November 21, 2008

Media Attention and V.I.P. Visits

Certainly the best known project of its kind in North America, with national media in both consumer and professional outlets, broadcast, print, and online.
This project has gotten plenty of attention.....but is it ever enough? Nahhh.

March 13, 2014
Boston Museum of Science
Here Comes the Sun:  Engineering Insulated Homes by Engineering is Everywhere
The Museum of Science produces an educational video targeted at America's middle school age crowd.  The video would be the first step in a unit, that would include projects to create and test insulated models.  Great production values.

July 2010
ASRAE Report
Residential Exterior Wall Superinsulation Retrofit Details and Analysis by Kohta Ueno
Kohta, a consultant of Building Science Corp, analyzes 3 projects including ours.

April 29, 2010
Green Building Advisor
Energy -Efficiency Retrofits: Insulation or Solar Power? by Martin Holladay
The story asks the right question, "Are there other ways to get to the same place?", or in this case could you spend the same money on solar power and be ahead of spending the money on insulation? The author though ignored information which we had provided which did not support his contention, and padding costs unrelated to insulation to make it look more expensive and less attractive. Read the story, and then read our response below it.

April 21, 2010Massachusetts Dept of Energy Resources
Zero Net Energy Buildings: Residential Case Study
Deep Energy Retrofit, Arlington, Mass.
The state summarizes our Arlington project, which has become the template for all programs of their type in the state.

April 12, 2010
Builder Online
Massachusetts Super-Insulation Project Reveals Impressive Results by Nigel Maynard
The results of all our hard work for all to see.

March 12, 2010
'Deep energy retrofits' take root in homes by Martin Lamonica
Photo of our house makes the story which touches on many other projects.

March 10, 2010
Building 10
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association Convention (NESEA)
Deep Energy Retrofits: Case Studies
Presentation: "Teaching an Old House New Tricks"
Home owner presents the result of 68% heating oil reduction.
The Full Presentation at NESEA
This project is either the "It" project...or I'm hyper-sensitized to references to it. There is near total awareness of our project by contractors and architects at NESEA. That's their interest, so it shouldn't be a complete shock.
But, it is truly unbelievable how many people outside the trade are familiar with the project. You have no idea what a relief it is to have attained a 68% efficiency, and not look like a complete dope.

January 7, 2010
Renovation Nation with Steve Thomas
Green Planet Channel
Nearly 14 months since it was filmed, with more post-production work than Avatar, and now finally broadcast. It was entertaining, it was funny, you got a taste of what was happening in the project but it was a sort of an alternate reality reality television. We all played our characters well, and no one was particularly damaged in the telling.
And the best stuff......some of the best stuff anyway didn't make the cut.

November 19, 2009
Project toured by Building Science Corp. President Betsy Pettit with Ken Neuhauser, National Grid's Residential Building Science Specialist David Legg, and hailing from Colorado at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was Senior Engineer Marcus Bianci. They all seemed to like the project though our decision to insulate the basement ceiling and not the roof was discussed as being non-optimal.

November 13, 2009CyberGreenRealty's Blog
So you think you can insulate, by Tim Cahill
More discussion about our project
November 2009
Journal of Light Construction
Retrofitting Exterior Insulation by David Joyce
The project contractor principal David Joyce speaks up about the details of the project in this 8 page extravaganza.

November 5, 2009
Philip Guidice, Commission at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), reporting to the Secretary, made his first tour of the project, along with DOER project champion, Larry Masland. Mr. Guidice had approved the project and included it in his testimony to Congress (see February 24, 2009). (Larry left, Alex center, Phil right)

October 29, 2009
The Fraunhofer Institute USA comes for for a full tour of the project. The Germany R&D institute is studying how to reduce the cost of a thermal retrofit.

April 24, 2009
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
Testimony by Mass. Sec of Energy Ian Bowles to
US House Subcommittee on Energy & Environment and
Committee on Energy and Commerce
with Chairman Ed Markey Washington DC.
Text of Ian Bowles Testimony (referred to in page 3)

April 13, 2009
ABC Boston Affiliate WCVB-TV Channel 5 News
Stock footage from March 31, 2009 and December 22, 2008 used to illustrate green jobs and job training issues.

April 6, 2009
Remodeling Magazine (print & web)
Laying It on Thick by Nina Patel

April 6, 2009
(a Joint Venture of Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Home Building Magazine)
Superinsulation Pilot Program Paves the Way to an Energy-Efficient Future
by Rob Wotzak

March 31, 2009ABC Boston Affiliate WCVB-TV Channel 5 News
Going Green Boston segment with David Brown
Take Advantage Of Tax Credits To Go Green: Homeowners can recoup expenses

March 11, 2009
Final Report of the Massachusetts Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force

The Task Force was charged by Governor Deval Patrick with developing recommendations to bring the state's homes and businesses to zero energy.
Our project makes the final report as a Case study on page 25, as well as making the cover.

February 27, 2009
Boston's Greenest Houses
"Radio Boston" on WBUR
"Alex from Arlington" caller #1 at Min 14+. You will have to follow the link above to hear the audio.
Pretty good though we were slammed on the total cost.

The key point on cost, which was written on my notes but I forgot to bring up was brought up by caller #2, Project friend, and fellow super-insulator "Eric from Newton". Eric stressed that this is work you would do when ALREADY doing a major renovation. Doing a roof super-insulating upgrade when already doing a new roof, for example when most of the cost of an extreme energy retrofit is covered by work you had to do anyway.

The show spent time discussing both Extreme retrofits and the caulking solution. Caulking is fine, and certainly economical, but it is not enough to reach carbon reduction goals and energy independence.

February 24, 2009
Testimony to US House Subcommittee on Energy & Environment with Chairman Ed Markey
Washington DC
Hearing: “Energy Efficiency: Complementary Polices for Climate Legislation”

Excerpted Testimony of Philip Guidice
Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources
"Let me give you some examples of what is happening in Massachusetts as a result of this activity. A homeowner named Alex Cheimets is in the final stages of a major renovation. This started – as these things often do – with a small water leak, and ended with a bold project that is expected to reduce his energy use by half or more, through thorough air sealing of the building envelope and adding four to six inches of foam insulation to the sides and roof of his house, as well as installing an air to air heat exchanger and monitoring equipment. His is a typical Massachusetts home – an eighty-year-old two-family house which leaked badly but now will be a model of what is possible."
For Philip Guidice's full testimony.

Everybody's Testimony

February 24, 2009 - March 10, 2009
A Flurry of Hanley-Wood trade publications run the story

Residential Architect Online: February 24, 2009
Massachusetts Pilot Project Explores Super Insulation for Old Houses by Nigel Maynard

Custom Home Online: February 24, 2009
Massachusetts Pilot Project Explores Super Insulation for Old Houses by Nigel Maynard

Builder Online: March 9, 2009
Pilot Project Explores Super Insulation for Older Homes by Nigel Maynard

EcoHome Online: March 9, 2009
Pilot Project Explores Super Insulation for Older Homes by Nigel Maynard

ProSales Online: March 10, 2009
Pilot Project Explores Super Insulation for Older Homes by Nigel Maynard

February 11, 2009
Natural Life Magazine March / April 2009
Super-Insulated Retrofit Keeps The Heat In by Rolf Priesnitz

January 29, 2009
The Boston Globe: Northwest Region
Green makeover, home edition by Sarah Metcalf
Above the fold, big color photos, and I get photo credit.

January 26, 2009
Remodeling Magazine Blog by Ted Cushman

January 19, 2009
Mass Climate Action Network
Arlington Home Gets "Super-Insulated"

January 16 - 29, 2009
Story Explodes Across the United States
Reporter Jay Lindsay with the Associated Press releases his story for regional and/or national distribution.
Title: Mass. hopes to learn from 'super insulated' house

Homeowner Alex Cheimets shows the two-inch-thick insulation on his house in Arlington, Mass. Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Cheimets' house is part of a super insulation pilot project designed to conserve energy and control heating and cooling costs for the homeowner. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
The story is picked up by the websites of:
ABC News
Boston Globe
Boston Herald
Worcester Telegram
The South Coast Today
The Stamford Advocate
The Danbury CT News Times
Fosters Daily Democrat of NH
The Day from New London, CT
WHDH channel 7 Boston
CW channel 56 Boston
WBZ Radio & TV Boston
Denver Post
The New Herald of Burke County NC
WLBZ TV Bangor
Ashbury Park Press from the Jersey Shore
BC Hydro via Canadian Press (Montana Regional Newspaper chain)
Washington Energy Services
Lexington Herald of Kentucky
Providence Journal
South Town Star (member of Chicago Sun Times)
Leader Telegram of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley
The Tennessean
Sun Journal of Central Maine
Stoneham Independent (Massachusetts)
Chicago Tribune
Nashua Telegraph
Berkshire Eagle
WCSH 6 Portland, ME
Citizen Newspaper NH
Orange County Register (S. California) (New Hampshire's online hub)
Mail Tribune of Oregon
Cincinnati Enquirer

We have confirmed that the story was in the print editions of:
Boston Globe
Cape Cod Times
Worcester Telegram
Nashua Telegraph
Hampshire Gazette (Northhampton, MA)
Orange County Register (S. California)
Unknown paper near Gainsville, FL
Fall River Herald (Fall River, MA)
Mail Tribune of Oregon
The Sentinel of Lewiston, PA
We assume that several other newspapers printed the story.

The story was broadcast by:
WBZ-Radio 1030
Fox 25 TV Boston

also by peak oilists, and survivalists of

December 28, 2008
A google search find that the CNET story from December 22, is reprinted in too many blogs to list here.

December 24, 2008
Greentech Media Blog

December 24, 2008
Zero Energy Intelligence Blog
Promising Start For Zero Energy Insulation Project In Existing Home

December 24, 2008
Enerblog: Dispatches from inside the Energy Revolution
Quick news: Extreme insulation by Jim Hutton Johnson

December 22, 2008
ABC's Boston Affiliate WCVB-TV Channel 5
"Going Green Boston" segment by David Brown
"Super-Insulated Home Could Be Model In Energy Efficiency"
Story broadcast Monday 12/22 @ 11PM, and Tuesday 12/23 @ 5AM & 6AM & 5PM.
Text Link
Video Link

December 22, 2008
CNET's Greentech News
Can you 'superinsulate' that home, please? by Martin Lamonica.
Reprinted on
Can you "Superinsulate" it?
Great story.

December 22, 2008
The Governor's Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force publishes a poster describing their activities and goals. Our modest project is shown in one of the four example photos: contractor Synergy Companies' mad-man Mike on the roof figuring how to get 10" screws through 6" of insulation.
December 14, 2008
Energy Smackdown Pilgrimage
Members of the Energy Smackdown's Leadership Council come to Massachusetts' newest tourist destination. The Smackdown is a friendly competition for carbon reduction between 30 families in 3 towns. The competition will roll out state-wide in 2009.

They are joined by:
Freelance reporter Michael Prager (behind the sign).
CNET Greentech reporter Martin Lamonica (far left).

December 5, 2008
Vinyl Institute Publishes Story with focus on NuCedar's Siding
Home Renovation With Vinyl Siding Becomes State Energy Project

December 4, 2008
Boston Channel 5 WCVB TV: Reporter David Brown
Mass. Dept. of Energy Resources Commissioner: Frank Gorke
NStar spokespeople: Bill Stack and Michael Durand

David Brown reports on all things green in his weekly "Going Green Boston" segments bringing the skills of a reporter and the technical background of a meteorologist.
Funny story really, how we bumped into David Brown on the escalator at the GreenBuild Expo in Boston, gave him our 30 second escalator pitch and we were off to the races.
The segment airs Tuesday December 23.

Bill Stack with David Brown Frank Gorke with David Brown

November 20, 2008
Arlington Advocate Newspaper
Story: Saving on Energy: House gets a parka in time for winter.

November 18, 2008
Mass. Sec. of Energy & Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles
Secretary Ian Bowles, who leads the Department of Energy Resources visited to speak to Renovation Nation and to see the Pilot Project himself.

November 18, 2008
Planet Green Channel's "Renovation Nation" with Steve Thomas
A full production crew and Steve Thomas, the last contractor-host of PBS's This Old House, spent 2 days helping our contractors, discussing our configuration of super-insulation, and throwing yours-truly under the bus for dramatic effect. This episode will air this spring on the Planet Green Channel which is owned by the Discovery Network. Fun was had by all....even in the end by me.
Overlooking the tire tracks on my back, Steve Thomas impressed me as one hell of a host and first rate contractor. He ducked and weaved with all of the video-rookies, redirecting the conversation based on the facts on the ground, while simultaneously keeping track of the post-production issues of continuity, pacing, unplanned product branding, and lighting in this semi-scripted format. As a host his questions turned far from the generic procedurial that I had expected, and instead to the very heart of what "Green" is and the big and small compromises we all make in the modern world. He belittled, and amused, and backed you right up to the edge of the ledge because he knew his stuff, "Green" and otherwise. He then used that knowledge to throw you the undeserved line which the format prefers. Only time will tell if I still get thrown a line in the final cut.

November 17, 2008
Governor's Zero Net Energy Building Task Force
Residential Working Group
A pilgrimage and a meeting. The working group is charged "with developing recommendations to achieve "broad marketability" of Zero Net Energy throughout residential markets by 2020 and "universal adoption" of ZNE practices for new construction by 2030.
November 13, 2008NuCedar President Tom Loper
Siding supplier CEO Mr. Loper tours the project and trains the contractors on the lickity-split installation of the NuCedar system.


Anonymous said...

Could you say how much more the project would roughly cost had it been done outside of a pilot project framework?

Also, when you calculated the payback as 20 years, was that at current or projected fuel prices. If at projected prices, who's did you use?


Peter Shepherd

Anonymous said...

Seeing this project makes me enormously happy that existing buildings can be retrofitted in an intelligent way & for less than the cost of starting with an empty lot.

One other question I have on the energy analysis done on the project is: did designers take into account the impact of CO2e of blowing agents used in the various foams?

There is an excellent paper on this topic that evaluates the financial and environmental impact of the global warming potentials of blowing agents, which foam manufacturers tend to ignore by instead focusing discussion on the earlier success in move away from ozone-depleting substances.

Building and Environment 42 (2007) 2860–2879, abstract.

Net climatic impact of solid foam insulation produced with halocarbon and non-halocarbon blowing agents

L.D. Danny Harvey

Department of Geography, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Canada M5S 3G3

Received 6 July 2006; received in revised form 28 August 2006; accepted 20 October 2006


The net climatic effect of increasing the amount of insulation in buildings through the use of halocarbon-blown foam insulation involves three factors: the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the energy used to make the insulation; the climatic impact of leakage of the halocarbon blowing agent from the insulation during its manufacture, use, and at the time of disposal; and the reduction in heating and/or cooling energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Recent studies and assessments leave the impression that the use of halocarbon-blown foam insulation has a strong net positive impact on climate, with the reduction in heating-related emissions being 20–100 times greater than the CO2-equivalent halocarbon emissions. This result applies only to the overall impact of rather modest levels of insulation applied to a pre-existing roof or wall with negligible thermal resistance. It is appropriate to consider the time required for heating-related emission savings to offset halocarbon and manufacturing emissions for the addition of successive increments of insulation—the marginal payback time. For typical blowing agent leakage rates and for insulation levels found in high-performance
houses, marginal payback times can be in excess of 100 years using halocarbon blowing agents, but are only 10–50 years using nonhalocarbon blowing agents. With a fixed thickness of insulation, the difference in heating energy savings using insulation with different blowing agents is generally only a few per cent, in spite of differences in thermal conductivity of up to 66%. The net savings in CO2-equivalent emissions is larger using non-halocarbon blowing agents, with the relative benefit of using non-halocarbon blowing agents
greater the greater the thermal resistance of the envelope element prior to adding foam insulation.

r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Foam insulation; Polyurethane; Extruded polystyrene; Halocarbons; Embodied energy; Greenhouse gases

Peter Shepherd

Alex said...

Though the question of the environmental cost of a particular blowing agent is VERY important, it was not all that important to us for this project.
We decided, many times, that the benefit of the project completed as soon as possible outweighed the benefit of the perfect project with the most benign materials that would have taken longer to complete, if completed at all.
Yes these questions need to be answered. Future projects should consider materials, and the impact of materials choices.