The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Resilient Design: Dramatically Better Building Envelopes

Posted on January 5, 2012 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

When most people think about resilience — resilience to storms, for example — they think only about resilience during the event. Equally important, if not more important, I believe, is resilience in the aftermath of that event. Hurricanes, ice storms, blizzards, wildfires, tornadoes, and other natural disasters not only have an immediate impact, for which we may or may not be able to prepare, but they often have a much longer-term impact, usually through extended power outages.

Passivhaus and Spray Foam

Posted on January 4, 2012 by mike eliason in Guest Blogs

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. (PHIUS) has banned the use of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) with high global warming potential (GWP). The discussion on high GWP insulation was elevated in an excellent piece, “Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation,” written by Alex Wilson, the executive editor of Environmental Building News.

During Passivhaus training last year, it was stated that this could potentially be coming down the pipeline – so we weren’t surprised to see this pending regulation.

An Ecological Home Upgrade in Ireland

Posted on January 3, 2012 by Mike Haslam in Green Building Blog

Reprinted with permission from Construct Ireland magazine.

(At Least) Six Things Are Wrong With This Crawl Space

Posted on January 2, 2012 by Garrett Mosiman in Green Building Blog

Last week, published a photo of a crawl space in an old house under the headline, “What's Wrong With This Picture?”

The photo showed an unvented crawl space in a cold climate. The home was built in 1885. This crawl space is attached to an adjacent concrete-floored basement. The foundation walls are made of mortared limestone.

Energy Predictions for 2012

Posted on December 30, 2011 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

As the sun sets on 2011 and we all turn our eyes to 2012, it’s time for journalists and consultants to publish their predictions for the coming year. I was briefly tempted to create such a list — something along the lines of “energy prices will be higher, the planet will be warmer, and many regions will be affected by drought” — until I remembered that I’ve always been bad at predicting.

For example, back in the late 1970s, I was convinced that energy prices would rise steeply during the 1980s. I was wrong.

Video: A Passivhaus Foundation

Posted on December 29, 2011 by GBA Team in Green Building Blog

Scroll down this page to see a construction site video of the Karuna House in Yamhill County, Oregon, showing the installation of capillaryForces that lift water or pull it through porous materials, such as concrete. The tendency of a material to wick water due to the surface tension of the water molecules. break material on top of the footings to prevent moisture from wicking up the foundation walls.

The Karuna House was designed by Holst Architecture and built by Hammer & Hand of Portland, Oregon.

Designing Houses and Communities To Be Smarter and More Resilient

Posted on December 29, 2011 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

As we look to create homes and communities that will keep us comfortable and safe in a world of climate change, terrorism, and other vulnerabilities, there are a handful of strategies that I group loosely under the heading of "smarter design." Some of these strategies come into play more at the land-use planning scale, or are relevant only in certain locations that are at risk of flooding, but all are worth thinking about when planning a new home.

Where we build

The Business of Building a ‘Building Business’ — Part 2

Posted on December 28, 2011 by Michael Strong, LEED Associate, CGP in Business Advisor

In my last blog, I recommended that we builders should try to build our office team much like we build our construction team. We should move as quickly as possible from doing all the work ourselves to hiring specialty employees and professional partners. (In the field we call them trade contractors).

Lifecycle Building Center Opens in Atlanta

Posted on December 27, 2011 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

I recently attended the grand opening for the Lifecycle Building Center (LBC), a new non-profit organization focused on building material reuse. The result of long hours of labor by many dedicated people, the LBC’s stated mission is to “make the lifecycle use of the built environment more efficient and sustainable.”

What’s Wrong With This Crawl Space?

Posted on December 26, 2011 by Garrett Mosiman in Guest Blogs

The photo shows an unvented crawl space in a cold climate. The home was built in 1885. This crawl space is attached to an adjacent concrete-floored basement. The foundation walls are made of mortared limestone.

Even in the small area captured in the photo, there are a number of problems that compromise energy efficiency, building durability, and life safety.

Next week, we will post the answers that a Building America team, NorthernStar, came up with.

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