The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Energy Efficiency Is Narrowing the Stupid/Hurt Gap

Posted on December 10, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

The gap is narrowing. What gap, you ask? Why, the gap between stupid and hurt, of course. So says Dr. Joe Lstiburek. Allow me to explain.

Sometimes when you do something stupid, it hurts immediately. A toddler touches a hot kettle, for example, and instantly starts crying in pain. That's a learning experience.

If that pain didn't happen until an hour or a day had passed, however, the child would have a tough time learning not to touch hot kettles. Building or remodeling homes is a lot like that.

Second Guessing an Insulation Upgrade

Posted on December 8, 2014 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Is there anything worse than getting midway through a renovation and then suddenly wondering whether you've got some important detail all wrong?

That seems to be the predicament of William Lucrisia, who's in the midst of an insulation upgrade at his house north of Seattle.

"The house was heated by propane," he explains in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor. It was a cost that was hard to get hold of, especially with some of the design [features] of the house (high ceiling)."

How to Use the Psychrometric Chart

Posted on December 5, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

When you drive a borrowed car, it takes a few moments to figure out how to operate the windshield wipers and the headlights. But in your own car, your hand reaches for these switches without thinking.

Using the psychrometric chart is a little like driving a car. If you use the psychrometric chart every day, you don’t have to orient yourself. But if you are like me, and you only consult the psychrometric chart two or three times a year, it’s useful to refer to a cheat sheet every time you use it.

The Importance of Defining the Building Enclosure

Posted on December 3, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

The photo at right shows a common problem in new homes. It's also one that can make it difficult to pass the blower door test required by many building codes these days. If I tell you that the wall pictured here separates two rooms in a basement and one of them is not conditioned, can you see the problem? If so, how many mistakes do you see here?

Drainwater Heat Recovery Comes of Age

Posted on December 2, 2014 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

The EcoDrain is a wastewater heat recovery device that replaces a section of horizontal drain pipe. The devices enables heat from water flowing down the drain to be transferred to cold water flowing toward a shower valve.

A New Green Building Ordinance in Decatur, Georgia

Posted on December 1, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

The city I live in, Decatur, Georgia — a great, if possibly overly gentrified, place to live — recently passed a unified development ordinance (UDO) requiring green building certification for all new buildings and most renovations — both residential and commercial.

Revisiting an Energy Saving Handbook from 1979

Posted on November 28, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Rummaging through the shelves of a used book store, my son Noah came across an old paperback called Energy Saving Handbook. Written by James W. Morrison, the book was published by Harper & Row in 1979.

A brief web search failed to reveal any biographical information about the author. However, I discovered that the book was published under several different titles, and was distributed by at least four state energy offices. Morrison’s book may have been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy; some of its chapters seem to have been repurposed from government brochures.

A Heat-Recovery Ventilation System for the Potwine Passivhaus

Posted on November 27, 2014 by Alexi Arango in Guest Blogs

As they set out to build a single-family 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. on Potwine Lane in Amherst, Massachusetts, Alexi Arango and LeeAnn Kim asked themselves, “Is it possible to live without burning fossil fuels?” One measure of success would be meeting their goal of net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. performance. This is the ninth blog in a series.

The Principles, Uses, and Limitations of WUFI

Posted on November 26, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

Dr. Joseph Lstiburek started it in 2012 when, in his keynote address at the Passive House conference, he said igloos were the first passive houses and you don't need WUFI,1 the hygrothermalA term used to characterize the temperature (thermal) and moisture (hygro) conditions particularly with respect to climate, both indoors and out. modeling tool, to design and build a good house.

What We Started With

Posted on November 25, 2014 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

In June 2013, Jill and I moved into our new house in West Tisbury on the island of Martha's Vineyard.

This house has an interesting history. The owner of the place had been living on the lot in a structure that began its life as the body of a box truck. It was 8'x16' and had a small attached shed that housed the water pressure tank and the water heater. A small gambrelThis is a gable roof with two pitches, the bottom pitch being steeper than the top. The term gambrel is also used to describe the hing leg of a horse, with a angle at the joint that looks like a gambrel roof, or much more likely, the other way around. loft had been built on top; I could just barely sit up inside.

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