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Now in our ninth year of business, we thought it was about time to launch a newsletter! We're excited to reconnect with you to share technical tips, news about industry innovations, upcoming conferences and events, and glimpses of how what we do positively impacts people's enjoyment of buildings.

You're on our list because we've collaborated with you in the past. We hope you find our newsletter valuable and interesting, but if you prefer not to receive it in the future, simply scroll to the bottom of the page to unsubscribe.

Our team looks forward to continued collaboration to help create enduring human-centered buildings. Thank you. 

Katy Hollbacher
Principal & Founder, Beyond Efficiency

What favorite efficiency tip 
do you use at home? 

The Beyond Efficiency Team Reveals...
[Most of the] whole family at a recent office gathering at our newish space on Channing Way in Berkeley
Jennifer Love, Sustainability Engineer: I've converted my entire landscaping to drought-tolerant California natives and opt to do hand watering instead of using an automatic irrigation system. This lets me interact more with my garden and saves water. I also replaced my small patch of lawn with mulch. It holds up much better to the foot traffic of young children and is zero maintenance and zero water. And the kids don't miss the dry dead grass at all.

Mrigesh Roy, Energy Engineer: Here are a few things I do to stay warm and be efficient: 
1. Bike to work; 2. Keep windows open while away at work and mostly closed at night--this way it is cool during the day and stays warm at night; 3. Use double blankets while sleeping. 
These simple things help you stay comfortable in a 1920’s home that does not have insulation or any modern techno gadgets. 

Jose Rivero, Sustainability Engineer: I cook pasta with less water than recommended for peak quality.  I don't mind a little extra starch if I'm saving both water and energy.  The extra bonus is when I can reuse water from first boiling broccoli or other veggies to cook my pasta!


Dan Johnson, Sustainability Architect: Instead of a gas-fired dryer, I like to use a laundry drying rack that folds up and hangs inside the door to the laundry closet. It takes me about 9 minutes to arrange a full load of kids clothes, etc. on the rack to dry (yes, I have timed myself). In the summertime we leave this rack standing in the room and the evaporation helps theoretically to cool off the house. It is quiet and takes about 18 hours to dry, which suits my schedule anyway.

Katy Hollbacher, Principal: We don’t live in a Passive House—or even anything close to a current energy code-compliant house—and it can cool off in a hurry. But we like to sleep cold and set the thermostat no higher than 64º overnight. It can be chilly in the morning but we sure do sleep well!


Betsy Aaron, Operations Manager: I like to trip-link when I do errands. That means any time I drive someplace, I always try to take care of at least one additional errand in the vicinity of my main destination to save time and fuel. This has become a game for me to see how much I can accomplish in the shortest amount of time. I find as a result, I don't need to fill my gas tank as often as I used to.

Why the Bay Area Building Industry Is Abuzz About Modular and Offsite Construction

Interview with Beyond Efficiency's Jose Rivero, Sustainability Engineer
by Betsy Aaron                                                                    

Modular construction holds a lot of promise for bringing down construction costs and driving more development in the Bay Area. That is Jose Rivero's main takeaway from attending "Modular Construction in the Bay Area: The Future Is Now," a sold-out panel discussion at the Urban Land Institute in San Francisco on July 18.

The event focused on possible solutions to the current Bay Area housing shortage. "Everyone in our industry recognizes that costs are spiraling out of control," Jose said, explaining that few people can afford to build new when the cost per square foot is $500 or more. 

"People in the construction industry, including tradespeople to architects and bankers to developers, are needing to take a big picture focus as they recognize the cost of construction is one of the biggest barriers to more construction," Jose said.

Jose has been following the modular and offsite construction industry for some time, and he sees that there is a new incarnation of that industry, in part because of partnerships it is forming with labor. This can help lead to a greater affordability when building. "Modular housing seems to be one of the few opportunities to bring down constructions costs...and we need to find solutions that we can build more affordably to support our whole industry," he said.

A benefit to the modular offsite approach is that only half of the work needs to be completed on site. This industry is still new and growing, and the construction model has to be proven, but "it is the beginning of what could be the real future," Jose said.
Working Toward Zero-Carbon Mid-rise Housing
Interview with Beyond Efficiency's Dan Johnson, Sustainability Architect
by Betsy Aaron

What is the best way to save energy in a large building? About 10 years ago, the concept of net zero energy building became mainstream, along with the hope that it would be the answer for reducing the fossil fuel consumption of all kinds of buildings.

Net zero is a concept where solar panels on a building produce enough energy to offset the building's annual energy consumption from the grid. This goal has been incorporated into California Energy Commission (CEC) legislation and policy.

However, Dan Johnson says, "Net zero has issues. If you do the math, it's not a scalable concept once we have more than about 25% of grid energy provided by solar panels.” There are code compliance, cost, and technological barriers to be overcome before net zero can be pushed further.

That is why Dan co-facilitated the workshop "Tall Housing ZNE Design Brainstorm" with Architect Ann Edminster at the semi-annual Zero Carbon Retreat in Arcata, California on July 28. Dan had been corresponding with conference organizer Sean Armstrong to share building efficiency ideas, and then Sean invited Dan to be a facilitator to pass along his ideas to a wider audience.

"In our workshop, we looked at net zero as a carbon reduction strategy for big residential buildings," Dan explained. Approximately 50 participants discussed current policies around net zero and other carbon-reduction solutions.

"A takeaway from the conference was a reminder that net zero energy in California policy is a means to an end, not necessarily a solution in itself," said Dan. "We want to work towards zero carbon buildings, and net zero energy is a way to reach that goal.” This is important to acknowledge, because we have a state policy that is an evolving compromise among many players in the energy business, and as a result, it can seem confusing or become distracting from what it is trying to achieve.

"One presenter talked about how they had just about reached net zero energy in their housing development for farm workers. In response, participants reminded the presenter that it may be more important to help the quality of life of the farm workers through other amenities than to fine-tune the net zero outcome considering how close they had already come," Dan explained.

Dan presented specifically on the work that Beyond Efficiency has done to electrify mid-rise housing—to take fossil fuels out of them. Construction cost, utility bills and carbon savings are all areas that can use more work. "The group provided feedback to help us improve our strategies," he said. "They suggested paying closer attention to all of the equipment on building electric meters so we can electrify heating without increasing the size of the electrical service. As we move to electric heat and water heating, we want also to add insulation and efficiency to keep the size of the electrical service from increasing."

A surprise that came out of the conference was the concept that with solar panels and batteries on a house, it is possible to consume power without affecting the electric grid outside a property. It raised questions about what our priorities should be, because things such as glass walls on a building may no longer have the overall impact they once had on the amount of grid energy needed to heat or cool the building. Priorities may be shifting, making fodder for further exploration and discussion.

According to Dan, we will consider all these ideas in our work at Beyond Efficiency. "It's great to participate with different members of the energy-efficiency industry to discuss the issues we face every day as sustainability experts," he said.

You'll Find Us Here!

Events Where Beyond Efficiency Is Presenting or Attending

September 27-30, 2017
NAPHC2017, Seattle, Washington 
Dan Johnson will give a presentation entitled "California Dreamin': Real-World Implications of the Electrification Movement for a California Passive House" at the 12th Annual North American Passive House Conference. This year's theme is "The Path to Zero Source Energy" and it's sure to be another memorable and inspiring event!


October 4-6, 2017
WaterSmart Innovations Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada
Jennifer Love will be attending the 10th annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition, recognized as the world's premier urban water efficiency conference since its debut in 2008.  


October 4-7, 2017
NAPHN17, Oakland, California
Dan Johnson will present on the panel "Heat Pumps Are Your Friend: Serving Your Mechanical Needs and the Needs of Your Power Supply" at the North American Passive House Conference 2017 (NAPHN). Katy Hollbacher and Jose Rivero will also attend the conference. It's exciting to have this conference right here in the Bay Area and we encourage you to join us!


October 13-15, 2017
2017 Monterey Design Conference, Pacific Grove, California
Beyond Efficiency will attend this year's Monterey Design Conference (MDC) at the beautiful Asilomar Conference Center. MDC brings together the world’s leading architects and design thinkers for an intellectually vibrant weekend.


October 27, 2017
PHnw 2017 Fall Conference, Boise, Idaho
Katy Hollbacher will attend the second annual Passive House Northwest conference east of the Cascades and has submitted a proposal to present on the topic "From Envelope to Occupancy: Zero Energy, Step by Step". She looks forward to connecting with cold-climate neighbors from Idaho,     Wyoming and other mountain states!

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