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4 Smart Building Science Learning Opportunities for You

 
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If you work in the fields of home building, home improvement, or HVAC and want to do the best work you can, you know that you've got to keep learning. Not only is there a tremendous amount to know, but things are always changing. Here are four great opportunities for you to continue your building science education.

The Ventilation Debate Continues: Interview with Dr. Iain Walker

 
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The debate over how much to ventilate a home has been going on a long time. Last year, Building Science Corporation introduced their own standard to compete against ASHRAE 62.2 because of problems they felt weren't adequately addressed in the ASHRAE standard. I've written about the standard and interviewed Dr. Joseph Lstiburek and ASHRAE 62.2 committee chair Paul Francisco (links at bottom).

Can Occupants Be Trusted to Control Their Home's Ventilation System?

 
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One of the points of contention in the great ventilation debate is whether a home's occupants should control their own ventilation systems. The issue came up again in my article last week, Does a Gas Furnace Dry Out the Air in Your Home? I wrote that occupants should have control of their ventilation system and experiment with the rate to help prevent drying out the air by diluting it with too much cold, dry outdoor air. Paul Raymer, a friend and member of the ASHRAE 62.2 committee, then questioned me on that:

Building Science Schmilding Science; Let's Do Things Right in 2014

 
Encapsulated crawl space in South Carolina

We're a few days into 2014 now. A lot of homes got built last year, and a lot got renovated, too. Quite a few homes got home energy ratings, and even more had blower door tests. Spray foam attics and encapsulated crawl spaces also grew in popularity. Since the economy is heating up a bit, the numbers will probably be higher this year. But are things improving?

The Mixed-Up IAQ and Infiltration Blues

 
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I've been on the road this week. I flew to Chicago on Tuesday and gave two presentations at the Better Buildings: Better Business conference put on by the Energy Center of Wisconsin. After I was done there on Wednesday, I flew to Massachusetts, where I attended the second day of Building Science Corporation's Experts' Session. (Click the link to download the presentations.) Joe Lstiburek spoke the whole day about ventilation. At the end of the day, though, we got a little surprise.

Will Higher Ventilation Rates Reduce Student Absences in School?

 
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A new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) makes a bold claim that increasing ventilation rates can cut the number of student absences related to illness. The lead author on the paper, Mark Mendell, is quoted by LBNL's News Center as saying, "Our overall findings suggest that, if you increased ventilation rates of classrooms up to the state standard, or even above it, you would get net benefits to schools, to families, to everybody, at very low cost." But what did they have to assume to find that suggestion?

A Net Zero Energy Home in a Beautiful Green Community

 
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I spoke at Serenbe, a beautiful green community southwest of Atlanta, this weekend and got a chance to visit a net zero energy home while there. Built by Luis Imery, one of the home energy raters we're a HERS provider for, the home has garnered quite a bit of recognition. In fact, they recently picked up a pretty big award from Southface.

Is Energy Efficiency More Important Than Indoor Air Quality?

 
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I was searching the Interwebs for data on what percentage of buildings are designed by architects this week when I came across the Home Design Trends Survey from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). (If you can point me toward some good sources for my original question, please do.) The survey included several types of questions and charts, but the one that really caught my eye was (nominally) about the popularity of products. The chart below shows the results. (Click to see all the charts in larger sizes.)

Fixing an Old House? Follow Einstein's Advice

 
Albert Einstein knew that planning ahead was the key to solving problems.

I get a lot of questions from people asking how they should go about fixing their homes. Sometimes it's specific (What's the best way to insulate my kneewalls?), and sometimes it's a hands up in the air, With all these problems, where do I start?  I'll focus on the latter today and let Albert Einstein provide the guidance you need.

This Little Ventilation Mistake Can Lead to Comfort Problems

 
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If you're designing a ventilation system, first you have to determine how much air the house needs. You can use ASHRAE 62.2 or the new BSC-01 for that task. Then you have to decide what type of ventilation system to use: positive pressure, negative pressure, or balanced. In many green homes, the balanced system is becoming a popular choice. I've seen some installations lately, though, that are missing a key component.

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