Day 2 Recap: National Home Performance Virtual Conference

Another day of great information sharing and connection. Here are some highlights from the live sessions. Remember that there are recordings of these live sessions available on the conference web site, and dozens of “on demand” presentations on every topic available to participants after May 18, and for a year to come.

Living With COVID-19: Reducing Airborne Infections Risks in Your Home

Brett Singer and Iain Walker of LBNL covered the science of airborne particles—the droplets containing the virus—and the mechanical means to protect people from them. Brett shared some interesting research from China and other sources about what we have discovered from this current pandemic and others in the past. For example, 80% of the cases of infection in China have occurred in the home. So, a great tool we have to fight the COVID-19 disease are residential HVAC systems. The importance of ventilation—keeping bad air out and bringing good air in—has never been higher. Isolating rooms for people who are first responders or infected by the virus is another key to making households safer. And the research shows us that dry air, with an RH below 20%, gives the virus a better atmosphere in which to thrive, so keep the humidity between 20% and 60%.

Iain continued with some very practical advice: “Don’t get your information from Facebook or Twitter.” Get it from the CDC or the WHO or from the medical and engineering experts. The role of buildings in this crisis is to control virus sources, dilute harmful air, and remove air born virus with filtration. Some practical advice from Ian: Use low speed fans running continuously. Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling filters and put them in a plastic bag. And use a very good filter. MERV 13 is a good choice for most households.

Resilience 2.0

Emily Kemper and Keith Canfield from CLEAResult and Chris Baker from Arizona Public Services (APS) discussed how to make and retrofit homes to withstand storms, earthquakes, droughts—and pandemics.

Emily bravely and humbly shared the experience of retrofitting her own home in Portland using thermal break shear wall (TBS) principles. TBS wall systems offer protection from the racking motion associated with seismic activity, are energy efficient, create a thermal barrier, and are affordable for people in stick-built homes who are ready to replace their siding anyway.

Keith Canfield shared his experience with the Katrina hurricane that devastated New Orleans and other coastal cities in August 2005. While the situations are very different, Katrina offers us some experiences that translate to the latest challenge. Katrina was a catalyzing event, and so can the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, but we do know that going forward we will have to adapt and build and retrofit buildings to confront the new realities of climate change and for future air born viruses. Keith recognized the importance of partnerships and technology both as important aspects of his response to the hurricane. Groups such as BPA, BPI, and others will be crucial in supporting the people facing current and future building challenges.

Finally, Chris Baker gave us some good news and bad news. The bad news is that as a program manager for APS and his involvement in the Home Performance with Energy Star (HPWES) program in Phoenix, he’s seen a 35% reduction in HPWES, as of two weeks ago. The good news is that a week ago there was only a 20% drop. And even better news. Chris is hearing from the contractors he has worked with for many years that people are calling them complaining that their homes are not all that comfortable, especially now that are living and working in them 24/7. Good trend for the future of building performance.

Balancing Public Health vs. the Economic Concerns of COVID-19: Healthy Indoors Show Special Edition

The last live session of the day was a continuation of the Healthy Indoors Show that Bob Krell—the publisher of Building Performance Journal and founder and publisher of Healthy Indoors magazine, as well as host for the live events at this online conference—has been using to help builders during the pandemic for several weeks now. The people he invites, such as Kevin Kennedy of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, David Krause of Healthcare Consulting and Contracting (HC3), Joe Medosch, creator of the Hayward Score, and J West from CEDA, who were part of today’s event and Drs. Michelle Sanborn and Delphine Farmer who were part of earlier events.

This group consists of many of the elders of the building performance community—not in terms of age, but of experience and wisdom. Everyone on the panel is able to say, “I don’t know.” Some themes of today’s discussion:

  • We have to consider our clients’ emotions as well as appeal to their intellects. Ask them if you want your crew to wear PPE when they come to their houses, even though they were going to do that anyway.
  • Some measures sound good, are possible, but not practical. Don’t be afraid to say so.
  • We will have to do things differently from now on, just as we did after 9/11. Don’t fight it. Get used to it.
  • This period is a respite so we can prepare for this new life and so that hospitals are not overwhelmed.
  • We do need to get back to work and start up the economy. So, we have to be ready to identify the new risks and create new procedures to lesson them—but not eliminate risks because that is not possible.

Some Trends

Some trends or themes are starting to emerge on this second day of the conference. We all agree that we need to adapt to the new situation resulting from this pandemic, and we don’t yet know all the details of what that means. It’s pretty clear that our industry focus is shifting from energy efficiency to health and comfort. And finally, homeowners are starting to notice if their homes are working or not, since they are in them now all the time. That’s good news for us.


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Joe Hughes posted a blog post
ASHRAE Pandemic Task Force, Mechanical Systems and Covid19Bill Bahnfleth, PhD, PE is a professor at Penn State University, a past president of ASHRAE and chairman of the ASHRAE Pandemic Task Force.Nuggets mined from today’s episode:Dr. Bahnfleth lea…
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Harrison Salvo commented on Jamie Press's blog post How to Choose the Right Solar Panels
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Building Performance Journal replied to Jim Gunshinan's discussion Returning to Church
"Thanks Diane, I'll pass this on to our committee."
Diane Chojnowski replied to Jim Gunshinan's discussion Returning to Church
"Jim, Healthy Indoors Magazine has been running a series of articles and video shows about the various aspects of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  You can access those at"
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Have you been daydreaming about what the world may look like, post-COVID-19, and what is going to happen after we put the Zoom Cocktail Hours to the side and resume some normalcy? So have we. However, there is an indication that the idea of “low-tou…
Chuck Ray commented on Emily Ambrose's video
"Love it!: “C’mon in Jim”, “Cautious Kristina”, and “Hell No Helen”."
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Building Performance Journal replied to Jim Gunshinan's discussion Returning to Church
"Yes, you can say there is too much missing information. I'll dig for some details.
Sean Lintow Sr replied to Jim Gunshinan's discussion Returning to Church
"Can we say way to much missing info... how is your system setup now, layouts, package system or???
In reality there should be no stagnation, air should be flowing everywhere especially when the place is packed. As for viruses - unless you are exhaus…"