Blogs Prime Article Cold-Climate Collaboration

Grumpy Architect Time

Posted on April 18,2015 by bobswin in architecture

I’m not normally a grumpy architect, but when I am it is usually because of something on this list. 1. If your house is adequately insulated there should be little temperature differential between the ceiling and the floor. 2. “Adequately” differs from code. Remember, a house built to code is the worst house you can legally build. 3. If you choose not to build an Energy-Star-certified home, please give your poor starving architect the $2,000 (the value of the Energy Star incentive) that you obviously have to spare.

Blogs Prime Article Santa Cruz Straw Bale

The Largest Passivhaus Building in the U.S.

Posted on April 18,2015 by blueworker in affordable housing

In Portland’s western suburbs, a structure is on the rise that could change the face of affordable housing in America. Situated adjacent to the Orenco Station light rail transit stop in Hillsboro, Oregon, the Orchards at Orenco will provide 57 units of housing. The project sponsor, REACH Community Development, is aiming to achieve Passivhaus certification. When complete in the spring of 2015, Orchards at Orenco is slated to be the largest Passivhaus-certified building in North America.

New Books on Green Building

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-756436 in book

If you are a cold-climate architect looking for a reference book that provides guidance on designing energy-efficient superinsulated buildings, I strongly suggest that you buy William Maclay’s The New Net Zero. It’s the best book on the topic by far.

Pastiche Architecture

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1072052 in design

Drive out to any of the bedroom communities outside the greater Toronto area and you’re likely to stumble on huge, clunky homes that are so complex in shape that their energy performance is degraded. These homes include uncomfortable rooms, are often challenged by ice dams, and require higher expenditures for maintenance. Having no more usable space than much smaller (but better designed) houses, these large homes squander conditioned floor space with ostentatious frills. Buying more is really less.

Origami-Inspired Homes

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1072052 in bay window

There’s a reason that every high-performance car is sleek and compact in shape; sleekness improves performance. The same principle applies to centuries-old sculptures that keep their features and endure centuries of weathering and the test of time: keep the shape simple. Unfortunately, the current trend is to build large homes that have poorly designed floor spaces. The physical shape of these origami-like buildings impacts our lives, our comfort, and our energy bills.

Using the Pen Test for Control Layers

Posted on April 18,2015 by ab3 in architecture

I listened to the IAQ Radio podcast a few weeks ago when they interviewed Lew Harriman and Terry Brennan, who were discussing the new moisture control guide published by the EPA last year. Brennan is the lead author of the document, and it's a really great resource full of useful information about indoor air quality, fundamental building science principles, and how to control moisture.

A House For Slow Living

Posted on April 18,2015 by bobswin in archtect

The original concept for the house I am working on came to me in a dream (yes – I dream architecturally). I think the dream may have been generated by the image on the right, which has been on my bulletin board for a few years. My original sketch was called “a house for food.”

On Trying To Do the Right Thing

Posted on April 18,2015 by ScottG in architect

This week's Q&A Spotlight is more about the business of building, and less about the science of building. The case involves a homeowner who is struggling to find a balance between his ethical responsibilities and a desire to save a few bucks.

Solving Our Design Problems

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1095434 in design

Once we bought our new house in the fall of 2012, we began to work on the new design. We were starting with a one-bedroom house measuring 1,142 square feet on one level. The house has a full basement.

A Passivhaus Doesn’t Have to Look Weird

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1018844 in design

Does a Passivhaus have to look weird? The short answer is, no.

A Post-Passivhaus Paradigm for Energy-Efficient Design

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1018844 in cooling

Last night, I enjoyed an intense conversation with my friend Bill Updike. Bill, who has been closely following the developing partnership between PHIUS and Building Science Corporation, is the green building specialist at the Washington, D.C. Department of the Environment. We were talking about cost-effective energy-efficient design, and Bill tossed off a comment that the key to any design — at least in our mixed-humid climate here in Maryland — should be the latent load of the building. When he said that, my mind lit up like a pinball machine showing three cherries.

An Update on the Pretty Good House — Part 1

Posted on April 18,2015 by ChrisBriley in design

The status quo of newly constructed homes here in America is, well, disappointing. Despite some strong market-transforming rating systems (such as LEED, Energy Star, Passivhaus, etc.), the classic American home is still being designed and built exactly as it was 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. Why? There's a few reasons, the biggest of which is market demand. People buy what's on the market, and builders build what sells. The only ones pushing the market are those few who are willing to go the extra distance, and do that extra homework to make their projects substantially better. This is actually a very small percentage of those building or buying a new home.

New England Award Winners

Posted on April 18,2015 by ScottG in design

A Passivhaus building in Vermont and a "green home that doesn't look like a green home" were among the projects that won first-place PRISM Awards this year from the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston. A four-bedroom home in Weston, Mass., built by Kingsbury Homes Limited, won the gold award for the most innovative single-family green design.

The Lipstick-on-a-Pig Million-Dollar Home Syndrome

Posted on April 18,2015 by ab3 in atmospheric combustion

I wonder about a lot of things. I wonder what life would be like if gravity were stronger. I wonder why Americans don't dance more. I wonder why so many people who can afford million-dollar homes get cheapo HVAC systems. That last one bugs me more more than the first two, by the way. It weighs on my mind because cheapo HVAC seems so out of step with the rest of a million-dollar home.

A Shortcut To Sustainable Living: Downsize!

Posted on April 18,2015 by AlanAbrams_and_JosephGilday in carbon footprint

The purpose of sustainable design and green building is to achieve sustainable living. To do this, we attempt to make best possible use of the assets at hand. That could mean designing and building from scratch. It could also mean taking an existing dwelling and nudging it in the direction of sustainability. It’s an imperfect process and takes time. It’s only natural that we look for shortcuts to living green. Here’s one: downsize and move into a condo.

Green Building for Beginners

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-756436 in air leakage

Green building websites can be confusing. One site might tell you that a green home should include spray foam insulation, a tankless water heater, and a geothermal heating system. After you’ve absorbed this advice, you visit another website, where you learn that spray foam is a dangerous petrochemical, tankless water heaters are overpriced gadgets, and “geothermal” systems aren’t really geothermal.

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

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-961160 in design

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a [no-glossary]Passivhaus[/no-glossary] in Maine. This is the 18th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Kicking the Tires on a Passivhaus Project

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-961160 in building science group

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. Their goals are modest: “Passivhaus, LEED Platinum, net zero, 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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