Blogs Prime Article The Evolution of Superinsulation

An Off-Grid Solar Community

Posted on April 26,2015 by AjahnSona in insulating shutter

Birken Forest Monastery is a retreat center in the mountains of British Columbia. It's located at an elevation of 4,000 feet at Latitude 51, and experiences about 9,000 heating degree days (Fahrenheit) per year. The buildings are about 15 years old. We are off the grid. The nearest electricity line is 4 miles away, and it would cost about $200,000 to bring grid power in. (Then, of course, we would still have to pay for the electricity.) So off-grid it is, and will remain.

An Affordable Zero-Energy House in Massachusetts

Posted on April 26,2015 by DavidPosluszny in net-zero

Recently I designed and built my home in Shirley, Massachusetts. The design goal was to build a net-zero-energy house. However, it had to be comfortable to live in, easy to build with low-skilled labor, and very affordable. I had to keep it simple because I had my family for laborers, and they do not have construction skills. The home also had to be comfortable to live in, with adequate daylighting and easy circulation. The budget demanded that the house be kept small, but several design tricks involving lines of sight were used to make the space feel much larger than it actually is.

Passivhaus Design in Minnesota

Posted on April 26,2015 by ScottG in Passivhaus

As net-zero energy and Passivhaus-certified houses become more commonplace, it's not at all unusual to hear of exterior walls rated at R-40 or R-50. But that's not going to be nearly good enough for Tom Schmidt, who's building a 3,800-square-foot house in Minnesota. R-80 is more like it, and the walls need to be "cost-effective" as well as not too thick.

Five Different High-R Walls

Posted on April 26,2015 by SamHagerman in high-R wall

Our construction company, Hammer & Hand, has built several wood-framed Passive House buildings in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, our approach to building high-R walls has evolved.

Canada’s Northernmost Passivhaus

Posted on April 26,2015 by ScottG in Canada

Work should be wrapped up this fall on a 1,895-square-foot home in Fort St. John, British Columbia, that is on track to become Canada's most northern certified Passivhaus residence. Fort St. John, a 16-hour, 760-mile drive northeast from Vancouver, British Columbia, was established as a trading post in the late 18th century, and it still sees plenty of people traveling through on the Alaska Highway. These days, Fort St. John calls itself "The Energetic City," reflecting the region's rich natural resources of oil, gas, and forestry.

Part 3 of GBA’s Passivhaus Video Series

Posted on April 26,2015 by GBA Team in EPS

At the Passivhaus job site in Falmouth, Massachusetts, architect Steve Baczek specified the installation of 10 inches of EPS under the slab-on-grade foundation. After the concrete had been placed, more rigid foam was installed above the slab, to bring the finished floor assembly to R-50.

Deep Energy Retrofits Are Often Misguided

Posted on April 26,2015 by user-756436 in deep energy retrofit

All through the 1980s and 1990s, a small band of North American believers worked to maintain and expand our understanding of residential energy efficiency. These were the pioneers of the home performance field: blower-door experts, weatherization contractors, and “house as a system” trainers. At conferences like Affordable Comfort, they gathered to share their knowledge and lick their wounds. These pioneers understood what was wrong with American houses: They leaked air; they were inadequately insulated; they had bad windows; and their duct systems were a disaster.

Lessons From Our House That Could Be Applied More Affordably

Posted on April 26,2015 by AlexWilson in Alex Wilson

My wife and I tried out a lot of innovative systems and materials in the renovation/rebuild of our Dummerston, Vermont home — some of which added considerably to the project cost. Alas! The induction cooktop that I wrote about last week is just one such example. For me, the house has been a one-time opportunity to gain experience with state-of-the-art products and technologies, some of which are very new to the building industry (like cork insulation, which was expensive both to buy and to install). We spent a lot experimenting with new materials, construction details, and building systems. While we haven’t tallied up all the costs, we think that the house came in at about $250 per square foot.

Robert Dumont’s Superinsulated House in Saskatoon

Posted on April 26,2015 by Michael357 in Rob Dumont

The first time I saw Rob Dumont’s house, I was unimpressed. I was visiting an ex-girlfriend in Saskatoon, I mentioned that I was doing some research into sustainable homes, and she said, “There’s one near here. We should walk by it.”

An Update on the Pretty Good House — Part 1

Posted on April 26,2015 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.

All About Embodied Energy

Posted on April 26,2015 by user-756436 in embodied energy

What’s embodied energy, and is there any reason to pay attention to it? Embodied energy is the energy it takes to manufacture building materials. Until recently, it was safe to advise builders that it wasn’t worth worrying about embodied energy, because the amount of energy (especially heating energy and cooling energy) used to operate a building over the building’s lifetime dwarfed the relatively small amount of energy embodied in the building materials.

Massachusetts Owner-Builders Complete a Superinsulated Home

Posted on April 26,2015 by sdgio in energy efficiency

The superinsulated home that I designed and built for my family of three in Greenfield, Massachusetts has been comfortable for the entire year and serves as an example of successful design for our climate. We moved in to our new home in February 2012. Modest in size, our home measures 26 feet by 32 feet and has 1,500 square feet of living space, with two full floors plus a partial third floor tucked into the slopes of the cathedral ceiling. In order to decrease the overall volume while maximizing south-facing exposure, we chose a saltbox shape.

A Pioneer of Low-Energy Homes Since 1973

Posted on April 26,2015 by AlexWilson in Bruce Brownell

Bruce Brownell, of Adirondack Alternate Energy, has been creating low-energy, largely passive-solar-heated, resilient homes in the Northeast for forty years — and he’s still going strong. Since 1973, Bruce has built more than 375 homes in 15 states, a third of them in very cold (over 8,500-degree-day) climates. Most require just a few hundred dollars of heat per year.

Designing Superinsulated Walls

Posted on April 26,2015 by user-961160 in cellulose

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a [no-glossary]Passivhaus[/no-glossary] 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.

Joseph Lstiburek Surprises Passive House Conference Attendees

Posted on April 26,2015 by ab3 in air leakage

At the 2012 Passive House Conference in Denver, Dr. Joseph Lstiburek gave the keynote address for the opening plenary (or plenum, as Henry Gifford would say) session. His words, clever as always, added some nice historical perspective to what the Passive House folks are doing but also caught some people off guard. Read on, and I'll tell you more about that.

Study Shows That Expensive Windows Yield Meager Energy Returns

Posted on April 26,2015 by user-756436 in net zero

An architectural cliché from the 1970s — the passive solar home with large expanses of south-facing glass — is making a comeback. In recent years, we’ve seen North American designers of Passivhaus buildings increase the area of south-facing glass to levels rarely seen since the Carter administration. What’s the explanation for all this south-facing glass? We’re told that there’s no other way for designers to meet the energy limit for space heating required by the Passivhaus standard: namely, a maximum of 15 kWh per square meter per year.

Plans and Pricing for Our House in Maine

Posted on April 26,2015 by user-961160 in blueprint

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a [no-glossary]Passivhaus[/no-glossary] 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.

A Proposed Passivhaus Amendment for New England

Posted on April 26,2015 by Fretboard in annual cooling demand

There has been no shortage of discussion lately about modifying the Passivhaus standard to make it more adaptable to, and address more precisely, regional climate conditions.

A Superinsulated House in Rural Minnesota

Posted on April 26,2015 by user-756436 in design

Electric resistance heating systems have a bad reputation. While the required equipment is cheap (and sometimes cheap-looking), homes with electric heat are known for their high fuel bills.

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