The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

The Return of the Vapor Diffusion Bogeyman

Posted on May 15, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Fully aware that I am engaging in gross oversimplification, I’m going to offer a cartoon version of the History of Vapor Barriers. (I’m not a cartoonist, though, so someone else will have to make the drawings.) Here goes:

Panel 1: In the late 1940s, residential building codes in the U.S. began requiring the installation of vapor barriers on the interior side of walls and ceilings. These requirements had complicated historical origins but were not based on credible building science.

The Case for Continuous Insulation

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Brice Hereford in Guest Blogs

Over the last few years, New England and other cold regions of the U.S. have seen a growth in the use of rigid insulation on the exterior of buildings. This use of exterior rigid foam first started appearing in commercial buildings and was driven primarily by the International building codes which required steel-stud buildings to place rigid foam on the exterior of the structure.

How to Save an Old House

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Steve Baczek in Green Building Blog

Located in the historic district of Wayland, Mass., this 1850 Cape was added onto several times throughout its history. When we started our work, the house was empty, was in serious disrepair, and lacked even minimal modern performance standards. The house easily could have been designated as a teardown. My client was sensitive to the house’s architectural contribution to his community, though, and instead chose to breathe new life into it.

Nest Thermostat Data Revealed for First Time

Posted on May 13, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

The Nest thermostat has been around since October 2011, quietly collecting data on how your home — and the homes of hundreds of thousands of your neighbors — operates. It gathers information about indoor temperature, relative humidity, air conditioner runtime, auxiliary heat operation for heat pumps, and much more. Unlike the Ecobee thermostat, however, Nest doesn't let its owners see all those data (which is a problem only for energy geeks really). Enter Michael Blasnik.

Healthy People Live With Trees

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Brian Bienkowski in Guest Blogs

Ray Tretheway has been in the tree business for more than three decades in Sacramento – a city notorious for ambitious city tree planting.

He talks of successful programs with energy suppliers and multiple schools. The Sacramento Tree Foundation, where Tretheway works as Executive Director, has a lofty goal of planting five million trees.

But even a veteran like Tretheway and his tree-loving city struggle with one of the major issues of urban tree planting: higher income areas just seem to end up with more trees.

Heating and Cooling in North Dakota

Posted on May 11, 2015 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Adam Emter is building a new house in North Dakota, a Climate Zone 7 location with some 9,500 heating degree days a year, and temperatures that fluctuate from 30 below zero in the winter to a humid 90 degrees during the summer.

"My family and I plan on living here for many decades," Emter writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor, "so I'm very focused on building an efficient and comfortable house. I am also trying to keep a reasonable budget and simple design."

A New Roof Over the Old One

Posted on May 11, 2015 by Peter Bennett in Green Building Blog

My rustic 1930s post-and-beam home in Vermont had a definite roof problem: It was poorly insulated and susceptible to ice dams. But when I started working on a design for upgrading the insulation, I wasn’t willing to lose the look of the cathedral ceiling and the exposed-pole rafters by insulating on the inside. Because I needed to replace the 30-year-old cedar shakes anyway, it appeared an opportune time to fix the problem from the outside.

Books for Homeowners Interested in Saving Energy

Posted on May 8, 2015 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Two books that do a good job of explaining residential energy use issues to homeowners are Consumer Guide To Home Energy Savings and No-Regrets Remodeling. Both books have been around for years. Recently the publishers of these two books issued new editions, so I decided to give them a careful read.

Consumer Guide To Home Energy Savings

The Warm West, Cold East Divide

Posted on May 7, 2015 by Andrea Thompson in Guest Blogs

From blooming flowers to twittering birds, the signs of spring are popping up and the miseries of winter are becoming a distant memory for many.

But not for some climate scientists.

The curiosity of a growing group of researchers has been piqued by the tenacious temperature divide that has separated East from West over the past two winters as a wild zigzag of the jet stream has brought repeated bouts of Arctic air and snow to the East and kept the drought-plagued West baking under a record-breaking dome of heat.

Downtown Design

Posted on May 7, 2015 by James Tuer in Green Building Blog

Living in the city doesn’t have to require a compromise in the quality of living, as some rural and suburban dwellers assume. You don’t have to forfeit a sense of privacy, give up a love of nature, or be forced to drive far outside city limits to find true refuge. When designed well, a home in a dense city neighborhood can provide quiet and personal space while keeping its owners thoroughly connected to the pulse of the urban landscape.

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