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Science Isn’t Perfect, But It Beats Regret

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Oct 4, 2018 1:35:28 PM

A short time ago, Hurricane Florence bore down on North Carolina. Coincidentally, the North Carolina Home Builders Association’s conference had just started—but builders left the conference early to prepare their job sites and businesses for the deluge.

A Bloomberg report cited Metrostudy data that indicates builders in the Raleigh-Durham region have about 7,500 new homes in their inventory, approximately 600 of which are under construction in coastal Wilmington.

Flash back six years: The same builder association helped bankroll conservative state Rep. Pat McElraft, who put forward a bill rejecting predictions about the state’s vulnerability to massive flooding and damage—made more dire by climate change. 

Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, let the legislation quietly become law by doing nothing. Bad policymaking is not always partisan.

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Building Science: The Pathway to Resilience

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Oct 30, 2017 2:20:06 PM

Preparing future homes to survive climate-induced shocks begins now.

Builders face tough times. Each year brings more restrictive land use, rising material costs, stricter building codes (in some areas) and the ever-looming threat of litigation. Of course, sometimes the industry backs outdated ways of building (opposition to low-flow toilets a few years ago was not a high mark). But builder groups in California were right to resist a new bill that holds them responsible for the unpaid wages of their subcontractors’ employees. We need our best and brightest focused on what really matters—building high-performance housing—not fighting legal battles.

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Video: Scathing ABC News Report on New Home Quality

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Nov 18, 2016 6:53:42 PM

NAHB CEO pushed on the question of "shoddy" building practices.

ABC News looks into new home quality nationwide.  Despite the NAHB CEO saying quality of homes is better than ever, big builders are setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars for defect claims and calling it an "ordinary course of business".

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Study: Most Toilets "Spray" Germs If Flushed with Open Lid

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Sep 22, 2015 7:37:23 AM

Prepare to be grossed out. A Discovery Channel episode tests the truth of the toilet "spray" rumor, and finds it to be mostly true.

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Insulation: Don't Leave Your Home Without It

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Jan 21, 2015 2:33:40 PM

Know the Lingo

R-Value: A measure of how effectively a material resists heat flow. Thus, higher numbers are better. 

Batt: A length of insulation that is precut to fit certain wall cavity dimensions. Typically sold in a pre-cut roll.

Unfaced/Faced Insulation: Faced insulation (typically a fiberglass batt) includes a vapor retarder on the interior face that restricts movement of moist air into wall cavities. Unfaced is simply a batt without a vapor retarder.

Ridge Vent: An opening covered by a rainproof vent that follows the peak of the roof, typically required by code. Some insulating methods, however, negate the need for a ridge vent. Clear it with your local code official first.

Blow-In: Method of introducing loose fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool to framing cavities or attic space, typically using a machine with an attached hose.

Blower Door: Equipment used to test the effectiveness of a home’s insulation and air sealing systems.

Stud Cavity: The space between the vertical members of a conventionally framed wood or lightweight steel home. Common stud spacings include 16” and 24” on center (of stud).

IF YOU'VE EVER opened up the wall of a home built before about 1950, you’ve probably been shocked to find little or no insulation—or at best some crumpled newspapers. And even the earliest serious attempts at insulation with fiberglass look quaint now. Cavities were often only partially filled. Water from outside often leaked in around windows and doors and damaged the insulation. Of course, homes were so leaky prior to the 1960s that walls dried out quickly, so mold wasn’t a big problem.

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Indoor Air Quality: Manage Air Flow and Materials

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Jan 14, 2015 2:29:00 PM

ONE OF THE CONFUSING CHARACTERISTICS of green building certification programs is the way they lump together two different aspects of building science: saving energy and keeping indoor air safe and clean. Is a green home one that saves energy, or one that has healthier indoor air than a conventional home?
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Flat Roofs Earn Their Keep

Posted by Dan McCue

Dec 30, 2014 1:23:00 PM


WHEN PAUL LEDMAN PAUSED TO CONSIDER THE ROOFING OPTIONS of the new, multi-family home he was building in historic Portland, Maine, the ultimate choice seemed like a no-brainer.

To the former New Yorker, who has developed several multi-family brownstone and commercial projects, a pitched roof would have just seemed odd for the three-unit home he was contemplating.

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Proper Installation of APA Rated Sheathing for Roof Applications

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Dec 11, 2014 11:41:28 AM

Check out this informative entry on sheathing for roof applications available on the APA builders' tips page. Downloadable pdfs on this and other subjects are available.

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The Dirty Truth About Outdated Wood Stoves

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Dec 8, 2014 5:59:00 PM

This snazzy infographic spells out the health and energy reasons that you should replace older wood stoves with new, certified models.

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The Promise of Good Ideas

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Dec 6, 2014 5:21:00 AM

Before you say "nothing ever changes," here are five energy and water-saving innovations to be grateful for this holiday season.

EACH YEAR, we update and “remodel” our special Homeowner's Handbook for homeowners and would-be homeowners. (Free download available here). The publication isn’t just for the general public, of course. It’s a tool for green professionals: a free, easy-to-follow how-to guide that can be shared with clients and potential clients, so that they enter the building/remodeling process with a basic understanding of why green building matters—and which systems are critical to a high-performance home.

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Choosing a Wood Stove

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Dec 5, 2014 4:31:00 PM

OLDER, UNCERTIFIED wood stoves produce 30 to 50 grams of particulate per hour, contributing to asthma and a host of other health issues. The internal design of wood stoves has changed entirely since the EPA issued standards of performance for new wood stoves in 1988. Today’s wood stove models feature improved safety and efficiency; they produce almost no smoke, minimal ash and require less firewood.

Emission Limits for Wood Stoves.
EPA’s mandatory smoke emission limit for wood stoves is 7.5 grams of smoke per hour (g/h) for non-catalytic stoves and 4.1 g/h for catalytic stoves. Some newer stoves have certified emissions in the 1 to 4 g/h range;.

When comparing models, look for the EPA white label on the stove. A lower g/h rating means a cleaner, more efficient stove. Also check for safety labeling by the Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada (ULC) or another testing and certification body.

Types of Wood Stoves
The two general approaches to meeting the EPA smoke emission limits are non-catalytic and catalytic combustion. Although most of the stoves on the market are non-catalytic, some of the more popular high-end stoves use catalytic combustion. Because they are slightly more complicated to operate, catalytic stoves are suited to people who like technology and are prepared to maintain the stove properly, so it continues to operate at peak performance.

Non-Catalytic Stoves. Three components make these stoves efficient: firebox insulation, a large baffle to produce a longer, hotter gas flow path and pre-heated combustion air introduced through small holes above the fuel in the firebox. The baffle and some other internal parts of a non-catalytic stove will need replacement from time to time, as they deteriorate with the high heat of efficient combustion.

Catalytic Stoves. These stoves produce a long, even heat output—thanks to catalytic combustion—in which the smoky exhaust is passed through a coated ceramic honeycomb inside the stove where the smoke gases and particles ignite and burn. All catalytic stoves have a lever-operated catalyst bypass damper, which is opened for starting and reloading. The catalytic honeycomb degrades over time and must be replaced; it can last more than six seasons if the stove is used properly. If the stove is over-fired, if inappropriate fuel is burned, or if regular cleaning and maintenance are not done, the catalyst may break down in as little as two years.

Sizing. Small stoves are suitable for heating a family room or a seasonal cottage. In larger homes with older central furnaces, you can use a small stove for “zone heating” a specific area of your home (family or living room). Medium stoves are suitable for heating small houses, medium-sized energy-efficient houses and cottages used in winter. Large stoves are suitable for larger, open-plan houses or older, leakier houses in colder climate zones.

Wood Matters. Dense or “hard” wood contains the most energy per cord and is the best choice for peak winter conditions. Burning softer woods during swing seasons keeps rooms from overheating. Regardless, wood should be dried and stored for at least two years before burning. Source: EPA

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Building Science: SIPs Go Up at Mariposa Meadows

Posted by Al Cobb, Guest Columnist

Nov 19, 2014 3:19:00 PM

Spending the last quarter-century in the SIP industry has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of individuals in the construction arena, and one of my most prized contacts is Mr. Green Builder himself, Ron Jones. When Ron presented his thoughts on the latest VISION House project at the SIPA Annual Meeting last April, my company PanelWrights was one of the first in line offering SIP design and installation services.

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Attic Caps: Fixing a Hole

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Oct 9, 2014 3:24:00 PM

It seemed like everywhere I turned at this year’s International Builder Show, I cam across a new variation on an old idea—closing up the space above attic access stairs. While no one seems to have exact figures, third party testing suggests that some brands cut attic air infiltration by 70 percent.

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