Green Building in Florida- My Southeast Building Conference Wrapup
Last week I went down to Orlando for the Southeast Building Conference. I was originally slated to speak on the topic of Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs), but I was accidentally left out of the program and instead ended up on a panel called Energy Efficient Homes: Ask Your Peers. The switch turned out to be a good thing because my EEM co-presenter, Geoff Ferland of EcoLend, had to back out at the last minute, and I like having a lender standing next to me to take the hard questions about mortgages.
The panel went well, and I got to meet a couple of my LinkedIn HERS rater connections, Scott Ranck and Walt Stachowicz, whom I'd known only in cyberspace until last week. The four of us on the panel discussed the state of affairs in green building and pontificated on where we thought things were going. We took questions from the audience about the issue of payback on home energy efficiency, the barriers to widespread adoption of solar energy, and why the cost of electricity is going up.
Now, for my impressions of Florida, the SEBC, and what's going on in the world of green building, home energy efficiency, and HERS ratings in Florida. Having spent 9 years in Florida, 7 in Gainesville at the University of Florida, I always like going back and visiting. I stopped in Gainesville for a while, visited with my sister in Lakeland, and spent two days at the SEBC in Orlando. It was a great visit!
At the conference, I had some meetings with people involved with the HERS industry, building inspections, and the Banner Centers. Florida is an interesting state because nearly everything energy related passes through the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC). When I lived in Florida, I visited their facility once in the mid-nineties and was very impressed. I also frequently cite their research results because they do a lot of good work.
All home energy raters in the state have to use FSEC's Energy Gauge program as their HERS provider, and they train most of the certified raters in the state. Some do take the HERS rater class elsewhere, but they still have to go back and take the Florida HERS test to get certified. So, at these meetings, I learned a lot about what's going on and how things operate in the state.
I spent a fair amount of time at the trade show, too, and that's always interesting and infuriating. I saw a company that makes structural insulated panels with fiber cement instead of OSB (oriented strand board). They also claim that their expanded polystyrene is rated at R-5 per inch.
The two items at the trade show that got my blood to boiling are power attic roof ventilators and foil-faced bubble wrap. The attic fans in this case were solar-powered, which makes them only slightly better. The problem with these devices is that they keep the attic cool by sucking conditioned air from the house.
When I saw the bubble wrap, which is less than an inch thick, I walked up and asked the guy at the booth what its R-value is. He told me proudly that it's R-15.4. Arrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh! No, radiant barriers don't give you any R-value. I also found out that because the Florida energy code allows lots of tradeoffs, builders sometimes insulate their walls with nothing but bubble wrap. I'll write more about these two issues soon.
I also had a great conversation with Ken Fonorow, who certified the first ENERGY STAR home in Florida at the conference. I've known Ken since the early '90s, and we both served on the Gainesville Energy Advisory Committee together for a while. He told me that he probably won't be doing many certifications once ENERGY STAR version 3 comes out because of the HVAC checklists. He's taken them around to more than a dozen HVAC contractors that he works with, and they're not happy with what they see. Ken also told me about a paper he wrote on commissioning new homes, which includes checking the temperature difference across the coil and the static pressure in every new system.
Finally, I got to hang out with Arlene Stewart, who knows more about efficient windows than just about anyone else I know. She's a rater in Gainesville as well and is involved in nearly everything energy related in Florida, it seems. She's also responsible for my going to SEBC because she posted the call for proposals and encouraged me to submit one.
Overall, it was a great conference, and I enjoyed learning about what's going on in Florida. Perhaps Energy Vanguard will be able to do some work there, and I'll get to visit more.