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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Report from Efficiency Vermont’s Better Buildings by Design Conference

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Burlington, Vermont – Day 1 • Feb. 3, 2016

Reporting on the Keynote address and three workshops, Jim Stiles was there, to represent Green Energy Times:

The keynote was good (hey, Bill McKibben is dynamite). I think the only news was that he was not thrilled with Paris. He pointed out: 

  • We already have 1C of global warming
  • In 2015, we had .1C of warming
  • At that rate, we exceed the max of 1.5C of warming (9 years to 2C, but since carbon emissions are still increasing…)
  • If we meet the emission goals from Paris, we will see 3.5C of warming
  • He thinks that there is a plausible argument that the 1 million refugees from Syria should be considered climate refugees (the political meltdown was preceded by a horrendous drought, which certainly contributed to a terrible economy, which contributed political mayhem. Welcome to what could well be a common pattern for what should likely be considered climate refugees

I really liked how Bill talked about how we all have our regular job but we also have our other job – which is all about being good citizens, and how one big piece of that is fixing climate change. He also suggested that the actual radicals out there these days tend to work at oil companies (for example Exxon, where they still systematically mislead, distort, etc), and the actual conservatives are people like us who are (dare I say it) into conservation and protecting a way of life that is fast disappearing.

Reporting on three workshops that were held on the first day of the event, Stiles said that he went to three talks:

1. Best Practice Designs for Cost Effective Approaches to Net Zero Energy Commercial Building Enclosures:

Presenter: Steve Easley, Steve Easley & Associates

This interactive session is designed to sort through the myriad of insulation choices in order to choose the best insulation system for various types of structure. It will focus on the performance characteristics of new building enclosure approaches and technologies to help you create enclosures that manage thermal and moisture loads to ensure building durability as well as energy efficiency. The presenter will use real-world examples to help you select the best insulation and air barrier system for a given application and write better specifications regarding fenestration, insulation, and air barriers.

Stiles comment:“The guy knew his stuff, and talked mostly about how to avoid moisture/water related problems with insulation which is important…

2. Balancing Resiliency Resilient River Apartment:

Presenter: Joseph Cincotta, LineSync Architecture

The resilient design movement is gaining momentum, but much is still open for discussion and experimentation. How do you weigh up-front cost against creating buildings that can withstand natural disasters? What are the overlaps and contradictions between resilient and sustainable design practices? How can rugged materials be utilized to create humane and beautiful spaces? This 90 minute session will explore resiliency through a case study of our award-winning project. The workshop will begin with a presentation of the ‘Resilient River Apartment , which was rehabilitated after being ravaged by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene. The presentation will be followed by a discussion on how lessons learned can be applied to other projects.

Stiles comment: Basically the presenter, who is from Wilmington, Vermont, one of the many places that were devastated by hurricane, Irene. He did some innovative stuff to facilitate recovery after a building is flooded. Not bad stuff, but I not anything that looks like actual best practice (better to not build in or just up and leave places that frequently flood).

3. What we have learned about Mechanical Systems in Low Load Homes:

Presenter: Marc Rosenbaum, South Mountain Company

How are air source, inverter-driven heat pumps working in low-load homes? What about heat pump water heaters? And while were at it, how are those energy recovery ventilators performing in real installations? We will examine the performance and subtleties of all these technologies. The presenter is a compulsive measurer, and the data collected doesnt always match the hypothesis. Well also take a look at the cold climate heat pump specification. Finally, for amusement, well consider some data taken from some interesting outings in measuring existing fossil fuel systems!

Stiles comment: The presenter is a very competent guy, is a big fan of super insulation and mini-split heat pumps and can actually demonstrate that they can really work in real homes. Has lots of good info about how bad conventional systems can easily be.

TODAY Is another full day for the Better Buildings by Design Conference. The trade show is open to the public. Stop by and join builders, architects, homeowners, manufacturers … Learn about today’s standards that will lead us into an energy-efficient, resilient future: Passive House, Net-zero, Heat pumps, the latest for heating, insulation & sealing, windows, and ways to reduce your energy usage and consequential cost of living …

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