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New York Developer Adapts a European Template for Deep Energy Retrofits

An innovative approach to upgrading the energy performance of multifamily housing first promoted by the Dutch government a decade ago, has taken its first, tentative steps into the U.S. affordable housing market. In New York City, the RiseBoro Community Partnership is rehabilitating nine apartment buildings it owns in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn in a project called Casa Pasiva. The $20 million overhaul will bring the apartments up to Passive House standards and sharply reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. Patterned after the “Energiesprong” retrofits developed in the Netherlands, the upgrades will give the apartment buildings new facades up…

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Google Eases Rules for Smart Home Developers

The Google Nest thermostat was a favorite for smart home developers until 2019, when the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary tightened the rules and made it harder to integrate the Nest into smart home networks. As The Los Angeles Times reported at the time, the decision to stop supporting an Application Program Interface, or API, called Works With Nest made it difficult for developers to work Nest into their smart home networks. As a result, builders who had been adding the thermostats to their properties stopped buying them. Google later clarified its plans and said it would be possible for third-party developers…

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The BS* + Beer Show: Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s 40th Anniversary Celebration

This is a special episode of the BS* + Beer show in celebration of Fine Homebuilding magazine’s 40th Anniversary. If you have a fondness for the magazine, you will appreciate this tribute. The screen is full of seasoned builders and editors sharing their experiences and memories of the long-beloved publication. The people and their sentiments are authentic and touching. Co-host Mike Maines captures the spirit of the party poignantly:  “For me, the magazine has always represented people dedicated to excellence in their craft, who are communicating what they have learned so that others can benefit. Having written for FHB for…

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Beating the Scourge of PFAS Chemicals

This post originally appeared at Ensia. A group of manmade substances that can cause serious health problems in humans and animals is increasingly threatening U.S. drinking water systems, experts say. Scientists are working hard to better understand per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances—or PFAS—and develop technologies to minimize harm from these extraordinarily durable pollutants. PFAS is the umbrella term for a variety of substances, including PFOA, PFOS and GenX. Exposure to high levels of PFAS may decrease vaccine response in children and cause some forms of cancer and birth defects. PFAS also affect the kidneys, liver and immune system, according to the U.S.…

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FAQ: Ducts in the Attic

My heating and air conditioning contractor wants to put the air handler as well as the ductwork in the attic, which we’re not planning on insulating. The ductwork will be insulated, but is this still a bad idea? In a word, yes, it’s a really bad idea to run ductwork through an unconditioned attic unless very specific precautions are taken. A variety of problems are possible. The practice is still fairly common in some parts of the country. But as building scientist Joseph Lstiburek puts it, “Where were the adults when this decision was made?” First, ducts are going to…

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Trend Alert: Josef Albers-Inspired Color Blocks on Quilts, Rugs, Shower Curtains, and More

There is something mesmerizing and also grounding about Josef Albers’s Homage to the Square painting series. Starting in 1950, the artist spent 25 years musing on the theme. Underpinning his simple, abstract canvases were complex concepts relating to, among other things, color, perception, and ways of making and seeing art. (Here’ a good succinct description from the Guggenheim.) But without knowing all that, we’ve been turning to his interlocking squares for sphinx-like balance and mystery in these unruly times. Or so it seems. Here’s a look at some of the Albers-style geometry that’s been cropping up all over. Above: A…

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