Historic Home Performance

Historic Home Performance is the discipline of significantly enhancing very old homes in terms of contemporary home performance concepts — occupant safety, comfort, indoor air quality, durability, energy efficiency, minimally sized heating and cooling systems, bulk water and moisture control, weatherization, and ventilation — while preserving their historic character, original materials, and workmanship.

As far as I can discern, I’m the originator of the term ‘Historic Home Performance’, and first to attempt to delineate Historic Home Performance as a concept. However, I’m certainly not the only person working toward these goals, and we need a good many more doing the same.

My particular vision for Historic Home Performance unifies historic preservation, and the traditional and preservation trades, with environmental sustainability, building science, and deep energy reduction goals. Developing house as a system models of early American domestic architectures is fundamental to this approach, as is extensive and continuous monitoring of the home environment.

Traditional materials and workmanship are strongly advocated to ensure an historic structure’s long-term repairability, while non-traditional treatments must be reversible, re-treatable, and nondestructive to existing fabric. Identifying passive home performance strategies of the past that have been long incorporated into some particular historic building or home site, and determining how they might work in concert with modern home performance technologies, is also a major objective of this approach.

If you’d like to learn more about Historic Home Performance, please give my Historic Home Manifesto a read, as well as my listing of Historic Home Resources, and collection of Historic Home Performance articles. In time, I’ll expand these pages to include more detailed technical information, reports of actual results, and emerging best practices.

“Yes, I’m a building science guy… just one from the eighteenth century.” – John Poole

4 Responses to Historic Home Performance

  1. Nate Adams says:

    John, thank you for providing these resources and putting a name to Historic Home Performance!

    While most people would call me an insulator, I live in an 1835 Western Reserve home that was the original general store for my little town of Mantua. I’m kind of stuck between two worlds – preservation and energy efficiency.

    Thankfully, I don’t feel that they are enemies, although sometimes they are frienemies, as the blogosphere has demonstrated and you commented on. Keep doing what you are doing, and I’m subscribing to your blog!

    • John Poole says:

      Hi Nate,

      Thanks for the great words, and thanks for subscribing!

      Like you, I don’t believe that preservation and energy efficiency are natural enemies. Rather, I think it’s more the case that the established work methods and products for performance retrofitting are at odds with the requirements of preservation. I think we can change that situation, but it will just take some time, and educating others, on our part.

      Thanks again for subscribing, and I am very much looking forward to future feedback from you!


  2. Scott Sidler says:

    I totally agree with the concept! It’s hard to strike a balance between historic preservation and deep energy retrofits, but I know it can be done. We aim for that in my company all the time. I can’t wait to read the manifesto!

    • John Poole says:

      Thanks very much Scott!

      I personally prefer the term “deep energy reduction”, because it expresses a goal, rather than a treatment. “Retrofit” is perhaps too overloaded a term, anyway. It can mean a lot of things, but is often taken to imply something very invasive.

      One goal of mine is to organize a taxonomy of the various treatments that, in principle, could be used to achieve deep energy reductions, and describe what aspects of them are either consistent with, or problematic to, preservation goals, and why.

      Feel free to comment as much as you want on any of these pages, whether you agree or disagree with any points. All feedback is welcome.

      Thanks again!

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