Green Building Blog

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.

Part 4 of GBA’s Passivhaus Video Series

Posted on June 26, 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 double-stud walls. The frame of a Passivhaus may not be as exciting as the thick layers of insulation, the high-tech mechanical ­systems, or the triple-glazed windows, but it plays a very important supporting role in achieving success.

Part 3 of GBA’s Passivhaus Video Series

Posted on June 19, 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 the installation of 10 inches of EPSExpanded polystyrene. Type of rigid foam insulation that, unlike extruded polystyrene (XPS), does not contain ozone-depleting HCFCs. EPS frequently has a high recycled content. Its vapor permeability is higher and its R-value lower than XPS insulation. EPS insulation is classified by type: Type I is lowest in density and strength and Type X is highest. under the slab-on-grade foundation. After the concrete had been placed, more rigid foam was installed above the slab, to bring the finished floor assembly to R-50.

Part 2 of GBA’s Video Series on a Passive House Project

Posted on January 20, 2014 by GBA Team

At 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. job site in Falmouth, Massachusetts, architect Steve Baczek specified a mudsill gasket.

But to make sure that the gap between the top of the foundation and the sill plate didn't leak, Baczek took a belt-and-suspenders approach by also specifying the use of Tremco acoustical sealant. Sold in tubes at specialty retailers and online, the black sealant installs easily with a caulk gun. It’s exceedingly sticky and highly elastic, and unlike construction adhesive, it never cures.

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