Joseph P. Nagan – Home Building Technology Services of Kaukauna – Building Sciences, Ventilation and IAQ

Air Date: 11-10-2017|Episode 484

This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Joe Nagan of Home Building Technology Services of Kauhauna, Wisconsin. Since 1985 Joe has been involved in residential building science research in both the US and Canada and has been very active in State wide conservation efforts in Wisconsin…

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This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Joe Nagan of Home Building Technology Services of Kauhauna, Wisconsin. Since 1985 Joe has been involved in residential building science research in both the US and Canada and has been very active in State wide conservation efforts in Wisconsin. Working with the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation of Madison, he helped co-author the nationally recognized Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® Homes program where he served as Technical Director. This program certified 16,502 homes during its 11 year run. In addition to involvement with Energy Star Homes he worked with the administrator of the Statewide Focus On Energy® programs to co-author a new construction program, known as “Focus on Energy New Homes”, which was launched in January 2011 and is currently in effect having now certified over 25,000 new homes collectively.

Mr. Nagan is the go to guy when it comes to residential building science in Wisconsin. He has been involved in the energy efficiency and building trades since the early days of the first energy crisis and continues to be recognized as a leader in the world of building science. Join us today and LEARN MORE about how things have changed over the years, what works, what doesn’t and where we go from here on IAQ Radio!


Z-Man’s Blog:

“Building Code shouldn’t be building the worst home legally possible.”
Since 1985, Joe Nagan has been involved in residential building science research in both the US and Canada. He co-authored the nationally recognized Wisconsin Energy Star Home program where he served as technical director. In 2010, he worked with Statewide Focus on Energy to co-author a new home building program “Focus on Energy Homes”.
Joe, was always mechanically inclined, interested in cars and racing and decided to build his own home in 1984. Prior to building he home he sought advice from builders, contractors, etc.; he was told “this is how everybody does it”. His house is built over a basement with tucked garage and with cantilevers. Significant air leakage at the soffits on windy days, blew into the home making the bathtub cold. He was uncomfortable in the home and unhappy with it. How everybody does it, wasn’t a good answer.
Nuggets mined from today’s show:

While in the waiting room of a window company, he picked up a magazine learned about the EEBA (The Energy & Environmental Building Alliance organization in Denver, CO. He tore out the page, called EEBA, spoke with Howard Faulkner, registered for the conference and attended as a home owner. His bad luck in building his own home is responsible for his success today. EEBA started as a hardcore group of builders, morphed due to changing times and is no longer a member organization.

It’s possible from the ground up to reliably design, estimate and model a home that will meet the owner’s expectation.
He still lives in the home. If he had a do-over, among other things he would add air sealing and improved ductwork design and placement.He installed ½” foil faced foam in the overhanging soffits which corrected the problem, his bathroom is noticeably warmer.
When the state of Wisconsin’s utilities’ new home program was being converted from public to private; he was asked to help a firm bidding on the project. The firm won the bid and Wisconsin Energy Conservation then asked him to design the program. The purpose of the program is to provide accurate information local information for builders to help them make better decisions and remain ahead of the curve.The program began as a pilot program for 1 utility company in 23 counties. Successful, the program was taken statewide.
While his main business is homebuilding, 75% of his time is spent as technical director of the program.
Wisconsin has been successful in implementing energy efficient home building since the mid 1980s. Utility companies hired notable Canadian building scientists Oliver Drerup and Joe Lstiburek to conduct core training courses in Wisconsin. At the courses, Joe Nagan met Drerup and Lstiburek and “got into the building science club”.
Nagan along with 3 co-authors wrote the Wisconsin Energy Update program. In 11 years the program has certified over 16,000 homes. Approximately 25% of the homes built annually in Wisconsin are in the program.
Wisconsin exceeded the original 1999 Energy Star program. Wanting to take advantage of Energy Star’ Marketing they considered adopting Energy Star Version 2. Wisconsin exceeded Energy Star in the areas of: air tightness, whole house ventilation, sealed sumps, closed combustion appliances, spot and kitchen ventilation, etc. Show builders how tight their homes were by demonstrating what happens when a kitchen vent on.
In 1999-2010, Energy Star Version 3 The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) caused a riot as home builders didn’t want to pay raters just to do paperwork. Couldn’t come to an agreement and parted ways with Energy Star in 2011, Focus on Energy New Home Program.
Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has code inspection and enforcement.
A 3rd party characterization of homes in Wisconsin by Energy Center of WI (7th Wave) demonstrated the success of their program.
Wisconsin home builders use home shows and existing promotional materials to market homes. Raters are called consultants in Wisconsin. Consultants use REM/Rate software, make site visits, and test every home. Home builders partner with utilities. Some financial incentives are available for homeowners.
Wisconsin Focus on Energy New Home Program has a core group of followers spanning 15 years. Tradesmen who attend programs become cheerleaders.
In the early days rural electric co-ops weren’t supportive of the program; because modeling showed electric heat was more costly than natural gas. Relations between electric co-ops and the program have greatly improved.
Plastic vapor barriers in interior walls are the defacto vapor barrier in Wisconsin, because in 2″x4″ walls Kraft faced batt insulation someone started using plastic. Builders need to be reminded that plastic is not in the best interest due to summertime problems. We need to engage builders in conversation,to think about the things we know that happen. Because plastic causes moisture problems, Joe recommends vapor retarding primer or paint and notes it has always been an option. In Wisconsin when a builder opts to use vapor retarder primer or paint, he needs to complete a form so the inspector knows not to expect to see plastic during the inspection.
Most new homes in Wisconsin use exterior foam insulation on foundations. Most homes have basements that are conditioned space. Air handler equipment is usually located in the basement. Basement floors are rarely insulated. Basement carpet insulates slab from the room. Some larger 2 story homes have a secondary handler in a second floor closet with some ductwork running through the attic. Rooms over internal or attached garages are common.
Crawl spaces are uncommon, unless under a modular home where they are usually a short basement, where the air handler is located.
“If there is another way to do it, make sure it works.”
Whole house ventilation has been required since 1999. In 2002, hired Energy Center of WI (7th Wave) to randomly select, sample and evaluate real homes with real occupants. What would ASHRAE 62.2 look like if adopted? Using tracer gas analysis to confirm air exchange rates and found the majority of balanced HRVs become exhaust ventilation within 6 monthsdue vents clogging. People don’t run the ventilation 24/7. Only 5% of homes now have balanced ventilation, callbacks for ventilation problems have been reduced 50%.
“If adopted ASHRAE 62.2 would dry the crap of homes.”
In 1999, recognized the value of building science work done in the 1970s, running home slightly negative if not the house will suck on combustion appliance or the ground.
New program requirements in 2018 will raise the ante substantially. 7th Wave will do a market characterization and study homes not in the program.
Building Code shouldn’t be building the worst home legally possible. Focus on Energy New Homes, exceed the Uniform Dwelling Code by 15%. The programs have changed the building community through market penetration. He wants the program to continue to meet new goals. To keep new home building cost effective, builders will need to squeeze out more savings. He anticipates homebuilders will resist new requirements stick building interior foundation insulation, foaming voids in wall cavities, You can’t penalize a builder when they build for a client who doesn’t want to participate in the program.
Cost of consultant is $350-$700. Recommends doing modeling upfront. Warns consumers to be wary of internet marketing of building products. Often don’t work as advertised and add unnecessary costs. Do your homework. Energy people have a vested interest, get a second opinion.
Z-Man signing off
Trivia Question:
Why is November 10th important in US Military History?
Trivia Answer:

Founding of United States Marine Corps in 1775 .