Hitting The Reset Button by Positive Energy

It's time to find the reset button. Time to re-examine our view of what we know about delivering conditioned space to our clients, to ourselves. The upside potential in buildings is staggering. From some vantage points, it's astounding and inexplicable why the very places we live continue to be held in a laggard state of performance relative to what's possible. Our industry transition is held captive to an outdated vision. Without a proper vision, our mission, strategy and tactics are ineffective. 

We are all front line advocates, operating within our spheres of influence. What creates effectiveness is knowing why we are engaged in a particular next action and how that relates to moving the industry and the market forward. Why comes first, then what. Many of us can't effectively advocate for best practices in homes/buildings- not because we don't know what to do. Rather it's because we don't know why we need to do what we want to do. If we don't know why then we can't effectively advocate for change with our project teams and the pent-up transition will continue to move forward at a languished pace; albeit inexorably. In this episode Kristof shares some ideas to help us find our reset buttons, or at least pose the idea that hitting reset is worthwhile. 

reset button

Everything You Never Knew About Earthen Construction by Positive Energy

Join us for a fascinating conversation with Stephen Colley on earthen construction. 

Stephen currently practices architecture and runs his own architecture firm and is a long-time practitioner of green design and sustainable living. From 2010-2012 he served as the Program Manager in Green Initiatives for Palo Alto College in San Antonio developing training courses related to sustainable design and construction.

Stephen also participated in the Alamo Colleges Chancellor’s Council on Sustainability helping to write a new more sustainable policy for the Alamo College District.  The new policy was approved by the Board of Alamo Colleges in August of 2012. In his previous position as the Green Building Coordinator for Build San Antonio Green, he developed the criteria for San Antonio’s residential green building program, Build San Antonio Green, recognized by the National Association of Homebuilders as the Green Building Program of the year in 2009, and served on the Mayor’s (San Antonio, Texas) task force on Sustainable Policy as the City charted a significant shift away from conventional building, development, and transportation policy. Stephen was chosen by the National Association of Home Builders as one of the original stakeholders to write the Green Policy for the organization as basis for their nation-wide residential green building program, National Green Building Standard™.

In 2005, he co-authored the Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting for the Texas Water Development Board (3rd edition). The Manual is widely distributed and used as a reference for potable and non-potable rainwater harvesting system publications. He is also the former Chair of the San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment, a LEED® Accredited Professional, and President of Earthen Construction Initiative, a non-profit organization to advance and promote earthen construction. 

Photos Mentioned In Episode

Example of earthen construction.

Example of earthen construction.

Earthen Construction Masonry

Earthen Construction Masonry

Compressed earth block machine.

Compressed earth block machine.

Compressed Earth Block Machine

Compressed Earth Block Machine

Notice the earthen construction building in the background still standing after a huge tornado.

Notice the earthen construction building in the background still standing after a huge tornado.

Note: The city in Yemen referred to as “Manhattan of the Desert” is Shibam, in the Hadramut Valley in Yemen. It is designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Earthen Construction Initiative

With a vision that earthen construction is soon recognized as a mainstream building option, the ECI is a member-supported and donor-supported non-profit organization. The ECI website is not yet active, but 2017 memberships are accepted by a check made out to the “Earthen Construction Initiative” along with your contact information at these categories, Student - $10, General Membership - $25, Professional - $50, Companies - $100, mailed to Earthen Construction Initiative, PO Box 39323, San Antonio, TX 78218

For more information, reach out to Stephen Colley.

IEQ Series - Hearing Architecture & ISQ by Positive Energy

Noise can  have an adverse impact on people in offices, classrooms, hospitals and other commercial buildings (European Agency for Safety & Health at Work, 2005), interfering with their daily activities at work or school and at home. People’s performance levels and ability to concentrate can be negatively affected by noise and it can make it harder for them to share knowledge with one another.Join Kristof in this continuation of our IEQ series as he discusses acoustics and sound quality across the architectural spectrum with Keith Simon and John Poesnecker. 

Be sure to check out this wonderful TED Talk by David Byrne on sound and architecture.

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-architecture-helped-music-evolve-david-byrne As his career grew, David Byrne went from playing CBGB to Carnegie Hall. He asks: Does the venue make the music? From outdoor drumming to Wagnerian operas to arena rock, he explores how context has pushed musical innovation. Talk by David Byrne.

Efficiency Is Not Enough - The Science Of Sustainability by Positive Energy

How good should the building envelope be? How much energy should a building use? Finding answers require putting the building in context with the complex, interconnected, global networks of materials and resource flows in which they exist. Join Kristof for a wide ranging and slightly geeky discussion w Dr William Braham on systems ecology, exergy, emergy, and why a climax forest is a model for power and efficiency. 

Dr. William W. Braham FAIA is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as Chair from 2008 to 2011 and is currently Director of the Master of Environmental Building Design and Director of the TC Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies. He received an engineering degree from Princeton University and an M. Arch. and Ph.D. Arch. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 1988. At Penn, he teaches graduate courses on ecology, technology, and design. At the Chan Center, his most recent projects have been the Sustainability Plan, Carbon Footprint, and Carbon Reduction Action Plan for the University of Pennsylvania.

See more of Dr. Braham's work on his website.

Ducts & Sealing & Health, Oh My! by Positive Energy

In this episode, Kristof interviews Sean and Ian Harris, the owners of a duct sealing company called Aeroseal of Austin in Austin, TX. You'll hear discussion on why duct sealing is such a crucial component of healthy delivered air and energy performance of mechanical systems.

Sean Harris has been developing his interest in residential home construction since participating in a remodel project, certified by Austin Energy’s Green Building Program in 2005. With a degree in business administration, Sean combines his interest in green building and knowledge of business systems. Sean oversees the operations of Positive Energy and including product development, quality control, staffing, and marketing/sales. He is also a certified RESNET energy rater and conducts home performance inspections, energy code tests, ECADS, and HERS ratings.


An Interview With John Semmelhack Of Think Little by Positive Energy

Join Kristof in a wide-ranging discussion of building science topics with consultant John Semmelhack of Think Little

John Semmelhack is the owner of Think Little. He is a Certified Passive House Consultant, a member of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) Technical Committee, and is a PHIUS Trainer for the Certified Passive House Consultant and PHIUS+ Rater training programs. He sits on the boards of the Passive House Alliance U.S. (PHAUS) and the Passive House Alliance U.S. – Capital Chapter.

John is also a certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater, a Technical Advisor to builders in the EarthCraft House Virginia green building program, and a BPI-certified Building Analyst. He is a graduate of the Leeds School of Business (no, not that “LEED”) at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Why VRF Matters by Positive Energy

In this first of a two part series on VRF, The Building Science Podcast brings you a compelling argument for why VRF technology matters and will follow up with an episode about how to consider and utilize VRF technology on your projects. Thanks to the generous support of Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, we're proud to bring you this latest installment of The Building Science Podcast focused on VRF technology and why it's important.


Humidity, Attics, & Spray Foam, Oh My! by Positive Energy

In today's episode, we are joined by Keith Simon of BES/Terracon and Dr. Allison Bailes of Energy Vanguard to discuss moisture issues associated with the use of spray foam insulation in attic assemblies. There's a little bit of background information on Joe Lstiburek's article called "Ping Pong Water & The Chemical Engineer" that you'll want to check out if you're trying to better understand where this conversation is coming from, as well as a few other Energy Vanguard articles to help wrap your head around it.

We also mention some cool RHT sensors in the show, which you can check out here. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for updates on The Humid Climate Conference 2017 in the new year. Big thanks to Ultra Aire Whole House Dehumidifiers for sponsoring this great conversation.

IEQ Series - Thermal Comfort With Robert Bean (Part 1) by Positive Energy

In the continuation of our Indoor Environmental Quality series, Kristof interviews Robert Bean in a 2 part series on thermal comfort. Robert Bean is an industry leading thinker and engineer. We think you're going to love this interview.  

Robert Bean is president of Indoor Climate Consultants Inc. and director of www.healthyheating.com. He is a Registered Engineering Technologist in Building Construction and a Professional Licensee in Mechanical Engineering and provides services related to the design of buildings and indoor environmental quality systems. He serves on numerous advisory boards and technical committees including ASHRAE 6.1, 6.5, 7.4, SSPC 55 and the new ASHRAE Presidential Residential Building Committee.

Big thanks to Risinger & Co. for sponsoring this episode! 

IEQ Series - An Introduction by Positive Energy

This introduction marks the beginning of a series on Indoor Environmental Quality. It's one of the most important topics we can discuss because we're exploring intersections of the inextricably linked fields of health and building sciences. We will discuss the constituent parts of IEQ in detail in hopes that you come away more informed to make better decisions for your clients.

Let Us Know More About You!

Your city would be a better answer than "My bedroom"

Water, Water, Everywhere (In Its Fourth State Too) by Positive Energy

In this episode of The Building Science Podcast, Kristof explores all the great mysteries of water (especially the water you don't see).

The Commonly Known Stages of Water

Pure water is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Water can occur in three states: solid (ice), liquid, or gas (vapor).

Solid water—ice is frozen water. When water freezes, its molecules move farther apart, making ice less dense than water. This means that ice will be lighter than the same volume of water, and so ice will float in water. Water freezes at 0° Celsius, 32° Fahrenheit.

Liquid water is wet and fluid. This is the form of water with which we are most familiar. We use liquid water in many ways, including washing and drinking.

Water as a gas—vapor is always present in the air around us. You cannot see it. When you boil water, the water changes from a liquid to a gas or water vapor. As some of the water vapor cools, we see it as a small cloud called steam. This cloud of steam is a miniversion of the clouds we see in the sky. At sea level, steam is formed at 100° Celsius, 212° Fahrenheit.

The water vapor attaches to small bits of dust in the air. It forms raindrops in warm temperatures. In cold temperatures, it freezes and forms snow or hail.

But what about this mysterious fourth state? Tune in to find out! 

Also, be sure to check out this psychrometric app to run your own humidity experiments.

Better Shelter - An Interview With Jason Ballard by Positive Energy

In this episode, Kristof interviews TreeHouse CEO Jason Ballard on his path into creating a more sustainable building supply retail space. 

Growing up in a small town in Southeast Texas, our co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard developed a personal connection with the pine forest, coastal prairie, and “big thicket.” In exploring nature, he learned the intricate ways in which humans and the planet rely on each other. At the same time, nearby petrochemical refineries clearly demonstrated the degradation that people can bring to the environment and their own health.

Jason studied ecology and biology to understand the underlying causes of environmental and human health issues. He learned that our impact on the natural world and our own lives are immediately affected by our approach to one of our most basic needs, shelter.

While working in green building along the front range of Colorado, Jason sprouted the idea for TreeHouse. He wanted to build a place that enabled and empowered people to reimagine their homes toward a true north of sustainability, beauty, and health.

Delivering Better Buildings - A Discussion On Integrated Project Delivery by Positive Energy

This episode will focus on the practical and philosophical motivations to shift the industry focus to a more comprehensive building process that integrate teams, systems, and deliver better results. We will attempt to provide clarity for creative and logical solutions that can enable architects and builders to make this kind of philosophical shift toward a more outcome based future. Join us as Kristof interviews Corey Squire from Lake|Flato Architects for a great conversation! 


Sustainability Coordinator  
Corey works with all Lake|Flato teams to establish sustainability goals, analyze designs with simulation software, and collects post-occupancy performance data. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and a Master of Architecture from Tulane University. In 2012, Squire was awarded the Eskew+Dumez+Ripple Research Fellowship to study building post-occupancy energy performance and sustainable design processes.

Bearing Witness & The Path To Better Construction by Positive Energy

In this episode, Kristof interviews Keith Simon and John Posenecker of Building Exterior Solutions on how we can do better work in the construction and design industry.

Keith A. Simon is a Registered Architect, Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC), and Legacy LEED AP with over 10 years’ experience in architectural design and building enclosure consultation. Mr. Simon is a Senior Architect at Building Exterior Solutions, Inc. and adjunct faculty at the University of Texas School of Architecture (UTSoA) in Austin. His consulting experience includes investigation, analysis, repair design, construction administration, testing, and peer review of design phase documentation. Mr. Simon was the founder of the Austin Building Enclosure Council (BEC: Austin) and currently serves as a board member for both
BEC: Austin as well as the Austin Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS). Mr. Simon is also a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Society of Building Science Educators (SBSE), and the Texas Society of Architects (TSA) Codes and Standards Committee. Mr. Simon was awarded the 2012 Emerging Professional Honor Award by the Austin AIA.

John Posenecker is also an incredibly talented and accomplished engineer, but we couldn't find his professional biographical information. We'll update once he sends it.

Construction Practices & Public Health by Positive Energy

In this episode of The Building Science Podcast, Kristof interviews Adam Reiser of Shelter Builders. We'll explore why construction practices aren't considered a public health issue and hear from Adam's personal story with a house that caused serious health issues.

In 2013, Adam and his family found out that their beloved house was filled with a dangerous toxin that was making them sick. After deciding to tear it down, they were unable to find a builder to help them rebuild a healthier, safer home – so they did it themselves. Today, their house is the Shelter model home – and one of the healthiest houses anywhere in America.

Adam has spent his entire professional life as a champion for health and health education. He has spent the last six years working with the Engine 2 program and Whole Foods Market, developing healthy eating education curriculum, programs and events. He is the founder of FoodCoaching, a national training program for people helping others make healthier diet & lifestyle choices. He is the co-founder of Jack & Adam’s Bicycles in Austin, one of the leading cycling and triathlon lifestyle stores in the country.

Married with two children, Adam is a graduate of Rice University, where he was a captain of the Track & Field Team. He also has a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and gave up a perfectly good career as a Assistant District Attorney in Houston in order to help people find and sustain their health. He is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health.

Radiant Heating & Cooling With Messana by Positive Energy

Join The Building Science Podcast on a California adventure to learn about radiant heating and cooling panels made by Messana.

Messana is a small company based in Italy and California with big ideas. They are passionate advocates of RADIANT COOLING, committed to change the way spaces are conditioned to improve the thermal comfort of their occupants, all while lowering the carbon footprint.

We were lucky enough to mix things up and change our episode format with some live interviews with the Messana team!