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BS* + Beer

The BS* + Beer Show: Aesthetics vs. Performance

Three architects discuss strategies for designing good-looking high-performance homes

This episode of the BS* + Beer show features three architects—James Hartford, Meri Tepper, and Robert “Bob” Swinburne—discussing the topic of Aesthetics and Performance. Bob makes the point right off the bat that the two do not need to be mutually exclusive. He talks about a few traditional details that may not make good building-science sense, such as the classic eave return found on many Northeast homes. He describes them as having “emotional draw,” and has solved their moisture-wicking potential by putting them entirely outside the OSB sheathing. Much time is spent on the topic of overhangs—with opinions on their value and appropriate applications varying. Meri describes the ways in which she “sneaks in” performance-related details in the form of thickened interior walls and built-ins to disguise mechanical chases. Inevitably, those decisions influence the aesthetic—but do they impede it or present design opportunities? She shares a series of details for a cantilevered master bedroom, as well as her strategies for shading tilt-turn windows. James shows us a Passive House retrofit project and a prefab Bensonwood cidery with “daring details,” which is located in a high-wind region and has no overhangs (again, back to overhangs). Ben Bogie, our new co-host, chimes in, saying, “We shouldn’t be relying on overhangs to keep our buildings dry.” Solar panels and passive design round out the conversation, with a number of thought-provoking comments made in between. 

Enjoy the show!

Join us on Thursday, March 25, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. EST when we will learn about the Kansas City BS* + Beer Chapter’s 2nd Annual Wall Assembly Design Competition, dubbed #WallAssemblySweet16. Guests Connor Malloy, Joe Cook—both founders of the competition—and Christine Williamson, who is one of the judges, will explain how the contest came to be, what it entails, and how the submitted projects will be judged. This post by Travis Brungardt provides an overview. The show will get into more specifics. 

Guest bios

Connor Malloy is a professor in the School of Apprenticeship & Skilled Trades at George Brown College in Toronto. His teaching practice focuses on educating students about building science, managing residential build projects, and running efficient small-scale construction companies. Connor is a Certified Passive House Tradesperson, and has managed projects and design-build companies with 250 residential renovations to his credit. Before focussing on the construction side of residential renovations and high-performance buildings, Connor spent more than a decade in the residential design industry. He holds a bachelors of arts in Interior Design from Ryerson Univerity, and a masters degree in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at IADT in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland.

Joe Cook is co-founder of, which is the non-profit organization that hosts the Midwest Building Science Symposium and the Wall Assembly Sweet 16. For income, Joe builds and remodels homes in the Kansas City area as co-owner of Catalyst Construction. He is a licensed general contractor and master plumber as well as an avid outdoorsman, hunter, and father.

Christine Williamson is an internationally renowned building science consultant. She offers new-construction risk-mitigation consulting for residential towers, mid-rise mixed-use buildings, and production homes, as well as some of the most extraordinary private residences in the world. She is also the founder of @buildingsciencefightclub (BSFC), an Instagram community dedicated to teaching building science and construction to architects and other building professionals. Christine received her bachelor of arts from Princeton University and her master of architecture from New School of Architecture + Design.

Use this link to register for The BS* + Beer Show  

BS* + Beer Book Club

Because the hosts of the BS* + Beer Show all love to read, we thought we would celebrate the authors in our industry by adding a book club to the show every few months. We’ll announce the book, give you a few months to get it and read it, and conclude with a BS* + Beer Show episode where we will invite the author to join us, present, and take questions.

Essential Building Science book cover

We have selected our third book: Essential Building Science: Understanding Energy and Moisture in High Performance House Design by Jacob Deva Racusin. New Society Publishers has generously extended a 25% discount for this book and others in their Essential Building Science series (paperback or ebook). Use the discount code Essential25 now through March 31.

We hope you will pick up a copy and join the discussion on April 1, 2021.


You can contact Kiley Jacques at [email protected]. Photo courtesy of River Architects.


  1. charlie_sullivan | | #1

    That cover photo is great. Here's the River Architects page on it:

    I'd be interested to learn more about that beautiful siding--it's says it's locally harvested hemlock with a torched finish.

    1. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #2

      Hi Charlie,

      The lightly torched finish refers to the shou sugi ban technique they used. In this case, they didn't give it a full charring.

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