Free net-zero webinar to provide ways to achieve energy efficiency goals in residential construction

Net Zero Demonstration HouseThanks to the pervasive use of sustainable building practices, the average homeowners’ ability to afford green homes and sustainable systems is finally within reach, as the cost of energy-efficient materials and renewable-energy equipment continues to fall. Case in point, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association the average price of an installed solar-power system has declined more than 50 percent since 2010.

Due to this attainable outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy says their ultimate vision is that by 2030, a consumer will have the opportunity to buy a cost-neutral, net-zero energy home (NZEH) anywhere in the United States — a grid-connected home that, over the course of a year, produces as much energy as it uses. However, this also represents a unique challenge for the architects and builders who will be tasked with creating, constructing and evaluating these climate-appropriate zero energy homes.

Enter CertainTeed’s newest free webinar, Net-Zero Energy Home: Design Strategies and System Optimization. The AIA-accredited online course takes place Tuesday, July 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.

houseJoin me as I explore Pennsylvania State University’s award-winning, LEED Platinum, GridSTAR Experience Center project, completed last year on the grounds of the historic Navy Yard in Philadelphia. During the course, I will cover all aspects of this net-zero modular building that was designed and constructed using a unique combination of building materials, construction methods, energy management strategies and renewable energy sources. Learning objectives include:

  • Design strategies for pursuing a net-zero energy home
  • Describe tools used to create, construct and evaluate a climate-appropriate zero energy home before and after construction
  • Understand how to manage and interpret hygrothermal and demand response data for a single family residential home
  • Learn how innovative public/private partnerships are being used to advance building science research

This one drew a big crowd when I first presented it at AIA a few months ago in Atlanta. Register now, right here for Net-Zero Energy Home: Design Strategies and System Optimization.

Smarter Skins 2 for Higher Performance Buildings

CertainTeed is pleased to introduce Building Knowledge insights that are focused on the Canadian market.  This is the second blog published by one of our Canadian experts.

There is a push globally for all building codes, including at the international level, towards net-zero construction by 2030.  Europe, which is somewhat ahead of the rest of the world in energy efficiency, in pushing for mandatory zero energy requirements by 2018.

Canadians are experts in adapting to cold extremes, developing performance codes and innovative Building Skins solutions and, therefore, have many insights when it comes to achieving this goal. Accordingly, Toronto (See my previous Blog) and Vancouver are two of the top energy efficiency leaders in buildings in North America.

I had the opportunity to share building science insights to several hundred architects at Building Industry events in Vancouver and Toronto. In Toronto, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) are leaders with their own OAA+2030 program and I had the chance to co-present with a leading Architect, Contractor and University Team; the Smarter Skins 2 sequel in 2015 (SS 2015).  We know it was successful; as Smarter Skins 3 is already planned for 2016! What are some of the smarter building skin solutions from SS 2015 that contribute to higher performance and most important provide sustainable habitat for building occupants?

Halifax libraryIt is crucial to assess sustainable innovations at the design phase. You can’t change the window/wall ratio, air barrier system, insulation, or gypsum wall assemblies during or after construction, so it is critical to get it right!

SS 2015 presented the key principals for building smarter skin solutions including a case study from the CNN eye-popping and award winning New Halifax Library.

Halifax drawing

 

What is the principal lesson learned for large glass buildings if we also want to achieve higher performance?  It is the need for better architectural design that includes Building Science principles.  In the case of the Halifax Library, behind the glass skin veneer 54 percent of the walls are opaque walls constructed with insulation and drywall (See sample detail).  Therefore, by focusing on smarter wall and window assemblies, you can have inspirational views to the harbor and higher building envelope performance at lower cost.

In summary, design and build with smarter skins and your customers will come.  The recently opened Halifax Library has been experiencing Community usage approximately two times greater than expected and patrons are being inspired by the views to advance their knowledge.  Blog readers can also benefit from more Smarter Skins Higher Performance Buildings insights by following My Blog and attending CertainTeed’s  Architectural Insights Symposiums and Industry Partner Events that share smarter skins knowledge.

If you are working on creating smarter skins for all types of sustainable buildings, I would be interested in hearing about your projects and the materials and system skins you are using. For example, smarter skins are essential for more affordable mid-rise wood buildings now permitted in most Canadian Codes. Together, with Smarter Insights, we will achieve higher performance buildings today for our customers and move toward the goal of Net-Zero Energy.

Green Thought Leader Bob Marshall, manager, Building Science, CertainTeed Gypsum Canada

While at Greenbuild 2014, we asked our technical thought leaders the following question:

What is the most compelling thing happening in your universe with regard to sustainability?

Bob MarshallIn Canada, we have a much different view on energy efficiency and zero energy for buildings. Targeting energy efficiency is not only a priority but a regulatory requirement in Canada. The government is not waiting for people to take the 3 percent of the buildings that are LEED to a higher energy efficiency, they are mandating it in regulation.

Toronto, where I am from, is the fourth largest city in North America and has the highest energy efficiency standard for buildings in North America. It is 25 percent higher than the Ontario building code which is quite high in comparison to other parts of North America. We are following the course that Europe has taken and making it law to implement this for all buildings.

We will be the first jurisdiction in North America to mandate the maximum energy use intensity in a building and we are doing this for all buildings. It will be part of the next building code requirements.

We need to change the game with regard to the goals for energy efficient buildings and mandate it.

Wall Assemblies for Maximum Efficiency: How Many Layers is Too Many?

SimplexOPTIMABuilding professionals spend a lot of time dealing with production construction which has dialed in efficiencies and productivity to provide the maximum assembly for the cost per square foot.  The reality is in standard construction you build things in five or six layers. This is the standard in terms of building a wall system more efficiently and we have gotten it down to a science.  Generally a six layer home will give you a solid, energy efficient, comfortable home.

Occasionally, I work with builders on projects that remind me of possibilities beyond what is the status quo.  I recently had an opportunity to work with a builder who was building a custom home whose wall systems had 13 layers.  This wall had so much redundancy and robustness built into it that I just had to ask for a chance to visit the project and see this masterpiece being built.

This was the homeowner’s instruction: They wanted a thick wall, they wanted a silent wall, they wanted a highly efficient wall for them to own.  That’s one of the key’s to this discussion- the owner is focused on what comes afterwards- not what happened before. To achieve this goal the builder is employing a combination of traditional masonry materials and cutting edge products and systems.   

In a similar fashion, a project that CertainTeed has been involved with at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia with Penn State achieves a similar goal but in a lighter and perhaps less massive assembly – to create a highly efficient wall system that can provide comfort, improve indoor air quality, better acoustics but, and here’s the rub- to still be affordable by more typical consumers.  This was done by using a 2 x 8 construction – providing a deeper wall cavity – A Blown-in-Blanket Insulation System, Weather Resistant Barrier, a Smart Vapor Retarder and Air Barrier System, a Wallboard Solution, Rigid Insulation on exterior and Insulated Vinyl Siding. This created an R30.5 exterior wall.

In both homes, products were used to address acoustics, indoor air quality and moisture control.  Do you need 13 layers?  Probably not but the pressure is certainly going to be on what layers remain to do more than they have in the past.

Thoughts?

 

Net Zero Test House a Great Experiment for Energy Efficiency

Lucas Hamilton

October is Energy Awareness month and what better way to start it off than to talk about a great project underway in Virginia. CNN recently ran a story about the Net Zero house that was built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a test facility to experiment with alternative energy high-efficiency systems. 

The 2,700 square foot home on NIST’s property in Gaithersburg, Virginia is home to a “virtual” family – Father, Mother and two children. The house is powered by solar panels and geothermal systems while hundreds of devices that actually simulate the family’s energy use.

While the home looks like a standard middle class home that you might find in any suburban neighborhood the home cost about $2.5 million to build.  That is mostly due to the elaborate systems being utilized and tested.  The appliances, plumbing and heating systems are programmed to turn on and off based on the time of day.  For example at 6:15 am, a computer that is housed in the garage which is ‘control central’ triggers the valves in the basement to turn on the water flow to the showers. Of course, it doesn’t take into account Johnny leaving the lights and TV on his bedroom all day.

One very cool aspect of this project is that everything in the home, except one small devise, is manufactured in the U. S. and is able to be purchased and used in a typical residence.

Other facts about the construction of the house such as geothermal loops that extract heat from earth as opposed to the air and walls constructed to reduce energy loss and keep the home at a comfortable temperature will provide great data that can be used in future construction.

There are net-zero homes that are being built in parts of the U.S. but this home will provide incredible research that can be applied to construction standards going forward.  Watch the video for a full review of the project:

http://youtu.be/xSzu83fyQaQ

I think we will learn a great deal from this project and it will help us in the quest for net-zero homes but… how do you feel about using a virtual family? I think we’re going to miss out on learning about behavior and this is an area which we may understand the least.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed

Living Inside a Cooler – The Challenges of the Net-Zero Building Envelope

Lucas Hamilton

Can we live inside a cooler? We’re going to find out.

As we respond to the challenges of energy and resource depletion through the construction of super efficient and sustainable buildings we must remember why we are constructing buildings in the first place- it’s for people. The net-zero envelope is like a portable cooler – super tight, thermally efficient, and breathes no air.  The easiest was to create super efficient buildings is to just copy a portable cooler and then shove people inside. However, a building’s primary function is to provide a safe and healthy habitat for people. The success of any building technique or approach should be judged by this criterion first.

When struggling to find motivation for doing the right thing – good indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in this case – we have a strong incentive when it comes to our homes.  We love our families and want them to have the best environment we can provide.

In a commercial setting, since some of us don’t love our co-workers, we need to find a different motivation. A really smart guy I know (no name dropping here) explained to me that when a building occupant such as a large corporation considers where they are spending their operational costs, the break-out is 15/85. 15% goes to operation of the space; the rent, the light bill, the toner cartridges, etc. 85% goes to Human Resources (salaries, benefits, etc.). Perhaps it is here that we find good cause for doing right.

In this sort of space we can create a more financially based argument by focusing on the impact of good IEQ on worker productivity and related issues. We know that IEQ leads to better problem solving, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and lower health care expenses. I would also suggest that it leads to a greater sense of happiness and accomplishment.

Now let’s get the building envelope dialed in. We can do zero energy. We can do zero carbon. We’ve gone from negative to neutral. The challenge now is can we do this so that it has a positive effect on people?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

The U.S. Regenerative Network Creates New Level for Sustainability

Lucas Hamilton

CertainTeed was recently invited to participate in an event in Berkeley, California which could be the next rung on the ladder of sustainable building.  The U.S. Regenerative Network was founded and is led by David Gottfried.  Gottfried is considered a pioneer in the green building industry and is a founder of the U.S. Green Building Council.

The U.S. Regenerative Network brings together a select group of leading non-competitive product manufacturers and service providers from the green building industry to form an innovation incubator.

The Network brings together:

  • Product Manufacturers and Building Service Providers (Network Members)
  • Real Estate Portfolio Owners (Network Affiliates)
  • Architects, Engineers, Contractors (Network Affiliates)
  • Green building and sustainability Experts (Network Experts)
  • Staff (Network Coordinators)

At the event in Berkeley, there were a variety of activities designed to bring together emerging needs and technologies. The activities allowed world class manufacturers to brainstorm with each other as well as to engage with pioneering designers and construction professionals. The very nature of the organization allows for deep and meaningful engagements, which usually take years of relationship building, to occur very quickly. It reminds me of the difference between velocity and acceleration. As sustainability begins to accelerate, we see an increasing rate of change in change and we must keep up. If not, the pioneers are going to take an awful lot of arrows and our growth will come to a stop. This is a true next generation effort to bring together non-competitive stakeholders to engage in collaboration and best practices toward the creation of exceptional buildings.

The race to zero energy has been won.  We can do zero energy buildings.  We can do zero carbon footprint but can we regenerate and actually move beyond negative or neutral to become positive?  This is exciting stuff.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Pay Now or Pay Later – Constructed Space per Person

Lucas Hamilton

I recently read a report in the Department of Energy’s 2009 Building Energy Data Book that referenced the amount of constructed surface area per person around the world.  The United States is second only to Canada in the amount of constructed space per person – the U.S. boasts 3,000 square feet per person. This concept of constructed space per person includes home, work, shopping centers, sports complexes – any constructed buildings where we live, work or play. 

This is far more than most of the world. Comparing the United States to the United Kingdom, for example, the average English citizen uses approximately one-third the space of Americans.  Americans have come to expect this right-of-space. But there is a price to pay if society continues to expect large buildings. If the goal is to move toward net-zero buildings we are going to have to become very creative to overcome our need for space.

One example to consider along these lines is the issue of rain water run-off. For the most part, constructed space represents hard surfaces which prohibit rain water from being absorbed into the ground.  This not only overloads our water treatment and sewer systems, as we discussed in a previous blog about Live Roofs, but it effects the sequestration of carbon dioxide. 

The new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes program sponsored by US Green Building Council is penalizing homeowners for having more space in their home than they need.  However, if a 4,000 square foot home for two people is still desired, the LEED program will allow it but will require more energy efficiency components in order to certify the home. This seems reasonable to me.

If Americans wish to build large spaces, designers and developers are going to have to work harder to offset the impact on the environment.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation

New Design Paradigm Unleashed at BEST 2 Conference

Portland, Oregon

The second Building Enclosure Science and Technology Conference (BEST 2 2010) was held in Portland, Oregon in April and hosted by the Building Enclosure Council and the Portland chapter.  For a new conference in a difficult economy, I was amazed at the level of participation. The conference presented leading research from the United States, Europe and Canada and combined academic as well as real world applications and examples of successful projects. 

It is no secret that buildings account for 48 percent of all Green House Gas emissions annually and consume 40 percent of all energy.  There is an ever present push to develop new sustainable solutions to existing systems.  With the adoption of reductions in green house gas emissions by governments, building professionals and manufacturers are in need of identifying and implementing new ways to solve issues relating to energy efficiency, moisture management, acoustics and hygrothermal performance.

The three day Conference was divided into three tracks: Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Whole Building Performance and Fenestration Solutions all focusing on what is being called the New Design Paradigm for Energy Efficient Buildings. The message was that it is not enough to address the efficient use of energy.  It’s the durability of buildings, indoor air quality and livability that also must be addressed.

Like most technical conferences there was too much information to cover. I focused my attention on design strategies to improve energy efficiency and hygrothermal performance of different types of building envelope systems.  Many speakers highlighted the ramifications of poorly integrated new technologies, the need for greater insulation levels and building air tightness while maintaining building durability.

Design professionals must keep up with the latest research in building envelope technology in order to accelerate the drive towards net-zero energy buildings.  The BEST 2 Conference, like the ASHRAE forums, is an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences.

Stan Gatland is Manager, Building Science Technology for CertainTeed Corporation

A Look at One H.O.U.S.E. of the Future

At the recent Ecobuild Expo and Conference in London, England there was an element that I thought merited mention:  The University of Nottingham entry to the Solar Decathlon Europe.

University of Nottingham Solar House at Ecobuild

University of Nottingham Solar House at Ecobuild

In June 2010, Madrid, Spain will host the International Solar Decathlon Europe. This event alternates years with the U.S. Solar Decathlon held in Washington, D.C.  University-based teams will travel to Madrid and reconstruct their solar designed houses. The entries are judged on 10 separate environmental areas, including solar systems and sustainability, market viability, and architectural merit. The University of Nottingham team dismantled and reassembled their solar house on the show floor at Ecobuild. It was exciting to see what they accomplished.

The Solar Decathlons – International competitions for colleges and universities to design and build the most effective and energy efficient house – are making great strides to prepare future architects to find the best solutions for creating sustainable homes, focused on solar power.

A key objective for the students was to ensure that the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. would comply with the U.K.’s code for sustainable homes. The Code covers nine sustainability issues such as responsible sourcing of materials, limiting consumption of drinking water, health & wellbeing and of course Energy & CO2 emissions, the latter being the most important and the one that will be progressively converted into Building Regulations towards zero carbon. The students also have to live in the house to demonstrate its effectiveness and energy efficiency.

Saint-Gobain U.K. has partnered with The University of Nottingham, not only with many of the products but also with technical expertise.  This home meets both Code Level 6 of the code for sustainable homes and Passive House standards which, I am told, is an industry first for the U.K.

This type of partnering is a wonderful way to provide the designers and innovators of tomorrow with real world experience working with professionals who are currently designing and perfecting products for the marketplace. 

We should all take a closer look at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon when it comes around again in October 2011.  From what I saw of the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E., it is well worth the time.

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation.