Tag Archives: sustainable design

Understanding the Living Building Challenge and Its “Petals”

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a certification program that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability—providing a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment. It is one of most rigorous performance standards in the industry, as it requires net-zero energy, waste and water by every project. Continue reading

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Bamboo Flooring: Pros and Cons

Is bamboo for you?
Bamboo flooring has evolved into one of the biggest segments of the wood flooring industry over the past 10 years. That’s because it’s much cheaper and more durable than most wood flooring options out there. Is it for you? Here’s a bamboo flooring primer. Continue reading

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

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