Green Building

Annual Westford Symposium on Building Science

Leigha Dickens, Deltec’s green building and sustainability manager is featured in this blog post about her adventures at Building Science Summer Camp

I just got back from the 19th Annual Westford Symposium on Building Science, often referred to as Building Science Summer Camp. Just like with any good camp, I have returned exhausted but energized by my experience.

Building science is not all fun and games, nor is it really a camp: it is a conference for experts, where they can immerse themselves in the newest and grittiest dispatches from those fields of physics, engineering and environmental science that go into making buildings last, helping them stay comfortable and healthy, and helping them minimize energy use. As Deltec’s Green Building and Sustainability Manager—and as a physicist by training—I was surprised and honored to find my name on the invitation list, and eagerly claimed my spot.

The Camp is put on each year by the venerable Joe Lstiburek of Building Science Corporation, a Canadian engineer who began his career with one of the earliest energy efficiency programs in North America. Most energy rating systems and energy codes in North America have been greatly influenced by the research he and his company have done.

It’s not often I get to satisfy my inner building physics geek impulses under the tutelage of such talented speakers. The schedule was jam packed. For me, the highlights included:

  • Getting a well-done overview on the factors that affect thermal comfort in a home, and how to better work with our HVAC systems. How comfortable we really feel within a room is affected by far more factors than merely the temperature we see on our thermostat.
  • The latest field and modeling research on the moisture resistance and superior thermal performance of double stud walls—relevant to us, as a product we do offer to our customers.
  • Getting an insider’s look at the vast dataset provided by NEST thermostats—those snazzy thermostats with the nice design that promise to learn your habits and help you save energy. NEST thermostat provides that data to an engineering firm for technical analysis. Never have we had access to such widespread, complete data on how people actually manage those systems in their homes. Undoubtedly this kind of information can help us improve comfort and efficiency (although NEST aficionados may want to be duly advised: big brother IS watching).
  • Networking with fellow women in the building science field, younger colleagues just entering the field, representatives from nearly all major insulation manufacturers, professors of building physics, experts on heating and cooling systems, and builders from all over the US.

People often ask me “Just what it is you do at Deltec Homes, anyway?” It’s not always easy to answer them succinctly. I interact with many of our clients personally: answering questions; researching products; helping with insulation, HVAC, or passive solar considerations; as well as working behind the scenes on our manufacturing operations to help improve their environmental sustainability by cutting waste and increasing renewable energy use.

From now on, saying “I do building science” might be a good way to sum up those things. As buildings get more efficient and better insulated, get built of more complex and varied materials, as HVAC systems get more complex, and as consumers demand solutions that not only work better for them but also minimize or eliminate impact on the environment, building science becomes a crucial field of study.