Air Date: 2-15-2019|Episode 534
Corbett Lunsford, wasn’t a home performance expert- he used to play piano for ballerinas. In 2008, he learned a few things very quickly: construction is unbelievably messy, most pros are over-rushed and under-paid, and homeowners end up suffering in small ways, for their entire lives in a house. None of this has to be so- we can opt out of the whole thing with performance testing. His goal is to package building performance so it can easily be understood and used by professionals and consumers alike, for better buildings worldwide. In 2009, he started teaching pros through the Building Performance Workshop and he has hosted over 300 YouTube videos and 80 interviews for the Building Performance Podcast. He also wrote the book Home Performance Diagnostics: the Guide to Advanced Testing, and developed the APT Reports software tool.
In 2016 he and his wife Grace built the world’s highest performance tiny house on wheels, the #TinyLab, and toured the US before settling down in Atlanta, Georgia. Along the way, they created the first TV series about home performance, Home Diagnosis, which airs on public TV across the U.S. Corbett, Grace, and their new baby went on a 13,000 mile, 34-city U.S. Tour from April 2016-January 2017 in the world’s highest performance tiny house on wheels, the #TinyLab. Their mission was simple: to revolutionize the home market by teaching consumers and contractors alike to use scientific testing to prove the work gets done to quality standards. Each city on the Proof Is Possible Tour was sponsored by a local company that shared the passion for empowering homeowners and changing the game. Along the way certain cities shared in filming of the couple’s TV show Home Diagnosis. They invited over 7,000 strangers into their home on the tour, and now live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Conversation with Corbett
Former musician Corbett Lunsford went into a declining home performance market in 2008. When he sought to obtain his HERS rating in Chicago there were no trainers in Illinois, so he self-studied and hired someone to spend a day teaching him how to operate the necessary devices. He was turned off by other HERS raters and trainers, finding them to be protective of information and unwilling to share their knowledge. He decided to create his own course curriculum and freely share his information. In 2011 he decided to work in the private sector and dropped his certification. He wrote a book on testing, raises awareness, directs interested homeowners where to look for a ninja to solve their problems.
Nuggets mined from today’s episode:
Proving is possible. To prove his concepts, Corbett and his wife Grace spent $125K of their own money to construct 200 sqft home on wheels.
It’s not an RV. RVs and tiny houses are very different. RVs are poorly made and smell.
Tiny houses are a fad.
Not trying to win the solar decathlon. Some specs and other information:
The house is an air closure. Framing is 2x4s on 24” centers. Hurricane strapping and tied to trailer. Rock wool insulation (ceiling R20 and walls R15), because Styrofoam cracks. Sheathing is used on both exterior and interior. Interior sheathing is formaldehyde free plywood. Interior sheathing is screwed in place to provide access if needed. Tapes and membrane are used as the air barrier. Smallest ductless mini heat pump. HVAC designed to fir the insulation. Cork floor, subfloor has no mylar. ¾” subfloor rests on metal trailer frame. EPS R24 foam insulation.
Maximizing headroom and inclusion of a dining loft were important. Everything in his tiny house is a system, tuned to work in a harmonious way. Uses a small and quiet desiccant dehumidifier set at 40%-50% RH. Has a quiet sailboat refrigerator and a composting toilet. Home has 1 air change per hour, found ERV works better in all climates than HRV-. Entire home runs on a single 15 AMP outlet. Uses low cost monitors for CO2, particles 10 and 2.5 microns and VOCs. Imbedded thermometers for temp and dew point.
Want to tour my RV? No, not really. Want to tour my tiny home? Yes. 7,000 people have toured their tiny home.
Neil Moyer, a mentor, told Corbett it’s about a prescription not performance. Performance strives to make everything equal. Each project needs and deserves its own solution.
Homeowners need and want different things. A lasting guarantee of no hassle.
Admitting that he had never previously used a nail gun, Corbett built his tiny house himself with the help of family who also had no prior building experience. The TinyLab is the world’s highest performance tiny house on wheels. The house has gone through hurricanes and an earthquake.
According to Corbett, RESNET and BPI should specialize in what they know best and not try to do both new construction and retrofits. BPI started a Home Health Evaluator program which he deems super important. BPI is both a founding and ongoing sponsor of his TV show. He opines that health and comfort are more important than efficiency and that DOE discourages the health discussion out of fear of losing their funding.
Selling a TV show about building science was very, very hard. It was a masochistic experience especially hard for a sensitive person like Corbett. BPI provided $7500 to make 6 episodes. He and Grace did it all they: ran the camera, sound, produced, directed , hosted and self-financed the project.
Season one of his TV show consisted of 6 episodes. The premise of the show was that he and Grace would visit a problem home, listen to the owner, use diagnostic performance testing and make prescriptions.
The show was filmed while they were on tour. PBS is obscure, and obtuse with red-tape. The National Educational Telecommunications Association now produces the show.
Season 2 will have more problems and solutions. The show will make the invisible visible and provide guidance to prevent weird stuff from happening.
TV shows about remodeling and house flipping are unrealistic nothing goes wrong on TV. In real life things always go horribly wrong.
For Season 2, they fund raised $300K for production costs. They need to fundraise $500K to make it worthwhile. He is looking for sponsors who say, I need this on TV and I’m willing to give you money.
He opines that HGTV and DIY network send the wrong message to consumers. The message should be if you aren’t testing its BS! There are people in your backyard who can do it and we’ll make the introduction so you can hire them.
Are you poisoning your kids? Gets more attention than energy savings. Homeowners who want better need a new conversation and better language to describe and contrast their problems.
There are two type of contractors, those who can prove their work and those who complain their customers won’t pay for good work. It costs more to do it right.
Corbett is currently building a new home in a trendy suburb of Atlanta.
- Ventilation is critical in a new home.
- Using a crawlspace to keep all services within easy reach. HVAC contractors are promised a closet in the middle of the house to mount their equipment and then the space is taken away to make another area bigger.
- VOC monitoring is a number that creates confusion and not a good metric for toxic pollution.
- More interested in what causes the moisture than the amount of moisture.
- Corbett Is not a Tiny House advocate.
- Tiny houses can have mold problems because everything is built-in.
- Tiny houses aren’t designed for families. You can poison your family in 1 day.
- Tiny houses are not for environmentally sensitive people,
- Learn more about Corbett and Grace at: HomeDiagnosis.TV and buildingperformanceworkshop.com.
Z-Man signing off
Name the individual widely acknowledged as the father of the Tiny House Movement?
Answered by: Doug Kohnen