New construction

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LED Lights Brighten Our Nearly Completed Home

LED lighting has come a long way in a very few years and can now fully supplant incandescent and fluorescent technology

Posted on Oct 3 2013 by Alex Wilson

Our electrician was in last week installing lighting in our new home in Dummerston. Virtually all of our lighting will be LEDLight-emitting diode. Illumination technology that produces light by running electrical current through a semiconductor diode. LED lamps are much longer lasting and much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps; unlike fluorescent lamps, LED lamps do not contain mercury and can be readily dimmed., the state-of-the-art choice today for energy-efficient lighting.

LED stands for “light-emitting diode.” It’s a solid-state lighting technology that converts electric current directly into visible light. LED lighting has far higher efficacy (the number of lumens of light output per watt of electricity consumed) than incandescent lighting — which converts roughly 90% of the electric current into heat; only 10% into light.

Most LED lights also have modestly higher efficacy than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). The recessed LED lights we installed have an efficacy of 66 lumens per watt, which is not too different from that of CFLs, but LEDs are much more directional than CFLs, so they work better in recessed cans in delivering usable light to where you need it.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson
  2. Cree

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Energy-Saving Features of the Serenbe Community

EarthCraft-certified homes at Serenbe are energy-efficient, and planned transit improvements will also help save energy

Posted on Sep 19 2013 by Alex Wilson

In this blog last week I described some of the unique features of Serenbe, a New Urbanist community outside Atlanta, where I had the good fortune to be invited by the Bosch Experience Center as a speaker. I spent the better part of a day exploring the community.

This week I’ll describe some of the energy features at the 1,000-acre development.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Serenbe: a Green Town in the Making

Developer Steve Nygren is putting New Urbanist principles into practice at the Serenbe Community outside Atlanta

Posted on Sep 12 2013 by Alex Wilson

I’m just back from Atlanta, where I spoke on Saturday at the new Bosch Experience Center located in the unique Serenbe Community thirty miles southwest of Atlanta.

I gotta say, I was impressed!


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Getting to Know Spider Insulation

Spray-applied fiberglass insulation offers huge benefits over fiberglass batts and even has some advantages over cellulose

Posted on Jul 25 2013 by Alex Wilson

We’ve just completed the installation of a relatively new and (at least in New England) little-known insulation material called Spider. As a reminder, the house we are renovating (really rebuilding) in Dummerston, Vermont, has provided an opportunity to try out dozens of innovative products and materials that I’ve long researched and written about in Environmental Building News.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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What’s Different About Unity Homes?

Panelized construction, meticulous attention to energy detailing, and a sophisticated computer design system put Unity Homes at the cutting edge of home building

Posted on May 2 2013 by Alex Wilson

In my blog last week, I provided a little background on Tedd Benson and his evolution that ledLight-emitting diode. Illumination technology that produces light by running electrical current through a semiconductor diode. LED lamps are much longer lasting and much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps; unlike fluorescent lamps, LED lamps do not contain mercury and can be readily dimmed. him to found Unity Homes. This week, I’ll describe some of the features that set Unity Homes apart from both standard home construction and other panelized and manufactured home production.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson
  2. Unity Homes
  3. Tedd Benson
  4. Bensonwood

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Unity Homes: Pushing the Boundaries of Home Building

Tedd Benson's latest initiative tries to reinvent home building with lower-cost panelized construction

Posted on Apr 25 2013 by Alex Wilson

A few weeks ago I spent a half day with my good friend Tedd Benson learning about his new company Unity Homes. This Walpole, New Hampshire company is on the cutting edge of home building today, with its focus on energy performance, building science, green building, and (relative) affordability.

This week I’ll describe some of Tedd’s work that ledLight-emitting diode. Illumination technology that produces light by running electrical current through a semiconductor diode. LED lamps are much longer lasting and much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps; unlike fluorescent lamps, LED lamps do not contain mercury and can be readily dimmed. to the creation of Unity Homes, and next week I’ll go into more detail about this new company and the state-of-the-art green homes that he and his team are cranking out.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson
  2. Bensonwood

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On the Jobsite with Foamglas

What we learned using Foamglas instead of polystyrene to insulate our basement slab and foundation walls

Posted on Nov 29 2012 by Alex Wilson

In my role with Environmental Building News and our GreenSpec Product Database, I get plenty of opportunities to research and write about innovative building products. That’s one of the really fun aspects of my job.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

Video: How to Hang Airtight Drywall (1 of 3)

Myron Ferguson shows how drywall can make your house more energy efficient when installed with caulk, canned foam, gaskets, and airtight electrical boxes

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Produced by Colin Russell and Daniel Morrison


Justin: Stopping air leaks is the single most important part of making a house more energy efficient. You can stop air on the outside with plywood, housewrap, and tape, but the best air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. is more of a system that incorporates all the components of a wall or roof assembly.

We decided to drywall the garage shop in Fine Homebuilding’s project house using the Airtight Drywall Approach. Partly to show our readers how to do it and partly so that we could make Myron Ferguson do our dirty work for us.

The outside of the house will eventually be covered with housewrap and foam sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. , so the drywall is not the primary air barrier; it is part of a larger system.

Myron: When it comes to materials, drywall is going to be our chief component in making the interior of this wall and these ceilings airtight. Drywall makes a nice air barrier because it's a relatively solid piece of material. The only place you have potential air leaks is through little openings or along seams or inside corners. I'm comparing this to, say, a knotty pine tongue-and-groove ceiling. Now that's not an air barrier at all. It's just full of holes. So drywall to start out with is going to be a very good air barrier.

Justin: The other main materials Myron uses in this project are pretty common on most job sites: construction adhesive, latex caulk, and canned foam. Some other materials are a little less common on job sites: mainly foam boxes for sealing electrical outlets.

Myron: A good practice for any drywall job, regardless of whether you are going to do airtight drywall, is to walk through with a building contractor a few prior to the delivery of the drywall. That way you you can identify any potential problems and all that can be corrected before you actually do any drywall work.

Justin: This garage has a 2x6 bottom plate, but 2x4 studs. Before Myron came out, we placed blocks in each stud cavity because without blocks to glue the bottom of the drywall sheets to, a considerable amount of air could flow through the wall assembly.

If not already done at the pre-construction walk-through, seal all of the gaps between framing members.

Around windows, around doors, and at the gaps between king stud and trimmer, between header and top plateIn wood-frame construction, the framing member that forms the top of a wall. In advanced framing, a single top plate is often used in place of the more typical double top plate., and between the double – or, in this case, triple – top plates.

Myron: If the gap is wider than 1/4 inch, it's a good idea to use spray foam instead of the caulking. It's important to use flexible caulk, because you don't want to use a caulk that will dry out and shrink, or maybe not even stretch and move should the structure expand and contract, because we don't want these gaps to open up. Then there would be a passage for the air. We've done all the air sealing that we can at this point, so we'll start to hang the drywall. We're going to start with the ceiling.

If you are a GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com Pro member, click here to see episode 2: Video: How to Hang Airtight Drywall (2 of 3).

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Flanged window as in-betweenie in a double-stud wall — sill detail

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A New Net-Zero Community

Two builders team up for subdivision in southern Maine that will feature net-zero-ready houses at moderate prices

Posted on Jul 5 2012 by Scott Gibson

Two southern Maine builders have teamed up with Kaplan Thompson Architects on a subdivision that will include as many as 26 houses built to net-zero standards.

The first of the houses in a Wells, Maine, subdivision called Brackett Estates, is a 1750-sq. ft., three-bedroom model called the Appledore, which was completed in mid-June. The two-story, all-electric house includes double-stud walls insulated to R-40, triple-glazed windows, and a roof insulated to R-60 with dense-pack cellulose. It's on the market for $429,000, or just under $250 a sq. ft.

Among its other energy features:


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Image Credits:

  1. Scott Gibson

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