Why Can't Every New Home Be a High Performance Home?
A recent discussion on LinkedIn got me thinking about this question again. If you've spent any time here in the Energy Vanguard blog, you know that one of the things I do a lot is point out bad HVAC design, poor construction practices, building envelopes that don't control the flow of heat and moisture, and more.
But why does this stuff happen so much in the first place? Well, OK, I know why it happens. Among the reasons are:
- Home builders often don't have to pay to fix the home performance problems they leave behind.
- Many builders, architects, and trade contractors don't understand building science.*
- Builders are looking for trade contractors who give them the lowest bid.
- Building codes are improving but don't get enforced uniformly, and the energy codes are enforced least of all.
- Some in the construction industry think of energy codes, green building and energy efficiency programs, and building science as a mamby-pamby, enviro-weenie, left-wing, hippie conspiracy, with Al Gore leading the charge.
I know a lot has improved, especially over the past couple of decades. Voluntary programs like ENERGY STAR for new homes and more stringent energy codes are pushing builders in the right direction. Also, I see a trend of getting building science into the community and technical colleges, which will help.
But what are we missing? What could we be doing that we're not doing yet? Or what could we do more of or do differently? I know there's not a whole lot of construction happening now, compared to 3 or 4 years ago, but with the economic malaise caused by greed in the financial industry, peak oil starting to hit, and a changing climate, the problems are urgent.
It's time for some divergent thinking! I'm not here to give you answers today. This post is an appeal for your thoughts. Every new building that costs the owners down the road when they have to fix it and every new home that doesn't maximize its efficiency and performance is a burden on all of us. What do you think we can do to create a paradigm shift in the construction industry?
*Yes, some home builders, architects, and trade contractors do understand building science, and if you're reading this, I imagine you're one of them. Based on the kinds of problems I've found in new homes, though, the application of good building science principles to home building seems to be the exception rather than the rule.