weatherization and cellulose The national DOE/Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) only uses fiberglass batts in limited situations (e.g., in floor joists). And loose-fill fiberglass is used in wet conditions, such as mobile home belly insulation, or in situations where there's contact with metal (to counteract concerns that the boric acid fire retardant in cellulose might cause issues). But the standard has always been to blow cellulose in walls and attics; it’s a little cheaper and lighter than loose-fill fiberglass. And both options show appreciable blower-door reductions. I’ve never heard of rodents being an issue with cellulose, although there’s certainly critter issues when working in any attic or crawlspace. The biggest concern with blown-in insulation is whether it can be used with existing knob and tube wiring. The jury is out whether it’s a fire issue . . . we don’t allow it (as a matter of safety) but other programs use it, at least in loose-fill applications. But the fire concerns apply for either material.
Posted: 01:13 pm on May 31st 2017
correction My bad about the weight; Dana is correct (cellulose is about 3x the weight of loose-fill fiberglass). And it can be an issue with gypsum board sheathing; occasionally there are blowouts that require repairs (especially at the seams). But it's a rare occurrence and shouldn't detract from anyone considering it . . . cellulose makes up 80 - 90% of the insulation installed through the weatherization program, and has been used for decades with good results.
Posted: 03:05 pm on June 1st 2017
another tool in the toolbelt Kudos to Habitat for their work and now expanding into zero-energy design. My only critique would be similar to a lot of net-zero/Passivhaus construction where there’s more focus on the technical details and less on siting and design. Granted, passive design options may be limited in an established community, where lot sizes and local restrictions can affect orientation, window and entry placement, material choice and other factors. But there’s a lot of exciting design investigation being combined with energy savings, especially at the university level. Terrific examples can be found with design/build programs such as Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio (Auburn University), Studio 804 (University of Kansas), and the Solar Decathalon (held every two years and sponsored by the DOE). Often modern design develops organically from energy and cost requirements in the beginning, rather than shoehorning a traditional design that was never intended to respond to those same issues. Surely, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I might propose another tool for approaching cost savings would be for people to expand their aesthetic palettes, embrace different ideas, and not lock themselves into preconceived concepts of ‘it must be this way because (fill in the blank).’
Posted: 11:57 am on August 30th 2017
It's everywhere! I bought some Portland cement the other day and when I got home discovered it wasn’t even from Portland. Turns out it was from Mexico! I’m writing my congressman . . .
Posted: 01:17 pm on October 18th 2017
my thoughts also I agree with the issue about affordability. As someone who works closely with affordable housing advocates, building codes aren't what's threatening future housing issues, such as sunsetting HUD contracts, gentrification, low income housing tax credits and how they'll be affected by the recently changed tax codes, etc.. Reducing energy code requirements in the name of low income housing is just hostage taking ('you wouldn't want anything to happen to that little affordable housing project, would you?'). The construction lobby is simply looking for an excuse that makes them look altruistic rather than whiney and backwards.
Posted: 01:31 pm on January 3rd 2018
tough nut Federally approved energy audits are required by the DOE for the national weatherization program (WAP), and part of the problem we find is often unrealistic expectations from customers. All installed items must meet a savings-to-investment ration of 1.0 or higher (i.e., they need to pay for themselves in energy savings at least once during their lifetime). Invariably, people think windows and doors will get replaced (which rarely meet a 1.0 SIR). Water heaters are the same (although these can be replaced with a different pot of money), and furnaces, heat pumps, boilers and other heating devices are dependent on several factors. Insulation and air sealing are the big savers, but people aren’t interested in these. Sometimes we run into situations where a client will get a furnace installed (which is typically done first), and then they won’t even allow the installers back inside to do the insulation and air sealing. Such ingrained perceptions are a tough nut to crack.
Posted: 11:48 am on April 25th 2018
comes with the territory Rarely does a large entity adapt to a new standard without a smaller entity first taking a chance to demonstrate that a different way might be better. All this does is limit initiative and experimentation (not to mention self-determination) at the expense of a special interest or campaign contributor. If a contractor doesn’t want to build in a certain area . . . don’t build in that area. I’ve presented designs to several area commissions with rigid requirements that may not have applied to the house across the street. But without such commissions, there would be no historic districts or identifiable neighborhoods. It may be a pain, but there’s a reason behind it.
Posted: 11:54 am on May 2nd 2018
woodshed tavern This all reminds me of the contentious debates in Breaktime's Woodshed Tavern before the Great Purge of 2007 - 2008 . . . I miss that place. :)
Posted: 10:33 am on June 7th 2018
Columbus, Ohio has put in dedicated bike lanes downtown and the surrounding areas, and they make a huge difference. In some cases there may be a loss of a vehicular lane, but it’s hardly noticeable. What is noticeable is not having a long line of cars held up by a cyclist during rush hour, or hearing about confrontations between bicycles and cars on the news (physics almost always favors the cars). Would love to take advantage of riding my bike to work, but am held back by not wanting to smell like a horse at a 9:00 a.m. meeting . . .
Posted: 12:06 pm on September 20th 2018
Understood about those northern European latitudes. On a Eurail tour during college, a couple roommates and I’d stop by whatever city park was available and toss a frisbee around for some exercise. In Copenhagen, it was spring and unseasonably warm (around 70°) . . . temperate for us but desert conditions for the Danes. We discovered by serendipitous accident that the female population would take such rare opportunities to go to the park and sunbathe topless. I’d never thrown a frisbee so much in my life. Unfortunately, central OH has a wide fluctuation of weather. Public schools have closed this September due to 90°+ temps (first time in my recollection of 27 years here), and the downtown area acts as a further heat sink. Just walking 4 – 5 blocks from the parking garage can leave one drenched with sweat . . . I don’t know how cyclists do it, but more power to them.
Posted: 01:19 pm on September 20th 2018