Guest Blogs

Five Different High-R Walls

Posted on September 18, 2014 by Sam Hagerman

Our construction company, Hammer & Hand, has built several wood-framed 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. buildings in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, our approach to building high-R walls has evolved.

Housewrap Tape Problems

Posted on September 16, 2014 by Jeff Hoch

Every year we inspect thousands of homes with one brand or another of housewrap installed as the water-resistive barrierSometimes also called the weather-resistive barrier, this layer of any wall assembly is the material interior to the wall cladding that forms a secondary drainage plane for liquid water that makes it past the cladding. This layer can be building paper, housewrap, or even a fluid-applied material. (WRB).

As energy costs increase and energy code requirements become more stringent, we are seeing housewrap installations where the seams are sealed with tape. Many housewrap manufacturers have proprietary seam seal tapes that they sell for exclusive use with their housewrap system.

An Insulated Cathedral Ceiling for a European Passivhaus

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Bill Butcher

Editor's note: The author, Bill Butcher, is a Certified 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. Consultant who was project leader on the Denby Dale Passivhaus and is currently leading the Golcar Passivhaus project, a 2,700-square foot three-bedroom house in Golcar, West Yorkshire, England. Some of the technical and construction-related terms used in Bill's essay have been translated from British English to American English.

Placing Concrete for a Passivhaus Foundation

Posted on September 11, 2014 by Alexi Arango

As they set out to build a single-family PassivhausA 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. on Potwine Lane in Amherst, Massachusetts, Alexi Arango and LeeAnn Kim asked themselves, “Is it possible to live without burning fossil fuels?” One measure of success would be meeting their goal of net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. performance. In this third blog in a planned series, Arango reports on the start of their project.

Pastiche Architecture

Posted on September 9, 2014 by Greg Labbe

Drive out to any of the bedroom communities outside the greater Toronto area and you’re likely to stumble on huge, clunky homes that are so complex in shape that their energy performance is degraded. These homes include uncomfortable rooms, are often challenged by ice dams, and require higher expenditures for maintenance.

Having no more usable space than much smaller (but better designed) houses, these large homes squander conditioned floor space with ostentatious frills. Buying more is really less.

Cold Weather Slows Progress at the Potwine Passivhaus

Posted on September 2, 2014 by Alexi Arango

As they set out to build a single-family PassivhausA 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. on Potwine Lane in Amherst, Massachusetts, Alexi Arango and LeeAnn Kim asked themselves, “Is it possible to live without burning fossil fuels?” One measure of success would be meeting their goal of net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. performance. In this second blog in a planned series, Arango reports on the start of their project.

Overheating from South Windows

Posted on September 1, 2014 by Ted Lemon

For the past two years, Ted Lemon and Andrea Lemon have been living in a single-family PassivhausA 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. which they built in Brattleboro, Vermont. Ted Lemon wrote the essay below in July 2012.

Origami-Inspired Homes

Posted on August 28, 2014 by Greg Labbe

There’s a reason that every high-performance car is sleek and compact in shape; sleekness improves performance. The same principle applies to centuries-old sculptures that keep their features and endure centuries of weathering and the test of time: keep the shape simple.

Unfortunately, the current trend is to build large homes that have poorly designed floor spaces. The physical shape of these origami-like buildings impacts our lives, our comfort, and our energy bills.

Which Building Energy Statistics Make the Most Sense?

Posted on August 26, 2014 by Bill Maclay

There are many measures used to evaluate building energy efficiency: total kBtu1,000 Btus, kBtu/sq. ft./year, kWh/year, therms/year, kWh/sq. m./year, $/year, kBtu/person — and more. But determining when to use which metric, and even more importantly, how to make sense of a comparison of the energy efficiency of two different buildings, is no easy task.

Summer is Pretty Boring in a Superinsulated House

Posted on August 14, 2014 by Erik Haugsjaa

Summers in Massachusetts are easy in comparison to winters. Some people (myself included — a bit) saw air conditioning as the devil or something.

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