The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Martin’s Energy Quiz — Third Edition

Posted on October 18, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com published an energy quiz in 2009, and another one in 2011. It looks like we're overdue for another installment.

Answers are provided at the bottom of this column; don't peek until you've finished the quiz.

1. True or false: In freezing climates, a drainback solar hot water system circulates ordinary water (without any antifreeze) through its solar collectors.
(a) True.
(b) False.

Using Reclaimed Wood for Porch Decking

Posted on October 17, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

We’re moving along with some of the wrap-up work on our house in Dummerston. One of those projects is installing the porch decking on both the front and rear porches and a handicapped ramp up from the garage to the back porch. (Yes, we plan to live there for a long time!)

For the decking, we used a product I found out about through my work researching green building products at BuildingGreen. It’s actually a product we recognized as a Top 10 Green Building Product last year.

The Lipstick-on-a-Pig Million-Dollar Home Syndrome

Posted on October 16, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

I wonder about a lot of things. I wonder what life would be like if gravity were stronger. I wonder why Americans don't dance more. I wonder why so many people who can afford million-dollar homes get cheapo HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. systems. That last one bugs me more more than the first two, by the way. It weighs on my mind because cheapo HVAC seems so out of step with the rest of a million-dollar home.

Germany’s Energy Revolution

Posted on October 15, 2013 by Andrew Dey in Guest Blogs

My wife and I decided several years ago to spend a year living in Germany. I wanted finally to become fluent in German, after having been married for many years to a German engineer.

I was also interested in learning about the materials, methods, and systems being used to make buildings more energy-efficient in Germany. We knew it would be educational for our two daughters to be immersed in a foreign culture, and we looked forward to spending more time with my wife’s family in Germany.

Praise for the Czech Team’s Solar Decathlon Entry

Posted on October 14, 2013 by Vera Novak in Guest Blogs

This year, the U.S. DOEUnited States Department of Energy. Solar Decathlon moved from its historic location on the Washington , D.C. Mall to Irvine, California — a very prescient move considering the current government closure of the Mall. The Decathlon concept has expanded to a Solar Decathlon in Europe in 2012 and China in 2013, and the recent U.S. event was open to overseas contestants. Among the many university teams vying for a chance to compete, teams from Austria and the Czech Republic succeeded in securing spots among the 20 finalists.

Providing Outdoor Combustion Air for a Wood Stove

Posted on October 14, 2013 by Chris West in Guest Blogs

In November 2012, I started on a deep energy retrofit of my 1976 raised ranch in northwestern Vermont, in the shadow of Mount Mansfield. As a 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. consultant, I wanted to make my leaky (8.25 ach50) house with fiberglass-filled 2x4 walls and a tuck-under garage much more energy-efficient.

All About Radon

Posted on October 11, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Several colorless, odorless gases can injure your health. For example, carbon monoxide can kill you in minutes. RadonColorless, odorless, short-lived radioactive gas that can seep into homes and result in lung cancer risk. Radon and its decay products emit cancer-causing alpha, beta, and gamma particles. takes longer — usually decades — to kill you, and (fortunately) death is less certain.

The United Nations Addresses Resilient Design

Posted on October 10, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Wrapping up an intense month of travel, I’m just back from New York City, where I spoke last Friday at the UN World Habitat Day conference, “Resilient Design for Sustainable Urbanism.” The event was cosponsored by the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanism, AIA New York, and the NJIT Center for Resilient Design.

When You’re Financing a Green Home, Payback Is Irrelevant

Posted on October 9, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

If you're buying a green home or investing in energy efficiency improvements for your existing home, calculating the simple payback for your investment is at best incomplete and at worst, completely irrelevant. Before I get to the reasons why payback isn't the right way to look at home energy efficiency improvements, let's define simple payback.

Making Green Affordable, Part 1

Posted on October 8, 2013 by Christopher Briley in Green Architects' Lounge

Now that "green" design (usually defined as design that is energy-efficient and environmentally friendly) is arguably in the mainstream, our industry faces a challenge: to bring green design into the realm of affordability. "Affordable," like "green," is a subjective term, and so it makes it difficult to discuss without offending some people (specifically those who are struggling to afford basic shelter for themselves or others; where a donated sink, or 2x4, makes all the difference.) I don't think this article is necessarily for you/them. I should be clear, right up front, that we are mostly talking about very low-energy, high-quality houses. However, all the principles Phil and I discuss, can be applied to any home, of any size and scale.

So, join Phil and me as we knock back a cocktail, roll up our shirt sleeves, and discuss our respective approaches to affordable green design. I should also warn you that Phil and I are a bit chatty in the beginning, and if you are the type that likes to get right to the subject matter, and don't care about Phil's discovery of Campari, then you'll want to skip ahead to minute 06:00.

For the rest, well, here's to you!

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