Sam Rashkin US DOE Chief Architect – Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry – How It Got Here, Why It’s Broken, and How to Fix It

Air Date: 4-12-2013| Episode: 280

According to Sam Rashkin the US Housing industry is broken! How did  it get this way and how do We Fix it? DOE Chief Architect Sam Rashkin joins IAQ Radio this week to tell us the answers and discuss his book “Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry- How it Got Here, Why it’s Broken and How to Fix it”…


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According to Sam Rashkin the US Housing industry is broken! How did  it get this way and how do We Fix it? DOE Chief Architect Sam Rashkin joins IAQ Radio this week to tell us the answers and discuss his book “Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry- How it Got Here, Why it’s Broken and How to Fix it”. For Sam, housing is personal, it has been his focus for his entire career starting as an architect designing energy smart homes through his present position as Chief Architect for the US Department of Energy. “Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry: How It Got Here, Why It’s Broken, and How to Fix It” presents a comprehensive strategy for reinventing housing industry at a time of crisis.

 

As Chief Architect for the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office, Sam’s primary role is leading deployment of successful research for new and existing high-performance homes. This includes developing and helping to lead DOE’s world-class research program, Building America, developing a new resource tool that will make latest innovations and best practices fully accessible to residential new construction and retrofit stakeholders, and overseeing a completely revamped DOE Challenge Home voluntary labeling program for leading edge home builders. In his prior position, he managed Energy Star for Homes since its start in 1996. Under his leadership, Energy Star for Homes grew exponentially to more than 8,500 builder partners, over one million labeled homes, and over 25 percent market penetration nationwide…

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Retooling US Housing

Sam Rashkin, is Chief Architect for the Dept. of Energy’s Building Technology who’s primary role is leading deployment of successful research for new and existing high performance homes. Sam has been described by his peers as a unique federal employee who understands the industry and recommends practical real world approaches.

Sam is enthusiastic and passionate. Sam is a great communicator and is fluent in construction and building science vernacular. Drawing on comparisons such as the success of Apple computer, Sam urges architects and builders to designs and build amazing products. Today we discussed his book: Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry: How It Got Here, Why It’s Broken, and How to Fix It”.

Nuggets mined from today’s show:
• We have crossed the building science tipping point, where the worst houses allowed by law are better insulated and tighter but don’t protect the health of the occupants. Older homes dried naturally. Tighter homes do not. Negative pressures and back drafting are risks of tight houses. Homes are at risk for builder and owner.
• Builders do not have a building science expert on staff or on retainer.
• Sam uses the term sustainable land development, not in the “green” or “new urban” context but rather positioning development land for best success in the future.
• In order to stay in business, builders and developers need to get smarter about business. They must fight the urges to get caught in “irrational bubbles”. Sam admonishes that they conserve capital by optioning land not buying it and that they build houses to order and not build on spec.
• Housing developments should include walk-able social spaces that maximize natural comfort.
• He advocates, the use of quality infrastructure such as: signage, cement walks, fencing, and lighting that will stand the test of time.
• Factoid: Apple computer has more money on hand than the federal government.
• Real estate sales personnel “only know how to sell what you can see” granite counter tops and cannot explain the value propositions of high performance housing: healthy, durable and safe.
• Real estate personnel may have hundreds of houses in their portfolio, explaining the amazing benefit of high performance housing denigrates other housing stock.
• An outlier housing development. The housing within the Village Homes development in Davis, CA, have: north south orientation, social spaces, provide superior natural comfort, sell for more money than comparative property, etc. The development oozed success and no one copied it.
• “Design trumps everything”, because people react emotionally to it. Builders should consider adding an affordable “sense of community”, by adding front porches and designing with the garage in the rear.
• “Builders shouldn’t build dreams using lowest cost products.”
• After naming many of the storage spaces built-in to his car, Sam pointed out that most homes don’t have a storage plan. People don’t know where to store their stuff. Clutter causes stress.
• Color is transformative and triggers emotional reaction.
• Lighting is also transformative. Flying on Virgin Airlines aircraft provides a superior experience. The task lighting, ambient lighting and mood lighting incorporated in a home inevitably reflect on the builder.
• On rightsizing housing. Using the example of automobiles which are smaller, lighter, safer and get better gas mileage while and maintaining the same legroom as larger vehicles; homes should be designed in the same way with the sumptuousness of Lexus versus Corolla. Good design engineers the feeling of roominess into a smaller space. Savings in building cost should be shifted to improving the quality of construction.
• Look at products with the focus on how their used.
• Clothes dryer is an egregious appliance, draws in air, heats it and then exhausts it. Heat pump clothes dryers (popular in Europe) are dramatically more energy efficient.
• For pennies a day extra on a mortgage payment we can build much better houses.
• Developers should consider water conservation.
• Developers can take the least desirable land and make it into a community dog park.
•A big fan of precast concrete foundations: highlighted some of the advantages, improved quality & water tightness, use only 1/3 the building material, double the strength concrete, R10 insulated to code, level.
• He opined that advanced structural insulated panels are superior to wood framing.
• HVAC ducts in the attic amount to a defect in quality, design and performance. Pointing out the error of moving chilled 55° F air through a 140° F attic.
• Airflow, thermal flow and moisture resistance. Energy Codes are becoming an issue builders are raising the HERS score but skipping building science resulting in homes which can’t tolerate getting wet and if wetted won’t dry and aren’t disaster resistant.
• Sam’s a true believer that we can build homes which will last hundreds of years.
• Avoid building fads: wood shake roofs in arid fire prone areas, complex roofs and façade architecture that pretends people will only see from the front.
• 100 year roofs need an investment in better roofing underlayment.
• Freeze and thaw and UV degradation are what break down building materials.

Sam’s love for buildings and builders is obvious.
Today’s Music: Energy Song by Super Junior

Z-Man signing off

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