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The Green Police: Product Retrospective

For several years in the 2000s and early 2010s, I was half of the “Green Police,” a video series produced by Hanley Wood, along with green remodeler Michael Anschel of OA Design+Build+Architecture in Minneapolis, MN. The short “Green Police” videos included reviews of various green building materials, systems, and programs, and some recordings of a presentation we gave at ACI (Now known as the National Home Performance Conference) in Austin, Texas. We had a lot of fun, ran across some interesting products, learned a few things, and hopefully entertained some people in the process. Like all good things, the “Green…

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Tesla Unveils Another Version of Its Solar Roof

Tesla is now taking orders for the latest version of its solar roof. Installation should begin later this month. Photo courtesy of Tesla. Tesla’s solar roof—the breakthrough that seems perpetually right around the corner—is now in its third and most promising iteration and should be ready for installation in the coming weeks, the company’s CEO says. In a conference call with reporters late last month, Elon Musk admitted that earlier versions of the long-delayed solar roofing tiles “really didn’t work,” according to an article posted at Quartz. But the newest glass-topped tiles are larger, easier to install, and have higher…

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Solar Power Without Net Metering: Is It Worth It? 

The combination between solar panel installation costs, electricity rates, and market incentives offer a valuable alternative that allows you to save money on your utility bills and contribute in the fight against climate change. However, one of these elements appears to be at risk, according to latest events in some jurisdictions that seem to jeopardize the whole solar PV industry in the US. Net metering is a billing mechanism that offers the chance for those with photovoltaic systems installed on their homes to receive a credit for every kWh that is injected back to the grid, thanks to the installation of a bidirectional…

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Going After the Global Warming Potential of Ready-Mixed Concrete

The absolute bad boy of CO2 emissions in the building industry is the approximately 17% dry weight of Portland cement in a standard ready-mix concrete. Somewhere between 5% and 8% of global CO2 emissions are the result of Portland cement production. It’s not just that the Portland cement process is energy intensive, it’s also the fuels used. Producing one ton of Portland cement generates nearly a ton of CO2! Portland cement production process image from The Constructor. Can we reduce the amount of Portland cement used to make concrete? Yes, we can. There are a number of supplementary cementitious materials…

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Critics Claim Agreement Helps Home-Building Industry Block Tougher Energy Codes

An undisclosed pact between the nation’s most powerful home builders’ lobby and the organization that writes model building codes has slowed the adoption of energy-saving requirements for new homes, critics have claimed. The arrangement is between the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which represents some 140,000 U.S. builders, and the International Code Council (ICC), which publishes the International Residential Code, an influential model building code that has been adopted in many states. In a published report last week, The New York Times said a deal first signed in 2002 guaranteed NAHB four of 11 voting seats on the committee…

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Solving a Basement Odor Problem

Henry has completed a basement renovation at his 1950s Toronto bungalow and is now grappling with an unexpected problem: One room of the house smells strongly of old, damp brick. From all appearances, the renovation was done carefully. The foundation wall, consisting of concrete block with brick above, now includes exterior waterproofing, damp-proofing membranes, and a layer of closed-cell spray polyurethane foam in an interior 2×4 wall. And yet, he writes in a Q&A post, all is not well. The odor is coming from the floor and/or wall of one of the rooms in the northeast part of the house,…

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