The move towards energy-efficient building standards is nothing new. States are increasingly taking the lead to enact regulations and new building codes that encourage builders to build to ever higher energy-efficiency standards. One of these measures focuses on the building envelope.
We talked about this extensively during the construction of The Greenwich House. We wanted to ensure that the house is well sealed to prevent energy loss which can dramatically reduce energy bills. For instance in our project, we now know the house has energy savings of approximately 60%, not a small number by any stretch.
Ensuring a well sealed home includes using a air and water infiltration barrier, such as Henry Blueskin which was used in our project, tight sealing doors and windows, along with proper insulation.
The blower door test which is now mandatory in New York State creates a testing parameter to ensure that the home is indeed properly sealed up and not likely to leak energy. Even small openings around windows, for example, show up in a Blower Door Test. It’s a good step, but one of the concerns we have with regulations like this is when they don’t take cause and effect into account.
As we have talked about before, indoor air quality in these super sealed homes is becoming a major concern. When we prevent our homes from breathing by sealing the indoor air in and keeping the outdoor air out we allow for the buildup of harmful chemicals, stale air (higher CO2 levels in bedrooms, for example), and more. This has a detrimental impact on our overall health.
At The Greenwich House, as you know, we installed a Zehnder ERV (energy recovery ventilation) unit. These systems are absolutely critical today when building or renovation a home. Getting great energy-efficiency is an important step, but let’s make sure that fresh, clean air is available and circulating throughout your home as well
Our view is very much that these movements by state and local governments to encourage more energy-efficiency is in the consumer’s best interest and studies are indicating that consumers are demanding it even without regulations. But it is also critical to address indoor air quality, particularly when dealing with the way in which we seal our homes. Without an adequate system to address air quality, we are just building homes that will ultimately harm our health.
Photo courtesy of MakeItRight.org