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For our winter edition I write to you not from Berkeley, where I first moved in 1998 and founded Beyond Efficiency’s first office, but from Jackson Hole, where I relocated with my family last summer and established a second business presence. 

My childhood was spent between here and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, areas both defined by the International Energy Conservation Code as Climate Zone 7 (Very Cold)—which impacts building codes, goals, methods and materials. I know frigid weather and am excited to again be living in a place where high-performance passive envelope design can create exceptional benefits to a building and its occupants. 

Regardless of climate, we continue to find there’s confusion in our industry about how to design building assemblies that have excellent thermal performance and air tightness while also being moisture-safe and durable. Please enjoy the article “Perfect Walls” for our insights and tips.

We wish you a wonderful 2018! 

Katy Hollbacher
Principal & Founder, Beyond Efficiency

What's Your New Year's Resolution?

The Beyond Efficiency team reveals...
Katy Hollbacher, Principal
Zooming into new adventures!

My top-priority work-related resolution is to get our project management and customer relationship management (CRM) system up and running with Zoho! This is long overdue and will be invaluable with intra-team and client communication. I also resolve to get enough work done during the week so I can play and truly enjoy weekends with my family guilt-free.
Jennifer Love, Sustainability Engineer 
Swinging into 2018!

There is a new International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) plumbing standard with an appendix that brings the pipe-sizing calculations for residential into modern times. The new method should save piping material and cost. My resolution is to convince some of the mechanical engineers and developers I work with to give this alternative calculation a try.
Mrigesh Roy, Energy Engineer 
Climbing to new heights!

My resolution for this year is to become minimalist. I am going to start by purging the items I have not used in over 90 days and donate them to those who are in more need. A lot of resources are spent to meet the demand of the ”luxury” lifestyle of humans; we have the concept of 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) for our waste, but not our lifestyle. I hope to influence people around me to do the same.
Jose Rivero, Sustainability Engineer 
Zipping into 2018!

I resolve to encourage more clients to include filtered and balanced ventilation in their projects. Whether the project is challenged more by indoor or outdoor pollutants, occupants will benefit from controlled ventilation in every building. Bring on the fresh air!
Dan Johnson, Sustainability Architect 
Reaching for great things!

I resolve to install a bunch of experimental HVAC equipment at my own house for dealing with this summer's inevitable heat waves, and to measure the performance with data loggers. I've not been able to influence anyone to live more minimally. Maybe they will respond to gadgets and hardware. :-)
Betsy Aaron, Operations Manager 
Sliding into the new year!

I resolve to be of greater service. I am aware that when I give good service, I am more committed to saving others time and energy, which frees them up to give good service. There is a positive ripple effect, and as a result, things just tend to work better. I'm excited to get creative with this and see what happens.

Perfect Walls*, on the Coast and in the Mountains

A 100-year strategy you can take anywhere.
by Katy Hollbacher
There are a number of perfectly acceptable ways to design a wall that has excellent thermal performance and air tightness while also being moisture-safe and durable. But terms such as vapor barrier, drainage plane, air tightness, and breathable are often misunderstood and misapplied, sometimes resulting in risky walls—or safe walls that are overly complex and expensive to build. Following are my favorite assemblies, both using "outsulation" rather than double-stud walls. These foam- and plastic-free walls can dry both to the inside and outside and will last 100 years while maximizing thermal comfort for occupants, minimizing the use of chemical-laden materials, and prioritizing low-embodied renewable materials. It's a win-win-win!
[cladding and fasteners not shown]

Q. I've never done continuous exterior insulation! How do you install cladding?
A. For a stuccoed California wall, just attach lath directly through the insulation. For other cladding materials, first attach furring strips. Yes, the fasteners can get intense when you're going through 6" of insulation...but it's doable! Mock up a wall and give it a go, and read this Building Science Corporation report to boost your confidence. The furring not only allows cladding attachment as you may be accustomed to but will greatly extend the longevity of wood or fiber cement cladding thanks to the rear-ventilated gap it creates.

Q. Won't the outsulation compress and make my stucco crack and siding sag?
A. No. Under service loads, deflections in the insulation (even rigid mineral wool) are a small fraction of that inherent in the wood-framed structure itself. Don't fret, just walk through this presentation by RDH Building Science

Q. Why not Tyvek or building paper for the WRB? 
A. Liquid-applied or fully adhered WRB products reign supreme over floppy sheets that don't seal at nail holes and don't double as an air barrier. Do your own "bathtub test" with a variety of WRB products: prepare your specimens, pound in some nails, then fill the tub and see who wins. This is not an unfair test—these are pressures that real walls face when the wind and rains are raging. 

Q. Don't you need another WRB over the cork?
A. No. The material at risk in this detail is the plywood, which in this assembly is kept warm and cozy from the outsulation, and kept dry from the WRB that's sheltered from abuse by the outsulation (Hooray for outsulation!). Like most other rigid exterior insulation products, cork doesn't care if it gets wet. Flash your windows at the sheathing and WRB layer as you've always done—this gives you "innie" windows, which look nice and provide built-in protection from rain and sun.

Q. Why not blown-in fiberglass?
A. I have nothing against fiberglass (though I do take issue with batts of any material—unless I'm the one diligently installing them :). I just happen to like cellulose better. It's post-consumer recycled content; specify an all-borate treated product for fire and pest resistance and you've got a super-green, low-embodied energy, high-performance product. Great stuff, but what's extra special about cellulose is its ability to absorb and re-release water vapor. This attribute actually buffers the wall from moisture damage by reducing the amount of water vapor available to condense on cold surfaces (although with "perfect walls" we can worry less about that thanks to the outsulation).

Q. Why not sheep's wool insulation? Why not foam? Why not mineral wool? What about fire-rated walls? Why not OSB? Why not double-stud walls? What...
A. Depending on one's preferences, project budget and other constraints, the "perfect wall" for another person or project will inevitably be different. But that's OK; differences are what makes the world such an exciting place. I do have answers to these questions, and more details and caveats about the information shared—so contact us to debate my proposed walls and learn more.

    * Term inspired by Joe Lstiburek. Thanks Joe!

Blog Highlight:
Home Energy Monitors

The first in a series about home energy monitoring
by Mrigesh Roy
Let’s say you want to cut your energy use to save money, reduce your carbon footprint or even be zero energy. What consumes the most energy in your building? What's consuming more electricity than usual? How big will your utility bill be?

Energy management
After you've tackled building envelope improvements to reduce heating and cooling loads, you're on to analyzing energy usage. Your utility bill shows how much electricity you have used daily and how much you’re being charged. Some smart meters can even provide hourly data. Unfortunately, that’s about it and instead you simply have to guess which devices are running and for how much time.

Energy monitors exist to eliminate this guessing game. They connect to your circuit breaker and learn your consumption pattern. They track your energy consumption with much finer detail. There may not be much you can do about the draw from each item you've got plugged in at home. But one way you can potentially save is by understanding how much electricity each appliance is using and eliminating "vampire loads" that are being sucked away by devices in a standby mode. Electricity monitors can also alert you to equipment setting issues or failures before you get the shock of a massive utility bill.

Rather than just turning the heat or air conditioning up and down, a number of smart home devices and settings can contribute as much or more to your total energy savings, which compound when you integrate the functions of these devices together (like ENERGY STAR appliances, delay functions, etc.).

Is it really worth investing?
The Beyond Efficiency Team (left-right): Mrigesh Roy, Jen Love, Betsy Aaron, José Rivero, and Dan Johnson (Katy Hollbacher is taking the picture!) at our annual retreat. We hiked up the hidden stairways of Berkeley, played games, and strategized over excellent food and drink. We're on track to make 2018 great!

Noteworthy Events

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

February 6, 2018
Better Walls for Bigger Buildings,
San Francisco, CA
Learn how to design better walls for larger buildings that result in comfortable occupants, confident builders and happy owners at this Passive House California-sponsored event.

February 23, 2018
Rebuild Green Expo, Santa Rosa, CA 

Jennifer Love will be on a panel making the case for all-electric homes at this free event focused on resilient, affordable, community-centered rebuilding options for the communities affected by the recent North Bay fires. Jen and José Rivero will be staffing our booth from 2-7 p.m.; come say hello!

March 7-9, 2018
2018 Housing California Annual Conference, Sacramento, CA
The can't-miss conference for the affordable housing industry.

March 20, 2018
Water Conservation Showcase 2018, 
San Francisco, CA

This free event addresses the most pressing water issues and challenges facing the state of California. Attend and learn more about scalable strategies and solutions.

March 20-22, 2018
2018 ACEEE Hot Water Forum, Portland, OR

Jen Love will attend this forum on improving the efficiency of making, distributing and using hot water.

March 29-30, 2018
2018 Passive House Northwest Annual Conference, Olympia, WA

Any Passive House event is worth traveling for!

Reflections from the 2018 ASHRAE
Winter Conference & AHR Expo  

by Mrigesh Roy

Last week I attended the 2018 ASHRAE Winter Conference in the beautiful frosty and windy city of Chicago, Illinois. There were a million things happening at once, including seminars on Internet of things (IoT) devices, committee meetings, sessions on optimizing energy and water efficiency, and the Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating (AHR) Expo.

Two notable trends I learned about at the conference:
  • There is increased interest and demand for different building automation systems and IoT devices to make building operations and design more resilient and responsive.
  • There are a lot of new products that makes filtered ventilation feasible to improve indoor air quality in work and living spaces. 
The conference provided insight and inspiration and I highly recommend attending in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about air quality and energy-saving devices for homes and workplaces for you and your clients, contact us
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