Guest Blogs

Are LEED-Certified Buildings Energy-Efficient?

Posted on July 22, 2014 by Jim Newman

There has been some heated discussion lately about how much energy LEEDLeadership 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. -certified buildings use. When the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBCUnited States Green Building Council (USGBC). Organization devoted to promoting and certifying green buildings. USGBC created the LEED rating systems.) first came out with its Version 1 LEED Guideline in 2000, a building could earn LEED certification without any points in the energy section.

In the early 2000s, making a building more energy-efficient than the building codes was more of a challenge for architects and engineers than it is today. When applying for LEED certification, they would attempt the “easier” and often less expensive points available under other credits.

An Old House Gets a New Thermomass Basement

Posted on July 21, 2014 by Brian Butler

To prepare our bid for a comprehensive renovation project in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we visited the old house several times. On one of the walk-throughs, we realized that the foundation was failing in many places. We therefore proposed to raise the house and replace the entire foundation.

Raising this house was a challenging process, given the tight space and the existing condition of the house.

Air Leaks From Your Home To Your Attic Need To Be Sealed

Posted on July 3, 2014 by A. Tamasin Sterner

It’s important to keep attic air out of the house and house air out of the attic. That's why the home performance industry and every above-code building program make it a top priority to fully separate attics from the rest of the building.

When the attic isn’t fully air sealed from the living space and the combustion appliance zone, three undesirable scenarios can occur:

A House For Slow Living

Posted on July 1, 2014 by Robert Swinburne

The original concept for the house I am working on came to me in a dream (yes – I dream architecturally). I think the dream may have been generated by the image on the right, which has been on my bulletin board for a few years.

My original sketch was called “a house for food.”

An Energy-Self-Sufficient Community

Posted on June 24, 2014 by Andrew Dey

From a distance, Feldheim looks like many other rural villages in Germany: a cluster of buildings surrounded by farmland and forests. The backdrop includes numerous wind turbines, but that’s not unusual in Germany’s breezy north. What is unusual is that there are two signs welcoming visitors to Feldheim: the typical yellow sign that is found at the edge of every village, and another in blue and white announcing that Feldheim is an “Energieautarker Ortsteil,” or an energy self-sufficient district.

The ‘Lock-In’ Concept and Passivhaus Construction

Posted on June 23, 2014 by matthew omalia

Alan Gibson (my GO Logic colleague) and I just returned from the 18th annual International 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. Conference in Aachen, Germany. This incredible three-day conference featured some of the superstars in the Passivhaus community as well as influential European policy makers, including Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passivhaus Institut.

Tracking Our Company’s Carbon Footprint

Posted on June 17, 2014 by john abrams

South Mountain Company is a 39-year-old employee-owned company offering integrated architecture, engineering, building, and renewable energy services. We like to measure how we’re doing in as many ways as possible. Like other businesses, we have a collection of metrics for financial tracking: profit and loss, budget projections and actuals, job costing of each project, value of our several funds (pension, equity, and reserves), and more.

Solving Our Design Problems

Posted on June 10, 2014 by Marc Rosenbaum

Once we bought our new house in the fall of 2012, we began to work on the new design. We were starting with a one-bedroom house measuring 1,142 square feet on one level. The house has a full basement.

Stop Using Propane and Oil and Go Electric

Posted on June 9, 2014 by Nick Sisler

One of the biggest mistakes many builders make is to install a heating system fueled by propane or oil heat without considering an electric heat pumpHeating and cooling system in which specialized refrigerant fluid in a sealed system is alternately evaporated and condensed, changing its state from liquid to vapor by altering its pressure; this phase change allows heat to be transferred into or out of the house. See air-source heat pump and ground-source heat pump.. In most cases that choice is costing the owners hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a year in higher energy bills.

German Building Codes Keep Ratcheting Up

Posted on May 27, 2014 by Andrew Dey

In October of 2013, the German government approved amendments to its Energie Einsparung Verordnung (EnEV), the federal ordinance that mandates energy efficiency for buildings. The revised EnEV reflects the government’s latest energy policy decisions, and it brings the ordinance into alignment with the most recent European Union Directive regarding building energy performance.

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