Their assignment is to design an energy-efficient house for an imaginary client, but the Architectural Drafting students at Camden Hills Regional High School have plenty of questions about the houses their families really live in.

Should their parents insulate the basement?  Is solar energy worth the investment?  What are hay bales doing piled against the foundation?  And why are houses so complicated?

Richard overwhelmed them this week, with R-values and U-values and delta-Ts, but they were good sports.  By the end of class, students were grappling with efficiency and design questions – like how to balance the passive solar gain windows provide with the insulation gaps they create – and noticing that houses are complicated in some pretty interesting ways.

"These kids are juniors and seniors who might be a few years from working as builders themselves," said their teacher, Steve Nystrom.  "Learning about site planning, elements of design, energy efficiency, and building code requirements now will give them an advantage."

We'll all have an advantage if the next generation of builders plans for energy efficiency.  As Richard told them, “When you design a new building, you get to design in the energy efficiency.  You can design for passive solar gain and insulation, and you can calculate how much energy it will take to stay warm.  Adding efficiency to an exisiting building is trickier."

Yep.  Tricky, but also fun.  Thank goodness there's no shortage of leaky, old houses around here.