A Guide to Better, Safer, Greener Affordable Housing

The Federation of American Scientists has just released its latest tool to improve energy efficiency, sustainability, healthfulness, and safety in the affordable housing market.

In cooperation with six Habitat for Humanity affiliates from all over the U.S. and experts at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), FAS has created The High Performance Building Guide for Habitat for Humanity Affiliates.  Funded by the Building Technologies Program at the U.S. Department of Energy, the goal of this Guide is to provide Habitat’s construction partners (called affiliates) with the knowledge, resources, and basic background to make educated decisions about improving their building practices, materials and technology choices, and decision-making and planning processes.

Targeted to the needs of the Habitat for Humanity building community, this Guide features profiles and case studies of excellent Habitat affiliates, practical recommendations and steps for improving building practices and decisions, and guidance on obtaining the partners, education, and resources necessary to make the transition to higher performing housing.

Get the High Performance Building Guide on the FAS website here.

To learn more about the Guide and to read a synopsis of its contents, check out the new Earth Systems Program blog.

Adaptations of CSIPS for Multistory Construction

The Building Technologies Program has just released a new report titled “Adaptations of Cementitious Structural Insulated Panels for Multistory Construction“.  Written for the Charles Pankow Foundation, this document explores the procedures for designing and constructing cementitious structural insulated panels (CSIPs) elements in multi-story buildings.  While the International Residential Code currently covers SIPs for buildings of two stories or less, no code has been written and very little testing has been performed on utilizing SIPs, especially CSIPs in multistory (3+stories) construction.

Both in practice and in code, SIPs are primarily targeted toward single-story, residential construction.  However, FAS believes that SIPs have strong potential to play a wider role in both the commercial and residential sectors of the building industry.  One barrier toward the adoption of this advanced technology system is the lack of available information for architects and engineers on the properties of CSIPS and on methods to adopt in applying CSIPS to multistory buildings.

This report seeks to fill that information gap by providing material, data and appendixes in such a manner and in sufficient detail that a knowledgeable engineer can replicate and apply the design and construction methods and principles described herein.  In addition, the first chapter serves as a detailed overview of history, materials, fabrication methods and current uses and markets related to SIPs in general and CSIPs in particular.

A PDF copy of the full report is available here.

Seismic Evaluation of Structural Insulated Panels

In August of 2008, UC Berkeley Professor Khalid Mosalam presented a paper coauthored by FAS’s Joe Hagerman and Henry Kelly at the 5th International Engineering and Construction Conference. The paper presents Mosalam’s findings from research into the seismic performance of structural insulated panels. There is a considerable lack of information available about the behavior of SIPs when subjected to seismic loads. The paper focuses on the characterization of the mechanical properties and seismic performance of SIPs using experimental techniques. Specimens studied include both OSB faced and cementitious SIPs, where panels were tested without panel-to-panel connections.

The full text pdf copy of the paper can be found here.

FAS Presenting at the ASCE AEI Annual Conference

I’m off to Denver later this week for the American Society of Civil Engineers Architectural Engineering Institute’s Annual Conference. FAS has been asked by Dr. Mohammed Ettouney, the conference’s chair, to present our research on applying cementitious structural insulated panels to multi-story buildings at the event.

I will be chairing the presentation, presenting along with John Millhone, Dr. Khalid Mosalem, and Eric Tompos. John is a senior advisor at FAS, and will be speaking about the role of buildings in the carbon economy, and how advanced building technologies offer one of the most important solutions to our national energy problems. Eric, the Executive Vice President of NTA Inc., is a very well respected engineer in the SIP community, and has provided instrumental advice and guidance to FAS throughout the research project. Eric will be presenting generally about SIPs, focusing on the panel mechanics and basic engineering. Dr. Mosalem, a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, will present his research on seismic testing of CSIP panels. I will wrap up our session with a talk about the specifics of our research – the multi-story applications of CSIPs, future areas of research, and the overall potential for CSIPs in the architectural and engineering worlds.

I think the conference will be a great opportunity for FAS, and I’m looking forward to a positive dialogue about the research. I’ll be out of touch while at the conference, but I’ll be sure to post a recap afterwards with some thoughts and insights.

ACEEE’s Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings – A Recap

With energy and environmental problems growing more daunting, the need for intelligent solutions is becoming more and more significant. Every two years, a diverse gang of engineers, architects, technicians and true believers gather at the Asilomar Conference Center for the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy’ Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings.  I recently returned from the 14th Summer Study, held on Aug. 17-22.

My fondest memories of the Summer Study are from the Reagan years when the dwindling energy efficiency crowd huddled together for mutual therapy, shared exchanges on survivor strategies, and rekindled their commitments to stay the course.  I’ve missed the recent Summer Studies, but returned this year to indulge my own obsession and measure the changes aroused by rising energy prices and publicity about Climate Change.

Continue reading