The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

A Drainage Plane Time Bomb Defused

Posted on February 5, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

I don't think I can ever say it enough, but the building enclosure consists of several control layers and each one has its job. The primary control layer is the one that keeps liquid water out, and it can be a tricky business.

Take the case of this condo building (yes, it's in the community where I live). It's got several problems, so I went to bat for building science here.

Radon and a Passive House

Posted on February 3, 2015 by Paul Honig in Guest Blogs

Let me start out by stating that I am neither a radonColorless, odorless, short-lived radioactive gas that can seep into homes and result in lung cancer risk. Radon and its decay products emit cancer-causing alpha, beta, and gamma particles. expert nor a 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. expert. That said, I do have experience with radon gas in a Passive House that I'd like to share.

Choosing the Right Wall Assembly

Posted on February 2, 2015 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Southwest Nebraska sounds like the kind of place that gets all kinds of weather: hot and occasionally humid summers, cold winters, and by many accounts lots of wind. This is where Nicholas C will be building his house, and the question is, how?

He's done so much reading on the subject that he's now confused by the number of options he has. Getting it right is important because Nicholas plans on living in the house for a long time.

His best thinking so far? A 2x8 stud wall framed on 16-inch centers and insulated with blown-in cellulose, then wrapped in 2 inches of rigid foam insulation.

Build Like This

Posted on February 2, 2015 by matthew omalia in Green Building Blog

In 2008, when my business partner and I decided to form a design/build firm, we agreed to build to the highest standard of sustainability and to do so cost-effectively. With all our projects, we hoped to achieve a synergy between designing for human comfort, building in response to the site, and achieving long-term durability. We quickly agreed that 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. standard, which was just being introduced to the United States, would be the most comprehensive and clear measure of our success.

Rules of Thumb for Ductless Minisplits

Posted on January 30, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Since 2008, when Carter Scott built a pioneering Massachusetts house that was heated and cooled by just two ductless minisplits, GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com has endeavored to publish reports from the field to guide people designing homes that are heated and cooled by ductless minisplits. We’ve learned a lot on this topic since 2008.

A Higher Standard

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Jesse Thompson in Green Building Blog

For a number of years, Rob and Fiona were content to live in a simple Maine cottage a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. In recent years, however, they had tried having a new house designed to accommodate their changing needs, but quickly got mired in results that were much larger and more expensive than what they wanted. After tiring of these unsuccessful ventures, they came to my firm seeking a compact, modern, extremely energy-efficient home that would blend into the tightly woven neighborhood where they planned to root themselves for the years to come.

Heat-Pump Clothes Dryers

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Joe Rice in Guest Blogs

Whirlpool announced it back in July; I was able to order it in October; and it wasn't delivered until January 21st — but I now own a real live, made for the U.S. market, heat-pump clothes dryer. It's officially the Whirlpool HybridCare Duet Dryer with Heat Pump Technology.

GBA 2.0

Posted on January 28, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Green Building Blog

Six years ago we launched GreenBuildingAdvisor.com with one goal: to be the most trustworthy source of information for anyone designing, building, or remodeling energy-efficient, sustainable, and healthy homes. At the heart of GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com 1.0 were downloadable construction details, case studies of high-performance homes, a strategy generator, and the Green Spec product guide. Over the years we've added thousands of articles — some written by me, and others by Allison Bailes, Carl Seville, and some of the country's top experts in the fields of construction, architecture, and building science.

A Plethora of Building Science Conferences

Posted on January 27, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

I love going to conferences. Since I changed my career in 2004, I've gone to building science, green building, and home performance conferences nearly every year. (I think I missed 2006, but I had a lot going on then.) Last year I went to eleven of them, but then I'm a bit unusual.

You certainly don't have to go to that many, but if you're a home builder, home performance contractor, or home energy pro, I do recommend going to one conference a year so you can keep up with the latest trends, talk to your peers, and maybe add some arrows to your quiver.

Zip Sheathing Tips

Posted on January 26, 2015 by Matt Risinger in Guest Blogs

This past year I had the opportunity to build a SIP(SIP) Building panel usually made of oriented strand board (OSB) skins surrounding a core of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation. SIPs can be erected very quickly with a crane to create an energy-efficient, sturdy home. and timber-frame house designed by architects Aamodt & Plumb and built in conjunction with Bensonwood Homes, the famous timber-frame company in New Hampshire. (Side note: I first heard of Bensonwood while watching This Old House in high school. It’s a dream come true to build a house with their timber/SIP package.)

Bensonwood has been using Zip System 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. in their SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) for a few years now, and has really liked them for several reasons.

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