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Buyer Beware: Dangerous Paint Strippers Are Still Being Sold

This post was co-authored by Mike Schade. In 2018, the Natural Resources Defense Council won a wave of commitments from 11 of North America’s largest retailers to ban the sale of paint strippers containing the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP). To see how these retailer policy commitments have been implemented, campaign staff, partner organizations and volunteers are visiting stores across the country to see whether retailers are following through to “mind the store.” Over the last few weeks, we and our partners visited 42 locations of five major retailers’ stores, all of which had pledged to ban the…

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One Way to Fix the ‘Duck Curve’

Mandalay Homes in Arizona has developed a strategy with Arizona Public Service that helps correct imbalances on the grid — a problem known as the 'duck curve' — with a combination of high-performance building features and a solar-plus-storage energy system. (Image credit: Robin Sullivan) Mandalay Homes, based in Arizona, recently introduced the iON Series, a set of smart energy features that includes an extremely tight, well-insulated building shell, high-efficiency heating and cooling system, and on-site solar with battery storage. “In the past, we have guaranteed four things in our energy-efficiency package,” says Geoff Ferrell, Mandalay’s chief technology officer. “Our homes…

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A New Congress and New Hope for Flood Insurance Reform

The 116th Congress, divided between a Democrat-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate, will more than likely continue to be driven by party rivalry, but reforming the broken National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) could, and should, be one area where bipartisanship is possible. Flooding disasters ignore political boundaries, impacting both red and blue communities. And for communities not directly impacted, flooding is still a financial drain since the federal government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars to help communities recover after flooding, including bailing out the NFIP. The new Congress must not continue to dither and delay on reform; its predecessor kicked the…

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21-Story Mass Timber Building Proposed in Milwaukee

A 21-story mass timber building proposed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has won preliminary approval from the city. If construction moves forward as planned, the Ascent tower would become the tallest mass timber building in North America. Image credit: Korb + Associates. In Milwaukee, a city panel has given preliminary approval to plans for a 21-story apartment building whose upper floors would be built with mass timber components instead of steel. The 238-foot-tall tower would become the tallest mass timber project in North America, according to an article published at Urban Milwaukee. Construction of the “Ascent” tower would start later this year.…

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Urban Flooding: A Problem That’s Getting Worse

Chronic urban flooding unrelated to major storms is a problem that disproportionately affects the poor. Flooding losses "gnaw away at their well-being," a new report says. (Image credit: David Pfeffer / CC / Flickr) Extreme flooding events were in the news during much of 2018, from January’s heavy rains in Southern California to Hurricanes Florence and Michael in September and October. When many of us think about flooding, we think about events like these: major disasters that upend entire communities and trigger a large response from state and federal agencies. However, the new report, The Growing Threat of Urban Flooding:…

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Pretty Good House 2.0

You may already know about the Pretty Good House concept, the result of a question that moderator Dan Kolbert asked back in 2011, partly as a joke, at the long-running building science discussion group at Performance Building Supply in Portland, Maine. Fed up with other building standards, from the wimpy and under-enforced building code to the nit-picky Passivhaus, Dan asked, essentially, what you should include in a house that does right for its inhabitants and the planet, but that does not go beyond reasonable environmental or financial payback. We developed a list, which I shared in a blog post on…

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