Why Home Performance Improvements

Home performance is about providing healthier, longer lasting, more comfortable, and energy efficient homes.

Discussions in this article include . . .

Home Performance Golden Triangle

Delivery of those benefits depend on the Golden Triangle of Home Performance: moisture management, indoor air quality, and energy transfer.

All seven engineering system for a house are required to support it: structure; plumbing; electricity; fuel gas; heating, air conditioning & ventilation (HVAC); storm water drainage; and energy. There are building codes for each of these systems.

Building Code. Theoretically, if the housing industry were to build a house according to the building code, then everyone would have a house that performs well.

To be fair, houses made yesterday do not have to meet today’s building code unless certain improvements are made.

The Case for Home Performance Improvements

New Houses. A house built to today’s building code should be equivalent to the standard house defined in the HERS rating system, which is given a HERS Rating Index = 100. Higher numbers are built worse than the standard. Lower numbers are built better than the standard.

The ENERGY STAR Rated Homes program expects houses they certify to be 15% better than the standard home: Index = 85. Recently, a bunch of new home builders who thought they met code had an average Index = 120. Clearly, something is wrong.

Houses Built Since 1973. Before the oil embargo and resulting energy crises in 1973, energy was relatively cheap. Houses wasted energy, but one really cared. Then, Nationally, we started to implement a energy policy that has been updated a few times since.

Home Performance Safety. In the process, we discovered that if we sealed up our houses to reduce air leaks, we created moisture issues, found latent combustion safety concerns, and started holding polluted air in the house. What we learned is the basis for home performance safety standards in use today.

Why We Have Home Performance Issues

(aka Where's the Building Scientist?)

The housing industry knows how to build houses that perform well, but they don’t. There are a variety of reasons. The first is the people who are supposed to have a building science background either aren’t, ignore it, or don’t enforce it.

Architect. The architect clearly has a building science background. However, they don’t fully use that knowledge to design homes. If they did, they’d design houses with spaces for ductwork inside the house and specify what needs to be done for a well performing house.

We’ve seen to many plans where the architect says it’s the builder’s responsibility to comply with applicable building codes. They also warn the builder to call them if significant changes are made.

Builders. Surely builders should have a building science background! Until recently, may builders did not need to be code certified a any level. Most builders are project managers who rely on their subcontractors to know what building code requirements are.

Unfortunately, the separate trades don’t coordinate with each other. After all, in fairness to them, the person who’s supposed to manage the interrelationships between the trades is the builder, but we’ve already established they don’t understand home performance principles.

Building Code Officials. Building code officials should be code certified in each of the sections of the building code affecting a house. Maybe this is true of many offices, but certainly not all. To make matters worse, the building code official “evaluates” the house in a short period of time, frequently less than one hour.

Over Worked. What’s hurry? They have too many houses to do in a day and have to rush from one to the next. To do this, a conscious decision is made to enforce only life critical portions of the code and ignore the rest. Air tightness, insulation installation, heating & cooling system design, and other home performance concerns aren’t life critical.

Builder Apathy. Code-certified home inspectors come in behind them all the time to find the violations. The builder? He or she doesn’t care because they have their Certificate of Occupancy. Often the new homeowners don’t complain, so they get away with it.

Politics. Local politics are in play here too. A building code official is criticized for looking too closely. Did I mention we don’t pay these professionals very well either?

This is happening now, and we know better! We can forgive our forefathers because they didn’t.

Where Do We Go From Here?

We could complain all day if we wanted to; however, it’s not likely to help much, especially if the warranty period has expired. Your utility bills are high, and your family may be sick.

Website Purpose. This website is dedicated to helping homeowners understand their house, ultimately to get the house they should’ve had in the first place. Once we do that, then we can go onto making your house better than the standard, such as with solar power and geothermal heat pumps.

Let the fun begin! Let’s finish your house, or at least make it better than it is!!!

It all starts with a Home Energy Audit . . .

Next: Home Performance Consulting Services
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