Green Building Blog

Leak-Free Skylights

Posted on January 21, 2016 by Mike Guertin, GBA Advisor

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, GBA Advisor

To Our Coy Leaders
With apologies to Andrew Marvell

Sensible Plumbing

Posted on October 6, 2015 by Dave Yates

“We have very low pressure at the master-bathroom shower, and if any other plumbing is used, we literally have no water coming out of the showerhead.” The frustration in my new customer’s voice was palpable, and during the drive to his country estate, thoughts about the root causes of his home’s water-pressure woes ran through my head. I pulled into the driveway of what had to be a multimillion-dollar home. How could a house that looked this great be suffering so much internally?

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.

Retrofits versus Reductions

Posted on September 3, 2015 by Marc Rosenbaum

Anyone who is contemplating a deep energy retrofit has to consider multiple approaches and techniques for taking the diverse building stock we have and transforming it — from the standpoint not just of energy use, but also comfort, health and safety, and durability — because so much of our building stock is plagued with deficiencies. Retrofits fix the issues with the building — and saving energy almost ends up as a desirable byproduct.

The Case for Nuclear Power — Despite the Risks

Posted on June 16, 2015 by Gary Was

Nuclear power is likely the least well understood energy source in the United States. Just 99 nuclear power plants spread over 30 states provide one-fifth of America’s electricity. These plants have provided reliable, affordable, and clean energy for decades. They also carry risk — to the public, to the environment, and to the financial solvency of utilities.

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, GBA Advisor

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.

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