The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Getting into Hot Water — Part 1

Posted on September 12, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

Dick and Tim Mavro, with the help of a large friend of Tim's named Justin, came and took our oil heating system away. I was glad to see the truck drive off with all that equipment on the trailer. Now I have to find a home for the Vermont Castings gas heater, and then we'll be fossil-fuel-free, at least as far as site energy is concerned.

Tips from a Commercial Demolition Company

Posted on September 11, 2012 by J.D. Elder in Guest Blogs

The demolition of a building is a carefully orchestrated, thoroughly researched affair. Demolition contractors must be conscientious about both employee safety and environmental safety, or else risk losing their business licenses. Just like general contractors, demolition experts are required to follow OSHA standards for employee safety. And demolition firms must also abide by EPA standards guiding environmentally safe deconstruction techniques. Hazardous construction materials, such as asbestosMineral fiber once commonly used in many building materials, including insulation, fireproof siding, and resilient flooring. Inhalation of invisible asbestos fibers can lead to chest and abdominal cancers as well as scarring of the lungs. The use of asbestos in some products has been banned by the EPA and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission; manufacturers also have adopted voluntary limitations on its use. When found in older buildings (most commonly in floor tiles, pipe and furnace insulation, or asbestos shingles), the product's friability is a major determinant in how it must be handled during renovations. More information:, must be safely removed before a building can be demolished.

Photovoltaics, Part 2: Enter the Dollar

Posted on September 10, 2012 by Christopher Briley in Green Architects' Lounge

Not too long ago, our own Jesse Thompson (known for his "What's Bothering Jesse?" segment on the Green Architects' Lounge) wrote a great article, PV Systems Have Gotten Dirt Cheap. It was a wakeup call for many.

The Difference Between Storage and Tankless Water Heaters

Posted on September 6, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

There are two primary types of water heaters: storage and tankless. In this column I’ll try to explain the differences between these two approaches and offer some guidance on choosing between them. (There are also “hybrid” water heaters with features of both that I’ll cover in a future blog.)

Storage water heaters

Most water heaters are storage models. These are insulated tanks holding 20 to 120 gallons with either electric heating elements or gas burners. The storage tank stratifies with hot water at the top and cold incoming water at the bottom, so that as you draw off hot water (from the top), you get consistently hot water until the hot water is nearly depleted. The “first-hour rating” tells you how many gallons of hot water can be delivered in an hour. 

The Loophole and the Ozone Hole

Posted on September 5, 2012 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Holes are generally bad things. Those of us who teach building science spend a lot of time showing people how to measure the effects of holes, how to seal them up, and why they’re bad in the first place. That’s not universally true, of course. Some holes we do want, but we also want to be able to control what happens in those holes, as with a door or window.

Looking Through Windows — Part 3

Posted on September 4, 2012 by Roger Normand in Guest Blogs

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

Woe are we with windows!

We started seriously exploring window options in June. Two months later, we are STILL hung-up on windows.

Most people who build new homes go look at window samples in few building supply stores, check the features, open and close the display units, get a price, and quickly decide, “Let’s go with this one.”

Basement Insulation — Part 2

Posted on September 3, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

In Part 1 of this blog series, I mentioned that I had to move a number of infrastructure items away from the concrete walls so I could have an unbroken insulation installation. In retrospect, it was a good idea to move them, and the time it took was at least partially compensated for by not needing to take time to fit the foam around the obstacles.

They were:

Who Deserves the Prize for the Greenest Home in the U.S.?

Posted on August 31, 2012 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

It’s not unusual for an architect to announce, with great fanfare, that he or she has just designed “the greenest home in America” — nor is it unusual for journalists to rush these stories to print. The phenomenon has been going on for years — so long, in fact, that I decided to do a small survey of the “greenest homes.”

Saving a Little More Energy With Exit Signs

Posted on August 30, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

In the years that I’ve been writing about energy and energy conservation (longer than I really want to admit), I’ve reported on several dramatic transitions in how we illuminate the exit signs in commercial buildings. For an energy geek, it’s been an exciting technology to watch.

Why care about exit signs?
Why do we even pay attention to exit signs—those ubiquitous red or green illuminated signs that direct our escape from a building should the need arise? They can’t use very much energy, can they?

Basement Insulation — Part 1

Posted on August 29, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

A common truism (that isn't) is “heat rises.” Actually, what rises is air that is warmer than the surrounding air. Anyone who has lived with a wood stove knows this — it's a lot hotter at the ceiling in the room with the stove than it is at the floor. But heat flows from hot to cold, so it readily goes from our houses down into whatever connection they have with the ground, because the ground is cooler than the temperature most of us like our homes to be at.

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