This’ll blow your hair back! Solar Decathlon 2011

Its Solar Decathlon time again ! 

I love this annual competition.  Crazy ideas – experimental – cutting edge – out of the box (as they say!) – weird – fun – they say if you want to learn and be creative – you should take things apart – turn them upside down – backwards – shatter ideas and then put it all together.  Well that’s what they do here.  Watch all 20 of the competitors entries and I guarantee you will get an education.  Watch with an open mind and remember – we are looking for new stuff here!

Press play to watch the SCI-Arc video.  Right in my  back yard – SCI-Arc is cutting edge and a little bit Hollywood too!

Solar Decathlon Teams

The 20 university-led teams that design, build, and operate the competition’s solar-powered houses are the heart of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Learn more about each of these teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2011: Continue reading “This’ll blow your hair back! Solar Decathlon 2011”

Earthships for the rest of us – How to build a code compliant Earthship

I love Earthships – my wife hates ’em !
I love Earthships – the building department hates ’em!

Ahhh life’s challenges.

My visit to Taos, New Mexico to visit the “Greater World Earthship Community” got me thinking …. this is really cool – off grid – independent community.  Why don’t we have more of this kind of thing going on?   Well it’s not as easy as it looks – for some the idea of building a house out of old tires is just too much!  And – most areas that follow modern building codes will treat you like a Communist in the McCarthy hearings!

So here’s my idea to take the Earthship and modify it into a “user friendly” home that still uses a lot of it’s great attributes but allows the rest of us to hire a contractor – hook up to standard city utilities

Continue reading “Earthships for the rest of us – How to build a code compliant Earthship”

Can Retrofits Help Us Get Off Oil? YES !!

Remember the summer of 2008? There was a gas price spike that made some question our lack of coherent national energy policy but caused others to double down and chant “Drill Baby Drill”?

About that time, we took a look at all the oil said to be under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in comparison to the amount of oil that could remain unburned in the surprising number of homes across the country that use some form of oil as a primary heating source (over 14 million!) in a fact sheet. The conclusions were what you might expect – efficiency is faster and cheaper and doesn’t needlessly risk the economy of the gulf coast states. Continue reading “Can Retrofits Help Us Get Off Oil? YES !!”

Earthship Visit ! The Ultimate Green Home Building Technique?

Just pulled into “The Greater World Earthship Community”  15 miles outside of Taos New Mexico.  Driving in from the north through the high desert – it wasn’t hard to spot the Earthship community.  Lumps of ground on the north side and very organic shaped, curvelinear, buildings appear on the south. 

Earthship Taos NM Mountains

Luke Skywalker on Planet Tatooine wisked up in his hovercraft to welcome me ! Continue reading “Earthship Visit ! The Ultimate Green Home Building Technique?”

Infared Technology Breakthrough for Home Performance

The performance inspection of homes is becoming  part of the building process.   Infared cameras can see right through buildings detecting temperature differentials which show problemsin the thermal envelope.  Combined with blower door tests – pressurizing a house – an inspector can quickly and accurately assess any compromizing issues.

This 20 minute video shows an energy inspection.   This is particularly useful for existing homes but the technology will be used for all new homes as well.

Continue reading “Infared Technology Breakthrough for Home Performance”

Do you know your Climate Zone? The key to Green Building Efficiency

“Its 12 o clock – do you know where your …….climate zone is??”   What is your climate Zone?  The United States is divided up into 7 climate zones – add in marine, dry or moist as modifiers and you begin to understand the challenges of designing the best performing homes.   Even in your town you can find many variations of climate and mini climate zones.   Are you in a shaded valley or a sunny hillside?

Green building climate zone map

  Continue reading “Do you know your Climate Zone? The key to Green Building Efficiency”

Spray Foam Insulation – Bio Based

Constantly looking for better ways to insulate – one of the great things about spray foam insulation is that it seals up leaks.  Even the best batt insulation install – will have lots of gaps.  Would you rather hold scalding hot coffee in a fiberglass batt or foam?  See the demonstaration video below – from the International Builders Show

Please feel free to repost or use this blog as long as you keep the entire blog in its original form and with the following “signature”box.”
Otis Bradley is a custom home builder in Southern California working in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.  You can see Otis’ work at his company web site Otis Bradley Company, Inc.
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PassivHaus – Passive House – Green Building

PassivHaus or Passive House is a concept out of  Germany for highly efficient homes that use little or no active heating or cooling.  Europeans, as well as most of the rest of the world, use far less energy per capita than we do in the United States.  The concept of Green Building and use of alternative energy is way ahead of where we are and we have much to learn from this.

 From the Passive House website

What is a Passive House?

A passive house is a building in which a comfortable interior climate can be maintained without active heating and cooling systems (Adamson 1987 and Feist 1988). The house heats and cools itself, hence “passive”.

For European passive construction, prerequisite to this capability is an annual heating requirement that is less than 15 kWh/(m²a) (4755 Btu/ft²/yr), not to be attained at the cost of an increase in use of energy for other purposes (e.g., electricity). Furthermore, the combined primary energy consumption of living area of a European passive house may not exceed 120 kWh/(m²a) (38039 Btu/ft²/yr) for heat, hot water and household electricity.

With this as a starting point, additional energy requirements may be completely covered using renewable energy sources.

Continue reading “PassivHaus – Passive House – Green Building”