Energy Solutions

The Philadelphia Navy Yard is Repurposed

Posted on November 28, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I’m just back from Philadelphia, where I spent most of last week at GreenBuild, the nation’s premier conference and expo focused on the burgeoning green building movement. I heard there were 25,000 attendees.

Several of us from BuildingGreen drove down the day before the conference started, and Brent, Candace, and I didn’t have any commitments on Tuesday afternoon, affording us the opportunity to visit The Navy Yard, which I had been hearing a lot about.

Ethanol Under Fire

Posted on November 21, 2013 by Alex Wilson

In my book, corn-based ethanol as a vehicle fuel has never been a good idea. But an in-depth investigation by Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo of The Associated Press, published last week, outlines a lot of other reasons why we should finally kill this particular farm subsidy.

Does Vacuum Insulation Make Sense?

Posted on November 14, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I’ve recently worked on revising the BuildingGreen Guide to Insulation Products and Practices (available as part of a webcast), so I’ve been steeped in all sort of insulation materials, including some oddball products. One of those is vacuum insulation — the principle of a Thermos bottle.

In theory, vacuum insulation is a great idea. To understand why, it helps to know a bit about heat flow.

Better National Distribution for Mineral Wool Batts

Posted on November 7, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Back in May of this year I wrote about a new rigid mineral wool insulation product from Roxul and how it can be used in place of foam-plastic insulation materials like polystyrene in certain applications. I've been revising the BuildingGreen Guide to Insulation Products and Practices and dug back into lots of insulation products. There are some new mineral wool developments to report.

Before getting into the details, here’s a little background: Mineral wool, variously referred to as rock wool, slag wool, and stone wool, was one of the first insulation materials to be widely produced commercially — starting back in 1871 in Germany.

A Vilified Insulation Material From the 1970s Returns

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Alex Wilson

In working on a major revision to The BuildingGreen Guide to Insulation Products and Practices (available bundled with a webcast), we’ve had an opportunity to dig into some of the lesser-known insulation materials on the market. Some of what we’re found has been surprising.

Heating with a Minisplit Heat Pump

Posted on October 24, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Thirty-five years ago, when I first got involved with energy efficiency and renewable energy, the mere suggestion that one might heat with electricity would be scoffed at by those of us seeking alternatives to fossil fuels.

Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, likened using electricity for heating to “cutting butter with a chainsaw.” Electricity is a high-grade form of energy; it doesn’t make sense to use it for a low-grade need like heating, he argued.

Using Reclaimed Wood for Porch Decking

Posted on October 17, 2013 by Alex Wilson

We’re moving along with some of the wrap-up work on our house in Dummerston. One of those projects is installing the porch decking on both the front and rear porches and a handicapped ramp up from the garage to the back porch. (Yes, we plan to live there for a long time!)

For the decking, we used a product I found out about through my work researching green building products at BuildingGreen. It’s actually a product we recognized as a Top 10 Green Building Product last year.

The United Nations Addresses Resilient Design

Posted on October 10, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Wrapping up an intense month of travel, I’m just back from New York City, where I spoke last Friday at the UN World Habitat Day conference, “Resilient Design for Sustainable Urbanism.” The event was cosponsored by the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanism, AIA New York, and the NJIT Center for Resilient Design.

LED Lights Brighten Our Nearly Completed Home

Posted on October 3, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Our electrician was in last week installing lighting in our new home in Dummerston. Virtually all of our lighting will be LEDLight-emitting diode. Illumination technology that produces light by running electrical current through a semiconductor diode. LED lamps are much longer lasting and much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps; unlike fluorescent lamps, LED lamps do not contain mercury and can be readily dimmed., the state-of-the-art choice today for energy-efficient lighting.

LED stands for “light-emitting diode.” It’s a solid-state lighting technology that converts electric current directly into visible light. LED lighting has far higher efficacy (the number of lumens of light output per watt of electricity consumed) than incandescent lighting — which converts roughly 90% of the electric current into heat; only 10% into light.

Most LED lights also have modestly higher efficacy than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). The recessed LED lights we installed have an efficacy of 66 lumens per watt, which is not too different from that of CFLs, but LEDs are much more directional than CFLs, so they work better in recessed cans in delivering usable light to where you need it.

Passivhaus is Blossoming in Brooklyn

Posted on September 26, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I was in New York City over the weekend where I spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. That meeting on Saturday night was okay (you can access my presentation from this link if you just have to know what I talked about), but what was really great was an opportunity to explore a new infill housing project in Brooklyn that’s being built to the PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. standard and may well achieve net-zero-energy performance.

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