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Stockton Project Demonstrates Huge Home Energy Savings

 
bruce wilcox john proctor dry climate forum 2014

At the Forum on Dry Climate Home Performance earlier this year, I got to hear three building science experts talk about a really cool research project they've been working on in Stockton, California. Bruce Wilcox, John Proctor, and Rick Chitwood (Wilcox and Proctor shown in photo at left) filled us in on the Stockton project, which now has two years of data and shows some really impressive results.

What Happens When You Put a Plastic Vapor Barrier in Your Wall?

 
polyethylene vapor barrier in a wall

A lot of people have heard advice about vapor barriers and vapor retarders. Many of them have walked away confused. A big part of the problem, I think, is that they've been told what to do—"Put it on the warm-in-winter side," or "Never use one"—but they haven't had the physics of what happens explained to them.

Will Open-Cell Spray Foam Insulation Really Rot Your Roof?

 
spray foam insulation open cell roof rot moisture problem

Murmurs and hearsay about open-cell spray foam insulation have been gaining traction for a while. It rots roofs, people have told me. Not long ago, someone even told me that in Florida, roofing companies won't let their workers go up on roofs with open-cell spray foam because the roofs are so spongy, the guys fall right through. Open-cell spray foam is getting a bad reputation among some people in the construction industry. But is it deserved?

Who's on Your Insulation Crew?

 
fiberglass batt insulation grade iii installation modular home crew

I used to do some consulting with a modular home manufacturer. We first visited their plant in 2007, and, as you can see below, they didn't quite have the insulation installation thing down. What you see below would be Grade III installation quality according to RESNET's insulation installation grading protocol. Six months later, Mel, their plant engineer, made an illuminating remark to me about why their insulation looked like that and how they changed it.

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Bats Can't Live Under a Thermal Bridge

 
thermal bridge cantilevered concrete slab multifamily austin 600

I was in Austin a couple of months ago, and I got a chance to watch the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue bridge. (See my video at the end of the article!) I also saw a great example of how a bridge can conduct significant quantities of heat between the inside and outside of a building. A thermal bridge, that is. Take a look at this photo.

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A Net Zero Energy Home in a Beautiful Green Community

 
net zero energy house serenbe proud green home imery

I spoke at Serenbe, a beautiful green community southwest of Atlanta, this weekend and got a chance to visit a net zero energy home while there. Built by Luis Imery, one of the home energy raters we're a HERS provider for, the home has garnered quite a bit of recognition. In fact, they recently picked up a pretty big award from Southface.

Why Did Painters Refuse to Paint Insulated Houses in the 1930s?

 
paint peeling old house insulation moisture water 600

Now, I know exactly what you're thinking. Those painters didn't want to paint insulated buildings because building science hadn't been invented yet, and they thought the insulators were jumping the gun. Or was it that painters thought that stuffing the cavities with insulation was silly when all they needed was some good insulating paint? Maybe I'm just jumping to conclusions here, as, it turns out, the proponents of insulated buildings did in their response to the painters' revolt.

Beware of Roofers in Homes with Spray Foam Insulation

 
spray foam insulation attic air leakage power attic ventilator

You have two choices when change happens: You can embrace it, or you can fight it. Some parts of the home building and home improvement industries are in the first camp. These are the home performance contractors, green builders, and spray foam insulation contractors. Some are in the latter camp. They could be in any trade really — insulation, HVAC, drywall. But today I'm focusing on roofers because of something I saw recently.

Does Your Spray Foam Insulation Need a Thermal or Ignition Barrier?

 
Closed cell spray foam insulation in an attic without an ignition barrier

To say spray foam insulation has become popular in green building over the past decade is like saying Peyton Manning is a good quarterback. It's an understatement. Although it's certainly not used in every green building project, it's become one of the most popular ways to build an air-tight house. In the early days, building codes hadn't caught up with how best to use this material, but that's changing. Change begets confusion, though, and the requirements for thermal and ignition barriers are one area where there's a lot of that.

Advice to Architects: Draw Those Attic Kneewall Sections Right

 
attic kneewall details air barrier insulation

We're working on a project, so we got a set of plans to get started. It includes the attic kneewall and vaulted ceiling section you see below.This is typical of plans that architects draw, and builders build houses this way all the time. Unfortunately, it contains several errors. Can you spot them?

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