Building Science

Does a Composting Toilet Stink Up Your House?

Posted on May 22, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Ten years ago I was building a green home. It had passive solar features, was built out of structural insulated panels, sent all the greywater out to the back yard to water fruit trees, and was going to be super energy efficient. One feature above all others, though, captured people’s attention when I described the house to them — the composting toilet.

Does Your Air Barrier Work in Both Directions?

Posted on May 15, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Do you want a good air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. on your house? Of course you do. No one who knows anything at all about building science believes that old myth that a house needs to breathe. We want airtight houses, but then we want mechanical ventilation to bring in fresh air from outside (well, at least as fresh as you can get from your outside).

A PhD and an Architect Build a Net-Zero Home

Posted on May 8, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Amy Musser has a PhD in Architectural Engineering and, like me, used to be a college professor. Her husband, Matthew Vande, is an architect with an MS in Architectural Engineering. He is also a treehugger (see the black and white photo below). Together, they founded Vandemusser Design, a firm that provides green design, certification, and consulting.

All About Climate Zones

Posted on May 1, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

One of the fundamental principles of building science is that buildings must be suited to their climate. When they're not, problems can ensue. Maybe it's just that they're not as efficient as they should be. Maybe it's worse.

Does a Heat Pump Condenser Need to Go Outdoors?

Posted on April 24, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Occasionally I get asked if it's OK to put the condensing unit of an air conditioner or 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. in a garage or other room that's a buffer space. The thinking is that since the temperature may not be as hot in summer or as cold in winter, the system will operate more efficiently.

I saw recently that this same question came up in a column in Home Power magazine, so I thought this would be a good time to cover this issue (once and for all?) here.

ACCA vs. BPI: The Brouhaha Over Energy Audit Standards

Posted on April 17, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Probably the biggest news I heard at the 2013 RESNET conference this year was that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and 12 other organizations had asked the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to have the Building Performance Institute's (BPI) accreditation as a Standards Development Organization (SDO) revoked. Really!

Embarking on the Building Science Learning Curve

Posted on April 10, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

I just returned from Arizona, where I spoke at this year's conference of the Structural Insulated Panel Association. Since the conference was in Tucson, I also took the opportunity to visit with my friend David Butler of Optimal Building Systems.

Vented Crawl Spaces and the Psychrometric Chart Are Not Friends

Posted on April 3, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Really, the argument about whether you should vent a crawl space in a humid climate is over. Advanced Energy's research project from 2002 proved that closed crawl spaces outperform vented crawl spaces.

A quick look at the psychrometric chart below shows that the argument should never have existed in the first place. (Click the image to see an enlarged version.)

The Mad Hatter, Isaac Newton, and That Old Thermostat

Posted on March 27, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

I was a kid a long, long time ago. Seems like it was another century ... another millennium even. Wait a minute — it was another millennium!

That was back in the day when we used to ride bicycles without helmets, apply mercury to our wounds, move seat belts out of the way (if the car even had them), and put our tongue on steel poles in the middle of winter. Of course, in Texas and Louisiana we just ended up with a bad taste in our mouth from those steel poles and wondered why people made such a big deal about it.

The Tail-Wagging Labradors of RESNET

Posted on March 20, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Labradors? James Brown? What do either of those have to do with the RESNET conference?! Be patient, my friend. All will be revealed shortly. The 2013 conference sponsored by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) in Orlando a few weeks ago was fantastic. It and Building Science Summer Camp are my two favorite events of the year, and this year RESNET was better than ever.

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