energy-efficient building

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New York Builder Wins RESNET Prize

The annual Cross Border Challenge recognizes energy-efficient designs by U.S. and Canadian builders

Posted on Apr 5 2017 by Scott Gibson

A house built to the 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. standard in upstate New York has been recognized in this year's Cross Border Challenge for having the lowest HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. Index score among U.S. custom built homes.


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Image Credits:

  1. All photos: Matt Bowers

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The Pretty Good House, Volume 2

A structural engineer with a flair for drawing publishes an updated guide to this popular approach to building better-than-code houses

Posted on Nov 11 2016 by Scott Gibson

A Maine-based structural engineer has produced an updated handbook about “The Pretty Good House,” a middle-ground approach to building that falls somewhere between basic code compliance and pricey 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. or net-zero energyProducing 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. performance.

Helen Watts turned out the first volume of the Graphic Handbook of the Pretty Good House in 2013. (GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com bloggers Chris Briley and Phil Kaplan discussed Watts's 2013 book in a podcast called An Update on the Pretty Good House — Part 1.)


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An Overlooked Building Material Finds a New Booster

A New York real estate developer thinks there could be a bright future for autoclaved aerated concrete

Posted on Feb 12 2016 by Scott Gibson

Autoclaved aerated concrete is an unusual building material with properties that should make it a hit in residential construction — it's a much better thermal insulator than ordinary concrete, while lightweight, easy to work with and resistant to fire, insects and mold. The only problem is that U.S. builders can't seem to warm up to it.


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Image Credits:

  1. Steven Bluestone

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