Guest Blogs

Nine Surprising Signs That Momentum Is Building for Climate Action

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Seth Shulman

A spate of recent developments suggests momentum is building to address climate change — including some truly unexpected and inspiring signs in the United States and around the world.

Of course, huge obstacles remain: Florida Governor Rick Scott would allegedly like to censor any official mention of the subject. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe still seems to think that carrying a snowball onto the floor of the Senate offers some kind of "evidence" that global warming is hoax.

Is Passivhaus Right for a Cold Canadian Climate?

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Kent Earle

This is something I’ve been wrestling with since we decided on building a superinsulated, highly energy efficient home. And really this is something that I think a lot of builders, architects, and designers of eco- and green homes have been debating since the 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. concept came to North America in the past few years.

The Case for Continuous Insulation

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Brice Hereford

Over the last few years, New England and other cold regions of the U.S. have seen a growth in the use of rigid insulation on the exterior of buildings. This use of exterior rigid foam first started appearing in commercial buildings and was driven primarily by the International building codes which required steel-stud buildings to place rigid foam on the exterior of the structure.

Healthy People Live With Trees

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Brian Bienkowski

Ray Tretheway has been in the tree business for more than three decades in Sacramento – a city notorious for ambitious city tree planting.

He talks of successful programs with energy suppliers and multiple schools. The Sacramento Tree Foundation, where Tretheway works as Executive Director, has a lofty goal of planting five million trees.

But even a veteran like Tretheway and his tree-loving city struggle with one of the major issues of urban tree planting: higher income areas just seem to end up with more trees.

The Warm West, Cold East Divide

Posted on May 7, 2015 by Andrea Thompson

From blooming flowers to twittering birds, the signs of spring are popping up and the miseries of winter are becoming a distant memory for many.

But not for some climate scientists.

The curiosity of a growing group of researchers has been piqued by the tenacious temperature divide that has separated East from West over the past two winters as a wild zigzag of the jet stream has brought repeated bouts of Arctic air and snow to the East and kept the drought-plagued West baking under a record-breaking dome of heat.

Steve Mouzon on the New Business of Business

Posted on May 5, 2015 by Fernando Pages Ruiz

The green-building movement proved resilient during the Great Recession and beyond. While conventional builders went bankrupt, many green builders thrived. This trend continues, so when I heard that green-building guru Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green, was holding a seminar on new approaches to building up green business, I wanted to know more.

I spoke with Steve while he was on the road in Birmingham, Alabama, and I asked him, "What's different about the new green business plan from the traditional builder's approach?"

The 2015 Passive House Conference in Germany

Posted on May 4, 2015 by Ken Levenson

The 19th 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 was held in Leipzig, Germany, on April 17-18, 2015. With large contingents attending from North America and China, as well as an emerging group of practitioners stretching across the Mediterranean from Turkey to Portugal, the global effort of Passive House was palpable.

Compared to previous years, project types continue to expand, from factories, to office complexes to day-care centers. So do the details: optimizing thermal bridges, earthquake load requirements, incorporating wood-fired furnaces, and onsite renewables.

The Smart Meter: Friend or Foe?

Posted on April 30, 2015 by Emma Bailey

Love them or hate them, smart meters are becoming increasingly common around the globe.

Advocates believe that the meters generate better data for both energy consumers and service providers. These meters can provide homeowners with feedback on their energy consumption, which helps them change their habits in order to reduce monthly utility bills. Critics, however, have voiced concern over health and safety issues, asserting that smart meters present fire hazards, emit dangerous levels of radiation, and violate privacy.

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.

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