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Spring is the season of resiliency. Plants blossom after emerging from a cold winter of dormancy; animals reengage with their habitats after hibernation. These remarkable survival strategies evolved over eons, yet in our modern world of cheap mass-produced materials, active mechanical systems and inexpensive energy, humans have often thrown common sense (along with heating, cooling and repair dollars) out the window.

We in the building industry could learn a thing or two from wise old nature. Ground squirrels feast and build fat stores in the summer to provide ample energy reserves to survive winter—and we can heat a tank of water with surplus solar-generated electricity during the day to provide ample hot water all night. 

In this issue we celebrate spring, Earth Day and the wonder of life. Read on for inspiration for your next project, how to right-size pipes, news about our new community-focused "Giving Back" initiative, and last but not least—our annual spring party in Berkeley! We hope to see you soon. 
Katy Hollbacher
Principal & Founder, Beyond Efficiency

What's a resilient design feature you would like our clients to integrate?

The Beyond Efficiency team reveals...
The Beyond Efficiency Team (l-r): Katy Hollbacher, José Rivero,
Jennifer Love, Dan Johnson, Betsy Aaron, and Mrigesh Roy.
Katy Hollbacher, Principal
Unless you’re in the desert, buildings should incorporate rainscreen systems into exterior wall assemblies. A rainscreen provides an air gap and capillary break to facilitate drainage and drying, protecting sheathing and extending the lifetime of cladding. In many cases, full-fledged furring isn’t required—drainable house wraps are all that are needed to help create a 100-year wall. 
José Rivero, Sustainability Engineer 
Mind your crawlspace. Managing moisture, pollutant and energy migration through your crawlspace using an effective air-sealing, insulation and ventilation strategy is an effective way to reduce dependence on active conditioning in the building above while improving occupant health and comfort.
Jennifer Love, Sustainability Engineer 
Don't build a sweatbox! Be smart about your windows and doors—don't use too many in the wrong locations and figure out how to integrate external shading (overhangs, shutters, vegetation, etc.). Block that hot season sun from getting inside so the building can stay comfortable without needing air conditioning.
Dan Johnson, Sustainability Architect 
For new single-family homes: Build over a crawlspace, with an attic over the rooms. This enables access to most of the wiring and HVAC for alteration and replacement, and the house can be lifted to rebuild the foundation, or even moved, if necessary. The lifespan and adaptability of the structure will be enhanced for generations to come. Not possible with a slab-on-grade house that has cathedral ceilings; that's a single-use affair.

For new apartment buildings: Plan the building to incorporate a giant hot-water storage tank, at least 2000 gallons. This can be used for solar-thermal water heating initially, and then converted for use with a central heat-pump water heater in a decade when this technology is widespread and the building is ready for its first replacement water heaters.
Betsy Aaron, Operations Manager 
Incorporate a rooftop garden which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, put storm water to immediate use, and create a great environment to relax in.
Mrigesh Roy, Energy Engineer 
Design to accommodate climate change and global warming: 
1. Make buildings smaller, stronger and smarter.
2. Design the building envelope and HVAC systems in preparation of future weather trends instead of 25-year-old average weather data. 
3. Use reflective materials for roofing and site coverings, which will help reduce the heat island effect. 

Building a Home for Resilience

José Rivero Reflects On His New Home Project

by Betsy Aaron
Since last August, Sustainability Engineer José Rivero has been building a second home on his West Berkeley property. José is excited to share what he learned about efficiency and resiliency with this project.
“We live on a piece of land that is zoned to allow for a second home in the back yard,” he explained. “So we started exploring conceptual forms for the house. It was going to be for a family and started as a three-bedroom, two-bath cube, keeping the form very simple for high-performance design guidelines. It’s not common that you see simple, lower cost homes having the features or design principles that we apply as consultants at Beyond Efficiency. Often, lower cost is achieved by compromising quality."

"Although the home may cost more up front, the energy savings over time should offset that cost," he said. “This is my third Passive House-inspired—or high-performance home-inspired—project. But also, I was looking for it to produce as much energy as it used. Ideally it would even be enough to include a ‘solar-powered lifestyle’ where enough energy is produced on site for driving your car,” he explained.

In hindsight, if there was one change José might have included, he said it would have been on-site battery storage capacity, which would make the building even more resilient in power outages.
José Rivero's high-performance home project.
To achieve high efficiency, there were some specific aspects José kept in mind.
“Whole-house ventilation is a big one,” he said. “It's really important for homes like this that are so airtight. We encourage it for all of our projects, yet the whole-house heat recovery system we used is rarely provided for homes being built in the area." It helps with not only indoor air quality, but also energy efficiency and comfort.

Another element he took into consideration was the amount of glazing used. “It is an important aspect that a lot of people don't recognize,” he said. “Glass was balanced carefully to bring enough light in but not to have views that were too glamorous—I wasn’t trying to 'bring the outside in' with glass.” With that, he minimized construction costs as well as ongoing energy costs.
Insulation was also important. “I used spray foam insulation and was surprised with the poor quality of the product. I was disappointed with the process,” he said. “I was glad I tried it, but it is not something I will try again.” He didn’t replace the spray foam for cost reasons, but he did have to do additional work to feel comfortable with the insulation performance, he explained.
Although these elements were key to the success of the project, one of the most important aspects was the construction phase. “The devil is in the details, as everyone says. It’s not rocket science,” said José. “It’s important to take care to build well; that is really ultimately what achieves the performance. The design is only the scratching of the surface,” he said. “It’s important to have a good construction partner. As we say to our clientele, it’s important to bring on the builder—the contractor—very early on in the process.”
José also learned being on site during construction was key to good outcomes. “Conflict does come up and if there isn’t someone who’s building the project who is invested in its outcome, and if they’re not acting as an advocate for it on site with all the subcontractors, you may not get the results you are looking for. As long as I walked them through the plans and explained why they needed to take certain actions, they would listen and do what was necessary. But it does take extra effort from that builder/contractor.”
Questions about José’s experience with this project? Contact him at

Blog Highlight:
Right Size Your Pipe Size

by Jennifer Love
I recently attended the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) 2018 Hot Water Forum. This annual event brings together the most forward thinking policy makers, manufacturers, researchers and practitioners whose passion is how to make and deliver hot water efficiently and safely.  As with the last water conference I attended the development of a new pipe sizing methodology was a hot topic. I alluded to it in my last blog post but let’s dig a little deeper because I feel all residential projects should utilize this new method.
To size pipes you need to figure out the peak flow. Peak flow is determined by predicting how many fixtures are likely to be operating simultaneously and also considers the flow rate for each fixture. Read more...

Giving Back

Announcing Our New Community-Focused Initiative
by Betsy Aaron
This spring, Beyond Efficiency is calling for proposals from organizations or families in need of building-related technical assistance. Applicants must be based in either the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area or Teton County, Wyoming or Idaho.

"We were researching one-day team volunteer opportunities when we realized we could provide more value and service by volunteering directly and doing the work we do best," said Katy Hollbacher, Principal of Beyond Efficiency.

Applicants should demonstrate financial need and serve a community benefit or underserved population—examples may include but are not limited to schools, day cares, non-profit organizations, arts organizations, low-income residents and communities impacted by natural disasters. We will review the proposals and choose one candidate from each office location to work with at no charge.

If you are aware of an organization or community group in need, please inform them about our initiative and direct them to apply through the online form on our website. The application deadline is May 15, and selections will be announced May 31.

Noteworthy Events

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

April 24 + 25, 2018
All About Heat Pump Water Heaters, 
San Jose & Palo Alto, CA
At these Passive House California events, learn how heat pump water heaters work and why they are better for our environment.

May 10, 2018
Bay Area Affordable Housing: Address the Crisis, San Francisco, CA
At this Bisnow event, hear about those creating affordable housing and community solutions in California.

May 12, 2018
Jackson Eco-Fair, Jackson, WY
Energy Conservation Works hosts this annual event that celebrates environmental stewardship and sustainability.

May 31-June 1, 2018
AIASF Next 2018, San Francisco, CA
Come hear Beyond Efficiency's Dan Johnson speak at the breakout sessions "SF Firms" and "2030 Commitment: How Are We Doing?"

June 21, 2018
Affordable Multi-family Housing: Is PassivHaus Possible for the Same Price as Code?, Emeryville, CA
At this Passive House California event, learn about quantity and quality targets when working to meet California's housing needs.

Our Spring Party is April 26!
We hope you can join us for our annual spring party on Thursday, April 26 at 5 p.m. at our office, 710 Channing Way in Berkeley. RSVP to by April 24.

July 9-12, 2018
Intersolar North America 2018 & ees North America, San Francisco, CA
Come to two expos under one roof—one a premier solar exhibition and one on the latest battery and energy storage technology.
Work with us!
Copyright © 2018 Beyond Efficiency Inc., All rights reserved.

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