The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Ice Dam Basics

Posted on February 27, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

What do you call the weeks between Valentine’s Day and Easter? It’s ice damA ridge of ice that forms along the lower edge of a roof, possibly leading to roof leaks. Ice dams are usually caused by heat leaking from the attic, which melts snow on the upper parts of the roof; the water then refreezes along the colder eaves working it's way back up the roof and under shingles. season, of course. Eastern Massachusetts is now the wet-ceiling capital of the world, but this winter, tens of thousands of homeowners from North Dakota to Maine are struggling with ice dams.

Grumpy Architect Time

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Robert Swinburne in Guest Blogs

I’m not normally a grumpy architect, but when I am it is usually because of something on this list.

1. If your house is adequately insulated there should be little temperature differential between the ceiling and the floor.

2. “Adequately” differs from code. Remember, a house built to code is the worst house you can legally build.

3. If you choose not to build an Energy-Star-certified home, please give your poor starving architect the $2,000 (the value of the Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. incentive) that you obviously have to spare.

Santa Cruz Straw Bale

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Anni Tilt in Green Building Blog

As a rule, we make sure our clients are interested in sustainability and design in equal parts, and ideally, our clients are also fun, intelligent, and engaged. When we met Bernie and Erika at a cafe near our office four years ago, our firm was incredibly busy, and it didn’t seem possible to add another project to our schedule. When the couple described their goals for the house and their property two blocks from the ocean in an eclectic neighborhood in Santa Cruz, Calif., we hesitated. “I’ll tell you what,” Bernie said.

The Fundamentals of Series and Parallel Heat Flow

Posted on February 25, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

We used to build houses without giving much thought to heat flow through the walls, ceilings, and floors. The main thing was to provide some resistance against wind and rain, and then we'd get a fire going to try to make the indoor temperatures bearable.

If you've ever lived in an old, uninsulated house, you know that method didn't work that well so later we started putting insulation into the cavities in building assemblies. Homes with insulated cavities are much more comfortable, but how exactly does heat flow through building assemblies? Turns out there are two ways.

Deep in the Heat of Texas

Posted on February 24, 2015 by Matt Risinger in Green Building Blog

You may have heard that here in Central Texas, it gets hot. The average temperature rises above 90°F on more than 100 days out of the year. As you might expect, we turn on the air conditioner more often than the furnace.

Foam Shrinks, and Other Lessons

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Joe Lstiburek, GBA Advisor in Green Building Blog

I did a deep-energy retrofit on my barn 16 years ago. Building Science Corp. was young and growing, and we needed a bigger office. The barn would be that office for the next 10 years. In fact, Betsy Pettit wrote about it in “Remodeling for Energy Efficiency” (FHB #194).

Designing for the Future

Posted on February 20, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

When an architect, residential builder, and owner sit around a table for their first design meeting, their ostensible goal is to begin designing a house. Whether they realize it or not, however, these three people are also predicting the future.

Minisplit Heat Pumps and Blizzards

Posted on February 19, 2015 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

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A blizzard (a severe snowstorm and sustained winds of over 35 mph) is a challenging weather condition for a minisplit heat pumpHeating and cooling system in which specialized refrigerant fluid in a sealed system is alternately evaporated and condensed, changing its state from liquid to vapor by altering its pressure; this phase change allows heat to be transferred into or out of the house. See air-source heat pump and ground-source heat pump.. Recall how an air-source heat pumpHeat pump that relies on outside air as the heat source and heat sink; not as effective in cold climates as ground-source heat pumps. works: the outdoor unit has a compressor and a fan that blows air across a coil with refrigerant. In heating mode, the coil is colder than the outdoor air. As air is drawn through the coil, it gives up heat to the coil and leaves the other side colder.

Why Is the HERS Reference Home Based on an Outdated Energy Code?

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

The HERS Index is a number that gives you a measure of how energy-efficient a home is. We can debate how relevant that number is or how accurate is the energy model it's based on, but the fact is that it's being used.

From a Leaky Old House to a Tight New Home

Posted on February 17, 2015 by Andrew Webster in Green Building Blog

Sara and Gareth Ross had spent a decade on the move. Postgraduate degrees and finance work had propelled them from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. When it came time to settle down, though, they moved to Amherst, Mass., where Sara had grown up. Amherst is a vibrant college town with rural beauty and Japanese restaurants; for the Rosses, it was the perfect place to slow down, nurture roots, and raise children. The Rosses were not tied either to the idea of a new house or to a remodel.

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