Friday, June 8, 2012

Belgian Passivhaus Piece from GBA

Martin Holladay of  has again provided a great piece on building science and technology. Follow this link to his post on a Passivhaus gone bad.

From my perspective as a builder/LEED AP with 30 years experience and now an energy efficiency program manager and BPI Auditor/Proctor this piece highlights one of the biggest issues as we 'green folks' encourage 'market transformation' from the ordinary/code-built home to an integrated/whole house approach.

Market transformation needs to occur on the supply side as well as the demand side and this is not as often spoken of as it should be. The architects, installers, crafts people, inspectors, etc. need to train, practice and understand the potential impact of their work for good or ill before the plans go to the plotter and before the crew gets to the job site.

This is the reason for third party verification. The (seemingly) small stuff matters and those who work the sites for a living/profit have a built-in conflict of interest. Architects, engineers and designers are often as/more interested in their portfolio development as they are  interested in a specific client's needs and it is not unusual to see the envelope pushed (see what I did there?:) by this confusion of priorities.

Market transformation is not served well by over-promising and under-delivering on either side of the supply & demand curve. The introduction of new products and technologies promising greater savings for buyers and profits for builders is a mechanism for and against market transformation because so much of it is crap or poorly understood by those specifying/installing the stuff. The supply side needs confirmation in incremental changes to construction practices that are regional, with an emphasis on safety/IEQ, in a 'first, do no harm' kind of way. Too big a portion of the supply side is skeptical - and not without reason.

Let's not turn building science into rocket science. Simplicity, whenever possible, is preferable. Perfectly rational beings do not live in houses (or build them for that matter) and we will do well to be mindful of this as we consider durability and maintenance requirements for what we design and construct.

Lastly, I'm all for advancing building science and technology - but let's call our experiments in new combinations, new materials etc. by the right name: 'something that might work/might not' and market them to those inclined to accept the risk.