The next best thing to a house that looks good is a house that also works well. When they don’t, prioritizing cost-effective opportunities for improvement can be layered, compounding, and site-specific. To help us overcome the complex relationships between building systems, experience-based best practices have made way for an entire field of study dedicated to building performance: building science.
It’s easy to take for granted what makes a home perform well until it doesn’t. High-performance homes manage moisture, temperature, noise, pests, fire, and much more. Good homes do these things without us knowing, better ones do it durably, and the best ones do them affordably as well. We design and improve homes to do these things through an understanding of building science.
A strong comparison can be made between building science and health science. Like the human body, a home is a dynamic system of interworking components. A healthy home is one that manages heat and moisture well. This is best accomplished by “sealing it tight and ventilating it right”. Before homes had central heat and air conditioning, we built homes that “breathed”. We now know that leaky heated homes can be uncomfortable and expensive to operate, while a home that is leaky and air-conditioned brings the additional risk of unmanaged condensation.
While solving building deficiencies can be layered and complex, the remedies can bring about meaningful and multi-faceted solutions that contribute to overall building performance.