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Building America Update Newsletter

Building America Update Newsletter

Welcome to the Building America Update, a monthly newsletter. Read this month's feature story, or select the other newsletter topics below for more information. You can also Subscribe to receive the email version of Building America Update or browse newsletter archives.

Feature Story

Are You a Fan of ASHRAE Standard 62.2, or Would You Prefer To Vent?  

I’ve been a member of the committee since 2007, and I’m a fan. But I know it’s not perfect, and I’ve seen both sides of the “Great Ventilation Debate,” as Dr. Allison Bailes calls it in his popular blogs. There are good arguments on both sides of the debate - the pragmatic vs. the precautionary views. Yet a prolonged impasse will not serve the industry or solve indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. We can do better. Building America can help improve Standard 62.2 to become standard practice in the industry, not just the industry standard.

How can Building America help? For starters, let’s remember Building America helped put ASHRAE Standard 62.2 on the map. Building America teams were also instrumental in developing, validating, and demonstrating low-cost ventilation solutions for production builders and energy-saving ventilation solutions, such as the affordable outside air controller (economizer).

Now, Building America can help Standard 62.2 move forward to better support high performance new and existing homes. Since we published the Building America Research to Market Plan last November, we’ve been busy assembling the next generation of Building America teams to meet the specific objectives of the plan. Here are a few highlights of the new Building America IAQ Roadmap projects:

  • Development of the Industry’s First Smart Range Hood: Kitchens are one of the largest sources of harmful pollutants generated in the home. Yet kitchen range hoods are seldom used and can be ineffective. Newport Partners, with manufacturing partner Broan/NuTone, will develop a Smart Range Hood that senses pollutant-generating activity and automatically operates to remove the contaminants efficiently. The innovative smart range hood will be developed and validated in the lab to be very quiet (≤ 1 sone), up to 5 times more efficient than ENERGY STAR, and reliably achieve near 100% capture efficiency, at a target price point competitive with the intermediate market. This project will deliver a compelling, price-competitive solution to this high priority Building America Roadmap objective, enabling tighter homes, improving IAQ, and supporting development and adoption of future specifications and standards for minimum capture efficiency. Ultimately, wide-scale adoption of this smart range hood technology could extend lives and save billions of dollars in health-related costs annually. This project is a perfect example of a Targeted Pollutant Solution in the Building America IAQ Roadmap. Learn more about the IAQ Roadmap.
  • Ventilation Integrated Comfort System (VICS): Steven Winter Associates based in Norwalk, CT, will work with manufacturing partner Mitsubishi to develop, test, and demonstrate a new integrated ERV and high efficiency heat pump system. The VICS will be designed to optimize comfort of high performance low-load homes in humid climates, and will include variable speed fans for low energy and high controllability. VICS will offer builders and HVAC contractors an efficient, competitively priced, all-in-one comfort and ventilation solution. Prototypes will be lab tested, followed by field validation and demonstration in unoccupied and occupied test homes. The integrated system is expected to reduce total up-front costs by $1,000-$2,000 compared to a standard ducted heat pump system with Central Fan Integrated Supply (CFIS) ventilation. VICS is expected to save 400-800 kWh/year, compared to the standard system configuration, and enables balanced ventilation, better IAQ, & RH control in tight homes at lower cost. This is what we mean by Smart Ventilation in the Building America IAQ Roadmap. Learn more about the IAQ Roadmap.
  • Performance-Based IAQ and Optimized Ventilation: Southface Energy Institute, in Atlanta, GA, will develop a new comprehensive, low-cost IAQ assessment protocol incorporating low-cost IAQ sensors for time-varying indoor contaminants of concern including  PM2.5, CO, VOCs, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and radon, in addition to temperature, RH, and CO2. Southface will use the calibrated low-cost sensor packages to benchmark IAQ metrics in a sample of new and existing homes. The project will also pilot the prototype IAQ Score (see LBNL project below) in these homes. Southface will then install a new “smart” Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system in some of the new and weatherized homes. The new ERV system is expected to deliver annual HVAC energy cost savings of approximately $100 compared to commonly-installed CFIS systems, and ~50% reduction of ventilation related latent loads compared to supply or exhaust strategies. Field tests will validate the energy savings of the ERV systems and evaluate their IAQ performance in typical new construction and weatherization scenarios. The ultimate goal is to provide scientific proof that “build tight, ventilate right” strategies not only save energy, but also reduce IAQ and moisture risks, and improve comfort in hot/humid climates. We expect this proof will help overcome builder and contractor reluctance to high performance homes throughout the southeastern region of the U.S. and set the stage for future IAQ optimization strategies that use real time sensor based controls. The future of Smart Ventilation starts here. Read more about the IAQ Roadmap.
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Score for New & Existing Homes: This new project will build on the broad collection of Healthy Efficient Homes research activities conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL). To help implement the Building America IAQ Roadmap strategy, we asked LBNL to develop a prototype “asset score” for home IAQ, similar to the now standard Home Energy Rating System (HERS) energy rating index. The IAQ score, and associated scoring tool(s), will allow housing professionals to calculate a standardized HERS-like index that represents the ability of a house to achieve acceptable IAQ, including control of contaminants of concern, moisture, and odors. It will account for house characteristics, space conditioning and ventilation system configuration and controls, air-cleaning and filtration systems, local exhaust systems, the relative risks of each IAQ issue, and the ability of the house and it’s systems to effectively manage these IAQ risks. The IAQ score will be determined for a home based on user inputs, including location and house characteristics such as construction materials and measured performance of the building envelope and systems. The IAQ score will enable program specifications and industry standards like ASHRAE 62.2 to credit a home with better IAQ protections. The score will be developed and implemented in collaboration with RESNET, EPA, and other stakeholders. You can read more about LBNL’s plan to develop the IAQ score in the latest edition of Energy Design Update. It is often stated that you can't improve what you don't measure. Up until now, we have not been able to measure or even quantify the IAQ of a home. This project begins the development of what we call the IAQ Valuation strategy described in the Building America IAQ Roadmap.

I’m really excited about how much progress we’re making already with the Building America research to market strategy and plan. Building America teams and labs are driving innovation forward in the critical technology areas that will make high performance homes of the future practical for the housing trades. Learn more about current Building America projects here, and don’t forget to visit the Building America Solution Center, where you’ll find practical, up-to-date, proven best practices, case studies, and other resources, based on hundreds of completed Building America projects.

If you have ideas about research needs in new or existing homes that you think Building America needs to tackle, tell me about it. My email door is always open.

Eric Werling
Building America Program Director