Low Energy Home Storytelling - Insight & Inspiration for 1000 Home Challenge Projects

Peter Troast did a great blog summarizing the pros and cons of different options/formats


Chime in here with your experience or links to examples of low energy home storytelling done well.





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Thanks for posting this Linda. Each project has such a story to tell and those of us championing, imo, have an obligation to spread the word as widely as we can. The array of options we have available to us now--blogs, Facebook, websites, Pinterest, etc--is quite astonishing.

We defaulted to Facebook for the Mallett Deep Energy Retrofit (deep but not 1000 home as it's a commercial conversion of a residence) because of its powerful engagement elements. Part of this project was the intersection of historic preservation and deep retrofits, a topic that stirs the passions of folks on both sides, and we wanted an open discussion. It worked reasonably well from that perspective. But if you want the specifics--on envelope or mechanicals--Facebook was less than ideal. I'm excited and curious to see what others think about the pros and cons of various media. 

Peter -

Thanks for your response. Will you post the link to the Mallet DER Facebook page?

Can you answer these questions about Facebook?

There are both Facebook groups and Facebook pages. Any reason for a project to set up as a group or does a page provide plenty of opportunities for a project story?

Is there a setting so folks who are not Facebook users can still access your Facebook project? I assume to comment, a person would need to have a Facebook account. 

If someone has a Facebook account, can they keep portions of their page private (limited to their friends) and other portions public?

David Eggleton, who set up this HEP 1000 Home Challenge group also set up a Facebook Thousand Home Challenge group.  I welcome the opportunity for it to serve as portal leading folks to other Facebook project pages, as well as this dicsussion to lead folks to project stories where ever they are. 


Linda--here's a link the Mallett Deep Energy Retrofit Facebook page.

I can't say that I'm much of an expert on Facebook groups. The few I'm in are fairly moribund. I believe the primary advantage of a group is control of access and distribution of publishing. I don't believe you can "Like" a group, so you lose the advantage of viral spreading of your content except by members. On a business page, you can add many administrators, so if the goal is to spread content responsibility, say amongst the homeowner, builder, architect, consultant, then making each an admin of the biz page would accomplish that.

On your other questions I should probably do a more detailed post on the pros and cons of Facebook as a medium. Clearly, the threshold of needing to be on Facebook is one con (though I believe there is reasonable access without joining, just no engagement) keeping in mind that it's now 1 billion strong. In terms of sheer reach, and the viral nature of spreading a story across many FB users social graphs is its biggest plus. 

What isn't great, IMO, is its utility for housing the core information--documents, specs, identifying the team--i.e. the more static content. And given the serial nature of FB publishing, anything old tends to get buried. That said, the conversation, engagement, linking and prominence of imagery are superb. 

I'll ask Jesse, the most Facebook savvy of the Energy Circle crew, to chime in as well. 

Just received an update from the Uphillhouse blog, regarding a newly built net zero home in upstate New York


This blog started in 2008 at the point the property was purchased, and is written by the homeowner. Over time the blog addresses many aspects of the home's design, construction, and energy performance.  Lots of entries over the past 4+ years.

The recent posts delve into energy performance, and explain in detail, how they are analyzing the energy use. Readers can learn from their results as well as their process.  The link to their online home energy performance tracking system is provided.

It is interesting to hear their reflections on the significant impact of farming activities on a net zero home (hear lamps/lights for chicks, baby turkeys, seedlings etc.).  

The Blogroll lists a number of projects that I need to check out.

What are your thoughts on this blog? Data overload or just right if you really want to better interpret the results and learn from their experience? 

You may have heard about, but you aren't sure how to pronounce it. But Pecha Kucha is making a big splash in a lot of different arenas, and it can be a great way to tell a story about your deep energy retrofit.

The Pecha Kucha format (it's pronounced pu-CHOCH-ku) allows and requires the storyteller to show 20 slides of 20 seconds each, for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. And we'll be presenting a group of Pecha Kucha stories at ACI Denver on Thursday May 2nd. The title of the evening is My House: The Story of an Energy Improvement Project.

You can learn more on the Pecha Kucha page at ACI. Or go take a look at the website for Pecha Kucha International to get some flavor for what we're trying to do.

We'll have 7-8 presenters all telling their story in the Pecha Kucha format. And we're looking for a few more. If YOU have a deep energy project, new or retrofit, that you think would fit this format, and you're willing to give Pecha Kucha a try, contact me for more information. 

-- Chris Dorsi -- cdorsi@habitatx.com -- 406-439-8659

The Pecha Kucha Portland Maine that I did on the Mallett Deep Energy Retrofit was one of the most challenging speaking engagements I've done in years. (And I am not intimidated by being up in front of a room.) I promised myself, Chris, that I wouldn't overbook myself (again) at ACI this year, so I'm a maybe. But it is a truly awesome format, and is sure to be a great night at ACI. 

Although I have to admit I have not been keeping up to date with my blogging.  I have been using my blog to track the progress of my retrofit.  However the blog is not exclusive to my home retrofit projects.  It encompass my work as an energy auditor and architect.  So it talks about design & energy topics because they are related, so I am trying to educate both professionals and the average home owner.  I also have a facebook page as well, which is even less focused on the deep energy retrofit of my house, as I post a lot more articles from others on there again within the energy and architecture topic.

So if you are interested, you can check out my blog and facebook page:

Blog: http://www.symhome.net/blog

Energy Retrofit Posts: http://www.symhome.net/blog/category/energy-hog/

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/symhome

Linda, we have not talked in a long time.  Anyway I have just about completed our new home using my years of learning.  We may come close to hitting the Passavhaus standard.  Will soon be posting a complete rundown on how it was done.  We built the house, just under 900 sq ft for $37,000.  Lots of labor though.  Link is http://cheoyleeassociation.com/family/NCHouse.html 

James McGarvey

Thanks for posting James! I looking forward to learning more about your house,

James -

Great job of telling the story in a way that does not appear to represent a heroic effort (story, not the project). The format appears doable for most of us.  

It is easy to see everything on one webpage - and to zoom in for a close-up of photos that are the highest interest.

Amazing job of keeping material costs to a minimum and creative use/selection of products.

How much wood have you used to date for heating? 

Do you have yor electrical uses submetered?

Are you monitoring anything on the IAQ side?

Maybe it was there and I missed it - what are you using for mechanical ventilation?

I think a good story leaves one hungry for more.

I will provide your Thousand Home Challenge threshold (OPTION B). The 1000 Home Challenge is focused on existing homes, but it is always interesting to see how the performance of newly built homes compare. 




Linda, first I apologize for posting here with new construction, was not familiar with the 1000 home challenge.  But kudos to you for your involvement now that I have learned about the project.  My challenge to you and ACI is to have the Option B.  Anyone with money can build a net zero home if they have the funds to spend the money for a PV system and ground source heat pump etc.  The challenge is to build close to zero fossil heat homes under $50,000.  Anyway you shamed me into finally setting down and write up a real story on our project.  Have added much info at  http://cheoyleeassociation.com/family/NCHouse.html

To answer your questions have used app 1/8 cord of wood and perhaps $40 electric on the mini split for heating.  Will be sub metering in the future.  Not enough space here but go look at my reasons why I may not be installing a HRV system and how the IAQ issues seem to be no real issue without a HRV system.  

Will keep the page up to date as we move forward

Thanks also to Ted for the compliment.


No problem re new construction. I just wanted to clarify that the 1000 Home Challenge is targeted to existing homes.The focus of this discussion is we effectively tell the story.  Your project is a great example and source of inspiration.

The 1000 Home Challenge addresses the full range of projects - those that have invested a lot of money/resources, and those that invested relatively little. I agree, it is critical that zero net energy, deep energy reductions,or net zerocarbon lifestyles not be viewed as just for the affluent. 

An important value the 1000 Home Challenge offers is to include and learn from the full spectrum of strategies. To learn more, participate in the next Intro to the 1000 Home Challenge webinar, Tuesday, April 16, 1-2:30 (eastern). Register here http://thousandhomechallenge.com/join-us



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