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Musings of an Energy Nerd

What Does AI Know About Green Building?

We asked two artifical intelligence programs to answer some common high-performance building questions. Here's how they did . . .

Image source: ChatGPT tutorial

Artificial intelligence (AI) writing has arrived, in the form of a new software progam called ChatGPT. This is exciting news for 7th graders, who now realize that they can use it to complete their homework assignments. For everyone else, including English teachers, the news is a little worrisome.

Web site developers already realize that ChatGPT can be used to write articles. It’s only a matter of time before AI-written articles offer energy-saving tips to homeowners. Is ChatGPT up to the challenge? I decided to find out.

There are actually two versions of ChatGPT available online. One is called Playground and the other is called ChatGPT. I asked these programs a few questions. Below are some samples of their writing.

Air-sealing advice

Me: “Explain the best way for a homeowner to perform air-sealing work to save energy.”

Playground: “The best way for a homeowner to perform air-sealing work to save energy is by using caulk and weatherstripping. Caulk should be used to seal gaps, cracks, and holes around windows, doors, and other openings, while weatherstripping should be used to ensure a tight seal between moving parts like windows and doors. The homeowner should also inspect the attic and basement for air leaks and seal any openings with caulk or foam insulation. Additionally, the homeowner should inspect and replace any worn out insulation materials. Finally, the homeowner should check and seal any gaps in the ductwork to ensure that heated or cooled air is not escaping from the home.”

Analysis: This is clearly second-rate advice. The answer should have started with the information on attics and basements, and the advice about doors and windows should have been given much less prominence. (And I have no idea what the  program means by “worn out insulation materials.”) Time for a follow-up question.

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  1. Tim_O | | #1

    My wife was just playing with ChatGTP to write a syllabus for her class. It did a decent job as a starting point!

    One thing I've read, and I don't know if it's true - I believe it learns. So if you correct its bad advice, I wonder if it would learn for the future? Maybe you can advise it to check GBA for information.

    1. MartinHolladay | | #2

      To the best of my knowledge, you are correct -- the ChatGTP program learns. But as far as I know, it is impossible for users like you and me to teach ChatGTP anything (at least directly).

      The algorithm has its own method of learning, and taking advice from random users is not one of those methods.

  2. Expert Member

    Wonderful stuff AI. A powerful windstorm swept across the coast here last week and brought down a large hemlock that clipped the eaves of a house near me. While the insurance adjuster and I were surveying the damage, we made some disparaging remarks about the quality of the interior of a Tesla that the tree had also squashed - until we realized that even in its diminished state it was still active and recording us. I suspect the AI is intelligent enough that it will have probably decided to preclude me from buying one based on our conversation.

  3. [email protected] | | #4


    I'm disappointed you didn't try the highest and best test of ChatGPT: "Write a holiday poem about building science in the style of Clement C. Moore."


  4. Expert Member
    KOHTA UENO | | #5

    I saw this tweet on ChatGPT, and had to share on this column!

  5. MartinHolladay | | #6

    I love it -- yes, ChatGPT is the automatic mansplainer, for sure.

    I was tempted to ridicule ChatGPT more severely, until its answer to one of my questions softened my criticism. Yes, flattery works. I asked ChatGPT, "Should I trust energy efficiency tips provided by Martin Holladay?"

    ChatGPT responded, "Martin Holladay is a respected expert on energy efficiency and sustainable building practices. He has been writing about these topics for many years, and his articles and advice are widely regarded as reliable and trustworthy.

    "If you're looking for information on energy efficiency, you can definitely trust the tips and advice provided by Martin Holladay. He is well-informed on the latest technologies and techniques for improving energy efficiency, and he has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share."

    Flattery like that insulates ChatGPT from serious analysis by investigative journalists!

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