The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Four Affordable Ways to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Old Windows

Posted on June 21, 2011 by Peter Yost in Green Communities

There are many reasons to replace windows, but energy efficiency is not the best reason. Replacing the windows in an older house is one of the most expensive energy upgrades you can make. To improve performance of existing windows, consider storm windows, window films, and exterior roller shades before buying replacement windows.

But which option is the best bang for the buck?

Net-Zero Homes, Part 2: How to Get to Zero

Posted on June 21, 2011 by Christopher Briley in Green Architects' Lounge

In part two of this episode, the Net ZeroProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. Calculating net-zero energy can be difficult, particularly in grid-tied renewable energy systems, because of transmission losses in power lines and other considerations. conversation gets real as Phil and I talk about how to think about the balancing act of increasing your building performance, decreasing your energy demand, decreasing your mechanical costs, and optimizing your cost. Of course you have to have the target of net zero in mind and the whole team has to be on board. We've even included a handy spreadsheet that Phil's office uses to help run the options and find that “sweet spot.”

Solar Decathlon 2011: Maryland’s WaterShed Moment

Posted on June 21, 2011 by Richard Defendorf in 2011 Solar Decathlon

The University of Maryland is a veteran Solar Decathlon competitor, with three contests already under its belt — including a second-place win behind Technische Universität Darmstadt in the 2007 competition.

Get Rid of Your Gas Water Heater!

Posted on June 20, 2011 by Ted Clifton in Guest Blogs

I was asked to write this blog about naturally aspirated fossil-fuel water heaters in green retrofits as a response to a rather heated debate at the recent National Green Building Conference. The debate occurred in a class co-hosted by Peter Yost and Michael Chandler; in that debate, I stated unequivocally to “get gas water heaters the hell out of the house — they have no place in a green retrofit!”

How to Insulate a Low-Slope Roof

Posted on June 20, 2011 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Eric Dymond lives in a 1920s Baltimore row house that needs a new roof. He plans on replacing the low-slope, built-up roof with an EPDM membrane, and the question is how to insulate it correctly.

Currently, the built-up asphalt roof is installed over Homasote (or something similar) and a roof deck made of wood planks. Although there’s some “sparsely distributed” insulation in the space between the ceilings and the roof deck, it won’t meet current recommendations for Dymond’s Climate Zone 4 house.

Helping People With Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Posted on June 17, 2011 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

If you are a designer or builder specializing in green building, it’s only a matter of time before you are approached by a client who suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity. A typical request might go like this: “Many ordinary building materials can make me sick. I’m looking for someone to design (or build) me a house without any toxic chemicals.”

What’s the best way to respond to such a potential customer? To answer this question, let’s turn first to the medical experts.

Blog Review: Tim Eian

Posted on June 15, 2011 by Scott Gibson in Green Building Blog

Tim Delhey Eian is a German-trained architect and Master Carpenter whose Minneapolis firm, TE Studio, specializes in 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. design. His blog, Tim Eian is, unsurprisingly, about all things Passivhaus.

Ten Steps to Clean Up a Broken CFL

Posted on June 14, 2011 by Tristan Roberts in Energy Solutions

At a wedding last weekend, I heard the following story third-hand, attributed to a local landscape designer.

There was a large group of relatives of this gentleman who had lived their lives in Dorchester, Mass. — in the Boston metro area — and had never gone anywhere else. Ever.

How to Cheat* at LEED: Part 2

Posted on June 14, 2011 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

Now that all of you who read the first column in this series think you are experts at working the 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. system, I will show you some of the points that are much harder to qualify for along with a few that are pretty easy, but they are not very obvious and you have to know about them to take them.

The Downside of Structural Steel

Posted on June 13, 2011 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Brandon M. is building a three-story house in Seattle whose design includes cantilevers on the second and third floors. The designer has specified steel I-beams to provide the structural support in this modernist design, and this is what’s giving Brandon pause for thought.

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