New Construction: Easing Builders into High Performance Construction

I've started a short video series to explain my work in high performance wall systems.

Some quick background - my colleague Scott Hedges and I have spent some time studying home building practices in Sweden, and we find their techniques for efficient high performance houses very applicable in the heating zones of the United States.

I've applied our research to several prototype wall systems based on US products, organized in a stepped performance model of Good, Better, Best versions that allow builders to experiment slowly and get up to speed with high performance building as their comfort, clients, and business model allows.

Topping off these recommendations is a new model for Platform Framing, I believe the first significant revision of the Western Platform Framing model that has ever been seriously proposed. It is Swedish Platform Framing, and it makes certain key modifications to the Western Platform model to reduce horizontal thermal bridges, eliminate conditions that are difficult to insulate and seal, and lends itself to the coming shift to off-site construction practices. 

I'm eager to see adoption of these techniques, and of course I am available to help builders implement these new high performance models in their work. 

SO, I invite you Energy Pros to view the videos as a quick introduction, and to follow the links posted in the video descriptions to read deeper content on these systems on my web site. 

Part1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ0WlbT4flE
Part2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGk_Qe31yEY
Part3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUthssuOYks

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Armando, my replies to you have been mainly to clarify things stated in your posts. I don't know why you characterize that as being defensive. I may have misinterpreted your "agree to disagree" as an exit statement, but I am in no way asking you to leave the discussion, and I have no problem with differing opinions.

The irony is that I've stated several times that I don't disagree with you or the building science surrounding Advanced Framing. Its just my opinion that the energy gains are modest for the effort, and its my observation that the wider housing industry is not interested in these AF techniques.

Why spin this into a Greg vs Armando conflict?

+1

Thanks for the post, Greg.  Energy-efficient Scandinavian construction techniques have inspired people in other countries for a nice long while.  Back in the early 1980s, the German Marshall Fund sponsored a study on the practices in Sweden, with a particular focus on the off-site construction trend that was already in full swing there at the time.  I participated in that work in a small way by simulating the energy performance of Swedish-quality homes in various US climates.  The book didn't go into the level of detail that I'm seeing here.  It's good to see the conversation getting deeper into the nitty gritty of it all.

You are talking about Coming In From The Cold - yes I know it well. I'm amazed you worked on this. They did not go into the translation to American building practices that we've done here, but they certainly drilled down in great detail to explain how this came about in Sweden. There was much more detail than what went into the book, which was intended to put it all in layman's terms. Regrettably Lee Schipper just died recently, with the American housing industry none the wiser after all these years.

Scott and I wrote a piece about the book, the research, the foresight, and the tragedy of the American indifference:

http://blog.lamidesign.com/2010/11/coming-in-from-cold-story-behind...

Yes, it was a great project to be part of. I ran simulation models of these houses in LBNL's CIRA software across a range of US climates and wrote up the results in the book's appendix.  Lee Schipper was one of my more important mentors in those days, and thanks in part to him I ended up working for 4 years in Sweden after the book was done.  Henry Kelly, one of the authors, served until just recently as the Assistant Secretary for Efficiency and Renewables at DOE.  Small world.

Both Schipper and Kelly went on to impressive careers. And the NAHB went on to lobby against precisely the kinds of reforms they advocated in their report. Sad, and telling. 

We have to talk, Scott and I have wondered about Stephen Meyers who we don't know much about. I'll send you a message.

Greg

I want to commend you on a very nicely produced series. I especially like the way you explain concepts using the 3D (SketchUP?) images side-by side, and the innovative, "off the cuff" voice-over explainations that make often-difficult-to-visualize concepts easy to see and understand  -- especially for learners who aren't steeped in carpentry or building experience.  

In the summer of 87, I spent three months touring Swedish homebuilding companies with my Swedish father-in-law, and wrote an article for Fine HomeBuilding on the "craft-made"  homebuilding techniques. The high-performance wall systems you are describing are a natural evolution of what I saw, which as you so rightly explain, is simply a more efficient way to stack up materials for better performance.

Keep up the good work -- and could you perhaps title your videos so that they are easier to find in YouTube?

 

Thanks

 

Craig Savage

  

Thank you for the kind words Craig. You are correct, the 3d model is in sketchup. I'd love to take credit for being clever about this video stuff, but its all just the results of low production values with the tools at hand.

I am pretty sure that Scott and I read your Fine Homebuilding article in the course of our research. 

And please, any suggestions for titling and reaching more people are welcome. YouTube is a new adventure for me.

Craig, I wanted to let you know I went back to your Fine Homebuilding article and read it again. Its my impression that in the 25 years since your article that the Swedish industry has settled on a much more conventional framing practice than some of the methods you observed and documented. TJI like studs were being used back when Coming in From the Cold was written, and today you don't see much of that. Incredibly today much of their floor and roof framing is with dimension lumber from their well managed forests. Clear straight stock that we would only use in finish carpentry! 

I think you caught the tail end of a period of experimentation that began in the mid 70s, and settled out to pretty conventional framing methods by the 2000s. That kind of experimentation is starting again with the global interest in energy efficiency growing again. We see some Swedish factories dabbling in PassiveHouse. 

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