927 Lee Road 268, Valley, AL (706) 773-9274

Frugal Happy: A Stronger Neighborhood in a Covid-19 World

This coronavirus pandemic is terrible. By almost all measures, life now sucks for everyone. But there is one thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see during these unprecedented times, which is that despite all the social distancing, our neighborhood has actually become closer. Seems counterintuitive, but I suppose it makes sense. Since we’re all stuck at home and can’t go out for our usual activities, we are doing more things here in the neighborhood, which means we see and interact with one another more often. Can’t hang out with friends. Can’t go to the movies. No restaurants. No gyms. No…


How to Look at a House like a Building Scientist (Part 4: Water) 

I’m back, with the fourth article in a series on various building diagnostic tools and techniques that I use in my work sleuthing out problems in buildings. You can see Part 1: Air, Part 2: Heat, and Part 3: Temperature, Humidity, and HVAC Systems before reading this post if you’d like. Here in Part 4, we’ll be looking at water and moisture issues. Water, buildings, and the importance of deflection Water and moisture problems are the most common cause of damage and durability issues in buildings. Within the category, the most damaging is liquid water, typically in the form of…


Making Building Interiors Healthier in a Pandemic

This post, which was originally published at The Conversation, was written by Kevin Van den Wymelenberg, Leslie Dietz, and Mark Fretz. Architects and building engineers strive to create safe, productive places where humans can live and work. We have developed complex codes, regulations, and guidelines to achieve goals such as structural safety, fire safety, adequate ventilation and energy efficiency, and to anticipate extreme scenarios such as 100-year floods. The question for our profession now is whether and how the 100-year viral pandemic will change architectural design and building operations. How can societies safeguard buildings or homes from a viral pathogen…


Building Strategies in a Hot, Humid Climate

AlbertoArriaga33 is wrestling with plans for a new home in a tropical location. He doesn’t say exactly where, but conditions are certainly challenging: high heat and high humidity, with nighttime temperatures dipping only into the upper 70s and outdoor relative humidity hovering at about 70%. Exterior walls will be grouted concrete block, what Alberto says is standard construction in the tropics. Outside walls will be finished with a cementitious plaster and then painted. On the inside, light steel framing and stud cavities filled with R-15 mineral wool batts. “However,” Alberto writes in this Q&A post, “I have many doubts and…


The BS* + Beer Show: Choosing and Using Water-Resistive Barriers

Our panelists on last week’s *building science show were builders Jake Bruton and Ben Bogie who have over a half-century of combined experience choosing and using water-resistive barriers (WRBs) for the high-performance homes they build in Columbia, MO and Portland, ME, respectively. Before we opened the episode to a free-flowing Q&A and conversation full of real-world insights from our panelists, I gave a short presentation to establish the basics of WRBs. Based on the articles I researched and wrote last year, I discussed the role many of today’s WRBs can play in our wall assemblies, which often is more than water management…


Understanding Filter Ratings: MERV, FPR, and MPR

MERV is one of the three main rating scales for filter efficiency As much as I’ve written about filters and filtration in this blog, I have to confess there’s one aspect of filter efficiency I’ve resisted learning about. Every article I’ve written that mentions filter efficiency talks about only one rating scale: Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). A couple of other scales are in common use, too, but I just didn’t want to know anything about them because I buy and recommend MERV rated filters. But I took the plunge recently, and here’s what I found out about the three…

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