Home Performance in Paradise

Habitat X Fellow Griffin Hagle shows us the surprising difficulty associated with home performance — and home performance contractors — in a mild climate. This article is the first in a series as we follow this project to completion.

“Sunshine, beaches, and sparkling pools: few cities can compete with San Diego’s lifestyle. Housing costs are high, but natural gas is cheap, and solar electricity gets cheaper by the day. Considering that you could probably live comfortably year-round in a treehouse, why should anyone fuss with building performance in the first place?

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Proof is Possible

Corbett Lunsford outlines a case for moving the home performance industry closer to widespread acceptance by offering simple (and understandable) proof of performance to consumers.

“If you work in the business of home performance, or what I’ll call performance-based contracting, I’ll bet $100 that you came in through the Energy Efficiency door. I did, too. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that, once through the door, many of us now think that we’ve arrived in energy efficiency land, and we have nothing more to learn. When the reality is that our door was just one of many entry points to performance-based contracting. And if you look back at the door through which we entered, you’ll see that’s its gilded with tons of outdated assumptions.

For example, common industry knowledge says that we need an army of energy auditors. Really? I don’t think so, because I don’t think we need to do as much analysis as we often have. Then, consider the very word “audit”. It definitely does not connote warmth and joy, but what does it connote?”

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Southface, After All These Years

A report on the success of a highly effective industry player, by Brad Turner of Southface Energy Institute.

“Southface is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote sustainable homes, workplaces, and communities through education, research, advocacy and technical assistance. My efforts at Southface largely focus on the education pillar of our mission.

Among other projects, I manage the Southeast Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Training center (SWEET), a U.S. DOE Weatherization Training Center (WTC). We were the second WTC in the country to earn accreditation by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), and in January of this year we became one of only eight training centers in the country to have achieved IREC Accreditation for all four Home Energy Professional Training Programs: Energy Auditor, Retrofit Installer & Technician, Crew Leader, and Quality Control Inspector.”

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A Proposal for Expanded International Collaboration

We live in the most extraordinary of times, with unprecedented access to ideas, stuff, and people. This new flood of resources, as I see it, springs from a convergence of several factors: new communication tools, widespread wealth, and a mixing of social strata, among others. And though we could discuss this opening on several levels, this article addresses the sharing of information on the business and technology of high performance construction as it’s being developed on both sides of the Atlantic.

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The Habitat X Journal 2013

This is the Journal from the Heartland Habitat X Conference held in Kansas City, Missouri in October 2013.

The Current Disruptive State of Photovoltaics

A story from 2015 that’s more relevant then ever. What do you think?

Ben Bunker analyzes industry price points, and consumer beliefs, to show why photovoltaics and home performance can best be regarded as side-by-side home upgrades.

“Public awareness of the residential photovoltaic industry has skyrocketed in recent years due to impressive
marketing campaigns, technological advances, and third-party financing models that are making solar more obtainable than ever to the average homeowner. The energy-efficiency industry on the other hand, while also enjoying high public awareness, is relatively mature and driven by comparatively incremental innovation.

In a race for the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the American consumer, we have to ask if energy efficiency is in danger of losing its historical position in the residential market.”

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Choosing Value, Cutting Cost

Rick Blumenthal outlines a case for better quality control in the construction industry, and illustrates why it makes financial sense for everyone involved in the construction process.

“We’ve all made purchasing decisions in our lives based solely on the (initial) cost of goods or services, and without considering their long-term cost. The housing industry is a full of such short-sighted examples. I believe that to continue down such a path—to put greater significance on front-end costs than on opportunities for long-term gain and sustainability is a mistake. It’s an approach that’s in direct conflict with both ecological and economic systems that individuals and businesses must respect in order to remain successful and survive.”

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Announcement of the 2015 Habitat X Fellowship

Griffin Hagle is the 2015 recipient of the Habitat X Fellowship. See his article below to learn more about his work.

The Evolving Electrical Grid

From the publication Thought Leaders Speak Out, with guest columns by CEO Bob Rowe of NorthWestern Energy, and others

Serving Utilities, Empathy without Apology

John Dendy provides an analysis of utility efficiency programs, why they often fall short of their goals, and how we can help them improve.

“I am a conservationist. I began my career as an energy auditor, doing four energy audits a day.
I wore a badge that bore the name of the gas and electric utility for which I was contracted to work, and I identified myself as a representative of that utility. I then moved on to doing engineering evaluations for several utilities, and eventually returned to the business of program implementation. I believed in what we were doing, and I served the utility faithfully.

During this, time I became frustrated at the glacial pace of change. It took months to make the simplest changes, and modest changes that were reasonable to my coworkers and me seemed impossible to implement.”

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