Building Science in Action

presented by

Owens Corning

10 … 9 … 8 … 7 …

Yes, the countdown is on for the show of shows, the 2016 International Builders’ Show®.

From Tuesday, January 19th through Thursday, January 21st the housing industry hits the collective pause button to convene at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There is nothing like it for anyone in the trade for education, inspiration, innovation, and separation from competitors who miss this trade show spectacular.

What’s new? Almost everything, according to Meg Meyer, Vice President of Marketing & Customer Experience for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the event organizer.

“We’re bringing in a lot of new faces. We do our best to present new and different ideas, speakers, and courses each year,” Meyer says. For an industry that thrives on innovation, there’s nothing like IBS:

And that’s just for starters.

Take the 2016 edition of the pro-favorite New American Home. “It’s fantastic. This year’s model is a stunner. Amazing interior design and sustainability ideas in action, all with a breathtaking view of Las Vegas below,” Meyer reports.

For a quick preview, Meyer encourages a look at the brief series of videos tracking construction progress. Free NAH tour tickets go quick. Meyer advises attendees to pick up their comp tickets in the Central Hall concourse area early in the morning of your tour day.

There’s a lot going on outside the convention halls, too.

“We have in the neighborhood of 27,000 square feet of outdoor exhibits,” says Geoff Cassidy, NAHB Senior Vice President of Exhibitions and Meetings. “There will be live, full-scale construction demonstrations. It’s incredible what they’re able to put together in just seven or eight days before the show.”

To help show-goers unwind, laugh, dance, and party, the show has you covered there with headliners like Jay Leno and rock legends Hall & Oates.

As if that wasn’t enough, 2016 IBS is just part of the 3rd annual Design & Construction Week in Las Vegas. Concurrent with IBS and co-locating in the Las Vegas Convention Center are the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show as well as the International Window Coverings Expo and The International Surface Event. All told, expected attendance of 110,000+, 2,500+ exhibitors across 1.2 million square feet.

Already booked? Get set for the pro time of your life. Not registered? What are you waiting for? It’s fast and easy. Don’t worry about a last-second departure. “Remember, there are about 160,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas,” Cassidy laughs. See you at IBS!

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With a population of 38 million, California has a lot of energy needs and a majority of that population is very opinionated about the route they should take. McAllister has a big role in making sure that they are happy and when he takes action, there are a whole host of consequences he has to carefully consider. The state has a long history of supporting green initiatives and he says it’s partially due to facilitating the private sector, rather than getting in the way.

This well-considered approach has led to huge improvements for the nation’s policies. For instance, California has independent authority from the federal government on appliance standards, which means that they can create standards that do not exist at the federal level. Historically, this has led to other states adopting California’s position, which incites the federal government to also enact something similar.

Some of the initiatives that California is currently leading on are the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act that was passed in 2015. This requires that 50% of electricity comes from renewable sources, it includes strategies to significantly reduce petroleum use, and marks a transition to cleaner heating fuels, among other initiatives.

And in 2016, California has instated the California Global Warning Solutions Act, which is emphasizing what McAllister sees as necessary, a continued focus on buildings.

None of this comes easy. California has been investing very heavily in clean energy programs, to the tune of $1.3 billion per year. Again, innovation from the private sector is encouraged, with a focus on performance standards, rather than prescriptive standards. The aim is to remain flexible and to support innovative solutions.

Another aggressive policy goal for California is to accomplish zero net energy for commercial by 2030, where the same goal for housing is 2020. This policy is sure to start spreading across federal policies as well.

McAllister‘s presentation available HERE, was delivered at the Builder Sustainability Forum, and included thoughts from a builder, a supplier, along with a research group. Ted Clifton, founder and chief designer, Zero Energy Home Plans; Cindy Regnier, FLEXLAB executive manager and technical leader, commercial building systems, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; and Achilles Karagiozis, global director, building science, Owens Corning discussed where the path from energy conservation to net-zero to regeneration leads.

Clifton, as the builder of the group and a strong sustainability advocate, presented the high level issue and proposed a way to correctly define the problem—as he puts it, reducing energy use with only an 84-year supply.

Whereas Karagiozis and his game-changing research at Owens Corning, leads him to say that the industry is evolving in a way that architects will be designing for processes. New designs will need to address durability, followed by thermal comfort, then energy performance.

Achilles Karagiozis showed how comfort ratios change based on following his design principles.

Regnier discussed the power of future whole building systems integration that could produce project savings up to 40 percent. Just as Karagiozis did, she also spoke to the evolving needs of design. Right now the traditional photovoltaic systems just feed the grid. However, as more and more photovoltaics are online and they all essentially turn off when the sun goes down, the grid will need to manage that quickly. This will demand more intelligent grid infrastructure, smarter energy storage and dynamic management.

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During its most recent code cycle, the International Energy Conservation Code approved provisions for the use of buried ducts as a cost effective, energy efficient alternative to installing ducts in conditioned space or creating an unvented attic. The new language, to be incorporated within the 2018 version of the code, addresses both the energy and condensation performance of buried ducts. Notably, the code specifies the minimum R-value requirements to prevent condensation (R-13 insulated ducts in climate zones 1A, 2A, and 3A; R-8 insulated ducts elsewhere), and provides guidelines for deeply burying the ducts to achieve either R-25 effective duct insulation or to meet the criteria for ‘ducts in conditioned space’ (which also requires reducing duct leakage).

Buried ducts were previously discussed as a builder practice option being considered in the 2018 IECC code in the attached online Builder article1. Additionally, Home Innovation Research Labs has authored a recent TechSpec focused on buried ducts, providing greater detail around the code language, as well as an energy & cost comparison to other building practices2.

NAIMA/Insulation Institute contracted with Home Innovations Research Labs (HIRL) to conduct a free webinar “Buried Ducts: A New Path for High Performance Vented Attics”. The webinar was presented by HIRL’s Dave Mallay, who led research on the practice in support of the code change.

This webinar was also sponsored in part by Green Builder®. By clicking on the word webinar above, you will be directed to the Green Builder Media’s Webinar Archive. In order to view the webinar, you must register (free of charge) with Green Builder. The webinar entitled “Buried Ducts: A New Path for High Performance Vented Attics” can be found in the archive.  Simply click on “building codes” or “ducts” in the Webinar Topic section.



It’s no secret that innovation happens at a snail’s pace in the home building business. Builders and manufacturers independently explore new ideas but keep progress under wraps in order to maintain a competitive edge. This means that game-changing concepts, new products, and innovative technologies are rarely shared across the industry.

The Greenbuild KB Home ProjeKt team broke down these barriers and tapped into the combined brainpower of one of the country’s largest builders, world-class manufacturers, and leading-edge experts in an unprecedented spirit of collaboration, even among competing brands. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking: The demonstration home, on display Oct. 5-7 at the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Los Angeles, will take attendees on a time-travel look at best practices in home building now, in 2020, and in 2050.


2016 Greenbuild KB Home ProjeKt

ProjeKt’s multifaceted team is made up of forward-­looking organizations from business, design, and academia, including Whirlpool, Owens Corning, Kohler, Sherwin-Williams, Savant, KTGY Architecture + Planning, Virginia Tech, and a range of other partners and sponsors. The group’s broad expertise in a variety of key disciplines meant it was able to generate and develop innovative but practical ideas about the future of home building, says Dan Bridleman, senior vice president of sustainability for Los Angeles–based KB Home, the No. 6 builder on this year’s BUILDER 100.

“We felt it would be important to demonstrate not what you could do today, not what you could in 2020, but to bring a collaborative group of our partners together with some big thinkers and demonstrate what could be,” says Bridleman. “Utilizing collaboration as a new mode of development, this group of thought leaders has been able to leverage their collective vision and expertise into something greater than could have been conceived of by any individual organization.”

In a series of summit meetings earlier this year, project participants were challenged to predict future trends and invent solutions to problems that don’t exist yet. They vetted every aspect of the 2,100-square-foot home for its importance (or lack of importance) in coming years. For instance, the garageless floor plan is a nod to the growth of the sharing economy. In a community of the future, not every homeowner will have a car, experts say; many will share one with neighbors, use a ride-sharing service, or rely on driverless car systems.

The home’s modern design is geared to attract young home buyers who have grown up in the digital age. “The architecture of the home is quite a bit more contemporary than a typical production house, but the next generation of first-time buyers is into contemporary design because it’s what they’ve had in their urban apartments and on their Apple phone and iPads—a sleek, contemporary look,” says KTGY principal Manny Gonzalez, the project’s lead architect.

KTGY’s open, one-level layout takes the flex space of today to a Jestons-like level with a main room that can be reconfigured within minutes for different purposes. A cartridge wall in the secondary bedroom contains a fold-up bed and fold-down desk, allowing it to function as an office or bedroom. The wall can also move out of the way to expand the adjoining great room, and a video screen rotates to allow either room to use it. The cartridge concept, developed by Virginia Tech’s Center for Design Research, is “a new way of building architecture” that utilizes robotics to create house parts, much like an automotive assembly line, says Joseph Wheeler, co-director of the center. (Click here for more about the cartridges.)

One of the main goals of the project is to demonstrate a future home’s potential for higher levels of performance without increasing costs. “We are going beyond code compliance and even beyond what we would call Sustainability 2.0,” says Jacob Atalla, KB Home vice president of sustainability. “In thinking about the future, we’re talking about restorative design—design that gives back to the environment.”

To that end, the home boasts massive amounts of insulation and can accept plentiful solar panels to meet California’s Title 24, which requires that all homes produce as much energy as they use by 2020. A high-performance wall assembly will help mitigate heating and cooling loads and keep occupants comfortable no matter the region or climate. Thermos-like vacuum insulation panels from Owens Corning work with blown-in insulation, Owens Corning’s Foamular XPS rigid foam insulation, LP sheathing, Tyvek housewrap, and James Hardie siding for an R value of 40. The LP OSB sheathing is treated with the company’s fire-rated Flame Block material, unheard of in today’s single-family residential construction. In addition, a Tesla Powerwall battery will store extra solar energy, providing peace of mind in the case of a weather event or other disaster.

“When a structure like the KB Home ProjeKt strives for net zero energy, it’s not just the insulation or the housewrap or the mechanical systems alone, it’s how they all work together to create a home that delivers the results that have the least impact on the environment and the pocketbook,” explains Gonzalez.

In another example of collaborative ingenuity, the wall assembly also includes Polyguard’s non-chemical TERM system that provides protection from moisture, water, and energy leaks as well as pests such as termites.

“Together, this team pushed the envelope of building science to literally go where no one has gone before in the application of integrated building science,” says David Rosebery, Owens Corning business marketing leader for residential insulation. “What we’ve been able to prove is that building sustainable, code-compliant, comfort-­driven homes can be achievable and affordable for builders while delivering a new standard of comfort and performance for the homeowner.”

Without a doubt, the home of the future will be technology based, and the ProjeKt house demonstrates how manufacturer collaboration will drive it forward. A Savant Pro smart home system combines climate, lighting, entertainment, and security functions in a single interface with a voice-activated remote control. In addition, Schneider Electric will demonstrate a next-generation energy management system that can pinpoint energy use down to the individual circuit breaker and alert the homeowner when irregular usage occurs. Lutron’s wireless system allows homeowners to program lights and shades to turn on or off at a set time every day, and it will automatically adjust as the seasons change.

Water conservation is a crucial component of the home, met by state-of-the-art products such as Kohler low-flow faucets and showerheads and dual-flush toilets, Rain Bird weather-based irrigation, and a device that shows residents how much water they’re using every day. A KitchenAid dishwasher recycles water from the final rinse cycle and saves it for the next load’s pre-rinse, using 33% less water than a traditional unit. If built on site, the home also would be equipped with graywater recycling and rainwater management features, Atalla adds.

A focus on homeowner health is met by Cradle to Cradle–certified products and materials, air-quality sensors, Shaw Floors waterproof carpeting, lighting that enhances residents’ Circadian rhythms, and zero-VOC Sherwin-Williams paint with formaldehyde-reducing properties. Sherwin-Williams’ Paint Shield, a coating that the manufacturer says kills 99.9% of common bacteria within two hours on a painted surface, will also be on display.

A Carrier air purifier will kill airborne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and mold, and the company’s energy-recovery ventilator will maintain a blend of fresh outdoor air and conditioned indoor air.

The home’s interplay of products and materials will help it weather whatever Mother Nature might have in store for years to come, adds Atalla. “We’re layering two or more systems in the same assembly to create something that’s more resilient and durable, which may be needed as the climate changes,” he says.

While some might question the use of redundant materials and overlapping systems, the project team wanted to provide abundant efficiency, durability, and comfort for future industry pros to build on. “What we’re doing today might be adding layers of cost that someone could think is unnecessary, but in the future when industry experts collaborate together across companies, they’ll be able to find better economies of scale,” Atalla explains. “Our team for this house doesn’t have all the answers, in fact, this home is just the beginning of thinking about new ways of building.”


Take the Tour

Click here for a virtual tour of the Greenbuild KB Home ProeKt.

By John McManus

That BUILDER’s lead February feature story should focus on the bets builders are taking on lots that by some lights get classified as “B” or “C,” or even “D” lots means that home builders are taking some bold, “if-you-build-it … ” steps to catalyze a next forward thrust for housing’s stubbornly slow recovery.

That our story, which pinned down six projects moving outside of the A and B lines in 2016—many of which are finally starting, restarting, or just reaching stride after a hiatus, should intersect this week with headline news around macro jobs data, and, more specifically, construction labor is one of home building’s unique phenomena that never ceases to amaze.

Logic that seems rigorous in its path winds up circling back on itself. Prophecy more often than not is self-fulfilling. Odd that as global flux in demand has set both signal and noise into wildly gyrating patterns where positive present fundamentals may be cancelled out by gloomy future projections, and where dire prediction is often offset by solid and sustainable foundational, real-world forces in play.

So, let’s look for a moment at a particular vector in our recovery plot line. We’ve been hearing in public home building earnings commentary and taking note for months in plans for community-count expansion, and hearing from our Metrostudy regional analytics mavens that vacant lot development has focused tactically on opportunity to step down the new-home pricing ladder to bring more sub-$300s and even more $200s product into the for-sale inventory spectrum.

Now, how does this intersect with the latest data set that National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz analyzes in his take on the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report?

It’s a critical juncture.

Consider that construction job openings–which Dietz notes jumped from 138,000 in November to 207,000 in December (the highest openings count since 2007)–represent going-concern firms with posted open positions for skilled workers. What this figure does not expose is that, not only are there those open, unfilled positions, there are also fewer firms.

Now, labor capacity at equilibrium is not necessarily X number of firms, where X was the number pre-Great Recession. However, what we do know is that some of the labor capacity dislocation that played out profoundly in 2015 and will likely continue in slightly varied form and fashion over the next few years traces to the fact that a lack of trade companies–not just a scarcity of skilled laborers–is causing the pain.

For example, if there were five rough finish framing companies in your market vs. the two or three you have a choice of working with, how would that change the economics of your operation?

The issue is this. The pain points around labor and the pain points around lots intersect. C and D lots are absolutely less risky if the variables around labor capacity and competence are known and managed. A D lot at a retail price for one builder, and the same D lot at the same price for another can result in two entirely different margins–even a loss–if the labor capacity, scheduling, competence, and costs factors run amok.

There’s no absolute number of workers across all of the trades that is the correct amount of labor capacity. So, measuring labor force head-counts vs. units started in historical contexts will prove to be a red herring. Automation, materials innovation, process improvement, training, and factory fabrication of systems or components will be the moving target variables that reduce the number of skilled workers required for any number of total housing starts.

By the same token, workers who excel, whose productivity per unit of time spent is greater in terms of tasks accomplished, quality of work done, and other measures, also needs to factor into calculation of the absolute number of laborers the residential construction community needs to have in its vital hive of providers.

Importantly, what volume builders and even customer builders in active markets need is a “thick” market of competing firms who bid and reliably complete work on schedule and on budget. That’s part of the challenge in residential construction’s most prolific marketplaces right now, not just a dearth of skilled laborers, but a lack of competing firms who represent viable, relationship- and price-driven options for hiring builders.

This is where it’s clear that one of the biggest bets on lots comes down to labor as much as it does ultimate buyer demand.

Changing values around homeownership are shifting consumers’ focus from healthy finances to healthy lifestyles. Only 1% of Americans see their home as a measure of success, according to an IKEA Life at Home Report, a clear sign that priorities are evolving from external to internal factors.

At Sphere Trending we see well-being moving up on home buyers’ wish lists, evident by new product introductions for the home as well as the growing influence of trade fairs such as Greenbuild. As this proactive mindset filters into all generations, new amenities offering health benefits and supporting daily wellness routines will be in demand. Consider these following trends:

Similar to the future Smart Home, expectations are that the wellbeing ecosystem of tomorrow’s home will include cross-disciplinary initiatives for seamless homeowner interaction. As we say, what’s cool today will be an expectation in the future and the healthy home is poised to be the next great wellness product on the market.

At the ICC 2018 code hearings in April, two sets of code changes were approved by the committees.These changes give builders greater flexibility in meeting the International Residential Code (IRC) and International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), specifically unvented attics and buried ducts.It’s worth noting that these measures received near unanimous support of IRC and IECC Committees and no challenges from the assembly.Once final approval is issued, these changes allow the codes to catch-up to building practices that have proven successful in the field and under the U.S. Department of Energy Building America program.

This article is the first of a two-part series. This article specifically focuses on unvented attics. An upcoming article will focus on buried ducts.

Click Here to read the full length article.


Palo Duro Homes teamed up with Owens Corning, applying building science to achieve energy-efficient, beautifully crafted and durable homes in New Mexico’s desert climate. The result? An even more comfortable, high performance home.

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