Guest Blogs

Germany’s Bioenergy Villages

Posted on April 15, 2014 by Andrew Dey

The notion that a village can produce as much energy as it consumes is not new in Germany, nor is it exclusive to this country that has set aggressive targets for renewable energy use. In the mid-1990s, for example, the Austrian village of Güssing began implementing strategies to use local biomassOrganic waste that can be converted to usable forms of energy such as heat or electricity, or crops grown specifically for that purpose. to produce electricity and heat, and the Danish island community of Samsø installed wind turbines to meet its electrical needs.

Mineral Wool Insulation Isn’t Like Fiberglass

Posted on April 8, 2014 by Gregory La Vardera

If you are interested in green building, or call yourself a green building expert, then you should know about mineral wool insulation. If you have not seen mineral wool handled and installed, then you need to read this.

If you think that mineral wool batts are similar enough to fiberglass batts that you already know what you need to know about it, then you are a fool. And you still need to read this.

A Passivhaus Doesn’t Have to Look Weird

Posted on April 1, 2014 by alan abrams

Does a 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. have to look weird? The short answer is, no.

Passive House Training, One Year Later

Posted on March 31, 2014 by Robert Swinburne

I have been asked about my 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 training by other architects enough times that I thought I’d write up a quick synopsis, one year later.

For me, the training was very useful for several reasons, not the least of which was the networking aspect. It is a small community with some really great conversation happening and it is fun to be a part of that.

Disaster Responses

Posted on March 25, 2014 by Paul Eldrenkamp

In this blog I will periodically discuss particular numbers and other metrics that I think can be of value in helping you run your business.

In this installment, I discuss the concept of “triage,” which ultimately derives from the Latin word for “three.” Literally and historically, “triage” refers to a simple way of allocating emergency medical care among a group of injured people who outnumber available medical resources.

In its original form — dating from the Napoleonic Wars — these were the three categories to consider when doing triage:

Should I Insulate My Cold Water Pipes?

Posted on March 18, 2014 by Erik North

Insulating the hot waters pipes in your house is something of a no-brainer. Why let the heat escape willy-nilly? Pipe insulation is inexpensive, and the project is one that any homeowner could finish on a Saturday afternoon.

Whether to insulate the cold water pipes is less clear-cut. The project is still pretty inexpensive and easy — but does it have a point? Insulation retains heat, and these are cold water pipes. So why do it?

A Construction Trade Fair in Germany

Posted on March 17, 2014 by Andrew Dey

I recently attended BauTec, a trade fair for the construction industry that is held annually in Berlin. According to the show’s marketers, BauTec is “the year’s most important trade industry event.” I found the show to be impressive, inspiring, and overwhelming.

Why I Hate, Hate, Hate Skylights

Posted on March 4, 2014 by Erik North

Why do I hate skylights? Because I’ve rarely seen one that isn’t either causing a problem or in the process of causing one. They fall squarely into a category with recessed lights and cathedral ceilings: Homeowners love them and energy pros come to loathe them.

They lead to uncomfortable conversations that can be summarized as: Yes, they’re a problem; no, they can’t be easily fixed.

Strength in Numbers

Posted on March 3, 2014 by Paul Eldrenkamp

I’ve had three extended learning experiences in my career that have taught me the power of numbers. Thanks to my friends John Abrams of South Mountain Company and Jamie Wolf of Wolfworks, along with key support from the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association and the Yestermorrow Design Build School, I’m about to embark on a fourth such experience — one which promises to be the most exciting and powerful of all.

Visiting a District Heating Plant in Austria

Posted on February 18, 2014 by Andrew Dey

Annette, our daughters and I just spent a week in Flachau, Austria, with Annette’s family. Flachau is not far from the Austrian city of Graz, where Annette lived until she was twelve years old. Thirty years ago, Flachau was a sleepy farming village, and today it’s a bustling ski town.

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