as Healthy Home Advisor

If you want to build homes with better indoor air quality, this professional can be a great resource
The Rater as Healthy Home Advisor
By Steve Byers Attend an EEBA Summit or any other gathering of high-performance builders, and you will learn a lot about how to build healthy homes with great indoor air quality (IAQ). The attendees will all seem committed to building such homes, making it easy to conclude that health has become a priority for the industry. The problem is that it hasn't. I love these conferences because they attract the best builders, but they can also be an echo chamber. My interactions with code-minimum builders—who represent most of the industry—have taught me that for most, IAQ isn't even on their radar. This obviously begs the question of "how do we reach those builders?" Getting Motivated Helping them want to build healthy homes takes a stick and a carrot, with the two ends of the stick being liability and reputation. On the liability end, an asthmatic child developing problems after the family moves into one of your homes is a worst-case, and lawyers will likely be... read more
 

Financing Zero Energy

Some ideas on how to have the money discussion with homebuyers
Financing Zero Energy
By Bruce Sullivan I've seen lots of articles that try to educate homeowners about zero energy construction by diving right into the building science and construction details and leaving the financial payoffs until the end. When I teach EEBA's Path to Zero course, however, I flip that sequence. I always begin with an in-depth discussion about money issues because I know that's the gorilla in the room. Once the attendees understand the financial benefits of this way of building, their minds open to learning more. Of course, the EEBA audience is a professional one, but the approach also works with homeowners, making it a good idea for the builder to consider having this discussion early. In my conversations with builders, however, I find that many aren't sure about how best to have the money talk. Fortunately, it's not that difficult. Most homeowners already have an intuitive grasp of the fact that energy-saving improvements, such as adding insulation and high-efficiency... read more
 

High Performance Basic Training

Some of the things I learned at Houses That Work
High Performance Basic Training
Although the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code has yet to be finalized, chances are it will get most new homes very close to Net Zero Ready. Builders and architects need to understand the best ways to meet the code requirements for a particular floor plan in a specific climate without creating moisture, health, or other problems. The escalating demand for building science knowledge on the part of industry professionals is why, over the past few months, we have encouraged people to attend EEBA's annual Summit, a 3-day educational and networking event with the top designers and builders of green, high-performance homes. This year's gathering was October 1-3, and in our last article EEBA President Geoff Ferrell offered an insightful summary of how Summit attendees are shaping our industry's future. But of course, the once-a-year Summit isn't the only education that EEBA offers. There's plenty of gold in our full-day training seminars: Houses That Work,... read more
 

The Other Half of Water Conservation

Low-flow fixtures are important, but if you're really serious about saving water you may need to re-think your plumbing system.
The Other Half of Water Conservation
By Tim Kampert Bathrooms account for more than 50 percent of all indoor water use, according to the EPA. That makes WaterSense fixtures a great choice for any project, and a must for anyone claiming to build green homes. But while low-flow fixtures are important they're not the whole story. In my experience as a building performance specialist working with production builders across the U.S., I have learned that there is plenty of additional savings to be gained from more efficient plumbing. It's not uncommon for a homeowner to flush thousands of gallons down the drain each year waiting for hot water to reach the tap. The effect on the water bill is certainly an issue here, but so is homeowners' frustration with that wait time. In fact, a common complaint our builder clients hear from homeowners is that "it takes forever to get hot water." Considering the frequency of those complaints I'm surprised more builders don't do something about them. The truth is that wait time is... read more
 

High Performance Coming of Age

This year's EEBA High Performance Home Summit was confirmation that our industry is headed in the right direction.
High Performance Coming of Age
By Geoff Ferrell If I had to choose one word to summarize this year's EEBA High Performance Home Summit in Denver, it would be optimism. The most visible sign of that was our record attendance of nearly 400 people, which reflects a growing interest in high-performance homebuilding. But while the numbers were encouraging, where I really heard that optimism was in the presentations I attended and the conversations I had. It was by far the best energy I've felt at any industry gathering. Ever. The sessions included lively and constructive debates, exciting research reports and stories of homes, buildings and communities that put the best research findings into practice. Everyone was fired up about the work they were doing. As is true every year, one of the educational tracks focused on sales, marketing, and business performance. Excellence in these areas is exponentially more important in the high-performance world because every one of us is fighting to differentiate... read more
 

The Ultimate In High Performance

This award winner is just one example of the lessons builders will learn at this year's EEBA Summit.
The Ultimate In High Performance
This is the sixth year that EEBA will be hosting the DOE's Housing Innovation Awards at its annual Summit. The awards recognize builders who have pushed the envelope on the Path to Zero Energy Ready homes by showcasing projects that offer lessons for others builders. As such, the awards perfectly support EEBA's mission of educating the industry on how to design, build and sell high-performance homes. An example of what attendees will see this year is a winner in the Large Custom Home category, a 4-bedroom, 4691 square foot zero energy home in Hampton, Virginia on a beach overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. It was built by Health-E Community Enterprises and in many ways represents the ultimate in high-performance: super-efficient, healthy, resilient and handicap accessible. But while the home was obviously designed for a well-heeled custom buyer, builder Jay Epstein used design approaches and materials choices that he says apply to more mainstream projects. In fact, he offers similar ... read more