Note: This is the first of a multi-part series on the Building Enclosure Science and Technology (BEST) Conference taking place in Atlanta, Georgia, April 2-5th, 2012. Seth Anderson, Principal is representing Ascent Architecture & Interiors at the conference.

Seth Anderson, Architect, LEED AP+Hello from Atlanta! – home of the 1996 Summer Olympics, Coca Cola, CNN, Georgia Pacific building products, Sto Corp. building products and many other Fortune 500 companies. And with all the y’alls, aint’s, and fixin’s, I know I’m in the South.

Today was a great start to the three-day conference on Building Enclosure Science and Technology. As an Architect, I feel a strong understanding of the science of controlling heat, air and moisture migration through the exterior of the building is key to proving our clients with functional, durable, and sustainable buildings, and that’s why I’m here, along with some of the top academic researchers and practicing professionals in the field.

The conference is split into two main tracks – whole-building performance and fenestration (windows) – with speakers presenting the findings of their research papers submitted and approved by the conference steering committee. After listening to a great opening by representatives of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), AIA, and the Department of Energy (DOE), I focused mainly on fenestration topics, with a short breaks to listen to a presentation by visiting researchers from Norway and South Korea.

In this morning’s plenary session, Sam Rashkin from the DOE gave a well prepared presentation on the business case for home builders to construct high-quality, net-zero ready homes, and the resulting value to new home buyers. To get to net-zero, we must first focus on reducing the energy demand of the structure by applying leading-edge technologies and using efficient heating systems and appliances. And, while building a highly efficient home, we must also ensure that the home receives plenty of fresh air; it is durably constructed; and undergoes a strict quality-management program during construction. The homes built this way will give the home owner the option to never have a utility bill, if and when they’re ready to add solar production.

The fenestration sessions I attended dealt with everything from condensation control to integrated Photovoltaic (PV) systems to improving the thermal performance of the window. A variety of new technologies are emerging on the market that could reduce the thermal transmission through the glass portions of the exterior wall by 50% over currently available products and make the interior spaces more comfortable for the people occupying them. Another presentation indicated that the cost of building integrated PV has recently been reduced and is now a viable option for use in vertical applications. Glass that can be adjusted to provide sun control is also now available in the market and the pricing may soon be within reach.

On the international front, the researcher from South Korea introduced the group to a foam insulation made from waste products such as coffee beans, wood shavings, corn husks and recycled paper. These insulations contain no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and use steam as a foaming agent. This is a promising material that could replace expanded and extruded polystyrene and polyisocyanurate board insulation. The Norwegian researchers presented research on cold unventilated attics (an uncommon construction technique in the United States) and the potential impact of Climate Change on the way we construct buildings.

I look forward to evaluating these innovative products and ideas as potential solutions to meet the needs of our client’s next project – and to more educational sessions tomorrow! And it’s not all about education and building science. I’m enjoying getting out in Atlanta and seeing some of the architecture in the city.

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