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Biophilia in the Real World

Posted December 5, 2013 12:37 PM by Candace Pearson
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Biophilia is supposed to be about our innate connection to nature. So where do TV windows and artificial breezes enter in?

I shoulCan you tell if this living wall is real or fake? Does it matter? Biophilia experts are reviewing the research and responding with their own ideas. Credit: Spaceo. License: CC BY 2.0. Can you tell if this living wall is real or fake? Does it matter? Biophilia experts are reviewing the research and responding with their own ideas. Credit: Spaceo. License: CC BY 2.0. d have known I was in for something unexpected when I walked into this year’s Greenbuild session on “biophilia”—humans’ love of living things—in a dark, windowless auditorium.

The irony of the setting was not lost on the four presenters of “Biophilia; Moving from Theory to Reality.” Amanda Sturgeon, vice president of the Living Building Challenge; Margaret Montgomery, principal of NBBJ; Mary Davidge, of Mary Davidge Associates; and Bill Browning, partner at Terrapin Bright Green, joked about how they hoped the lack of daylight wouldn’t lull us into an afternoon nap as they spoke.

3 New Ways to Learn Building Enclosure Commissioning

Posted November 11, 2013 3:03 PM by Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, Sticky Business

With the need for BECx rising, the industry is working to train designers and other specialists to do the job.

This elementary school assembly could have been air-sealed at the top of the wall, simplifying the assembly and providing air-barrier continuity. BECx would have found a mistake like this early; as its prominence grows, the industry is struggling to meet demand for this expertise. When a fogger was used to identify where the building was leaking, fog was seen leaving the building through all the pathways shown here. Image: Pie Consulting EngineeringRecent BuildingGreen resources give a pretty good picture of just what building enclosure commissioning (BECx) is and how its use is on the rise in high-performance buildings. But a logical follow-up question I get asked a lot is: how can I get the necessary education to become proficient in BECx—or actually get credentialed or certified as a BECx agent or expert?

There are several questions wrapped up here, and I want to take them one at a time to keep this complex topic at least somewhat straight.

Caution sign: Construction in progress

Although there are a number of significant efforts under way on BECx, this is a relatively new field, at least in terms of standards, courses, professional exams, and credentials or designations.

All of these issues need to be addressed for different target audiences—trade professionals (in vocational education), technicians (two-year schools), and construction managers/engineers/architects (four-year university programs)—as well as different building professional designations: a building enclosure commissioning agent versus a building enclosure specialist.

Can A Pending Standard for LEDs Prevent Another Lighting Debacle?

Posted October 16, 2013 10:21 PM by Brent Ehrlich
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, GreenSpec Insights

LED light quality is still not very good, but a new California standard could change that, and prevent another CFL-style consumer rejection.

Cree's TW Series LED Bulb provides impressive 93 CRI light quality yet costs less than $20.
Photo Credit: Cree


LEDs provide some of the most efficacious lighting available today, with some products offering over 100 lumens per watt, or lpw—an incandescent bulb is a paltry 15 lpw. Unfortunately, as consumers know from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which have never been fully embraced, energy efficiency can come at the cost of light quality. Unless something changes, LEDs could become the next CFL, offering energy efficiency at relatively affordable prices, but with poor color and durability and limited dimming ability.

In this month’s Environmental Building News, we look at two products, Soraa’s MR16s and Cree’s TW Series LED Bulb, that offer innovative LEDs with demonstrably superior light quality to standard products (see Soraa: New LED Technology With Improved Color Quality). These lamps, however, are an anomaly in an LED industry where light quality plays second fiddle to efficacy.

Putting the Duct Back in Ductless Mini-Splits

Posted October 3, 2013 4:15 PM by Scott Gibson and Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

A would-be HVAC designer wonders if a ductless mini-split head can be hidden in a closet and connected to conventional ductwork.

This post by Scott Gibson first appeared on Green Building Advisor.

A ductless minisplit head isn't everyone's cup of tea, at least not aesthetically. One reader wonders if he can still get the benefits of a ductless system if he hides the head and makes his own ducts. (Photo: Fujitsu)A ductless minisplit head isn't everyone's cup of tea, at least not aesthetically. One reader wonders if he can still get the benefits of a ductless system if he hides the head and makes his own ducts. (Photo: Fujitsu)A ductless mini-split head isn't everyone's cup of tea, at least not aesthetically. One reader wonders if he can still get the benefits of a ductless system if he hides the head and makes his own ducts.

Ductless mini-splits have a lot going for them. These high-performance air-source heat pumps operate efficiently in much lower temperatures than standard heat pumps, and they don't suffer the same energy losses due to leaky ducts. A tight, well-insulated house may need only one or two wall-mounted heads to maintain comfort, summer and winter.

It's the "wall-mounted" part, however, that not everyone warms up to. As is the case with Jerry Liebler's wife, as Jerry introduced in a recent Q&A post at Green Building Advisor.

Liebler is convinced a Mitsubishi Hyper Heating system would meet his heating and cooling needs. But his wife “dislikes the looks of mini-split indoor units." Liebler's proposed solution is to place the head in a closet along with a small air handler and an outlet duct through the floor.

"A 'shelf' would run horizontally around the mini-split and the outlet duct of the air handler," he writes. "With the closet door closed there would, in effect, be a 'plenum' above the shelf, pressurized by the air handler."

Liebler thinks the air handler's motor would overcome the friction losses of the ductwork. Ducts through the closet floor would be connected to conventional ducts to distribute heated or cooled air.

"Has anyone done something similar?" he asks. "See any problems?"

That's the topic for this Q&A Spotlight.

WUFI Without Worries: Doing More Good than Harm with Hygrothermal Modeling

Posted October 1, 2013 11:26 AM by Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Using WUFI for educational purposes? No worries! Predicting performance is trickier, though. (Photo: Evil Erin. License: CC BY 2.0.)Using WUFI for educational purposes? No worries! Predicting performance is trickier, though. (Photo: Evil Erin. License: CC BY 2.0.)WUFI doesn’t kill buildings. Poor design, specification, and workmanship kill buildings.

Last year, BuildingGreen made a modeling software program one of our Top-10 Green Building Products for the first time—the WUFI hygrothermal modeling software from Fraunhofer IBP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (see “Using WUFI to Prevent Moisture Problems,” an EBN building science primer). We did this because managing moisture as intensely as we manage energy is key to building durability and indoor air quality (IAQ).

But after taking the two-day WUFI training and working with WUFI PRO 5.2 for a while, I began worrying about just how much I might be misusing or abusing this powerful and complex modeling tool.

I thought it made sense to reduce that worry by taking Building Science Corporation’s Advanced WUFI one-day workshop. I would like to tell you that today I am less worried about myself and other dilettante users of WUFI—but frankly, I am now more worried than ever.

That’s because, as with any modeling software, getting something wrong in WUFI can lead to wasted materials and money. It’s one thing to use more energy than you expected, though, and quite another to have your building quietly rotting from the inside out. Getting something wrong hygrothermally can be devastating in terms of overall building durability.

Is PVC Banned in LEED v4?

Posted August 27, 2013 12:32 PM by Tristan Roberts and Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Is LEED v4 leading architects to arbitrarily avoid PVC, to the detriment of their projects? The Vinyl Institute says it is. We check the facts. Would PVC-containing products like these carpet tiles from InterfaceFLOR be banned under LEED v4? The short answer is "no." | Photo – InterfaceFLORWould PVC-containing products like these carpet tiles from InterfaceFLOR be banned under LEED v4? The short answer is "no." Photo – InterfaceFLOR

 

The vinyl industry has been vocally opposed to the new LEED v4 MR credits, even going so far as to characterize MRc4 Option 2 as a ban on PVC. The Vinyl Insitute, which represents PVC polymer makers, warned BuildingGreen in an email that LEED v4 “can actually lead architects and designers to make bad decisions in order to secure credits so they can market their buildings.”

Forests destroyed by mountain pine beetles can be made into valuable engineered wood products.

 

The mountain pine beetle has killed millions of acres of forest across the western U.S., including most of the western slope of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service

Balancing our need for timber along with the other environmental and financial benefits of forests has always been a challenge, especially in areas where forests and wildlife are integral to local communities.

On the western slopes of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, the trees are an integral part of the hiking experience, yet the trees along the trails that I used to run are now all dead and brown or gray as far as the eye can see, killed by the mountain pine beetle.

Green Globes May Be an ANSI Standard At Last

Posted June 7, 2013 10:40 AM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

The latest version of Green Globes for New Construction focuses on novel ways to measure energy performance, but details are hard to come by.

Portland VA medical centerThis Veterans Administration hospital in Portland, Oregon, achieved three Green Globes out of a possible four. Photo: GBIThere seems to be a lot to like about the new Green Globes for New Construction, which was apparently launched earlier this week.

I say “seems to” and “apparently” because, despite repeated requests, I have not been allowed to view the rating system myself or to interview anyone involved in its creation.

As you read the summary below, be aware that the Green Building Initiative (GBI) has not released any public-comment drafts or the final rating system to the public—opting instead to release only media alerts and a document it is calling a “white paper” (PDF—more on this document below).

Fancy schmancy ANSI

The most significant change to this version of Green Globes appears to be that it’s based on GBI/ANSI 01–2010—a green building standard developed through the ANSI consensus process.

GBI has been touting its “true consensus process” for years to compare Green Globes favorably with LEED. If you’ve been paying attention to the political wrangling around LEED and Green Globes over the past couple of years, you may be surprised to hear that Green Globes isn’t already an ANSI standard, but until now the ANSI standard developed by GBI and the Green Globes tool itself have been two different animals.

The Hidden Beltway Lobbyists Who Shape Green Building Policy

Posted May 15, 2013 1:31 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Poison pill pushed by illegal lobbyists, or exciting, bipartisan energy bill that could change everything? It could be up to you.

Strategic Advocacy Solutions Green GlobesMeet the "strategic advocate" behind Green Globes. The president of this organization is also Green Buidling Initiative's vice president for federal outreach—and claims she doesn't need to register as a lobbyist. Screen capture from SAS website.We’ve been keeping an eye on the sweeping Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (PDF), introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D–NH) and Rob Portman (R–Ohio).

The common-sense bill, likely to come to the Senate floor any day now, enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. It would boost the national model energy code for both homes and commercial buildings, support commercial retrofits with financing help, and develop training programs for green building jobs.

Earth Measure—A Stone Product That’s Green from Start to Finish

Posted May 14, 2013 2:13 PM by Brent Ehrlich
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Turning waste into a unique architectural product, Coldspring and Jason F. McLennan have teamed up on a new dimensional stone product.

photo of linear series coldspringPhoto: ColdspringAs the founder and CEO of the International Living Future Institute and its influential Living Building Challenge, Declare product database, and Living Future unConference, Jason F. McLennan has been busy setting a high bar for “green.” Now the former BNIM architect has crossed over into product design, as he is set to announce tomorrow the launch of a unique line of sustainable dimension stone products called Earth Measure, in a collaboration with Coldspring, one of the nation’s largest natural stone providers.

In a world in which green products are defined by recycled content and low VOCs, natural stone has arguably gotten short shrift, as we noted recently in Environmental Building News, in Stone, The Original Green Building Material. Stone is simply cut from the earth and processed., It emits no VOCs or hazardous airborne pollutants, it is water-resistant, will outlive most buildings, and can be reused after the structure is no longer usable. How can you build on that pedigree?

How about turning the relatively small amount of quarry waste produced by stone manufacturers into a valuable product? While working with Coldspring as a consultant, McLennan recognized that the offcuts from stone processing still had value beyond landscaping and aggregate, and with Cold Spring’s corporate goal of creating zero waste from processing, a partnership was born.

Recent Comments


7 Tips to Get More from Mini-Split Heat Pumps in Colder Climates

Nan Kul says, "I am on my third through the wall Frigidair heat pump in my sunroom in the last 25 years. It is so Noisy. I am planning to switch to a 12000 btu..." More...

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