This spring, I met up virtually with Bill Hayward, CEO of Hayward Lumber and the founder and originator of the Hayward Score (see “The Hayward Score: A Rating of Home and Human Health” ). Earlier this year during a conference, Bill had characterized the COVID-19 pandemic as a “trigger point,” much like the energy crisis of the 1970s had been for energy-efficient housing. This new crisis has triggered a growing interest in indoor air quality and occupant health. As we all have learned a great deal more than we ever thought we would about respirable droplets, air circulation, and the spread of airborne contaminants, homeowner awareness of health, air quality, and ventilation has caught fire and is beginning to ignite a new set of demands. Advanced ventilation systems and home performance may finally be getting equal, if not greater, attention from homebuyers than granite countertops and luxury appliances.

And perhaps this is the time we will finally align ventilation codes with building science. Since 2012, we have seen strong alignment between building science and the air-sealing and insulation requirements of model building codes. But ventilation requirements feel like the poor relations nobody wants to invite for dinner. The Chapter 15 ventilation requirements of the International Residential Code are not clear to all builders, and certainly not well understood by code officials, so they aren’t enforced and education is sparse. Exceptions to this do exist in multifamily construction where there tends to be a higher concern for the potential liability surrounding occupant health among developers and municipalities. There are also exceptions among a core segment of the JLC readership that serves a very demanding clientele. But in most single-family new construction and whole-house remodeling, we seem to be mostly building tight but not ventilating right.

Change will likely only happen when it is driven by customer demand, and that is precisely what Bill’s “trigger point” is all about. To dig into the implications of this for builders, we brought Mark LaLiberte, co-founder of Construction Instruction and a frequent speaker on building science–based building practice, into the conversation to begin to formulate some clear, health-driven best-building principles. —Clay DeKorne

Bill Hayward: The pandemic certainly raised awareness of the health dimensions of our homes, and indoor ventilation especially. The lack of ventilation in homes is something that has developed gradually, and the amount of ventilation in homes is perhaps at an all-time low, since homes have gotten tighter without enough attention to controlled ventilation. A big part of the problem is that the ventilation standards referenced in the building codes are not health-based.

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