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BS* + Beer

The BS* + Beer Show: The Intersection of Preservation and Performance

In the quest to save old houses, do we need to sacrifice high performance? To achieve high performance, do we need to demote fine craftsmanship? Is it possible to build for efficiencies and beauty?

Save or replace?

Old single-pane windows can represent significant energy losses, but whether that warrants replacement in historic homes is a matter of opinion.

Following their long-lived debate around preservation and performance priorities, Fine Homebuilding’s Builder-at-Large Justin Fink and Editorial Director Brian Pontolilo sit down with architectural historian Brent Hull and Southface Institute’s Laura Case to hear their perspectives on the subject. 

Brent is a firm believer in preservation, and has a dogged determination to keep craft alive. He goes after the “low-hanging fruit” in terms of energy efficiency, taking basic measures to ensure his houses perform reasonably well, but he places far more emphasis on centuries-old building techniques. He suggests that people take care of buildings that are beautiful, which means they are less likely to be torn down—an embodied carbon savings. He also identifies the challenge of building quality homes in a “discount culture” that values mass production over skilled labor, and laments the cheapening of his craft in the name of new building products and technologies, asking: “What is the asbestos of today?”

Laura, Southface Institute’s director of technical services, shares three case studies from their EarthCraft Sustainable Preservation program, a regional green building certification designed for historic buildings. All three of the houses were used as teaching labs for builders to learn the ins and outs of retrofitting a structure for performance upgrades, while preserving its historic integrity. Unlike Brent and those in his camp, Laura’s team is willing to apply building science−based measures, such as air-sealing with spray-foam insulation, tapes, and sealants, to historic home projects.

Not surprisingly, a lively discussion ensues.

Enjoy the show!

The next show is Thursday, August 27, from 6 to 7:30 pm: Exterior cladding. Join us next week for a information-packed discussion with Green Architects’ Lounge podcasters Chris Briley and Phil Kaplan. The two will help listeners wade through the available options for sustainable, low-maintenance, and affordable siding, and possibly get into some of the trickier details required when working with them. See the panelists’ bios below.

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

Chris Briley is a founding partner and principal architect at BRIBURN. In late 2012 he teamed up with Architect Harry Hepburn and founded BRIBURN where they practice “architecture for life,” specializing in energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly design strategies. For seven years prior to this, he was the principal architect and founder of the Green Design Studio in Yarmouth, Maine. Chris is a Maine Licensed Architect and a Certified Passive House Consultant. He is an adviser and blogger at and co-host of the Green Architects’ Lounge podcast. He is an enthusiastic participant and part-time moderator for the Building Science Discussion Group in Portland, Maine, a founding member of the USGBC Maine Chapter, and a founding board member of the passivhausMAINE.

Phil Kaplan was born and raised in Baltimore. He attended Boston University, received his B.Arch. (with a Psychology Minor) from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1991, and moved to Maine in 1997. He is a Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire Licensed Architect, a member of the AIA, and a LEED Accredited Professional. He gives talks about his firm’s work and sustainability efforts throughout the Northeast and has served as an exhibition juror, guest critic, and Adjunct Professor. He was a founder, in 2006, of The Portland Society for Architecture (PSA), a local design advocacy group. He is the former Board Chair of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, which helps high-performance and energy efficiency professionals improve their practices through collaboration and learning throughout New England and beyond, and he has also served on local boards in his current hometown of Falmouth, Maine. His podcast, Green Architects’ Lounge, is featured on the Green Building Advisor website. He has been lead designer on multiple AIA, PSA, and LEED Award winning projects since 2003.

The 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, if you haven’t already, and conclude with a BS* + Beer Show episode where we will invite the author to join us, present, and take questions.

The first book we’ll read is “The New Carbon Architecture” by Bruce King. Bruce will join us on the show on September 24.

Here’s a bit from Bruce’s publisher:

A tour de force by the leaders in the field, The New Carbon Architecture will fire the imagination of architects, engineers, builders, policy makers, and everyone else captivated by the possibility of architecture to heal the climate and produce safer, healthier, and more beautiful buildings.

I hope you will join us on September 24th as well.


-You can contact Kiley Jacques at [email protected].


  1. JC72 | | #1

    Isn't it common knowledge among the building/remodeling community that old buildings stood the test of time because air leaks allowed them to easily dry out in both directions?

    1. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #2

      No, that's not correct, though it's commonly repeated in the building/remodeling community.

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