Green Building Blog

Framing and Air-Sealing Tips for High-Performance Walls

Posted on December 28, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

In three new videos produced by Oregon builder Hammer & Hand, lead carpenter Val Darrah explains how he keeps air sealing in mind as he frames the walls for his current project, the Pumpkin Ridge 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..

Val explains why he prefers to use a router rather than a saw when he cuts out window openings in the OSB sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. . He also shares his method of building window bucks out of 3/4-inch plywood.

A New Encyclopedia Article on Air Barriers

Posted on December 14, 2012 by GBA Team

GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com's library of articles and blogs continues to expand. The newest article to be added to the ever-deeper GBA Encyclopedia covers air barriers.

Holladay Recognized by Fellow Blogger

Posted on November 15, 2012 by Patrick McCombe

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Martin Holladay for more than 10 years, so it came as no surprise to me that his passion for sustainable building and his journalistic chops were recently recognized by the website Retro Renovation. The site’s regular blogger, Pam Kueber, told readers that Martin is “pretty much my favorite blogger in the universe.”

New Video Series: Airtight Drywall

Posted on October 23, 2012 by GBA Team

Stopping air leaks is the single most important part of making a house more energy efficient. Every building needs at least one, and sometimes two, air barriers. One of the most common ways to install an interior air barrier is to follow the Airtight Drywall Approach.

Passive House New England’s Fall Symposium

Posted on October 22, 2012 by GBA Team

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. New England is hosting a one-day conference in Boston with presentations on a variety of topics that are likely to interest GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com readers, including "Passive House and Cost Optimization in the South."

Among the speakers scheduled for the upoming event are Adam Cohen, Chris Corson, Jesse Thompson, Marc Rosenbaum, and Martin Holladay.

The symposium will be held at the University of Massachusetts - Boston on Saturday October 27. The cost to attend is $75 (or $35 for students).

A New Encyclopedia Article on Ductless Minisplits

Posted on October 19, 2012 by GBA Team

With each passing month, GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com's library of articles and blogs gets deeper. For example, we recently added a new article on Ductless Minisplit Heat Pumps to the GBA Encyclopedia.

Ductless minisplits differ from conventional air-source heat pumps in several ways: first of all, they are extremely efficient, in part because of the use of inverterDevice for converting direct-current (DC) electricity into the alternating-current (AC) form required for most home uses; necessary if home-generated electricity is to be fed into the electric grid through net-metering arrangements.-driven compressors. Secondly, many of these units can operate efficiently at very low outdoor temperatures.

The Pretty Good House: A Better Building Standard?

Posted on October 5, 2012 by michael maines

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEANorth East Sustainable Energy Association. A regional membership organization promoting sustainable energy solutions. NESEA is committed to advancing three core elements: sustainable solutions, proven results and cutting-edge development in the field. States included in this region stretch from Maine to Maryland. www.nesea.org) held its annual meeting in Portland, Maine, on September 15th, 2012. After a day of tours of local sustainably designed projects and some pre-meeting smorgasbord grazing, the meeting started with a round of speeches by board and association directors. (Exciting changes are coming; stay tuned!). Then the meeting continued with the entertainment portion of the evening: a panel-style discussion about the Pretty Good House.

(At Least) 3 Things Are Wrong With This Window Installation

Posted on September 28, 2012 by GBA Team

Last week, GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com published a photo of a recently installed window in an new house under the headline, “What's Wrong With This Picture?”

The photo showed the window from the interior. Some of the flexible flashing material was visible on the rough sill and the rough jamb.

The list of problems outlined below was prepared by James Steacy of IBACOS.

Updated Encyclopedia Page on Photovoltaic Systems

Posted on September 27, 2012 by GBA Team

Only a few years ago, the installed cost of a grid-connected photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) system was about $7 per watt. Now that inexpensive PV modules are widely available, the price has been cut in half (to about $3.50 per watt) in many areas of the U.S.

As architect Jesse Thompson pointed out in his GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com guest blog, PV Systems Have Gotten Dirt Cheap, falling PV prices are a game-changer.

What’s Wrong With This Window Installation?

Posted on September 21, 2012 by GBA Team

Readers are invited to identify as many installation errors they can spot in the attached photo of a window installed in the rough opening of a new home.

This is the latest in our ongoing series, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” (To see two previous photos in the series, click the links in the box below.)

The photo comes from James Steacy of IBACOS (a Building America program partner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).

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