Harold Orr grew up in southern Saskatchewan and graduated from high school at Radville Christian College (Western Christian College) in 1949. He comes from a long line of builders going back to his great-grandfathers.
As a young man, he worked during the summers as a carpenter's helper, and built his first house when he was going to university to get his degree in engineering.
Harold completed his Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1959 and his Master of Science in 1962 at the University of Saskatchewan. His Masters thesis "Studies and Improvements to an air infiltration instrument" was the result of work done at the Prairie Regional Station (PRS) of the Division of Building Research of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). When he completed his thesis, he continued to work on problems of air leakage in buildings at PRS.
In 1965 he was sent to Ottawa for indoctrination, and worked in the thermal conductivity laboratory rebuilding and designing instruments to measure the thermal resistance of building materials.
While there, he improved instruments and procedures so much that the measurement of thermal resistance of insulation materials which previously took a week to complete when he started, could be done to the same precision in three hours by the time he left Ottawa.
Back to Saskatoon in 1968, he continued work on air infiltration in buildings and developed an instrument to measure infiltration over long periods of time. This instrument used sulphur hexafloride as a tracer in a constant concentration mode and used a digital computer to control the system and record the data.
While this instrument got good data on infiltration, it was not practical to determine how tight buildings were since it took many hours (days) to get average infiltration data. Harold designed and built the first "blower door". This is the standard instrument to measure tightness of buildings today.
Harold was one of the principals on the team that designed the Saskatchewan Conservation House (SCH), the house was the idea behind the R2000 housing program in Canada, and the Passive House program in Europe and the USA.
In 1982, Harold was a principal on the team that retrofitted a bungalow in Saskatoon, 31 Deborah Cres. to the same level of efficiency as the SCH. This house has been an inspiration on how to retrofit housing.
In 1986 he retired from the NRC and worked as a private consultant under "Harold Orr and Associates". In 1989 he moved to Oklahoma and taught engineering at Oklahoma Christian College. While there, the engineering program at Oklahoma Christian became an accredited program.
From 1985 to 2006 Harold was a member of CSA (Canadian Standards Association) committees on wood preservation, preserved wood foundations, and shingles and shakes.
In 1990 Harold was asked to propose a method for retrofitting 13 four-plexes in Yellowknife, NWT. This completed project has become the standard for retrofitting housing units in the Northwest Territories.
Over the last 10 years Harold has been helping friends and family members retrofit their homes for energy conservation and for better livability.
Harold has authored and co-authored numerous papers about energy and retrofitting houses.
Harold is married to Mary Lidbury and they have celebrated 60 years together and have 8 children, 22 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.