The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

A Practical Approach to Passive House

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Steve Baczek in Green Building Blog

I began my career in architecture nearly 17 years ago after spending many years as a contractor. My background has given me a strong appreciation for and understanding of people who design and build homes. I’ve designed more than 30 zero-energy homes, six deep-energy retrofits, and numerous high-performance houses. In truth, the path to optimum performance and durability hasn’t always been easy.

Using Rooftop Solar to Meet the Energy Code

Posted on November 9, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

Supply and demand are two different things. When you think of an energy code, say the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC International Energy Conservation Code.), you probably think of demand, not supply. Conserving energy, after all, means reducing demand. It's related to supply only indirectly.

As a result, you might expect an energy conservation code to have requirements that affect only the demand side of the equation. With the 2015 IECC, however, that's not true anymore.

The Rashkin Plan for Higher Profits with High-Performance Housing

Posted on November 8, 2016 by Fernando Pages Ruiz in Guest Blogs

Sam Rashkin is a man with a mission: a mission no less ambitious than to change the way American homebuilders conceive, construct, and promote their products.

As the father of the Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. Certified Homes Program, and now as chief architect of the building technologies office at the U.S. Department of Energy, his day-job description involves promoting super-energy-efficient construction. As a designer with businessman’s heart, he prefers to call it high performance construction.

An Owner-Builder Weighs His Options

Posted on November 7, 2016 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Too big, too complicated, too expensive — all problems in Mike Sterner's current home, and exactly what he'd like to correct in the new house he's planning in northern Wisconsin.

Writing in a Q&A post, Sterner lays out his basic plan for a "pretty good house that finds that happy place between great energy efficiency and economy."

The site is vacant farmland with a south-facing slope. Sterner's woodlot has lots of pine and oak he intends to mill for use in his new house.

Drainwater Heat Recovery Can Lower Your HERS Score

Posted on November 4, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Drainwater heat recovery (DHR) devices have been around for more than twenty years. By now, over 60,000 of the units have been installed in North America. When one of these devices is installed in a typical single-family home, it can reduce the amount of energy used for domestic hot water by 15% to 22%.

Savings from Building Energy Codes Are a Big Deal

Posted on November 3, 2016 by Anonymous in Guest Blogs

By LAUREN URBANEK

How much energy do building codes save over time? That’s the question that a new report released last week from the Department of Energy (DOEUnited States Department of Energy.) aims to answer — and the answers show the results can be mammoth, both in terms of consumers' utility bill savings and avoided carbon emissions.

Landfills Have a Huge Greenhouse Gas Problem

Posted on November 2, 2016 by Erica Gies in Guest Blogs

We take out our trash and feel lighter and cleaner. But at the landfill, the food and yard waste that trash contains is decomposing and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfill gas also contributes to smog, worsening health problems like asthma.

Can an Urban River Be Restored?

Posted on November 1, 2016 by Anonymous in Guest Blogs

By JIM ROBBINS

In its natural state, before it was channeled and lined with concrete, the 51-mile-long Los Angeles River was often little more than a trickle for nine months of the year. During the rainy season, however, the small braided stream would turn into a powerful, churning river. It behaved like a dropped firehose, wildly lashing the Los Angeles valley, scouring gravel and soil across a seven-mile-wide floodplain, and carving a new course with every deluge. When the waters receded, a mosaic of fertile marshes, ponds, and other wetlands remained.

Wolfe Island Passive: Windows, Doors, and Utilities

Posted on October 31, 2016 by David Murakami Wood in Guest Blogs

Editor's note: David and Kayo Murakami Wood are building what they hope will be Ontario's first certified 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. on Wolfe Island, the largest of the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River. They are documenting their work at their blog, Wolfe Island Passive House. For a list of earlier posts in this series, see the sidebar below.

States are Amending, then Adopting, the 2015 IECC

Posted on October 28, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

In the U.S., the system for writing, adopting, and enforcing building codes is peculiar. Lots of people are confused about building codes.

Anyone interested in understanding building codes in the U.S. needs to start by learning a few basic facts:

  • The U.S. doesn’t have a national building code. Building codes vary from state to state, and in some cases from city to city.
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