Green Building Blog

Thermal and Moisture Control Layers

Posted on February 21, 2017 by Michael Maines

Editor's note: This post originally was published as part of the ProHOME series at Fine Homebuilding magazine. Michael Maines is a Certified Passive HouseA 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. Consultant and residential designer based in Palermo, Maine.

A Practical Approach to Passive House

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Steve Baczek

I began my career in architecture nearly 17 years ago after spending many years as a contractor. My background has given me a strong appreciation for and understanding of people who design and build homes. I’ve designed more than 30 zero-energy homes, six deep-energy retrofits, and numerous high-performance houses. In truth, the path to optimum performance and durability hasn’t always been easy.

GBA Prime Sneak Peek: Plan Ahead for Insulation

Posted on March 19, 2016 by Martin Holladay

GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com Prime subscribers have access to many articles that aren't accessible to non-subscribers, including Martin Holladay's weekly blog series, “Musings of an Energy Nerd.” To whet the appetite of non-subscribers, we occasionally offer non-subscribers access to a “GBA Prime Sneak Peek” article like this one.

Leak-Free Skylights

Posted on January 21, 2016 by Mike Guertin

I used to worry every time I installed a skylight. Even with the best installation detailing, I could still expect a storm to hit from just the right direction and drive water behind the flashing.

When I discovered peel-and-stick membranes, my worrying days ended. Now I follow a series of simple steps that hasn’t failed in more than 15 years’ worth of installations. The key to success is integrating the membrane and the flashings with the shingles to direct water back to the surface of the roof. Although the project shown here is a retrofit, I would flash it the same way on a new home.

Repairing Rotten Trim

Posted on January 7, 2016 by John Michael Davis

If I look hard enough at any house here in New Orleans, I’m sure to see one: a length of casing, fascia or corner board, with a hideous scarf joint only a foot or two from the end. This joint wasn’t put there by the builder; it was added years later to repair a rotten section of trim.

We get a lot of rot down here, and the ends of the boards are often the first to go. When they do, the standard repair is to cut back to undamaged wood at a 45º angle (what’s known as a scarf joint), then attach a new section of trim using yellow glue and finish nails. Sometimes it looks good—for a while.

Martin’s 2015 Christmas Poem

Posted on December 18, 2015 by Martin Holladay

To Our Coy Leaders
With apologies to Andrew Marvell

Managing Job-Site Mud

Posted on September 30, 2015 by Fernando Pages Ruiz

Drive past an average construction site (even a small residential addition) after a summer rain, and the street is usually coated with mud. Gooey, sticky, dirty stuff, the mud that runs off job sites and flows into storm sewers wreaks havoc on the quality of streams, rivers, and other waterways. But beyond the dire environmental consequences of job-site runoff, it’s also rude to mire your neighbors in mud. Plus, there’s the matter of steep fines.

A Straw-Bale Home in Vermont

Posted on June 10, 2015 by GBA Team

The owner of Vermont Natural Homes, Chad Mathrani, is building his own home near Brattleboro, Vermont. The walls of the house are built using several different construction methods, including timber frame, straw-bale, and double-stud framing insulated with cellulose.

This video of Mathrani's project was produced by a distributor of building products, 475 High Performance Building Products in Brooklyn, New York.

How to Provide Makeup Air for Range Hoods

Posted on June 8, 2015 by Martin Holladay

When Cheryl Morris moved into her new home, she realized that the kitchen exhaust fan was probably too powerful. Whenever she turned on the 1,200-cfm fan, strange things happened. “It pulled the ashes out of the fireplace, halfway across the room, right up to my husband’s chair,” she says. Those dancing ashes demonstrate an important principle: Large exhaust fans need makeup air.

Friendlier Foam Insulation On the Way, Eventually

Posted on June 2, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Builders who have been waiting for a new generation of extruded polystyrene insulation with a lower global warming potential (GWP) than what’s currently available may have to wait a little longer.

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