News

Blog Post

Upgrading our basement dehumidifier

September 21, 2018

The basement of our well-insulated and air-sealed 100+-year-old home is dry, but enough moisture (as vapor) makes its way through our concrete walls and slab that dehumidification is a must from about April through October. Dehumidification comes with a pretty big energy penalty, so I am proactive in managing this load: when I see that... Read more

News Brief

Step-by-step guidance helps design teams put healthier material selection into practice on every project.

September 10, 2018

Awareness of material transparency and hazardous chemical avoidance has increased dramatically over the past several years. But awareness is only half the battle. In practice, selecting building materials that are safer for people and the planet can still be a highly complex and difficult task.

In response to this issue, the American... Read more

Feature Article

Building materials emit massive amounts of carbon long before the lights go on. Here’s how thoughtful design can reduce global warming impact.

September 10, 2018

Climate change is a rapidly escalating emergency, and we have a lot of hard work to do in order to mitigate its effects. For building professionals, that has typically meant increasing energy efficiency and pushing for renewable energy production, thus reducing the amount of carbon generated by the fossil fuels we burn in order to... Read more

Product Review

Integrating low-temperature hydronic distribution with air-to-water heat pumps provides a more comfortable and “future-proof” heating system for residential and light commercial applications.

September 10, 2018

Hydronic systems, which use water to move energy, are one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool buildings. Water carries far more energy than air, and does so in a small pipe rather than in leaky, bulky ductwork. It can also be engineered to deliver personalized heating or cooling to individual rooms. Many of the hydronic systems used in... Read more

News Brief

An exhaustive plant-by-plant study reveals the toxic impacts of producing chlorine for PVC, polyurethane, epoxy, and polycarbonate.

August 23, 2018

Chlorine is a problem. Used in many industrial processes, including the production of PVC and other plastics, it readily combines with other compounds to form persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals (PBTs). These chemicals are not only toxic but also highly mobile in the environment and don’t break down readily.

The green building... Read more

Product Review

Shaw is now offering biobased and recycled PET resilient flooring options for commercial and healthcare applications.

August 6, 2018

If you want to avoid vinyl, there are plenty of resilient flooring options available, including rubber and linoleum. But PVC-free flooring can be a challenge to integrate into projects because it is typically expensive, and in some cases its durability or environmental credentials may not even be that great. Some rubber flooring, for instance,... Read more

News Brief

The criteria for the COTE Top Ten awards have been refashioned into a best-practice design guide for use on any project.

August 6, 2018

What can you do to make any project greener, even one with a small budget and an unmotivated client? A new guide helps designers focus on the strategies that have proven to be most effective.

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) has released the phase one draft of the AIA COTE Top Ten Toolkit.... Read more

News Analysis

Recent large-scale projects highlight the beneficial intersections between modular prefabrication, wood construction, and Passive House design.

August 6, 2018

The goals of sustainable design and construction have evolved to include an increasing focus on the embodied impacts of buildings in addition to the operational impacts. And although strategies that can achieve these goals have emerged—like net-zero design, onsite renewables, material reuse, and whole-building life-cycle analysis—many can... Read more

News Brief

Energy, water, waste, and operating costs were all lower in buildings targeting higher performance, according to a new study.

August 6, 2018

Do good intentions actually result in lower energy and water use? The answer is decidedly yes in federal buildings, according to a new report from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

The study compared 100 buildings that meet the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings with 100 “legacy stock” buildings. The... Read more

News Analysis

Designers asked for transparency and got it. Now they need to follow through with specs, say producers.

August 6, 2018

Five years ago, about 40 prominent architecture firms issued a demand to manufacturers: tell us what’s in your products. They got transparency documents for thousands of product lines in return, according to 35 signatories to a recent letter, and now it’s time for those architecture firms to follow up with “demand” in the economic sense of the... Read more

Op-Ed

It will take intensive collaboration across sectors to change an industry and get us safer, better products.

August 6, 2018

Back in 2013, when LEED version 4 was just emerging, the push for information transparency in building materials got a boost when a host of major architecture firms put a stake in the ground. HKS and then SmithGroupJJR led the way, with public letters requesting that manufacturers provide details about the contents of their products using an... Read more

News Analysis

The rating system, used abroad for decades, offers a flexible alternative to LEED that’s conducive to innovative approaches.

July 16, 2018

Project teams looking for tools to help them design high-performance buildings in the U.S. will soon have another option: the BREEAM New Construction standard. 

You may have heard of it. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) has been used in countries around the world since 1990. The program has... Read more

Blog Post

Can we put to bed the corrosion concerns with this insulation?

July 13, 2018

A particularly well thought-out and thorough question from reader Aaron Birkland on the pH of phenolic foam and its possible corrosive nature prompted me to follow up my original blog post on Kingspan’s Kooltherm rigid insulation. Aaron has two main questions:

Has the issue of acidity and corrosion of fasteners or metal roof decks been... Read more

Blog Post

How the accumulation of dust, pollen, and bird droppings affects the energy production of a PV array

July 10, 2018

I was at my brother’s house in Lee, New Hampshire, recently and looked up to see that his photovoltaic (PV) panels looked a bit dull (see Image #2 in the slideshow). His PV array is easy to get to—the long north slope of his roof has a walkable 5:12 pitch—so we went up and took a closer look.

It turns out that the PV industry... Read more

Feature Article

Lighting is an essential element in quality environments that support health and wellness while reducing energy use.

July 9, 2018

The functionality of a building is largely dependent on the quality of its lighting. In order to safely and comfortably perform their tasks, occupants need lighting that provides adequate visibility without causing discomfort or distraction.

But a focus on quality is also the key to achieving sustainable lighting.

As Nancy... Read more

News Brief

The Chemical Hazard Data Commons is a resource on toxic chemicals for geeks and newbies alike.

July 9, 2018

Curious about the toxic substances in building products? See a chemical on a Health Product Declaration that you’d like to know more about? You might want to check out the Chemical Hazard Data Commons, a free online resource from the Healthy Building Network (HBN). HBN is a nonprofit focused on reducing the use of toxic chemicals in building... Read more

Product Review

The LightFair innovation award winners showcase LED lighting’s evolving technology and how its sustainability image has changed.

July 9, 2018

The most energy-efficient LED light is cold, blue, and focused directionally on a small area; it is some of the worst light quality imaginable. Yet in the early years of LEDs, energy efficiency, or efficacy (measured in lumens produced per watt consumed, lpw), was the prime metric for judging LED performance. The industry suffered through a... Read more

Primer

How can architects and designers increase social value in the built environment?

July 9, 2018

Buildings contribute to social sustainability by providing environments that support communities in meeting their social needs. It’s generally easy to understand how the design, construction, and operation of buildings affect the environment. A building’s energy use or carbon cost, for example, are objective and quantifiable. But the building’s... Read more

News Brief

Aimed at improving building performance, a new standard offers comprehensive guidance on energy modeling during design.

July 2, 2018

Building energy modeling has become more common over the last decade or so, and it’s a standard practice for projects pursuing LEED certification. But there’s a problem: the later the team waits to start modeling the building, the more potential energy-saving opportunities have been missed along the way.

“Often building energy modeling... Read more

News Analysis

With fewer requirements, more options, and a revised fee structure, WELL v2 responds to early user feedback.

June 22, 2018

If you haven’t used the WELL Building Standard because it seemed too difficult or too expensive, it might be time to give this relatively new rating system another look. And if you were just getting used to the requirements of WELL, hold on to your hat: the newly introduced version 2 is a major overhaul.

Released in May of 2018, WELL v2... Read more