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Are Life-Cycle Assessments Worth the (Recycled) Paper They’re Printed On?

This post originally appeared at Ensia. Single-use items—which have long been the target of ire from environmentalists—are having a moment in the era of Covid-19. From disposable cups and take-out packaging to gloves and masks, safety concerns are pushing consumers and institutions in the direction of disposables. Balancing the sustainability of these items with the benefits they seem to offer society, which range from convenience to sterility, has never been easy, and is even more difficult now. First, there’s the fact that they must be continually replenished: produced and shipped over and over again to meet unending consumers’ demand for…

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Shopper’s Diary: Singular Finds from Nora Khereddine Objects in Munich

A few weeks back we were alerted, via T magazine, to a new housewares shop in the heart of Munich: Nora Khereddine Objects. All of us were rapidly enamored, emailing back and forth from our respective houses with our wish-list finds. From Moroccan Tamegroute ceramics in impossibly dark, earthy greens to ever-so-slim taper candles, it’s the sort of shop that feels filled with unexpected discovery—all curated by Nora, a former lifestyle editor herself. Take a look at a few of her offerings: Above: A deep green, sculptural Tamegroute Candleholder #11 (€69), one of many pieces available. “The pottery workshops of…

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Reflections on the Building Industry

This month, I’m going to make a little zig from my recent metrics theme. I feel compelled to put these floating thoughts into a cohesive-ish form, so bear with me for a bit of navel gazing and reflection . . . I believe that I occupy a unique position in the building industry for someone my age (38). I have 22 years of experience, a father who is a full-time contractor, and a grandfather who acted as a lightning rod for early dives into high-performance building. I don’t want to seem precocious but I feel I have an endowed sense…

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The BS* + Beer Show: Building Diagnostics: What Should We Be Measuring, and How Should It Be Measured? 

This episode of the BS* + Beer show features Kohta Ueno, Ben Bogie, and Doug Horgan talking about building sensors and data logging. They address the question: What Should We Be Measuring, and How Should It Be Measured?  Kohta delivers a rapid-fire explanation of how he monitors projects and conducts experiments, asking questions such as: What do I want to know? How does my assembly compare to others? Is the building’s orientation optimal? What are the key places to measure? How long will I have access to the building to monitor it? How can I vary the conditions to maximize the…

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Going All Electric

Weaning households off natural gas, heating oil, and other fossil fuels would mean significant reductions in carbon emissions, but there’s a catch. From furnaces to water heaters to kitchen ranges, fuel-burning appliances are deeply entrenched in U.S. homes. Even homeowners who’d like to go all electric may feel overwhelmed by the complexity and expense of the conversion. For people who find themselves in this boat, a California energy consulting firm has some reassuring news: The process can be simple, relatively inexpensive, and require no building modifications, not even an upgrade in the electrical service panel to anything over 100 amps.…

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Cold Air Is Dry Air

Relative humidity (RH) is what everyone likes to talk about. It gets our attention but it can be a bit confusing, especially when the temperatures drop. For example, at one point yesterday, we had 97% RH. Seems humid, eh? It’s not really. Not in terms of how much water vapor is actually in the air, that is. The psychrometric chart below shows how this works. The two points I’ve highlighted on the chart are: Point A: 32°F, 100% RH Point B: 70°F, 20% RH They’re connected by the arrow, indicating that when that cold, seemingly humid, outdoor air leaks into a…

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