New homes present a great opportunity to affect more efficient energy use, because the home’s building shell, which is the most important component of the home’s energy performance, will remain unchanged for many years to come. There is really only one chance to build the shell of the home right.
An effective and efficient building shell requires coordination of many building contractors; new home construction might involve 30 – 40 separate contractors. The goal is to construct a shell that provides continuous, thick, protected insulation all along the barrier between inside and outside. If the builder can accomplish this, the next step is to protect the shell’s integrity while accommodating all of the contractors that interact with the building shell. The home requires several items to pass from the outside, through the shell, into the inside. These items include utilities, fresh air for ventilation, and passageways for people. To maintain good air quality in the home, properly ventilating pollutants and introducing fresh air into the home is important. Each item entering and exiting the building shell requires a penetration through the home’s thermal boundary. These penetrations need to be minimized and protected.
The largest and leakiest holes in the building shell are doors and windows. Installers need to be aware of how doors are integrated into the overall plan to protect the building shell. Tightly constructed homes experience lower utility bills, have better durability, and keep out water and pests more effectively. The door and window installers are an integral part of the energy team.
Plumbers, heating and cooling contractors, and exterior finish contractors, electricians, and many other contractors interact with the building shell. Energy wise builders have a plan to protect the building shell with buy in from each of the subcontractors.
Finally, the homeowner is a key member of the home energy team. By properly operating and maintaining the building shell (replacing weather stripping, maintaining systems, and repairing damage) the homeowner will experience lower energy costs and a more comfortable living experience.
Coordination, buy in, and understanding from each of the members of the energy team is essential for the construction of a comfortable and efficient home. New homes are often the largest purchase we will make, let’s work together to make the purchase a good one.