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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. Matt is a founding member of the Tiny House Industry Association, and sits on the board of The Resilience Hub, an educational organization focused on permaculture and hands-on reskilling.
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Recent Posts

Staying Home: A Look at Assisted Living Technology

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jun 18, 2019 3:26:42 PM

The baby boomer generation has entered the period of life when it needs assistance to live comfortably and independently. Just in time, assisted living technology could offer a pathway to what boomers want most.

Chances are, you’ve already encountered the reality of aging in America, through a family member or on your own. And unless you’re very wealthy or live on a commune, it’s far worse than what you expected.

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Builders: Put Green-Shaming Housing Maps to Good Use

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

May 24, 2019 9:26:32 AM

Sharing utility bills in public maps creates peer pressure among neighboring properties. Why not become an equalizer?

Human nature is  a fickle thing. Builders with good intentions with regard to housing performance and sustainability often run up against would-be homeowners who care about little other than square footage and countertop materials. For years, those of us in the "green" camp of construction have sought the magic bullets that will convert everyone to the side of conservation and responsibility. To date, our strongest allies have probably been the ever tightening parameters of building codes. The time is rapidly approaching when no new home in the U.S. will be built with less than Net Zero-plus performance.

In the meantime, however, we have roughly 130 million existing homes in need of performance upgrades, and with the advent of certain new technology, these under-performing homes, for better or worse, will have no place to hide.

This technology is data sharing via interactive maps.

For example, Gainesville, Florida, has launched a Beta website called Gainesville-Green.com that publishes the relative energy used by different house parcels in the same neighborhood. This interactive mapping system allows homeowners, utilities and city officials to quickly identify individual homes and entire neighborhoods that use a lot more power than their neighbors.

Peer pressure from neighbors has historically proven an effective method of getting people to tighten up. According to Popular Science, studies by Opower and other organizations have shown significant reduction in energy use by neighbors, when presented with the fact that their neighbors are doing upgrades.

 

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Assisted Living Technology: Urgency and Empathy

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

May 23, 2019 1:37:23 PM

Making the lives of seniors better offers technology firms a priceless objective.

Often, the dark side of technology seems to outweigh its value. Too late, for example, are we learning about Facebook’s role in spreading hate speech, fueling conspiracies and generating false news. Watch a few episodes of “Black Mirror” and you’ll see many examples of technology’s disruptive potential. But does technology have to careen out of control?

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Fire Risks Make the Switch to Mineral Wool Exteriors Urgent

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 24, 2019 10:42:20 AM

Recent disastrous fires and changing codes suggest that rigid foam cladding is too risky, but mineral wool can fill the void.

Since the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in the UK in June of 2017, questions about the safety of cladding commercial structures with rigid foam continue to arise. To be clear, concerns about low-rise residential properties seem less urgent. The issue is whether structures that contain large number of people—apartment buildings, office complexes, schools and hospitals-- are put in harm’s way by continuous rigid foam-based cladding.

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Brand Excellence vs Brand Arrogance

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 11, 2019 11:10:12 AM

Trusted companies that listen closely to their customers improve products rapidly.

What makes a great brand, when it comes to earning and keeping the mental space of sustainability? Let me give you two examples: Owens Corning and TOTO.

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Lowes Fails the Customer Service Litmus Test

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Mar 27, 2019 8:39:17 PM

When employees lack the flexibility to fix customer issues on the fly, corporate should bear the blame.

Box stores such as Lowes want a lot. They want to “own” the DIY consumer market, but also to gain the loyalty of building pros. But here’s a message for all of the suits at Lowes, who set the mission statements, goals and employee handbooks. No customer should ever leave the store fuming, as I did today.

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Engineering With Heart

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Mar 1, 2019 12:31:42 PM

Bringing building science and beauty together doesn’t happen accidentally.

It’s very easy to go wrong. I think of my poor neighbor, who remuddled together some cliché ideas about luxury with efficiency upgrades, festooning his bright and airy apartment building with dark wood floors, crypt-like basement bedrooms, and over-the-top moldings and cabinetry, to end up with a colorless, gloomy space with the feng shui of a hotel lobby.

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Dementia Villages Evoke Nostalgia, for Better and Worse

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Feb 25, 2019 2:29:02 PM

 

Manifesting an alternate reality that fuses Pleasantville with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, daycares for the forgetful require some soul searching.

Photo: KPBS.org

IF A FRIEND HADN'T SENT ME A LINK TO THIS STORY, I would have thought it was “fake news.” But this is no hoax. A place called Glenner Town Square really exists. It’s a faux community, if you will, a partial replica of long-vanished, airbrushed San Diego. The 9,000-sq. ft.  "town" has been carefully constructed to resemble mid- to late 1950s San Diego, built inside a 20,000-sq. ft. industrial building.

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CES 2019: Eight Innovations that Matter

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jan 13, 2019 1:57:10 PM

Among the thousands of useless whiz-bangs and comfort enhancers, these gadgets raise the sustainability bar.

IN MY THREE DAY SOJOURN through the thundering carnival of CES, a few products and services cut through the clutter to offer real problem solving. Some save energy. Others help seniors stay in their homes longer. Still others prevent damage to homes or optimize entire apartment buildings so they can "talk" to utilities. Some simply encourage more cooking at home. All warrant a second look.

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CES: Has Kohler Lost its Sustainable Soul?

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jan 11, 2019 10:18:36 AM

At CES, the company is promoting Alexa-enabled faucets, vanity mirrors and water guzzling showers over performance and efficiency.

Perhaps I expect too much. But in the more than two decades I’ve been attending trade shows and writing about building products, Kohler has consistently been one of the good guys. They always seemed to be making forward strides to reduce water waste, educate the public about conservation, and tighten up their vast manufacturing facilities.

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CES: Toyota Avalon Can Make This Tiny House Go Crazy

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jan 11, 2019 9:40:57 AM

The latest hybrid electric model from Toyota "talks" to the Align Project house in real time, triggering off-the-wall routines.

As part of the Align House exhibit at CES in Las Vegas, this Toyota Avalon Hybrid bridges the "missing link" between home and mobility. The concept has been around, but Toyota is leading the curve in actual execution. The vehicle has a heads-up display screen called the Entune App Suite, with many built in bells and whistles.

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The Align Project is Open for Tours at CES

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jan 9, 2019 1:20:26 PM

The Align Project opened Tuesday at CES2019, beginning with an international media event.

Visitors so far have included Google subcontractors who oohed and aahed about the home's austere yet complete interior.

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How Historic Preservation Harpoons Energy Efficiency

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Dec 31, 2018 5:02:04 AM

From sightline rules about solar panels to preservation of antique windows, historic district watchdogs do measurable harm and negligible good.

Portland, Maine is a great city, for some.

Known for its food, working waterfront, and to a lesser degree, historic buildings, it’s a place many people would like to retire.  But hand in hand with these pleasant daguerrotype fantasies, are the challenges. Perhaps Portland has always been two cities: the affluent one and the other one--Halfway houses number well into the double digits. Shuffling heroin addicts roam the streets, and public alcoholism often ends in a collapse on the sidewalk. But on the East and West Ends of the peninsula, where many of the oldest homes are, cash-rich newcomers have clashed with entrenched residents. Teardowns are causing an uproar. People are afraid the city will be “Bostonized.”

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