Category Archives: Press Releases and News

Be Proactive for a Green Appraisal

greenlightbulbWhen it comes to getting an accurate appraisal for a high-performance home, it’s easier and more practical to take the right steps up front than to try to get a low appraisal revised after the fact.

Appraisal expert Sandra Adromatis, a featured speaker at the High Performance Building Zone during the recent International Builders’ Show, offered advice for securing an accurate appraisal of a high-performance home.

First and most important is documentation, especially of features behind the walls and other items that aren’t immediately obvious.

A good place to start is by taking a close look at the Appraisal Institute’s Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. This is particularly important if the home is built to a nationally recognized program like the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard or includes additional high-performance features that should be documented within the appraisal.

This article appeared on the NAHB Blog.

For the complete article

Ms. Adomatis also presented at the RESNET Conference after the IBS Show. I furnish the Energy portion of the AI Energy Efficient and Green Addendum for every new home rating I do for a builder.  If you would like to see one or see how it would help your building plans, give me a call.

WWII and Energy Efficiency of an Office

Enigma-Machine1Occasionally, my long time interest in History and my job intersect.  Here is a news story that does. The headline “Top Secret Documents found in roof at Bletchley Park”, so I naturally read the article.  Bletchley Park during WWII was a great part of the secret  war effort by Great Britain against Germany.  It was run by His Majesty’s Government Code and Cypher School, to read coded German messages. It is named for the landed estate it was located on and has been turned into a museum. Location.  This is about 60 miles or 100 km NE of London center near the M1.

hut 3The connection to Energy Efficiency is these documents were found stuffing into openings in the roof of ‘Hut 3’  The huts were quickly built barracks type structures built early in the war, and did not have many amenities, even for the time.  Things like insulation, central heating, or probably much in the way of wall board on the inside. So these buildings leaked.  I would guess these very smart, talented folks working in Hut 3, didn’t know much about energy efficiency.  They did know when they were uncomfortable and could feel the wind blowing through the cracks and crevices.

So they took what ever was handy and stuffed the cracks full to stop the wind.  Today we call that air sealing.  These are the guys that invented some of the first computing machines. The solution was, like many of the wartime efforts, not the most elegant, but it worked.

If you would like some help locating the air leaks in your home, give me a call. I’ll use a Blower Door and a computer that is a descendant of those in Bletchley Park.

You can read the whole story here.

Passive House Verifier Training Part 1

PHIUSPHIUS (Passive House Institute United States) is one of two organizations in the US that promote and issue certificates for completion of a home that uses extremely small amounts of energy to heat and cool a home. The other organization is an affiliate of the German PassivHaus Institute.

This organization is based in Illinois. The goal is to make passive building principles the mainstream best building practice, and the mainstream market energy performance standard.

prosocoWhat is a Passive House? It is a home that people want to live in. It must be comfortable for the occupants and it must use very small amounts of energy to heat and cool; and for total energy use as well. RIGHT: A Passive House under construction.

Design for a Passive Home emphasizes energy efficient features that are installed during the construction of the home which do not have moving parts. The design relies on all parts to be installed to manufacturers specifications. These details are verified after they are installed.

Smith HouseThe idea is that insulation and air sealing are very cost effective compared to large and sometimes complex new technology in HVAC Systems. Instead of buying the expensive technology, use the money, that would usually spent on upgraded HVAC system, to increase the insulation levels. The details of how much insulation, what type and where are certainly of interested to  the builder and others involved in planning and construction. These details are less important to the home buyer, they just want things to work at a lower cost.

I am writing about Passive House construction since I just finished the training and testing to become a Passive House Verifier with PHIUS. You will hear more about the Passive House concept and how it might apply to any home.

The First Clothes Dryers to Earn the Energy Star Label Now Available Nationwide

ES DryerEnergy Star Press Release Date: 02/10/2015

Contact Information: Jennifer Colaizzi, colaizzi.jennifer@epa.gov, 202-564-7776, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Energy Star certified clothes dryers are now available nationwide through major retailers. At least 45 models of dryers earning the Energy Star label, including Whirlpool, Maytag, Kenmore, LG, and Safemate, are at least 20 percent more efficient and now available at prices comparable to standard dryers. 

“Dryers are one of the most common household appliances and the biggest energy users,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA’s Energy Star certified clothes dryers offer Americans an opportunity to save energy and do their part to combat climate change. By working with industry, we are bringing innovative technology to market that’s good for the planet.”

Clothes dryers consume more energy than any other appliance in the home, and 80 percent of American homes have dryers. But unlike clothes washers, which have seen a 70 percent drop in energy use since 1990, the energy efficiency of most dryers has not improved. If all residential clothes dryers sold in the U.S. were Energy Star certified, Americans could save $1.5 billion each year in utility costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity use from more than 1.3 million homes.

The efficiency specifications were developed with extensive input from manufacturers, retailers, the U.S. Department of Energy, and environmental groups. Manufacturers meet the specification requirements by incorporating advanced sensors that more effectively detect when clothes are dry and stop the dryer.

Energy Star certified dryers include gas, electric and compact models. The Energy Star label can also be found on dryers that feature new advanced heat pump technology and are 40 percent more efficient than conventional models. Heat pump dryers recapture the hot air used by the dryer and pump it back into the drum. By re-using most of the heat, a heat pump dryer is more efficient and avoids the need for ducts.
For the complete Press Release:

Energy Efficiency is America’s No. 1 Housing Concern

Home-Insulation-300x225Safety, affordability and privacy – it’s no surprise that these were some of top housing needs identified in a recent national survey of more than 10,000 households. But the No. 1 unmet housing concern, which the Demand Institute that carried out the poll defined as the “satisfaction gap” between what respondents actually have and what they said was important, was not as easily expected: energy efficiency.

Survey respondents were given a list of 52 housing and community concerns and asked to rank them, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how important they felt the issues were and how much their current home satisfied these needs. The result: 71 percent of U.S. households polled placed a great deal of importance on energy efficiency, but only 35 percent felt their homes were very energy efficient with low monthly utility costs (the respondents making up percentages answered these questions with an 8, 9 or 10 ranking).

Based on these numbers, energy efficiency was the housing concern with the largest gap between the rates of importance and satisfaction – beating out consumer needs and wants for updated kitchens, storage space, safe neighborhoods, affordability, landlord responsiveness and more.

Why the strong desire for energy-wise homes?

“Utilities are a significant and regular part of households’ budgets, and spending on utilities has risen more quickly than overall consumer spending – 56 percent vs. 38 percent growth since 2000,” said Louise Keely, president of the Demand Institute, a nonprofit think tank jointly created and operated by Nielsen and the Conference Board to monitor consumer demand.

To read more of this report:  The Demand Institute Poll on Triple Pundit.

Indoor Air Quality Evaluations

The quality of the Indoor Air of our homes and offices is an important part of our health and comfort.

There is not much sense in putting a lot of good insulation into a building if it is:

  • Not Structurally Sound
  • Not Healthy

What types of things can be done to improve the Indoor Air Quality of any home or property?

  1. The immediate environment of the structure must be kept separate from the inside.
  2. The required fresh air that is needed, in every one of our buildings, should be filtered and otherwise treated for comfort and to remove pollutants.
  3. The pollutants that are created during the normal operation of our building must be eliminated, removed, replaced, diluted or neutralized.
  4. Moisture in any form must be controlled , and then removed avoiding any accumulation.
  5. Any and all accumulations of moisture damage or animal infestation must be cleaned up and damaged building components replaced.
  • A Full Indoor Air Quality evaluation must address all of those concerns.
  • Full interior visual inspection
  • Full exterior visual inspection
  • Testing of the building enclosure to ensure the outside stays outside
    • Infrared Evaluation as part of the above testing
  • Inspection of HVAC Duct Work and systems that move air.
  • Combustion Safety Inspection on open combustion appliances
    • Moisture, Carbon Monoxide, N02, SO2 and others
  • Infrared and other testing for moisture accumulations.
  • Sample Collection of suspended and/or deposited material that are potential pollutants or irritants.
    • Examination and Evaluation by a certified Microbiological Laboratory of these samples.

This evaluation is typically completed in two visits to the home or business. Level I Evaluation and Testing is non-destructive and not invasive.

Level II Evaluation and Testing involves invasive inspections. These may be as simple as drilling a few holes for visual inspection or sampling. It may involve removing obviously damaged building material, that requires replacement, for example wet drywall.

Contact The Energy Guy for further information about an Indoor Air Quality Evaluation.

Poll: Energy Efficiency is America’s No. 1 Housing Concern

Safety, affordability and privacy – it’s no surprise that these were some of top housing needs identified in a recent national survey of more than 10,000 households. But the No. 1 unmet housing concern, which the Demand Institute that carried out the poll defined as the “satisfaction gap” between what respondents actually have and what they said was important, was not as easily expected: energy efficiency.Insulation

Survey respondents were given a list of 52 housing and community concerns and asked to rank them, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how important they felt the issues were and how much their current home satisfied these needs. The result: 71 percent of U.S. households polled placed a great deal of importance on energy efficiency, but only 35 percent felt their homes were very energy efficient with low monthly utility costs (the respondents making up percentages answered these questions with an 8, 9 or 10 ranking).

To read more continue here

World’s first 3D-printed apartment building constructed in China

A Chinese company has successfully 3D printed a five-storey apartment building and a 1,100 square metre (11,840 sf) villa from a special print material.

3D Printed BuildingWhile architectural firms compete with their designs for 3D-printed dwellings, one company in China has quietly been setting about getting the job done. In March of last year, company WinSun claimed to have printed 10 houses in 24 hours, using a proprietary 3D printer that uses a mixture of ground construction and industrial waste, such as glass and tailings, around a base of quick-drying cement mixed with a special hardening agent.

Now, WinSun has further demonstrated the efficacy of its technology — with a five-storey apartment building and a 1,100 square metre (11,840 square foot) villa, complete with decorative elements inside and out, on display at Suzhou Industrial Park.

Read More for C Net

What Happens to a Bowl?

My Wood Turning Album on Facebook says

‘Sometimes something besides sawdust and wood shavings comes out of my shop.’  A number of those items are bowls.  Big ones, little ones, most are turned with a use in mind. One of the questions I am asked is:  “What happens to a bowl?’  Here is one answer.

11 inch ElmThis bowl started life as part of an Elm Tree.  It was planted many years ago, perhaps it was not planted, and just landed there.  As the tree grew, the power lines got in the way and the branches were trimmed.  The tree provided shade to those that paused under it.  Shade to the houses, and a perch for many birds.  In  the summer of 2012 the Elm was not in the best shape.  Somewhat lop sided due to the need to protect the power lines, it was still impressive.  The main trunk was about 36 inches at ground level.  The tree branched out in many ways.  The houses near by were within the shade and within the fall of branches as the wind blew. The homeowners felt very thankful for the shade and their time with the tree. The time had come.

The arborist came out and found why so many branches were dropping with minor winds.   The tree was dying, from the inside out.  So it was cut back and finally cut down.  This is quite a process to watch, as guys climb up the tree with safety ropes and chain saws.  The smaller branches drop around the tree, then the larger high branches.  The rain of branches dropping stops from time to time.  The branches are cleared away and those worth recycling are cut up and stacked. Then the process repeats itself. Eventually, the tree was down and the large trunk was cut into manageable pieces.Elm

I was luck enough to pick up some of this wonderful tree.  I have turned a few items.  The half log this bowl came out of was placed on the lathe last summer. The tree was still alive when it was cut down. So I partially turned this one to help it dry out. Then it put it aside to see how it dried out.  This one did rather well.  No cracks or splits and not much warping.  Last winter, it went back on the lathe to turn down to the finished size.

I removed more waste and cleaned up the shape. Along the way, I found some evidence of worms and other pieces of the decay process the arborist saw that was killing the tree from the inside out.  Over Labor Day weekend the turning and sanding was completed. The bottom was labeled and an oil finish was applied.

Since this bowl is designed as a Popcorn Bowl, 11 inches across and 5 inches tall, an oil finish is perfect. The oil from popcorn will continue to renew the finish for years to come.  Some time last winter I posted an in progress picture of this bowl on the lathe to Twitter. I had a question regarding the price of a bowl like that.  I thought about it and responded that this bowl would be donated to a local charity for their silent auction fundraiser. Then I got an idea for increasing the value and thus boost the auction results.

The idea of boosting the Silent Auction results, causes a trip to our local Dillon’s Store. A few items from the shelf and some clear gift wrap from the knowledgeable staff at the Floral Center.  Here they are putting the finishing touches on the wrapping.

IMG_7954

This Popcorn Bowl is ready.  It is a heavy bowl, suitable for passing around the room during movie night or for a football game. The beads near the rim will help those buttery fingers hold on.  Any type of snack with some butter, oil or other similar snack will renew the finish.  Just wipe out with a dry cloth, ( or damp, if you wish.)

This little part of the big Elm tree, is now ready for a new chapter. The tree that took so many years to grow up, all the while sheltering the people and birds and other animals that paused for a few minutes or a few years, will continue to provide comfort and shelter to another family.

I took this Bowl to Wichita Habitat for Humanity this afternoon. It will be part of the Silent Auction at their annual Raise the Roof event this Saturday evening. Here are a couple of the wonderful staff at Wichita Habitat accepting the donation.

ErinIf you would like to attend their Raise The Roof Event, it is scheduled this coming Saturday evening, September, 13 at 5:00    You can read more about it, and buy your tickets at this link.

RaiseTheRoof

 

More Information and Registration for Raise the Roof.

International Code Council Adopts Energy Rating Index Compliance Option into the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code

This was released today!  The NAHB noted the approval through their Twitter Stream @NAHB on Tuesday!  More options to meet the Energy Code!  Great way to provide flexibility for all builders. One more reason for adoption of an Energy Code in Wichita/Sedgwick County.

Factsheet on adding the HERS Index compliance path

TEXT OF ANNOUNCEMENT:
On October 7, 2013, the International Code Council (ICC) voted to incorporate an optional Energy Rating Index compliance path into the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) at its meeting in Atlantic City.

The ICC action establishes a new voluntary performance compliance path for the 2015 version of the IECC the “Energy Rating Index”.  The Energy Rating Index is a numeric score where “100” is equivalent to the 2006 IECC and “0” is equivalent to a net-zero energy home.  The current HERS Index Score is compatible to the Energy Rating Index requirements.  This means a builder can use a HERS rating to comply with the 2015 IECC.

The adopted new performance path also requires that a builder must meet the mandatory envelope requirements of the 2009 IECC.

The rating scores that were adopted by the IECC are:

Regions 1 and 2                52
Region 3                           51
Region 4                           54
Region 5                           55
Region 6                           54
Region 7 and 8                  53

The new compliance path was proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Institute of Market Transformation and the Britt/Makela Group.

RESNET backed an amendment that represented a compromise on higher rating scores that was reached between the Leading Builders of America and the cosponsors.  This amendment, however, was defeated.

RESNET Executed Director Steve Baden lauded the ICC’s action as a “victory for consumers and builders.  Homes complying through this path will be higher performing hence having lower utility bills while at the same time provides more flexibility to builders in meeting the code.  The action is also a big step for RESNET and the HERS industry.  With this new responsibility RESNET has to step up its game and make a concentrated effort to ensure consistent and accurate HERS Index Scores.”

Much appreciation must be expressed to our partners for their effective leadership.  Without the leadership of the by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Leading Builders of America, Institute of Market Transformation and the Brill/Makela Group this would not have been possible.  Support from the National Home Builders Association, North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, DOW, Green Building Coalition and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Program was critical as well as the more than 150 RESNET member companies and organizations added their voices in support of this effort.