WMU News

How to make homes 'energy friendly'

July 17, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Those soaring fuel prices are making many consumers think twice about how they use energy, especially when cooling or heating their homes.

Instead of resorting to turning off air conditioners in the height of summer, homeowners and builders alike can learn how to make houses more "energy-friendly" by attending an upcoming series of seminars offered through Western Michigan University.

The "Energy Efficient Home Seminar Series" will feature three seminars, one each in July, August and September, covering topics from new construction of energy efficient houses to remodeling homes to be more energy efficient. Funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services, all seminars are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost to attend all three seminars is $15 if pre-registered or $6 at the door for each seminar.

According to Molly Cole, coordinator in WMU's Environmental Studies Program and the series' organizer, the seminars are for anyone from those interested in low-cost or do-it-yourself improvements to contractors and builders. She explains that many people who would like to make homes more energy friendly often encounter obstacles when it comes to obtaining information on how to do so.

"People often find their efforts stymied by a lack of credible information on available materials and technology for making their homes efficient," says Cole. In addition, she says, barriers are created by a lack of encouragement or leadership on behalf of the building community.

"We set up the series to address issues based on the Energy Star Standards developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. By passing on this knowledge, these seminars can empower consumers to demand reasonable and attainable high standards from professionals in the building trade," she says. Cole also hopes that those same professionals will be interested in attending the seminars to get up-to-date information on options for constructing more energy efficient houses.

The first seminar is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26, in Room 1510 (the Gallery) at Kalamazoo Valley Community College's Texas Township campus and will focus on new construction and the building of an energy efficient home. Builder Carl Terwilliger of Terwilliger Homes in Davison, Mich., will give examples of new homes that have been built to the highest energy rating standards and explain the steps necessary to get other builders to meet these standards.

"People who are working with builders need to know what they can demand and what they should say when their builder says 'no, we can't do that' or 'that's going to cost you too much'," says Cole.

The second seminar, scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 16, in Room 1510 of KVCC's Texas Township campus, will introduce the "house as a system" approach in energy-related home improvements. Doug Ginn, president and owner of D.G. Heating Inc. in Kalamazoo and a former energy analyst and residential energy auditor, and Thom Knoll, a licensed residential builder, will talk about the U.S. Department of Energy's Low-Income Weatherization Assistance program and their experiences with cost-effective insulation and infiltration-reduction measures. In addition, they will share information on moisture, indoor air quality, how to obtain a Home Energy Rating System audit and changes that should be made to bring existing homes up to a four star energy rating.

The last seminar, to be held Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., will discuss remodeling existing homes to be more energy efficient. John Barrie, president and senior environmental architect of John Barrie Associates Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., will talk about material and design options available for "green building." Barrie, who conducts workshops on energy efficient design, architectural design and indoor air quality, designed an addition to his own home that received a five star energy rating, the highest rating possible. He is currently working on a program with the United States Air Force to develop a "green building" program for environmentally responsible construction.

To pre-register for these seminars or for more information. persons should contact Cole at (616) 387-2716.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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