Notes from “How + Why: The Details of Sustainable Homes”

Ryan Taylor and Mike Barcik of the Southface Energy Institute are looking forward to presenting, “How + Why: The Details of Sustainable Homes” at the 2015 AIA National Convention.


The information and links from the course handout are provided here for your convenience in the hope that you’ll share your own resources in the comments for this blog post (below).

Presentation Summary
Designers, practitioners, and builders rely on “typical details” to satisfy energy codes and green building programs, protect clients, and keep themselves out of trouble. But are these details actually relevant to sustainability—or are we just going with the program?

From the building envelope to structural systems and hot water heating/distribution, the difference lies in the details. Join us to discover the rhyme and reason behind key details, and improve actual efficiency and green value in your sustainable designs.

U.S. Federal Programs
Please be sure you pay attention to how these programs are marketed to the public and explained to building code officials. That tells you the expectation that must be met or exceeded.

EPA’s ENERGY STAR Certified New Homes
This program has some great checklists, is updated frequently and enjoys brand recognition. Look for the “Partner Resources” to learn more about the program from the professional’s point of view.

EPA’s Indoor airPLUS
EPA created Indoor airPLUS to help builders meet the growing consumer preference for homes with improved indoor air quality. Indoor airPLUS builds on the foundation of EPA’s ENERGY STAR requirements for new homes and provides additional construction specifications to provide comprehensive indoor air quality protections in new homes.

EPA’s WaterSense
The WaterSense program offers a guide for new homes and a label for products.

The EPA also offers an “ENERGY STAR Advanced Lighting” and “Renewable Energy Ready Homes (RERH)” program.

DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH)
DOE Challenge Home recently became the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home.

The DOE ZERH Resources page provides links to training videos and publications.

DOE’s Building America
The Building America program has been a source of innovations in residential building energy performance, durability, quality, affordability, and comfort for 20 years. This world-class research program partners with industry (including many of the top U.S. home builders) to bring cutting-edge innovations and resources to market.

You can also consider joining one of the Building America research teams. They publish helpful information in blogs, papers, webinars, etc.

Details and Publications

Southface: Key Air Sealing Details

Building America Solution Center
Look for “CAD Files” and other free resources.

ASHRAE 62.2 Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings (2013 is the latest version)
There’s some acrimony about the ASHRAE standard for ventilation. Even though, ACCA is the leading professional association for residential air heating and cooling, ASHRAE still writes the standard for ventilation. You should know Building Science Corporation has written its own, competing ventilation standard… which caused great discussion.–technology/standards–guidelines

AI-820.04 Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum
This addendum by the Appraisal Institute communicates the green and energy efficient features of a home.

U.S. National Laboratories
The U.S. National Laboratories receive funding to research all manner of topics. Many of them relate to the construction industry. Much of that information is presented at conferences though you can subscribe to any national lab or find research online.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Professional Associations

AIA Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN)
Did you know the American Institute of Architects has a network of residential practitioners who gather at the AIA National Convention and in the fall of each year in their own symposium? You should join us!

Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET)
RESNET is the body that certifies HERS Raters. You can find a significant amount of information on the RESNET website. You can also find HERS Raters. Be sure you note the link for “RESNET Professionals”.

Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
ACCA is the source for all things HVAC (except ASHRAE 62.2) when it comes to residential work. They publish the manuals required for design by the ICC building codes. ACCA also offers great information and training.

The Engineered Wood Association (APA)
APA is the industry resource for framing details. Check out the “Resource Library”, which includes CAD details. You may also appreciate APA’s Advanced Framing Construction Guide.

Voluntary Green Building Standards

National Green Building Standard
There are a significant number of green building standards though the NGBS is the only one created using an ANSI (public) process. It’s gaining market share and has been used as a basis for permissive state building code development. The NGBS includes certification for remodeling projects.

Other Industry Resources

Southface Energy Institute

Building Science Corporation

Green Building Advisor

Energy Vanguard

You can connect with many of the resources listed above by following them on social media or signing up for their email lists. They frequently offer webinars and other resources you might find helpful. You’re also welcome to connect with RTA by email or on social media.

What’s missing? Please leave comments below to add resources!

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