4 High-Performance Building Tips for Builders

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The Southeast Building Conference (SEBC), hosted by the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA), is the largest building industry trade show in the southeast. NAHB presented the first session "Where Building Science and Resiliency Intersect," with Houston-based builder Jeff Hunt and Stephanie Thomas-Rees of the Engineered Wood Association, and NAHB Chief Economist Dr. Robert Dietz provided an update on recent challenges to housing affordability. Several education sessions focused on high-performance building, including these four important takeaways:
  • The importance of being able to translate the energy efficiency of a home to buyers in the selling process. Market energy efficiency as something people will understand. The average kBtu/ft2/yr generated by an energy model doesn’t speak to most people, just like people don’t buy a car based on the cost per seat.
  • How to measure the flush performance of a toilet, which may be more important to home owners than water efficiency. The voluntary, independent Maximum Performance (MaP) Testing program provides a score that represents the amount of solid waste (in grams) that is taken care of in a single flush. Its research shows that 99% of uses are 350 grams or less. EPA’s WaterSense program certifies products to both water efficiency and performance standards, and has set a score of 350 as the minimum threshold in their pass/fail requirements for toilet certifications.
  • There is an energy penalty for locating ductwork in unconditioned attics. Ductwork can constitute 40% of the surface area of the attic — an area that can take about 1 ton of A/C to cool on a typical cooling day. Locating the ductwork in conditioned spaces or insulating the ducts may enable you to downsize the HVAC system and reduce energy costs.
  • The importance of building envelopes being able to dry out. An example included a turn-of-the-century home with a wood-based wall system that looked brand new down to the building paper. It was built with furring strips to provide a gap so the building paper could dry out, when No. 15 building paper still weighed 15 lb./sq. ft. (versus the 3-11 lb./sq. ft. of many No. 15 papers now in use).
There will be several opportunities to learn more about high-performance building trends at the 2020 International Builders' Show in Las Vegas, including pre-show full day classes, a high performance Master Workshop and education sessions during the show. The High Performance Building Zone also returns to the Expo Hall, including the Building Performance Lab and a Demonstration Stage. For more details about NAHB's sustainable and green building initiatives, contact Sustainability and Green Building Program Manager Michelle Diller. To stay current on the high-performance residential building sector, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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