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Another Take on the Meaning of Green

While green building often focuses on improvements to the energy efficiency of homes with mechanical heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, another trend explores non-mechanical means toward comfort. The low-tech approach, sometimes called biomimicry, relies on some conventional methods home designers and builders have used in response to local climates in combination with others that are inspired by nature. Steve Mouzon published The Original Green: Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability 10 years ago. Had he published the book today, the title may have read “Unlocking the Mystery of Resiliency.” “Originally (before the Thermostat Age), people had no choice but to…

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A Wind-Resistant Eave-Edge Roof Assembly is Put to the Test

Rarely do builders go back months or years after building a home to see how the assemblies are holding up. It’s not until a disaster strikes that the details get tested. This month a large tree fell across the roof on the house where we photographed the Fine Homebuilding article “9 Upgrades to Windproof Your Roof” for the March 2019 issue. To make repairs, we had to cut away all the roof sheathing covering the hip rafter and jacks back to the second common rafter. By removing over 24 ft. of eave edge, we were able to see how well…

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The BS* + Beer Show: Hot Water Systems

This episode of the BS* + Beer show features HVAC expert, Energy Vanguard founder, and long-time GBA contributor Allison Bailes. He tackles the topic of hot water systems—from tank to distribution network to the components between. He covers inputs/outputs, water heater types, manifold options, the reason hot water takes so long and what to do about it, hammer arresters and expansion tanks, the “hot water rectangle,” Legionnaires’ disease, and audience questions. Enjoy the show! [embedded content] Special announcement There will be two BS* + Beer Show episodes recorded live from the 2022 International Builders’ Show (IBS). On Tuesday, February 8,…

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Where Should the Air Barrier Be Located?

Where to put the air barrier in an assembly may seem obvious, but this question has many dimensions . . . literally. Let’s look at the question of air barrier location from three perspectives. First, building assemblies are three-dimensional. The air barrier can go on the inside, outside, or in between. Second, the type and location of insulation makes a difference. Third, the air barrier can include or exclude buffer spaces, like a crawlspace or attic. Which way should you go? Inside, outside, or in-between Most houses in North America are built with framing lumber that creates frames for the…

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Modeling Software and Mock-Ups

Missing a detail when working through an unfamiliar assembly is easy to do. Getting your head around air and water movement and the thermal boundary with all of the parts and pieces that are required to build a sound structure often requires more information than can be shown in a simple plan or elevation drawing. I often find myself drawing in 3D using a modeling software. Sometimes I go as far as building a mock-up of the assembly. Other times both are needed. If you are an architect, you’ll have the software tools to make professional, photo-realistic drawings. I’m not…

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Embracing a Wetter Future, the Dutch Turn to Floating Homes

This post originally appeared at Yale Environment 360. When a heavy storm hit in October, residents of the floating community of Schoonschip in Amsterdam had little doubt they could ride it out. They tied up their bikes and outdoor benches, checked in with neighbors to ensure everyone had enough food and water, and hunkered down as their neighborhood slid up and down its steel foundational pillars, rising along with the water and descending to its original position after the rain subsided. “We feel safer in a storm because we are floating,” said Siti Boelen, a Dutch television producer who moved…

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