Energy Vanguard Blog

The Evolution of Passive House in North America

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Jul 1, 2016

In 2002, Katrin Klingenberg introduced the passivhaus program to North America when she built the Smith House in Urbana, Illinois. She had come to the US from Germany, where she studied architecture and got involved with passivhaus. But is this really where it all began?

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Tags: design, comfort, environment & sustainability

Design Flaws That Can Rot Your House

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, May 2, 2016

Most of the moisture management problems I've written about here are ones that occur because of poor installation. When builders don't integrate window flashing with the drainage plane, for example, water can find its way in and rot out the window framing. Sometimes, however, architects make it harder on builders. When they design building features that make it hard to drain the rain, failure is more likely. Let's look at a few design flaws of this type.

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Tags: design, moisture problems

The Surprising Building Science History Behind the Revolving Door

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Jan 29, 2016

Revolving doors have been around for a century and a half. You see them at the bottom of tall buildings, which tells you something right there. They weren't invented merely to function as a way to enter and exit these buildings. There's a building science reason behind their invention. In fact, the name given them by H. Bockhacker, the original inventor in Germany, tells you why he did it: "Tür ohne Luftzug."

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Tags: design, air leakage, heating & cooling

10 Essential Steps to Building a Pretty Good House

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

My friends up in Maine came up with the concept of the Pretty Good House a few years ago, and I love the idea! Not everyone can or wants to build a LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge, Passive House. But a lot of architects, builders, and homebuyers would like to design, build, and live in houses that are better than the barely-legal, code-minimum houses that populate the market. The Pretty Good House, then, is the way to go.

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Tags: design, heating & cooling distribution, insulation, air leakage, windows, moisture problems, ventilation, heating & cooling

17 Reasons I Love Working with Buildings

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

Yesterday I had lunch with Robert Bean and Eric Griffin at the ASHRAE conference here in Atlanta. As we talked about how we got into the field of building science, I began thinking of the reasons I love doing what I do. My background is physics, and I really enjoyed teaching it when I was in academia, but I didn't really fit in there. When I discovered building science (and later blogging), I finally found my niche. Here's why:

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Tags: fun, design, education, business, comfort, indoor air quality, environment & sustainability, big picture, creativity, health & safety, blogging

This Lack of Building Enclosure Design Makes Extra Work

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, May 15, 2015

Take a look at the photo below. See anything missing? If you don't see it yet, look at the big opening at the bottom right of the photo and you should be able to deduce what that room is. It's a garage. Now look at the framed wall between the garage and where I was standing when I took the picture. You see it, right?

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Tags: design, air leakage

A Beautiful Solar Home in Utah Nears Net Zero Energy Use

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Mar 18, 2015

I'm writing this on St. Patrick's Day so let me tell you a wee bit about the O'Mearas. Kevin and Svetlana O'Meara live in a beautiful home in Utah that's oh-so-close to being a net zero energy home. After I wrote about how home building is like skiing two years ago, Kevin invited me out to see their home and this year I managed to do so. My wife and I visited them for two days last week and Kevin told me all about the house, including his one major regret.

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Tags: ENERGY STAR, design, heating & cooling distribution, insulation, air leakage, energy code, energy conservation, comfort, windows, environment & sustainability, solar energy, water heating, ventilation, heating & cooling, green building

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

Posted by Allison Bailes on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

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.

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Tags: design, water, environment & sustainability, creativity, solar energy, heating & cooling

The Case of the Duct That Wasn't There

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Dec 16, 2013

I saw the photo below on the Structure Tech Facebook page recently. (They're a home inspection company in Minnesota that appreciates building science.) In this case, everyone can see one of the problems. Even if you know nothing about building science, you can see it, right?

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Tags: design, heating & cooling distribution, crawl space

5 Easy Steps to Understanding WUFI - Memento Style

Posted by Allison Bailes on Thu, Oct 17, 2013

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.

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Tags: design, building enclosure, water