Building America Update - February 12, 2015

February 11, 2015

You are here

Building America Research Teams: BSC and CARB—20 Years of Advancing High Performance Homes

In this issue, we continue our series of profiles on the Building America research teams—multidisciplinary industry partnerships who work to make high performance homes a reality for all Americans. This month focuses on two of the long-lived Building America teams—Building Science Corporation (BSC) and Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings (CARB)—that, after 20 years, continue to develop innovative, real-world solutions that help to transform the U.S. housing market.

Building Science Corporation

As the saying goes, “It’s all in a name.” As its name indicates, Building Science Corporation (BSC) explores advanced building science solutions in energy-efficient enclosure, ventilation, and dehumidification systems for residential and commercial buildings. During its 20-year tenure with Building America, BSC has partnered with approximately 250 builders and is responsible for the construction of more than 10,000 Building America houses and 100,000 ENERGY STAR® houses (through its partner MASCO and the Environments for Living program). BSC also offers product design and analysis services for manufacturers of building materials and systems, and develops workshops and technical resources to further educate building engineers about high performance homes.

Through its collaborations with builders—in individual and community-scale projects—BSC emphasizes innovative, replicable strategies that lead to energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and durability, as well as fewer callbacks and increased profits. Along with scores of discrete homes, BSC is active in large-scale efforts such as disaster recovery, utility, and DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home projects. For example, BSC provided technical assistance for rebuilding Greensburg, Kansas, and a post-Katrina New Orleans project that provided 100 new homes for displaced families. In a pilot program with National Grid, BSC supported the deep energy retrofits of 42 homes, which achieved an average annual source energy use of 40% below the Northeast regional average. As a champion of DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program, BSC worked with several builders to construct zero energy homes and evaluated the certification of five test homes to the new program’s standards. BSC is also the recipient of numerous Building America Top Innovation awards—for advanced framing systems, basement insulation systems, unvented conditioned attics and crawlspaces, and low-cost ventilation in production housing, among others.

Joe Lstiburek, Principal of BSC, explains, "Identifying builder construction problems and addressing them in an energy-efficient, cost-effective manner is a win-win for everyone. There are almost always beneficial cost tradeoffs that result in lower builder risk and higher performance houses. For example, better window glazing results in downsized mechanical systems; the cost savings on the downsized mechanical systems pays for the upgraded window glazing. Even better, the operating costs are reduced for the homeowner and comfort issues are reduced.” In conjunction with the onsite training provided to builder partners, BSC conducts workshops and develops technical resources on a variety of building science topics, including the EEBA Builder’s Guide series and Water Management Guide, Guide to Attic Air Sealing, and Building America reports and case studies. Through its diverse and prolific body of work, BSC continues to promote the design and construction of homes that are durable, sustainable, economical, and healthy. Visit the BSC website to learn more.

Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings

The Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings (CARB), led by Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA), focuses on improving new and existing homes by leveraging new and underutilized technologies and innovative market delivery strategies. The CARB team is grounded in the challenges experienced by builders and developers, and specializes in advanced building systems and whole-house solutions for multifamily and affordable housing. Backed by SWA’s 42 years of experience, the CARB team synthesizes information across technologies and works with stakeholders to understand issues from a variety of perspectives to deliver market-ready solutions for high performance homes.

Throughout its long history with Building America, CARB has stressed collaboration with builder partners to deliver the most cost-effective, innovative, and practical energy-efficiency measures possible. For example, in the Chamberlain Heights affordable retrofit project, CARB worked with the City of Meriden Housing Authority and a developer to renovate 126 apartment units, which resulted in 40%–45% source energy savings over the pre-retrofit conditions. In the multifamily 56th and Walnut: A Philly Gut Rehab project, the team developed an energy solutions package for 11 historic buildings containing 32 total units. The project balanced goals for significant energy efficiency and indoor air quality upgrades with concerns about increased first costs. CARB also applies a systems integration approach to its work in new, affordable, zero energy ready homes. The team provided design and analysis assistance to the Wisdom Way Solar Village, a 20-unit community of energy-efficient duplexes in western Massachusetts, to net homeowners energy cost savings of at least $2,500 per year. CARB provided technical assistance, energy modeling, and testing for several projects that won DOE Housing Innovation Awards, including Preferred Builders’ Performance House; BPC Green Builders, Ferguson Design and Construction, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, Singer Village at Brookside Development, AquaZephyr’s EcoVillage, and Murphy Brothers’ Shore Road. CARB’s diverse portfolio also includes energy-efficient “hurricane-resistant” homes for storm-ravaged Florida communities, International Builders Show demonstration homes, Habitat for Humanity projects and a resulting reHabitat Guide for Energy- and Resource-Efficient Retrofit Strategies, and numerous single-family projects across the country.

CARB’s broad scope of research ranges from the development of new technologies and best practices to the optimization of market-ready technologies. The team garnered several Building America Top Innovation awards—for a revolutionary buried and encapsulated ducts strategy for unconditioned attics; moisture research in high-R walls; insulation systems for keeping basements warm, dry, and healthy; and support for zero energy ready single-family homes. The team also investigates multifamily ventilation and compartmentalization strategies, effectiveness of whole-house ventilation systems, heat pump water heaters, hydronic system performance, and air-source heat pump performance in cold climates. As William Zoeller, Senior Architect and Researcher, explains, “CARB’s research into high performance housing over the past nearly two decades has led us to draw many conclusions concerning building design, thermal enclosures, mechanical systems, moisture management, indoor environmental quality, and renewable energy systems. Three big-picture conclusions are: There is no one perfect solution; early planning and whole-housing systems integration is indispensable; and if you can make it simpler, you can make it better.” Visit the CARB website to learn more.

Building America February 12 Webinar: High Performance Enclosure Strategies, Part I: Unvented Roof Systems and Innovative Advanced Framing Strategies

Building America brings you free monthly webinars highlighting the latest advances in residential building technologies and practices, presented by Building America research team experts. The February webinar will focus on methods to design and build roof and wall systems for high performance homes that optimize energy performance and reduce moisture issues. Register now.

Date/Time: February 12, 2015; 3:00-4:30 PM EST
Description: Presenters and specific topics for this webinar include:

  • Joe Lstiburek, BSC, presenting several advances in unvented roof technology to condition attics, including the use of diffusion venting and dehumidification. These approaches allow the use of cellulose and fiberglass insulation systems rather than the current approaches that rely on rigid insulation or spray polyurethane foams.
  • Vladimir Kochkin, Home Innovation Research Labs, presenting Builder’s Guide to High Performance Walls in Climate Zone 3-5. Strategies to design and build high performance walls can vary significantly by climate zone, and this discussion will focus on approaches for climate zones 3–5 that increase energy performance and reduce moisture issues in walls. The presentation is based on the Builder’s Guide to High Performance Walls, which will be published in 2015.

Visit the Meetings page to keep current on upcoming webinars and view recordings of past webinars.

2015 RESNET and Building Performance Conference: February 16-18, 2015

Don’t miss the 2015 RESNET Building Performance Conference on February 16–18, 2015, in San Diego, California—the premier national forum on home energy ratings, existing home retrofits, building codes, and energy policy. While there, plan to attend these DOE Zero Energy Ready Home-sponsored sessions: Have We Got a Label For You: Intro to Federal Programs (ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS, WaterSense, Zero Energy Ready Homes); ENERGY STAR and Zero Energy Ready Homes: The Year Ahead; and Applying Effective Marketing and Sales Strategies to Zero Energy Ready Homes.

Race to Zero Student Design Competition Sponsorship Opportunity

In April 2015, nearly 40 student teams from U.S. and foreign universities will compete at the second annual DOE Race to Zero Student Design Competition for the best market-ready zero energy home designs. For a nominal sponsorship fee, your organization can support this event and help DOE pave the way for the homes of our future—zero energy ready homes so efficient a small renewable energy source can offset all or most of the annual energy use. As a sponsor, you will enjoy attendance at the event, opportunities to meet with students and promote your business, and recognition in promotional materials and on the Race to Zero website. Interested parties should contact Stacy Hunt by February 27, 2015.

Call for Papers Due February 27: 2015 Energy & Environmental Building Alliance Conference

Save the date for the 2015 Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) Conference & Expo, held October 6–8, 2015, in Denver, Colorado! EEBA has a 33-year history of educating builders, architects, engineers, and trade professionals in the building science behind high performance homes. Presentation abstracts are currently being accepted; the deadline is February 27, 2015, at 5:00 p.m. Central time. Also, EEBA will host the 2015 Housing Innovation Awards, which recognize builders who demonstrate energy-saving solutions that radically improve the energy performance of our nation’s homes. See the 2014 winners.

Optimized Climate Solutions Tool for Building America Solutions Center

The Building America Solution Center has recently added a new tool to help builders design energy-efficient homes in their climate region. The Optimized Climate Solutions consists of sets of climate-specific measures that builders can use to achieve energy savings of about 30% over the Building America B10 Benchmark (which is roughly consistent with the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code) in cold/very cold, mixed humid, hot-humid, hot-dry/mixed-dry, and marine climate zones. Once in their climate zone, users will easily find the performance recommendations for their area and lists of equipment and materials options for meeting those recommendations. This new feature leverages the experiences of hundreds of builders across the country who are already participating in Building America and DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home certification program. Detailed case studies linked within the tool give users real-life examples of successful builders in their climate zone who are achieving these high levels of performance.

Be a Citizen Scientist! Help Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Study Indoor Air Quality

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have spent decades exploring how everyday activities affect indoor air quality. Their recent study, described in Addressing Kitchen Contaminants for Healthy, Low-Energy Homes, found that cooking without proper kitchen ventilation often produces air pollutant levels in homes that exceed outdoor air quality standards.

As a result, LBNL has launched its first Citizen Scientist Project—the Range Hood Roundup—to gather information about cooking patterns and kitchen ventilation in U.S. homes. Please help this effort by completing a short survey. LBNL will use the information you provide to develop recommendations for improving indoor air quality and health through better building codes and product standards. The survey will run through September 30, 2015.

This Month’s Residential Successes: BSC and CARB Projects

This month’s success stories point to examples of impactful research recently conducted by this month’s spotlight teams, BSC and CARB.

Technology Solutions Case Study: Selecting Ventilation Systems for Existing Homes
In this project, the CARB team evaluated four different strategies for providing make-up air to multifamily residential buildings and developed guidelines to help contractors and building owners choose the best ventilation systems.

New Whole-House Solutions Case Study: Meeting DOE Challenge Home Program Certification - Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Devens, MA
In this project, three production home builders—Hovnanian Homes, David Weekley Homes, and Transformations, Inc.—partnered with BSC to evaluate the certification of five test homes to the new DOE Challenge Home program performance standard (now DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program).

Building America in the News

Here are recent Building America-related articles in popular national trade publications.
• Green Homebuilder: The GHB Interview: Sam Rashkin
• Builder Online: DOE Debuts Its Building Science Translator

New Publications from Building America

The Building America Publications Library offers an extensive collection of technical reports, measure guidelines, case studies, and other resources to help you boost energy efficiency in new and existing homes. On the library page, you can subscribe to the RSS feed that delivers reports as they are published. Also, the Building America Solution Center links you to expert building science and energy efficiency information based on Building America research results. Here are samples of our most recent publications:

Measure Guideline: Three High Performance Mineral Fiber Insulation Board Retrofit Solutions
Exterior insulation retrofit is important to the goal of net zero energy ready homes. Mineral fiber insulating sheathing can provide enhanced moisture durability for the exterior enclosure and represents a viable solution for high performance homebuilders, designers, and clients who wish to use an alternative to foam plastic insulation. This guideline by BSC describes a high performance enclosure retrofit package that uses mineral fiber insulating sheathing and offers retrofit assembly and details for wood frame roof and walls and for cast concrete foundations.

High Performance Walls in Hot-Dry Climates
High performance walls represent a high priority measure for moving the next generation of new homes to the zero net energy performance level. A primary goal in improving wall thermal performance revolves around increasing the wall framing from 2 × 4 to 2 × 6, adding more cavity and exterior rigid insulation, achieving insulation installation criteria meeting ENERGY STAR’s thermal bypass checklist. To support this activity, the Alliance for Residential Building Innovation solicited builder involvement in California to participate in field demonstrations of high performance wall systems. Information from the project was designed to feed into the 2016 Title 24 process, and to serve as an initial mechanism to engage builders in more high performance construction strategies.

Thermostatic Radiator Valve Evaluation
A large number of multifamily buildings in the Northeast and Midwest are heated by steam distribution systems. Losses from these systems are typically high, and a significant number of apartments are overheated much of the time. Thermostatically controlled radiator valves (TRVs) are one potential strategy to combat this problem, but have not been widely accepted by the residential retrofit market. In this project, the Advanced Residential Integrated Energy Solutions team sought to better understand the current usage of TRVs by key market players in steam and hot water heating and to conduct limited experiments on the effectiveness of new and old TRVs as a means of controlling space temperatures and reducing heating fuel consumption. The project included a survey of industry professionals, a field experiment comparing old and new TRVs, and cost-benefit modeling analysis using BEopt™.

Additional reports and case studies published recently are:
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Near Zero Maine Home II - Vassalboro, Maine
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Leganza Residence - Greenbank, Washington
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Montlake Modern - Seattle, Washington
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Healthy Efficient Homes - Spirit Lake, Iowa
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Durable Energy Builders - Houston, Texas
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Shore Road Project - Old Greenwich, Connecticut
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Case Study: Boulder ZED Design Build - Boulder, Colorado

Visit the Building America Publications Library to access the entire catalog of publications to help improve the efficiency of new and existing homes.

Want to learn more about Building America or help us spread the word about the program? View the video, “What is Building America?” on DOE’s YouTube channel to learn about how Building America aims to bridge the gap between homes with high energy costs and homes that are healthy, durable, and energy efficient.

Please forward this announcement to colleagues who may be interested in subscribing to future updates about Building America.