Green Building Curmudgeon

Topping Out

Posted on October 4, 2016 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

Once we finished all the foundation and termite protection work describe in my last post, we were ready to start framing. Before we hired the framing trade contractor, I reviewed my requirements with him, including advance framing and close communication, and I looked him in the eye and said I was looking for a quality job and was willing to pay for it — I didn’t want an industry standard, crank-it-out-fast crew.

Movin’ On Up

Posted on September 5, 2016 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

Carl Seville and his wife are building themselves a new home in Decatur, Georgia. The first blog in this series was titled The Third Time’s the Charm.

The Third Time’s the Charm

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

After two failed attempts at building a new house, I’m finally ready to get started. My first plan, started in 2009, was shot down by the historic commission.

Desperately Seeking Quality

Posted on February 16, 2016 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

It’s been quite a while since my last post. The good news is that the recession is over and business is good, leaving me little time to write these days. The bad news is that there is so much work going on, which, combined with a shortage of skilled labor, ends up with large knowledge and communication gaps that create problems in the field.

Dispatch from the AIA Convention

Posted on June 1, 2015 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 convention of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) — a simple matter for me, as it took place in Atlanta. I find that it is often challenging to attend local conferences because we let our daily work take over in a way that we don’t when we travel out of town for events. This time, however, I was able to block out two full days for the event, and was interrupted only occasionally by calls and emails.

Stupid Multifamily Construction Tricks

Posted on March 5, 2015 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

Although I spent most of my construction career working on single-family homes, the primary subject of this great website, I find that my current work involves primarily multifamily projects — mostly low-rise and mid-rise apartments that are seeking green building certification.

In these projects, my partner and I continue to see both new and recurring problems that are not resolved in the design phase, only to be pushed down to the field to be figured out — on a tight budget, in a hurry, and often in the cold or rain.

Passive House is Looking for a Few Good Men (and Women)

Posted on December 29, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

I make no claim to being an expert on 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., but ignorance has never stopped me from expressing my opinion before. Among the major complaints about the Passive House standard is that it has inflexible energy use requirements, and the European-designed program does not effectively address the wide range of U.S. climate zones. This inflexibility often leads those who pursue this certification to install enormous quantities of insulation, particularly under slabs, which raises a variety of questions and concerns about the usefulness of this practice.

A New Green Building Ordinance in Decatur, Georgia

Posted on December 1, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

The city I live in, Decatur, Georgia — a great, if possibly overly gentrified, place to live — recently passed a unified development ordinance (UDO) requiring green building certification for all new buildings and most renovations — both residential and commercial.

A First Look at the Official WELL Building Standard

Posted on November 11, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

When I first heard about the WELL building standard, in a New York Times article, I was both amused and offended, and trashed it appropriately in a blog.

It’s Alive! – Visiting a Certified Living Building

Posted on October 30, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

On vacation in Hawaii recently (yes, life is really tough for us consultants), I had the opportunity to visit the Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab, the first classroom and the third building certified under the Living Building Challenge Program.

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