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This week, we continue our interview series celebrating our 35th annual home performance conference. This series highlights 35 amazing people that work in our industry by allowing them to tell their stories.

Below we’ve got three more Q&As with Bronwyn Barry of the North American Passive House Network, Chandler Von Schrader of CvS Consulting, LLC, and Tom Wilson of HOME REMEDIES: Residential Energy Services.


Q: Describe the path you took to get to where you are now in your career in building performance.

A: As a design professional, I started searching for useful tools to help ensure that every design delivered great performance and comfort outcomes for my clients. I found that California’s Title 24 energy code didn’t provide enough useful information or any metrics that were verifiable against their predictions. (A “percentage better than X” output isn’t measurable unless the X is made visible.) This led me to attend a Build It Green training in the late 1990s, which led a group of us to found the Green Remodelers Guild, which is where I learned about Passive House from Nabih Tahan. He renovated his Berkeley Bungalow to the Passive House standard and presented this to us at one of our meetings. From there, I registered to attend the 2008 International Passive House Conference and have not stopped learning since.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you face in getting people to understand, or adopt, energy efficiency?

A: My clients are typically well-informed engineers who understand the physics of heat flow and efficiency. Our biggest challenge is finding products that meet both the rigorous performance and quality targets that we’re after (particularly one’s that aren’t noisy). North America is only just starting to see many of the high-performance products that other parts of the world have enjoyed for many years. (We have a plethora of cheap, low-quality products, but not enough high quality, high-performance products—particularly HVAC equipment.) I hope we can change this so that we find a better balance of higher quality, lower cost products.


Q: Describe the path you took to get to where you are now in your career in building performance.

A: After taking a course doing energy audits of campus buildings in 1980, my career took many paths but they were all heading to the North star of saving energy. During my career, I’ve been a solar domestic hot water (DHW) salesman and installer, a Residential Conservation Service (RCS) energy auditor, trainer, commercial lighting auditor/installer, Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) agency manager, construction manager running WAP crews, operations manager running large lighting and home performance demand-side management (DSM) programs, HVAC sales and marketing, and lastly, the many duties of being the national manager of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Home Performance with Energy Star program, which allowed me a broader platform to work with programs across the country and tangle with some pretty spectacular people—and having drinks with every one of ’em!

Q: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on a job site?

A: Craziest thing, or more the nastiest…I did thousands of energy audits over a course of several years and always took time to show how to change the filter at air handlers by drawing an arrow on the return duct to help them match the arrow on the filter. (Remember the filter whistles??) In one home with an older woman watching, I struggled to get filter out so I had to open up the air handler doors. I then pulled out a cat skeleton fully enmeshed in a rather filthy filter. Even crazier, the woman said that cat disappeared years ago! Yeah that was nasty… I’ve got plenty of crazy stories, but too many of your readers would cringe when mentioned!


Q: How long have you been in the building and home performance industry, and what’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you began compared to today?

A: I challenge the premise of this exercise; this is not the 35th home performance conference, but rather the 36th. Let me tell you why. In 1974, as crew chief in an early low-income weatherization program, I got involved with the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Association and we hosted a gathering of researchers and practitioners in Princeton, NJ in 1980. I was asked to edit the proceedings of that conference, called Home Remedies, the first national energy retrofit conference. You can download those proceedings (cover image below) on Google Books here: Home Remedies: A Guidebook for Residential Retrofit. Several of our present-day building performance heroes such as Greg Thomas and Rana Belshe attribute their interest in building science to this publication, and it was the inspiration for Linda Wigington to stage the first Affordable Comfort Conference in 1986. The rest is history, as they say.

Q: What’s the most memorable session you’ve attended, or given, at a national home performance conference?

A: The papers presented by the researchers from Princeton University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at the Home Remedies conference impressed on me the understanding that simply installing new materials or following “textbook” recommendations without using the building science to determine what is really going on in each house is largely a waste of time and resources.


We still need a few more stories! If you’re interested in a short interview, please email mmelendez@building-performance.org.