Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit! This is how TE Studio thinks about Remodeling Projects

Linda Wigington of Affordable Comfort, Inc. spoke at the recent 3rd North American Passive House Conference about something she calls “Deep Energy Reduction Retrofits”. A Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit project includes all the measures needed to cut 70%+ of a building’s energy consumption.

Most people in the sustainable building industry now agree that we need these kinds of energy goals in order to curb the energy use-related environmental pollution and CO2 emissions from the building sector significantly enough to achieve true sustainability.

Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit projects will typically include more insulation, better windows and doors, and likely a new or enhanced mechanical system. While that may seem like a lot, it can potentially be done without changing the layout or interior finishes much at all, therefore keeping cost to a minimum. If you start with a building that needs new siding and windows, you can essentially eliminate this cost from the deep energy retrofit budget, as it is part of the ongoing maintenance the building needs anyways. This is when Deep Energy Reduction is most affordable. In other words, you buy or own a house with obsolete mechanical system, shot siding (roofing) and windows, and you are in the optimal position to do an affordable Deep Energy Reduction Project. I am starting to advise people to consider this when purchasing a used home.

You may notice that I have not mentioned embodied energy, green building materials, or improved indoor environmental quality at all. It is my assumption that a best practice management approach goes along with any Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit project. The designer should be aware of both the energy consumption potential, as well as the necessary “greening” potential. I find that a lot of the discussion in the industry is still focused around what I call “surface greening”—meaning putting in more earth-friendly materials. In the greater scheme of things, and while this is a proper approach, green building materials and finishes alone cannot help overome the energy challenge we are facing today. It is therefore imperative to analyze each building’s potential, and put together a package that offers true sustainability and long-term value to the client. Anything short of that will likely result in a “sunk investment”, that will effectively prevent the current owner, or future owners from giving the building the make-over it needs to overcome energy obsolescence.

The duty of a building designer is not just to the client, it is also to the society as a whole.

Deep Energy Reduction Retrofits do not require Passive House standard. As a Passive House Consultant however, I will likely use tools and ideas derived from Passive House for your Deep Energy Reduction Retrofit project, which means that you will benefit from the knowledge of the arguably best building energy standard today, even if you are not building a house from scratch.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I was thinking that I should have another goal besides being thankful for our food crops this Thanksgiving. With an average of 3,500 calories per capita I am not too worried about our food supply these days (no pun intended). Therefore, I have decided that it would be a great day to be thankful for the Earth and the Sun, and all of their free gifts that make our lives possible. I am happy to take a chance here and sound cheesy, but I truly believe that we don’t think about these basics of life a whole lot and therefore, I will make an effort to commemorate them as part of my Thanksgiving weekend. I posted Nasa’s Earthrise image because to me it symbolizes the ability to look at ourselves, reflect, re-evaluate, and reconsider who we are and how we exist and live on planet Earth. So join me, if you would, in saying: thank you Earth, thank you Sun, thank you Universe for allowing us to exist. I also pledge to further reduce my environmental footprint as a goal for next Thanksgiving.

Plastics Recycling at Eastside Food Co-op

Eastside Food Co-op is offering a program in my community, that I feel is worth mentioning. While recycling is never as good as avoiding trash in the first place (similar to renewable energy versus energy conservation), this is still a great effort and me and my family try to make use of it as much as we can. I hope that eventually, manufacturers and distributors will understand that plastics are too valuable to throw away, and that they need to circulate (on a parts per million basis per Cradle to Cradle). In the meanwhile, I pledge to do my part to reduce the amount of stuff I buy, and carefully dispose of what I have to buy and need to throw away.

Plastics Recycling at Eastside Food Co-op:
Thursdays 3:30-7:30 and Saturdays 10-2
Read more →

ACI's 1000 Thousand Homes Challenge

ACI’s (Affordable Comfort Inc.) Linda Wigington was one of the speakers at the recent Passive House conference in Dutluth, MN. Her organization offers initiatives to improve the performance of homes. Linda introduced the crowd to what she calls “Deep Energy Reduction Retrofits”, an effort to help overcome the energy obsolescence of the existing housing stock in the U.S. To help with deep energy reduction retrofits and encourage people to start, ACI just launched the Thousand Homes Challenge. Take a look at ACI’s website. It is a great resource offering white papers and resources on how to do deep energy reduction retrofits.

Story of Stuff

For those who have not seen the story of stuff, here is a link: It is somewhat similar to what Cradle to Cradle describes. I enjoyed the animations and the straight forward comments by the author.

TE Studio ranked 4th Greenest Startup by Startup Nation

This just in, TE Studio has been ranked the 4th greenest startup for 2008 by Startup Nation.  Here is a link to the press release: 2008-hb100-winners-press-release

Please find the TE Studio listing on this website 

I am excited about the honors and like to thank Startup Nation and everybody who voted for TE Studio.  Being recognized as one of the nation’s greenest startups goes to show how convincing the idea of Passive House design is. 

I added a new page in the “Pages” menu on the right labeled “Press” where I will be aggregating these kinds of things.

Event Reminder: Eco Tuesday tonight!

I will be speaking at tonight’s Eco Tuesday meeting at Pizza Luce, downtown Minneapolis, at 7 PM. This is a Q & A style conversation about Passive House design. 
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 – 6.30 PM to 9.00 PM


Eco Tuesday
Pizza Luce Downtown Minneapolis
119 N 4th St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 333-7359


Last Minute Event Announcement

I was just invited to speak at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center this Saturday night, 11/15/2008. The talk will focus on an introduction to Passive House Design. Start time is 7 PM. Eagle Bluff is located outside of Lanesboro, MN. Directions.

Appleseed House one step closer to reality

During last night’s neighborhood board meeting, the Hawthorne neighborhood passed a motion to collaborate with the minneAppleseed Association on a passive solar house for the Eco Village. This is great progress and means that the Appleseed House Project is one step closer to reality.
I produced an Appleseed House Project flyer I made in case you would like to read up on the project. You can download it here. 2008-11-13_appleseed-flyer

Appleseed House Project Presentation to Hawthorne Neighborhood Board tomorrow, 11/13/2008

minneAppleseed will present the Appleseed House Project and building site research tomorrow, Thursday 11/13/2008, at the Hawthorne neighborhood board meeting. The meeting will be held at the community building at Farview Park, at the intersection of 29th and Lyndale Avenue North at 7 PM. Directions

Passive House Comparison Tool

Speaker Manfred Brausem from Cologne, Germany, demonstrated this handy little software tool during his conference session. There is a toggle button at the bottom to change it to English. I will try to find out if it can also look at gas prices, or if it uses the oil price to extrapolate gas prices, since natural gas is such a prevalent fuel source in MN.

Welcome to Duluth (Passive House Conference, Day 1)

Day 1:
We just arrived in Duluth and are taking in the view from our 3rd floor lakefront room.

Upcoming Event: Eco Tuesday—a conversation about Passive House with Tim Eian

This just in: I will be speaking at the next Eco Tuesday about Passive House building standard and my practice. Here are the details:

“A conversation about Passive House Standard and TE Studio with Tim Eian”
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 – 6.30 PM to 9.00 PM

Eco Tuesday
Pizza Luce Downtown Minneapolis
119 N 4th St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 333-7359

Why sustainability?

“Teach your children what we have taught ours,  that the earth is our mother.  Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.  The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.  Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.  We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Chief Seattle (1786-1866), Native American Suquamish Tribe

Need I say more?

Work on the Appleseed Project continues

Tonight, minneAppleseed present once again at a Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Committee meeting. Over the last few weeks we have done research into available lots and analyzed the texture of the four blocks that comprise the Eco Village in North Minneapolis. For more information, click this link to read the minneAppleseed blog.
For a map of potential building sites for the Appleseed House, follow this link.