Green Architects' Lounge

Ventilation for Your Tight House — Part 2

Posted on September 17, 2015 by Christopher Briley

Our conversation with Sonia Barrantes continues. (If you missed it, here is a link to Ventilation for Your Tight House — Part 1.)

We've come to realize that we all want simple rules of thumb to guide our design process. Unfortunately, there isn't a rule of thumb for everything and we're going to have to rely on some common sense, good advice, and good old-fashioned engineering to get this balanced ventilationMechanical ventilation system in which separate, balanced fans exhaust stale indoor air and bring in fresh outdoor air in equal amounts; often includes heat recovery or heat and moisture recovery (see heat-recovery ventilator and energy-recovery ventilator). system right.

Our cocktails are refreshed and we're ready to go.

Ventilation for Your Tight House — Part 1

Posted on September 1, 2015 by Christopher Briley

In this episode we are assuming that you are preparing to design or build a super-tight house and you're interested in the best way to provide fresh air for its occupants.

In the old days, you'd just “let the house breathe” [shudder]. But those days are long gone. A healthy house leaks, while an energy-efficient house controls how it leaks — and this episode is all about the latter.

Don’t Be an Air Hole! — Part 2

Posted on October 7, 2014 by Christopher Briley

Phil and I have freshened up our drinks and now we're ready to tackle Items 8 through 15. Be sure to go back to Part 1 to listen to Items 1 through 7.

Here's a link to the PowerPoint presentation that inspired this podcast: Sprout Follies at NESEA.

Don’t Be an Air Hole! — Part 1

Posted on September 29, 2014 by Christopher Briley

It's back to the basics with this one, folks.

Back in 2013, we were asked to do a presentation at NESEANorth East Sustainable Energy Association. A regional membership organization promoting sustainable energy solutions. NESEA is committed to advancing three core elements: sustainable solutions, proven results and cutting-edge development in the field. States included in this region stretch from Maine to Maryland. for the “Fundementals” track — something similar to our “Sprout Follies” podcast. We put together a PowerPoint presentation, and did our best to deal with the fact that our cocktails would be coffee.

It was well received, so we thought it would be a good idea to share a condensed version of that presentation as a podcast here at

Foundations — Part 2

Posted on July 15, 2014 by Christopher Briley

Phil and I have returned to continue our discussion on foundations. In Part One, we covered slabs and frost walls, and in this part we cover basements and crawl spaces.

The Highlights:

Do you really need a basement? If there's no programmatic need for a basement (like the need for a workshop), then perhaps you can do without one.

Insulation: Inside or outside? There are many reasons to insulate on either side. We weigh the pros and cons.

Foundations — Part 1

Posted on July 7, 2014 by Christopher Briley

Not too long ago I found myself in a deep conversation (pun intended) about frost-protected slabs with some other architects and building professionals. I was surprised at the energy surrounding the topic. We all seemed to have developed substantial differences in the details on our own and we were all learning from each other.

I was equally surprised at how fresh this concept seemed — I mean, haven’t we been founding our wood structures on the ground for centuries now? Millennia, even?

An Update on the Pretty Good House — Part 2

Posted on December 31, 2013 by Christopher Briley

Cocktails in hand, Phil and I pick up the conversation about the Pretty Good House. Be sure to check Part 1 of this episode for some of the basics and the origins of this nebulous building/design concept.

The Highlights:

A Great Anecdote: Phil tells a great anecdote that illustrates the need for the Pretty Good House Guidelines.

An Update on the Pretty Good House — Part 1

Posted on December 9, 2013 by Christopher Briley

The status quo of newly constructed homes here in America is, well, disappointing. Despite some strong market-transforming rating systems (such as LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. , 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., 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., etc.), the classic American home is still being designed and built exactly as it was 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. Why?

There's a few reasons, the biggest of which is market demand. People buy what's on the market, and builders build what sells. The only ones pushing the market are those few who are willing to go the extra distance, and do that extra homework to make their projects substantially better. This is actually a very small percentage of those building or buying a new home.

Making Green Affordable, Part 2

Posted on October 29, 2013 by Christopher Briley

Part Two of this episode brings us to construction details for high-performance affordable homes. Again, I feel the need to point out that we are not talking about low-income housing or housing that makes a difference between shelter and non-shelter. I'm talking about high-performance homes that will compete, on a financial level, with those cheap vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). boxes that litter suburbia and urban areas alike.

Phil and I have refreshed our drinks and are ready to talk about building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials. construction from the bottom up. Let's get started.

Making Green Affordable, Part 1

Posted on October 8, 2013 by Christopher Briley

Now that "green" design (usually defined as design that is energy-efficient and environmentally friendly) is arguably in the mainstream, our industry faces a challenge: to bring green design into the realm of affordability. "Affordable," like "green," is a subjective term, and so it makes it difficult to discuss without offending some people (specifically those who are struggling to afford basic shelter for themselves or others; where a donated sink, or 2x4, makes all the difference.) I don't think this article is necessarily for you/them. I should be clear, right up front, that we are mostly talking about very low-energy, high-quality houses. However, all the principles Phil and I discuss, can be applied to any home, of any size and scale.

So, join Phil and me as we knock back a cocktail, roll up our shirt sleeves, and discuss our respective approaches to affordable green design. I should also warn you that Phil and I are a bit chatty in the beginning, and if you are the type that likes to get right to the subject matter, and don't care about Phil's discovery of Campari, then you'll want to skip ahead to minute 06:00.

For the rest, well, here's to you!

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