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Introduction to Building Science Workshop

Course Description

This course is a comprehensive introduction to residential building science based on the book A House Needs to Breathe…Or Does It? by Allison Bailes.  The live, in-person class will use the book’s organization for its structure.  The three main sections are Begin at the End, The Building Enclosure, and The Mechanical Systems.

The cover for the book, A House Needs to Breathe...Or Does It?

The first section dives into the needs of occupants.  Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is one of the most important needs, and here we’ll introduce the topic but focus mainly on indoor air quality and thermal comfort.  In addition to IEQ, we’ll discuss some of the other important objectives, like durability and energy use.

The second section covers many aspects of the building enclosure but begins with a look at the most fundamental principles of building science.  We’ll cover the role of climate, controlling the flows of heat, air, and moisture, and the all-important house-as-a-system approach.  Then we’ll dive deeper into the flows of heat, air, and moisture.  Finally, we’ll close this section with a look at some best practices for incorporating these principles into the different parts of a house.  That is, we’ll describe what works—and sometimes what doesn’t—in crawl spaces, basements, garages, attics, and the living space.

The third section covers many aspects of mechanical systems.  Beginning with the fundamentals of heating and cooling, we’ll get into the various types of heating and cooling equipment and how best to distribute conditioned air.  After heating and cooling, we’ll cover filtration for good indoor air quality, dehumidification, whole-house and local ventilation, and water heating.


Allison A Bailes III, PhD is the instructor for this course.  He is the author of a bestselling book on residential building science (A House Needs to Breathe…Or Does It?) and the founder of Energy Vanguard, a building science firm and BPI Test Center located in Decatur, Georgia. The company’s focus is on residential HVAC design, consulting, and training.  Dr. Bailes has a PhD in physics from the University of Florida and has been involved with the field of building science since 2001, when he built a high-performance home out of structural insulated panels.  (Read his complete bio.)

Sample Syllabus for the Daylong Workshop

9:00-9:15 am  INTRODUCTION

9:15-10:45 am

  1. Start at the end
    • What’s the purpose of a house?
    • Creating a healthy home
    • Getting comfortable
    • Energy use in the home

10:45-11:00  BREAK

11:00 am-12:30 pm

  1. The building enclosure
    • Understanding moisture
    • Controlling liquid water
    • Controlling air
    • Controlling water vapor

12:30-1:15 pm  LUNCH

1:30-3:00 pm

    • Controlling heat
    • Building enclosure details
  1. Mechanical systems
    • The fundamentals of heating & cooling
    • Heating & air conditioning equipment

3:00-3:15  BREAK

3:15-4:45 pm

    • Moving conditioned air
    • Filtering the indoor air
    • Dehumidification
    • Mechanical ventilation
    • Water heating
  1. Q&A
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