The views expressed in these articles are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of EEBA staff, officers, or board members. EEBA welcomes guest articles from qualified authors, and we offer these articles as a service to the high-performance housing industry as a way to encourage discussion and collaboration between industry professionals on relevant issues.

The Virtue of Disruption

By Aaron Smith
The Virtue of Disruption
The history of innovation is one of scrappy smaller competitors wielding disruption like a pickaxe—steadily chipping away at the old order. Ten years ago, Tesla was a nobody in an industry defined by legacy players. Today, the legacy players can’t keep up. Tesla’s market cap is almost five times Ford and GM’s combined. A similar story has played out across industries. Airbnb “happened” to hospitality, Uber happened to transportation, Netflix happened to Hollywood, Robinhood happened to stock trading, and so on. But somehow, homebuilding has remained a stubborn exception. Industry incumbents have clung to their old ways. But any safety they still feel in this paradigm is a false sense of security. I’m not sure I could have said that with confidence even just a year ago. But 2020 has changed everything. As the pandemic raged, Americans did not turn to LEED-certified office buildings. They turned to their houses as the last line of defense against the virus. As the worst... read more
 

The Real Way to Manage Basement Moisture

Sponsored by Dörken Systems Inc. -- by Joe Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng., ASHRAE Fellow, Principal, Building Science Corporation

Basements were never intended to be lived in. In the old days, we called them cellars. We stored vegetables and coal and wood in them. They smelled damp… they were damp. Now we put bedrooms, entertainment centers, and nurseries in them. We began to live in every cubic volume of space rather than just on the main levels of houses. We expanded the conditioned space and basements were the first priority of making that conversion (Figure 1). Figure 1 Building above grade is tough enough, but below grade? It is the most difficult space to get right. Space in basements is cheap, right? Nope. The basement has to hold the building up. That alone is a big deal. The basement has to keep the groundwater, soil gas, and water vapor out, and keep the heat in during the winter and the heat out during the summer. We are going to avoid the structural part…mostly. Instead, we are going to focus on the other parts. Basement foundations need to be water managed. Water-managed basement... 

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The End of The Beginning

High performance builders are poised to lead a rapidly changing industry, but the leaders will need to become formidable competitors. EEBA is helping them do so.
The End of The Beginning
I learned a lot at this year's virtual EEBA Summit, but two things stand out. One is that sustainable, high performance homes, the homes EEBA has promoted for 38 years, are mainstream. Buyers at all price points expect them. If you're a forward-thinking designer or builder, that's a great opportunity. If you're new to the game, however, it's also a threat. The second point that became clear during the Summit is that many builders need to improve their business acumen if they want to take advantage of this opportunity and avoid being left behind. The opportunity is the demand for homes that tread lightly on planet and climate, homes that are healthy, energy efficient and durable. My company, Thrive Home Builders, hears this demand all the time but as a healthy, high-performance builder we expect to. The Summit confirmed that more builders than ever are hearing it. That shouldn't be a surprise—the motivating imperatives have never been more clear. Wildfires, pandemic-related ... read more
 

How Big Is the Zero Energy Movement?

The Inventory of Zero Energy Homes aims to answer that, and to get more builders on the path to Zero

Zero Energy homebuilding has garnered lots of attention from the trade press in recent years. Homes, communities, and builders have been profiled in e-newsletters like this one as well as in print magazines such as Professional Builder. Trade journals have published countless how-to articles on topics like advanced framing, insulating, air sealing, HVAC, and indoor air quality.  No surprise there: cutting edge projects and technologies are always newsworthy and make for good reading. The question is how much actual growth that attention reflects. Signs from around the industry are encouraging. The International Energy Conservation Code has been gradually lowering acceptable home energy use.

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Building The High-Performance Customer Experience

How do you stay ahead of the market as homes move closer to zero? By getting customers to rave about how great you are to work with as well as about your homes
That should come as no surprise—customer expectations have been ratcheting up for years. Not long ago the mere fact that you offered ENERGY STAR appliances put you on the cutting edge; today, buyers expect them. Now the same is happening with ratings, as the Real Estate industry works to raise public awareness of HERS scores and other energy-efficient and healthy home certifications and incorporate them into appraisals. The hope is that homes with these certifications will become the baseline. This is great news for housing quality, but it only confirms the need to further differentiate yourself. One way is to provide a great customer experience—known by the acronym CX in marketing circles. This is an experience that leads people to enthusiastically embrace your homes' performance benefits. "Homebuilding has become commoditized," says Jimmy Diffee of Bokka group, a CX agency for homebuilders. "There's a lot of room for the high-performance builder to create a premium experience and ... read more
 

Consumer Perception and Willingness to Pay for Extended New Home Warranties

Todd Usher is the owner of Addison Homes and pursuing his PhD at Clemson University. He serves on the boards of Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). and Joe Burgett, PhD, is an assistant professor at Clemson University’s Construction Science and Management. Dr. Burgett is on the Board of the American Institute of Constructors and a member of the Exam Writing Committee. INTRODUCTION Innovation is discussed frequently in business as a way of driving continuous improvement and economic growth. The home building industry has been slower than most industries to undergo disruptive innovations. In the study Characteristics of Innovative Production Home Builders by Koebel and Cavell, the authors explain that industries that are not as dependent on science and technology tend to have extended periods between disruptive innovations and focus primarily on refining existing technologies (2006). Home building is clearly one... read more
 

Are Smart Neighborhoods in Your Future?

Sustainability doesn't stop at the front door. Understanding that can give you a competitive edge.
Are Smart Neighborhoods in Your Future?
With codes and market forces continuing to raise the bar for home performance, forward-thinking builders and developers are looking beyond the individual home. Some see the next big thing in sustainable building as the "smart neighborhood." The smart neighborhoods I've looked at all include community-scale energy generation and energy management, while some go further by prioritizing clean air and clean water. The trend is relatively new, however, and developers are still figuring out what works in a business sense. Challenges include how to keep costs down, how to work with the electric utility, and how to determine what features buyers will value. It Starts with the Home The core of the smart neighborhood is the smart home. It combines healthy, energy-efficient construction with electronic features like rooftop solar panels, backup batteries, connected appliances and home automation. Most people think of home automation as a control system for lights, shades, music,... read more
 

A Sensor-Controlled Healthy Home

Electronics are the future of indoor air quality. Woodside's concept home shows how they add value.
A Sensor-Controlled Healthy Home
One would expect that months of a pandemic-driven news cycle would cause at least some shifts in home buyer priorities. Indeed it has. Joel Abney, VP of Operations at Woodside Homes, the nation's 28th largest production builder, says that the company's buyer surveys have reflected a measurable rise in concern about health and wellness. "A few months ago, most people just assumed their new home would be healthy," he says. "Then the Coronavirus hit." Now, buyers want proof that it will be healthy, and are asking for systems to ensure that outcome. Their worries aren't limited to viruses, either. "The specific concerns we hear most often are about allergens and mold," says Abney. These concerns aren't new: the virus merely added fuel to an already accelerating demand for healthy homes. An August 2019 Farnsworth Group survey of 40-55 year old homebuyers found that 59 percent placed a high priority on "Health & Well-Being," a priority Woodside had already made a centerpiece of... read more
 

What Does It Take to Win A Housing Innovation Award?

We asked the program's judges for their perspectives on this question.
What Does It Take to Win A Housing Innovation Award?
Each year the Department of Energy honors winners of its annual Housing Innovation Awards at the EEBA Summit. The awards showcase the best of Net Zero Ready Homebuilding. Benefits to winners include a profile on the DOE's Tour of Zero website, third-party recognition they can use in their marketing and the opportunity to meet with and learn from other winners. DOE recently hosted two webinars for builders who are interested in applying. The webinars provided step-by-step instructions for filling out and submitting applications, as well as resources to help them with questions. The webinars are now archived at the program website. Each home is entered in one of five categories: Custom for Buyer, Custom Spec, Production, Multifamily and Affordable. Each judge specializes in one category, and each category has at least three judges. The application is done online and asks for data in a variety of areas, from home performance to land use to sales and marketing. Each of these... read more
 

The Health Window

Homeowners would be clamoring for humidity control equipment if they understood its importance to their health. So why do builders and contractors do such a poor job selling it?

ASHRAE ChartAs sales trainer for a major HVAC equipment manufacturer, I give presentations on indoor air quality to builders and mechanical contractors around the country. Most of them assume that my sole topics will be ventilation and air filtration. While those are a huge part of what I cover, they're not the whole story.

By now, all builders should understand that good ventilation and filtration equipment is the only way to guarantee clean, fresh indoor air. That's true for any home, but it's especially true for a high-performance home that has been detailed to reduce natural air infiltration. I recommend an air cleaner with a MERV 16 filter, which captures 95% of particulates at .3 microns (hundreds of times smaller than a human hair). That filter will remove 99% of asthma and allergy triggers from the home.

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