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The BS* + Beer Show: Unbuild It Takeover

This episode of the BS* + Beer show features a few of the industry’s top dogs (and amateur comedians): Steve Baczek, Peter Yost, and Jake Bruton. The hosts of the Unbuild It podcast stage a takeover of our regularly scheduled program to shake things up a bit, and offer innovative suggestions for how those in the residential building sector might move the needle in the right direction when it comes to carbon drawdown and greening the real estate market—among other issues. Enjoy the show! [embedded content] Join us on Thursday, April 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. EST when builder…

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Do Heat Pumps Work in Minnesota?

Yes, heat pumps work in Minnesota . . . and Alaska, Vermont, and Ontario, too. Today I’ll tell you about one particular house in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that’s been heated with a heat pump for the past four winters. It’s the home of Gary Nelson, founder of The Energy Conservatory, which makes the Minneapolis Blower Door and the Duct Blaster for testing air leakage in homes and duct systems. First, fix the building enclosure As you might expect from someone who has spent the past several decades quantifying infiltration rates, Nelson’s house is pretty darn airtight. He’s lived in the same…

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Minisplit Installation Failure

I installed ductless minisplits for the HVAC in my new house because I had a good experience with them on my earlier renovation, and I wanted to run an experiment in eliminating ductwork. The experiment worked out well, but the equipment and installation have been problematic from the beginning. For starters, the installer I selected—a Mitsubishi Diamond Contractor, a program that is supposed to recognize the most qualified installers of the company’s equipment—made mistakes in the installation that I was not experienced or observant enough to identify. They installed the line sets on the wrong side of all three indoor…

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Why Corporate ‘Net Zero’ Pledges Should Trigger Healthy Skepticism

Hundreds of companies, including major emitters like United Airlines, BP and Shell, have pledged to reduce their impact on climate change and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. These plans sound ambitious, but what does it actually take to reach net-zero and, more importantly, will it be enough to slow climate change? As environmental policy and economics researchers, we study how companies make these net-zero pledges. Though the pledges make great press releases, net-zero is more complicated and potentially problematic than it may seem. What is ‘net-zero’ emissions? The gold standard for reaching net-zero emissions looks like this: A company…

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The BS* + Beer Show: Essential Building Science Book Club Discussion

This episode of the BS* + Beer show centers around Jacob Racusin’s book Essential Building Science: Understanding Energy and Moisture in High Performance House Design. He shares his motivation for writing it, and acknowledges some of its shortcomings. He sums up his reasoning behind a whole-systems approach, and makes the point that the motivation behind greener building doesn’t need to be the eco-warrior’s fight. Making a good living, building for durability, ensuring occupant health and comfort, and myriad other reasons for using some of the solutions laid out in the book will move us all toward better, more thoughtful construction—and…

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Passive House Institute Plans Online Conference

Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) has organized a four-day online program in April that will focus on mechanical systems for low-load buildings. “For some time we’ve honed best practices for envelopes, but mechanicals are still wonky, one-off solutions,” PHIUS Communications Director Michael Knezovich said in an email. “On one hand, we need to share and learn from what’s worked. On the other, we need to demonstrate to manufacturers that the market is there for systems tailored to low-load buildings to provide more off-the-shelf solutions.” HVAC equipment for tight, high-efficiency homes can be a problem for designers. Much of the equipment…

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