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Home Depot Bows to Labor Realities

A shortage of roofers is at least partly to blame for The Home Depot's decision to discontinue its roofing installation services. Roofers are one of several skilled trades in short supply in some parts of the country. [Image credit: UMD Watershed / CC BY-NC / Flickr] A shortage of skilled construction labor appears to have caught up with The Home Depot. The building materials and home goods retailer has stopped writing contracts for the installation of roofing, siding, insulation, and gutters. While maintaining dozens of other installation services, the company had decided those four specialties weren’t attractive in the long…

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Saving Sustainably: Electrical Rough-In

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of blogs detailing the construction of a net-zero energy house in Point Roberts, Washington, by an owner-builder with relatively little building experience. A list of Matt Bath’s GBA articles can be found at the bottom of this page. You’ll find Matt Bath’s full blog, Saving Sustainably, here. If you want to follow project costs, you can keep an eye on a budget worksheet here. My net-zero home will be all-electric, in hopes that someday I can move from net-zero to completely self-sustaining and off-grid as technology improves. Battery prices are dropping rapidly…

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U.S. Recycling Efforts Stumble as Chinese Trade Rules Sink In

Bales of recycled paper and cardboard at the Fort Hood recycle center, the largest recycling facility in the U.S. Army. Paper and plastic that once went to China for processing is now barred for importation. [Image credit: U.S. Army Environmental Command] Many U.S. households continue to recycle cardboard, paper, and plastic, but a change in China’s import rules is sending more of this material to landfills and incinerators as recycling programs in many communities falter. Once a major importer of U.S. recycled plastics and paper, China imposed strict new rules on what could be imported in early 2018. The decision effectively…

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How We Use 322 Billion Gallons of Water Every Day

This post originally appeared at Ensia. As climate change, urban development, irrigation, and other factors are altering the availability of water, it’s important to understand how we use water on a daily basis in the U.S. — and where the opportunities are for using it more wisely. A recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides an overview of water withdrawals across the country. The report includes a few surprises. For example, did you know Idaho withdraws the most water nationwide for aquaculture? That Arkansas — the 33rd most-populous state — withdraws the fifth most water, mainly for crop…

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2019 Is the Year of Energy Codes

If there’s a defining theme for the building sector in 2019, it’s energy codes. Actions to update the rules that cities and states set to determine how effectively new residential and commercial buildings use energy are progressing on several fronts across the U.S. These regulations define the next generation of building design and construction in terms of energy performance, and because those projects will be in operation for decades, performance matters a great deal — now more than ever. You see, 2018 culminated with a preponderance of evidence that climate change is real and the time for action is immediate.…

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Frugal Happy: We Have a Floor on Our Ceiling

Editor’s Note: This post is one of a series by Chris Stratton and Wen Lee, a husband-and-wife team living in the Los Angeles area who are turning their 1963 suburban house into an all-electric, zero-net energy home. They chronicle their attempts at a low-carbon, low-cost, and joyful lifestyle on their blog Frugal Happy. This post was written by Chris. When considering what materials to use for the interior of the common area, we wanted at least one surface to have some character. Drywall is great in many ways. It’s durable, inexpensive, fire-resistant, versatile, and you can cover walls and ceilings…

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