Guest Blogs

Ozone Pollution in the West

Posted on April 23, 2015 by Jon Goldstein

Long familiar in major urban areas, smog — what we experts call “ground-level ozone” pollution — is quickly becoming a serious problem in the rural mountain west, thanks to rapid expansion in oil and gas development.

Smog has serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, and even premature death. In areas like the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, smog levels have sometimes rivaled those in Los Angeles.

White, Wealthy and Whiny: An Environmental Movement in Need of a Makeover

Posted on April 22, 2015 by Peter Dykstra

Now that I’ve gotten your attention with an over-the-top headline, understand that I don’t really buy it. Not completely, anyway.

But millions of Americans do, and because of that, pushback against environmental initiatives is both strong and often devoid of reason.

LEED Can Help Fix the Water Problem

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Stuart Kaplow

While news reports have recently focused on California Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order, in response to that state’s long-running drought, seeking to reduce overall water use by 25 percent, there may be more to be learned from how the small Town of Hampstead in Maryland responded to its own water crisis in 2008.

Despite the fact that the U.S. uses less water than it did in 1980, availability of potable water is increasingly an issue. According to the EPA, at least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages this year.

Commissioning ERVs

Posted on April 20, 2015 by Greg Labbe

We were recently called to commission a fully ducted energy-recovery ventilation (ERV(ERV). The part of a balanced ventilation system that captures water vapor and heat from one airstream to condition another. In cold climates, water vapor captured from the outgoing airstream by ERVs can humidify incoming air. In hot-humid climates, ERVs can help maintain (but not reduce) the interior relative humidity as outside air is conditioned by the ERV.) system in a newly constructed, "near passive" house.

Do Wood-Burning Power Plants Make Sense?

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Willem Post

A recent comment posted at a Vermont news web site called VTDigger read, "Just a single 25 megawatt (MW) woodchip plant could/would provide some 4 percent of Vermont’s [electricity] consumption, 24/7, and would contribute to the Vermont economy in the form of jobs and money in circulation from the wages [and] taxes — wealth created in the state that stays in the state."

Hoping for a Climate Change Breakthrough

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Peter Dykstra

Those concerned about climate change have no choice but hope. I take that a step further: Despite the overwhelming evidence that they’re horrendously wrong, I hope the climate deniers are right.

Better to look like a fool than to suffer what science says is in store for us.

Failing that, let’s return to the eternal hopes that carbon-free lightbulbs will appear over the heads of the Senate Majority and three ghosts per Koch Brother will leave a Dickensian impression overnight.

In Defense of Inconvenient Truths about Vinyl Siding

Posted on April 9, 2015 by Fernando Pages Ruiz

A recent blog of mine, “The Counterintuitive Cladding,” discussed the “green” bona fides of vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding. The blog struck a variety of nerves, including from those who mistook an obvious opinion piece for a poorly written scientific paper.

Best Practices for Zero Net Energy Buildings

Posted on April 7, 2015 by Marc Rosenbaum

This is a synopsis of a peer-reviewed article by Marc Rosenbaum, found in the Fall 2014 edition of BuildingEnergy magazine, and a preview of what's in store for students of Marc's BuildingEnergy Masters Series Course, Zero Net Energy Homes.

The 10 Most Important Water Stories in 2014

Posted on April 6, 2015 by Peter Gleick and J. Carl Ganter

1. The California drought becomes an emergency
California’s multi-year drought grew dire enough in 2014 to prompt Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency in January. By the end of the year, California had experienced the driest and hottest 36 months in its 119-year instrumental record. Some researchers described the drought as 1) the worst in over 1200 years and 2) evidence of rising temperatures globally as climate changes accelerate. As of mid-January, the drought is continuing.

Lawns Gone Wild

Posted on April 2, 2015 by Lance Hosey

Because environmental challenges are so complicated, potential solutions are rarely as simple as they seem.

For example, the market for electric vehicles (EVs) is growing rapidly, outpacing hybrids, although the supply is nowhere near the million EVs that President Obama called for in his 2011 State of the Union address (which might be why he didn't mention the topic this year).

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