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Green Building Curmudgeon

RESNET Ramblings

The RESNET Building Performance Conference was interesting and informative, as most conferences tend to be.

Upon returning home from five long days at the RESNET Building Performance Conference in Raleigh, N.C., I reviewed my notes to see what I had picked up while there. Now for those of you who don’t know this crowd, this is one roomful of serious geeks. Compared to the building industry and the average consumer, I am pretty geeky when it comes to building science, but most of this crowd (as well as many of my friends here at GBA) truly humble me with the extent of their knowledge. I recognize that I am way too ADD to gain and retain the level of expertise of this crowd. I am much more comfortable in my role as a generalist.

So, taking RESNET from a generalist perspective, I thought I would share some observations from sessions I attended and amusing tidbits from casual conversation. I have not done any research to back up some of the things I am reporting, so if anyone has corrections or clarifications, please share them. In no particular order, here are things that I heard:

• Energy Star is developing a certification program for existing homes above and beyond Home Performance, more in line with the new homes program.

• Garage vent fans are required by the mechanical code.

• According the Shelton Group, homeowners are willing to pay up to 70% more on their energy bills before they will spend money on home efficiency measures.

• RESNET is way behind the curve on Web 2.0.

• My friend Mike Barcik from Southface realized that after you size an HVAC system with Manual J, then you go to STD.

• RESNET presenters in general had an astounding amount of information to share. However, most of the presenters I heard could improve their presentation skills and slides—look, a whole screen of tiny type is never visible past the first few rows.

• The hotel was hot, crowded, and noisy. I never appreciated a good conference center so much before this.

• The staff at LEED for Homes has a much better attitude and sense of humor about my criticism than others I torment.

Tyvek housewrap installation instructions require 1-inch cap nails, 6-inch overlap, and tape at all seams. Never seen that personally. I guess staples and big rips aren’t approved methods.

• An NAHB Research Center wall air leakage study proved that caulking sheathing and between plates and subfloor makes a big difference.

• If you slap spray foam installations, you can hear hollow spots.

• Manual D requires adjustable dampers to be installed in each runout.

• The garbage bag flow test works on both supply and return ducts and vent fans, and instructions are available on the CMHC website.

• 1 cfm only goes out of the house if 1 cfm comes in to replace it. Example: If a 1200-cfm vent fan can only get 300 cfm of supply, the other 900 cfm is just noise.

• The number of bathrooms is an excellent predictor of home energy use. More baths = more luxury = more stuff = more power use.

• In cold climates, most ducts are in basements where the leakage tends to remain in the envelope, having a limited effect on efficiency.

• Testing ducts at 25 Pa tends to overstate the actual duct leakage.

• Ken Reaid of Hathmore Technologies had one of the best ideas of the day: when you are learning how to do something new on the computer, turn on your webcam video recorder and narrate what you are doing. You can replay it later when you forget.

• My friend Steve Byers of Energy Logic keeps beer in the bathtub and uses awards for doorstops.

• And finally, what could be my favorite PowerPoint typo of all time: “$1 Million General Inability Insurance Required.”

These range from useful to amusing, but I definitely picked up a few good ideas, once again reinforcing my theory that if you leave a class or conference with one useful idea that you can implement in your business, then it is worth your investment of time and money—not to mention the great networking. On that subject, coming up on March 1–2 is Greenprints, in Atlanta, a great regional green building conference that will certainly be worthwhile for anyone who decides to attend. Hope to see you there.

9 Comments

  1. Jamie Wolf | | #1

    Thanks for the "journal"
    I really appreciate these personal summary "journals" and hope other GBA folks will do the same after conferences, workshops, etc. We're here to learn from and share with each other.

    I like the plug for the value of attending conferences - the place to make the kind of friends whose comments and insights you shared. For those in the Northeast the annual Building Energy Conference takes place in Boston in two weeks. This year's event is stellar and is chaired by Building Science Corps Betsy Petit. This is the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's 35th annual conference!

    Speaking of Web 2.0 savvy NESEA is offering Twitter followers a $100 discount on registration. Go to twitter and enter #BE10 in the search field to get the Promo Code!

  2. ijustinj | | #2

    RESNET Cliff Notes
    Hey thanks Carl for the RESNET Cliff Notes. I knew that a week of...(uh you know) could be summarized in a one-pager.

  3. User avater
    Danny Kelly | | #3

    1 in 1 out
    I heard this same thing and at first thought it solved all my worries about providing make up air for these huge hoods our customers insist on installing. But if this were 100% foolproof - then there would never be a chance of creating a negative pressure in a house or backdrafting combustion appliances. Any thoughts?

  4. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Negative pressure
    Danny,
    Of course a powerful exhaust fan can put a house at negative pressure with respect to the outdoors, raising the risk of backdrafting. Even if a 1,000-cfm fan is unable to move 1,000 cfm — for example, if the designer forgot to provide a makeup air unit — that negative pressure acts on all the home's cracks and flues. The fan is "looking" for makeup air — that's one way to visualize what negative pressure means — and is doing its best to pull that makeup air down your chimney.

  5. Shelton Group | | #5

    Thanks for including Shelton
    Thanks for including Shelton Group in your RESNET recap! We're glad you found our insights helpful along wiith all the other valuable information from the event.

    For information on Shelton Group please visit: http://www.sheltongroupinc.com

  6. User avater
    Carl Seville | | #6

    Negative Pressure
    Thanks for clarifying, Martin. I understood that this was the case but it was explained so simply I felt I had to share it.

  7. Andrew Michler | | #7

    bath
    What else would Steve really use a bath tub for?
    I have also noticed if someone is any kind of scientist their PPT font size drops according to their level of specialty. Maybe building scientist should learn haiku?

  8. User avater
    Danny Kelly | | #8

    Negative Pressure
    Thanks Martin - forgot that it was in reference to the outside - crystal clear once again. For some reason after hearing that at RESNET was picturing the pressure at the hood in reference to say the middle of the room - so was thinking the one in and one out would keep the pressure the same throughout the room and kind of forgot the basics.

  9. Allison A. Bailes III, PhD | | #9

    A few more notes
    Here are a few more items of note, Carl:

    * The Training & Education Committee said that the rater test is in good shape now. The number of complaints about bad questions has dropped to almost nothing.

    * The same group said that the test will remain as it is throughout 2010, with no new questions being added. The committee's focus this year will be on defining the categories and making sure that questions are categorized correctly. (If you've taken the rater test and looked at the category report afterward, you'll understand the need for this.)

    * The Board of Directors voted to move forward with their work on expanding the mission to include commercial buildings. There's now a standing committee on COMNET. Because of this, the name RESNET may be changed.

    * David Goldstein, new president of RESNET, said that energy codes were created in the '50s because of high energy bills causing mortgage defaults.

    * Next year's conference will be in Orlando.

    * Regarding ENERGY STAR for existing homes, David Lee (ESTAR new homes director) said they're looking at expanding Home Performance w/ESTAR to cover renovation work and gave the example of a contractor putting an addition on a home but keeping the energy/carbon footprint of the house the same or even reducing it. (Not sure if this is what you were referring to, Carl.)

    * Quality Assurance is getting a lot more rigorous. RESNET will be doing a lot better job of checking up on rating providers, who will be forced to make sure they're doing things correctly.

    * This conference has seen dramatic growth. There were ~550 attendees in 2008, ~750 in 2009, and over 900 this year.

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