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Why Bioplastics Will Not Solve the World’s Plastics Problem

This post originally appeared at Yale Environment 360. Coca-Cola calls it the PlantBottle—a new kind of recyclable plastic container, 30% of which is made from sugar cane and other plants, with the remaining 70% made from traditional oil-based plastic. The company says that PlantBottle packaging now accounts for nearly a third of its North American bottle volume and 7% percent globally. Does the PlantBottle mean the giant soft drink company has cracked one of the world’s most serious environmental problems, the choking of the world with oil-based plastics that never completely break down and disappear? Hardly. Though companies like Coca-Cola…

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The BS* + Beer Show: What About Sealants?

This episode of the BS* + Beer show explores the ever-evolving world of sealants—a critical yet nascent component of what we are doing today in the name of building science. Guests Sharon Libby and Bill Robinson share data and field experience, covering critical topics to help builders and designers choose the right product for the job and conditions. As Quality Director at WALSH Construction, Sharon presents findings from the company’s “Sealant Adhesion and Compatibility Study,” which she helmed. Her presentation looks at the places sealants are used—penetrations, transitions, and terminations—their role in the continuity of control layers, approved substrates, curing…

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How Covid-19 Is Changing Solar Permitting for the Better

This guest blog was written by Ryan Shea, Arthur Coulston, and Rushad Nanavatty of the Rocky Mountain Institute. In order to meet social distancing requirements brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, cities across the United States are moving permitting services, including solar, online. The International Code Council (ICC) recently surveyed its members and found that 65% of local code permitting officials have moved to remote work in response to the pandemic. This sudden digital move has many local governments considering much-needed overhauls to their systems. To meet this urgent need, Rocky Mountain Institute is helping communities transition to the National…

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Ventilation Requirements in the Covid Era

So far, building scientists have not achieved consensus on the issue of the best ventilation rate for buildings. As readers of Green Building Advisor probably know, the issue of how much fresh air to introduce into office buildings, schools, and homes has been controversial for years. (For more on the controversy, see “How Much Fresh Air Does Your Home Need?” and “Ventilation Rates and Human Health.”) Now that public health authorities and building managers are coping with a global Covid pandemic, the ventilation rate controversy has become even more complicated. In this article, I’ll do my best to outline the…

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The Future of Hot Water Is Heat Pumps

State and local leaders nationwide are beginning to recognize the importance of eliminating fossil fuels in newly constructed buildings. The rationale is clear: gas has an extremely limited place in our clean energy future, and it’s far more difficult, costly, and disruptive to swap out gas-consuming equipment from an existing building than it is to build without gas from the start. However, this long-term view does little to sway the developers, contractors, and housing regulators accustomed to basing their decisions on one question: what does it cost? Advocates have long worked to provide a sufficient answer to this often-complex problem.…

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The Consequences of Keeping Your Home Really Cold in Summer

A long time ago, I worked at a dry cleaning shop in St. Louis. It was December, and we had a weeklong bout of super-cold weather. The temperature dropped to 0° F at night, and just got up into the teens during the day. I worked inside where the temperature was always nice and warm, but the delivery guy had to go out in the cold every day. Before the cold front came through, the daytime temperature was in the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit, and he’d go out in just a short sleeve T-shirt, pants, and shoes. When the daytime temperatures…

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