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Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

As a veteran reporter, Matt Power has covered virtually every aspect of design and construction. His award-winning articles often tackle tough environmental challenges in a way that makes them relevant to both professionals and end users. An expert on both building science and green building, he has a long history of asking hard questions--and adding depth and context as he unfolds complex issues.
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Recent Posts

New LED Surface-Mounted Downlights Look Exactly Like Recessed Cans

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jul 12, 2016 9:07:18 AM

At PCBC in June, I got my first look at Halo SLD Surface LED Downlights. The technology has been around a couple of years, but the products keep improving.

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Savage Irony: Alberta Wildfires in Tar Sands Town Tied to Global Warming

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

May 9, 2016 9:12:10 AM

The inferno roaring around the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta,has called attention to the dire impacts we can expect if fossil fuel projects proceed as planned.Photo: Wikimedia Commons

ENVIRONMENTALIST BILL MCKIBBEN, a vocal opponent of the proposed XL Pipeline—originating in the Tar Sands of Canada—has likened the extraction of those dirty fuels to a death blow for the planet, and he's not alone. The major concern is the release of buried methane in the extraction process, but that's just one straw on the climate change camel's back. There's also the burning of the extracted oil, the clearing and burning of forests and so on.

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It Turns Out Steve Jobs was a Supervillain After All

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 14, 2016 1:39:27 PM

A new report from Oxfam shows that Apple hid BILLIONS of U.S. tax dollars in offshore accounts.

I remember, a few years back, having a conversation with a friend about whether any industries are really "clean." Sometimes the villains can be recognized quickly. The cigarette industry. The fossil fuel industry. But what about computers? They seem to have had a relatively benign effect on the planet, despite the obvious drawbacks of increased surveillance and loss of privacy.;

With the release of the Panama Papers, however, my original line of questioning, whether the negatives associated with multinational corporations inevitably outweigh their contribution to global well being, seems to have been on track. The bad behavior at the top of the corporate pyramid schemes is more or less universal. Some just hide the skeletons better.

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New Report: Fracking Does Indeed Trigger Earthquakes

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Mar 30, 2016 8:10:35 AM

Contrary to earlier reports denying a connection, the new USGS report says midwest cities are courting seismic disaster by allowing fracking to continue.

Remember back in 2011, when an earthquake centered in Virginia damaged the Washington monument? At the time, there were some anecdotal articles suggesting that fracking activities in the region may have triggered the quake. The reports, however, were mostly ignored, and the frackers went back to business as usual. This was also the period when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was leveraging U.S. fracking operations into other countries around the world. It's little wonder the fracking-earthquake connection was not pursued.

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The Five Best Green Building Ideas This Century (So Far)

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jan 20, 2016 9:30:00 AM

A lot of the really groundbreaking stuff going on in green building happens behind the walls, so of course you might never notice it.

The building industry is notoriously slow to change, but when the global recession hit a few years ago, smart builders carved a green niche to save their companies. Eco-friendly construction tends to continue, even when times are relatively bad, motivated by the idea of saving money on energy, water, and so on.

What's really changed in the past couple of decades? Here's my short list of some of the best and brightest ideas, and why they matter:

LED Lighting. Finally, we can stop cursing our compact fluorescent lamps. Unlike fluorescent lamps, which rarely live up to their promised of 10,000 hour lifespans, contain enough mercury to classify as hazardous waste and make your complexion look like undead zombie flesh, LED bulbs do it all. They' use a fraction of the energy of a CFL, come in dimmable versions that change color warmly, last up to 50,000 hours, and don't contain mercury. Win, win, win. Another new entry into this category are LED replacement lamps for fluorescent fixtures. This is a major upgrade in terms of both performance and sustainability. The common 4-ft. lamps in fluorescent lamps contain hazardous mercury, and we all know they don't last as long as they should. A comparable LED replacement lamp uses half the power, comes on instantly, and could last 50,000 hours, compared to about 8,000 hours for CFLs.

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Top Shelter-Related Gadgets from CES 2016: The Good, the Clever, and the Prescient

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jan 13, 2016 11:03:49 AM

Some save energy. Others track your tools. But all may soon be manufactured in a 3-D printer in your garage.

No shortage of eye candy at this year's CES show in Las Vegas. To find the real innovation jewels, I mined through hundreds of time wasters, vanity feeders and resource wasters. Here's my very short list of memorable rollouts:

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Interested in a Greener Holiday? Stay Home and Eat Local.

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Nov 15, 2015 2:16:17 PM

It's not the presents, the eggnogg, or even the roast beast that's the biggest CO2 downside from the holiday season. It's the travel.

I was doing some research for a story I'm writing about holiday upcycling, and it occurred to me that there's probably too much focus on the CO2 impacts of the orgy of holiday STUFF we buy and consume—and not enough on the much larger impacts of travel. No matter how you look at it, we're not taking Climate Change very seriously.
The Real Meaning of Christmas?
It's interesting to follow the American consumer during the holiday season. Outbrain tracks "clicks" to see what people are interested in during this period—a boon to marketers. Am I the only one who gives out a heavy sigh as I read this list?
Outbrain 2013 Report: "Throughout the month of November, consumers showed the most interest in beauty content (65% higher CTR than holiday content average), content that emphasized convenience (+22%) and content about holiday parties (12%). In late November –not surprisingly–consumers began to also show a strong interest in Christmas content (+21%), as well as content offering inspiration and tips for the holidays (+13%),specifically, “tricks” (+83%) and “ideas” (+20%), and content on home decor and crafts (+11%), specifically “decorating” (+23%)."
Let's leave aside the content of what we're spending our wealth on (the phrase, fiddling while Rome burns comes to mind). If we can't hope to change the public psyche overnight, we can at least look at the bigger picture of holiday impacts. And that picture shows that lipstick, plastic toys and martinis are not the biggest environmental "sins" of our commercialized celebrations. Its how we physically get there and back.
The DOE has this to say:
"The Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are among the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. During the 6-day Thanksgiving travel period, the number of long-distance trips (to and from a ­destination 50 miles or more away) increases by 54 percent, and during the Christmas/New Year’s Holiday period the number rises by 23 percent, compared to the average number for the remainder of the year. And although heavy media attention focuses on crowded airports and bus and train stations on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving, when personal vehicle trips are added to the mix the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) reveals that Thanksgiving Day is actually a heavier long-distance travel day than Wednesday."
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Dow Styrofoam Raises Recycled Content to 20 Percent

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Aug 14, 2015 6:10:08 PM

The company's efforts to improve sustainability have now been validated by UL Environment.

Rigid insulation board is one of those building products that's heavily front-end loaded with regard to its environmental impacts. It comes at a high initial environmental cost, but then reduces CO2 pollution for the life of the home. And Styrofoam extruded polystyrene foam is one of the best known, best selling brands.

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A Bright Upgrade for the Humdrum Electrical Faceplate

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jun 4, 2015 7:24:24 AM

The technology is simple, but the effect is quite dramatic. Dusk to dawn LED lighting that cost you $10 cents a year and lasts 25 years.

I received a couple of these unusual products in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and plugged one in to test it. As advertised, The SnapPower Guidelight outlet cover has a tiny light sensor that shuts the plate off during the day (unless it's very overcast, and it requires no wiring.

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Exclusive Discount: Solar Living Sourcebook Helps You Get the Biggest Payback from Your Solar Investment

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Mar 30, 2015 3:24:00 PM

Available exclusively through this site at a 30% discount, the latest edition includes key information you need to make the best long-term choices for self reliance.

The Solar Living Sourcebook has been around for many years, but its authors have not let the book fall behind the times. The latest edition is on top of all of the latest trends in alternative energy systems: thin-film solar panels, building integrated photovoltaics, low-speed wind turbines, heat-recovery ventilators. You name the technology, it's discussed in detail in this book.

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New Research: You Can Guess a Person's Political Persuasion by the Size of His House.

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Mar 12, 2015 2:32:00 PM

The Pew Center study confirms some familiar stereotypes: conservatives  indeed prefer living large in the country, while liberals value smaller digs in urban settings.

THE RESULTS, collected last year in a national survey, shed a little light on why urban and rural homes tend to be so different. And they also take some heat off builders and developers, who are often accused of upselling clients to unnecesarily large homes. In the light of this data, they'e simply giving the market what it wants.

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Trends Toward Extremes (both large and small) in New Home Sizes Reflect the Economic Realities of U.S. Buyers

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Feb 26, 2015 2:18:00 PM

The news about home building these days seems conflicted between the ever-growing trend toward tiny house living and the return of the McMansion. But both sync up perfectly with demographic trends.

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10 Steps Forward: Best Green Building Innovations of the Past Decade

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Feb 22, 2015 8:09:00 PM

In celebration of our 10th anniversary—here are our picks for some of the most important innovations to hit the mainstream of the building industry.

GREEN IS A VAGUE WORD, one that’s often overused and misused. But it’s still arguably the term that consumers relate most to conserving water, energy, biodiversity and raw resources. And when you dig deep enough, these are the “deep green” concerns—the issues likely to impact human survival. On the next tier are “medium green” issues that affect human health: air quality, water purity and so on. In the “light green” arena, I would relegate issues such as plant efficiency and packaging reduction. That’s because, as important as these efforts are, simply making a production facility more efficient does not necessarily mean it will use fewer resources or more recycled material. Often, any decrease in impact is lost as the facility ramps up volume.

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