Design & Planning

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Can We Get More and Pay Less To Keep About The Same?

A last-minute redesign aims to lower construction costs

Posted on Dec 18 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 18th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]


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Image Credits:

  1. Chris Briley

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Pondering the Sorry State of Green Building

Something new: Carl is feeling grumpy — this time, it's because clients hire him after their project has already been designed

Posted on Nov 12 2012 by Carl Seville

After several months off from my blog, I am finally inspired to start writing again. I clearly don’t have the stamina of Allison Bailes of Energy Vanguard, who seems to put up a blog post about every 10 minutes, but I do need to get back on track so I don’t fade into obscurity (if I haven’t already).


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Image Credits:

  1. Carl Seville

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Passive House New England’s Fall Symposium

A one-day conference in Boston will feature Adam Cohen, Chris Corson, Jesse Thompson, Marc Rosenbaum, and Martin Holladay

Posted on Oct 22 2012 by GBA Team

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. New England is hosting a one-day conference in Boston with presentations on a variety of topics that are likely to interest GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com readers, including "Passive House and Cost Optimization in the South."

Among the speakers scheduled for the upoming event are Adam Cohen, Chris Corson, Jesse Thompson, Marc Rosenbaum, and Martin Holladay.

The symposium will be held at the University of Massachusetts - Boston on Saturday October 27. The cost to attend is $75 (or $35 for students).


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Image Credits:

  1. Passive House New England

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Designing Superinsulated Walls

Once they’re filled with cellulose insulation, our 14-inch-thick double-stud walls will perform at R-53

Posted on Oct 17 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 12th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

I’ve always enjoyed watching new homes being built. From the humble beginnings of a simple hole in the ground, a job site gradually changes as a succession of tradesmen arrive daily to craft concrete, lumber, roofing, windows, drywall, copper pipes into basic shelter, before giving way to a parade of cabinets, appliances and other finishing touches.


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The Pretty Good House: A Better Building Standard?

At NESEA’s annual meeting, a panel discusses the ‘pretty good house’ concept

Posted on Oct 5 2012 by Michael Maines

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEANorth East Sustainable Energy Association. A regional membership organization promoting sustainable energy solutions. NESEA is committed to advancing three core elements: sustainable solutions, proven results and cutting-edge development in the field. States included in this region stretch from Maine to Maryland. www.nesea.org) held its annual meeting in Portland, Maine, on September 15th, 2012. After a day of tours of local sustainably designed projects and some pre-meeting smorgasbord grazing, the meeting started with a round of speeches by board and association directors. (Exciting changes are coming; stay tuned!). Then the meeting continued with the entertainment portion of the evening: a panel-style discussion about the Pretty Good House.


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Image Credits:

  1. Phil Kaplan

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Plans and Pricing for Our House in Maine

Chris Briley has drawn up our plans, and we’re trying to get a better handle on costs

Posted on Aug 13 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the fourth article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

So far, we have been guesstimating how much this project will cost. Yes, we could use estimates based on cost per square foot, but there are are several design factors that influence that equation.


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Image Credits:

  1. All images: Chris Briley / Roger Normand

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Selecting a General Contractor

We have an architect and we have preliminary plans — now we need a contractor

Posted on Aug 7 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the third article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

What’s the best way to pick a residential general contractor (GC)? There are many books written on the subject. I want to focus this blog on one specific aspect: the point in time that the GC becomes a member of the team along with the architect and the homeowner.


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Kicking the Tires on a Passivhaus Project

The first in a series of articles on planning and building a single-family Passivhaus in Maine

Posted on Jul 23 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a 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. in Maine. Their goals are modest: “Passivhaus, LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. Platinum, net zeroProducing 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. Calculating net-zero energy can be difficult, particularly in grid-tied renewable energy systems, because of transmission losses in power lines and other considerations., universal access, and sustainable.” This is the first article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]


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Image Credits:

  1. Roger Normand

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A Documentary Film on the Passivhaus Movement

Charlie Hoxie's new movie can be viewed online for free

Posted on Jul 2 2012 by Martin Holladay

Documentary filmmaker Charlie Hoxie has made an excellent new 21-minute documentary film on 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. movement. Fortunately, the entire film has be posted for viewing on the Four Seven Five website.

The English-language movie includes interviews with European and American designers and builders. Regular GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com readers will probably recognize a few of Hoxie's interview subjects, including Wolfgang Feist, Henry Gifford, Sam McAfee, and David White.


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Image Credits:

  1. Passive Passion

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The Problem With Modern Architecture

Even though I’m not a fan, I went in with an open mind

Posted on Jun 19 2012 by Carl Seville

Over my now decades-long career in construction and renovation, I have rarely attended any home tours, but I recently went on a tour of modern homes in Atlanta sponsored by a group called, quote appropriately, Modern Atlanta. The tour included ten single-family homes (I saw eight of them) and one commercial building, the new Atlanta offices of Perkins + Will, a LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. Platinum renovation, which I did not visit.


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Image Credits:

  1. TAC Studios

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