Celebrating Earth Day by Volunteering in our Community

Happy Earth Day!

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by volunteering for an event in the community you live.

Everyone has an expertise and what better way to benefit the Community in which you live than by volunteering that expertise to the benefit of others.  We have always believed that it is important to be engaged and active in your community.  We have had two opportunities recently to volunteer our time and talents.

Just this past Sunday, we organized Earth Day activities at our church.  Our church recently received Energy Star Certification and is one of 50 churches Nationwide who have received such designation.  Our church has also recently created a “Green” Team to focus on Energy Efficiency and Sustainability within our congregation.

All Saints conducted a $9,000 Level 2 energy audit in May, which with rebates from the program was free to the congregation.

Our activities for this past Sunday, included programs for both Children’s Sunday School and Adults.

Our Children’s Sunday School activities included talking about the Energy Star Certification (some of the kids were really well aware of what it means!), talking about where food comes from and planting cucumber seeds in peat pots for the kids to take home.

image1

For the Adults, we had a presentation and display set up between Church services from CSG (Conservation Services Group) who administers both Columbia Gas and AEP (American Electric Power) Energy Audits for residential customers.  These Audits identify areas in a home that could be improved upon from a air leakage standpoint (insulation or air sealing), systems (furnace and a/c), electrical (light bulbs) and plumbing fixtures (low flow faucet aerators).

CSG presentation

For two years now, we have volunteered to participate in Green Apple Day of Service.  Green Apple Day of Service is a National Event sponsored by the Green Schools program through the United States Green Building Council.  The Green Apple Day of Service gives parents, teachers, students, companies and local organizations the opportunity to transform all schools into healthy, safe and productive learning environments through local service projects.

We helped to implement a rain garden at a local Elementary School.

2014-09-27 09.47.29

 2014-09-27 10.57.15

\2014-09-27 09.54.50

Energy Hog: Attic Insulation

LloydHome-SectionNot everything about green or sustainable homes is sexy.  The majority of what makes a structure green or sustainable you don’t even see.  That is the case for the first big project we tackled after we purchased the home in 2005.  We decided to first air seal and insulate our attic because the existing levels when we bought the home were anywhere from 0”-4” of blown fiberglass which is an insulating value of R0-10.  Now back in the 60’s when the house was build and energy was cheap this was an acceptable level, however not by today’s standards.  Now after working in the field performing home comprehensive home energy audits for a little over two years I understand the majority of homeowners do not know this or fully understand what it’s purpose is and how it works.  They just know their bills are high and they are not comfortable.  And as a young door to door sales girl asked me one time, “How many inches of insulation do you have in the attic”.  Which to my surprise, many people do not know the answer to that question, and of course for the professionals reading, the answer in part is it depends on the type of insulation that is up there that determines the overall thickness that should be in the attic.  So the general rule of thumb in the attic is if you can see the ceiling framing, then you don’t have enough insulation.  Now since my wife and I are in the design and construction industry we knew at the time we started the projects, buildings we were designing required and R-30 for attic insulation.  So we did not have to have a home energy audit performed on the home to know by adding insulation to the attic we would save money on our heating and cooling bills.  So our decision was to install an additional R49 to bring the overall insulation levels up to an R55.

By the numbers:
Adding R-19 expected to save – $346 yr
Additional R-30 expected to save – $93 yr
Total estimated yearly savings of – $439yr

Savings estimated utilizing REM/Design

Now insulating the attic was a two year process, as the decision was to split it up into 2 phases by air sealing and installing a layer of 6” R19 fiberglass blanket insulation in-between the ceiling framing in phase 1.  Then with the energy savings from that project, it helped offset the cost to purchase and install an additional insulation layer of R30 running perpendicular to the first layer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thousand Home Challenge

I am a LEED Accredited Professional and have been since 2004.  I have also adopted the goals of the Architecture 2030© 2030 Challenge and incorporate energy efficiency measures into all of my design projects.  However we as a country cannot reduce our dependence on foreign oil by designing and building new energy efficient buildings and homes.  We need to address our existing building stock.   There are plenty of programs around the country to help homeowners and building owners increase the energy efficiency of their aging structures.  However the majority of the programs only bring the efficiency of the buildings and homes up to today’s current standards of energy efficiency.  However a building built to code minimums today, will be ready for efficiency improvements tomorrow as the energy codes only get stricter.  Thanks to organizations like the USGBC and RESNET, energy efficiency has become more mainstream and there have been great improvements in the energy efficiency standards to our buildings and products in the past decade.

Thousand Home ChallengeTherefore, a couple of years ago now I wrote an article stating my interest in participating in the 1000 Home Challenge to use my home as a case study to find strategies to reduce an existing homes energy usage by 70-90%.  In August of 2012 my home was accepted into the program.  Why the 1000 Home Challenge instead of a program like LEED for Homes?  At the time that my wife and I began the journey of “greening” our 1965 ranch home the LEED program did not make it easy to certify an existing home without completely gutting the home and that was never our intention.  Sym-Homes’ mission was to show homeowners affordable strategies to make their home more energy efficient.  As not everyone can afford, or is up to the work that is involved with taking the exterior walls down to the bare studs.  Also the LEED for Homes and other energy efficiency programs are a onetime test and certification that is based off of energy modeling and tests/inspections of installed measures.  With the Thousand Home Challenge there will be a one year monitoring period of the utility bills to verify that improvements are performing as expected and that the homes overall energy usage is meeting the set targets.

Read the rest of this entry »

Building Science Sunday – Knowledge & Practice

I recently read an article (here) from Dr. Joseph Lstiburek.  It wasn’t his overly technical type of writing diving deep into building science, it was more of his personal story of how he began his career and some of the great building science minds of the 60’s & 70’s that he had the pleasure of meeting and learning from.  Yes I did write the 60’s & 70’s.  Building Science is not a new thing, the topics Joe has been presenting have been done before, but no one was doing it and to this day building science is still a mystery to most of the design and construction industry.

Now what I took from that article is not the name dropping of who he met early in his career, but more of what he did with those connections and new found knowledge.  He applied it, he took what he learned from those individuals and put it into his then home building practice.  And to this day he is still refining some of those early construction practices. Read the rest of this entry »

UNLESS Someone Like You Cares A Whole Awful Lot….

Today I took my kids to see the new animated movie “The Lorax” based off of the classic book by Dr. Seuss to kick off earth month.  “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”.   An influential statement that was published in 1971, it still holds true today with the same powerful meaning.  This is something that we teach our kids daily, TO CARE.   I am a true believer that you should practice what you preach.  We as a family do that daily as my wife blogs about a greener lifestyle at Saving Family Green and my commitment to home performance and conservation outside of my job by entering our home into the 1000 Home Challenge.

You may be asking how does The Lorax fit anywhere within what I do or have previously posted, I say how does it not.  The Lorax was originally published in 1971, one year after the EPA opened its doors to respond to environmental issues such as the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969, which is mentioned in the first addition of the children’s book.  The author known as Dr. Seuss never had the intention of having an ethical message in mind.  However he saw the blatant disregard of our natural resources and the over consumerism at the time.

Again, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not”.  However there are a lot of professionals out there that do care, and go beyond what the job requires.  For some of us, it is a way of life and a mindset.  We want to be mindful of the resources we use now and in the future by using energy conservation strategies with any work we do.  We are also mindful of the materials that we select for any project that will be long lasting and not create unhealthy conditions.  So on your next home remodel project, consider what you really need and want, as well as think of how the impact can be reduced and your you can easily have your overall lifestyle improved.