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Our Energy Solutions Have All Been Found

Posted June 11, 2014 4:16 PM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Energy Solutions

Not really, of course. But after five-plus years I’m ending my weekly Energy Solutions blog to focus more on the Resilient Design Institute and re-making Leonard Farm back into a farm.

Our completed house and barn in the early morning light a few months ago.
Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

Transitions.

Back in June, 2008 I started writing a weekly column on energy for the Brattleboro Reformer, our local newspaper. I thought it would be fun to write a regular column on a topic that I’ve focused so much time on over the past 35-plus years. I was pretty confident that I could come up with enough topics to write a year’s worth of columns, and I thought some of the Reformer’s readers would appreciate such a column—geeky as it might be.

The Cover Image That Set Off a Firestorm

Posted June 9, 2014 4:32 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, Living Future

The divide between the worlds of design and sustainability is persistent, but returning to core values can bridge it.

By Nadav Malin

For me, the creative tension between beauty and green performance came to a head in 2006, when I began working with the staff of Architectural Record on their new magazine: GreenSource. (GreenSource is no longer a separate magazine; it’s now an insert in the products magazine SNAP. And I’m no longer involved with it.)

Pictures first

As GreenSource’s executive editor, I was the “technical guy” who could help make sure that we’re talking about sustainability topics in a meaningful and defensible way. I learned a tremendous amount from that team, beginning with the power of using images to tell a story. I had always been a words-and-data kind of guy, so when I saw how they developed a story by leading with the visuals, it really blew my mind. That was quite a shift from the early years of Environmental Building News, when we tended to write an article first, and illustrating it was sometimes just an afterthought.

At GreenSource it went more like this: Here’s the topic, here are the images, here’s how they’ll flow, and, oh, ok, looks like we can fit in about 800 words of copy, so that’s what you get to write.

State-of-the-art testing chambers show that liquid-applied barriers outperform more typical weather barriers comprised of flashing, tape, and membranes.

BEA's building assembly test chamber in Clackamas, Oregon.
Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

When I was in Portland, Oregon for the 2014 Living Future Conference I had an opportunity to visit a facility in nearby Clackamas where building assemblies and components can be tested for water intrusion and water vapor penetration.

Prosoco, a leading manufacturer of liquid-applied membranes developed the Clackamas test facility with partner company Building Envelope Innovations (BEI).

A Cat 5 hurricane in a closed chamber

Switching to a Plug-In Hybrid—With Our Own Solar Power

Posted May 21, 2014 10:34 AM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Energy Solutions

We oversized our PV system so that we will be able to use solar energy to power around-town driving with a plug-in hybrid

Our 12 kW PV system going in on the roof of our restored 1812 barn.
Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

Among the energy-related features of our new house in Dummerston, Vermont, is one parked in the garage.

We are hoping to power a plug-in hybrid car using the electricity generated on our barn. We have 12 kilowatts (kW) of photovoltaic (PV) modules installed on the barn (there is another 6 kW in the group-net-metered system that belongs to a neighbor), and we’re hoping that the 12 kW will be enough to not only power our all-electric house on a net-zero-energy basis, but also power our car for around-town use.

Low-Tech Cooling with This High-Tech Fan

Posted May 14, 2014 2:42 PM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Energy Solutions, GreenSpec Insights

The sleek, energy-efficient Haiku fan from Big Ass Fans will help keep us comfortable in our new house this summer

The Haiku fan in our upstairs guest room.
Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

As summer heats up here, I’m looking forward to trying out the high-tech ceiling fans we installed in our two upstairs bedrooms. First, let me explain why I like ceiling fans so much.

By moving air, moisture is evaporated from our skin, cooling us through evaporative cooling. With modest air movement in a room, most people will be comfortable at an air temperature at least five or six degrees Fahrenheit warmer than would otherwise be the case.

Making Your Family Safer Through Resilience Strategies

Posted May 7, 2014 9:23 AM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Energy Solutions

Whether or not you believe that climate change is happening, implementing resilient design strategies will make you and your family safer—and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Our completed house and restored barn — which provides a model of resilience.
Photo Credit: Alex Wilson

 

Using cynical tactics described in the 2008 book Doubt is Their Product, climate change deniers have convinced a large percentage of the public and the majority of legislators from a certain political party believe that the jury is still out on global climate change.

Taking Action on Climate Change: What Will It Take?

Posted April 30, 2014 11:27 AM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Energy Solutions

What will it take for policy makers and the public finally get on board with the need to do something about climate change?

The United Nations’ IPCC is leading an international effort to understand climate change, and efforts like the Kyoto Protocol have grown out of that background work. But are we getting closer to solving the problem?

The vast majority of climate scientists are telling us that we’re careening headlong into the unknown world of a rapidly warming climate, and they offer policy recommendations for addressing that. Except for a few progressive countries that have taken to heart the need to slow carbon emissions—countries like Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Sweden—there is little sign that the rest of the world is even paying attention, let alone embarking on a path that will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What will it take for the rest of the world to get on board?

When Drying Out Buildings, Do You Worry About Mold or Trolls?

Posted April 21, 2014 3:38 PM by Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

A recently approved U.S. patent for drying out building spaces defies common sense and could squeeze builders whose only “sin” is dehumidification.

Photo: Gil mnogueira. License: CC BY 2.0.I love reading Lew Harriman’s stuff; he is a good writer and building scientist. Take, for example, Preventing Mold by Keeping New Construction Dry. It’s a straightforward yet compelling presentation of biology and building science, mold and building materials, and how to dry out new buildings.

The process won’t surprise you: isolate the space to be dried; take moisture readings throughout the drying process; and use mechanical equipment such as dehumidifiers and air movers to accomplish the drying.

GreenSpec Introduces Faster, Deeper Search

Posted April 18, 2014 1:55 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, GreenSpec Insights, Op-Ed

BuildingGreen is bringing its members changes to the industry-leading GreenSpec tool, making it easier on the eyes and faster to find products.

On April 19, BuildingGreen, Inc. rolled out a new GreenSpec tool to its members that has a new design and makes it easier and faster to quickly find greenest-of-the-green products for your project.

GreenSpec's product searches are easier to drill down into.Things you love that we didn’t change

GreenSpec will continue to be offered to BuildingGreen members as an integral part of our website. Here are some other things about it that aren’t changing:

  • More than 2,600 product listings (with more added every day, and outdated or sub-par products weeded out) from more than 1,900 manufacturers.
  • Listings screened to the highest achievable benchmark in every key building product category—from windows to insulation, from paints to toilets, from flooring to ICFs.
  • We tell you why a product is green with our Green Attributes and measurable criteria.

What’s new and improved

Now for what we’ve improved on.

How Much Water to Turn on a Light Bulb?

Posted April 16, 2014 12:40 PM by Alex Wilson
Related Categories: Energy Solutions, Water Wise Guys
Cooling towers at a nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois.
Photo Credit: Scott Olson, Getty Images

Nearly all of our methods for generating electricity involve water consumption—some a lot, some not as much. Producing electricity with hydropower is the most water-intensive method, owing to evaporation from reservoirs. Nationwide, electricity from hydropower plants consumes about 9 gallons of water per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced.

In some parts of the world, this evaporation is a big problem because of the relative scarcity of water and its use for drinking water. In the arid Southwestern U.S. this evaporation is a huge issue, especially from reservoirs like Lake Mead.

Water use for thermoelectric power plants

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