The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

A First Look at the Official WELL Building Standard

Posted on November 11, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

When I first heard about the WELL building standard, in a New York Times article, I was both amused and offended, and trashed it appropriately in a blog.

An Energy Upgrade On a Budget

Posted on November 10, 2014 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Christian Rodriguez has taken an important first step in improving the energy efficiency and comfort of his 1880s home by arranging for an energy auditEnergy audit that also includes inspections and tests to assess moisture flow, combustion safety, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and durability.. With the results in hand, his first step was to air-seal the attic and add 20 inches of cellulose insulationThermal insulation made from recycled newspaper or other wastepaper; often treated with borates for fire and insect protection..

"This made quite a difference both in comfort and heating bills," he writes in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor. Now comes a difficult decision: what to do next.

Borrowing a Cellulose Blower From a Big Box Store

Posted on November 7, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Back in the early 1990s, I worked for a nonprofit agency, overseeing renovation work at several old wood-framed buildings in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Each of these century-old buildings had between two and five apartments; after renovation, they were rented to low-income families at subsidized rents.

Comparing North American Window Frames to European Frames

Posted on November 6, 2014 by Stephen Thwaites in Guest Blogs

[Editor's note: The author of this article, Stephen Thwaites, is a window manufacturer. His company, Thermotech Fiberglass FenestrationTechnically, any transparent or translucent material plus any sash, frame, mullion, or divider attached to it, including windows, skylights, glass doors, and curtain walls., is located in Ottawa, Ontario.]

A Best Practices Manual That Can Help You with the Details

Posted on November 5, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

When I was building a home in 2001, I came up against a gazillion little things that I needed guidance on. I'd never built anything larger than a bookcase, so new home construction was quite a big step.

Roof Sheathing and Window Bucks for the Potwine Passivhaus

Posted on November 4, 2014 by Alexi Arango in Guest Blogs

As they set out to build a single-family 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. on Potwine Lane in Amherst, Massachusetts, Alexi Arango and LeeAnn Kim asked themselves, “Is it possible to live without burning fossil fuels?” One measure of success would be meeting their goal of net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. performance. This is the seventh blog in a series.

Program Details of the One Knob Proposal

Posted on November 3, 2014 by Nate Adams in Guest Blogs

Has your experience working with an energy-efficiency program felt like the scene depicted in the photo at right? Did you feel that the correct and smart path departed from the paved path?

Having many colleagues on both the program and contractor sides, it’s pretty clear that utility incentive programs, as they stand today, fail. Let’s do better. Better for homeowners, better for contractors, and better for programs too! The One Knob program design is an attempt to pave a path where people want to walk.

Martin’s Pretty Good House Manifesto

Posted on October 31, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

One of the presentations I attended at the 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 in Portland, Maine, on September 22, 2014 was a session called “Passive House certifiers’ roundtable.” The first speaker on the panel, Tomas O’Leary, explained that he usually charges about $2,200 to certify a residential Passivhaus project. He warned the audience that certification is “quite an effort; don’t underestimate it.”

It’s Alive! – Visiting a Certified Living Building

Posted on October 30, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

On vacation in Hawaii recently (yes, life is really tough for us consultants), I had the opportunity to visit the Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab, the first classroom and the third building certified under the Living Building Challenge Program.

How Worried Should You Be About Asbestos in Older Homes?

Posted on October 29, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

AsbestosMineral fiber once commonly used in many building materials, including insulation, fireproof siding, and resilient flooring. Inhalation of invisible asbestos fibers can lead to chest and abdominal cancers as well as scarring of the lungs. The use of asbestos in some products has been banned by the EPA and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission; manufacturers also have adopted voluntary limitations on its use. When found in older buildings (most commonly in floor tiles, pipe and furnace insulation, or asbestos shingles), the product's friability is a major determinant in how it must be handled during renovations. More information: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html was a popular material for most of the twentieth century, mainly because of its ability to insulate and act as a fire retardant. In fact, it's still used heavily in some parts of the world, such as India and China. We know enough about the risks now, though, that it's banned outright in more than 50 countries and banned for some uses in the U.S.

But how worried should you be if you find it in your home?

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