WFH House by Arcgency is a Sustainable Modular Home Made of Three Shipping Containers

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Located in Wuxi, China, the WFH House by Arcgency is made of three shipping containers combined to create this beautiful Nordic-style home. The sloping green roof sits atop an open, spacious interior, which is made of a single container on one side and a stacked set on the other. The style can be customized for various climates, layouts, and plots of land.

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The containers are lined with insulation covered in bamboo, and the central space is airy and open with skylights that fill the area with natural light. The second floor consists of bedrooms for the kids, with a giant glass curtain overlooking the living area.

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The roof is lined with lush greenery that filters rainwater and provides natural insulation, along with solar cells and sustainable bamboo draped along the exterior. The home is a simple, cost-efficient modular design, especially for those living in areas with extreme heat or a high risk of earthquakes.

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The building components are simple and minimal, and undergo a graceful aging process that minimizes wear and tear and reduces maintenance costs.

See the article here: WFH House by Arcgency is a Sustainable Modular Home Made of Three Shipping Containers

New Biological Concrete Absorbs CO2 and Provides Thermal Heat, Insulation

New Biological Concrete

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A new type of concrete has been created by Spanish researchers for buildings in Mediterranean-like climates that encourages the natural, rapid growth of pigmented organisms within the concrete. It can be used as a facade that offers advantages such as reducing atmospheric CO2 and natural thermal comfort.

The concrete works great as a support for the growth and development of certain kinds of biological organisms such as microalgae, mosses, lichens, and fungi. The goal is to set it up so that the surface is covered in less than a year, and that the appearance will evolve over time, changing color according to the time of year and the dominating organisms.

The structure is made of 3 layers: a waterproofing layer, a biological layer that accumulates water, and a “discontinuous coating layer” with a reverse waterproof function. The final product absorbs CO2, provides a natural source of insulation, and captures solar heat.

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13 Reasons to Plan a Foam-Free Enclosure

Spray foam has been the subject of much discussion in green building circles.  Whether the concern is installation safety or global warming potential or better energy performance, it seems there’s no shortage of debate.  Along these lines, the guys at 475 High Performance Building Supply, a Brooklyn-based provider of products for high-performance projects, have a list describing 13 ways foam fails, starting with the “dangerous toxic ingredients.

1.)  Dangerous toxic ingredients
2.)  Irredeemable global warming potential
3.)  Unacceptably high fire hazard
4.)  Hypersensitive on-site manufacturing
5.)  Intolerant of adverse job site conditions
6.)  Unhealthy off-gassing
7.)  Counterproductive vapor retarder/barrier
8.)  Terribly hygrophobic
9.)  Weak and unpredictable air control
10.)  Inflexible and prone to cracking
11.)  Excessive shrinkage
12.)  Difficult to identify and repair air leaks
13.)  Degrading thermal insulation values

So therefore why not go “foam free” in the building enclosure, says architect Ken Levenson with 475 High Performance Building Supply. What do you think about this list? If not foam free, then why?

[+] Foam Fails by 475 High Performance Building Supply.

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Efficient Greenway Townhouses in Oregon

These are Greenway Townhouses designed by Arbor South Architecture and built by Arbor South Construction (the same group behind The Sage, a high-scoring LEED Platinum project in Eugene). Construction just barely finished, and Arbor South will now focus on renting the 11 units of about 950 square feet each. Greenway Townhouses have been certified Earth Advantage Platinum, according to Bill Randall, principal at Arbor South, and will target LEED Gold certification.

Here’s a list of some of the “green” features in these eco-friendly townhomes:

  • Previously-developed site;
  • Existing bike path through the site to the river path system;
  • Transit bus stop right in front and a Walk Score of 77;
  • High fly ash content concrete and locally-sourced lumber;
  • LED parking lot lighting;
  • EcoBatt used for all of the batt insulation;
  • Exterior walls closed cell “flash” for air sealing and insulation with blown-in-blanket system in the rest of the wall cavity;
  • Blown-in-blanket in common fire walls and extra insulation throughout;
  • Rain garden captures and keeps all of the rainwater from the roofs and parking lot for percolation back into the soil;
  • Landscaping needs no irrigation once established;
  • Energy Star appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, washer);
  • High efficiency package terminal heat pump for heating and air conditioning;
  • Durable finishes with laminate cabinets, plaster walls, and commercial grade carpet;
  • Energy Star/CFL/LED lighting (total lighting wattage in each home is under 300 watts);
  • WaterSense faucets/low flow and dual flush toilets;
  • Zero VOC paint; and
  • A small Panasonic Whisper-Quiet bath fan running a continuous 30 cfm with an occupancy sensor to kick it up to 80 cfm for 20 minutes when bath is occupied (for fresh air ventilation without the expense of a ducted HRV).

Randall told Jetson Green in an email that blower door tests came in between 2.1 and 2.6 air changes (Energy Star has to be 4.0 or less). These figures aren’t quite as strong as, for example, Passive House, but dwellers will certainly benefit with energy savings from a higher performing enclosure.

Greenway Townhouses are located at 785 River Road in Eugene, Oregon. The homes have a two-bedroom, townhouse style and each bedroom has its own vanity and alcove with a shared toilet and shower. There’s also a half-bath downstairs with a full-size washer and dryer in each home. Rent starts at $975 per month.

[+] More about Greenway Townhouses located in Eugene, Oregon.

Credits: Michael Dean Photography.

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Wood Fiber Insulation Arrives in the USA

Looks like wood-fiber insulation board is coming to the USA, according to a Greenbuild update on Green Building Advisor.  Agepan THD is the name of the product and it’s used as exterior sheathing for walls and roofs.  Agepan boards connect in tongue and groove fashion and insulate to R-5.74 per panel (2″ x 74.5″ x 23-5/8″).  The material has a high permeability (18 U.S. perms) and can be used in a wall assembly to dry to the exterior.  It’s offered through Washington-based The Small Planet Workshop Store.

[+] More about Agepan THD wood-fiber insulation board.

Credits: The Small Planet Workshop Store.

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New Roof-Attic Design Improves Efficiency

The media relations group for Oak Ridge National Laboratory just released more information about recent field tests by ORNL of a new roof and attic system that keeps homes cool in the summer and prevents heat loss in the winter.  The system is explained in the graphic embedded above (click to expand).  In addition, I’ve included some graphics below to illustrate more of what the system looks like and how it saves energy.

The system employs a passive ventilation strategy that is expected to cost about $2,000 for a retrofit situation with savings of roughly $100 per year, yielding a payback of about 20 years.

Foil covered polystyrene insulation (with the ventilation gap) is installed over and between rafters for new construction or on top of an existing shingle system in a retrofit.  With the new roof assembly, air moves from the underbelly of the attic into an inclined air space above the roof, according to an ORNL statement, so that “heat that would have gone into the house is carried up and out,” said Bill Miller of ORNL’s Building Envelope Group.

In the summer, the temperature of the attic is reduced as a result of the roof detailing and, according to observations by ORNL, the thermal load of the home is thereby reduced. Further, ORNL found improved efficiencies even if the attic floor is insufficiently insulated.

The research and findings are discussed in more detail in a paper, “Prototype Roof Deck Designed to Self-Regulate Deck Temperature and Reduce Heat Transfer,” published by the National Roofing Contractors Association.  A PowerPoint of the background research can be found here [PDF].

[+] More about this roof-attic system tested by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Original post: New Roof-Attic Design Improves Efficiency

Gut Kitchen Renovation in Philadelphia

This is a gut kitchen renovation by owners/designers Matthew D. Emerson, LEED AP, and his wife, Courtney, in Philadelphia.  The Emersons employed a team of local Northern Liberties construction professionals and a sustainable approach with reclaimed materials, energy-efficient technology, greater insulation, low-VOC paints, and a green roof visible from the upper level of the 1907-built brick rowhouse.

Emerson told Jetson Green in an email that he gutted the original 70 square-foot kitchen and sold existing cabinetry and appliances for reuse.  With general contractor Greensaw Design/Build, the structure was bolstered with framing salvaged from movie sets.

The envelope was refitted with R19 or greater insulation in the floor, wall, and roof framing, while interior natural light was enhanced with a large Energy Star glass door, operable skylight, and expanded opening to the main house.

David Wing of Greensaw Design/Build built the cabinet boxes out of FSC-certified plywood and finished them with water- and soy-based oils.  The cabinet faces are also a custom creation from locally-sourced, reclaimed cypress from Kennett Square mushroom beds acquired at Provenance Architectural Salvage.

Other materials include 50% recycled-content Daltile floor tile, LED lighting, Energy Star appliances, an in-cabinet compost bin, a backsplash made with 100% recyclable waxed steel plate (Bill Curran Design), a green roof (Urban Ecoforms), and countertops from reclaimed oak library tables.

If you’ve completed a similar project lately, submit your green kitchen renovation to the editors for potential publication on

Credits: Steve Gengler. 

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Originally posted here: Gut Kitchen Renovation in Philadelphia

Denim Insulation Now Available at Lowe’s

There’s been a lot of talk about cotton insulation, but I’ve seen it used in countless projects.  It’s probably worth noting that Bonded Logic’s recycled-content product hit the mainstream with a roll-out of UltraTouch Denim Insulation to 165 Lowe’s stores this month.  The product is made with 80% post-consumer recycled natural fibers and doesn’t have added formaldehyde, VOCs, or chemical irritants, according to Bonded Logic.

Lowe’s offers the R13 and R19 versions, though R21 and R30 can be special ordered.  Pricing is available in select stores; however, for example, I’ve seen a 5-pack of the UltraTouch R19 (15″ x 93″) for $39.97.

In terms of installation, this insulation doesn’t itch like fiberglass insulation and “a portion of each package contains perforations that allow consumers to tear the insulation by hand, similar to a paper towel,” according to a statement by Bonded Logic.

[+] More about Bonded Logic UltraTouch Denim Insulation.

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Expanded Cork Insulation Arrives in USA

If you want to wind up a building scientist, you might mention the topic of insulation.  Better yet, mention the advent of expanded cork insulation in the United States from Portugal-based Amorim Isolamentos.  The insulation is made from leftover material from cork bottle stopper production which is heated and sliced into boards, according to Alex Wilson of BuildingGreen.  Thus, the insulation is rapidly renewable and entirely natural.

Cork insulation is typically installed by wrapping exterior walls with several inches of the material.

Amorim Isolamentos is setting up business in North America, but Wilson estimates that the price for R19 of material could be roughly $5.50 per square foot.  Wilson also indicates that the material has good sound-control properties, insulates to R3.6 per inch, and could be “one of the greenest building materials anywhere.“  Sounds fascinating!

[+] The Greenest Insulation Material — Expanded Cork? by BuildingGreen.

Credits: Amorim Isolamentos.

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LEED Platinum Home Addition in Venice

This is the Brooks Residence, and it’s one of the 10 highest LEED-rated homes in California.  Located in Venice, California, the craftsman-style home received 109 points and is one of about 40 local homes certified under the LEED for Homes program.  It was built by Rick Arreola and designed by Duvivier Architects for principle Isabelle Duvivier, who wanted to modernize the existing home with more space, light, and sustainability.

The first floor was opened and expanded to create a larger living and kitchen, as shown in the pictures.  At the same time, Duvivier sought to increase natural light and ventilation through carefully placed windows, solar tubes, and skylights.

To conserve energy, there’s 2