Tag Archives: sustainable design

Whole-House Fans vs. Powered Ventilators: What’s the Difference?

Whole-house Fans
A whole-house fan is an attic-mounted fan that exhausts air from a home at night, when the heat of the day has passed and the outdoor temperature has dropped enough to feel comfortable. The main advantage of using a whole-house fan instead of an air conditioner is to save energy. A whole-house fan usually draws between 200w and 700w, in contrast to a central air conditioner, which draws 2000w to 5000w. Continue reading

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What is a Plyscraper?

Ever since the 10-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago was called the first “skyscraper” in 1885, architects have been striving to create ever-taller buildings. Ten stories quickly became 20, 20 became 50, and on and on. In 2009 the Burj Khalifa in Dubai became the world’s tallest building, with its 154 floors towering above ground level.

So why is the mayor of Portland, Oregon, calling a modest 12-story tower set for completion there next year “a true technological and entrepreneurial achievement?” It’s not the affordable housing the building affords, nor its dozens of bike racks or even the roof farm that has Ted Wheeler gushing. It’s that the Framework apartment building will be made almost entirely of wood. Continue reading

Selecting Low-Emitting Materials

What are Low-emitting Materials?
Low-emitting materials are products that do not release significant pollutants into the indoor environment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in many common products and building materials that can escape into the air and cause illness and allergic reactions. These emissions are one of the contributors to the situation known as “sick building syndrome” (SBS) in which building occupants experience health and comfort effects. Continue reading

A Crash Course in Roof Venting

When To Vent Your Roof and When Not To
Much information has been devoted to the subject of roof venting. So much, that it’s easy to become confused and to lose focus. So let’s start with something that might sound controversial, but really isn’t: a vented attic, where insulation is placed on an air-sealed attic floor, is one of the most under-appreciated building assemblies in all of building science. A vented attic works in hot climates, mixed climates, and cold climates. It works in the polar arctic and in humid rain forests.

Executed properly it works absolutely everywhere, in every climate. Continue reading

The Basics of Land Use Planning

The Power to Plan
Local agencies derive their authority to shape their communities through planning and land use from the “police power.” The source of this power is both the federal and California constitutions. The police power is broad and elastic and entitles cities and counties to take actions to protect the public’s general health, safety, and welfare. However, in most cases local regulations may not conflict with overriding state law.
Local authority to regulate land use can expand to meet the changing conditions or priorities of society. Thus, actions that might not have been thought of as part of the general welfare a century ago (for example, curbing sprawl or promoting affordable housing) can fall within its purview today. Continue reading

A Practical Guide to Fiber-Cement Siding

Picking the right siding for your house is a delicate balancing act between good looks, durability, maintenance, and affordability. With wood, vinyl, stone, brick, or stucco, you might get only two or three of these. But with fiber cement, a resilient mix of wood pulp and portland cement, you get all four. It’s the only siding that combines the performance of masonry—minimal upkeep; rot-, fire-, and termite-proof; unaffected by wind or cold—with the look of painted wood clapboards, shingles, even stone or brick. Yet fiber cement goes for just a fraction of the cost of these other materials. No wonder nearly 15 percent of new homes—and many TOH TV projects—are clad with the stuff.
All this has happened in just 25 years, since fiber cement was first introduced. Now architects regularly specify the siding because it holds down costs without compromising aesthetics. It’s even accepted for use in many historic districts. Continue reading

Green Architecture: What Makes a Structure a “Living Building”?

EarthTalkLivingBuildingsA Pacific Northwest organization has defined an environmentally sound structure as one that generates its own energy, captures and treats all of its water, operates efficiently, and is aesthetically pleasing. Many readers will recognize the movement as the Living Building Challenge, launched in 2006.

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