Green Building Curmudgeon

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.

Seeking the Elusive Grade 1 Batt Installation

Posted on September 4, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

Having spent much of my time writing for GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com whining and complaining about the state of the insulation industry, it is now time for me to eat a little crow. The insulation work at one of our multifamily certification projects has, amazingly, met – and even possibly exceeded – my expectations for quality.

Multifamily Green Building Certification Still Has Issues

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

Much of my work these days involves certification of multifamily buildings, and, thanks to a boom in apartment construction, my partner and myself are staying occupied.

The one major contrast from single-family residential work, with which I am most familiar from my days as a contractor, is the long lead time. I still find it amusing that I sign a contract, have an initial start-up meeting with the developer and contractor, and often don’t see the project for another year or more, when the builder is ready for our insulation and air-sealing inspections.

What Fruit Flies Taught Me About Sustainable Living

Posted on June 3, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

Last summer my house developed a fruit fly infestation, due to the fact that I had a lot of fresh fruit sitting around ripening on my counters. I recall once using aerosol bombs to get rid of them, but I figured this time around I would look for a slightly less toxic solution.

A quick web search turned up details for a standard fruit fly trap, consisting of a jar with a little cider vinegar and dish soap, covered with clear plastic with a few holes in it. The flies are attracted to the vinegar, fly in, get coated with dish soap, and drown in the cider.

Can’t Anyone Get Things Right?

Posted on April 14, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor

In my business of certifying buildings, most of my work involves working with architects, contractors, and trade contractors who are trying to create green buildings. Unfortunately, they frequently miss the mark in some key areas.

Many of them are well intended but don’t have a broad enough view of their projects. Others only do the minimum required to meet a green building standard forced on them by someone else. And a few, thankfully, seem to get it and work hard to do the right things.

This post, the first in a series about problems I run across, will focus on HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building..

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