Green Building Blog

How to Hang Airtight Drywall

Posted on May 25, 2015 by Myron Ferguson

Stopping air leaks is the single most important part of making a house more energy efficient. You can stop air on the outside with plywood, housewrap, and tape, but the best air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. is a system that incorporates the whole wall or roof assembly.

Prepping for Spray Foam

Posted on May 21, 2015 by Michael Chandler, GBA Advisor

Spray-foam insulation is gaining popularity these days, and for good reason. Not only does it offer lots of R-valueMeasure of resistance to heat flow; the higher the R-value, the lower the heat loss. The inverse of U-factor. per inch, but it also air-seals the house. I’ve been building custom homes in North Carolina for more than 20 years, and I’ve been using spray-foam insulation for the past four. These days, all my projects get 8 in. to 12 in. of foam under the roof deck, and I often use foam to insulate walls and crawlspaces as well.

Smart Scheduling Helps Projects to Finish on Time

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Michael Patterson

It’s been said that stereotypes are stereotypes because they contain a grain of truth. While “two weeks” may be funny, it hits close enough to home that whatever smile we contractors may have is a bit pinched, and whatever smiles our clients may have are knowing ones. I’m all for smiles, but I’d rather they be the satisfied grins of contractors and homeowners whose jobs went according to plan. Scheduling a project well ensures that satisfied grins are the rule.

How to Save an Old House

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Steve Baczek

Located in the historic district of Wayland, Mass., this 1850 Cape was added onto several times throughout its history. When we started our work, the house was empty, was in serious disrepair, and lacked even minimal modern performance standards. The house easily could have been designated as a teardown. My client was sensitive to the house’s architectural contribution to his community, though, and instead chose to breathe new life into it.

A New Roof Over the Old One

Posted on May 11, 2015 by Peter Bennett

My rustic 1930s post-and-beam home in Vermont had a definite roof problem: It was poorly insulated and susceptible to ice dams. But when I started working on a design for upgrading the insulation, I wasn’t willing to lose the look of the cathedral ceiling and the exposed-pole rafters by insulating on the inside. Because I needed to replace the 30-year-old cedar shakes anyway, it appeared an opportune time to fix the problem from the outside.

Downtown Design

Posted on May 7, 2015 by James Tuer

Living in the city doesn’t have to require a compromise in the quality of living, as some rural and suburban dwellers assume. You don’t have to forfeit a sense of privacy, give up a love of nature, or be forced to drive far outside city limits to find true refuge. When designed well, a home in a dense city neighborhood can provide quiet and personal space while keeping its owners thoroughly connected to the pulse of the urban landscape.

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.

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