Green Architects' Lounge

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!

How to Choose the Right Mechanical System

Posted on February 28, 2013 by Christopher Briley

With any house, there are so many variables that influence the decision to choose one particular mechanical system over another: climate, house size, cost, local availability and cost of fuels and materials, and the lifestyle and preferences of the occupants. There is no “one-size-fits-all” system that we can reliably prescribe for all projects. Phil and I sat down over a good winter cocktail to share our views, anecdotes, battle scars, and wisdom on this important subject.

Photovoltaics, Part 2: Enter the Dollar

Posted on September 10, 2012 by Christopher Briley

Not too long ago, our own Jesse Thompson (known for his "What's Bothering Jesse?" segment on the Green Architects' Lounge) wrote a great article, PV Systems Have Gotten Dirt Cheap. It was a wakeup call for many.

Photovoltaics, Part 1: Shedding Light on the Basics

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Christopher Briley

In order to understand whether a photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) system is appropriate for the project you're working on, you really have to understand the metrics and basics of solar electric systems.

Phil and I sat down, turned on the mic, and did our best to convey the basic concepts and rules of thumb that most green professionals should know. Of course, this episode lays the groundwork for Part 2, in which we will cover the financial implications of a PV system.

The Green Architects Chat With Allison Bailes

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Christopher Briley

Allison Bailes was in town to talk to the Building Science Discussion Group, and Phil and I thought we'd grab him to share a conversation with our listeners. (For more on the Building Science Discussion Group, see “Steve's Garage.”)

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