New Homes: Efficiency Priorities

Focus on the Envelope Home owners and builders seldom give the building envelope the priority it deserves. The insulation, air barrier, windows, and doors are the most important features of a new home. These envelope features determine a home’s energy efficiency and comfort. They’re also permanent and may never change.  Homes with better thermal resistance and airtightness need smaller HVAC systems. …

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Uncomfortable, Energy-Wasting New Commercial Buildings

Neglectful Design I understand why developers and contractors want to build commercial buildings out of steel. For cost and flexibility of design, it’s hard to beat steal beams, girders, and studs. The design error is to overestimate the R-value you achieve with steel-stud walls, given that steel is among the most conductive of building materials. …

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Passive Houses

What is a Passive House? The passive house concept was pioneered in the Northern U.S. and Canada in the late 1970s and early 1980s when it was called “superinsulation”. European builders have improved the superinsulation technology and applied it to both single-family dwellings and apartments. The Passive House founders, including Dr. Wolfgang Feist, believe that reducing building energy …

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Cost-Effective Biomass Fuels for our Energy Future

Biomass energy, especially woody biomass fuels, is our cleanest combustion solution to heating buildings and generating electricity through combined heat and power (CHP). Unfortunately, there is no powerful lobby to promote biomass heating or CHP.  So most people do not know the benefits of woody biomass, and how it will help the nation’s energy future.

Energy Conservation for Buildings: Our Best Investment

Approximately half of all energy used in the U.S. is consumed within buildings. Half of that energy is wasted because of shortsighted design, sloppy construction practices, and careless building operation. Energy conservation in buildings is the easiest and best solution to our energy crisis. It could dramatically reduce our current energy and carbon excesses with …

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Solar Energy After Your Building is Efficient

Solar energy is the next best building-energy solution after energy conservation. Wind and photovoltaic electricity are competitive with coal-fired electricity and less expensive than nuclear electricity. However solar energy isn’t as powerful, or reliable, as electricity or natural gas. Therefore we should reduce our energy use as much as possible before implementing solar energy.

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