Archive for 'Technical'

Interview with a Green Homeowner

Interview with a Green Homeowner

Posted on 09. Jan, 2011 by .

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About a year ago, we published an article about an exceptional Title 24 project – an astonishing 50% over compliance – and now we present an interview with the homeowner who commissioned the design. The single-family home, designed by Klopf Architecture, is currently under construction by Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders (As an aside, we’ve done design interviews with both Klopf and Mat-Pel on our sister blog, The Architect’s Take.)

Many residential architects would like to design homes as energy-efficient as this one, but without client buy-in, it’s usually not possible to go beyond a certain point. Over and over, we have heard that client commitment to sustainable principles is THE key to building green! So, here we have a green homeowner and design client who’s willing to discuss – anonymously – why he’s doing as much as he is, and why it’s worth doing.

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Residential Heating and Cooling and Title 24

Residential Heating and Cooling and Title 24

Posted on 20. Sep, 2010 by .

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Up until recently, residential architects varied in their knowledge of heating and cooling systems. Many architects whose focus is primarily one-off, custom residential projects, have simply assumed some form of conditioning and then left the details to their contractor. Finalizing the details may not occur until late in the project, long after the opportunity for building optimization has passed.

What most people also don’t realize is that the manner in which a system is installed and configured can have a dramatic effect on how much it can deliver. Most private residential projects haven’t budgeted for a separate mechanical engineer upfront to optimize efficiencies among systems or to suggest additional measures during the design phase.

Beyond that, of course, there’s another reason for California architects to start paying closer attention to systems upfront: Title 24 energy compliance. The new energy code is stricter, and the default assumptions are no longer good enough for some homes to pass. The Title 24 is typically done when submitting to Planning, at the end of Schematic Design – long before anyone thinks about the furnace other than to say, “Oh yeah, we were going to keep the existing furnace and ductwork from 1956.”

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Book Review: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet

Book Review: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet

Posted on 09. Sep, 2010 by .

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Of all the green building guides for homeowners out there, here is one that should be on everyone’s shelf – owners, architects, builders alike. It’s called “Energy Free: Homes for a Small Planet” by Ann V. Edminster, a Bay Area local. Everything I’ve been struggling so hard to explain to our Title 24 clients, even in a limited way, is presented in this book with clarity and accuracy, in a very readable and lively prose style. It’s backed by both the latest research and by personal experience and observation.

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Title 24 Compliance for Alterations and Remodels

Title 24 Compliance for Alterations and Remodels

Posted on 30. Aug, 2010 by .

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Don’t say we didn’t warn you. The new Title 24 is tough! In past articles, we harped on the HERS verifications as a way to earn credits towards Title 24 compliance for those hard-to-pass houses. However, there’s another angle that needs attention: issues for additions, alterations, and remodels.

(Above image shows a whole-house remodel and addition by Mark English Architects. Photo: Michael O’Callahan)

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Quantum Builders Brings Passive Houses to California

Quantum Builders Brings Passive Houses to California

Posted on 06. Aug, 2010 by .

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Imagine a home built in the Plains region of the United States that stays warm in the winter without central heating, and cool in the summer without massive air-conditioning. It’s airtight but with an endless supply of fresh air constantly circulating through a filtered, pressure-balanced ventilation system. Every surface is comfortable to the touch, neither too warm nor too cold. Street noise is barely audible through the gasket-sealed, triple-paned windows. 

It sounds futuristic, but so-called Passive Houses have been around for at least 15 years, and it’s yet another strategy for saving energy. Unlike a Net Zero Energy home that might rely on “active” power generation, albeit from renewable sources, a Passive House is just that – passively absorbing heat from its surroundings to release it slowly as it is needed. (In hot climates, Passive Houses are designed to recover and store cooler temperatures.)

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HERS Inspections and Title 24 Compliance

HERS Inspections and Title 24 Compliance

Posted on 12. May, 2010 by .

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A few months ago we published an interview with a GreenPoint Rater to de-mystify the GreenPoints system that was suddenly taking California building departments by storm. Like LEED and several of the current rebate programs, GreenPoints has tie-ins to Title 24’s energy compliance scoring, and so we’ve had to help our clients to interface with this new standard.

There’s another standard that’s been around for a long time – the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS. For the first time, we are having to tell our clients that they will have to do at least one HERS verification in order to meet the new 2008 standards of California’s Title 24 energy code. Suddenly, everyone had questions. What in the heck do HERS raters actually do, and what does it cost? Is this going to be a huge headache or a minor annoyance? What benefit is there to HERS testing apart from compliance? What does a person have to do to become certified as a HERS rater?

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Occupant Thermal Comfort in Energy Trade-Offs

Occupant Thermal Comfort in Energy Trade-Offs

Posted on 16. Mar, 2010 by .

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Green living is sometimes viewed as a sacrificial process whereby one by one, all our pleasures and comforts must be set aside in the name of saving the planet: walking instead of driving, sweeping instead of vacuuming, home cooking instead of take-out, turning the thermostat down in the winter while our hands and feet turn into blocks of ice, low-flow showerheads designed by bald men that take forever to rinse the shampoo out of a long-haired-girl’s mane, limiting one’s diet to only locally available seasonal produce (which could be nothing but cabbages if you live in Chicago), calling three hardware stores to find one that carries low-VOC paint, giving up meat because it takes too much grain to feed a cow, trudging everywhere with a backpack filled with stuff that otherwise we could just keep in the car. In essence, the increased physical hardship comes from asking our own bodies to start doing more of the work. And what’s our reward? A nice warm feeling of altruistic glow, and maybe a slimmer figure.

Efficiency is often seen as achievable only at the cost of comfort – some of us East Coasters remember shivering through the 1970s oil crisis as our dads re-defined 58 degrees during the day as “normal” and turned the thermostat down at night till the pipes froze, and our mothers finally complained. Well, so what? What’s the big deal? We all have to give up something. Well, the problem is that this “fix” didn’t really fix anything. Reducing consumption is not the same thing as having an efficient building, and neither approach presents qualitative factors like comfort or contentment as worthy of consideration.

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SolarClover: Plug and Play Installation

SolarClover: Plug and Play Installation

Posted on 22. Feb, 2010 by .

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With the solar industry booming, manufacturers and installers are racing to improve their products in every conceivable way: more efficient PVs; better inverter technologies; remote control, sensing, and automation; better energy-use reporting; smarter appliances; open systems integration; and a proliferation of grid-tied and off-grid configurations. One area that hasn’t gotten quite as much attention is the installation, which takes special training, and can be as much as 30-50% of the cost of the system.

Bay Area startup Armageddon Energy has a new angle with a patented product that GreenTech Media has dubbed “The Ikea of Solar”. The SolarClover snaps together in cute little 3-panel modules, each with its own inverter. Lightweight and easy to handle, these modules can fit “almost anywhere” as they say. That includes small areas of roof, or uneven roofs that wouldn’t accommodate larger arrays. Three of them (9 leaves), make a 1-kW system that’s enough to power most major appliances for an efficient household.

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Designing For Solar: What Every Architect Should Know

Designing For Solar: What Every Architect Should Know

Posted on 18. Jan, 2010 by .

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While researching solar technologies, we at Green Compliance Plus heard from solar installers  who all seem to think that architects are hard to work with. So, we spoke with Fernando Valenzuela of Alter Systems in Berkeley about how to design a solar-ready home. Note that only about 5-10% of Alter Systems’ customers are owner/architect teams. Usually it’s the homeowners approaching them directly because they want to “go solar”.

So… why are architects hard to work with? “They have a groupthink… they like design, the look, but they don’t understand systems. They ask questions like ‘why can’t we use this roof’ without realizing that you can’t split up an array. Their projects aren’t always quick, either, and rebates that were designed for may be gone by the time the project gets through approval.”

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