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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

White Paper: Formaldehyde from Building Products Can Offgass for Years

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Oct 21, 2016 8:45:19 AM

Researching on indoor air pollution recently, I discovered this study from 2005 on the "half-life" of formaldehyde in homes, based on the age of the house and the types of materials used. It makes for thought-provoking reading. Here's the abstract and a link:

"Decay is the decrease in formaldehyde concentrations in homes or the decrease in emissions from formaldehyde containing products over time. The decrease in formaldehyde concentrations over time (decay) in home studies is typically determined by associating formaldehyde concentrations by home age. The average half life in such studies is highly variable, varying from about 1 year to more than 20 years, depending on the nature of the home population under study and other factors.

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Will the Other Bill McKibbens Please Stand Up?

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Sep 26, 2016 2:19:18 PM

Its time for everyday climate heroes in the building industry to lead by example.

WHY IS THERE ONLY ONE BILL MCKIBBEN? If you’re holding a conference on saving the world, who comes to mind as a keynote speaker? Bill McKibben. If you wrote a book about living more simply, who will sing its praises on the back cover? Bill McKibben.
You might start to think that Bill McKibben the only person on Earth who has anything wise, or prescient, or quotable to say about saving ourselves from ourselves. That’s not true, of course.

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Minnesota Solar Non-Profit Rreal Hosts Local Gala to Raise Money for Low-Income Solar Installations

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Sep 14, 2016 9:54:56 AM

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance is doing good work, combining a positive mission with renewable energy and now, beer. What's not to like?

I visited with Jay Edens, director of Rreal on a trip to the midwest last month. Edens has created an unlikely oasis of solar hope (i know that sounds cliche', but it's simply true) in the middle of rural Minnesota. Pine River. Population 900 plus or minus. The organization runs several different types of projects, from solar furnaces (wall-mounted passive solar heat) for low-income families on energy assistance (LIHEAP) to PV installations for community centers to educational outreach.

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Solar PV Cheaper to Install on New Production Homes than Retrofits

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Aug 28, 2016 9:27:29 PM

The report found clear advantages in an economy of scale, especially for large volume builders.

Key Findings:

•  PV systems installed in new construction tend to be small and have high incidence of premium modules (top chart)

•  Nevertheless, residential new construction systems in CA were $0.5/W less than retrofits in 2015.

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Is the Urban Land Institute Seriously Trotting Out George W. Bush to Talk About Economic Growth and Technology?

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Aug 26, 2016 9:09:06 PM

When Obama took office, "Dubya" quietly slinked off into the shadows, with disapproval ratings in the 64 percent range. Now ULI is bringing him back.

Reading the lineup for the next ULI conference, I had to do a major double take.

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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 has 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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