Green Building Blog

A Higher Standard

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Jesse Thompson

For a number of years, Rob and Fiona were content to live in a simple Maine cottage a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. In recent years, however, they had tried having a new house designed to accommodate their changing needs, but quickly got mired in results that were much larger and more expensive than what they wanted. After tiring of these unsuccessful ventures, they came to my firm seeking a compact, modern, extremely energy-efficient home that would blend into the tightly woven neighborhood where they planned to root themselves for the years to come.

GBA 2.0

Posted on January 28, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Six years ago we launched GreenBuildingAdvisor.com with one goal: to be the most trustworthy source of information for anyone designing, building, or remodeling energy-efficient, sustainable, and healthy homes. At the heart of GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com 1.0 were downloadable construction details, case studies of high-performance homes, a strategy generator, and the Green Spec product guide. Over the years we've added thousands of articles — some written by me, and others by Allison Bailes, Carl Seville, and some of the country's top experts in the fields of construction, architecture, and building science.

A Tinkerer’s Quest for Green Perfection

Posted on December 11, 2014 by Scott Gibson

It was Eric Brattstrom's interest in a far-fetched scheme to heat his chicken coop with compost that eventually landed him in the Home & Garden section of the The New York Times, but the story turns out to be a lot more interesting than how to keep chickens warm in winter.

In Maine, A Passivhaus School Takes Shape

Posted on November 20, 2014 by Scott Gibson

For now, you'll have to use your imagination to envision a new school on the wooded site a few miles north of Portland, Maine. There are only concrete stem walls outlining the shape of the building, and earth-moving equipment up in back shaping what will eventually become recreation fields.

But by next June, visitors should be able to see the new Friends School of Portland. The 15,000-square-foot building will be one of only a few 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. school buildings in the country, and the largest Passivhaus structure in Maine. Architects also plan on making it a net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. building.

A Tale of Two Houses

Posted on October 14, 2014 by Scott Gibson

As difficult as it is to meet the requirements for Passivhaus certification, builders and designers have a great deal of leeway in how they approach it. There are just a few big hurdles to clear, including limits on how much energy the building can use and how airtight 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. must be.

Exactly how a builder accomplishes this is not spelled out. As long as the building meets the standard, it can win certification, either from the 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. Institute U.S. (PHIUS) or its European counterpart, the Passivhaus Institut (PHI).

Part 5 of GBA’s Passivhaus Video Series

Posted on October 7, 2014 by GBA Team

At 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. job site in Falmouth, Massachusetts, architect Steve Baczek specified triple-glazed Makrowin windows from Slovakia. The windows were installed as "in-betweenies," and the perimeter of each window was sealed with Siga Wigluv tape.

To make sure that the installations were watertight, each window was tested with a garden hose equipped with a spray nozzle after it was installed.

Rethinking Recessed Lighting

Posted on October 2, 2014 by Debra Silber

Recessed can lights have gained a reputation as the go-to fixture for inexpensive downlighting. But they have their drawbacks. When placed in an upper ceiling and not sealed and insulated, they can bleed energy. When improperly insulated, they can present a fire hazard.

A Call for Guest Blogs

Posted on July 24, 2014 by GBA Team

GBA loves guest blogs. Our readers are smart. Many of you post long, thoughtful comments on GBA every day. So it's time for some of you to send us a guest blog. We'd love to publish what you have to say.

What's a guest blog? Sometimes it's nothing more than three or four paragraphs and a good photo.

Did you see something funny at a job site today?

Did you drive past an ugly house yesterday?

Are you an inspector who can't believe what you see?

Did you just invent a great detail?

GBA Welcomes New Readers

Posted on July 17, 2014 by GBA Team

Now that the Green Building Advisor website is more than five years old, it has over 36,000 web pages. That's a lot of pages. It's no surprise that it can take a while to find what you are looking for in GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com's massive archives.

If you are a relative newcomer to GBA, welcome! Here are a few pointers to help you find your way around GBA.

Register for a free account and join the conversation


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