Thousand Home Challenge!

The Affordable Comfort Institute* is sponsoring the “Thousand Home Challenge.”  The challenge will be a demonstration project to showcase the fact that we really can do Energy Wise Renovation and cut current energy use by 70 to 90%.      The savings will be documented and the project will be used to craft “What’s Next?”  in energy codes and policies.

The idea of building a home so efficient that it uses 90% less energy is hard to believe for most Americans.   But the “Passiv Haus” standard has been developed in Germany with 10% energy usage as it’s central concept.   Interestingly enough, the Germans were inspired by the American Solar industry in the 1970’s.   Scrambling to catch up, they soon equalled our Solar technology and then surpassed America by several orders of magnitude.   The American Solar Boom of the 70’s had been built on tax credits and when the credits went away, so did our Solar industry.    Most Americans determined that Solar and other technologies just weren’t cost effective especially in the retrofit market of existing housing.

It’s true, retrofit work is more difficult and more expensive.   In new homes it is just a matter of changing the codes and then enforcing them and we’ve done a fair job of that over the decades since the first oil embargo.   The retrofit market is much more complicated.  Because of the huge variety of construction methods and varying degrees of quality, a building performance contractor must do a thorough examination on the “patient” house, and just like a doctor, only then can they diagnose and prescribe the best solution to the ills of that particular house.    It’s true, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice!

A “one size fits all” and piecemeal approach rarely delivers the results promised by the salesperson or the slick marketing brochure.   Perhaps you’ve experience that?   To get real energy reduction, a whole house approach with individual diagnostics with special instruments must be employed.   This is much more difficult and only recently has the building performance contracting industry stepped up to take on the challenge.

California has been a leader in developing this new industry and has been the first state to step up to the Thousand Home Challenge which has been thrown out by Affordable Comfort.   Today I met with about 75 policy makers, scientists, engineers and other stakeholders in San Fransisco as the “NorCal Collaborative “to organize the effort of getting the first 40 homes on the street that operate comfortably after a 70 to 90 % reduction in energy consumption.   If you’d like your home to be one of them, drop me an email.

*Affordable Comfort Institute is the national organization that is dedicated to bringing energy efficiency and building performance to EXISTING homes.   Several organizations lobby for and support building performance in new homes, but Affordable Comfort has been a clear voice for energy efficiency in existing homes for the last two decades.    I will be presenting a poster session at their annual convention in Kansas City on April 27th -30th.    It will be on my own demonstration project which is the Energy Wise Renovation of foreclosed homes discussed in this blog.   Stop by if you are in the neighborhood.    Seriously, attendance at the Affordable Comfort Conference is the best introduction to the Building Performance Industry you can get.   The website is

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  1. Andrew Martinez

    I think that your mission is honorable and definitely interesting. In looking at a home as a first time purchase, I think I would go with the energy efficient model. My wife suffers from asthma and the air quality in any home we live in is always one of the first things we look at. With asthma and allergies to cats my wife can easily detect any flaws in the system; just turn it on and watch her!(LOL) Unfortunately, that’s how we must check a home before we rent it right now. We’ve been on the road with my job and when renting a home in the area we’ve seen some shortcuts on rentals which were at times obvious. Go Green Earth Equities!

  2. greenearthequities

    Your situation points up the need for a “whole house approach” by a truly professional Building Performance Contractor. Not just a good HVAC contractor or Insulation Contractor or Weatherstripper or Window Contractor. But someone who understands how those disciplines all work together and is equipped to diagnose the entire “House as a System” and then prescribe the solution. As you know, Prescription without Diagnosis is Malpractice. And that’s mainly what happens with homes today and is the reason you have to use your wife’s allergies as your own diagnostic before moving into a home. We are hoping for better things as the new industry of Building Performance emerges.


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