A Passivhaus Design for Alaska’s Frigid Climate

first_imgResidential builders in Alaska have at least two major sources of motivation to build homes efficiently and with first-rate performance characteristics. One is the short building season. The other, of course, is Alaska’s Arctic cold.But for general contractor Thorsten Chlupp, whose firm, Reina LLC, is based in Fairbanks, yet another motivator came into play when he set out to build his family’s 2,300-sq.-ft. home to operate without fossil-fuel heat sources and conform to the Passivhaus standard: building-industry experts told him it couldn’t be done.“You wouldn’t believe how many engineers have told me in the past year that it’s impossible,” Chlupp told Newsminer.com for a recently posted story. “I already know I need to build an outdoor swimming pool because I have too much heat.”A big barrier to coldThe builder and his family moved into the house in December and so far have burned a cord of wood in its stone masonry heater, although, Newsminer.com notes, the last fire was set in mid-February. Because there’s very little direct sunlight in that part of the world in December and January, the 480 sq. ft. of solar thermal panels mounted on the south-facing roofline of the home, which Chlupp calls SunRise House, weren’t yet a factor in the building’s heat-source dynamic. But now the solar thermal system’s water-and-glycol-filled tubing is delivering heat from the panels to the slab floor of the house and to its principal thermal storage system, a 5,000-gal. stainless steel tank (14 by 8 ft.) filled with water whose temperature ranges from 130 to 150 degrees.Between the water tank and the concrete surface on the first floor, the house can store about 8 million BTUs of energy, enough, Chlupp says, to heat the home for about two months while its heat recovery ventilator keeps its fresh-air needs in balance. Another, 40-gallon tank supplies hot water to the occupants of the house.The slab of the house is insulated to R-63, while the exterior walls and the roof are insulated with cellulose to R-75 and R-115, respectively. The insulation was installed outside the wood-frame walls’ CDX plywood sheathing, which was taped and sealed for airtightness. That approach allowed the exterior-wall framing to be used for wires, plumbing, and mechanical fixtures. In response to GBA community-forum comments about the project, Chlupp notes that insulation also can be added to that inside-facing wall space if it’s needed, and that servicing the utility components later on can be done without compromising the airtightness of the outside insulation system.Living in and learning from a prototypeChlupp chose triple-glazed windows with insulated frames. The glazing has a solar heat-gain coefficient of 0.60 and a U-factor of 0.072.(These are glazing-only specs, not whole-window specs.) The window openings also are equipped with thermal shutters can be slid shut to provide an airtight seal and an additional R-20 of thermal resistance.A former outdoor and mountaineering guide, Chlupp lived in Germany until 1996, when he moved to Fairbanks. According to Newsminer.com, Chlupp started his construction company 12 years ago with the intention of applying energy-efficiency standards common in Germany to projects in Alaska. The performance of SunRise House is being monitored by a network of sensors that will be analyzed by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. And it appears the house will easily qualify for Passivhaus certification.But Chlupp adds that the building is, essentially, a prototype – one that he hopes will serve as a source of information that can be applied in cost-effective ways to other projects in both the new-home and retrofit realms.“What I’m after,” he said, “is replacing everything fossil-fuel-based, because if we can get rid of it completely we’re so much better off.”last_img read more

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Critics Claim Agreement Helps Home-Building Industry Block Tougher Energy Codes

first_imgAn undisclosed pact between the nation’s most powerful home builders’ lobby and the organization that writes model building codes has slowed the adoption of energy-saving requirements for new homes, critics have claimed. The arrangement is between the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which represents some 140,000 U.S. builders, and the International Code Council (ICC), which publishes the International Residential Code, an influential model building code that has been adopted in many states. In a published report last week, The New York Times said a deal first signed in 2002 guaranteed NAHB four of 11 voting seats on the committee that develops new versions of the IRC in return for NAHB’s support of the model building codes that ultimately win ICC approval.RELATED ARTICLESAre We Really Better Off With Building Codes?Study: Green Building Codes Don’t Save EnergyGerman Building Codes Keep Ratcheting UpWhat Is the Building Code?The First Green Building Code The building codes are updated every three years and are not legally binding until they are adopted by state or municipal officials. The dispute pits energy efficiency advocates against a construction industry seeking to keep building costs low. Even though the four guaranteed seats are a committee minority, critics say they are enough to block or slow down the adoption of new provisions that would require greater energy efficiency in new houses. Whitney Doll, ICC’s vice president for communications, said the NAHB is “one of the groups that has reserved seats on the International Residential Code committee.” Doll would not disclose the full text of the agreement but she provided a summary that was prepared two years ago by Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm with headquarters in San Francisco. The summary said that the ICC agreed, among other things, that one-third of the voting members of the IRC code development committee would be qualified representatives offered by NAHB. In return, NAHB agreed to provide a “clear and definitive statement of support” for the adoption of the IRC at all levels of government. In an amendment to the agreement in 2005, the ICC also agreed that the IRC code development committee would hear all proposed changes to the IRC rather than have them assigned to a different committee. The ICC Board of Directors agreed to “oversee the committee appointment process and provide a direct and permanent conduit through the ICC CEO for NAHB and other strategic partners to request appointments.” NAHB was declared a “strategic partner” of the ICC. Ron Jones, a former board member at NAHB, told The NYTimes that the agreement makes it difficult to move energy-saving changes through the ICC. “The home builders took them hostage by saying, ‘If you don’t work with us, we will look elsewhere to promote other codes,’” he said. The view was echoed by Bill Fay, the executive director of the Energy-Efficient Codes Coalition. He said in a telephone call that the upshot of the pact—what he called the “30,000-foot view”—was that the NAHB committee membership was blocking the very energy efficiency improvements that many government officials want. In an email, Doll defended the arrangement and said that a certain number of seats on some of the ICC’s code development committees are reserved for representatives of industries that use the codes. “Representatives from these industries go through the same application, review, and approval process as all others who apply or are nominated for committee seats,” she said. “The participation of these industry representatives is critical to the process, as their input helps ensure that code-change proposals reflect the evolving needs of their respective trades.” Doll added that industry representatives do not make up a majority of any code-writing committee, and that final votes on all code changes are made by “governmental member representatives” with no financial stake in the outcome. “Non-governmental members who served on committees do not get to vote in this final round,” she wrote. There are roughly 8,000 voting members who ultimately determine the outcome of proposed code changes. “Our code development protocols are designed to protect the integrity of the process and ensure that no single group is able to influence the code development process to favor a particular trade or industry,” Doll’s email said. Analysis shows energy changes slowed NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde told The NYTimes that it is appropriate for the industry to have a voice in the code-writing process. He added that committee members selected by NAHB “make their own decision on how to vote” and don’t vote as a block. Yet evidence cited by the newspaper shows that moves toward greater energy efficiency slowed to a crawl after the International Energy Conservation Code fell under the agreement in 2011. Prior to that, in code changes for 2009 and 2012, energy costs for homeowners had been reduced by 32% compared to a 2006 baseline because of more rigorous energy requirements, according to an analysis of the Department of Energy. After the IECC became subject to the deal in an ICC reshuffle of the committee structure, however, projected residential energy savings went down by less than 1% in the 2015 code, and less than 2% in the next round of changes in 2018. More rigorous code provisions for energy efficiency can save homeowners many thousands of dollars over time, far outweighing initial investments in more efficient appliances, more insulation, or better air-sealing. But NAHB has objected to requirements that make new houses more expensive, and the association has crowed about the influence it has had on code changes. “Of the 259 proposals on which the association took a stand, the committees agreed 81% of the time,” a NAHB newsletter said in 2015. “And only 6% of the proposals that NAHB opposed made it through the committee hearings intact.” In a 2018 “NAHB Now” newsletter, the trade group told its members that among its “advocacy victories” was the “preservation of lower cost options in building codes.” The estimated value to builders was $1,000 per housing start. NAHB said it succeeded in blocking a number of proposed provisions that would have upped construction costs from the 2015 versions of the IRC and IECC. Defeated proposals included new U-factors for windows that would have meant a bump to triple-pane units in Climate Zones 5 through 8, high-efficiency water-heating equipment, and requirements that new homes accommodate solar installations in the future. A sleeper issue that got legs Although apparently long-rumored in the industry, the ICC-NAHB deal was first brought to light by Earthjustice after the organization began tracking down rumors two years ago. “The existence of the memorandum was a secret, but not a particularly well-kept one in that there were a lot of people who had heard something to the effect there was an agreement,” Earthjustice staff attorney Timothy Ballo said in a telephone call. “There was a lot of strong indication that there was one, but no one had really seen it.” Ballo said many members of the ICC board were state or municipal employees who are subject to open-records laws. Earthjustice began submitting Freedom of Information requests that would compel those employees to disclose what they knew about the memorandum. Eventually, the ICC contacted Earthjustice and the two began discussing how they would resolve the issue, “basically to make us stop,” as Ballo put it. Ballo said he was permitted to review the document, make notes, and prepare the summary that was ultimately approved by both NAHB and ICC. This was the summary that Doll sent to GBA. At first, Earthjustice did nothing with the information. “The feeling was that if we discredit the ICC process or cast doubt on it we don’t really have a Plan B,” Ballo said. “The thinking was that by showing we knew of the existence of [the memorandum] by putting some pressure on the ICC we would get them to even out the process a little bit and wouldn’t have the major roadblock to efficiency in the next iteration of the codes.” But the new version of the codes in 2018 suggested that it was going to be business as usual—slow progress on energy-saving code changes. The thinking, Ballo said, was that “if we’re not going to make any progress on the IECC, there’s no point in preserving whatever dignity the ICC’s progress supposedly bestowed.” Ballo then planned to write an Earthjustice blog about the arrangement. But he was contacted by NYTimes reporter Christopher Flavelle before it could be written or published. Ballo said he had no idea how the newspaper learned about the NAHB-ICC agreement and that he was actually surprised that such a “wonky” discussion on codes would even end up in the newspaper. But Ballo said there is no question the agreement has slowed progress on forcing builders to make new houses use less energy. “It’s made it very difficult, as I think the NYTimes piece said, for pro-energy-efficiency measures to succeed at that committee state,” he said of the ICC-NAHB arrangement. “You need essentially every committee member not connected with the NAHB to vote in favor of it. And the vote of that committee, while it’s true that the municipal code professional members of the ICC do get the ultimate say, the committee’s action where the NAHB has significant sway is dictating what threshold applies.” Was the deal common knowledge? The NYTimes article called the pact a “secret deal,” adding that when originally asked about it, the ICC denied having an agreement with NAHB. The efforts that Ballo describes to learn the details of the arrangement, as well as the ICC’s continued refusal to make the document public, suggests the parties are still sensitive about it. Yet Ugalde and others scoff at the notion there was anything secret about it. In a written statement released by NAHB, Ugalde said, “The idea of a ‘secret pact or agreement’ is ludicrous at best and harmful at worst.” The ICC hasn’t tried to disguise the fact that it has partnered with several groups, adding, “It would be more newsworthy if the governing body for the codes development process did not seek out the opinion of leading experts.” “We have made no secret of our resistance toward the adoption of requirements into the IRC that are not cost-effective,” he said. “Housing affordability must be a cornerstone in any efforts to create cleaner and stronger homes.” He said increasing housing costs “by imposing unnecessary mandates is not only tone-deaf but harmful to American consumers.” Michael Pfeiffer, senior vice president for technical services in the ICC’s central regional office, said the existence of the agreement is well-known. “It is not a secret agreement,” he said in a telephone call. “We have not publicly disclosed an agreement but for anybody involved in the code development progress it’s common knowledge, once again not only this agreement with NAHB but other agreements as well because these agreements foster ICC’s ability to bring the talent to the table.” Pfeiffer also took issue with the idea that NAHB committee members have an undue influence on energy policy because of the “checks and balances” built into the system. If tougher energy provisions are voted down in the first round of review—what are called the committee action hearings—they can be reintroduced later and voted on by the full ICC governmental membership. The committees consist of 12 members, but the chairman votes only in the event of a tie. It takes a simple majority of the committee to approve or reject new code provisions. However, it takes a two-thirds majority of voting members at the public hearing stage to get that provision back on the agenda for a final vote. So, for example, if the IRC committee votes against requiring triple-glazed windows or more insulation in new houses in the first round of review, it would take two-thirds of all governmental voting ICC members to reverse that later. “The process weights the expertise of the committee,” Pfeiffer said. “If you want to propose something differently than what came out of the committee, it does require two-thirds because the process relies on the expertise that’s brought to bear by the respective committees.” What’s next? The review process for the 2021 versions of the I-codes is still underway, but the disclosure by the New York Times has clearly ruffled some feathers. “Yes, there is going to be some fallout on this,” Fay said. “I don’t think it’s going to die and it shouldn’t. This stinks. It’s an astonishingly troubling document and I think that’s why it’s secret. I think it’s very disturbing.” -Scott Gibson is a contributing writer at Green Building Advisor and Fine Homebuilding magazine.last_img read more

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Children below 14-years will not be allowed to participate in Dahi Handi: Bombay High Court

first_imgThe Bombay High Court on Monday accepted Maharashtra government’s statement that it would not allow children below the age of 14-years to participate in the ‘Dahi Handi’ festival.A division bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and M.S. Karnik, however, refused to impose restrictions on the height of human pyramid formations during the festival.“It is not for the High Court to impose restrictions on the age of the participants and height of the pyramids as this falls exclusively in the domain of the state legislature. We accept the statement made by the State government that it would ensure children below 14-years of age would not participate in the Dahi Handi festival,” Justice Gavai said. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State government, told the court that as per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, children below 14-years of age will not be allowed to participate in the festival since the government had in August last year declared ‘Dahi Handi’ as an adventure sport.The court was on Monday hearing two petitions filed by city residents, raising concerns over the participation of minors in the festival and lack of safety measures, due to which several untoward incidents occur.In 2014, the High Court had passed an order saying children below the age of 18 years cannot participate in the festival, and had also imposed a height restriction of 20 ft for the pyramids. The State government had then appealed in the Supreme Court, which on August 1 this year referred the matter back to the High Court directing it to hear the petitions afresh.last_img read more

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NBA announces 2019 All-Star game will be held in Charlotte

first_imgDon’t miss out on the latest news and information. The league had selected Charlotte to host the 2017 All-Star game, but later moved the game to New Orleans because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people. However, a compromise was struck in March to partially erase the impact of the House Bill 2 law limiting anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a release. “Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hosting“All venues, hotels and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well.”Despite Silver’s intentions, the Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign has concerns that no protections for non-discrimination policies for the LGBTQ community have been put in place by the Charlotte or the state. Cayetano dares Lacson, Drilon to take lie-detector test: Wala akong kinita sa SEA Games Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next More than 5,000 measles deaths in DR Congo this year — WHO Adam Silver, commissioner of the National Basketball Association announces that the 2018 NBA All-Star game will be held in Los Angeles at Staples Center during a press conference at Staples Center on March 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFPCHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA—The NBA All-Star game is headed back to Charlotte in 2019, a couple of years later than anticipated.The NBA announced that the All-Star weekend will be held Feb. 15-17 in Charlotte and the game will be played at the Spectrum Center, home of the Charlotte Hornets.ADVERTISEMENT Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students PLAY LIST 01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes LOOK: Vhong Navarro’s romantic posts spark speculations he’s marrying longtime GF South Korea to suspend 25% of coal plants to fight pollution ‘Coming Home For Christmas’ is the holiday movie you’ve been waiting for, here’s why LATEST STORIES SEA Games: PH beats Indonesia, enters gold medal round in polo MOST READ Going, going, gone at French Open Pagasa: Kammuri now a typhoon, may enter PAR by weekend “North Carolina’s discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” said HRC senior vice president for policy and political affairs JoDee Winterhof.The NBA is the latest sports entity to return events to North Carolina; the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference also are bringing events back to the state after changes were made to the law.The now-repealed House Bill 2 required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. That’s been dropped, but LGBT advocates have denounced the replacement law because state officials took no action barring sexual identity and gender discrimination in workplaces, restaurants and hotels and instead prohibited local governments from acting on their own.Hornets owner and longtime NBA great Michael Jordan said in a release he is “thrilled” the game is coming back to Charlotte.“We want to thank Commissioner Silver for his leadership throughout this process and for the decision to bring NBA All-Star back to Buzz City,” Jordan said in the release. “All-Star Weekend is an international event that will provide a tremendous economic impact to our community while showcasing our city, our franchise and our passionate Hornets fan base to people around the world.”ADVERTISEMENT Jordan asked Silver to keep the city in mind for 2019 after the league moved the 2017 game – hopeful the HB2 law would eventually be repealed.Silver honored that request.Hornets COO and president Fred Whitfield represented the Hornets and Spectrum Center in doing whatever he could to help facilitate a resolution, spending time meeting with legislatures and other business leaders in North Carolina.“From the very beginning I was in engaged to see if we could not only save the 2019 All-Star game, but the NCAA (basketball) regionals and the ACC Tournament, as well as concerts and events in the building,” Whitfield said. “We are operators of the building and we felt like we had to get engaged to assist to get some resolution.”Even as talks to repeal HB2 stalled at times, the Hornets continued to move forward with the league’s request to upgrade the arena.The $41 million renovation – $33.5 million of which came from the City of Charlotte – is almost complete, and has included a new scoreboard, new floor and renovations to suites and hospitality areas, among other upgrades.Charlotte previously hosted the All-Star game in 1991 at the Charlotte Coliseum, which has since been demolished.Pete Guelli, the Hornets executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, estimates a $100 economic impact for the city, but said the reputational effect will be even bigger.“This city has changed significantly since the last time it hosted a game 28 years ago,” Guelli said, “and the opportunity to showcase that on an international stage is incalculable.” Lakers win 9th straight, hold off Pelicans View commentslast_img read more

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