The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Framing and Air-Sealing Tips for High-Performance Walls

Posted on December 28, 2012 by Martin Holladay in Green Building Blog

In three new videos produced by Oregon builder Hammer & Hand, lead carpenter Val Darrah explains how he keeps air sealing in mind as he frames the walls for his current project, the Pumpkin Ridge 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..

Val explains why he prefers to use a router rather than a saw when he cuts out window openings in the OSB sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. . He also shares his method of building window bucks out of 3/4-inch plywood.

Heat Loss from Air Is No Big Deal, Right?

Posted on December 27, 2012 by Erik North in Guest Blogs

No, it’s a huge deal. The photo (right) is of air streaming through recessed lights in a cathedral ceiling.

I often and exhaustively speak about air sealing as if it were a universal good. And it is, right up there with brown ale and Avengers movies. My audit customers often look confused when I address their insulation questions by bringing up air barriers and air leakage. I mean, “Why are you talking about air leaks when I asked about the insulation?”

Mechanical Systems for Low-Load Buildings

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Professor John Straube spoke for a whole day at the Building Science Corporation's Experts' Session earlier this month. His topic, a good one for readers, was mechanical systems for low-load buildings.

You know that expression about how the information comes at you so fast in some classes that it's like drinking from a firehose? With Professor Straube, it's like trying to drink from a tsunami! The guy has not only a phenomenal knowledge but he's also a fantastic teacher and incredibly witty.

Backup Electrical Power for a Passivhaus Project

Posted on December 25, 2012 by Roger Normand in Guest Blogs

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 19th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Self-Cleaning Ovens

Posted on December 24, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

For the first time in my sheltered life, I have a range with a self-cleaning oven. After over a year which included roasting a number of chickens (which we've been raising the past few years), we had an oven covered with enough spattered grease to cause the smoke detector to go off any time we turned the oven on.

The manual that came with the range cautioned against using the usual oven cleaners and recommended the use of the self-cleaning feature. This process locks the oven and heats it up to a very high temperature — Wikipedia (among others) says 900°F.

The Energy Grinch

Posted on December 21, 2012 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

With apologies to Dr. Seuss

Changing Behavior to Save Energy

Posted on December 20, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

We live in a world of gadgets and stuff. When it comes to saving energy, we look to high-efficiency light bulbs or dishwashers. Or we use the advanced weatherstripping to seal our windows or add insulation in our attics. And hopefully we’ll look at fuel-economy ratings when shopping for our next car.

Those are important things to be doing — and we should continue paying attention with all of our purchases. But we should also recognize that behavior is a big part of our overall energy consumption.

Joe Lstiburek on Spray Foam

Posted on December 19, 2012 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Spray foam insulation evokes some interesting conversation among building scientists, construction professionals, environmentalists, and homeowners who have it in their homes. Many think it solves all problems, no matter how poorly it's installed. Some think it's helping to warm the planet and compromise the health of people and pets. In the middle are those who work with it regularly and see both the warts and the beauty of the product.

Can We Get More and Pay Less To Keep About The Same?

Posted on December 18, 2012 by Roger Normand in Guest Blogs

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 18th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Is There an Alternative to a Heat-Recovery Ventilator?

Posted on December 17, 2012 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

The tighter the house, the more it needs mechanical ventilation. That's become a rule of thumb for energy-efficient builders, and designers often turn to heat-recovery ventilators to get the job done. These relatively simple (but not necessarily cheap) devices use the temperature of outgoing air to moderate the temperature of incoming air, thus lowering the energy penalty for providing fresh air to the whole house.

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