Guest Blogs

Court Blows Away Permits for Wind Turbine Eagle Kills

Posted on October 1, 2015 by Stuart Kaplow

On August 11, a federal court set aside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule allowing 30-year permits to “take” bald and golden eagles. In an industry born from tax credits and government energy policies, an interruption of one of those key policies can bring wind turbine construction to a halt.

Creating High-Performance Walls

Posted on September 29, 2015 by Zack Semke

Our Evolution of Enclosure exhibit at AIA Portland (which ran through September 10) examined the role that buildings — especially building enclosures — can play in helping to diffuse climate change. As examples, the exhibit drew on four projects built by Hammer & Hand: Karuna House designed by Holst Architecture; Pumpkin Ridge 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. and Glasswood Commercial Retrofit, both designed by Scott | Edwards Architecture; and Madrona Passsive House, designed by SHED Architecture & Design.

In Clash of Greens, a Case for Large-Scale Solar

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Philip Warburg

If the United States and the world community hope to avoid the worst effects of climate change, solar power will have to play a pivotal role in electricity production. The technology is quickly maturing, and the price of solar panels has plummeted to the point where new utility-scale solar installations are a sound investment, cheaper than new coal plants and frequently competitive with natural gas.

Undamming Rivers Could Make Room for PV

Posted on September 22, 2015 by Karin Limburg and John Waldman

Hydroelectric power is often touted as clean energy, but this claim is true only in the narrow sense of not causing air pollution. In many places, such as the U.S. East Coast, hydroelectric dams have damaged the ecological integrity of nearly every major river and have decimated runs of migratory fish.

Solar Decathlon: The Search for the Best Carbon-Neutral House

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Crystal Gammon

What’s the latest in well-designed, energy-efficient solar homes? The U.S. Department of Energy (DOEUnited States Department of Energy.) has invited teams from colleges across the country to design and build solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.

Building a Small House in the White Mountains

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Brian Post

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of blogs chronicling the design and construction of a house owned by Brian Post and Kyra Salancy.

Carbon Fees Are Not the Best Solution to Climate Pollution

Posted on September 10, 2015 by David Goldstein

Several prominent articles this year that have taken a position against energy efficiency have attracted enough press attention to require formal refutations. But these articles all have something in common: an ideological belief that markets work best unconditionally and therefore that a carbon pollution fee is the "first-best" best economic solution to climate change.

Rethinking Ventilated Attics

Posted on September 8, 2015 by Marcus Dell

Sloped roofs over ventilated attics are one of the most common, if not the most common, roof configuration in Canada. This type of roof assembly is typically associated with single family houses but they are also commonly used on townhouse complexes and large architecturally complex multi-unit residential buildings.

I work for RDH Building Engineering in British Columbia, Canada. RDH has investigated hundreds of attics throughout the Lower Mainland of B.C., and mold growth on the underside of the sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. is a common condition.

U.S. Clean Power Plan Is a Game-Changer

Posted on September 7, 2015 by Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

On August 3, President Obama announced the first national limits on carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act. Laid out in the Clean Power Plan, the new limits are a game-changer that will give a big boost to state efforts to tackle climate change through clean energy solutions. In a video announcing the Clean Power Plan, President Obama said, "We can't condemn our kids and grandkids to a planet that's beyond fixing. Climate change is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore."

Cold and Old Standards — And Opportunities for Greater Building Efficiency

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Ruth Greenspan and Tripp Shealy

Last Monday, scientists in the journal Nature Climate Change answered a nagging concern of practically everyone we know: why are offices and buildings so ridiculously over-air conditioned? The article reports the design of office buildings incorporates a decades-old formula, a significant part of which is based on the metabolic rates of the average man.

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