The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Part 4 of GBA’s Passivhaus Video Series

Posted on June 26, 2014 by GBA Team in Green Building Blog

At the PassivhausA 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. job site in Falmouth, Massachusetts, architect Steve Baczek specified double-stud walls. The frame of a Passivhaus may not be as exciting as the thick layers of insulation, the high-tech mechanical ­systems, or the triple-glazed windows, but it plays a very important supporting role in achieving success.

What Architects Need to Know About Attic Kneewalls

Posted on June 25, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

We were working on a project, so we got a set of plans to get started. It includes the attic kneewall and vaulted ceiling section you see at right. This is typical of plans that architects draw, and builders build houses this way all the time. Unfortunately, it contains several errors. Can you spot them?

An Energy-Self-Sufficient Community

Posted on June 24, 2014 by Andrew Dey in Guest Blogs

From a distance, Feldheim looks like many other rural villages in Germany: a cluster of buildings surrounded by farmland and forests. The backdrop includes numerous wind turbines, but that’s not unusual in Germany’s breezy north. What is unusual is that there are two signs welcoming visitors to Feldheim: the typical yellow sign that is found at the edge of every village, and another in blue and white announcing that Feldheim is an “Energieautarker Ortsteil,” or an energy self-sufficient district.

The ‘Lock-In’ Concept and Passivhaus Construction

Posted on June 23, 2014 by matthew omalia in Guest Blogs

Alan Gibson (my GO Logic colleague) and I just returned from the 18th annual International 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. Conference in Aachen, Germany. This incredible three-day conference featured some of the superstars in the Passivhaus community as well as influential European policy makers, including Dr. Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passivhaus Institut.

How Balanced Ventilation Systems Become Exhaust-Only

Posted on June 20, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Unlike the homes of our great-grandparents, the homes of most Americans are served by an array of automatic appliances and systems.

When our great-grandparents returned home after a three-day absence, they would need to haul a bucket of water from the spring and light a fire in the kitchen stove before they could brew tea. Today’s homes, of course, have electricity for lighting, a furnace for warmth, an air conditioner for cooling, a water heater for showers, and internet access for Googling.

Part 3 of GBA’s Passivhaus Video Series

Posted on June 19, 2014 by GBA Team in Green Building Blog

At the PassivhausA 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. job site in Falmouth, Massachusetts, architect Steve Baczek specified the installation of 10 inches of EPSExpanded polystyrene. Type of rigid foam insulation that, unlike extruded polystyrene (XPS), does not contain ozone-depleting HCFCs. EPS frequently has a high recycled content. Its vapor permeability is higher and its R-value lower than XPS insulation. EPS insulation is classified by type: Type I is lowest in density and strength and Type X is highest. under the slab-on-grade foundation. After the concrete had been placed, more rigid foam was installed above the slab, to bring the finished floor assembly to R-50.

Beware of This Expensive Ventilation Scam

Posted on June 18, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

How much does an exhaust fan cost? Search online and you can find lots of them that move 200 cubic feet per minute (cfm) for $100 to $150. But, if you put one in a semi-attractive (emphasis on the "semi") package, create some fancy marketing materials, and target people who don't know much building science, you can charge $1,200 to $1,700 for that same fan. At least that seems to be the business plan for these three companies.

Tracking Our Company’s Carbon Footprint

Posted on June 17, 2014 by john abrams in Guest Blogs

South Mountain Company is a 39-year-old employee-owned company offering integrated architecture, engineering, building, and renewable energy services. We like to measure how we’re doing in as many ways as possible. Like other businesses, we have a collection of metrics for financial tracking: profit and loss, budget projections and actuals, job costing of each project, value of our several funds (pension, equity, and reserves), and more.

On Trying To Do the Right Thing

Posted on June 16, 2014 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

This week's Q&A Spotlight is more about the business of building, and less about the science of building. The case involves a homeowner who is struggling to find a balance between his ethical responsibilities and a desire to save a few bucks.

Universal Design

Posted on June 13, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Why are most interior doorways only 30 inches wide? Why are so many doorknobs hard to grip? And why do so many homes have a long stairway between the front door and the bedrooms?

Two typical answers to these questions would be, “because that’s the way we’ve always built houses” and “because these houses meet code.” (Those two reasons happen to be pretty weak, by the way.)

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