Nigel Maynard, Editor-in-Chief

Nigel Maynard is editor-in-chief of Custom Builder and PRODUCTS magazines. Maynard grew up in St. Croix, where he learned construction helping his step-dad build the family home from the ground up. Since that early introduction, he has bought and remodeled four homes, and has taken up cabinet and furniture making. His current home was featured on HGTV’s I Want That! and was profiled in The Washington Post. Prior to joining SGC Horizon, Maynard was the Editor-in-Chief of Lebhar-Friedman’s all-digital products magazine, Residential Building Products & Technology. Previously, he spent 14 years at Hanley Wood as senior editor of Builder magazine and its sister publication Residential Architect, where he amassed eight prestigious honors for editorial excellence, including AZBEE and NAREE awards.

Performance Anxiety

Few things in construction cause as much confusion as green building. Faced with this reality, the industry began adopting new terms to describe this type of building—such as energy-efficient and, lately, “high-performance”—as a way to make things simpler and to assuage the frustrations of people who had developed green-fatigue. But what exactly is a high-performance home?

“It’s one with a good building enclosure,” writes Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, founder and president of building science consulting firm Energy Vanguard. “That is, it’s airtight and insulated well. It has properly sized, installed, and commissioned heating and air conditioning systems, including the distribution side. Because it’s airtight, it also has mechanical ventilation. The result is a home that’s comfortable, healthful, durable, and energy efficient.”

The explanation seems straightforward to me, but it’s still unclear to many. Some people feel it’s just another green industry invention that exists to sell products, increase construction costs, and create a cottage industry for building science consultants. Believe me, I’ve seen the construction chat rooms: Green backlash is a thing.

Some builders and contractors regard high-performance construction with the same suspicion they view other terms, such as green, eco-friendly, sustainable, low carbon footprint, and net zero. Truth is, we wouldn’t even need these terms if all houses were properly built in the first place. But that’s not the case.

Many houses are built to minimum code. I once heard a construction professional say that if you’re building to minimum code, you’re doing it wrong. Code is the baseline; the bare minimum standard. But people continue to buy energy-hogging, leaky houses that meet minimum code, so there’s no incentive for mainstream builders to step up their game.

These issues, hopefully, don’t apply to you or to the houses you build. As a professional involved in the design and construction of custom homes, there’s no such thing as minimum code. Your houses are correctly oriented and properly air sealed, windows are well flashed, slabs are insulated, basement walls are waterproofed, chimneys are step-flashed, attics are sealed, roofs are protected from ice dams, wall cavities are stuffed with insulation, duct runs are installed inside the building envelope, HVAC equipment is properly sized, windows and doors are weatherstripped, and on and on. What people call a high-performance home, you simply call a house—right?

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 07:00

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