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Better Buildings Require Challenges to Conventional Wisdom

Posted by Chris Magwood, Guest Columnist

Feb 13, 2017 4:00:31 PM

Looking beyond the micro-flaws and minimizing impact at the macro level

There is a remarkable paradox when it comes to introducing new technologies, in construction or any other field. We expect new ideas or technologies to live up to unrealistically high standards, while at the same time we accept as normal many existing ideas or technologies that are inherently deeply flawed.

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Pioneer Project Upgraded to Passive House Plus

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Dec 5, 2016 10:13:03 AM

World's first Passive House in Darmstadt, Germany produces renewable energy.

The world’s first Passive House building has increased its already high energy efficiency level and now relies on renewable energy. About a year ago, a photovoltaic system was installed on the roof of a row house built in 1991 in Darmstadt. Since then, this pioneering Passive House project has been producing its own electricity, thus fulfilling the criteria of a Passive House Plus building. The official certificate was recently issued.

"Passive House buildings are perfectly equipped to utilise renewable energy. With their extremely low heating energy demand, it is even possible to derive as much energy from the sun on-site as is consumed in the house over a year", explains Dr. Wolfgang Feist. Together with his wife Witta Ebel he recently accepted the Passive House Plus certificate.

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"nPulp" Is Being Pitched as an Alternative to Sticks and Bricks

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Jul 25, 2016 9:38:10 AM

A prototype house in Taiwan demonstrates how the material could be used to create alternative bricks, boards and more, held together by nontoxic binders.

This from Engineering.com:

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Self-Insulating Concrete? Step-by-Step Manual Details Construction of Hempcrete Structures

Posted by Chris Magwood, Guest Columnist

Jun 2, 2016 7:30:30 AM

New book explains everything you need to know about "Hempcrete."

Hempcrete (or hemp-lime, as it’s commonly called in Europe) is a promising building insulation material. It is also the subject of more hype and hyperbole than any other sustainable building material. Proponents of hemp-based products tend toward unsupported or exaggerated claims of performance and planetary benefit with Websites that make the material seem miraculous.

In truth, hempcrete is simply a very good building insulation material, and there are plenty of compelling reasons to consider using it. It makes an excellent addition to the sustainable builder’s “tool kit” of more people- and planet- friendly building solutions. Hempcrete alone will not save the planet, but it will provide an excellent insulation material to a project with the right criteria and context. This book is intended to highlight both the advantages and disadvantages of hempcrete and provide potential users with reliable and tested information

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Trex "Elevations" Steel Framing Could Be a Game Changer, But Lacks the Necessary R&D

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Sep 23, 2015 6:30:00 AM

The idea of a deck structure that lasts 75-100 years is appealing, but Trex's approach to marketing the product is overly cautious.

We published a guest column recently from Trex about their new-ish steel framing system, Elevations. I like the concept of this durable system, but have reservations about recommending it to the larger building community without more accurate science on life cycle, durability and side-by-side embodied energy analysis with PT wood.  I asked Trex for some of this info and got this response from Mel Karlson, their senior product manager. I wasn't completely satisfied with the answers, as you'll see in my response, below, but the dialogue is ongoing...

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New Rock-Based Blocks Said to Be Stronger, Less Polluting than Traditional Concrete

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Aug 30, 2015 4:10:00 AM

Napa-Valley startup Watershed Materials has created a natural masonry that's twice as strong as concrete (7,000 psi).

Partially funded with a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Watershed Materials announced this August that they have developed a form of concrete that is far less CO2 intensive than Portland cement-based product. They're using half the normal Portland Cement to make a masonryl product called the Watershed Block. The new material also contains no fly ash or blast-furnace slag. The company describes the process as “geopolymerizing naturally-occurring clay minerals,” which are found abundantly worldwide.

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Rammed Earth: Affordable, and Relatively Unknown

Posted by James White, Guest Columnist

Jul 15, 2015 7:19:00 PM

Would it surprise you to learn that Spain's Alhambra palace and the Great Wall of China are both made of earth?

They are comprised not of stone or brick, but of a material called rammed earth. Considering that both structures have been standing for well over 1,000 years, doesn't this process deserve a second look?

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Study: Walls: Double-Framed Walls Have More Moisture Resilience Than Expected

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Jun 2, 2015 8:47:00 AM

In a three-year test, double-framed walls that failed ASHRAE's moisture standards did not grow mold or rot as expected.

The study, conducted by Building America, looked at 12-inch wall assemblies in a cold climate (Zone 5A) The stud walls included three insulation approaches: open cell polyurethane spray foam, 12” netted and blown cellulose and 5.5-inch open cell spray foam.

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