Yale Team's entry into this year's Solar Decathlon - Y House

First Yale Team Ever Provides Efficient Design for Solar Decathlon 2015

For the first time, Yale is participating in this year’s Solar Decathlon. The design focuses on the use of modules, with all of the unit’s plumbing, ventilation, and electrical components being housed in just one section of the house. “Our team has been really looking at how we can embed sustainability into the house itself,” said Kate McMillan, a senior architecture student from Houston. The team, composed entirely of students, has been working on the project for two years. “We’ve…

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Refinishing redwood decking

13 Redwood Refinishing Tips

Redwood is a wonderful material for outdoor structures like decks and fences, but not everyone is in love with its gray, weathered look. Refinishing redwood is actually quite easy and can be done by novices and professionals alike. Cleaning The first step, of course, is to remove any debris from the structure. This can be done easily with a broom or scraper (for harder to remove substances). Or, you can skip right to the big guns and use a power…

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R-value of building insulation

What Is R-Value and What Does It Mean To You?

What Is R-Value? Simply put, R-value is a measurement of how insulating a building material is, protecting one side from the heat or cold on the other side. A higher R-value means that a material insulates better than one with a lower value. In order to get an idea of what these values are, here are a few examples of common building materials and their R-values: 1/2″ drywall – 0.45 1/2″ plywood – 0.62 4″ wide brick – 0.80 1″…

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BluBloc insulated concrete forms

New Insulated Concrete Blocks Made From Recycled Styrofoam

A new company in Portland, Oregon is gearing up to manufacture large quantities of the latest product in the ICF (insulated concrete forms) world. BluBloc offers a twist on standard ICF products – it uses recycled styrofoam instead of manufacturing new for use in the forms. BluBloc is 85% recycled polystyrene foam (styrofoam) and 15% cement. Like other ICF products, the “blocks” interlock to form the outside structure of a building. Cement is then poured inside the forms, creating a…

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Fernhill Eco Center

Ferncliff Eco Center Features Unique Sustainable Flooring Options

Something very unique has happened in Arkansas! The Eco Center at Ferncliff in Little Rock is a volunteer-built straw bale mecca for those looking for sustainable building options. The floors alone are worthy of an article to themselves! First, a bit of background. Ferncliff is a summer camp and conference center owned by a nearby Presbyterian church. The center built the eco building to provide a place where children and adults could learn about sustainable building and living. It features…

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Cali Bamboo Flooring

Flooring May Contain High Levels of Formaldehyde

In a story that gained national attention last week, it was revealed that certain low-cost Chinese-made laminate flooring products sold by Lumber Liquidators contain a high volume of formaldehyde. CBS’ 60 Minutes did an investigation and found that the product “may fail to meet health and safety standards, because it contains high levels of formaldehyde, a known cancer causing chemical.” The story goes on to say, “Lumber Liquidators insists its Chinese-made laminate flooring is safe, but it doesn’t appear that way…

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wood beams

Building Material of the Future – Wood?

No, the headline is not a typo. Wood is going to places it’s never been before – up! The T3 project (which stands for “Timber, Technology, and Transit”) in Minnesota will be the tallest wood-framed building in the United States at seven stories. The 210,000 square foot office building is causing a bit of an uproar around the country. “This building is very unique,” Vancouver architect Michael Green says. “It is the first large-scale office building built of timber in…

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PVC pipe

Net Zero Case Study: Bullitt Center – Green Materials

The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is one of the most self-sufficient buildings on the planet. It is net zero energy and, after the water reuse system is approved by city authorities, net zero water. Net zero means that the building uses the same amount as it creates or generates – it is self-sufficient. In a series of posts here on GBE, we will look at what makes this building tick. Healthy Green Materials The Living Building Challenge requires projects…

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Redwood deck

Green Materials Report – Redwood

This post is part of the Green Materials Report series. GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green. Each post focuses on one material. We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes it green, and any green product certifications that it has earned. We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings. Enjoy the series! California Redwood California…

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Blue Jeans Go Green

Blue Jeans Go Green, Become Building Insulation

Want to donate your old blue jeans to a good cause and help the environment at the same time? Drop them off at J.Crew or Madewell stores now through the December 31, 2014, and they will be sent to their next life as insulation material in a building! Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling drive started in August, and both J.Crew and Madewell retail stores have decided to extend the drive until year-end for J.Crew, and January 31,…

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Cradle to Cradle Offers Material Health Certification

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute recently announced that they will begin offering standalone certifications for building materials based on its Material Health criteria. Material Health is only one of several categories tested during Cradle to Cradle certification, and it addresses the presence of known harmful chemicals in a material. It is the first time Cradle to Cradle has separated a category for certification. Established in 2006, the multi-attribute Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard has been recognized for its…

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Bark House Poplar Bark Panels

Green Materials Report – Wall Coverings

This post is part of the Green Materials Report series. GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green. Each post focuses on one material. We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes it green, and any green product certifications that it has earned. We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings. Enjoy the series!   Wall Coverings…

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Which Is More Green – SFI or FSC Lumber?

The two main sustainable forestry certification programs (Sustainable Forestry Initiative, SFI, and Forest Stewardship Council, FSC) have been fighting for years to determine which is better. SFI has struggled to gain a foothold in the industry, and has been working to be approved by the US Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system. In an attempt to fully understand the potential greenwashing, let’s take a look at the two wood certification systems compare, green-wise.   Harvest Requirements The FSC standard…

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What Is LEED? – Materials and Resources

This is the sixth post in a series on the LEED green building rating system. The first post provided an Introduction to LEED, the second looked at the Sustainable Sites credit category, the third at the Location and Transportation credits, the fourth at Water Efficiency, and the fifth at the Energy and Atmosphere credits.   Materials and Resources What materials are used, where they come from, how they are made, and how they are disposed of are instrumental in determining how green a project is. Using…

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Waxed Cardboard Insulation Comes From Produce Boxes

Students at Portland State University have developed a new insulation material made from shredded waxed cardboard produce boxes. The insulation helps local grocery stores sustainably dispose of the boxes and could provide low-cost energy savings. PSU assistant architecture professor Margarette Leite heard that many local grocery stores were looking for a way to sustainably dispose of their waxed cardboard produce boxes. The boxes have traditionally gone into the store’s compostable waste, but because of the wax coating it can take…

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low voc paint

Green Materials Report – Low VOC Paint

This post is part of the Green Materials Report series. GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green. Each post focuses on one material. We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes it green, and any green product certifications that it has earned. We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings. Enjoy the series! Low VOC Paint…

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Sustainable Forestry Initiative lumber

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Recognized By BREEAM

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) has been recognized by green building rating system BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) for its ability to allow the construction industry to responsibly source forest products. Their efforts to make one of the greenest building elements- wood!- even greener are definitely worth taking notice of! According to the BREEAM website, its “assessment uses recognized measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction, and use.” “The…

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