Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lustron: The House America's Been Waiting For

Join GHPA and the Documentary Alliance for a screening of Lustron: The House America's Been Waiting For, a look at the rise and fall of inventor Carl Strandlund's Lustron prefab housing company in the years following World War II.

WHEN: 8 p.m., Thursday, July 27, TODAY
WHERE: Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora St. in the Heights.

University Design Build

Architecture for Humanity is working with Hands On and the Gulf Coast Community Design studio to set up design build programs with universities in the fall and spring. If you are a faculty member or a student of a university and want to get involved in the rebuilding effort in a larger way, we'd be happy to help identify projects for semester long design studios. Students would stay with Hands On and spend part of their time assisting in construction and home repair and rehabilitation and the rest of their time engaged in design with the Gulf Coast Community Design Center. Housing will be provided by Hands-On. They're happy to work with you to create a program to meet your curriculum needs. Email Beth Orser to develop a program.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Conserve Water in Your Garden

(via Lifehacker):

Save water in your garden during the summer months with a few water conservation tips from eHow.

One of the best ones:

"Reduce your lawn maintenance - mow higher and less often, don't rake up the clippings, and avoid overwatering. As a rule, lawns need only about 1 inch of water a week; test how much you're watering by collecting your sprinkler water in a can."
I do want to add one more to this very good list; always water early in the morning or evening; less water will evaporate then in the heat of the day. — Wendy Boswell

How to Conserve Water in the Garden []

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Green Wonders of the World

"Green building technology has reached a tipping point that makes it more feasible — and elegant — choice for new construction..."
+Read more

These environmentally conscious buildings, neighborhoods, and even towns prove that going green can inspire great architecture..."
+ See a slide show

Friday, July 21, 2006

What does your car say about you?

Sorry...but the british can be funny. (watch the video;)

Have a great weekend!

Insulation Nation ;)

What do you know/think about sustainablility and insulations? Among some of the "sustainably claimed" are: denim/recycled cotton, cellulose, rockwool and soy.

+Cotton Insulation
Cotton insulation is made from post-industrial recycled cotton textiles, such as denim. Other benefits of cotton insulation is it doesn’t require any warning labels, no respiratory or other safety equipment is required, it retains its r-value in colder conditions, has superior acoustical properties and requires less energy to manufacture.

Cotton insulation comes in batts similar to fiberglass insulation. Insulation in batt form does not settle in the wall cavity, which is a criticism of blown insulation, and installation is familiar to most people who have used fiberglass.
  • Sold in bundles.
  • Pieces are 94 inches long.
  • Cost works out to approximately 56 cents per square foot for R-13 and 78 cents per square foot for R-19.
  • Batts are compressed and fluff up after packages are opened.
+ CELLULOSE insulation is made from recycled newspaper and treated with fire retardants and insect protection.
Borates, derived from the mineral Boron, are natural materials that can be used as fire retardants and insect repellents in cellulose insulation.

Used As a loose fill material applied in attics, install baffles to keep the material away from soffit vents. The baffles will also prevent wind from the soffit vents through blowing the insulation. Don't cover recessed light fixtures unless the fixtures are certified to accept insulation.

Cellulose insulation can be effectively used in wall cavities in new construction. As a dry loose-fill wall insulation, it could settle.

Wet-blown insulation offers superior insulating qualities and can be trimmed by hand on walls before installing drywall. Moisture control is critical with wet-blown insulation as overly moist insulation requires a longer drying period performance.

Prices can vary according to installer.
Cellulose/cotton/fiberglass insulation: less than $.20 per square foot for R-19 uninstalled.
Wet blown cellulose insulation: 50% more installed.

Cellulose insulation uses recycled newsprint that contains printers inks which can possibly outgas formaldehyde into a home. If there is any outgassing from inks, it should fall well below levels irritating most persons. However, an environmentally-sensitive person should be careful in selecting cellulose and install a vapor retarder between the insulation and the living space. (Note that the vapor retarder can exacerbate mildew problems if humidity levels in the house are high.)
There are also chemical additives often added to treat cellulose that are not thoroughly understood from an indoor air quality standpoint. Cellulose insulation that is treated with borates is preferred. Cellulose insulation can be bound together as a wet spray and instalthe entire wall.

Found this company Located Houston: international cellulose corp.

For example:
K-13 is made from natural recycled fibers that have been chemically treated to add resistance to fire, mold and mildew.

Celbar is a spray-applied insulation product for residential or commercial use. It is a blend of specially prepared cellulose fibers which are organic in nature and treated for adhesion and fire resistance.


- manufactured in Texas, Washington,North Carolina and Indiana.

It is made comprised of steel slag ( over 75%) with some basalt rock ( 25% or less). In some plants the recycled steel slag makes up almost 100% of the content.

Blow-on application will seal wall cavities similarly to wet-blown cellulose offering superior insulating service compared to batts.

It is installed in attics in a loose fill blown form that goes in at a rate of 1.4-1.8 pcf , while the side wall spray is installed at a rate of 4-5pcf. With theses densities the slag wool has better STC ratings and R ratings when compared in exact designs with the otther cellulose and fiber insulation products.

Weighs more than fiberglass (rockwool is 1.2 pounds per square foot for R-30 versus 0.5 pounds for fiberglass). It is less likely to become airborne.

Rockwool is the only insulation that will stop fire.

Rockwool: $0.50 per square foot installed in 2 x 4 wall, comparable to cellulose in attic.

+ SOY Insulation

Resistant to mold and mildew, soy foam insulation is sprayed on; the product expands in the wall like similar products. According to the United Soybean Board (USB), soy insulation provides insulation characteristics that are as good as or better in four-inch walls as traditional batting insulations with six-inch stud construction. And unlike traditional batting, it's free of formaldehyde. Soy-based insulation may also reduce building costs by decreasing the amount of lumber used.

Rigid foam soy insulation is new on the market, as well. One manufacturer, Urethane Soy Systems Co. (Volga, S.D.) touts its "Soy Therm" as having a density of 1/2 pound per cubic foot of rigid foam insulation.

could not find any real numbers. only that its "
price-competitive with common fiberglass insulation".

BioBased Systems
Environmental home center
cotton insulation

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Save the Date!

September 27 and 28

Gulf Coast Green 2006- featuring local and national speakers who will explore green building in the Gulf Coast region.

Keynote speakers include Bob Berkebile with BNIM Architects and Robin Guenther with Guenther 5 Architects.

More information is online at

China and Green Roofs


"With Beijing planning for 45% greenery coverage by 2008, rooftops are starting to look mighty appealing:

According to statistics, the cost of removing and greening in megalopolises like Beijing and Shanghai, where land is as precious as gold, is startlingly ranging from 10 thousand Yuan to 50 thousand Yuan per square meter. Yet the roof greening is much cheaper, "at least no land cost thereof", said Wang Xianmin, secretary general of Beijing Roof Garden Association to the reporter. It is introduced that the cost for high-grade roof garden is no more than 500 Yuan per square meter, and the simple grass roof 150 Yuan per square meter. The price is still decreasing."

read more via China Economic Net

Monday, July 17, 2006

2006 Energy Efficient Home Credit

Residential New Construction Tax Credit
A $2000 tax credit for new homes that are at least 50% more efficient than required by current building codes will encourage builders (who do not pay the energy bills for the homes they build) to construct energy-efficient houses, and increase the market for efficient technologies and practices

---------------TAX Credit FAQ--------------------
How many tax credits are there? There are two tax credits and a tax deduction. There is a tax credit for builders on new construction, a tax credit for homeowners who make energy efficient upgrades to their existing homes, and a tax deduction for commercial property owners who reduce energy consumption of their buildings.

How does a builder get the new construction tax credit? A builder must design the house to be 50% more efficient than a model IECC home. You can use numerous approved computer software to accomplish this. You must then build the home to those specifications and have an energy rater come out at do a performance test on the house.

What is a tax credit? You don’t receive an income tax credit when you buy the product, like an instant rebate. You claim the credit on your federal income tax form at the end of the year. The credit then increases the tax refund you receive or decreases the amount you have to pay.

Tax credits vs. tax deductions: In general, a tax credit is more valuable than a similar tax deduction. A tax credit reduces the tax you pay, dollar-for-dollar. Tax deductions – such as those for home mortgages and charitable giving – lower your taxable income. If you are in the highest 35-percent tax bracket, the income tax you pay is reduced by 35 percent of the value of a tax deduction. But a tax credit reduces your federal income tax by 100 percent of the amount of the credit.

+ Notice 2006-27 provides guidances for the credit for building energy efficient homes other than manufactured homes.
+ IRS form 8908 to submit with your tax returns
+ Energy Star

Ventilated vs. Sealed Attics

I have heard conflicting reports regarding attic ventilation. Some say that very good attic ventilation is an absolute requirement in hot climates and some say that sealed attics can actually outperform vented attics. Which is it for hot humid climates like Houston?

Below is some research concerning mostly the energy savings of sealed attics...

_________Via The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)__________

"In hot humid climates the combination of cooler ceiling temperatures meeting with hot humid air can conspire to cause condensation, which in turn can be absorbed into the ceiling materials, according to MHRA. The venting of attics, at least for multisection homes is a HUD Code requirement and required to validate shingle warranties.

In many cases sealed attics can have energy performance advantages over ventilated attics. Air conditioning ducts are most often located in the attic of slab-on-grade homes (most Florida homes). If the insulation for the "lid" of your home is located in the roof instead of in the ceiling, then these ducts remain much cooler. This results in air conditioning energy savings.

Duct leakage is also problematic in many homes, often with much of the air leaking into the return side of the air handler system coming from the attic. A sealed attic will reduce the energy waste associated with these duct leaks. Additionally, on beach-side properties, sealed attic systems can have additional advantages related to keeping wind-blown moisture and salt-laden air out of attics.

In addition combining white shingles or a white metal roof with a sealed attic is likely to produce greater cooling energy savings.

Measurements also have shown that sealed attics and attics with radiant barriers have hotter roofs. This occurs because heat can not readily leave the inboard side of the roof sheathing if it is insulated.

In general, cooling energy savings will be greatest when sealed attic and insulated roof deck construction is used in combination with highly reflective white tile or metal roofing materials."

Things to consider:
+Use thicker sheathing
+consdier roof assembly with ventilated airspace above the insulated decking (a double roof)
+instead of more insulation with a ventilated attic, consider a radiant barrier
(+Indoor air quality?? of which, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) seems to be unmentioned but definitely something to be considered...the EPA warns that IAQ is one of the top five risks to public health.)

So which is it? Comments?

* Florida Solar Energy Center
* Building Science
* Attic Ventilation Strategies[via]
**Energy efficient and Ventilation via fine home building this one seems to answer a lot of questions. Especially dealing with hot humid climates. ;)
* More info on proper attic ventilation

Friday, July 14, 2006


A friend sent this to me with the comment:

"I hate to think what happens next year!"

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

UH Greenroof Mock up

...after a summer of heavy rains
July 12, 2006

View a drawing of mock up and plantingsHERE

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gift Certificates for Old Cell Phones

RIPMobile recycles used cell phones and PDAs. They also happen to be leaders in their industry for environmental best practices. Unlike many recyclers, RIPMobile will accept any used cell phone, regardless of economic value. They’ll even pay your postage. RIPMobile handles all materials according to EPA standards and in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Basel Action Network.

Next STEPs:
go here
1-Select your phone from our list
2-Print a free postage label
3-Send them your phone(s) and receive your gift certificates

FYI: calculate your car's emissions

Rice Design Allaiance-Civic Forum

The Public Realm

Part 1: The Big Picture
Wednesday, July 12

Part 2: The Built Environment
Wednesday, August 9

Part 3: Public Spaces, Urban Places
Wednesday, September 6

So where is the public realm? What are its boundaries and how are those decided? Who is responsible for its integrity and maintenance? These civic forums will explore change in our complex human habitat, and the places and people that are involved.

visit RDA website for more info.