The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

All About Indoor Air Quality

Posted on March 11, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Many owners of green homes are concerned about indoor air quality. GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com often receives questions from homeowners who worry that some building materials emit dangerous chemicals. For example:

  • Will the glue in my plywood or OSB subfloor emit dangerous fumes?
  • Will borateBoron-containing chemical that provides fire resistance to materials such as cellulose insulation and provides decay and termite resistance to wood products. Borate is derived from the mineral borax and is benign, compared with most other wood treatments.-treated cellulose insulationThermal insulation made from recycled newspaper or other wastepaper; often treated with borates for fire and insect protection. off-gas enough to affect the health of my children?
  • What type of clothes dryer is best from the perspective of indoor air quality?

A Timber-Frame House for a Cold Climate — Part 1

Posted on March 10, 2016 by Rob Myers in Guest Blogs

Rob Myers is building a timber-frame house in Ontario, Canada, at a site on the Bonnechere River an hour and a half west of Ottawa. This is the first installment of a blog series.

The Misleading Numbers Behind the Global Warming Impact of Insulation

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

I've been reading a lot of BS lately. No, I'm not talking about blood sugar. It's brain science that's captured my attention: understanding how the human brain works, why we do the things we do, and what common illusions often lead us astray.

What I want to talk to you about today, though, is foam insulation and global warming. But first, we have to talk about calamari.

Seattle’s Pioneering RainWise Program

Posted on March 8, 2016 by Alisa Valderrama in Guest Blogs

The RainWise program, run jointly by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD), empowers homeowners and other private property owners to help stop the region's largest source of water pollution: polluted runoff and specifically the sewer overflows that occur when heavy rains flood the city's combined sewer system.

Why a Vermont Utility Welcomes Solar

Posted on March 7, 2016 by Mary Powell in Guest Blogs

The world of energy is filled with new promise — promise for a cleaner, greener, more cost-effective distributed future. But, alas, in a world where for generations utilities have done the same thing in the same way, change is being hampered by our industry and is moving too slow.

Tales From Armenia

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

In this week’s blog, I’m going to take a break from building science. Instead of providing advice to green builders, I’m simply going to reminisce about my time as a construction volunteer in Armenia.

Corn Ethanol: The Rise and Fall of a Political Force

Posted on March 3, 2016 by Tristan Brown in Guest Blogs

The 2016 presidential primary race is defying conventional wisdom, with erstwhile fringe candidates competitive in the polls despite their unorthodox policy positions. The Iowa Republican Caucus provided additional material for this storyline as Senator Ted Cruz defied projections and won the state.

His victory came despite his opposition to subsidies for one of the state’s biggest industries: the production of corn ethanol.

Those results would have been unthinkable just a decade ago, when American policymakers wanted to see as much corn ethanol consumed as rapidly as possible.

Rebuilding a Mid-Century Dinosaur

Posted on March 2, 2016 by Carri Beer and Michael Hindle in Guest Blogs

Editor's note: Carri Beer and Michael Hindle are renovating this 1954 house in Catonsville, Maryland. Hindle is a 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. Consultant and owner of Passive to Positive. Beer is a registered architect who has been practicing sustainable architecture for 18 years. She is an associate principal with Brennan+Company Architects. This is the couple's first in a series of blogs about the project.

The Supreme Court Saves the Smart Grid

Posted on March 1, 2016 by Seth Blumsack in Guest Blogs

In a surprising 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a controversial energy conservation rule from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that regulates interstate electricity sales.

Is This Ground-Source Heat Pump Plan Workable?

Posted on February 29, 2016 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Jordan Garrow is getting ready to build a new house in New York State, on the cusp between Climate Zones 5 and 6, and he's planning to heat and cool it with a ground-source heat pumpHome heating and cooling system that relies on the mass of the earth as the heat source and heat sink. Temperatures underground are relatively constant. Using a ground-source heat pump, heat from fluid circulated through an underground loop is transferred to and/or from the home through a heat exchanger. The energy performance of ground-source heat pumps is usually better than that of air-source heat pumps; ground-source heat pumps also perform better over a wider range of above-ground temperatures.. His contractor wants to install a horizontal "slinky loop" heat exchangerDevice that transfers heat from one material or medium to another. An air-to-air heat exchanger, or heat-recovery ventilator, transfers heat from one airstream to another. A copper-pipe heat exchanger in a solar water-heater tank transfers heat from the heat-transfer fluid circulating through a solar collector to the potable water in the storage tank., one of several possible options, and Garrow is seeking a second opinion.

A heat load calculation for the house specifies a 4-ton system (one with a capacity of 48,000 BtuBritish thermal unit, the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit in temperature—about the heat content of one wooden kitchen match. One Btu is equivalent to 0.293 watt-hours or 1,055 joules. /hour), but the contractor wants the heat exchange loops designed as if they were serving a 6-ton system.

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