The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

How to Fix an Old Farmhouse Chimney

Posted on August 26, 2013 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Between the spalling bricks and a persistent leak that has damaged a mudroom ceiling, the chimney on Page Hyler's 1900 farmhouse is proving to be a problem that just can't get fixed.

Getting the Biggest Bang for Your Air-Sealing Buck

Posted on August 23, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Most new homes are leaky. In the typical new home, significant volumes of air enter through cracks near the basement rim joists and exit through ceiling holes on the building’s top floor. These air leaks waste tremendous amount of energy.

Building a ‘Layered House’

Posted on August 22, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

If you are building an energy-efficient house, you have to address air leakage and pay attention to the the integrity of the insulation layer. We can have the best of intentions and can install lots of insulation, but if we leave it leaky or include details that compromise the integrity of that insulation, then the home’s energy performance can be severely affected.

Take recessed ceiling lights, for example. From a design standpoint, they’re great, since the light source is roughly flush with the ceiling and all of the mechanism is hidden in the ceiling above (in recessed cans).

Solving Comfort Problems Caused by Attic Kneewalls

Posted on August 21, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

In Texas, they call them “hot walls.” My friend Mike Barcik likes to say they’re what separate you from the blast furnace. Down here in the warmer climate zones, where attics get up to 8,000°F (well, that may be a slight exaggeration), many people call them a liability. (Sadly, architects haven't gotten the message.)

How to Avoid Mold

Posted on August 18, 2013 by Erik North in Guest Blogs

Mold and moisture issues are a common motivation for homeowners to give us a ring. There’s condensation on the windows and water dripping into the window box. One homeowner described how if she opened her front door during the winter, the glass panes on the storm door would fogTo fog a room or building is to use a fog machine during a blower door test, revealing locations of air leaks where the fog escapes. The fogging material is usually a glycol-based solution, completely non-toxic. up within 10 or 12 seconds.

Structural issues in the house, like dirt floors in the basement, sometimes cause these problems. But often the problems are caused by occupant behavior.

Vinyl Windows and Vinyl Siding

Posted on August 16, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Should vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). building materials be banned from green homes? Some environmentalists think so. There seem to be three categories of building materials that particularly irk the anti-PVC crowd: vinyl siding, vinyl windows, and vinyl flooring. Since there are alternatives to all of these materials, these environmentalists argue, green homes shouldn’t include any of them. (Although the anti-vinyl group sometimes mentions PVC pipe used for drains and vents, it seems that neither plastic pipe nor the vinyl insulation on Romex wiring raises as many hackles as vinyl siding, windows, and flooring.)

It Takes a Village to Be Resilient

Posted on August 15, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

The Dummerston Energy Committee, on which I serve in my home town, is conducting an energy survey.

Partly, we are conducting this survey to understand how our town uses energy — both in our homes and in our vehicles. We have a goal in Dummerston, articulated in our Town Plan, to reduce nonrenewable energy consumption 40% by 2030, and we’re trying to establish a baseline from which to measure our success in achieving that long-term target.

But we’re also conducting this survey for another reason that may be more important: to gauge how resilient our town is.

A Stupid — and Illegal — Way to Air Condition Your Garage

Posted on August 14, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Sometimes people do the craziest things. Take that photo at right, for example. That's a new home being built in Austin, Texas. The arrows point to three air conditioning ducts. In the garage. Yes, they're air conditioning the garage.

Adaptations That Accommodate Nature

Posted on August 13, 2013 by Vera Novak in Guest Blogs

In the green construction world, the word “adaptation” is used to describe the future uses of a building. Generally, the concept considers only human uses. But here in the United Kingdom — the latest stop on my European tour — adaptive use takes on a whole new meaning.

What Makes the ‘Best’ Air Barrier?

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Bill L. is planning a high-performance house in Massachusetts and is wrestling with options for the air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both., that all-important building detail that enhances both energy efficiency and building durability.

Above-grade walls will consist of a 2x4 structural frame sheathed in 1/2-inch plywood, followed by I-joists packed with cellulose insulationThermal insulation made from recycled newspaper or other wastepaper; often treated with borates for fire and insect protection., another layer of 1/2-inch plywood, a corrugated plastic product to provide an air space, and fiber-cement siding. The primary air-barrier plane will be at the plywood over the 2x4 studs.

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