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Energy Code Development Begins: Focus on Residential

This is part one of a two-part series. Code officials, builders, energy efficiency advocates, and others weighed in last month on proposals to update the next model building energy code–a crucial policy tool for states, counties, and cities as they work to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Debate at the Committee Action Hearings held by the International Code Council (ICC) in Albuquerque was often as spicy as the famous New Mexico chili. The end result leaves us hopeful that the 2021 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) will improve energy efficiency for both residential and…

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Sanity Check on an Unvented Roof Assembly

Mapping out the roof assembly for a new house in Climate Zone 6B, Steve Mackay has settled on long I-joists insulated with a mix of closed-cell spray polyurethane foam and blown-in fiberglass. He doesn’t plan on venting the roof, and he wants to be certain his design will be problem free. Here’s what it looks like: 14-inch I-joists with 5 inches of closed-cell foam sprayed on the underside of the roof desk. The balance of the insulation will be fiberglass (Mackay wants to use the BIBS system) with no interior vapor barrier. In all, he gets R-67 in the roof…

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A Discussion of the Living Building Challenge Certification Program

What is a Living Building? A Living Building is rooted in place yet harvests all it needs, including energy and water. It is adapted to its climate and to its site. It operates pollution-free. It is comprised of integrated systems. And, it is beautiful.In this episode of the Green Architects’ Lounge, Phil and Chris discuss the Living Building Challenge (LBC), a certification program that aims to transform the marketplace, with all its joys and challenges. Collaborating for the first time, their firms are working on a LBC project, The Ecology School in Saco, Maine. On the show, Phil and Chris…

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Pete’s Puzzle: What Exactly is a Vapor Perm?

This is a story. Much of this story I believe to be true, but I can’t document much of it either. It all just makes sense, particularly as parts are conveyed by Bill Rose, our industry’s heralded building-science historian (see #2 in Bill’s to-do list for the building industry). Much of the story is based on one or more conversations I have had with Bill, which usually started something like this: “Bill, where the hell do the units 1 grain of water and 1 in. of mercury vapor pressure come from in our unit of measure for water vapor permeance?”…

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Flatrock Passive: Thoughts on a Winter Greenhouse

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of blog posts by David Goodyear describing the construction of his new home in Flatrock, Newfoundland, the first in the province built to the Passive House standard. You’ll find his complete blog here. It is now May. The weather is shaping up, and after a long, cold winter the ground is starting to thaw. Old Man Winter did give me one thing this year: a lot of time to think. I have been thinking mainly about food security and accessing more locally grown food. We had a successful harvest last year and…

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Energy Efficiency Groups Balk at New Appliance Rules

Critics say efficiency testing rules for manufacturers of home appliances would be loosened under a Department of Energy proposal. The DOE has refused to schedule a public meeting to explain the change but has offered private meetings as an alternative. Photo: Phillip Pessar / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr The Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed a rule change that would allow appliance manufacturers to opt out of energy efficiency testing, seriously undermining U.S. efficiency standards, an advocacy group claims. The DOE billed the proposal, which was published in the Federal Register on May 1, as an effort to streamline…

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