The Illinois Green Alliance has announced that its 2020 GreenBuilt Home Tour is going virtual – and we’re a part of it!
This year’s event features four unique online sessions that focus on 12 different green home projects across Illinois. Each online event has a theme: passive house design, all-electric homes, deep energy retrofits, and homeowner-driven sustainability projects.
BRINC Building Products is proud to recognize two of our building envelope materials featured in the July 15th Deep Energy Retrofit event – part of the high-performance home of Jamie Carr, Project Manager of Eco Achievers consulting firm.
“ThermalBucks were a great alternative to wood bucks. They were fast and simple to install.”
– —Jamie Carr, Project Manager, Eco Achievers & Net Zero Energy Homeowner
The Carr family loved the location of this Glen Ellyn home, but wanted to update it to be both beautiful, and highly practical. Healthy and comfortable, yet affordable to renovate.
For this all-electric, net zero energy home, Jamie chose a 10 kw solar array, energy recovery ventilator (ERV), heat pump for heating and cooling, and a split-system heat pump for hot water and radiant floor heating. For the building envelope, he installed high-performance Alpen windows in ThermalBuck, and was an early adopter of our new ThermalTight™ System, which features a Neopor ®GPS rigid insulation panel with a self-gasketing, vapor permeable WRB laminated to the exterior. For more information and photos about the Glen Ellyn (net zero) Deep Energy Retrofit, visit greenbuilthometour.org.
GreenBuilt Home Tour Sessions
All-Electric Homes – July 8th – 3:30-5pm CT
Deep Energy Retrofits – July 15th – 3:30-5pm CT
Passive House Showcase – July 22nd – 3:30 – 5pm CT
Wellness + High Performance – July 29th – 3:30 – 5pm CT
The first part of each session will be presented by experts in the high-performance homebuilding industry. The last half “happy” hour is the perfect chance to ask questions, get advice, and connect with these industry professionals.
Join any individual session for only $5, or purchase a ticket to all four tours for a discount at $15. Purchase tickets here.
We look forward to Jamie’s tour, and sharing more details (and hopefully HERS ratings) of this beautiful home on July 15th. Please consider joining any or all of these sessions, and supporting the work of Illinois Green, a USGB community.
Fine Homebuilding (FHB) magazine has been one of the most widely recognized voices in the building industry since its first printing in 1981, nearly 40 years ago.
What makes Fine Homebuilding such a valuable resource to builders is the quality of the content. Written by builders who are considered experts in the field of homebuilding, the articles focus heavily on the details of homebuilding that most builders will encounter on the job site.
Much has changed about the way we build over the years, and the content is now both a combination of best real-world practices for building, and new technology and building materials.
Windows in Thick Walls
In his article entitled “Windows in Thick Walls,”September 2019, FHB, Maine residential design/build contractor Michael Maines explains the challenges of installing windows in thick, highly-insulated walls. He presents detailed illustrations that review 5 typical situations:
One: Recessed windows with extension jambs as exterior trim
Two: Recessed windows with traditional casing
Three: Recessed windows with shingled returns
Four: Windows curbed to the exterior
Five: Curbed windows installed with ThermalBuck
Maines utilizes his experience building many different types of wall assemblies in the article. His solutions address not only moderately high-performance envelopes in climates 3 and up, they can also be modified to suite warmer climate zones, and the highest performance levels of Passive House building.
“Thick, highly insulated walls . . . present some challenges for builders when it comes to installing windows and doors . . . (ThermalBuck) is a great, problem-solving product line.”
—- Michael Maines, Michael Maines Residential Design + Build, Contributing Editor, Fine Homebuilding
Also in the September 2019 issue of FHB was a feature by Senior Editor Patrick McCombe, in the SPEC section, which covers new building materials on the market.
“The best solution I’ve seen is ThermalBuck.”
—- Patrick McCombes, Senior Editor, Fine Homebuilding
When it comes to challenge of properly installing and flashing windows and doors in walls with exterior insulation, most experts don’t recommend installation directly over foam. Not only does it compress the foam and leave air gaps, but it also introduces some potential issues for the window. The most commonly known way to address this is to build a wood buck to extend the mounting point for the window. However, adding wood works against the goal of creating a continuous insulation layer on the building envelope.
See why Fine Homebuilding Senior Editor Patrick McCombes says “The best solution I’ve seen is (the) ThermalBuck,” and learn more about its features and benefits at finehomebuilding.com.
For detailed coverage of real-world ThermalBuck installations, visit Installation Stories at thermalbuck.com. For more ThermalBuck coverage in the media, review Media Coverage at thermalbuck.com
Fine Homebuilding has a a long history as one of the most respected resources for residential builders. The reason why? The content. It’s sourced directly from the job sites and offices of the most talented builders and designers in the US, so it’s real – and readers know the difference.
The 2019 Fine Homebuilding Summit offers an opportunity to take that learning to a whole new level, by bringing together an impressive lineup of top architects, builders, and building science experts in the US to meet and train building professionals in person. Described as the “TED Talk of the Construction Industry”, the two day event in Southbridge, Mass., is a great opportunity for builders to focus on advancing their knowledge – and their business.
“With the Summit, we are inviting all the key players to the table … to share hours of insight with each other, to network, and to advance craftsmanship industry-wide, which is critical for long-term success …”
– —Justin Fink, Editorial Director, Fine Homebuilding
Event Details & Sessions
This year’s summit will be held October 2nd – 4th, in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and features over 50 hours of collaborative learning, along with plenty of opportunities for networking – and the latest in building material technology. Presentations include:
We’re proud to join a distinguished list of event sponsors working to advance the standards of the building industry. BRINC BP will exhibit ThermalBuck, and joins 475 Performance Supply, Benjamin Obdyke, FastenMaster, Minotaur, Rockwool, Schluter Systems, and more.
Join Us October 2nd-4th to invest in your own building knowledge, grow your building network, and see why ThermalBuck is a game-changer in energy-efficient homebuilding. It’s not easy to find time to leave the job site and focus on training, but it’s always time well-spent. Invest some time in advancing your craftsmanship, and become a part of the future of building. REGISTER NOW at the link above. We’ll see you in Southbridge –
BRINC Building Products, Inc. has expanded ThermalBuck distribution in the Northwestern U.S and Canada through a partnership with Small Planet Supply, a well-known regional high-performance building material supplier for over 10 years.
Small Planet Workshop (the original company name) emerged from a division of West Coast Associates to support the growing demand for net-zero and passive house education and training in North America. The “workshop” side of high-performance building soon developed into a burgeoning business as a trusted building material supplier, specializing in materials designed for super-insulated, airtight structures.
“Adding exterior insulation is a no-brainer for most projects, and ThermalBuck eliminates the challenge that goes into detailing critical areas – like windows and doors,” said Kieran Lavelle, Sales Manager, Small Planet Supply. “This makes it a vital piece of the puzzle towards energy-efficiency and we’re proud to offer ThermalBuck alongside our other high-performance building products,” said Lavelle.
“Adding exterior insulation is a no-brainer for most projects, and ThermalBuck eliminates the challenge that goes into detailing critical areas – like windows and doors.”
– Kieran Lavelle, Sales Manager, Small Planet Supply
While Small Planet Supply has grown the materials side of the business, they’ve maintained their reputation as an excellent resource for building science knowledge and installation expertise. Year-round training and workshops remain a priority – both in the U.S and Canada. Based in Vancouver, BC in Canada, and Tumwater, WA in the US, Small Planet Supply services customers in WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, and parts of MT, UT, and AZ.
ThermalBuck on the West Coast
The building community on the west coast has initiated the highest standards in the country for energy-efficient and sustainable design for years – California in particular, setting the bar for other regions to follow.
ThermalBuck was first introduced out West in 2016, as part of the Wise Workforce Instructions for Standards and Efficiency program (WISE), a combined effort of ConSol, the State of California Energy Commission (CEC) , and the California Homebuilding Foundation (CHF).
The WISE program was designed to advance the education and implementation of high performance building solutions for building professionals in preparation for Title 24. It allows industry experts to share best practices and real-world solutions to building code and efficiency standards with California builders. BRINC Building Products, Inc. was selected as a participating manufacturer, and ThermalBuck is referenced in the 2017 CASE Initiative High Performance Walls Report.
In 2017, BRINC Building Products President and developer of ThermalBuck, John Brooks, was invited to present in San Diego at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, the largest homebuilding trade show on the West Coast.
By the year’s end, John Brooks was named Hive Top 50 Honoree by Builder Magazine, and honored at their annual awards celebration in Los Angeles.
Small Planet – Big Opportunity
Until now, all ThermalBuck sales were handled by long-term national distributor of ThermalBuck, Alpen HPP – shipping out of their Niwot, Colorado warehouse.
“Alpen does a fantastic job working with passive house customers all over the US, but we’ve been looking to expand out distribution network with a physical footprint on the West coast. Education and a desire to promote sustainability drives the mission of Small Planet Supply – that really matters to us when choosing distributors”, said John Brooks. “Developing the right network to service the needs of our customers is a challenge – and a priority. We’re proud the team at Small Planet has chosen ThermalBuck to complement their line of high-performance building materials,” said Brooks, President of BRINC Building Products, Inc. “We look forward to a future of exceeding the expectations of the high-performance building community.”
Alpen HPP remains a national distributor for ThermalBuck, focusing on the passive house market. Canada is now serviced by both Performance Haus, Inc., and Small Planet Supply.
“We know that education and a desire to promote sustainability drives the mission of Small Planet Supply – that really matters to us when choosing distributors.”
– John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Small Planet Supply distributes a wide range of building materials in the categories of air barriers, insulation, and mechanical systems. They also have their own building material success story – Thermacork.
This 100% natural cork insulation made from the outer bark of the Oak tree, was developed and launched by Small Planet Supply, and has a multitude of applications – including roofing, flooring, ceilings, exterior and interior walls. walls.
ThermalBuck joins a respected line of high performance building products at Small Planet Supply, which includes:
Small Planet is offering 3 workshops to demonstrate installation techniques for multiple building envelope applications. Join ThermalBuck creator John Brooks July 9th in Vancouver, BC; July 11th in Tumwater, WA; or July 12th in Portland, OR. These workshops are free, and open to any interested homeowners or members of the local building communities. For more information and to receive notice regarding future workshops, please visit smallplanetsupply.com.
For purchasing information through Small Planet Supply, please contact one of their 2 distribution centers, or contact Steve Lamburg at the sales office in Eugene, Oregon at (541) 521-6270
Tumwater, Washington 1-855-367-7442
Vancouver, BC 1-855-367-7442.
New Bethlehem, PA – Geoffrey Sloane, a high-performance building material professional with a background in architecture, historic renovations, green building and the building material industry, has been appointed by BRINC Building Products, Inc., as Market Development Manager – Northeast.
His most recent position was in Commercial Sales with LaValley Building Supply, a well-known building material supplier with 10 locations in the Northeast.
“BRINC BP is offering comprehensive solutions for forward-thinking design and construction. I’m excited to employ my experience in all phases of the building process to develop the New England market for ThermalBuck.”
– Geoffrey Sloane, Market Development Manager – NE, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Geoffrey has always been passionate about the building industry, having earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY., and acting as both designer and general contractor for his own home. His professional knowledge and experience in both the architect and builder roles allows him to understand the challenges that face both sides of the build. Sloane’s work in the building material industry provides him with an extensive knowledge of a wide array of materials, and an understanding of how important it is to consider the relationship between different building materials in the building envelope.
“BRINC BP is offering comprehensive solutions for forward-thinking design and construction. I’m excited to employ my experience in all phases of the building process to develop the New England market for ThermalBuck,” said Sloane.
ThermalBuck falls into an unusual category of the building material market – there’s nothing quite like it.
Use of exterior insulation on residential and commercial buildings is a growing practice in construction, for its ability to limit thermal bridging.
But it creates a new challenge – now that the insulation extends anywhere from 1.0″ to 6.0″ or more past the sheathing, how do you mount the windows?
Before ThermalBuck, the only option for architects and builders to extend the rough opening was to build a wood buck out of 2 x’s or plywood. Rough openings have always been the weakest spot on any building for air and water infiltration, and “bumping” the window out only makes it more difficult to achieve a good air and water seal. Wood bucks are a challenge to flash, and they can rot, shrink, or warp over time.
“Geoffrey offers a unique balance of knowledge and experience in the building industry. His passion for providing green building solutions to architects and builders is exactly what we were looking for.”
– John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
The European and Canadian building markets have long recognized the need to build tighter, well-insulated homes. The U.S. building industry is quickly catching up, driven both by the adoption of newer IECC codes, and an increased focus on energy-efficient and high-performance building.
“Architects and builders are looking for solutions on how continuous insulation affects the window installation,” said Brooks, “ThermalBuck is the ideal solution.” Boise Cascade distributes ThermalBuck in New England through their Westfield, Massachusetts distribution center.
“Geoffrey offers a unique balance of knowledge and experience in the building industry. His passion for providing green building solutions to architects and builders is exactly what we were looking for. He’s a great asset to our team, and the ideal fit to manage the growth of ThermalBuck in New England,” said Brooks.
Sloane lives in New Hampshire’s capital region with his wife, Nicole, and their children – Suzie, Peter, and Meredith. Stop by Booth #1037 and meet him in person at the 2019 JLC Live show in Providence March 29th & 30th! Contact Geoff at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 603.268.4640.
BRINC Building Products, Inc, headquartered in New Bethlehem, PA, is the manufacturer of ThermalBuck, the high performance window buck. ThermalBuck is now available through Boise Cascade and Alpen HPP in the U.S., and via Performance Haus in Canada.
The biggest building show in the Northeast, JLC LIVE kicks off in downtown Providence, RI March 27th – and this year, exhibitor ThermalBuck joins Rockwool, DuPont, and 3M as part of Bill Robinson’s building clinic, “Managing Moisture in Walls with Continuous Insulation”.
JLC LIVE New England is widely known as the best hands-on construction show in the business. Focused on live product demonstrations and popular building clinics, this show stands out as a great training opportunity for builders who want to fine-tune their building science knowledge and installation techniques.
“JLC Live is the one show all year that I can promise you, we won’t miss.”
-John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Two packed floors of exhibitors await the thousands of builders in attendance, and three days of educational sessions are open to all attendees. “JLC LIVE is the one show all year that I can promise you, we won’t miss,” John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc. If you’re not already planning to attend this year’s show, please consider joining us for the show!
Grab your FREE PASS here – just enter promotion code EX235 and be our guest on the exhibit floor. You’ll find ThermalBuck at BOOTH #1037 – check out the floor plan before the show!
Building Clinics & Workshops
This is what makes JLC LIVE unique amongst trade shows – everywhere you look, you see action. JLC always has a packed schedule of exhibitor installation demonstrations, building clinics, and educational workshops. It’s truly a “hands-on” show, and that’s what makes it so popular.
This year, we’re proud to announce that ThermalBuck will be a part of nationally recognized trainer and building expert Bill Robinson’s building clinic “Managing Moisture in Walls with Continuous Insulation” held on March 29th & 30th, at 9:30 am on the upper level.
ThermalBuck joins distinguished building material veterans including Rockwool ComfortBoard, DuPont Tyvek, and 3M Corporation to help show builders how to successfully deal with the challenges of installing windows with exterior insulation.
Check out the full event program for a complete listing of clinics, and demonstrations that you won’t want to miss. You’ll want to catch Fine Homebuilding editorial advisor and well-known builder Mike Guertin for his popular Roofers Workshops, located on the second floor ballroom at JLC. His clinics include Roofing in High Wind Zones, Critical Roof Flashings, and 4 Ways to Shingle a Valley.
ThermalBuck at JLC
The 2017 show was our first time at JLC, and it couldn’t have been better. The highlight was when the Journal of Light Construction Senior Editor, Tim Healey, stopped by to shoot a short video to introduce ThermalBuck to readers of JLC who might have missed the show.
“This is one of the coolest new products I’ve seen.”
– Tim Healey, Senior Editor, The Journal of Light Construction, JLC Live 2017
A High-Performance Window Buck
Booth #1037 is where you’ll find ThermalBuck at the 2019 show, on the lower level, right by the Simpson Strong Tie demonstration booth. We’ll demonstrate how ThermalBuck solves many of the common challenges wood window bucks create: potential for moisture damage, shrinking, warping or rotting – all things that challenge the long term operation of windows. Not to mention wood is a thermal bridge, the very kind you’re trying to eliminate by adding continuous insulation in the first place. You’ll be able to compare the flashing steps for wood bucks vs. ThermalBuck, and see how much easier it is to get an airtight, watertight building envelope with ThermalBuck.
JLC Networking & Special Events
All work and no play is never a good idea, and plenty of fun is on the schedule. And this year’s JLC is no exception. This Old House has teamed up with JLC to help Rebuild the Trades, and offers several events promote the importance of apprenticeship programs to the future of the building industry. You’ll have the chance to hear from your favorite This Old House personalties such as Charlie Silva and Tom Sweenor, as well as highly-successful builders such as Matt Risinger, of Risinger & Co.
Check out all of the great networking events here, and don’t miss the Welcome Party Friday night from 5pm – 6pm in the Level 5 JLC LIVE Lounge. These events offer great opportunities for fellow attendees and speakers to connect, build relationships, and celebrate the future of building.
Since the March weather feels a lot like winter, take a few days off of the job site to expand your knowledge and invest in your training and skills in New England. We promise – the payback will be worth it.
People often look at ThermalBuck and ask, “How did you come up with this idea?”
Like any good idea, it starts with figuring out you’ve got a problem in the first place. And that’s exactly how this whole process began. John Brooks, developer of ThermalBuck, built his family an extremely energy-efficient, well-insulated house. And he was surprised with how frustrating and difficult it was to install the windows.
So you’ve added exterior insulation to a building, and the depth of the insulation extends past the rough opening, where the windows are installed. The question of “What do we do about the windows?” becomes an important consideration – and a real challenge to overcome.
Rough openings have always presented concerns for air & water sealing on any building, and changing the mounting point for the windows makes them even more vulnerable to moisture damage.
High-performance architects and builders have used exterior insulation for years, recognizing the importance of eliminating thermal bridges in the building envelope. Traditionally, most U.S. builders have insulated between the studs, if they decided to use insulation at all.
But the building practices of the past are giving way to innovation.
“If you see a failure on a building, you can pretty much bet that it started with water.”
John Brooks, president, BRINC Building Products, developer of ThermalBuck
More states are adopting IECC energy codes that require continuous insulation, and builders are striving to understand how building science impacts the energy efficiency and quality of their work. Use of exterior insulation in both new construction and renovations is growing significantly, so solving this challenge has become a priority.
Mounting Windows Directly Over Foam
Often builders choose to mount windows and doors right over the exterior insulation, particularly for depths in the .5″ and 1.0″ range. But the nail flange compresses the insulation, creating gaps for air and water to enter. There is also a lack of good support for wide, heavy windows, which can affect the long-term operation of the window. Martin Holliday of Green Building Advisor spoke with Cordell Burton, an installation engineer at Pella Windows, about the issue in 2011.
“You can’t screw through foam sheathing – the foam will compress. You have to have something solid to attach the window to.”
For insulation depths over 1.5″, builders generally built “wood bucks”, made of plywood or dimensional lumber, to extend the mounting point of the window.
The Traditional Wood Buck
While wood solves the problem of extending the mounting point, it creates some new problems of its own in that it often will warp, rot, and shrink.
Wood is a poor insulator, so wood bucks allow air to transfer around each window and door through the rough opening. Cold air is denser than warm air, so in the winter the heated indoor air heads outside, and in the summer, the hot, humid air outdoors moves into the cool air-conditioned interior. This transfer of energy is called thermal bridging, which is what continuous insulation is designed to eliminate in the first place.
The Problem with Thermal Bridging
Thermal bridging isn’t just about wasted energy – although a home that’s more expensive to heat and cool and isn’t comfortable is a legitimate problem. But it’s really about water. Builders know if bulk water isn’t managed properly, it can cause extensive damage to a building. But the moisture that forms from condensation also causes issues over time.
“Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. When warm air comes into contact with a cold spot on the floor or wall, water vapor in the air cools and collects as droplets on the colder surface. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality,” said Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Steven Winter Associates.
The more we insulate our buildings, the more important it becomes to reduce the potential for condensation to form – good building sense in any climate.
“Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality.“
-Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Steven Winter Associates, as written by Kate Danielsen, High Performance Walls on swinter.com, January 2017
Building a Better Mousetrap: The Process
John Brooks was very familiar with the problems associated with wood bucks. After losing his home in a fire, John built a new home for his family with his own hands. They settled in to make a new start, only to watch as condensation and mold formed around the new windows. Not only did the wood bucks he built cause condensation issues, the flashing process was so difficult that the whole installation process amounted to an exercise in frustration. He began to think there had to be a better way to install windows.
Using his background in construction and his experience in the insulation industry, John began to make prototypes for a product that would be better than a wood buck. It needed to solve multiple problems and still be cost-effective. Here’s the wishlist John had for his new product:
Extend the mounting point
Prevent the compression of exterior insulation
Insulate the rough opening
Protect the rough opening from moisture damage
Support the window
Handle shear & wind loads
Provide durability, strength & flexibility
Simplify flashing & integrate with the WRB
Maintain the long-term operation of the window.
Anyone who has ever come up with a great idea for a new product will agree that the “eureka” moment doesn’t happen without a long period of not-so-great ideas, that take you back to the drawing board time and time again, testing both your patience – and your determination.
This was no different for John, who spent all of his spare time and most of his money on this project, often struggling not to give up. A chance meeting with some strangers at a restaurant, the desire to build a strong business to help sustain their community, and shared Christian beliefs poured new life into his research. After 4 years of prototypes, trial & error, third-party testing, and an unwavering personal faith, John realized his vision for ThermalBuck as it exists today.
The Innovation: ThermalBuck
ThermalBuck is an L-shaped window buck that goes inside the rough opening, and extends outward to create a flush plane with exterior insulation and/or rainscreens.
ThermalBuck is made of a type XIV high-density EPS, and coated in a waterproof resin. Not only does it have the compressive and shear strength to handle the weight of large, high-performance windows, but it also insulates the rough opening with an R-value of 4.4 per inch to limit thermal bridging around the rough opening.
The High-Performance Future of Building
In 2016, Scott Gibson of Green Building Advisor presented ThermalBuck as “An Alternative to Wood Bucks”, and the building industry took notice.ThermalBuck began to receive widespread media recognition, and garnered a lot of attention at conferences and trade shows, because there was nothing like it – it’s simple to use, and solves a common problem.
“This is an impressive product. Once you see it, you really understand the problem this solves for builders like me.”
-Matt Risinger, Risinger Construction, The Build Show
John met Matt Risinger at the EEBA conference in Dallas, Texas, in 2016. Based in Austin but originally a Pittsburgh native, Matt had a western Pennsylvania connection with John.
Matt is a highly respected builder, educator, and self-proclaimed “building science geek” with over 300,000 followers on his popular YouTube channel, Build with Matt Risinger.
He’s well known for sharing solutions and new products to his thousands of followers – and appreciated for his candor. Risinger took home our tabletop displays to share with his building community and gave ThermalBuck great feedback. John was fortunate to film some videos with Risinger & Co. in Austin, and the building community took notice.
The impact of non-profit organizations that promote energy-efficient building standards is growing. Some of the most successful outreach programs include regional events that bring together architects, builders, and high-performance building material experts facing the same set of climate considerations.
This February, BRINC Building Products will be exhibiting at two notable events in this realm: Better Buildings by Design (Northeast), and Better Buildings: Better Business (Midwest).
Better Buildings by Design
When we think of leaders in energy-efficiency and sustainability, we think of Vermont. It’s no surprise Vermont ranks among the top 5 states in the nation for the advancement and support of energy efficiency, and has long maintained a pioneering role among the states in this arena.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) credits Vermont’s three energy efficiency utility companies as the driving force for Vermont’s ranking: Vermont Gas Systems, Burlington Electric, and Efficiency Vermont.
“Efficiency Vermont is really keen on helping with the social responsibility of living in Vermont.“
– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont
We’ve been fortunate to witness firsthand the effectiveness of Efficiency Vermont on two housing projects. One, the Rutland Innovation Home, and two, the Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity House in Randolph. We look forward to contributing to their Better Buildings by Design event, the region’s leading design and construction conference.
Better Buildings by Design – February 6th & 7th
The Better Buildings by Design conference brings together over 1,000 attendees from all over the Northeast, and more than 60 exhibitors annually to Burlington, Vermont. Affordable Efficiency is a focus of the 2019 Better Buildings by Design event, and attendees will share their successes, failures, and strategies for the future. More than 40 workshops are available for attendees, featuring five learning tracks: Building Systems, Business Support, Commercial, Envelope, and Integrated Design.
BRINC Building Products is proud to be a Bronze Level Sponsor for this year’s event, and will be exhibiting ThermalBuck, the high-performance window buck. For a complete list of exhibitors and more information, check out the event homepage here.
Better Buildings: Better Business – February 14th & 15th
Seventh Wave is the force behind the Better Buildings: Better Business conference in Wisconsin.. Their mission is “To advance economic and environmental sustainability through engineering, education and research”. With offices in Chicago and Madison, this non-profit works with utility programs, offering services such as education, financial incentives, and technical assistance for building owners and design teams to exceed the Illinois energy code standards.
The Better Buildings: Better Business conference will be held February 14th & 15th, in Wisconsin Dells, at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center. Nearly 60 exhibitors and sponsors focused on advancing the residential building and remodeling industry are part of the two-day event. It also features multiple workshops and keynote speakers, which will focus on advancing the building industry for a clean energy future. Visit seventhwave.org for a full list of exhibitors.
Want to learn more about energy-efficient organizations in your region? Check out our post, Advancing the Energy Codes, for more information on the six REEOS, or Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations to get started.
Our first ThermalBuck installation in a tiny house is a big deal. And when you’re lucky enough to have a passionate do-it-yourself duo like Jesse Taylor and his father Bernard working together on the project, it becomes more than a job site, it’s a story.
Not Your Average Treehouse
Jesse’s folks retired a few years ago and moved to Vermont. Jesse had grown up working on projects with his dad. Both men are good with their hands, and Jesse – with details.
It became a passion of Jesse’s to try to live “smaller”, to use less resources, less space, and lessen his impact on the environment. The idea of building a tiny house started to look like a really good idea. Spending time together with his dad was a large part of the inspiration behind this project.
“I’m so fortunate to have the experience of building this with my father. I feel so blessed. The tiny house is just a byproduct of the time with him.”
They went into it knowing it would be a learning experience. There were setbacks. But watching this house develop was empowering. “I know what is inside the walls, and I can fix it,” said Taylor.
Building a tiny house is just as involved as a big house. Every element is there – plumbing, roofing, electrical work, framing, building stairs, installing windows – but it’s on a compressed level. “It’s even harder, to some degree, because you don’t have room to swing a hammer sometimes, let alone move around a ladder,” said Taylor. “But is was so worthwhile. This was the treehouse he never built me.”
Living with Less is More
One of the primary reasons Jesse Taylor built his tiny house, was to reduce his carbon footprint, to consume as few natural resources as possible.
“We knew the house would have to be as energy -efficient as we could possibly afford,” said Jesse. That meant it had to be well insulated, and it had to be built with energy-efficient windows and doors.
But installing windows with exterior insulation isn’t easy. “We needed to bump out the rough openings to line up with the insulation, but we didn’t want to add all of that extra wood to the framing. It adds weight to the tiny house, and it needs to be as lightweight as possible to save natural resources in transport.”
“ThermalBuck adds up to a lot of square footage on this little place, and makes a huge impact.” – Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder
Jesse found ThermalBuck to be the perfect solution. “Not only is it strong and lightweight, it’s preventing all of that energy loss around our windows. It adds up to a lot of square footage on this little place, and makes a huge impact.”
Sharing the Lessons
The tiny house movement has come a long way in the past 4-5 years. Back when they started to plan this project, there weren’t nearly as many resources online for tiny house builders. “We wanted to share our story to save other tiny house some of the headaches we discovered along the way.”
“We wanted to save other tiny house builders some of the headaches we discovered along the way.” – Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder
Jesse thought purchasing plans would give him a safety net and make it all easier, but that wasn’t the case. They realized the plans were a major issue when he tried to source the windows. Windows come in standard sizes, yet the ones for the tiny house design were so unusual in shape, he contacted more than 50 manufacturers before finding one who could make them for him. The placement of the windows really makes an impact on how economical your plans are to execute. “You lose so much glass with these windows. And they were expensive. I would advise anyone – Build your house around the windows.”
“I would advise anyone – Build your house around the windows.” – Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder
The rest of the materials were simpler. Jesse used 1” EPS insulation in the trailer-between the pan and the c-channel cross members, and 1.5” EPS on top of that. “Due to the thermal bridging of the metal cross members beneath that top 1.5”, I’m not sure the insulation underneath does as much as I’d hoped. Also – by putting the 1.5” insulation and 3/4” plywood on top of that, I lost 2.25” of head height from the start- lessons learned.”
FRAMING & SHEATHING
One the base was finished, it was time to start framing. It’s easy to measure each of the sides of the rectangle and think it’s square – but that’s not the measurement that matters. “The most important measurement is diagonally from corner to corner,” says Jesse. The corners must be 90°, or the four walls won’t fit together properly. Guess who found this out the hard way? “My advice to anyone framing in their first tiny house would be – Don’t forget to square your walls.”
Since sheathing comes in 4 x 8 sheets, where you position the studs really matters. Whether 12” or 16” on center, the spacing needs to be easily divisible by 4 or 8 to save yourself some cuts.
THERMALBUCK, WINDOWS, & INSULATION
“The best video I found online was the full ThermalBuck installation video.” – Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder
Jesse had never installed a window before. But within a week, he’s installed all of them. “I was constantly scouring the internet to find a video that showed every single step. The best video I found online was just John installing ThermalBuck in the full installation video. It showed me everything I needed to know.”
Life in the Tiny House
Jesse continues to work on his tiny house, but that hasn’t stopped him from thinking about the first time he hits the road. The inaugural trip will be from Woodstock to Burlington, then he will live in the tiny house on his own piece of land while troubleshooting any issues with the composting toilet, the solar panels, the grey water – life with less. Then he plans to head to Maine, and spend most of his time living near Arcadia National Park. “The tiny house community is a great group of people. These homes bring people closer together. So many people out there are doing amazing things to reduce their impact on the environment. We want to share our experience with them, and keep learning. I believe anyone can build a tiny house. I believe you can do it.”
Working for Habitat for Humanity is a life-changing experience. We knew going into the high-performance home build in Randolph, Vermont, that the work was important. Affordable housing is one of the most critical issues in communities all over the world – and Vermont is no exception.
But what we didn’t know, was that we would be most impacted by the people.
Join us as we work with the team of volunteers in Central Vermont, and you’ll witness the true spirit of giving back – building up your own community through hard work, patience, and laughter.
Building an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home with Habitat for Humanity & Efficiency Vermont
Affordable Housing in Vermont
To better understand the challenge that low-income families face, it’s important to understand the term “housing wage.” It’s the amount a full-time worker needs to earn to afford a modest apartment – while spending no more than 30% of his or her income on rent and utilities. National Low Income Housing Coalition – nlihc.org
Vermont has a housing wage of $22.40 — ranking the 13th highest in the U.S. But the gap between the average hourly wage renters make, $12.85, and housing wage ranks even higher, at fifth in the country, making affordable housing out of reach for many Vermonters. Vermont Digger – vtdigger.org
The High-Performance Habitat Home
The Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity (CVHH) is familiar with high-performance building. They’ve got a passive home under their belts, and considered the same for the build in Randolph.
Architect Neil Husher, Vermont Architects Collaborative, designed the home in Randolph to maximize energy-efficiency, and the focus was on tightly air-sealing the entire building envelope.
“We couldn’t do a passive house here because we didn’t have any sunshine, but we could do high-performance, so that was our target to shoot for.”
– Neil Husher, Architect, Volunteer, Vermont Architects Collaborative
“With all of the details, it was a learning curve for me. This is framed differently than I’ve ever framed before, it’s actually balloon framed, even up to the rafters,” said Husher. “We also attached the ledger boards for the decking on the inside of the ICF, so there are no rim joist insulation problems, which you normally have on houses.”
Vermont is a progressive state in regards to energy efficiency, and much of the growth has to do with Efficiency Vermont.
Founded in 2000 as the nation’s first energy-efficient utility, Efficiency Vermont provides technical and financial support to improve the energy efficiency of homes, businesses, and communities.
“Efficiency Vermont is really keen on helping with the social responsibility of living in Vermont.“
– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont
For the folks at Habitat, this meant not only a significant refund for achieving an established list of standards, but also personalized help in the support of a Residential Energy Consultant, Jennifer Severidt. Detailed air sealing and continuous insulation were essential components in this build, and Jennifer was not only on hand to explain and review installation details, she worked right along with the rest of the volunteers to install the building materials herself.
The High-Performance Building Materials
To maximize energy-efficiency, RockwoolCOMFORTBATT insulation was used in the interior wall cavities, and Dow Styrofoam Blue Board continuous insulation was used on top of the sheathing, to limit thermal bridging through the studs.
“But when we started to look at putting insulation on the exterior walls,” said Severidt, “We thought – What are we going to do about the windows?”
They chose ThermalBuck, which extended the mounting point to create a flush plane with the Blue Board, and insulated the rough openings, to limit thermal bridging in the building envelope.
“ThermalBuck takes care of that problem, of how to create a thermal break at the window, and still have things line up.“
– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont
ThermalBuck, the high-performance window buck, is made up of an extremely dense EPS, insulating 4 -times greater than wood window bucks. Coated with a waterproof resin and installed with DAP Dynaflex 800 Sealant and nails, it makes for a complete air and water barrier at the rough openings.
The Right Fit for the Build
The team of volunteers in Vermont is led by Project Lead Anne Walker, a former engineer with extensive knowledge of architecture and building.
Crew leaders Glen Seifert and Ken Stevens provided the ideal balance of work skills and people skills, keeping the crew moving along and enjoying the process.
The skill level for the majority of Habitat volunteers is best described as “do-it-yourselfers,” the materials used need to have simple installation methods, easily replicated by a revolving door of people. Not an easy task.
“With wood bucks, you need to have each piece at the right depth. It’s a lot fussier. ThermalBuck is much more precise, and much more forgiving.“
– Anne Walker, Project Lead, Volunteer, Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity
ThermalBuck was an ideal fit, its unique “L” shape makes installing it at the right depth simple.
“ThermalBuck turned out to be a much easier approach to seal our windows, and gave us the added benefit of the thermal break,” said Anne. “With plywood, you’re creating a thermal conduit. But with ThermalBuck, it’s rigid, it’s structural, it’s much easier and faster than having to go around and manually build out the plywood bucking to get these windows aligned with our foam. It was really the perfect product.”
Just last year, The Washington Post reported statistics issued by Freddie Mac, which revealed that between 2010 and 2016, the number of apartments considered affordable for very low-income families across the United States decreased by more than 60 percent. To learn more about planning this high-performance home and the work of Habitat for Humanity, click here.