Thursday, June 24, 2010

Super-Insulation Symposium

Last night Joe and I rode bikes down to Yestermorrow Design Build School to attend a "Super-Insulation Symposium", held as a part of the Wednesday evening lecture series.

There was a panel of speakers who all gave brief presentations about their experience with super-insulated houses. I noted at some point that I went with a hair of apprehension that I might hear some bit of information that would up-end some critical aspect of the project or otherwise cause me to doubt some part of the house design. I'm glad to say that on the whole the information presented was a ringing endorsement of the choices we've made, and in fact I felt really proud and grateful that we have the opportunity to be doing this project in the manner that we are.

Among the panelists were Alex Wilson, of BuildingGreen, who moderated; Andy Shapiro; Robert Riversong, a builder and designer who I worked with two years ago building Larsen Truss-style super insulated house; John Ungar-Murphy of Cell-Tec insulation; Peter Schneider of Vermont Energy Investment Corp; and Bill Maclay of Maclay Architects and Planners. On hand as well was Bill Hulstrunk of National Fiber, a cellulose manufacturer, who has been generous in helping me along the way with questions and advice.

We spend lots of time toiling away on this house project and a lot of thought, planning and consideration has gone into making it as high-performing in terms of energy-use as possible. It was great to get away from our project to see and hear from others who are working very much in the same vein. It reminded me that we are really doing something unique and, I think, important.

Of particular interest was the concept of a thermal solar storage unit as a heat resevoir for over-capacity solar hot water energy. The basic idea is that you have this delivery van sized extra-super insulated cube buried in the ground which becomes a thermal mass heat "battery" that gets charged any time the sun is out and the solar hot water collectors are active. I'm not doing a great job describing it, but the idea is potentially significant step in the quest for creating affordable zero-energy buildings. If this pans out, I could see this being something we'd give serious consideration to down the road.

Here's a kooky video about the TSS concept.

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