Saturday, June 30, 2012

Energy Efficiency Solutions

I'll be headed to this conference and hope to bring back useful info to share with the home performance contractors I work with. Driving demand in tough economic times is a challenge because the investments are, all too often, perceived in counter-intuitive ways.

Residential Energy Efficiency Solutions: From Innovation to Market Transformation

July 9-11, 2012
Arlington, Virginia
The U.S. Department of Energy is bringing together administrators and implementers of residential energy efficiency programs, including state and local governments, utilities, non-governmental organizations, Better Buildings Neighborhood Program grant recipients, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Sponsors, Home Energy Score Partners, and other stakeholders.
  • Showcase innovations, highlight accomplishments, and spark connections across residential energy efficiency programs
  • Capture and share diverse program implementation solutions, strategies, and techniques
  • Catalyze effective approaches to residential energy efficiency market transformation
For more information:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

sketchbook studies

a week later:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our Kitchen Garden/Composting Project

Really, it belongs to my wife, Karen. I helped a little and complained a lot. We start off with vermi-composting and barrel composting to further reduce our trash load.

She has done a great job with peppers, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini growing nicely, as well as fresh herbs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The History Beneath Our Feet

I went 2 blocks west of my office to meet a friend on The Hill for lunch. On the way I came across a section of Shaw undergoing some repair. 8" of asphalt or so on top of the cobblestone. It stopped me long enough to snap a picture or 2 and become mindful, once again, of the many years and many people who have come before us.

In the realm of the built environment this includes those who laid the cobblestone, covered it in asphalt and then, exposed it again, if only for a few moments.

There is a video going around and I have to admit I haven't watched it yet, but I like the gist of it. It is a high school graduation commencement speech in which the speaker tells the students they are not special. For me, this idea is embodied in the many, many layers under our feet. Our work is just another layer in something that has been going on for a long time.

The Value of a House

Fortunately there is little relationship with this and the value of home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

DIY Presentation

Here is the .pdf of presentation at the Missouri Gateway USGBC Chapter this evening. It is about rescuing furniture and cabinets from oblivion and rebuilding, refinishing and re-purposing for home use (my home dates from 1892). I do not really have before pix, but a lot of this stuff was very close to  the edge. My co-presenters did a fine job
Here are a couple of pix from the presentation:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Modernism & the Lantern Festival on FB

Friday, June 8, 2012

Belgian Passivhaus Piece from GBA

Martin Holladay of  has again provided a great piece on building science and technology. Follow this link to his post on a Passivhaus gone bad.

From my perspective as a builder/LEED AP with 30 years experience and now an energy efficiency program manager and BPI Auditor/Proctor this piece highlights one of the biggest issues as we 'green folks' encourage 'market transformation' from the ordinary/code-built home to an integrated/whole house approach.

Market transformation needs to occur on the supply side as well as the demand side and this is not as often spoken of as it should be. The architects, installers, crafts people, inspectors, etc. need to train, practice and understand the potential impact of their work for good or ill before the plans go to the plotter and before the crew gets to the job site.

This is the reason for third party verification. The (seemingly) small stuff matters and those who work the sites for a living/profit have a built-in conflict of interest. Architects, engineers and designers are often as/more interested in their portfolio development as they are  interested in a specific client's needs and it is not unusual to see the envelope pushed (see what I did there?:) by this confusion of priorities.

Market transformation is not served well by over-promising and under-delivering on either side of the supply & demand curve. The introduction of new products and technologies promising greater savings for buyers and profits for builders is a mechanism for and against market transformation because so much of it is crap or poorly understood by those specifying/installing the stuff. The supply side needs confirmation in incremental changes to construction practices that are regional, with an emphasis on safety/IEQ, in a 'first, do no harm' kind of way. Too big a portion of the supply side is skeptical - and not without reason.

Let's not turn building science into rocket science. Simplicity, whenever possible, is preferable. Perfectly rational beings do not live in houses (or build them for that matter) and we will do well to be mindful of this as we consider durability and maintenance requirements for what we design and construct.

Lastly, I'm all for advancing building science and technology - but let's call our experiments in new combinations, new materials etc. by the right name: 'something that might work/might not' and market them to those inclined to accept the risk.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

deep and thick earth

the yellowstone river

water as a durability issue