This article was originally published in the July/August 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1993
TRENDS IN ENERGY
Trends in Energy is a bulletin of residential energy conservation issues. It covers items ranging from the latest policy issues to the newest energy technologies. If you have items that would be of interest, please send them to: Trends Department, Home Energy, 2124 Kittredge St., No. 95, Berkeley, CA 94704.
An Eye Towards Sustainability: EEBA
If the mood at the first joint conference of the Energy Efficient Building Association (EEBA) and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) was any indication, the energy-efficient building industry is coming of age. Many attendees of the Boston conference March 3-6 seemed to be stopping to look at the bigger picture. Interest in broader environmental issues was reflected by new sessions on sustainability and by the large crowds that turned out for them. A new conference track on remodeling also may anticipate a trend that buildings will be recycled in an efficient manner. Other resource and waste issues, such as recycled building materials, use of local resources, and reducing job-site waste augmented the more standard conference fare of energy efficiency and solar design techniques. Meanwhile, technical knowledge in these traditional areas continues to be refined and many papers addressed moisture control, ventilation, and leaky ducts.
George Tsongas presented his latest work on moisture damage from splashback, the wetting of exterior walls from the outside. His work shows that this source of moisture damage is more significant than the internal sources energy-efficient builders typically fret about. They can't get off the hook so easily, though, since tight houses suffer more from splashback than standard homes--the reduced air movement through the walls means the drying effect is reduced. The good news is that rigid foam sheathing greatly reduces the problem, Tsongas found.
R.E. Kroll and R.O. Gertjejansen from the University of Minnesota presented their research, which also examined foam sheathing's effect on moisture in siding. They tested various wood sidings over foam board and fiber board, with perforated and solid vapor retarders. With foam board sheathing, the state of the vapor retarder had little effect on the sidings.
Remodeler Neal Carter showed several techniques for adding superinsulation to existing homes, adding to the exterior non-bearing wall truss method he presented at the EEBA conference in 1990. (The 222 trusses are deep enough to fit 15 in. of what he calls fluffy insulation--fiberglass, cellulose, BIB, AirKrete, and others.) Carter showed techniques for fluffy and board insulation and interior and exterior applications, arguing that remodelers need a full range of options to tackle the many situations encountered in retrofit work. His finished homes looked fine in his slides, too, including artful use of superinsulation's notoriously difficult deep window frames as window seats.
Ontario Hydro tested a program for increasing the efficiency of homes at the time of remodeling. Some highlights of the program:
Another utility program, the Energy Crafted Home, has run into some barriers of its own. Participation rates have been slower to get started than hoped--only 170 homes were completed by March. So far, the program has proven cost-effective to the consumer but not the utilities. Steve Cowell, noting their observations on the economics of long-term program planning, stated that the greatest danger of utility intervention in the marketplace is to freeze technology advancement by offering incentives for only currently available technology, making it look better than it should compared to new technology. The Energy Crafted Home program tries to avoid this by rewarding performance (savings) rather than the use of specific, readily available technologies, and by reviewing, testing, and subsidizing select new technologies (see New Construction in New England: The Energy Crafted Home Program, HE Sept/Oct '92, p. 26).
A full-day session presented by Passive Solar Industries Council (PSIC) unveiled its Passive Solar Design Strategies: Remodeling Guidelines for Conserving Energy at Home. A companion volume/computer program/training session to the Builders' Guidelines, the new guidelines help builders calculate the appropriate size and proportions for windows, eaves, and thermal mass for additions and sunspaces (see Passive Solar Design: Housewarming With Many Efficient Returns, HE May/June '91, p. 15). The calculations also help builders determine how much heating energy a proposed solar remodel would save an existing building. Based on the work of Doug Balcomb of National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the guidelines provide a relatively simple method for remodeling contractors to test various designs and compare the energy savings of each. For more on the guidelines, contact PSIC at 1511 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: (202)628--7400; Fax: (202)393-5043.
Some of the best ideas on sustainable building materials came from the audience during a panel discussion with Pliny Fisk, Steve Loken, and Paul Bierman-Lytle. Loken asserted that, in spite of the nonrenewable methods of current forestry, the American propensity to move and remodel means wood is indispensable. Why not use permanent materials like foam or concrete for building shells, responded audience member Mark Kelley of Building Science Engineering, and use wood for interior partitions? The building's innards would then be changeable with new owners, and the shell would weather better.
Between such practical discussions Bierman-Lytle called for poetry and postulated that someday houses will have air for walls. The gap between the realists and the artists might have seemed irreconcilable. But audience member Leigh Seddon of Solar Works Inc. in Montpelier, Vermont, thought both were right. Sustainable architecture, he asserted, must use materials in an ecologically responsible way and must be aesthetically pleasing; the buildings must be beautiful so people will value them, and not bulldoze them after 20 or 40 years.
Yes, one had to be there to hear Bierman-Lytle say air for walls. It won't be in the proceedings, although many gems can be found there. For copies of the proceedings ($54.75 covers the two volumes plus shipping), write: Building Solutions Conference, c/o Energy Efficient Building Association, 1000 Campus Dr., Wausau, WI 54401-1899. Tel: (715)675-6331; Fax: (715)675-9776.
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