GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

High Performance Home definition in as few words as possible.

Robert Swinburne | Posted in General Questions on

I would like to see something less than an elevator pitch that gets to the route of what a high performance home is for the average potential new home client. Everything is too wordy and goes into air sealing, superinsulation and the why and the how – too much eyes-glazing-over detail. We need more of a slogan in this business. I’m putting it out there as a problem to work on. 140 characters perhaps?

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    As far as I know, the phrase is undefined and therefore meaningless. Anyone who wants to can use the term. It's ripe for use by charlatans.

    My advice: tell your clients that the house will be "pretty good." They won't be disappointed.

  2. Robert Swinburne | | #2

    I've abandoned "green home" too ubiquitous, overused, undefined, marketed etc. I've abandoned "pretty good house" takes too long to define to a newbie and generally sounds apologetic. High Performance Home has potential. This industry suffers from horrible marketing overall and is seen by average folks as geeky, nerdy and not applicable. Hoping to change that.

  3. Robert Swinburne | | #3

    And it's not just for myself. It's a topic of discussion down here. in SoVT

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    In spite of my flippant answer, I agree that it's a real problem. I believe in using defined terms. So I guess if you want to jump on a bandwagon, the easiest approach is to choose from an existing program: Energy Star Homes; PHIUS-certified; Passivhaus; or LEED for Homes.

  5. Expert Member
    Armando Cobo | | #5

    I have a different opinion, even though there is no universal definition for high-performing houses, but every builder in America would say they build a “Pretty Good” house, in fact, most of them would say they build a “Really Good” house, and yet we know better. By doing so, there would be thousands of definitions of “Pretty Good” houses; in fact, I consider it a term of inferior quality, just like “Good Enough”!
    As an exclusive designer of zero energy homes, I do explain a High-Performing house as a home designed to maximize the land and resources to create a highly sustainable, healthy, comfortable, durable and energy-efficient home as my client can afford. To me, size, style, or taste are irrelevant since they are very subjective.

  6. Robert Swinburne | | #6

    try this: How do I explain in 30 seconds or less to someone in line at the coffee shop what I do?

  7. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    Here are 31 words:
    "I design homes that use less energy than homes that barely meet building code requirements. The homes I design include ventilation systems to ensure that occupants get plenty of fresh air."

    Of your goal is to be more concise, you can trim this statement down to one sentence with 16 or 17 words:
    "I design well-ventilated homes that use less energy than homes that barely meet building code requirements."

  8. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #8

    I design homes that are a joy to live in, promote health and well-being, and cost little to heat, cool and maintain.

    That's my current tagline, anyway. It may be a bit on the cheesy side, but I was going for the "promote the benefits, not the features" approach.

  9. Steve Knapp CZ 3A Georgia | | #9

    "I re-imagine residential spaces."

    Robert. I think you want to make a statement that invites someone to start a conversation with you. Designing a home is a complicated undertaking. Consumers are typically focused on home aesthetics and clueless about anything related to building science. You have to capture their attention and help them to appreciate the value of designing for comfort, efficiency, and health.

  10. Dan Kolbert | | #10

    For new homes, I think part of it is making the shell such that the mechanical systems can be down-sized.

  11. Robert Swinburne | | #11

    good info all - I shall set to work on combining, stealing, re-purposing and crafting a message that tells it all without telling about everything and that invites a further and deeper conversation.

  12. Charlie Sullivan | | #12

    I think Michael nailed it, or maybe even joined it with structural screws.

  13. Bob Irving | | #13

    My license plate reads "NETZERO", so I'm regularly asked the meaning by people at convenience stores, etc. I tell them I build super insulated houses where the utility bill can be as low as $13 per month (the minimum charge), so they are considered "Net Zero" homes. This sometimes leads to more questions and a longer exchange, but most people understand immediately that the cost of ownership is reduced. Air quality is a critical component of our homes, but leading with that brings on "glazed eyes". Cost is something that everyone can relate to in a positive way.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |