Musings of an Energy Nerd

Bathroom Design

Posted on September 22, 2017 by Martin Holladay

Americans who grew up in the 1950s or early 60s (that includes me) remember living in a house with one bathroom. There was usually someone standing outside the door yelling, “Hurry up!”

These days, most Americans live in (or aspire to live in) a house with two or more bathrooms. My guess is that we’re never going to return to the bathroom standards of the 1950s; two-bathroom houses are probably here to stay.

Low-Income Housing: Problems and Solutions

Posted on September 15, 2017 by Martin Holladay

Low-income Americans have a hard time finding housing. When families learn that market-rate housing is unaffordable, they often seek help from a variety of government agencies — some local, some state, and some federal. Unfortunately, government efforts to provide housing assistance to low-income families are unable to fully meet the need.

What’s Wrong, and What’s Right, With Residential Building in Texas

Posted on September 8, 2017 by Martin Holladay

For four days in late August 2017, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey dropped between 40 and 51 inches of rain on the Houston area, causing catastrophic flooding. Tens of thousands of homes have been severely damaged or destroyed, and dozens of people have lost their lives.

Green Cohousing Communities — and Other Options

Posted on September 1, 2017 by Martin Holladay

The typical green home featured on GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com is a single-family home in a suburb or rural area. This type of development — often called “sprawl” — is decried by environmentalists and urban planners, who instead sing the praises of multifamily buildings in dense urban neighborhoods.

If you are a greenie who now lives in a suburb or rural area, where is the best place to move to? In this essay, I’ll examine several options.

Impressions of Ecuador

Posted on August 25, 2017 by Martin Holladay

For the last year and a half, my son Moses has been serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. He teaches English at a high school in Cañar, a town in the Andes with a mostly indigenous population. Recently, my family traveled to Ecuador to visit him.

My wife Karyn, our son Noah, and I flew to Quito. Moses met us at the airport. After two nights in Quito, we took a bus to Cotopaxi National Park, where we stayed at a rural hostel. The following day — three days after leaving Boston — we hiked to the top of a 15,489-foot volcano named Rumiñahui.

An Introduction to Pressure Diagnostics

Posted on August 18, 2017 by Martin Holladay

When it comes to understanding heating systems, most of us are comfortable with the basics. To warm up your house on a cold day, you need a source of heat in your living room — say, a wood stove or a radiator. To keep the heat in your house, you need insulation.

That’s the way most builders understood heating from 1935 to 1980. Somewhere around 1980, however, building scientists began to realize that the old picture was imperfect.

Stair Design Basics

Posted on August 11, 2017 by Martin Holladay

Stair design requires attention to all of the usual rules of residential design. Stairs should be graceful, useful, and comfortable. In addition, stairs must also be safe. Clearly, safety is more important for stair design than for most design issues (for example, ceiling height or window orientation).

Once you understand the basic principles of stair design, you’ll probably notice that lots of stairs lack a graspable handrail, or have inconsistent riser heights, or are dimly lit. Examples of flawed stairs are unfortunately common.

Ten Common Mistakes Made By New Home Builders

Posted on August 4, 2017 by Martin Holladay

Designers and builders who do their homework before construction starts have few problems. Unfortunately, some projects happen backwards: the design and construction are well under way before the homework begins. That type of project can be problematic.

At GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com, we see examples of the latter group all the time. Designers, builders, or homeowners who are in the middle of a construction project will post basic questions on our Q&A page. “I’m looking at the rafters and trying to decide how we should insulate the roof,” they write, or “We’re trying to figure out the best place to put the HRV(HRV). Balanced ventilation system in which most of the heat from outgoing exhaust air is transferred to incoming fresh air via an air-to-air heat exchanger; a similar device, an energy-recovery ventilator, also transfers water vapor. HRVs recover 50% to 80% of the heat in exhausted air. In hot climates, the function is reversed so that the cooler inside air reduces the temperature of the incoming hot air. .”

Can Carpeting Be Green?

Posted on July 28, 2017 by Martin Holladay

In the green building community, carpeting has a bad reputation. While hardwood flooring is the honor student who sits in the front of the class, carpeting is the kid in the back row, shooting spitballs and ignoring the teacher.

Does carpeting deserve its bad reputation? Or has it been unfairly maligned?

Crawl Spaces vs. Skirts

Posted on July 21, 2017 by Martin Holladay

Many older homes in rural areas have pier foundations. The piers may be made of wood (for example, creosoted posts or pressure-treated lumber), poured concrete, CMUs, or bricks. The space between the dirt and the underside of the floor framing may be enclosed or may be entirely open to the wind.

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