The 4th Annual Uncensored Twitterview with Joe Lstiburek from Building Science Summer Camp 2012.

Joe Lstiburek at Building Science Summer CampI just got back to Maine from Building Science Summer Camp at the home of building science guru Joe Lstiburek in Massachusetts. Building Science Summer Camp (identified on Twitter with the clever hashtag #bscamp) is an annual gathering of 400 of the best and brightest minds in the building science community. It combines the latest research and information in building science with a whole lot of fun, food, drink and music amongst a truly amazing community of people. 

Each year, down in Joe Lstiburek's crawlspace, the crew gathers for an interview with Joe -- oft regarded as the foremost building scientist in North America -- to pick his brain about the state of the building science details, the state of the building performance industry, and whatever else the always excellent wine compels us to ask.

Without further ado, some highlights from the 4th Annual Uncensored Twitterview from Building Science Camp 2012:

Q: Are architects still the boundry condition? Joe: Yes. Architects need to understand that beauty is more than skin deep.

Q: What is this year's biggest green building annoyance? Joe: That everything is green. Which means that nothing is green. There are no metrics that measure green appropriately.

Q: How important is language? Joe: Language is everything. Envelopes are for FedEx. Enclosures are for builders and architects.

Q: You're known for your contrarian views on climate science. Any change? Joe: It needs to be OK to be an enviro and not believe in climate change. I love this planet as much as anyone. 

Q: Is passive house an assinine standard? Joe: No, you just need to keep the good parts of PH and change the bad parts. And it needs to evolve. A boutique that impacts a few hundred homes doesn't solve anything.

Q: What is your most important advice to builders? Joe: Build tight, ventilate right , don't eat your sweater and don't fill your house with stupid shit.

Q: Don't eat your sweater? Joe: Yeah. In building science that means insulation on the outside.

Q: Are we winning? Joe: We've become tribal. We're not united on anything. The game is win or lose. If we keep behaving this way, we all lose.

Q: So how do we accelerate change? Joe: Change happens when the system reaches a breaking point. We're a reactive society.

Q: Is there a catalyst on the horizon? Peak oil? Joe: The breaking point is here. We're out of money. People want their money for nothing and their chicks for free.

Q: What's the state of the building industry overall? Joe: There is lots of money on the sidelines awaiting Nov. It's hard to plan with capricious policies. But the excess inventory is gone.  

Q: What about RESNET becoming ANSI? Joe: It's all about the money. Assured revenue stream. 

Q: Back to architects--is the profession changing at all? Joe: What's stunning is the architects giving up so much of their responsibility. But I hold hope the profession will fix itself. Architects are continuing to lose respect where it matters most. They're being laughed at by the people doing the building. They need to get the respect back.

Q: What about LEED? Joe: We'd be farther along than we are if it weren't for LEED.

Q: How's our marketing? Joe: We're doing a horrible job of communicating to homeowners.

Q: So what needs to change? Joe: Good communication would be: This building won't lose its value while you're paying for it. It won't make you sick.  And size matters.

Q: Anything working in programs? Joe: The most successful marketing programs are guaranteed utility bills.

Joe to the room: I'm going to explain why all of you are wrong. A focus group didn't tell Steve Jobs how to make an iPhone. No focus groups. That should be our lesson. 

Q: What about the state of remodeling? Joe: Remodeling is where the action is. Remodelers are saints. All building science is local.

Q: Most important thing learned from Tony Woods? Joe: how to be a gentleman.

Q: Any last words? Joe: I'm an engineer. I worship at the alter of efficiency.

Thanks to everyone who participated this year. For more fun in the crawlspace, be sure to check out Twitterviews from previous Building Science Summer Camps here and here.


Peter, great stuff....we just need to get a little bottle of Joe and sprinkle around the country!

Peter Troast's picture

Thanks Trent. Yes, Joe was in fine form this year. 

This is great stuff. Love how blunt and honest Joe is.

I love the quote "Build tight, ventilate right , don't eat your sweater and don't fill your house with stupid shit." Don't eat your sweater is why I still prefer designing stick frame homes over SIPS.

"don't eat your sweater?" I'm afraid I don't get it.
"Don't eat your sweater? Joe: Yeah. In building science that means insulation (SHOULD GO) on the outside."?

Peter Troast's picture

@Greg W: I believe what Joe is saying is keep insulation materials that have any degree of toxicity outside the air barrier. 

What Joe is saying is insulation is more effective around the structure (sweater over body) instead of in the cavities (sweater in the rib cage).

Can you give an example of good insulation technique? If insulation is not good inbetween wall studs (becuse it could affect indoor air quality?) then where should it be?

What is the best insulation material for "cleanest" indoor air quality?
thanks, Tom

Thanks guys. I thought I understood the analogy, but frankly Josh your comment about stick vs. sips confused me a little, but now I understand the you are (rightly) classifying sips as insulation on the inside. So is Joe saying that even double stud/cellulose walls are sweater eaters?

I would've loved to be in that crawl space. I am a big fan of Joe's. I may not be as savvy as some in the room, but by osmosis I would've come out of that crawl space smarter.
Great interview!!

Peter Troast's picture

Thanks Frank. Just to be clear, this was from Summer Camp two years ago. This year's took place Tuesday night and was equally great and provocative. We'll be posting the new one early next week.

I agree with everything that Joe has very candidly said especially about architects, greenness, PH, LEED, marketing & communication, and guaranteed utility bills. However, I do disagree with him over climate change, but then again we are both out of our fields there.

Peter Troast's picture

@Thomas: as do I. 

Probably been asked before, but how does the heat of a recessed light disapate if its sealed in a tight box?

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