Building an energy efficient house today is really important given rising fuel costs, and insulation is a key component to reduce the energy our homes use. Building homes today is more complicated as architects and builders integrate new materials and technology, often driven by green building standards coming from industry leaders and/or government.
Deciding how to insulate a home is incredibly complex. Keep reading to learn who makes the decision, who influences the decision maker and why homeowners need to understand more about the construction industry and how it affects your home, your family and the environment.
Who Drives Innovation in Home Construction?
- Building sciences (architectural-engineering-construction technology) in the industry and universities provide much of the research leading to new products, materials and technology.
- The International Code Council (ICC) facilitates the development, documentation and training for evolving building standards, the International Building Code (IBC). These codes are adopted at the state and local level with modifications specific to your community.
- Building product distributors and the construction trades, your builder and crew of specialty contractors, decide which products to use in their respective projects. More homeowners are getting involved in these decisions to join the green building movement.
- Governments which set standards for products like the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requiring light bulbs to be 30% more energy efficient starting in 2012.
The question here is what role, what leadership, what contribution is made by the manufacturers of building materials and products? The question is very important. This article was prompted by a series of communications:
- Allison Bailes, at EnergyVanguard.com, wrote an article titled A Visual Guide to Why Fiberglass Batt Insulation Underperforms.
- Guardian Building Products responded with a letter to Allison stating “… these comments by your company together with the picture of Guardian’s products constitute libel, slander, and commercial disparagement.”
- The article never talked about the product, but rather pointed out how critical quality installation is to the effectiveness of insulation. Allison is a thought leader among a community (GreenBuildingAdvisor.com provides a forum for ongoing discussion) of builders, remodelers and contractors who are continually searching to improve the quality of the homes they build.
The science of home performance is changing the way our homes are designed, built and maintained. When you buy a car, there is a one manufacturer for design, material and parts plus assembly. Houses are built by hundreds of independent contractors scheduled and coordinated by your builder or remodeler. Everyone on the team must learn how their role as a framer, roofer, window installer or insulation installer, etc, fits into the overall house design, in order to build energy efficient homes. When you change one material, i.e. switch from fiberglass batt insulation to spray foam insulation, it affects other materials and other installers.
Home performance = design + materials + installation + maintenance
Embracing New Technology and Social Media
While recent energy tax credits are gone, the momentum to build greener, energy efficient homes is picking up. Changes may be driven by government regulations like the Energy Act or escalating prices for copper driving pex tubing. Insulation technologies are changing too and it's helpful when home professionals share their experience, i.e. the pros and cons of traditional batts, blown insulation and sprayed foam insulation.
Change happens and it usually isn't comfortable. I'm grateful for the conversations at GreenBuildingAdvisor, supplement my hands-on experience running a handyman business for 8 years. The dialog helps everyone so I encourage building product manufacturers to join the conversation rather than try to shut it down – you can't! For manufacturers, I offer these ideas:
- Participate in cutting edge, online communities like GreenBuildingAdvisor.com.
- Invite pro-active bloggers to participate in product reviews and training, and embrace their feedback. The article that started this dialogue is a wake-up call for you, offering insight into where you need to take your business.
- Create and post training videos on YouTube, for contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners.
- Provide incentives for quality product installations. I know one remodeling company that inspects every HardiPlank siding installation and gives bonuses for top notch work.
- Conduct random audits of product installations to gain insight into what percentage of your products are being installed correctly, and if it's not greater than 90% … you have to dig deeper to identify and correct the problems found.
A home building product is only as good as it's installation! If you're not comfortable building an in-house team to inspect the installation of your products, there are home inspectors, home performance auditors and more to help you get the job done.
Builders and contractors are professionals who bring an incredible amount of hands-on and classroom experience to this industry. After 30 years in corporate America, I enjoyed promoting myself from suits to a sweatshirt when I started my handyman business. It is everyone's loss when those working in the trenches are ignored. My passion is helping homeowners learn to work with home professionals, to teach them the concepts, terminology and how to participate as active homeowners, maintaining and enhancing their homes. When we work together, we all win!
The 3 little pigs worked alone at first. By joining together, they were able to fight off the big, bad wolf in Walt Disney's 3 Little Pigs.