The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Why Is the U.S. Green Building Council So Out of Touch?

Posted on October 29, 2012 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Yesterday I read a short interview with Rick Fedrizzi,* the CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and it got me to thinking about that organization. They're probably the largest, most well known green building organization in the world.

Fans in the Attic: Do They Help or Do They Hurt?

Posted on October 26, 2012 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding attic fans. Here at, we regularly receive e-mails from homeowners with questions about attic fans: What’s the purpose of the fan in my attic? How often should I run it? Do I need a bigger fan?

Before addressing these recurring questions, it’s important to define our terms. First, we need to distinguish between three different types of ventilation fans.

Heating With Wood Pellets

Posted on October 25, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

My wife and I have a sort-of love-hate relationship with our pellet stove. She leans more toward the latter, while I see the benefits outweighing the negatives.

In this column I’ll outline the primary advantages and disadvantages of pellet heating.

An Induction Cooktop for Our Kitchen

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

We don't often think about the energy we use for cooking. In the most economically disadvantaged countries, gathering energy for cooking is a major component of people's time (mostly women), and smoke from wood cooking fires is a significant health issue. One great solution for these people is solar cookers, and this organization is my favorite non-profit, because it helps the planet's poorest people while doing environmental good.

New Video Series: Airtight Drywall

Posted on October 23, 2012 by GBA Team in Green Building Blog

Stopping air leaks is the single most important part of making a house more energy efficient. Every building needs at least one, and sometimes two, air barriers. One of the most common ways to install an interior air barrier is to follow the Airtight Drywall Approach.

Passive House New England’s Fall Symposium

Posted on October 22, 2012 by GBA Team in Green Building Blog

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. New England is hosting a one-day conference in Boston with presentations on a variety of topics that are likely to interest readers, including "Passive House and Cost Optimization in the South."

Among the speakers scheduled for the upoming event are Adam Cohen, Chris Corson, Jesse Thompson, Marc Rosenbaum, and Martin Holladay.

The symposium will be held at the University of Massachusetts - Boston on Saturday October 27. The cost to attend is $75 (or $35 for students).

Why Don’t More HVAC Contractors Own Duct Leakage Testers?

Posted on October 22, 2012 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. contractors own a lot of equipment. Of course, they have pressure gauges to test refrigerant charge in air conditioners and heat pumps, and many more pieces of technical equipment. One piece that few contractors own, however, is a duct leakage tester.

With more and more state energy codes requiring duct leakage tests, doesn't it seem obvious that HVAC contractors need to be like plumbers and test their own work before passing it off?

A New Encyclopedia Article on Ductless Minisplits

Posted on October 19, 2012 by GBA Team in Green Building Blog

With each passing month,'s library of articles and blogs gets deeper. For example, we recently added a new article on Ductless Minisplit Heat Pumps to the GBA Encyclopedia.

Ductless minisplits differ from conventional air-source heat pumps in several ways: first of all, they are extremely efficient, in part because of the use of inverterDevice for converting direct-current (DC) electricity into the alternating-current (AC) form required for most home uses; necessary if home-generated electricity is to be fed into the electric grid through net-metering arrangements.-driven compressors. Secondly, many of these units can operate efficiently at very low outdoor temperatures.

Heating With Wood Safely and Efficiently

Posted on October 18, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

I’ve been heating primarily with wood since I bought our house 31 years ago, though there were a few years following our installation of an oil boiler when wood consumption dropped considerably.

Wood heat has a mixed record, though. It’s a renewable fuel and, assuming that new trees grow up to replace those cut for firewood, it is carbon-neutral, meaning that it doesn’t have a net contribution to global warming. But burning firewood produces a lot of air pollution; in fact, it’s usually our dirtiest fuel.

Designing Superinsulated Walls

Posted on October 17, 2012 by Roger Normand in Guest Blogs

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 12th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

I’ve always enjoyed watching new homes being built. From the humble beginnings of a simple hole in the ground, a job site gradually changes as a succession of tradesmen arrive daily to craft concrete, lumber, roofing, windows, drywall, copper pipes into basic shelter, before giving way to a parade of cabinets, appliances and other finishing touches.

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