Classes at the IBS

The classes at the IBS have been extraordinary this time. Wednesday afternoon I went to a panel discussion featuring Peter Pfeiffer, one of my favorite architects from Austin Texas, speaking on “Real, Relevant, and Do-able Green Building Techniques.” I got to ask some questions that have been bugging me about the efficacy of radiant barriers and air gaps in spray foamed roofs and walls. (Peter is in favor of them in roofs but not so much in walls.) There still seems to be not enough hard information about the opacity of spray foam to radiant heat.

The next day started out with a long talk from Bill McDonough on the evolution of “Cradle to Cradle Analysis” and ended with a panel discussion Entitled “Greenwash or Green Integrity” featuring Ron Jones who is a great green motivational speaker and a person I have gained a lot of respect for through his role as chair of the NAHB-ICC National Green Building Standards. He’s sort of the Barak Obama of Green. He manages to find a way to state what we all know in our hearts to be true in a way that makes us feel encouraged about ourselves and the green building movement. He puts ideas together in a way that builds consensus and enthusiasm and that’s worth a lot right there.

The next morning found me in a class lead by Scott Sedum on business management and reducing the wasted effort in the building process that was really provocative and beneficial. He’s a great presenter and a very organized individual. He sent everybody home with a CD of his writings and ways to improve their businesses. If I incorporate even one of the good ideas gleaned from that class, my business will be better as a result.

I spent a good part of that day roaming the IBS floor picking up new product information especially in the low-rent “South Pavilion” where all the new businesses had their booths. But at 3:30 in the afternoon my long time Building Science hero Joe Lstiburek was presenting on “Managing Moisture in Residential Building Envelopes" and I finally got to meet the man himself. In the early 1980’s I happened to come across an article Joe had written that showed the results of thermal imaging they were doing as part of the Canadian R-2000 program and first came across the term “Building Science” and knew what my life’s work would be. I have followed Joe's writing and his website ever since and his research has deeply influenced the way I build houses.

Of course I had a lot of questions to ask about rain screens and sealed crawlspaces and radiant heat penetration of spray foam in roof applications and eventually he said “I’ll answer any questions you want, but it will have to be over a cold beer at the bar at the Peabody Hotel, and I’m buying.” So we went to the hotel and drank beer and talked about building science and he answered all my questions, and raised more of course. I was too shy to ask for someone to take a picture of me with my hero but here he is during the question and answer period. The look of concentration on the faces in the audience gives you a sense of how respected his thoughts are among builders.

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