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Insulated Vinyl Siding: Worth the Extra Cost?

Posted February 20, 2014 1:50 PM by Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, GreenSpec Insights

Two studies indicate some benefits to using insulated vinyl siding, but more data is needed to win over this skeptic.

A weather-resistive barrier combined with insulated vinyl siding had some visible, qualititative results on thermal performance in a new industry study. Image: Vinyl Siding Institute.Setting aside the overall environmental profile of the oft-demonized PVC (check our coverage in this month’s EBN feature “The PVC Debate: A Fresh Look”), I’ve been getting a lot of questions about insulated vinyl siding—the vinyl siding with form-fitted expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation permanently built into the back side of the double-four courses of vinyl siding.

Thanks to claims being made by the Vinyl Siding Institute and specific manufacturers, I’ve been hearing questions like these:

4 Resources Help Draw the Shades on Poor Window Performance

Posted February 15, 2014 1:53 PM by Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, GreenSpec Insights

Predicting performance and rationally selecting window coverings—from awnings to films to cellular shades—is incredibly challenging, but real help is on the way.

Photo: Paul Sable. License: CC BY 2.0.Photo: Paul Sable. License: CC BY 2.0.There is a lot of interest in just how much (and at how low a price point) window coverings can improve building thermal performance.

Both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been working on this issue; electric utilities would like to know how window coverings can fit into their efficiency programs; and both building professionals and consumers need objective guidance on how to compare window coverings—to each other and to window replacement.

Where does our industry stand on assessing thermal performance of window attachments, or coverings? There are four new or emerging resources that paint a more complete picture.

Your Picks: 10 Hottest Green Building Topics of 2013

Posted December 19, 2013 3:22 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Boora Architects is designing a 22,000 ft2 early childhood center addition for the Earl Boyles School in Portland, Oregon. Boora has switched to mineral wool as its standard insulation material for rainscreen walls like this one, in part because of toxicity concerns with foam insulation materials. Image: Boora ArchitectsBoora Architects is designing a 22,000 ft2 early childhood center addition for the Earl Boyles School in Portland, Oregon. Boora has switched to mineral wool as its standard insulation material for rainscreen walls like this one, in part because of toxicity concerns with foam insulation materials. Image: Boora ArchitectsCan we replace foam insulation? What does energy modeling really tell us? Find out what you, our readers, have picked as this year’s top 10 stories!

Our resident number-crunchers have spent hours slaving over metrics to bring you … your own most-read BuildingGreen stories of the year. Ta-da!

We just have to say, you guys have great taste. If you don’t see your favorite article listed here, though, tell us what it is—and why—in the comments.

And don’t forget that BuildingGreen members can collect CEUs—for LEED, AIA, and ILFI—for many of these popular articles. Just read the story, take the quiz, and we do the reporting for you.

10. On the grid, off the grid

Islandable Solar: PV for Power Outages” reveals a conundrum of grid-connected PV: it can’t be used during a power outage! Click through to learn about your three options for greater resilience (and check out #8 too).

9. Say it after me: AH-ge-pahn

Yeah, it’s spelled like “age pan,” but we swear it’s got a lot going for it, starting with German engineering (and pronunciation). Learn more about “Agepan: A Vapor-Permeable, Wood-Based Insulation Board” in our product review.

8. Awesome products!

Last month, we selected our favorite forward-looking products for 2014, and you selected our story as one of the most popular articles of the year. Our choices solve key design and environmental problems, but more importantly, Lloyd Alter called them “sexy”!

7. Taking charge of our own pee and poop

Battles Over LEED in the Military Are Still a Distraction

Posted December 11, 2013 5:21 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

A recent memo hints that the Department of Defense will accept Green Globes certification for buildings—but that was already the case.

Nine out of ten news whisperers agree: this is a dog-bites-man story, not the other way around. Photo: Iamliam. License: CC BY 2.0Nine out of ten news whisperers agree: this is a dog-bites-man story, not the other way around. Photo: Iamliam. License: CC BY 2.0It started with a press release from the Green Building Initiative, developer of the online Green Globes tool—“Department of Defense Recognizes Green Globes for Assessing Building Sustainability”—and it spread from there to many of our favorite blogs and green building news sites.

The press release claims, “Following the lead of the General Services Administration (GSA), the DoD recently recognized Green Globes as an approved program for DoD facilities.”

Dog bites man

There are two things wrong with this.

First of all, it isn’t news. As we reported in “4 Reasons the Battles Over LEED in the Military Are a Distraction,” DoD has always kept a loose rein on building certification systems. The Army and Navy have pursued LEED aggressively, whereas the Veterans Administration tends to prefer Green Globes. “We didn’t want to lock ourselves into one particular green rating system,” Lt. Col. Keith Welch told us back in March. The United Facilities Criteria (UFC), which is effectively the military’s own building code and was updated last spring, requires LEED Silver or equivalent. “Equivalent,” in practice, has always included Green Globes.

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.”

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