The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Why Is the U.S. Unwilling to Pay for Good Public Transportation?

Posted on June 23, 2016 by John Rennie Short in Guest Blogs

Officials in Washington, D.C., say they may have to shut down portions of the Metro subway system for months because its piecemeal approach to maintenance is no longer sufficient.

The disclosure follows a shutdown of the entire Metro system on March 16 for 24 hours. Three-quarters of a million people use the system each weekday, so the inconvenience and cost were considerable.

The reason: frayed electrical cables discovered in at least 26 locations that posed an immediate danger. Closing the Metro was probably the safest thing to do.

Is Nuclear Power Our Energy Future or a Dinosaur?

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Dave Levitan in Guest Blogs

Nuclear power is dead. Long live nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only way forward. Nuclear power is a red herring. Nuclear power is too dangerous. Nuclear power is the safest power source around. Nuclear is nothing. Nuclear is everything.

What’s Wrong With Shipping Container Housing? Everything.

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Mark Hogan in Guest Blogs

What’s wrong with shipping container buildings? Nothing, if they’re used for the right purpose.

For a temporary facility, where an owner desires the shipping container aesthetic, they can be a good fit. (Look, I’ve even done a container project!) For sites where on-site construction is not feasible or desirable, fitting a container out in the factory can be a sensible option, even though you’ll still have to do things like pour foundations on site. It probably won’t save you any money over conventional construction (and very well might cost more), but it can solve some other problems.

Making the Best PEX Connections

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Building his “forever house,” Dean Sandbo is mulling what type of tubing to use for his plumbing supply lines. He has narrowed the choice to one of two types of cross-linked polyethylene (PEXCross-linked polyethylene. Specialized type of polyethylene plastic that is strengthened by chemical bonds formed in addition to the usual bonds in the polymerization process. PEX is used primarily as tubing for hot- and cold-water distribution and radiant-floor heating.): PEX-A or PEX-B.

Key issues, Sandbo notes in his Q&A post at GBA, are how long the tubing will last, and whether there are safety concerns — that is, will the PEX tubing leach chemicals into his drinking water?

"I am on a well," he writes. "Any input as to the longevity and safety of these two different types of pipes?"

Remodeling Contractors Talk About Energy Retrofits

Posted on June 17, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

One of the liveliest sessions at this year's NESEANorth East Sustainable Energy Association. A regional membership organization promoting sustainable energy solutions. NESEA is committed to advancing three core elements: sustainable solutions, proven results and cutting-edge development in the field. States included in this region stretch from Maine to Maryland. www.nesea.org-sponsored conference (BuildingEnergy 16) in Boston was a panel discussion featuring four remodeling contractors. These energy-conscious New England builders talked about the challenges they face as they try to incorporate energy improvements into remodeling projects.

Can Low-Income Housing Be Energy-Efficient and Affordable?

Posted on June 16, 2016 by Sophia V. Schweitzer in Guest Blogs

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the local housing commission is completing floor-by-floor renovations in the five-story Baker Commons public housing facility with the goal of reducing energy use at least 20%. In Pittsburgh, Uptown Lofts — affordable housing opened in February 2015 by the nonprofit ACTION-Housing Inc.

How I Fixed My Leaky, Underinsulated Exterior Wall

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

When I began remodeling my master bathroom last month, I found the exterior wall ripe for some serious improvement. It had a number of problems, and I was excited to find them.

It was worse than I imagined in some ways. The photo at right shows the wall partially opened up.

Siding and Soffits at the Blue Heron EcoHaus

Posted on June 14, 2016 by Kent Earle in Guest Blogs

Editor's note: Kent Earle and his wife, Darcie, write a blog called Blue Heron EcoHaus, documenting their journey “from urbanites to ruralites” and the construction of a superinsulated house on the Canadian prairies. Their previous blog on GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com was called Placing the Concrete Floors. The blog below was originally published in August 2015. (A complete list of Kent Earle's GBA blogs is provided in the “Related articles” sidebar below.)

Reducing Concrete’s Hefty Carbon Footprint

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Nate Berg in Guest Blogs

A roomful of materials scientists, gathered at UCLA for a recent conference on “grand challenges in construction materials,” slowly passed a brick-size white block around the room. They held in their hands, briefly, part of the solution to one of those grand challenges. The white block, rock solid and surprisingly lightweight, was a new alternative to cement, the glue that holds together aggregate, or crushed rock, to make the world’s most ubiquitous building material: concrete.

Nailbase Panels for Walls

Posted on June 10, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

These days, lots of builders are installing a continuous layer of rigid foam on the exterior side of their 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. . The usual approach is to sheathe the wall with OSB or plywood, and then to install one or more layers of rigid foam outboard of the sheathing.

Some builders are beginning to simplify this process by switching to nailbase panels — rigid foam panels with a layer of OSB or plywood glued to one side. Since nailbase panels provide sheathing and foam insulation in a single panel, they should (in theory) simplify the construction process.

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