Blog image

A new round of online BAC Sustainable Design courses is starting up soon. Going out in the polar vortex is not a prerequisite.

Learn about resilience features—like the biomimicry of this HOK-designed orphanage in Haiti—without having to actually face the elements? Sounds good to me. Photo: HOK.I’m about to start teaching another round of my online course, Resilient Design, at Boston Architectural College (BAC), and this provides an opportunity to reflect on teaching at BAC and, more broadly, the online instruction in sustainable design offered through this program.

20 excellent online courses

I first started teaching at BAC in 2005, when the college’s online instruction program in sustainable design was just getting under way. At that time, BuildingGreen partnered with BAC to help design the curriculum, find the best instructors available, and promote the courses being offered.

Early on, when we had just a handful of courses, I taught Sustainable Design as a Way of Thinking, a course now being ably taught by my friend David Foley. Today, the online offerings totaling almost 20 courses are housed in BAC’s Sustainable Design Institute.

Have You Been Conflating Water with Energy? Here Are 5 Reasons to Stop

Posted March 2, 2015 11:02 AM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Until we stop talking about water as if it’s a clone of energy, water won’t get the respect it deserves or the attention it needs. Two sessions at NESEA’s BuildingEnergy ’15 conference, “Reinventing the Water Grid” parts one and two, are out to change that.

Photograph by Mike Peel, mikepeel.net. CC BY-SA 4.0.Policy wonks have been saying for years that water is THE critical resource on our planet—even more so than energy. Yet the time and attention that we devote to water remains a fraction of that we allot to energy.

I think that the problem is that we tend to talk about water conservation and efficiency as if water is just a clone of energy. Water and energy are similar in many ways, but there are key differences; until we appreciate these differences and embrace water on its own terms, we’ll continue to dis it.

Here are the five key differences that are confusing our approach:

BuildingGreen Hiring Entry-Level Editor

Posted February 25, 2015 11:04 AM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: Op-Ed

BuildingGreen staff gather last fall for an outdoor dinner in Dummerston, Vermont. Photo: Alex WilsonBuildingGreen staff gather last fall for an outdoor dinner in Dummerston, Vermont. Photo: Alex WilsonWant to enter a fast-paced, innovative environment producing and editing content for the world’s most trusted green building publisher?

BuildingGreen, Inc. is hiring an entry-level editor.

This person would be an essential team member for all things we do related to content and for reaching both our loyal readers and the ones who haven’t heard about us yet.

Are you excited to:

A Virtual Mastermind Group for Material Vetting

Posted February 17, 2015 2:58 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Want help researching and screening products for LEED v4 or the LBC Red List? Use this forum to share your questions and frustrations as well as your successes and advice.

By Paula Melton

Our recent webcast, Deep Material Vetting That Won’t Chew Through Your Design Budget, included a “homework” assignment: Chris and Scott of Re:Vision Architecture asked everyone to vet three to five materials they’re considering using in a current project.

Expecting that this exercise would lead to frustrations as well as triumphs, we have set aside this space as a forum for you to share how your research is going. Whether your project is pursuing WELL, LEED, Living Building Challenge, a different certification, or no certification at all, let’s help each other out and make the process easier for everyone.

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create a free BuildingGreen login in order to post comments.

Be kind, and good luck!

p.s. Want to do some background reading on material vetting before you jump into the deep end? Check out these resources.

A View from Inside the Climate March

Posted September 22, 2014 12:31 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Maybe, if enough of us March, and plan, and make smart choices, we’ll have a chance at beating this thing. 

Photo: Nadav MalinI’m not a frequent social activist. In fact, I haven’t been to a major rally since my college days. But when my teenage daughter gets excited about something I care about, I'm all in! And she was getting excited by the social media buzz about the People's Climate March. So, with some last minute scrambling, I headed down to NYC with family and friends to the big March.

By the time we succumbed to the FOMO (fear of missing out) and started making plans, the buses from our region were sold out, so we drove from Brattleboro to Manhattan. Driving to a climate march?? At least we had a full car (5 people), getting 40 mpg—so our 200 passenger-miles-per-gallon wasn’t that much worse than a full coach bus, at about 275 passenger-mpg.

Photo: Nadav Malin

Foam-In-Place Insulation: 7 Tips for Getting Injection and Spray Foam Right

Posted August 18, 2014 12:16 PM by Peter Yost
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Quality installation of the two types of site-manufactured foam insulation is no easier than fiberglass batt and no less important. Here is how to avoid the most common problems.

By Peter Yost

There are two ways to site-install foam insulation: injection and spray. Injecting foam is most often done in closed cavities in retrofit applications; spray foam is most often done in open cavities and in new construction. The formulations and methods of installation are different for closed-cavity and open-cavity foam installations. Photos: Henri Fennel (L); Peter Yost (R)There are two ways to site-install foam insulation: injection and spray. Injecting foam is most often done in closed cavities in retrofit applications; spray foam is most often done in open cavities and in new construction. The formulations and methods of installation are different for closed-cavity and open-cavity foam installations. Photos: Henri Fennel (L); Peter Yost (R)One of my first research projects when I started at the NAHB Research Center in 1993 was looking into a new insulation: Icynene. We were evaluating its performance as a spray-applied, open-cavity insulation as well as an injection foam in closed cavities. I was enamored: this seemed to be a miracle insulation that installed itself, sealing up tight even in the toughest and most complicated building cavities.

At about the same time, the NAHB Research Center was developing an installation quality program for fiberglass batt insulation, notoriously difficult to get installed right. I scoffed; we would never need that for these foam-in-place systems!

Twenty-plus years later, it’s clear how wrong I was. What looked as easy as point-and-shoot with the foam gun has a lot of complexity. As insulation consultant Henri Fennell recently said to me, “Properly installing site foam insulation is way more challenging than fiberglass batts. It’s partly because performance expectations are high and partly because you are actually manufacturing onsite.”

Fennell has been injecting and spraying polyurethane foam insulation for more than 40 years. I recently got the chance to spend quite a bit of time with him at the Energy Center of Wisconsin’s Better Buildings, Better Business conference. Here are Fennell’s seven top tips for ensuring that manufactured foam insulation jobs—both injection and spray—get done right.

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.

Recent Comments


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

Christine Gallo says, "I have gotten some good and clear answers on this site and am hoping someone can explain this mess... I do expect that it will probably cost me..." More...

Colleen Clancy says, "I had a Fujitsu Heat Pump installed in my 1000 sq ft condo. I have one wall unit on the 1st floor and 1 on the second. I had a guy I know that works..." More...


A Virtual Mastermind Group for Material Vetting

bstrohmrn says, "Is any one looking at all natural fibers as insulation? Healthy homes are a market we deal with as a manufacturer of All Natural Fiber insulation...." More...

Peggy White says, "Andy - I'm an architectural specification writer, working on several LBC projects at the moment. I'm working on developing a custom Division 01 for..." More...


Our Energy Solutions Have All Been Found

bstrohmrn says, "Alex, What about the all natural insulation for homes and buildings made of natural fibers? Very renewable with little processing and no chemical..." More...