Mastering Building Science - Self Study


Length: 6 modules

Author: Allison Bailes III, PhD

Subjects: Green Building: Building Science

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Student Rating

Rating: 8.6/10 (view ratings)
120 students have taken this course


Master an understanding of the language, framework, and systems needed to make your buildings resource-efficient, comfortable, and durable. Learn about the complex interplay of heat, air, and moisture flows within and across building enclosures, and the conditions that occupants impose on the indoor environment, integral knowledge for building success.

Dr. Allison Bailes, is a leading expert in residential building performance and efficiency.

Learning Objectives
Templates, Tools, Calculators Included

This is a hands-on course with an emphasis on data and numbers. You're expected to be comfortable using Excel, and will be expected to stretch your thinking.

Self-Paced Online Course

You can begin this online course instantly upon enrollment. The course will not officially begin until the scheduled start date, but students are encouraged to work ahead when possible.

Access Information and Build Your Training Library

After enrolling, the course materials will remain in your account and be accessible 12 months (1 year) after enrollment. Access can be extended beyond 1 year with a monthly membership. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world.

Earn a Certificate of Completion

When you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our one-click LinkedIn integration.

Earn Continuing Education Credits

Self Report with Certificate: 17.5 Building Performance Institute (BPI) CEUs, 12 PHIUS CPHC CEUs, 35 AIA LU/HSW Credits

Nearly all aspects of my project have been very strongly influenced (and greatly improved) by the Mastering Building Science course work.

- John Poole, Birmingham Point Preservationists

Allison Bailes has become one of the leading voices in the country in residential energy efficiency. His ability to bring understanding and clarity to the complexities of building science is really quite remarkable.

- Peter Troast, CEO, Energy Circle

This is one of the best collections of building science knowledge and instruction available outside of a university setting. It was well worth every minute I put into it over the course of the 8 weeks.

- Hunter Dendy, Eco-Sense

+ Read more student ratings and reviews for this course


Allison bailes headshot square.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Allison Bailes III, PhD

President, Energy Vanguard

Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, is founder and owner of Energy Vanguard in Decatur, Georgia. Like many in the field of building science and green building, he is multi-faceted: His academic credentials in physics (BS, MS, MST, and PhD all in that field) give him a solid foundation in the science that underlies buildings. Having taught physics at the high school and college...[more]

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Course Outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This is a self-study on demand course. This course is self-paced, so you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time. You can get started immediately after you enroll and the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after enrollment.

  • Introduction to HeatSpring (1 minute) (Video)
  • Join the Alumni Network: Add education to your LinkedIn profile in one click (Resource)
Module 1 - Becoming a Building Enclosure Control Freak - Part I

It all starts with the building enclosure, and it’s not just about insulation. You want an enclosure that not only resists the flow of heat and air, but also keeps liquid water out, limits the ability of water vapor to get into an assembly in some cases, and lets assemblies dry out when they get wet. In this first week, you'll get an overview of the building enclosure and then we'll focus on controlling moisture and the physics of water. Watch the videos, read the articles, do the homework, and then take the quiz to see how well you understand the material.

  • Welcome and Introduction from the instructor, Allison Bailes (8:45) (Video)
  • REFERENCE: Books, magazines, and websites (doc) (Download .docx)
  • REFERENCE: Pictorial Construction Terminology Dictionary (web) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: BSC - Building Materials Property Table (web) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: Hammer & Hand Best Practices Manual (web) (Resource)
  • How to Become a Building Enclosure Control Freak (11:33) (Video)
  • READING: EV Blog - Building Science 101 (web) (Resource)
  • READING: BSC - The Perfect Wall by Dr. Joseph Lstiburek (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Air Barriers, Vapor Barriers, and Drainage Planes Do Different Jobs (web) (Resource)
  • Controlling Moisture (17:00) (Video)
  • The Physics of Water (22:36) (Video)
  • READING: EV Blog - 6 Materials That Drain the Rain on the Plane and Keep A House Dry (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - What Happens When You Put a Plastic Vapor Barrier in Your Wall? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: GBA - All About Water-Resistive Barriers by Martin Holladay (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EPA Moisture Guide (pdf) (Download .pdf)
  • READING: EV Blog - Why Did Painters Refuse to Paint Insulated Houses in the 1930s? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: GBA - Do I Need a Vapor Retarder? by Martin Holladay (web) (Resource)
  • HOMEWORK: Control Layers Catalog (Download .pdf)
  • Week 1 Quiz (10 Questions) (Quiz)
  • READING: BSC - Leiningen versus The Ants Redux by Dr. Joseph Lstiburek (web) (Resource)
Module 2 - Becoming a Building Enclosure Control Freak - Part II

Once you know the basics of controlling moisture, it's time to look at controlling air and heat. We'll look at the fundamentals of air and heat this week and a bit about how the structure of a building affects the flows of heat, air, and moisture. We'll look at standard wood-frame construction as well as alternatives like structural insulated panels (SIPs), double-wall construction, Larsen trusses, and insulated concrete forms (ICFs). So dive in to the videos and articles and continue filling out your control layers catalog. Download the two spreadsheets and play around with calculating whole-wall R-values and the effects of the diminishing returns of adding more insulation. Do the quiz to see how well you understand the material, which includes some questions that you might need to use those spreadsheets for.

  • Controlling Air (19:13) (Video)
  • READING: EV Blog - What Is Pressure? - Understanding Air Leakage (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The 3 Rules of Air Leakage (Plus a Bonus!) (web) (Resource)
  • READING: BSC - Forty Years of Air Barriers (web) (Resource)
  • Controlling Heat (17:15) (Video)
  • READING: EV Blog - Flat or Lumpy - How Would You Like Your Insulation? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Attic Stairs - A Mind-Blowing Hole in Your Building Envelope (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The Layers and Pathways of Heat Flow in Buildings (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The Diminishing Returns of Adding More Insulation (web) (Resource)
  • Choosing a Structure (10:13) (Video)
  • READING: GBA - All About Larsen Trusses by Martin Holladay (web) (Resource)
  • READING: GBA - The Klingenberg Wall by Martin Holladay (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Structural Insulated Panels — An Easier Way to Build an Airtight Home (web) (Resource)
  • READING: The Mooney Wall (web) (Resource)
  • Conventional T-walls vs. Ladder T-walls (Resource)
  • TOOL: Series & Parallel Heat Flow Calculator (xls) (Download .xlsx)
  • TOOL: R-Value Diminishing Returns (xls) (Download .xlsx)
  • Week 2 Quiz (10 Questions) (Quiz)
  • REFERENCE: BSC - Guide to Insulating Sheathing (pdf) (Download .pdf)
  • READING: EV Blog - Big News: The R-Value of Insulation Is Not a Constant (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - 4 Pitfalls of Spray Foam Insulation (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Will Open-Cell Spray Foam Insulation Really Rot Your Roof? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: Is This the End of the Double-Wall, Cold Sheathing Scare? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: H&H Blog - Interview with a Passive House Structural Engineer (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Infiltration Occurs at the Surface, Not in the Volume (web) (Resource)
  • READING: BSC - Dr. Joseph Lstiburek's Doctoral Thesis (Download .pdf)
Module 3 - Climate Zones and Energy Codes

You know what materials work in your climate, but do you know why? Do you know how small changes in climate or location can impact the performance of those materials? One of the most fundamental principles in building science is to build or renovate using methods and materials that work for your climate. You’ll learn what makes climate zones different, details about the IECC climate zones, and how to get climate data for your area. You’ll also learn about code requirements for different climate zones.

  • Climate Zones and Energy Codes Part 1 (14:36) (Video)
  • Climate Zones and Energy Codes Part 2 (8:11) (Video)
  • SLIDES: Climate Zones and Energy Codes Parts 1 & 2 (pdf) (Download .pdf)
  • READING: EV Blog - Do You Know Your Building Science Climate Zone? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The Fundamentals of Heating and Cooling Degree Days, Part 1 (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - We Are the 99% — Design Temperatures & Oversized HVAC Systems (web) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: - What are degree days and how do you find them? This website holds the answers for you. (web) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: Weather Underground (web) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: Current dew points across the US. (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: Current dew points across Canada (Resource)
  • Climate Zones and Energy Codes Part 3 (12:30) (Video)
  • REFERENCE: Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: IECC, older versions - 2006, 2003, 2000, 1998 (Resource)
  • HOMEWORK: Looking up Climate Data (Download .doc)
  • HOMEWORK: Understanding the Energy Code (Download .doc)
  • TOOL: Home Energy Calculator (xls) (Download .xls)
  • Week 3 Quiz (10 questions) (Quiz)
  • READING: EV Blog - Dew Point — A More Meaningful Measure of Humidity? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: Degree Days - Handle with Care! (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The Fundamentals of Heating and Cooling Degree Days, Part 2 (web) (Resource)
Module 4 - Heating & Cooling: Equipment

Boiler? Furnace? Heat pump? Ground-source? Mini-split? Let the debate begin. You’ll learn the basics of load calculations, how the results of the load calculation impact your choice, and how to make an informed decision.

  • Heating & Air Conditioning Principles (1:14:09) (Video)
  • VIDEO: The Case for Mini-Split Heat Pumps (22:43) (Video)
  • READING: EV Blog - Intermediate Air Conditioning Principles (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - How the Heck Does a Heat Pump Get Heat from Cold?! (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Finding Balance - Heat Pump Heating Load vs. Capacity (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - 3 Reasons Your 3 Ton Air Conditioner Isn't Really 3 Tons (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Mechanical Systems for Low-Load Buildings (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Just Say No to Furnaces in High Performance Homes (web) - by David Butler (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Heat Pumps and Hydronics: A Great Team for High Performance Homes (web) - by David Butler (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Not All Mini-Split Heat Pumps Are Ductless! (Resource)
  • READING: Mini Split Heat Pumps Basics (pdf) (Download .pdf)
  • READING: Mini Split Heat Pumps: Choosing Equipment (pdf) (Download .pdf)
  • Interview with the Inventor of the Thermo-Turbo Encabulator Max (3:58) - Humor (Resource)
  • TOOL: Heat Pump vs. Furnace Comparison Calculator (xls) (Download .xlsx)
  • HOMEWORK: Using the Heat Pump vs. Furnace Calculator (Download .pdf)
  • INFOGRAPHIC: Home Heating (Download .jpg)
  • Take the quiz for this week and earn a passing score (Quiz)
Module 5 - Heating & Cooling: Distribution

Distributing heating and cooling throughout a house is the redheaded stepchild of the HVAC world. In this module, we'll look at how to ensure good, efficient delivery or removal of heat.

  • READING: EV Blog - The Sucking and the Blowing — A Lesson in Duct Leakage (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The 2 Primary Causes of Reduced Air Flow in Ducts (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - 4 Ways a Bad Duct System Can Lead to Poor Indoor Air Quality (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Can You Save Money by Closing HVAC Vents in Unused Rooms? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: GBA - The Achilles' Heel of Zoned Duct Systems (Resource)
Module 6 - Whole-House and Local Ventilation Systems + Indoor Air Quality

This week we'll look at the data and run numbers on ventilation systems. Indoor air quality often doesn't get the same level of attention as calculating loads and represents a tremendous opportunity for those who understand it and can speak intelligently about it.

  • Ventilation and IAQ Part 1 (18:06) (Video)
  • Ventilation and IAQ Part 2 (14:50) (Video)
  • READING: EV Blog - Why Do Airtight Homes Need Mechanical Ventilation? (web) (Resource)
  • READING: JLC Online - Clearing the Air: Making sense of current residential ventilation standards (web) (Resource)
  • READING: JLC Online - Choosing a Whole-House Ventilation Strategy (web) (Resource)
  • REFERENCE: BSC - Ventilation for New Low-Rise Residential Buildings (web) (Resource)
  • READING: GBA - HRV or ERV? by Martin Hollday (web) (Resource)
  • PRODUCT: AirCycler (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - A Blower Door Can't Tell You How Much Mechanical Ventilation You Need (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Lstiburek Has New Ventilation Standard—Resistance May Not Be Futile (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - Interview with Dr. Joe Lstiburek — The Ventilation Debate Continues (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - ASHRAE 62.2 Committee Chair Predicts Confusion & Frustration from BSC-01 (web) (Resource)
  • READING: EV Blog - The Ventilation Debate Continues: Interview with Dr. Iain Walker (web) (Resource)
  • HOMEWORK: Ventilation Rates and Strategies (doc) (Download .docx)
  • SPREADSHEET: BSC 01 Ventilation Rate Calculator (Download .xlsx)
  • RESOURCE: Residential Energy Dynamics ASHRAE 62.2-2010 Ventilation Tool (web) (Resource)
  • RESOURCE: Residential Energy Dynamics ASHRAE 62.2-2013 Ventilation Tool (web) (Resource)
  • Ventilation Quiz (Quiz)
After The Course - Feedback and Additional Resources

No matter how great this course is, we know it's just one part of a bigger journey. In this module we'll start thinking about what comes next. You'll provide feedback on the course, request a certificate of completion, and learn about additional resources. Don't forget that you'll have access to the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year). Feel free to come back as much as you like to continue learning, and please stay in touch. Let us know what you do next and how we can help.

  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey (Survey)
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate (Certificate)
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