High Performance Walls

Written by Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant

Groggy and sleepy-eyed, I swung my feet out of bed this morning. Still waking up, I began the trek to my coffee pot, but was thrown off track when my bare feet stumbled (literally) upon a freezing patch of floor beside the door to my balcony. Suddenly wide-eyed, I ducked into the bathroom to rub my toes against my fuzzy bath mat. Outside, the city seemed to have surrendered itself to a single shade of gray, and though my feet were warming, I could feel the monochromatic January cold pressing its way through the metal window. I put on my architect’s (hard) hat and thought, “these are textbook examples of thermal bridging.” But aside from a chill or a draft here and there what’s the big deal? Well, let me provide a little insight.

Thermal bridging occurs when heat is lost through a less-insulated or more-conductive portion of a building’s exterior. On a frigid winter day, this means heat is lost where insulation is lacking, such as through a metal window frame or the floor slab in my apartment building. Ultimately, thermal bridging results in a less comfortable home that is more expensive to heat and cool.

Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. When warm air comes into contact with a cold spot on the floor or wall, water vapor in the air cools and collects as droplets on the colder surface. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality.

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Green Your Holidays

It is the time of year that we splurge, whether it is food, decorations, or gifts. And that’s the way it should be, but why not splurge sustainably? No, I am not saying be a Grinch and don’t eat, decorate or gift, but there are alternatives that add a whole lot of holiday cheer without emptying your pockets or negatively impacting the environment.

Here are some tips and tricks that I use to keep my over-the-top holiday spirit and at the same time feel great about being sustainable throughout these festive months.

The Highlight of the Holidays – Food

Thanksgiving DinnerAh, food. Here’s where it gets tough. How do you stay sustainable when the holidays are the epitome of food leftovers? I mean, there are tons of recipes dedicated to all the leftovers from a very classic turkey sandwich to a very mysteriously filled shepherd’s pie. However, this is also where you can make your biggest mark on how “green” your holidays will be. Read more

SWA Helps Implement STEP, the Sustainable Technical Education Program

karla_butterfield

Written by Karla Butterfield, Senior Sustainability Consultant 

In a new and exciting opportunity, we’re partnering with Energize CT, the Connecticut Technical High School System, The Connecticut Light and Power Company dba Eversource, The United Illuminating Company, and The Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) Education and Workforce Partnership to help implement Green STEP (Sustainability Technical Education Program). This program will train CT technical high school students in a construction career track in energy, water, and resource efficiency.

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Green Homes: Consumers Follow the Money

Chris Kramer

Chris Kramer, Sustainability Consultant at SWA

By Chris Kramer, Sustainability Consultant

What Homebuyers are Looking For

A report published recently by Shelton Group has found that current and potential homeowners prioritize the value of energy efficient features over other luxurious amenities. In their annual Energy Pulse study, Shelton Group found that 85% of potential homebuyers would be willing to pay for an ENERGY STAR® Certified Home and that the ENERGY STAR appliances would be a more valuable addition to their home than a pool, state-of-the-art sound system, or home theater. These findings are illustrative of a growing trend in the homeowner demographic to seek new ways of cutting annual energy costs. With the average American household currently spending $2,150 on energy bills, upgrading old appliances and light fixtures to new ones that use less energy can go a long way in reducing this annual expenditure.
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The Adventures of Mo and Her No Mow Lawn

I always thought the phrase ‘about as interesting as watching grass grow’ conjured a vision of ultimate boredom. That was before I attempted to grow my own no mow lawn. It turns out that watching grass grow can be a roller-coaster of emotions: the angst of wondering whether my inability to precisely follow directions would matter… the excitement of seeing the first blades of green poking up… the anguish over bare spots… and the pride over healthy, lush sections.

No Mow Lawn 1

April 2015 – The lower tier is seeded; the upper tier wall-building is still in progress

For years I advised clients to consider no mow lawns in their green homes, but I had never seen the end product through a full cycle of seasons. Friends of friends who own a turf farm expressed their interest-slash-skepticism at my undertaking, which more or less echoed the sentiments of a whole stream of landscape architects before. “Sure, you could try no mow if you really WANTED to… ” A search of local nurseries turned up nothing available. I couldn’t figure out why something that sounded so ingenious wasn’t more popular! An internet search for “no mow grass” turns up Prairie Nursery in Westfield, WI as a major supplier. A colleague used their product, and they were extremely helpful on the phone, so I ordered the No Mow Lawn Seed Mix online.
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