The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Local Food and Resilience

Posted on February 16, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

In this final installment of my ten-part series on resilient design, I'm taking a look at where our food comes from and how we can achieve more resilient food systems.

The average salad in the U.S. is transported roughly 1,400 miles from farm to table, and here in the Northeast, we get most of our fresh food from more than 3,000 miles away. Even in Iowa, where 95% of the land area is in agricultural production, one is hard-pressed to buy locally grown produce.

Who Knew the Stack Effect Could Be So Controversial?

Posted on February 15, 2012 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

Recently, I wrote a little article about the stack effect to explain that the flow of air and heat is upward in winter but downward in summer. Turns out, the stack effect is a hot topic. That article has gotten 25 comments so far. When I posted it to the RESNET BPI group on LinkedIn, it got another 22 comments.

(At Least) Four Things Are Wrong With This Picture

Posted on February 14, 2012 by Rob Hammon in Green Building Blog

Last week we published this photo as part of our “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” series. The photo shows a substandard fiberglass insulation job that was representative of an entire residential subdivision that hoped to qualify for Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners.. Examples like this show that quality control by HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. raters is a weak link in the Energy Star program.

Diabetes and Green Building

Posted on February 13, 2012 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

I barely know who Paula Deen is, although from what I can tell, she seems to be quite the marketer of traditional southern cooking as well as herself. (I may be a little jealous of her self-promotion skills). Her latest big news is that after years of eating and promoting heavy, butter-laden food, she has gone public with her Type-2 diabetes, a condition she has had for three years.

All About Water Heaters

Posted on February 10, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

If you want to save energy, there are lots of exciting appliances and building materials that you might want to specify for your home: triple-glazed windows, an efficient refrigerator, and compact fluorescent or LEDLight-emitting diode. Illumination technology that produces light by running electrical current through a semiconductor diode. LED lamps are much longer lasting and much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps; unlike fluorescent lamps, LED lamps do not contain mercury and can be readily dimmed. lighting, for example.

When it comes to choosing a water heater, though, clarity evaporates. Simple, affordable water heaters aren’t very efficient, and efficient equipment is complicated and costly. So how do you go about choosing a water heater?

Resilient Communities

Posted on February 9, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

In this ninth installment of my ten-part series on resilient design, I'm focusing beyond individual buildings to the community scale. Following a natural disaster or other problem that results in widespread power outages or interruptions in vehicle access or fuel supplies, people need to work together. We saw that throughout Vermont with tropical storm Irene last year, when some communities were cut off for a week or more.

PHIUS PHlogging

Posted on February 8, 2012 by mike eliason in Guest Blogs

“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. is not a brand, it is a building concept which is open to all.” – Anton Kraler

I have to say, I completely agree with Kraler. I don’t view Passive House as a brand, but a concept that belongs to the greater built environment (Passivhaus is a greater good!). And as a concept, I find it very sound and worthwhile. So it was interesting to be forwarded the inaugural blog post from the PHIUS blog, Klingenblog (I’m not making that up!).

What’s Wrong With This Insulation Job?

Posted on February 7, 2012 by Rob Hammon in Green Building Blog

In many areas of the country, homes are receiving Energy Star labels they don’t deserve. Major errors like the ones shown in this photo are supposed to be caught by the HERS rater who performs third-party verification services. This home slipped through the cracks.

The photo shows at least four errors serious enough to have prevented the home from receiving an Energy Star label. Can you spot them?

Next week, we will post the answers that a Building America team, BIRA, came up with.

The Pretty Good House

Posted on February 6, 2012 by michael maines in Guest Blogs

Energy Star. LEED. Passivhaus. There are many programs with different metrics for determining how green your home is. But what elements of green building are important to you when designing and building a home?

New Green Building Products — February 2012

Posted on February 3, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

My folder of interesting new building products is getting thick, so it’s time for another new product roundup. I’ll review three brands of photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. roofing designed to integrate with asphalt shingle roofs. I’ll also discuss several new types of insulation: a new type of rigid foam, batts made from plastic fibers, and batts made from hemp.

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