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
 

Solving the Appraisal Problem

Appraisers will be better able to value high-performance homes when more builders start documenting those homes' features
Solving the Appraisal Problem
by Sandra K. Adomatis Fannie Mae and Freddie MAC are in the process of revising the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report (form 1004). Although the draft has yet to be made public, I believe that it will provide a path for more accurately describing and valuing energy efficiency and green features. The recognition by the mortgage industry that buyers are seeking green features—especially features that lower their monthly energy bills— is a step in the right direction. It should improve the appraised values of these properties as well. But while better appraisal forms will help, they're useless if the appraiser and real estate agent aren’t provided with the home's high performance details. The appraiser can't value green features unless those features are documented, and that's the builder's job. The fact that few builders provide adequate documentation is costing everyone. I've seen many high performance homes that were valued the same as similar homes built to a lower... read more
 

Help Ensure Our Industry's Future

A new EEBA initiative will recruit and train the next generation of building science professionals. But we can't do it without you.
Help Ensure Our Industry
Builders are often complaining about the industry's lack of young talent – but complaining won't change anything. Improving the situation will demand focused action. It will require that builders, trades, manufacturers, and other industry partners band together in a systematic effort to attract that talent. EEBA took the first step to that outcome during our Path to Zero educational seminar in June. Eight scholarship students from the University of Denver attended free of charge, as their registrations were generously funded by EEBA partner companies. * These partners understand that recruiting and training the next generation of building science professionals will require a sustained effort and the money to support it. The event was the beginning of the NextGen Scholarship Initiative. Its mission is to bring students, recent graduates, and young professionals from around the U.S to the annual EEBA High Performance Home Summit and our various regional trainings, where we will... read more
 

Problem-Free Closed Crawls

The advantages of closed, conditioned crawl spaces have been well documented, but many builders need help with the details
Problem-Free Closed Crawls
by Alex Glenn and Tommy Blair Roughly 15% to 20% of homes built in the U.S. each year have crawl space foundations. They're cheaper to build than full basements and more functional than a slab, offering a convenient place for plumbing, wiring, ductwork and heating or cooling equipment, as well as some bulk water resiliency. Twenty years ago, nearly all crawl spaces were ventilated with outside air in an effort to control moisture. Most building codes required such venting. The problem is that atmospheric venting is ineffective, to put it mildly. It can actually cause moisture problems, especially in humid climates when warm, moist air enters the crawl space and condenses on the framing. Many builders and remodelers tried to address these problems by bringing in even more outside air, either passively by building more openings into the foundation, or actively by installing fans in the crawl space. This usually made the problems even worse. Documented Benefits Things... read more
 

Can BIM Grease the Path to Zero?

This builder/developer is using the technology to do just that.
Can BIM Grease the Path to Zero?
While Building Information Modeling (BIM) is standard operating procedure on large commercial projects, relatively few residential builders have gotten on board. However, the technology has great potential for innovating homebuilding in general and green, high-performance building, in particular. The few homebuilders who are using it call it a game changer. One of these is Jay Epstein, a Virginia builder/developer who started down the high-performance path more than 30 years ago. He was an early participant in the Building America program, and his company won three recent Housing Innovation Awards from the Department of Energy—in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Now he has teamed up with Skokie, Ill.-based DIGIBILT to use its BIM system for designing and managing construction of the state's first net zero ready community, Walnut Farm, which will consist of 75 single-family homes in Williamsburg, Virginia. Epstein hopes the project will serve as an exemplar for the industry. "I want this... read more
 

Paths to Zero

There's more than one way to reach the goal of building Zero Energy homes. A new EEBA training helps builders chart their best course.
Paths to Zero
As more high-performance zero-energy ready homes get built, and as more customers learn the financial benefits of owning such a home, demand for them will continue to rise. But for builders who have never exceeded minimum code requirements, the prospect of building to zero can seem daunting. Those preparing to embark on the journey usually have a lot of questions. What features should they start with? How long will it take to master this way of building? How will my customers pay the extra upfront costs? The answers to the first two questions, according to Bruce Sullivan, who teaches EEBA's new Path to Zero Energy Homes training seminar, are 1) you can start almost anywhere, and 2) once you get going you can move along at your own pace. He also says that the path can unfold in a nearly infinite number of ways. In fact, the seminar might better be called "Paths" to Zero, since the journey will be different for every builder. The path an individual builder takes will depend... read more
 

Q&A with Geoff Ferrell

The new board president shares his thoughts about the future of EEBA.
Q&A with Geoff Ferrell
In January of this year, Geoff Ferrell stepped up as President of the EEBA board, succeeding Gene Myers of Thrive Homebuilders. Mr. Ferrell's deep immersion in high-performance home building makes him well qualified for the position. He currently serves as Chief Technology Officer for Mandalay Homes in the Prescott, Arizona area, a company that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the most innovative home builders in America and was recently named ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for the 3rd consecutive year. His duties include ensuring that the company's specifications and construction practices consistently meet its performance goals, and as part of that he leads the company's quality assurance efforts. We asked Mr. Ferrell for his thoughts on the EEBA board's priorities for the next few years, as well as his personal goals for the organization. EEBA: How did you get introduced to EEBA and why have you stayed active? GF: I attended my first EEBA ... read more
 

A Revolution In Water Recycling?

New septic technology could help reduce pollution, save water and qualify homes for LEED points. It could also let you build on otherwise unbuildable lots.
A Revolution In Water Recycling?
Dave Hopper has been in the septic installation business since the late 1980's and rarely sees anything new that qualifies as a game-changer. That was until last year when his company, H&M Construction in Walton, Kentucky was asked to install a new type of system from Cincinnati-based NextGen Septic. He has since installed about a dozen of these systems and now offers them to builder customers where the project warrants. Although his customers end up paying an installed cost about twice that of a conventional septic, none of them complain because it lets them build on lots they could not build on otherwise. "The system basically sells itself," he says. Problem Solver The NextGen system consists of a stainless-steel treatment unit placed on top of a two-chamber septic tank. The unit is small enough to fit between the tank's two risers. Rather than flowing to a leach field, effluent from the septic tank is pumped through the NextGen unit, where biomedia remove nitrogen,... read more
 

How To Dominate A Competitive Market

A Seattle rater and consultant shares lessons he has learned working with the top green builders
Green building is like any other endeavor. Look at a local market and you will see most green builders going about their business the usual way—doing good work but competing with one another for the best jobs. You will also likely see a few companies that have managed to rise above the herd. The latter companies are the ones who create a recognized brand based on their green building expertise. They're less affected by price pressures and stay busy even when the real estate market cools. The obvious question is: how did they get there? You can get a good perspective on that question from industry professionals who work with those market leaders as well as with the rest of the pack. That's why we decided to spend some time with Tadashi Shiga. Shiga is Principal of Evergreen Certified in Seattle. He has worked with 250 builders in what may be the greenest building market in the U.S. His company provides verifier and rater services for programs that include PHIUS+, HERS,... read more