The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

How Risky Is Cold OSB Wall Sheathing?

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

During the winter months, wall 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. is usually cold. Cold sheathing is risky, since it tends to accumulate moisture during the winter. Unless the sheathing can dry out during the summer months, damp sheathing can rot.

Passive House: After Hours

Posted on November 5, 2010 by Christopher Briley in Green Architects' Lounge

I left Maine with a plan. I had already corresponded with Dr. Wolfgang Feist (founder of the Passivhaus Instiut) and Katrin Klingenberg (head of PHIUS, 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. Institute U.S.) and asked if I might be able to interview them for Green Building Advisor and the Green Architects' Lounge. Both had indicated a willingness to do so, but the schedule for the event at the Boston Architectural College on October 23 was pretty full and they really didn't know if there would be time.

Green Building Priority #3 – Ensure a Healthy Indoor Environment

Posted on November 3, 2010 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

A green home should be a healthy home. It shouldn't grow mold, mildew, and dust mites. It shouldn't introduce significant quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other hazardous chemicals into the indoor environment. It should have plenty of fresh air for its occupants.

Beyond keeping homeowners healthy, a well-designed green home can go even further with measures to ease stress and enhance a sense of wellbeing.

A few specific strategies for ensuring a healthy indoor environment are described below:

Deal with moisture

Report from the ICC Code Hearings

Posted on November 3, 2010 by Michael Chandler, GBA Advisor in Green Building Blog

The ICC hearings last week were packed with building inspectors and government officials who received grant funding — both to join the ICC (so they could vote) and to cover the cost of transportation, food and lodging for the trip. Together they managed to vote in a new code that aims for a 30% reduction in energy usage compared to the 2006 code. Voters who were more interested in affordable housing than energy efficiency never had a chance, though the debates were long and redundant. (For example, the blower door test mandate was debated on five separate occasions.)

Vapor Barriers, Radon, Basement Slabs, and VOCs — How to Stop the Poison?

Posted on November 1, 2010 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

How's this for a dicey scenario: Arlene DiMarino is a homeowner with chemical sensitivities who lives a couple of blocks away from an EPA Superfund site.

"I am aware of a toxic plume of underground water that is close by," she writes in a Q&A post. "I am concerned that these VOCsVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production. can permeate the cement floor and foundation."

Green Building Priority #4 – Reduce the Need for Driving

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

For very good reasons, we focus a great deal of effort in green building on reducing the energy consumption of our structures—after all, these directly account for more than 35% of our energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. But if you factor in the energy used in getting to and from our buildings—usually in single-occupancy cars and pickup trucks—those percentages grow significantly.

A Conversation With Wolfgang Feist

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Dr. Wolfgang Feist, the physicist and founder of the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany, began his U.S. speaking tour with a presentation and panel discussion at the Boston Architectural College on October 23, 2010. Among the other speakers at the event were Katrin Klingenberg, the founder of 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. Institute U.S. in Urbana, Illinois.

SWEET! S.E. Weatherization Energy Efficiency Training Center Opens

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

Southface Energy Institute recently held a grand-opening ceremony for its new Southeast Weatherization Energy Efficiency Training Center, nicknamed the SWEET Center.

Ground-Source Heat Pumps, Part 1: The Basics

Posted on October 26, 2010 by Christopher Briley in Green Architects' Lounge

If you've done any amount of research on ground source heat pumps, chances are that you've heard from people who say that you'd be insane to consider them as a viable system for your house—AND you've heard from others who say you'd be insane NOT to use them.

Where insanity and green architecture meet, you shall find Phil and me mixing a Dark and Stormy and turning on the mike to act as your good-natured guides. For this episode, we will attempt to demystify this polarizing heating and cooling system.

In Part One of the podcast, we cover the basics and discuss:

My 9th Commandment: Weak Plans & Specs = Weak Project

Posted on October 26, 2010 by Michael Strong, LEED Associate, CGP in Business Advisor

Ever have prospective clients ask you for a ballpark price on their home that “they won’t hold you to” during your first sales call? Even after they have shown you a plan view of the project or home without elevations? Maybe they have elevations but no engineering? Perhaps they have made no selections but say they just want “normal, nice fixtures like everyone else that are not too expensive”? You know — just a rough idea of how much per square foot. They want regular tile in the bathrooms but do not know the difference between ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone.

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