Green Building Blog

Foam Shrinks, and Other Lessons

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Joe Lstiburek, GBA Advisor

I did a deep-energy retrofit on my barn 16 years ago. Building Science Corp. was young and growing, and we needed a bigger office. The barn would be that office for the next 10 years. In fact, Betsy Pettit wrote about it in “Remodeling for Energy Efficiency” (FHB #194).

From a Leaky Old House to a Tight New Home

Posted on February 17, 2015 by Andrew Webster

Sara and Gareth Ross had spent a decade on the move. Postgraduate degrees and finance work had propelled them from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. When it came time to settle down, though, they moved to Amherst, Mass., where Sara had grown up. Amherst is a vibrant college town with rural beauty and Japanese restaurants; for the Rosses, it was the perfect place to slow down, nurture roots, and raise children. The Rosses were not tied either to the idea of a new house or to a remodel.

Passive House Perfection

Posted on February 12, 2015 by Justin Pauly

After both growing up in California, Mica and Laureen lived together in many other places throughout their busy careers. Their hearts have always been on the West Coast, though, and they longed to return one day. They eventually found a small piece of property in the coastal enclave of Carmel-by-the Sea on the Monterey Peninsula, and they hired me as architect and Rob Nicely of Carmel Building & Design as builder for a new house that will one day be their permanent home.

Attic-Insulation Upgrade

Posted on February 9, 2015 by Mike Guertin, GBA Advisor

Do you want to keep your heating costs from going through the roof? It’s easy: Keep your heat from going through the roof. Saving money on heating-fuel costs is a lot simpler than negotiating with OPEC or your local utility. On a recent upgrade in the attic of a 1950s-era house (one of two projects shown here), I air-sealed and spread a 12-in.- deep layer of cellulose throughout 1500 sq. ft. of space in about a day.

Build Like This

Posted on February 2, 2015 by matthew omalia

In 2008, when my business partner and I decided to form a design/build firm, we agreed to build to the highest standard of sustainability and to do so cost-effectively. With all our projects, we hoped to achieve a synergy between designing for human comfort, building in response to the site, and achieving long-term durability. We quickly agreed that 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. standard, which was just being introduced to the United States, would be the most comprehensive and clear measure of our success.

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.

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