Green Building Blog

New Life for Old Double-Hung Windows

Posted on May 4, 2015 by John Michael Davis

A client recently complained to me about how badly the old windows rattled in his historic home. He wanted to stop the noise as well as the air infiltration, but he didn’t want me to replace the windows. Like me, my client understands the important role that original windows play in preserving an older home’s historical integrity.

Rainwater Collection Lowers the Impact on a Coastal Site

Posted on April 30, 2015 by Stephen Sullivan

I was honored when longtime friend Laura Sewall invited me to design her house at Small Point, Maine. Set at the mouth of the Sprague River as it spills into the Atlantic, the site witnesses the daily ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides in a vast estuary. Laura saw this dramatic site, the setting for generations of family summer retreats, as a precious gift from her ancestors.

New Passive House Rules Take Effect

Posted on April 28, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Until now, anyone planning to build 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. performance standard had a single set of rules to follow. Whether you lived in San Diego or International Falls, Minnesota, buildings could use only a certain amount of energy for heating and cooling, and were allowed a very specific amount of air leakage in the 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..

Row House Recharged

Posted on April 27, 2015 by Ross Levy

I first met Bill and Zahra through a school charity event and soon after designed a new set of stairs for them. A couple of years went by before they called with a bigger project in mind: to expand and rehabilitate their two-unit edwardian home on the sunny south side of San Francisco. The home was a standard San Francisco row house that had been lived in continuously for more than 30 years and was in poor condition. The house needed a lot of work, and the transformation would be dramatic.

Blower Door Testing

Posted on April 23, 2015 by Larry Armanda

Air leaks in houses are a big problem. Leaks make homes uncomfortable and expensive to heat and cool. They create condensing cold spots that attract mold and rot. They lead to frozen pipes and make homes less resilient during prolonged power outages.

Save Energy With Storm Windows

Posted on April 20, 2015 by Mike Guertin, GBA Advisor

A client contacted me about installing replacement double-hung windows because she said the old ones were leaky and difficult to operate. It turned out that the double-hung wood windows on her 1960s ranch were actually in good condition. The problem was with the storm windows, which were aluminum triple-track models that had corroded. Many of the spring-loaded sash locks had frozen up, so the sashes wouldn’t latch in position, and the gasketing had dried up, allowing the sashes to rattle and leak air.

From Luxury to LEED

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Mark Picton

Like other building contractors, we have enjoyed the challenge of building big, fancy houses, and we are honored by the confidence and trust their owners have placed in us. In the best of those projects, the details were exquisite and demanding. Besides providing a good living, however, the single-minded, spare-no-effort pursuit of quality in big projects should leave us spiritually nourished and enriched.

Making Fiberglass Work

Posted on April 13, 2015 by Lee Kurtas

When building science and home efficiency really took off in the mid-1990s, insulation contractors started hearing regularly about how the type of insulation used affects a building’s energy efficiency. Blower-door testing and thermal imaging of existing homes proved that fiberglass—as it’s typically installed—didn’t perform as well as other types of insulation, especially spray foam. As a result, builders and architects doing projects with energy-performance benchmarks started specifying spray foam as a way to ensure better airtightness and thermal resistance.

Diagnostic Tools for Energy-Minded Remodelers

Posted on April 9, 2015 by Don Jackson

The past several years have seen a flurry of activity on the home-energy front. Federal tax incentives and dozens of rebate programs have focused attention on cutting residential energy consumption. Energy audits are now common in many areas of the country, and building codes have stepped up insulation and air-sealing requirements, and are even beginning to require blower-door testing and duct-testing on new construction. Homeowners are more aware than ever of these trends, with more and more wishing to tighten their houses so that they can save money on their utility bills.

A Better Approach to Design/Build

Posted on April 6, 2015 by Ann Edminster, GBA Advisor

The most ambitious project I’ve ever worked on is a spectacular, über-green home in the foothills west of Silicon Valley. The owners, Linda Yates and Paul Holland, contacted me in May 2006 to request that I brief their project team on LEED for HomesLeadership 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. , then in its prepilot stage. Six years later, in November 2012, I had the pleasure of leading a tour of the house as part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild conference. I invited Fine Homebuilding editor Brian Pontolilo to tag along.

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