Green Building
Zero Net Energy
Building Science

How to Think About Energy in Buildings - Self Study

by Marc Rosenbaum

Course description

This a bundle of 3 courses taught by Marc Rosenbaum:

This course bundle is Marc Rosenbaum's guide to thinking about, calculating, and prioritizing enclosures, mechanical systems, and renewables in new and existing buildings. It's designed for professionals and teams working on buildings of any size.

Because firms have gotten bigger and jobs have become more specialized, very few building professionals have mastery of these three subjects:

  1. Enclosures (Thermal)
  2. Mechanical Systems
  3. Renewables

But if you can learn to see the ways these things interact, your solutions become more creative!

You'll be given the context, calculators, and mindset needed to understand second and third-order effects of the decisions you make about energy in buildings. You'll learn to speak a common language with the building science 'geeks' who can see the interconnection of these specialities.

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Course Outline #1 - Deep Energy Retrofits

Module 1 - Introduction to Deep Energy Retrofits

Topics: Benefits, Costs, What makes a good DER?, Where energy goes in houses

  • Introduction to the Deep Energy Retrofits Course (10:02 minutes) Preview
  • Course Textbook - Mass Save Deep Energy Retrofit Builder Guide
  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 8-11
  • DERs - An Introduction (15:01 minutes) Preview
  • Energy (19:36 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Thousand Home Challenge website
  • RESOURCE - New Mexico Solar Energy Association Primer (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE - Thousand Home Challenge Priorities Worksheet (.xls)
  • Livermore Case Study (32:17 minutes)
  • Marc's Intro to DERs (.pdf)
  • DERs - An Introduction PDF (.pdf)
  • Energy DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Livermore Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
  • David White's GWP of Insulation Calculator (.xls)
Module 2 - Deficiencies of existing houses and how a DER can help

Topics: Water, Ice dams, Toxic materials, Mold, Combustion products, Discomfort, Pests

  • READING - DER Guide pgs 12-13
  • Deficiencies and Remediation (28:21 minutes) Preview
  • READING - EPA Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades pgs 1-25 (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE - Jeff May Ten Tips on Mold
  • RESOURCE - EPA Moisture Control Guide
  • RESOURCE - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings
  • RESOURCE - BSI-056 Leiningen vs. The Ants
  • RESOURCE - CDC - Cleaning Up After Rodents
  • RESOURCE - Rodent-proof Construction and Exclusion Methods
  • RESOURCE - EPA lead web site
  • RESOURCE - EPA Asbestos web site
  • RESOURCE - EPA Radon web site
  • RESOURCE - EPA Build Radon Out Guide (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE - Joe Lstiburek on Ice Dams
  • RESOURCE - EPA Guide to Mold and Moisture (.pdf)
  • Plainfield School Case Study (40:01 minutes)
  • Deficiencies and remediation PDF (.pdf)
  • Plainfield School Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 3 - Building Science

Topics: Energy, heat transfer, moisture, Heat loss calculations, Vapor retarders

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 31-41; 227-232
  • Heat Transfer (19:59) (19:59 minutes)
  • Calculating Heat Loss (27:00) (26:32 minutes)
  • Moisture (38:24 minutes)
  • READING - Understanding Drainage Planes
  • READING - Understanding Vapor Barriers
  • RESOURCE - Marc's Heat Loss Calculator (.xls)
  • HOMEWORK - Heat Loss Calculation (.xls)
  • RESOURCE - BSD-011 Thermal Control In Buildings
  • RESOURCE - Materials Properties Table
  • RESOURCE - BSD-013 Rain Control In Buildings
  • Bindley Case Study (27:23 minutes)
  • Heat transfer PDF (.pdf)
  • Calculating Heat Loss PDF (.pdf)
  • Moisture PDF (.pdf)
  • Bindley Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Thermal Bridge Calculator
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 4 - Air Barriers

Topics: Where houses leak, Approaches to air tightening, exterior and interior, Testing and diagnostics

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 31-41
  • Air Barriers (20:30 minutes)
  • Specifying and Testing Air Tightness (13:42 minutes)
  • Thermal Bridges (13:55 minutes)
  • READING - BSD-104 Understanding Air Barriers
  • RESOURCE - Marc's Thermal Bridge Calculator (.xls)
  • HOMEWORK - Calculate Assembly R Values
  • RESOURCE - A Bridge Too Far
  • Kurkoski Case Study (20:45 minutes)
  • Air Barriers DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Specifying and testing air tightness PDF (.pdf)
  • Thermal bridges PDF (.pdf)
  • A Fun Thermal Bridge Occurrence
  • Kurkoski Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 5 - Foundation Approaches

Topics: Basements and crawl spaces, Slab on grade

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 58-70; 143-156
  • Foundations (31:48 minutes)
  • Understanding and Calculating Building Heat Loss to the Ground (01:00:36 hours)
  • READING - BSD-103 Understanding Basements
  • RESOURCE - BSI-041 Rubble Foundations
  • RESOURCE - BSI-045 Double Rubble Toil and Trouble
  • Debevoise Hall Case Study (22:25 minutes)
  • Foundations PDF (.pdf)
  • Heat loss to the ground PDF (.pdf)
  • Debevoise Hall Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 6 - Wall Approaches

Topics: Frame walls, Masonry walls, Interior and exterior strategies

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 54-57; 111-142; 158-162
  • Frame Walls 1 (18:00 minutes)
  • Frame Walls 2 (14:42 minutes)
  • Masonry Walls (22:34 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Impact of Insulation
  • RESOURCE - Spray Foam Resources
  • RESOURCE - RR-1105 Internal Insulation of Masonry Walls
  • Union Mill Case Study (06:41 minutes)
  • Frame Walls 1 DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Frame Walls 2 DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Masonry Walls DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Union Mill Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 7 - Windows

Topics: New windows, Storm windows, Window insulation, Installation

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 163-187
  • Windows (38:54 minutes)
  • READING - Panflashing for Exterior Wall Openings
  • RESOURCE - Window Basics
  • RESOURCE - Cardinal Glass Low-e Specifications
  • Martha's Vineyard Cottage Case Study (15:45 minutes)
  • Windows DER PDF (.pdf)
  • MV Cottage Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 8 - Roofs and Ceilings

Topics: Vented attics, Cathedralized roof

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 45-53; 77-109
  • Attics and Roofs (24:55 minutes)
  • READING - BSD-149 Unvented Roofs For All Climates
  • RESOURCE - BA-1006 High R Value Roofs
  • RESOURCE - Lstiburek's Rules For Venting Roofs
  • Union Square Case Study (15:31 minutes)
  • Attics and roofs DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Union Square Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 9 - HVAC and DHW

Topics: Selecting a system, Minisplit heat pumps, Heat pump water heaters

  • READING - DER Guide pgs. 14-30
  • Ventilation Systems (26:40 minutes)
  • Heat and DHW Systems (29:37 minutes)
  • The Ins and Outs of Selecting Cold Climate Minisplit Heat Pumps (34:24 minutes)
  • READING - Heat and Energy Recovery Ventilators
  • RESOURCE - Review of Residential Ventilation Technologies
  • RESOURCE - BSC Residential Ventilation Standard
  • RESOURCE - HVI Directory of Ventilation Equipment
  • RESOURCE - NEEP Cold Climate Heat Pump Specification
  • RESOURCE - Gary Klein Efficient Distribution of Hot Water
  • RESOURCE - Heat Pump Water Heaters Come of Age
  • Island Cohousing Case Study (44:40 minutes)
  • Mechanical systems DER PDF (.pdf)
  • Island Coho Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score
Module 10 - Successful Deep Energy Retrofit Case Studies

This week we'll review case studies of successful DERs.

  • READING - Ten Steps to Deep Energy Reductions (.pdf)
  • Lights Appliances Monitoring (28:51 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Introduction to the Thousand Home Challenge (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE - Energy Star Appliances
  • RESOURCE - Lighting Research Center
  • RESOURCE - Bill McKibben New Yorker Article
  • Rosenbaum Case Study Part 1 (26:24 minutes)
  • Rosenbaum Case Study Part 2 (40:51 minutes)
  • Lights Appliances Monitoring PV PDF (.pdf)
  • Rosenbaum 1 Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Rosenbaum 2 Case Study PDF (.pdf)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score

Course Outline #2 - Zero Net Energy Buildings

Module 1 - What is a Zero Net Energy Building, Energy, Solar Energy

Topics for this week include: Distinctions and definitions, Advances that support widespread implementation. Key components of a ZNEB: Solar orientation, shading, glazing %, Superinsulated building envelope, High R, high SHGC glazing, Airtight construction, Efficient appliances and lighting, Efficient DHW technologies and generation, Heat/energy recovery ventilation, Minisplit heat pumps, ZNE occupants. What is Energy, How Much do Houses Use, Where Does it Go & How Much Energy is in Sunshine? Participants will be able to: - Describe Zero Net Energy distinctions and definitions and advances that support widespread implementation.  - Identify key superinsulated enclosure strategies of zero net energy buildings (ZNEB) - Identify major systems and components appropriate to ZNEB - Explain differing forms of energy, how much energy do typical ZNEBs use, and how to use PV Watts to calculate solar energy is incident on a building

  • Introduction to Zero Net Energy Homes (32:16) (32:16 minutes) Preview
  • READING: Reading a Compass
  • RESOURCE: Zero Energy Project
  • RESOURCE: Zero Energy Buildings - US DOE
  • RESOURCE: Zero Energy Buildings - New Buildings Institute
  • Energy (20:49) (20:49 minutes)
  • READING: NMSEA Energy Primer Sections 1-3
  • READING: Eliakim's Way First Year Report (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Nine Years of Energy Data from Eliakim's Way (.pdf)
  • Solar Energy (29:57) (29:57 minutes)
  • READING: Passive Solar Heating - Whole Building Design Guide
  • IMPORTANT READING! Instructions for new PV Watts (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Solar Calculator (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • WEEK 1 HOMEWORK (.xlsx version) PV Watts (.xlsx)
Module 2 - Methods of Heat Transfer & How They Occur in Buildings, How to Calculate a Building's Heat Loss, Moisture, Vapor Flow, Dewpoint

We'll cover the methods of heat transfer, and learn to calculate the design heat loss of a house. We'll look at moisture transport in buildings, vapor diffusion, dewpoint, and mold. Participants will be able to: - Explain the three principal methods of heat transfer - Calculate the design heat loss of a building - Describe the principal methods of moisture transport in buildings - Describe the relationship between vapor diffusion, dewpoint, and mold

  • Heat Transfer (19:59) (19:59 minutes)
  • READING: Methods of Heat Transfer
  • READING: Thermal Control in Buildings - Straube BSC
  • Calculating Heat Loss (27:00) (26:32 minutes) Preview
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Heat Loss Calculator (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Marc's Room by Room Heat Loss Calculator (.xlsx)
  • RESOURCE: R Value Library
  • RESOURCE: Wikipedia R Value
  • Moisture (37:32) (37:33 minutes)
  • LECTURE RECORDING: "Understanding and Calculating Building Heat Loss to the Ground" (56:39) (56:42 minutes)
  • RESOURCE: Heat Loss to the Ground Lecture slides (PDF) (.pdf)
  • READING: Understanding Drainage Planes BSC
  • READING: Understanding Vapor Barriers BSC
  • READING: Residential Water Management Details
  • RESOURCE: Moisture Control for New Residential Buildings BSC
  • RESOURCE: Building Materials Properties Table BSC
  • RESOURCE: Rain Control in Buildings
  • RESOURCE: Psychrometric Chart
  • RESOURCE: You Can Do It!
  • WEEK 2 HOMEWORK (.xlsx) Calculate the Heat Loss of a House (Solution on 2nd page) (.xlsx)
Module 3 - How to Design, Specify & Test the Air Barrier, Thermal Bridges

We'll cover how to design, specify, and test air barriers. We'll look at the concept of thermal bridging and learn how to calculate the true R value of an assembly. Participants will be able to: - Design and specify the air barrier - Specify testing methods for air barriers  - Identify and calculate thermal bridging - Calculate the true R value of an assembly

  • Air Barriers (41:42) (41:42 minutes)
  • READING: Air Barriers vs. Vapor Barriers
  • Thermal Bridges (29:57) (29:57 minutes)
  • READING: A Bridge Too Far BSC
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Thermal Bridge Calculator (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 1: Labeling Wall Section (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 1: Wall section diagram (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework Part 1 - One Solution (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 2: Change in Peak Heat Loss Calculation (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework Part 2 Solution (.xlsx)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 3: Use Thermal Bridge Calculator to compare two roof assemblies (.pdf)
  • Week 3 - Part 3 Solution (.xlsx)
Module 4 - Foundation Construction Strategies, Wall Construction Strategies, Roof Construction Strategies

This week we'll look at construction approaches for superinsulated foundations, walls, and roofs. Participants will be able to: - Prioritize investment in ZNE envelope construction strategies - Detail construction approaches for superinsulated foundations - Detail construction approaches for superinsulated walls - Detail construction approaches for superinsulated roofs

  • Foundations (29:32) (29:32 minutes)
  • READING: Understanding Basements BSC
  • READING: How To Finish Exterior Insulation
  • RESOURCE: Building Radon Out
  • Walls (43:25) (43:25 minutes)
  • UPDATE Week 4 - Embodied Carbon - Please Read (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Global Warming Potential of Insulation
  • RESOURCE: David White's Insulation GWP Calculator
  • RESOURCE: Carbon Drawdown Now! Video
  • RESOURCE: Architecture 2030 Embodied Carbon in Buildings
  • RESOURCE: Builders for Climate Action Embodied Carbon Calculator
  • RESOURCE: HeadLok application table (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Lstiburek's Barn case study
  • RESOURCE: High R Value Walls (updated 10/17) (.pdf)
  • Roofs (26:14) (26:14 minutes)
  • READING: Lstiburek's Roof Venting Rules
  • WEEK 4 Homework: Model a High R Value Wall and Roof (.pdf)
  • READING: High R Value Roofs (.pdf)
  • Week 4 Homework - Possible Solution (.xlsx)
Module 5 - Windows and Glazing, Solar Electric Systems, Lights and Appliances

We'll look at the performance of glazings and windows and the types of windows that are available. We'll cover solar electricity systems and how much energy these systems produce. This week rounds out with a look at efficient lighting and appliances. Participants will be able to: - Describe the performance of glazings and windows and the types of windows that are available - Calculate the energy generated by solar electricity systems and the roof area required - Specify efficient lighting - Specify efficient appliances

  • Windows (46:00) (46:04 minutes)
  • READING: Panflashing Windows BSC
  • RESOURCE: Payette Glazing Comfort Tool
  • RESOURCE: Cardinal Glazing Performance Values
  • Solar Electricity (28:18) (28:19 minutes)
  • READING: Solar Electricity Basics FSEC
  • Lights and appliances (13:35) (13:35 minutes) Preview
  • Beyond Zero Net Energy (27:05) (27:05 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Beyond Zero Net Energy slides (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Energy Star Most Efficient Appliances
  • RESOURCE: Electricity usage calculator 1
  • RESOURCE: Electricity usage calculator 2
  • RESOURCE: Humans Share the Planet
  • RESOURCE: Overhang Shading Calculator
  • Overhang Basics (.pdf)
  • Week 5 Homework - Part 1
  • Week 5 - Part 1 Solution (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Week 5 Homework - Part 2
Module 6 - Heat Recovery Ventilation

This week is all about heat and energy recovery ventilation - the need for ventilation, the basics of system design, what products are available, and the fine points of these systems. Participants will be able to: - Explain the need for heat recovery ventilation - Describe the basics of how heat and energy recovery systems function - Describe the range of heat recovery products are available - Identify potential pitfalls in specifying ventilation systems

  • Ventilation part 1 (59:03) (59:03 minutes)
  • Ventilation part 2 (49:54) (49:54 minutes)
  • UPDATE - Ventilation - Please read (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Fundamentals of Energy Recovery Ventilators Video
  • RESOURCE - CO2 in Bedrooms Brian Just (.pdf)
  • READING: Review of Residential Ventilation Technologies
  • RESOURCE: Home Ventilating Institute Certified Product Directory
  • RESOURCE: ACCA Speed Spreadsheets
  • RESOURCE: Panasonic FV-10VEC2 ERV
  • RESOURCE: Renewaire ERVs
  • RESOURCE: Zehnder ventilation products
  • Marc's Zehnder Comfotube Sizing Calculator (.xlsx)
  • Week 6 Homework: Ventilation System Assignment (.pdf)
  • Week 6 Homework: Ventilation Diagram (.pdf)
  • Week 6 Homework - Possible Solution (.pdf)
Module 7 - Heating and Cooling

We'll cover heating and cooling, showing system approaches for heating, cooling and ventilation together. We'll look at the equipment available for low load homes, focusing on minisplit heat pumps. Participants will be able to: - Describe preferred system approaches for heating and cooling - Describe how ventilation system design affects heating and cooling - Specify heating and cooling equipment available for low load homes - Select the appropriate type of air source heat pumps

  • Fuels and Equipment (19:15) (19:15 minutes)
  • Cooling (24:42) (24:42 minutes)
  • System Approaches and Minisplits (25:23) (25:23 minutes)
  • The Ins and Outs of Selecting Cold Climate Minisplit Heat Pumps (34:24) (34:24 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Selecting Cold Climate Heat Pump slides (.pdf)
  • UPDATE - Heat Pumps - Please Read (.pdf)
  • IMPORTANT RESOURCE - Cold Climate Heat Pump Specification
  • RESOURCE: Passive and Low Energy Cooling (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Mitsubishi Multi-port Hyperheat (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Mitsubishi Single Zone Hyperheat SUZ Series Tech Manual (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Fujitsu Halycon Brochure (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE Fujitsu Wall Cassette Tech Manual (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE Fujitsu Single Zone Ducted Tech Manual (.pdf)
  • Week 7 Homework
  • Week 7 Homework - Possible Solution (.xlsx)
Module 8 - DHW and Solar Thermal

This week is all about domestic hot water (DHW) - how to calculate loads, how to minimize DHW energy, and equipment available to make DHW efficiently, including a look at heat pump water heaters and solar thermal hot water. Participants will be able to: - Calculate domestic hot water (DHW) loads - Identify strategies that minimize DHW energy - Specify equipment available to make DHW efficiently - Explain pros and cons of heat pump water heaters and solar thermal hot water

  • DHW (39:41) (39:41 minutes)
  • READING: Gary Klein DHW distribution
  • Heat Pump Water Heaters Video
  • RESOURCE: Marc's DHW Calculator (.xlsx)
  • RESOURCE: Drainwater heat recovery
  • Solar Thermal (34:15) (34:15 minutes)
  • READING: Solar Hot Water FSEC
  • RESOURCE: Convert Your Home to Solar Energy - Everett Barber
  • RESOURCE: Solar collector ratings SRCC
  • RESOURCE: Build It Solar
  • Week 8 Homework DHW / HPWH / PV Calculation (.pdf)
  • Week 8 Homework Solution (.xlsx)
Module 9 - Degree Days and Energy Modeling

We'll cover the concept of heating degree days and how to calculate them, then dive into combining what we've learned into an annual energy use model for the house, and sizing the solar electric system to achieve zero net energy. Participants will be able to: - Understand heating degree days conceptually - Calculate heating degree days for a project location - Develop an annual energy use model for the building - Size the solar electric system to achieve zero net energy

  • Degree Days (10:00) (10:00 minutes)
  • RESOURCE: Degree
  • Energy Modeling (22:06) (22:06 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Understanding the Energy Modeling Process (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Energy Model (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Week 9 Homework: Annual Energy Model for Boston, MA (.pdf)
  • Week 9 Homework Solution (.xlsx)
Module 10 - Bringing it All Together With Case Studies and Resources

In this week we will review several case studies to see successful ZNE projects as well review other resources for your own projects. Participants will be able to: - Evaluate the potential of a project to achieve zero net energy - Design a schematic ZNEB project - Study case studies of successful ZNE projects completed in the real world - Locate further resources to improve practice moving forward

  • Optional Final Capstone Project
  • CASE STUDY - Rosenbaum ZNE DER (21:34 minutes)
  • Rosenbaum ZNE DER slides (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY - KERN CENTER Living Building Challenge (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY - Plainfield School Deep Energy Retrofit (54:09 minutes)
  • Plainfield School Slides (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Pill Maharam House
  • CASE STUDY: Bindley House (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Clarke house (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Moomaw House (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Livermore House (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Ross House (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Rosenbaum House 5 (.pdf)

Course Outline #3 - Beyond Zero Net Energy: PV + Storage

Module 1 - Video Lecture

In this module, Marc Rosenbaum looks at the potential for battery storage to greatly increase the fraction of a house’s annual load that can be served onsite by solar electricity if battery storage is added. Can we get closer to the Holy Grail of a 100% autonomous, renewably powered house?

  • Lecture: Beyond Zero Net Energy (27:05 minutes)


Marc Rosenbaum

Principal, Energysmiths

Marc Rosenbaum, P.E. uses an integrated systems design approach to help people create buildings and communities which connect us to the natural world, and support both personal and planetary health. He brings this vision, experience and commitment to a collaborative design process, with the goal of profoundly understanding the interconnections between people, place, and... Learn more


524 reviews

Courses with student ratings: 3

by Waled Yahya 04/30/2022

good course

by Bill Wagner, Independent Consultant, Wagner Labs 06/21/2021

Great explanation of total system production capability (PV + Storage) and the challenges of load variation especially as it relates to heat (and cooling).

by habiburahman qaderi 05/28/2021

Actually this course was very great for me coz I am student of renewable energy, so this course was very important for me I really need this course PDF.

by Mason Browne 05/24/2021

Excellent way to learn about designing zero net-energy buildings and how to avoid construction mistakes.

by Kate Stevens, Contexts: architecture, teaching, translating 05/21/2021

Great course that teaches you how to see both the forest and the trees. It equips you with an understanding of the general building science principles and the ability to locate/interpret/use specific technical resources for real world application.

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You can begin this online course instantly upon enrollment. This 0 module course is delivered entirely online. This is a self-study, self-paced course and you can set your own schedule to complete the materials. You can begin the lecture videos and other course materials as soon as you enroll. After successfully completing the course, you will be able to generate a certificate of completion.

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