The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Passivhaus Homes are Extremely Tight and Energy-Efficient

Posted on March 7, 2010 by Daniel Morrison in Green Building Blog

UPDATED May 16, 2014: More links added to news stories, blogs, and products.

The 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. standard is probably the most stringent available standard for energy-efficient buildings. Passivhaus buildings have to meet a strict airtightness standard (0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals), so they tend to be much tighter than homes that meet 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. or LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. requirements.

The Energy-Efficiency Pyramid

Posted on March 5, 2010 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

UPDATED on September 24, 2013

We’re all familiar with the food pyramid — the triangle with grains and cereals at the bottom and fats and sugars at the top. Inspired by the food pyramid, a Midwestern electric utility, Minnesota Power, has created a useful graphic called the energy conservation pyramid. (According to a Minnesota Power spokesperson, the originator of the conservation pyramid was Bob McLean, the chief operating officer at Hunt Utilities Group.)

Green building assessments versus energy audits

Posted on March 4, 2010 by Peter Yost in Green Communities

Energy audits can be a single slice evaluation of home performance, just looking at energy, albeit in a comprehensive analysis of energy performance. Whole-house assessments are green because they take a systems integration approach to evaluating home performance, looking at the individual and combined effects of energy, water, indoor air quality, and durability performance.

Does Green Building Have to Cost More?

Posted on March 2, 2010 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Having written about green building for more than twenty years now, I’ve encountered lots of misperceptions. One of those is that green building always has to cost a lot more than conventional building. There are plenty of examples where it does cost more (sometimes significantly more), but it doesn’t have to, and green choices can even reduce costs in some cases. Let me explain.

Air Conditioner Basics

Posted on February 26, 2010 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

What does a Vermonter know about air conditioning? I live so close to the Canadian border that half of the radio stations are in French. If my house needs cooling, I just let the fire in the wood stove die down.

When I first began reporting on air conditioning topics over a decade ago, I felt out of my element. Impelled by the certainty that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, I’ve managed over the years to badger a few air-conditioner experts, all of whom contributed to my education. So now I finally know the difference between an evaporator coil and a condenser coil.

RESNET Ramblings

Posted on February 25, 2010 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

Upon returning home from five long days at the RESNET Building Performance Conference in Raleigh, N.C., I reviewed my notes to see what I had picked up while there. Now for those of you who don’t know this crowd, this is one roomful of serious geeks. Compared to the building industry and the average consumer, I am pretty geeky when it comes to building science, but most of this crowd (as well as many of my friends here at GBA) truly humble me with the extent of their knowledge.

Ground-Source Heat Pumps (2010)

Posted on February 23, 2010 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

For the past month, I’ve examined various home energy improvements for which one can earn a 30% federal tax credit. The last of these opportunities I’ll cover is ground-source heat pumps. A ground-source heat pump (GSHP) is also referred to as a “geothermal” heat pump, though I prefer the former terminology, to avoid confusion with true geothermal energyHot water or steam extracted from reservoirs beneath the Earth's surface; can be used for heat pumps, water heating, or electricity generation. The term may also mean the use of near-constant underground temperatures by ground-source heat pumps to provide heating and cooling. systems that rely on elevated temperatures deep underground from the Earth’s mantle.

Architects Talking About Air Barriers

Posted on February 22, 2010 by Christopher Briley in Green Architects' Lounge

With cocktails in their hands, architects Chris Briley and Phil Kaplan discuss green building and design issues in a casual, pithy format

Join the guys for a drink as Chris and Phil look at air barriers — one of “The Big Three” topics (along with insulation and windows) of green construction.

Sit back, relax, and be “edutained” — while you work, drive, exercise or do whatever you do while you podcatch.

Green Home Programs

Posted on February 22, 2010 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

Among other endeavors, I have been certifying LEED homes as a provider representative for about two years now. In order to continue doing this work after next year, USGBC and GBCI have decided that I must become certified as a green rater. After looking at my various options for obtaining this designation, I elected to take a two-day training class in advance of the required test. Not uncharacteristically, I bristled at the thought that I would have to spend my time and money learning something I was already doing.

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