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A Great Success: Classic 1970s Passive Solar Home Turned Net Zero

 
passive solar house richard levine kentucky 600

I've been in Lexington, Kentucky this week at the Midwest Residential Energy Conference. It was great! (And I played nice - I didn't mention in any of my talks that I'm a Florida Gator.) One of the many highlights for me was getting to visit Richard "Dick" Levine's 1970s passive solar house. It's not like any other house I've seen, and I've seen other passive solar houses.

6 Materials That Drain the Rain on the Plane and Keep A House Dry

 
drainage plane wrb water control layer zip system

Are you ready to take the next step in being a building enclosure control freak? You already know about the 4 types of control layers, so let's go further now and look at the one that controls liquid water. But why should you care? All you gotta do is throw some housewrap on that sucker, right?

Ice Spikes, Building Science, & Sci-Fi Movies — A Little Friday Fun

 
water ice cube bizarre property

I love bizarre stuff. I love science. When those two come together, it's almost better than ice cream. And speaking of ice, that's what I'm talking about. Wednesday morning, I filled my orange silicone ice cube tray with tap water. When I opened the freezer that evening, I thought maybe I had interrupted something. Take a look at the photo below, and you'll see what I mean.

Cold Air Is Dry Air

 
psychrometric chart humidity temperature 600

Relative humidity is what everyone likes to talk about. It gets the attention, but it can be a bit confusing, especially when the temperatures drop. For example, at one point yesterday, we had a relative humidity (RH) of 97%. Seems humid, eh?

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5 Easy Steps to Understanding WUFI - Memento Style

 
guy pearce memento

If you have any involvement with the world of building science, you may have heard about something called WUFI and wondered what the heck it is. Maybe you've heard that it's a piece of software (several pieces, actually) that does hygrothermal modeling. Well, today's your lucky day because I just went through a two-day class on WUFI 1-D with Dr. Achilles Karagiozis and Mr. Mikael Salonvaara of Owens Corning, and I'll give you the shortest explanation possible of what it's all about. And I'll give it to you the way we learned about Guy Pearce's character in the movie Memento.

In or Out? Where Does the Paper Facing of Batt Insulation Go?

 
fiberglass batt insulation kraft paper vapor retarder inside

If you install fiberglass batt insulation* with a kraft paper vapor retarder in a home, which way do you face the vapor retarder? To the inside of the home or the outside of the home? For many building science questions, the answer is, 'It depends.' For this one, the answer is clear.

Be a Controlling Building Enclosure Control Freak with Control Layers

 
Frank Lloyd Wright control freak layers wikimedia commons

Frank Lloyd Wright was a control freak. This was a guy who not only designed houses but also all of the trim details and even the furniture. No, you're right. That's not really enough evidence to convict him. The really damning part is that he also placed the furniture exactly where he wanted it in the homes he designed...and expected you to keep it there! If you owned one of his homes, you better hope he never visited and found the furniture out of place. If so, you'd get a good scolding. Then he'd put the furniture back where it was supposed to go. Control freak!

Rain Barrels, Chickens, and Walking the Sustainable Living Talk

 
sustainable living farm garden greenhouse

I write mostly about buildings and the people who fight about them: the crazy things I find, the good things I find, the super-secret Building Science Fight Club, how I don't need no stinkin' Building Science Summer Camp. Just your standard energy geek fare. Occasionally I talk about peak oil and the Long Emergency. Aside from the few articles I've written about the green home I built, with its greywater system, reclaimed materials, and passive solar features, I haven't said much about sustainable living, though.

Vapor Retarder? Vapor Barrier? Perms? What the Heck?!

 
vapor retarder perm rating drainage plane

I was rereading one of Joe Lstiburek's articles last week. The man has a way with words (and I'm not just talking about the four-letter ones). This article was called Understanding Vapor Barriers and is perhaps the clearest, most direct explanation I've read on the topic. It's got some nice Joe-quotes, too, of course. Here's one:

How to Install a Branched-Drain Greywater System in a Green Home

 
Branched drain greywater system - finished mulch basin with four outlets and tree in center

Back in the summer of 2003, I was finishing up the green home I'd started building in 2001. One of the last pieces we had to complete was the greywater system, and we'd already put a lot of work into it before we ever moved a spadeful of dirt.

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