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Stupid Multifamily Construction Tricks

Posted on April 18,2015 by CarlSeville in air barrier

Although I spent most of my construction career working on single-family homes, the primary subject of this great website, I find that my current work involves primarily multifamily projects — mostly low-rise and mid-rise apartments that are seeking green building certification. In these projects, my partner and I continue to see both new and recurring problems that are not resolved in the design phase, only to be pushed down to the field to be figured out — on a tight budget, in a hurry, and often in the cold or rain.

Use of Spray Foam Insulation Drops

Posted on April 18,2015 by ScottG in fiberglass

Builders may be backing away from spray foam insulation. Between 2008 and 2012, spray foam's market share grew from 3% in new home construction to 11%, a nearly four-fold increase. But last year, according to a survey from the Home Innovation Research Labs, its market share fell to about 8% as more builders returned to an old favorite: fiberglass.

Is R-Value Dead as a Dodo?

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1048334 in air leakage

Once upon a time, house insulation meant an extra sweater — and stop your damn complaining. Men were men, women were women, and cats and dogs were cats and dogs, I assume. Houses included features to produce and retain heat, of course — things like double back-plaster walls and central chimneys. But until the 20th century, insulation barely existed in any formal sense.

Heat Loss from Air Is No Big Deal, Right?

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1048334 in air barrier

No, it’s a huge deal. The photo (right) is of air streaming through recessed lights in a cathedral ceiling. I often and exhaustively speak about air sealing as if it were a universal good. And it is, right up there with brown ale and Avengers movies. My audit customers often look confused when I address their insulation questions by bringing up air barriers and air leakage. I mean, “Why are you talking about air leaks when I asked about the insulation?”

Air Leakage Degrades the Thermal Performance of Walls

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-756436 in Building Science

For the past five years, researchers at the Building Science Corporation (BSC) in Massachusetts have been testing the thermal performance of a variety of wall assemblies as part of an ambitious project to develop a new metric to replace R-value. (I last reported on the project in my August 2011 article, A Bold Attempt to Slay R-Value.)

Grading the Installation Quality of Insulation

Posted on April 18,2015 by ab3 in batt

Six years ago, RESNET published a major revision of the HERS Standards, officially named the 2006 Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating Systems Standards. One important new feature in the standards was the grading of insulation installation quality. Before this change, R-13 insulation installed poorly (as shown in the second photo, below) was equivalent to any other R-13 insulation, including insulation with impeccable installation quality (as shown at the top of this article).

Fiberglass versus Cellulose

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-1048334 in batt

The two least expensive and most commonly used residential insulation are fiberglass and cellulose. Granted, fiberglass is about 50 times more common — but a distant second is still second. Unless the homeowner opts for spray foam, the insulation choice usually comes down to fiberglass vs. cellulose. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each one? How are they similar and how are they different?

(At Least) Four Things Are Wrong With This Picture

Posted on April 18,2015 by KSPmYvh9gx in batt

Last week we published this photo as part of our “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” series. The photo shows a substandard fiberglass insulation job that was representative of an entire residential subdivision that hoped to qualify for Energy Star. Examples like this show that quality control by HERS raters is a weak link in the Energy Star program.

What’s Wrong With This Insulation Job?

Posted on April 18,2015 by KSPmYvh9gx in batt

In many areas of the country, homes are receiving Energy Star labels they don’t deserve. Major errors like the ones shown in this photo are supposed to be caught by the HERS rater who performs third-party verification services. This home slipped through the cracks. The photo shows at least four errors serious enough to have prevented the home from receiving an Energy Star label. Can you spot them? Next week, we will post the answers that a Building America team, BIRA, came up with.

The Insulation Empire Strikes Back

Posted on April 18,2015 by CarlSeville in Batt insulation

I was amused, and maybe a little surprised, to find a snail mail, printed letter from NAIMA, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, in my mailbox recently. This letter, signed by the executive vice president and general counsel, was in response to my earlier post regarding batt insulation. Here is the text of the letter. Please forgive any errors, as it was scanned and run through an OCR program. REGULAR MAIL

How Green Is My Pink?

Posted on April 18,2015 by CarlSeville in air sealing

I recently attended an event at the Owens Corning (OC) insulation plant in Fairburn, Ga., about 45 minutes from my house. Being of the geeky sort, I always appreciate the opportunity to see big machines, so the factory tour piqued my interest, although, unfortunately, I was not allowed to take any pictures of the process. As is usual with most industry events, there was some good, some bad, and a little ugly, but overall I considered it a reasonably good use of my time. And as a bonus, I actually learned a few new things while there.

Should Batt Insulation Be Outlawed?

Posted on April 18,2015 by CarlSeville in Batts

A significant amount of my work these days is certifying homes under one or more of the available green building programs in my area, including EarthCraft House, LEED, and the National Green Building Standard. Recently, I have inspected several homes that were insulated with fiberglass batts, and, not surprisingly, the quality of the installation was dismal. What I saw could have been an instruction manual on how not to insulate a house. Batts were cut 2 to 3 inches wider than the stud spacing and crammed into the cavities.

Installing Fiberglass Right

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

Of all of the commonly used types of insulation — including cellulose, rigid foam, and spray polyurethane foam — fiberglass batts perform the worst. As typically installed, fiberglass batts do little to reduce airflow through a wall or ceiling assembly; rarely fill the entire cavity in which they are installed; and sometimes permit the development of convective loops that degrade insulation performance. Knowing this, why would any builder choose to install fiberglass batts? The answer is simple: because fiberglass batts cost less than any other type of insulation.

Green Basics Insulation Choices

Well, They Got It Half Right

Posted on April 18,2015 by user-756436 in crawl space

At the International Builder’s Show, several demonstration homes have been set up in the parking lot outside the Las Vegas convention center. The Environments for Living show home has a display promoting the advantages of ventless conditioned crawl spaces; so far, so good. But instead of following best-practice advice and insulating the crawl space walls with rigid foam, the Environments for Living home designers chose to install fiberglass batts between the floor joists — a feature proudly displayed behind a Plexiglas viewing panel.

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