Green Building Blog

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.

Breathe Easy With Balanced Ventilation

Posted on March 31, 2015 by Sean Groom

Houses need fresh air. Without ventilation, the quality of indoor air can rapidly become worse than that of the outside air; that holds true even in urban areas. Common contaminants include gases, odors, and moisture, and these can stem from utility rooms, garages, basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Exploiting the Elements of Passive Design

Posted on March 30, 2015 by James Tuer

Every site has a story to tell, and the right house can help to tell that story. Located on the western coast of Bowen Island in British Columbia, this house is a good example. My clients, a professor of East Asian archaeology and a researcher from Kyoto, Japan, had worked the land for years, cultivating extensive gardens of ornamental plants from around the world. When they approached me to design a house for the property, they had only two requests: The home must fit the site, and it should have minimal impact on the landscape. The rest of the design was left in my hands.

Insulating With Damp-Spray Cellulose

Posted on March 26, 2015 by Leroy Anthony

Insulating any building can be a challenge, but the nonprofit energy-efficiency and weatherization company I work for, Community Environmental Center, frequently insulates old houses being rebuilt for residential group homes and elderly housing in New York City. These skilled-care buildings, like the one shown in these photos, are crammed with pipes, ducts, and wires, so they’re tough to insulate. They’re also located in dense urban neighborhoods that can be busy and loud.

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