A Conversation with Corbett Lunsford - Tiny Lab Creator


We sat down with Corbett Lunsford of the Building Performance Workshop, to talk about the Proof Is Possible Tour, which aims to make home performance metrics mainstream through live workshops and a TV show, Home Diagnosis.

475: Corbett, you and Grace are constructing a high performance tiny house on wheels and packing yourselves and your baby into it to tour 16 cities and preach the gospel of home performance testing. What were you thinking?

CORBETT: (laughing) I think we got tired of waiting. We know that measured performance is popular and mainstream in other industries- with cars, with athletes, and now even with the fitbits on people’s wrists everywhere. Normal people love stats for their sports teams and their kids test scores, they could obviously learn to love stats for houses too.

None of the rebate programs, governmental efforts, or news stories about ‘energy audits’ has really made an impact on the demand for performance in mainstream homes, and we believe it can be done, so we’re doing it with partners like 475, Panasonic, Knauf, RAB Lighting, PureBond plywood, and Mitsubishi Electric.

There’s the Tiny Lab, which we’re all creating together to show America, there are hands-on workshops for consumers and pros, and then there’s the TV show Home Diagnosis.

475: The Tiny Lab is a 180 sq. ft. house on wheels, right? I’ve seen those on TV for sure-  will you be teaching people to live with less, in a sustainable-housing kind of way?

CORBETT: Actually, we won’t! The tiny house part of the Proof Is Possible Tour is essentially bait to get people to come out and talk to us. Everybody loves a tiny house right now, and getting to tour one and see what it’s like is a great magnet for a crowd. Once we have people there with us, we’ll use the very simple lens of the Tiny Lab to teach them about the dynamics of home performance (heat flow, airflow & pressure, moisture, & air quality) and the amazing products that our Product Partners like 475 can give them.

It drives us crazy that normal people don’t know what the sausage factory of conventional home construction and home improvement looks like. We’re going to show it to them, and then show them exactly how they can make it better. Once they understand home performance in a tiny home and take that new comprehension back to their bigger house, we’ll be empowering people to make better choices in home improvement and home buying.

475: You’ll be using our INTELLO Membranes for smart vapor control in the Tiny Lab- how did that become part of the project?

CORBETT: One of the problems with most PR campaigns for high performance (or ‘energy efficient’) building is that they don’t tell a story. The Tiny Lab has a story, and every product that makes up its high performance systems is carefully chosen to be smart and sexy. 475’s array of explicitly ‘smart’ building components was obviously a must-have character in the Tiny Lab story. When normal people know what’s possible in modern homes, they’ll start asking for it, and until we tell them the story that sticks in their mind, they’re just guessing.

475: You’ve made ‘Proof’ the main character in the Tiny Lab story- what exactly does that mean?

CORBETT: I am so glad you asked- to me, telling stories about energy efficiency or sustainability or even air quality or comfort just miss the point. The point is that the real difference between a building pro who consistently does high performance work and one who barely passes code is performance testing. That’s it. Everyone seems to have some building science expertise nowadays, somehow, but we’re still missing the mark a lot of the time. It’s not the knowledge, it’s the testing- if we get testing and metrics to be the main theme of the conversation, the fight’s over. When we compare apples to apples, suddenly we can know whether we got what we paid for, and see that these building professionals are clearly superior to those others.

Proof means that consumers can sleep easy at night knowing they got what they paid for. And it means that pros can compete on quality, not on price, since everyone will know exactly how bad the cheap work is.

475: So where is the tour going, and where will the TV show be filmed?

CORBETT: We’re letting our fans and colleagues decide on that! It’s unusual, we know, but we’ll be setting up shop for a week in each of these 16 cities, and our City Sponsor when we’re there will get huge PR exposure at all the events and local media interviews (which, come on, tiny house with a tiny human- who wouldn’t want to put that in the news?).  Everybody should go to ProofIsPossible.com to participate in the crowd sourcing campaign, and we can use all the help we can get in spreading the word. Our goal is to make measured home performance mainstream, so we all have the opportunity to benefit- a rising tide lifts all boats!

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