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In our spring newsletter nine months ago I was lamenting that every day had felt like Groundhog Day since the lockdown. And today on February 2, it IS Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil has proclaimed that we will enjoy an early spring*. Perhaps it’s a good omen that we may be able to look forward to some much-needed socialization beyond our families (no offense to my boys) this summer.
* Actually he did not, but this is what I had written with high hopes yesterday...  

Given the social inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, addressing the lack of quality affordable housing has become even more urgent. As one of our readers, chances are that your local jurisdiction has eased requirements for adding an accessory dwelling or residential unit (ADU or ARU, depending on where you live) over the last few years. We strongly support ADUs as a constructive private-sector tool to provide more housing options, and the burgeoning ADU market is hungry for technical expertise at an affordable price point. We're excited to be developing our first-ever informational product, a dynamic e-guide, to help serve this need.

Read on to get a sneak peak of what to expect in the guide, meet our newest teammate, and check out some great upcoming events and training opportunities. Happy Groundhog Day! 

Principal + Founder, Beyond Efficiency

Coming Soon: E-Guide for Accessory Dwelling Units

Comfort & efficiency just got easier 
by Nate Russell

As California has made it easier for homeowners to add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to their properties, interest has taken off. We’ve personally experienced this through constant inquiries and dozens of ADU projects we’ve consulted on, and chances are you’ve designed or built an ADU or embarked on a project of your own. With this growth quite a bit of information and resources on the general design and approval process of ADUs has followed, but there’s been almost nothing regarding aspects like HVAC design or energy compliance.

As building size is reduced to the ADU scale, it’s not always intuitive which measures to prioritize in order to optimize energy efficiency and meet the rigorous Title 24 energy code. Designers and contractors also often don’t know which mechanical and plumbing systems are best suited to smaller spaces and different occupancy needs compared to larger single family homes. After navigating through this on many projects, Beyond Efficiency has compiled key strategies into a dynamic design guide to help designers, builders or DIY-types apply strategies that are efficient, comfortable, healthy and durable.

For example, many of our clients try to avoid foam-based insulation products due to environmental or health concerns (you can learn more about these concerns from Green Science Policy Institute). Unvented roofs (think cathedral/vaulted ceilings) typically pose the biggest challenge when it comes to foam-free buildings. Typical approaches would involve either spray foaming the rafter cavities or installing rigid insulation on the roof deck and then adding another layer of sheathing on top of that. What a pain! However, in national climate zone 3 or milder (or California T24 climate zones 3-15) a foam-free, unvented pitched roof is possible by using a vapor diffusion port assembly. What this boils down to is insulating the rafter cavities with a standard product (dense-pack cellulose is our preference; other air-permeable insulation products are also ok). Then, drill some holes in each rafter cavity near the ridge, add a vapor open membrane, and use a wider than usual ridge cap to cover the holes. The level of effort is in the ballpark of that for a vented roof, it eliminates the headaches of foam (sometimes literally), and it’s a low-cost strategy. We cover details like this in the guide.

Read the rest of this blog post
Want more information about our upcoming ADU e-guide? Click here.

New staff profile: Nicole Prater

People Success Manager
by Laken Allen

Nicole holds a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from the University of London and brings over fifteen years experience in the non profit and public sectors working to address several of the problems facing society. She is thrilled to be at Beyond Efficiency where she can put her experience to the task of tackling the climate crisis. Nicole's role at Beyond Efficiency is all about supporting the talented, creative and hard working team so the company can have as large of an impact as possible. 

Q: What's your favorite thing about working at Beyond Efficiency?
A: I love the team, who always has each other's backs!

Q: What are the most exciting trends you see today in sustainable building?
I am really excited that even in our cold climate in Wyoming, technologies are emerging to not only keep our homes warm and toasty but to help us reduce dependence on fossil fuels! Outside of the building industry I am especially excited to see our country re-join other nations in trying to tackle the climate crisis.

Q: What's an amazing accomplishment most people don't know about?
I rode 200+ miles in the annual Seattle to Portland bike race.

Q: And finally, what would you do if you weren't helping create enduring human-centered buildings?
There are so many things! My undergraduate degree was in Anthropology, so maybe I would be a scholar traveling the world and writing books.

Learn more about Nicole and her teammates

What are your 2021 New Year's resolutions, goals or hopes?

The Beyond Efficiency Team reveals...
Dan Johnson, Sustainability Architect Leader: While continuing to work from home, enjoy seeing so much of my family (but manage to get more work done, too)! Also, against the odds of time and money, I hope to get a detached accessory home built in our backyard for a senior parent.
Katy Hollbacher, Principal: My top resolution is to get our first informational product out on the market and set the stage for bigger things to come. The idea has been simmering for years, and I'm grateful to my amazing mentors from the Silicon Couloir TEAMS program who challenged me to make it happen!
Nate Russell, Energy + Products Intern: I have goals to design and participate in the building of a high-performance home, get a better understanding of how electricity is used in my family's daily life and determine how to reduce it and return to an improved normal (as opposed to just back to the way things were). Various crises have accentuated flaws, weaknesses, shortcomings, etc- instead of going back to where we were, let's at a minimum start to address them and get to a better 'normal'.
Kara Rousselle, Senior Mechanical Engineer: I don't do resolutions, but a goal for this year is to continue educating myself on regeneration and resiliency as it relates to my life and the environment that I impact.
Laken Allen, Operations Manager: My resolution for 2021 is to heat my house more efficiently! After everything I've learned from my colleagues, we are looking into improving our insulation and installing a ductless mini-split heat pump. I am really excited about it!
Jayant Patil, Energy + Systems Engineer Manager: In 2021, I am really hoping to work on a new stream of projects concentrating on M&V of commercial facilities.
Jen Love, Multifamily Director: I want to help at least one of our multifamily projects commit to installing a greywater system. There are some good package options that have worked out all the kinks and pair well with multifamily buildings that have central laundry, allowing landscaping to meet irrigation needs without potable/municipal water use.
Danielle Beevé-Morris, Sustainability Engineer Manager: To become an official LEED Rater!
Nicole Prater, People Success Manager: My goal is to take some of the lessons of 2020 to heart in the new year—specifically that we need less than we think we do and can say no to things that don't feed our purpose.
Nathan Iltis, Energy Engineer Manager: In 2021 I want to be more musical, and learn guitar!
Welcome the two newest members of the Beyond Efficiency family!
The Beyond Efficiency family is growing! Hazel (left) and Ellie (right) were both recently promoted to 'Big Sister.' Nate welcomed baby Sadie (left) and Katie welcomed baby Thomas (right) in November. Congratulations!

Noteworthy Events

We'll be presenting, attending, or wishing we were there

February 9-11, 2021
ASHRAE Virtual Winter Conference, Online
The 2021 ASHRAE Virtual Winter Conference promises three days packed with learning and live discussions with top experts. Special sessions will cover the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic and there will be updates from Society leaders, a Women in ASHRAE keynote presentation and recognition of ASHRAE Honors recipients.

February 11, 2021
The State of Building Electrification, Online
The Building Decarbonization Coalition presents this webinar to ask the questions: Where are we on building decarbonization as a movement? What have early building decarbonization program efforts taught us and where we need to go next? What can leadership utilities and other institutions do to help the movement overcome some of its stickiest barriers? To answer them, they are turning to a leader of industry, Scott Blunk, Strategic Business Planner of Electrification and Energy Efficency at Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). 

AIA East Bay Presentation

March 11, 2021
AIR Presentation, Online
Beyond Efficiency's Principal Katy Hollbacher will be presenting at AIA-East Bay on indoor air quality. She'll specifically focus on managing our new challenges: COVID-19, ventilation, and fire smoke season, which seems like it could soon be year-round in California. She will focus on how ventilation needs changed in 2020 and how to meet owner expectations for clean and healthy indoor air.

February 25, 2021
Climate Policies Presentation, Online
Dan Johnson, Sustainable Architect Leader, will be presenting to Ratcliff in February on The Local and State Regulatory Environment for Zero Carbon Buildings in 2021. He will dive into climate policies that are guiding architects' design choices and examine carbon-neutral and gas-free policies imposed by cites, the State, and institutions like the University of California and Kaiser on new buildings. 
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