Guest Blogs

Wrapping an Older House with Rock Wool Insulation

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Mark Yanowitz

When I first met Chris Gleba and Kris Erickson in December 2011 to discuss their plans for a deep energy retrofit, Chris told me that he had been remodeling his modest two-bedroom house in Lowell, Massachusetts, for over ten years. He had painstakingly rewired and re-plumbed the house and had made energy efficiency improvements (including the installation of a high-efficiency natural gas boiler and radiant in-floor heating). He had also devoted much sweat equity towards upgrading the interior finishes of the kitchen and baths.

After a Bumpy Start, a Passivhaus Success Story

Posted on May 7, 2013 by veronique leblanc

In 2006, when we bought our house in Mamaroneck, New York, it was all about location: views on Mamaroneck Harbor, a south-facing orientation, proximity to the train station and the village’s main shopping street, and the ability to have a decent sailboat moored in deep water across the street and winterized at the shipyard next door.

Energy Audits in New England

Posted on April 30, 2013 by Erik North

Home energy audits in cold, northern climates are very different from those in hot climates. Different regions of the country have different types of housing stock, and there are regional variations in insulation methods and mechanical systems. In older houses, the type of weatherization work that has been performed varies greatly from region to region.

So the issues and energy priorities of northern houses are different from those of southern houses.

Jobsite Communication: Creating a Dialogue

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Vera Novak

Construction projects are becoming more complex, with increasing levels of regulations, more product choices, and higher performance expectations. And there are so many more ways of getting bombarded with information — e-mail, text, voice-mail — that we get swept up into survival mode of responding to the bits of info as it comes along.

But the danger of this multi-tasking is that it doesn’t really work: you lose sight of the big picture (only seeing one piece of the elephant), and there is really no one who has a handle on the whole situation.

The Worst House I Ever Audited Was Built in 2008

Posted on April 23, 2013 by Erik North

One thing that sets my teeth on edge as an energy auditor is when folks assume that a new home won’t have energy problems or be inefficient. A friend recently mentioned that weatherization and efficiency work must have a great market with Maine’s old housing stock but would be pointless in new homes. Commence ripping out hair.

What is Thermal Bridging?

Posted on April 15, 2013 by Erik North

Like wind washing, thermal bridgingHeat flow that occurs across more conductive components in an otherwise well-insulated material, resulting in disproportionately significant heat loss. For example, steel studs in an insulated wall dramatically reduce the overall energy performance of the wall, because of thermal bridging through the steel. is something folks mention all the time during audits (meaning they never ask about it). But what is thermal bridging, and why do I keep bringing it up when my customers just want new windows?

To understand thermal bridging, you need to understand your home’s wall assembly and the various materials used in its construction.

Natural Building In Nicaragua

Posted on April 2, 2013 by Liz Johndrow

[Editor’s note: Liz Johndrow is a natural builder who specializes in the use of cob, strawbale, adobe, earthbag, and earthen plasters. During the winter months, she volunteers in Nicaragua, where she works with villagers, especially women, on construction projects in Sabana Grande, Totgalpa. What follows is a sample of Johndrow’s blog entries written from Nicaragua. You can learn more about her work at her website, Earthen Endeavors.]

Listening In on Building Science Discussions in Maine

Posted on March 26, 2013 by Jason Peacock

Each month in Portland, Maine, a group of building professionals gathers for an evening of serious Building Science banter. The topic is either focused on a specific aspect of building science or opens up a lively discussion of what a Pretty Good House (PGH) would do in our cold climate of Maine. (For more information on the Building Science Discussion Group in Maine, check out the links in the "Related Articles" box, below.)

Big Variations in Annual Energy Use

Posted on March 19, 2013 by Marc Rosenbaum

One thing I learned while following the energy usage of buildings I designed was that as a building’s energy needs are reduced, and the fraction of those needs supplied by solar energy increases, the variation in backup energy (purchased energy) increases from year to year.

Let's look at the monitoring data for our house, and compare the winter of 2011-2012 with the winter of 2012-2013. Due to colder weather and changing lifestyles, we used 23% more energy over these months in 2012-2013 than in the previous year.

Factory-Built Wall Panels

Posted on March 12, 2013 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 25th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

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