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Musings of an Energy Nerd

A Web-Based Information Resource From the DOE

The Building America Solution Center aims to be a one-stop information library for energy-conscious builders

The graphic from the “Building Components” page on the BASC web site offers a variety of links.
Image Credit: Image #1: Building American program / U.S. Department of Energy

The Building America program, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, funds research on ways to improve the energy performance of new and existing homes and provides advice to new home builders and home-performance contractors. In recent decades, Building America has provided millions of dollars of research grants to energy consulting companies, including the Building Science Corporation, Consol, Florida Solar Energy Center, IBACOS, Passive House Institute U.S., and Steven Winter Associates.

One of the latest projects funded by Building America is a web site called the Building America Solution Center (BASC), created by employees of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The web site’s aims are announced on its home page: “The Building America Solution Center provides access to expert information on hundreds of high-performance construction topics, including air sealing and insulation, HVAC components, windows, indoor air quality, and much more.” The creators of the web site hope that builders will visit the site to educate themselves on building science issues and to find answers to questions on home performance.

Are you a fan of checklist-based certification programs? Whether you love them or hate them, you can review a collection of “program checklists” on the BASC web site. The web site also includes links to research papers and builders’ guides, as well as an image library and a collection of videos.

Finally, the web site includes a great many tips for sales personnel and marketing professionals.

An overview of the web site

The web page offers links to six main sections:

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  1. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #1

    Language is a social contract
    "Here’s the contest question: What would be a good fate or assignment for the government bureaucrats who spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to develop this document? Maroon them on a desert island? Sentence them to a year of cleaning out damp crawl spaces in a rural southeastern state? Post your suggestions below."

    Hmmm... is there really a suitable consequence for having spent money & time creating the "governmentally sealed bullshit delivery system"? I'm not sure.

    On their own time & dime, make them translate their magnus opus into grammatically correct Hangul & Telegu, perhaps? But that could be considered cruel to readers of the same, unless it was read as farce, and would probably take less time than it took to come up with the original.

    Sam Rashkin is one of the instigators ( ), Lindsay Parker is the other ( ).

    Perhaps they should be sentenced to "helping" manage rebuilding of flood damaged homes in Louisiana, using only their new terminology, without resorting to the lingua franca of the trades. (He's an experienced licensed architect, after all, but I'm not sure what she would bring to the table, based on her linkenin CV.)

    At the bottom line language is still a social contract: Words & terms mean what users of those words & terms think they mean. Creating a list of new terms only the agreed upon by the authors and publishing it is not likely to change anything in the real world. New terms are only useful if express true differences. Here the terms are different, but different without a distinction, there is nothing compelling about them, no reason to use them, and they will go nowhere.

    Esperanto, anyone?

    Thatzit! Force them to translate it into gramatically correct Esperanto, and only use Esperanto terms when talking to their colleagues! :-)

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Response to Dana Dorsett
    I like your suggested sentence for the developers of the Building Science Translator -- force them to work on a job site, but forbid them to call a duct a duct.

    Instead, insist that they refer to ducts using the new, improved terminology, as "comfort delivery systems." For example, "Hey, Bob, the comfort delivery system in the crawl space is undersized."

  3. Expert Member

    Are you now a Comfort Advisor, or a Comfort Communicator?

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Response to Malcolm Taylor
    GBA's new tagline for the web site is "comfort information delivery site." My title is "comfort information delivery site coordinator."

  5. charlie_sullivan | | #5

    Comfort information delivery request.

    We are thinking about buying a new couch. What kind is most comfortable? And do you deliver in New Hampshire?

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    Response to Charlie Sullivan
    Hmmm... I thought that using "power words" would help me achieve more effective communication. But apparently the power words aren't working their magic as expected.

  7. user-1062038 | | #7

    After School
    "Here’s the contest question: What would be a good fate or assignment for the government bureaucrats who spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to develop this document?"

    Rather than just punish them, let's educate/rehabilitate them. Give them a giant chalkboard, several cases of old-fahioned writing chalk, and make them stay after school (= after work) every day for as long as it takes to copy out the entire text of George Orwell's 10-page essay "Politics and the English Language." One hundred times. Okay, 25 times -- but no fewer.

    That MIGHT drain the "power words" out of their systems. If not, then banish them to damp crawl spaces (where they might actually be useful) with a clean conscience.

  8. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #8

    Orwell's essay
    In the essay you cite, Orwell wrote, "A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?"

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