27 Nov 2012

Green is Now High-Performance

Building Science. The first time I heard about “building science” was about 11 years ago when I was introduced to Joe Lstiburek, a speaker at the Sunbelt Builders Show in Grapevine, Texas.  Joe headed an organization called the Energy and Environmental Building Assoc. (EEBA) and his presentation that day was “How to Build a Healthy Home”.  Lively and opinionated, Joe challenged the notion that we build this way or that way “because that’s the way my father or grandfather did it and it worked for them”.  Yes, in many cases it worked beautifully, but Joe wanted to apply scientific principles to either confirm or refute those traditional practices and assumptions, and to improve upon them.

As I recall, Joe talked mostly about how to protect the building envelope from water, heat and UV – claiming that if you can properly manage these you can build a durable, healthy structure.  I was only a few years in the industry at the time, but was fascinated with these cutting edge concepts.

Green Building Arrives. Just a couple of years later, the green building craze swept across the country, with some of its deepest roots in Sarasota, Austin and California (of course).  The NAHB offered the Green Building for Housing Professionals Course (which I completed), and we even conducted a training course at our lumberyard to become a “Certified Green Dealer”.   The local HBA established the Green Built North Texas initiative, and hosted huge conferences at the Dallas Convention Center. 

By 2008, practically every lumberyard was talking about FSC certified wood, LEED compliance and alternative green standards.   Green building and, unfortunately, green washing became all the rage.  Whether it had the bona fides or not, every product seemed to be touting its new green credentials.  Unfortunately, by the end of that year, the Great Recession rolled into Texas.  As all attention in our industry turned to lowering costs, reducing overhead and simply surviving, green building seemed to just fade away.

High Performance Homes. Surprisingly, as our industry has collectively peeked out of the tornado shelter and looked around to see what’s still standing - lo and behold , green building actually made it through the storm.  What seems to have even thrived through this period are the highly practical, energy saving parts and what is now referred to as building “high-performance homes”.   I had the privilege last month in Phoenix to hear one of the leading building science experts, Mark LaLiberte, bring us up to date on the latest advances.  Once again, I was completely fascinated with the common sense, practical aspects of building science and wondered why it has not been embraced by more builders.

New Energy Codes and Opportunity. With the adoption of the new 2012 energy codes, many of these concepts will soon be forced upon us, ready or not.  In the meantime, there are huge opportunities for builders of high-performance homes to quite simply build better homes and have quality, environmentally and energy conscious customers beating a path to their door.  We’re excited about this and look forward to sharing more about it with you!  We’ll get into more details in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned . . .

--Dave Reichert


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