Green Building Curmudgeon

What Were They Thinking?

Posted on September 27, 2011 by Carl Seville

I’ve been doing HERS ratings and green building certifications for several years now, and I have run across some pretty scary things during inspections that sometimes make me wonder what everyone was thinking.

Now, I was a contractor for a long time, and I understand the challenges of getting things done on time, correctly, and within the budget, and by no means am I trying to minimize those challenges. What does amaze me is how little attention some contractors and trade contractors pay to the details as their projects are underway.

I’m Beginning to Really Hate Eco-Bling

Posted on September 15, 2011 by Carl Seville

On hearing the news that three photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturers, at least one a recipient of federal loan money, have recently declared bankruptcy, I once again started thinking about my frustration with people’s attachment to putting cool “stuff” on their buildings before making sure that those buildings actually operate well.

It’s Alive! Studying the Living Building Challenge

Posted on August 30, 2011 by Carl Seville

I spent most of a day recently in a seminar on the Living Building Challenge (LBC), a self-described philosophy, advocacy tool, and certification program for sustainable building. If people outside the industry think that existing green building programs are pie-in-the-sky and touchy-feely, put together by granola-eaters, then they are going to have to adjust their scales for the LBC.

Reviewing Submissions for Government Funding

Posted on August 24, 2011 by Carl Seville

I just finished up two long days sitting in a conference room with over 25 other people reviewing green building proposals for a federal agency that must remain unnamed. Both interesting and mind-numbing, the process of reading, evaluating, grading, discussing, and writing reports was an arduous and informative process.

Ramblings on Retail and Green Homes

Posted on August 12, 2011 by Carl Seville

My father owned a local hardware store for almost thirty years, and I have fond memories of hanging out and working there, with the locally owned stationery story, movie theater, pharmacy, and grocery on the same block. Each successive block was also populated primarily with independently owned businesses, usually operated by their owners, most of whom lived nearby. Most businesses were local; when you went to a different town, the stores were noticeably different.

An Open Discussion on Closed Crawl Spaces

Posted on July 26, 2011 by Carl Seville

This post is just an observation that I hope will stimulate some conversation about the subject of closed crawl spaces. This evolved out of conversations with two builders—one a high-end custom outfit and the other an affordable builder. Both of them had been certifying their homes to EarthCraft House standards and were building with closed crawl spaces. On the same day last week I heard from both builders that they were having moisture problems in their closed crawl spaces, were reluctant to continue building them, and were considering returning to vented designs.

Baby Steps on the Path to High-Performance Homes

Posted on July 18, 2011 by Carl Seville

As a consultant (which I recently learned is a euphemism for "unemployed"), I find that my income streams seem to change fairly regularly. One year I do a lot of speaking and teaching, then suddenly most of my work is building certification, and the next year it is something else. I liken my business model to fishing; that is, I eat what I catch. My newest “catch” is performance testing of new homes for energy code compliance.

Are We Doomed As a Society?

Posted on July 7, 2011 by Carl Seville

I saw a commercial the other day for Ford vehicles that promoted their “Drive Green” initiative, in which they stress various sustainable attributes of their vehicles and company. Being a natural skeptic, I expected a fair amount of greenwashing and unsubstantiated claims in their marketing, and, in fact, I was not disappointed.

Is It Time to Stop Insulating?

Posted on June 22, 2011 by Carl Seville

Author’s Note: Many readers have mistakenly read this post as a serious suggestion that we stop insulating our buildings, and friends and foes alike have given me large rations of grief over this, all of which can be read below. I am a longtime advocate of high-performance homes and in no way would I ever recommend that we reduce or eliminate insulation. I do believe, however, that we need to consider the potential health effects of various products that we use and how they will affect our decisions on construction methods. Now on to the original post:

How to Cheat* at LEED: Part 2

Posted on June 14, 2011 by Carl Seville

Now that all of you who read the first column in this series think you are experts at working the LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. system, I will show you some of the points that are much harder to qualify for along with a few that are pretty easy, but they are not very obvious and you have to know about them to take them.

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