J.Schwartz,llc Construction Blog (PAHIC#861)

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tools for Free? You already have one – the snow, just look at it and “read” what it tells you.

There are a lot of benefits to the fluffy white stuff; fun, beauty, a cause for a slowdown in our otherwise hectic lives, but there is another that is a little less obvious.
Have you ever looked up at your roof a day or so after a snow? Have you looked at your neighbors in comparison? What do you see?
The speed that the snow melts can tell us a lot about the insulation in your home, the way that the snow melts can tell us a lot about the ventilation in your home, and the icicles that may form over the eaves can tell us a bit about both.
If you look around your neighborhood, you will see some pretty interesting things on roofs as the snow melts. After a good snow, some roofs just melt the snow away in no time – and unless you really like the way your roof looks – and are therefore purposely heating it, this is not a good sign for the energy efficiency of your home. (Take care to make sure that you are looking at rooflines that face a similar direction as the one you are comparing it to – that will make a HUGE difference in how the snow melts.)
Some roofs will show patterns as the snow melts – maybe the area around the plumbing vent melts faster than the surrounding areas, maybe you can see the stripes where the roof rafters lay below the roofing and plywood, and you may even be able to tell where the attic access is by noting a square area somewhere in the melting snow. Sometimes you can see a home with an addition whose roof holds the snow, but the main house is snow-free (or vice-versa). All of these can tell us a lot about what further investigation should be done to make a home more efficient, healthier (that’s right – ventilation and efficiency correlate directly with the health of your home)and therefore more comfortable (both directly, and from a fiscal point of view).
After the observations, we can investigate where the air leakage around the vent pipe is coming from, we can check the insulation levels in the attic or between the rafters (based on construction and design of the home), we can look for un-insulated recessed lights that break the air/insulation barriers, we can look for whether or not cold air is getting under the attic insulation, and believe it or not – we can often (almost always) find leakage that comes all the way from the basement. All of these things can be easily and inexpensively remedied – and all of these remedies will decrease energy consumption (sometimes drastically), increase comfort, and increase the longevity of your most prized possession – your home. We can use the observations collected from the outside, in conjunction with a blower-door test to fully understand how the envelope and interior of your home is working (or failing), and how it is “connected” with the outside where it should not be. We can then come up with a comprehensive plan to of attack.
So as we in the Northeast are under a blanket of snow, take the opportunity to look up – at the trees, at the sky – and now, at your roof; and if you would like us to come out and analyze what you see, audit your home, and make it better from all of the angles that we wrote about – than just call; we will be waiting. 610-644-6700!

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 11:21 am  

Monday, October 18, 2010

A project with a quantifiable energy consumption change…

We are currently in the middle of an interesting project. The project entails the removal of existing cedar shake siding, removal of gypsum sheathing (no vapor barrier!) and the installation of new insulation, new 1/2″ CDX Plywood, Tyvek, 3/4″ Foam Board, Type D Tar Paper, and then Stucco/Fiber Cement…
There will be a small addition (approx 180 SF) that will be insulated with Spray foam insulation.

We will also be sealing off all of the hi-hats in the attic with metal duct and foam, and air-sealing the house to the best of our ability. We have done the ” Before” blower door readings, and will report back with the “afters” as soon as the project is complete. We feel that there will be significant descreases in energy consumption; come back and see!

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 4:50 pm  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Energy Audits – A Proud Certified Member of the Building Performance Institute

Joe Schwartz is proud to be a member of the Building Performance Institute – (BPI), a group that sets the standard in Building Performance inspection, review and recommendation. Joe has recently become a certified Building Analyst and has the knowledge and equipment to perform complete Energy Audits on your home. This inspection includes Life, safety and Health inspections, as well as Blower Door Testing of the home.
J. Schwartz,llc offers Energy Audits as an integral part of any home renovation/remodel that we do; as well as stand-alone audits for anyone that would like to hire us to inspect their home.
The inspections will provide an in-depth analysis of the homes combustion appliances, electrical / fuel consumption, general electrical system safety, and it will show exactly how “leaky” the home is… with recommendations on how to make your home more energy efficient.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 2:48 pm  

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Step Above – Building Science integrated with Construction – Energy Audits

I knew at the age of 14 that I wanted to build. I wanted to build things so that I could feel good about myself, and so that my clients would feel good in the spaces that I worked on – their homes. I wanted it so badly that I worked summers as a framer, or more accurately at the time – as a wood carrier. No matter, to be surrounded by the sawdust and to see a structure rise, was all I wanted. I wanted it so badly that I went to school for Architecture, Architectural Engineering, and Civil Engineering – all to be a “builder”. But what does that mean? A doctor is someone that holds a license that compares them with a standard; a CPA must pass tests to be called a “CPA”, but a builder – well – anyone can call themselves a builder; and that is the problem.
There is a science to proper construction – a science that I was not even taught in seven years of higher-education. A science that I taught myself, learned, and sought out.
“Building Science” is now a catch-phrase, but a very good one. Efficiency of a home has suddenly become important in the U.S. (but always should have been), and J. Schwartz,llc is on the forefront. There are terms out there now like “tight home”, “energy efficient home”, and “green home”, but what do they mean, and who can build them? AND – WHAT DO THEY COST???? The truth is, an energy efficient home need not cost more than a cookie-cutter home, a green home may have a higher up-front price tag, but may very well have a large return-on-investment PLUS a large benefit to the common good. It is all in the education – the know how, and the ability. J. Schwartz,llc is in the unique position to offer these evaluations and opportunities as a part of our construction services.
We now offer full energy auditing services that include a complete and thorough evaluation of existing homes, a FREE audit on homes that we renovate, and all of our new custom projects will be ENERGY STAR RATED.
We are dedicated to remain in the forefront of smart, educated and efficient construction – and we can explain (and understand) what that means.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 9:28 pm  

Friday, November 6, 2009

A New Carbon Footprint Calculation Tool

The Rocky Mountain Institute has release a new on-line calculator to help rus gain the knowledge to reduce the life cycle carbon foortprint of the homes that are built. This is a great tool to use in the planning, design and material selection phases of any project. WWW.GREENFOOTSTEP.ORG

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 11:31 am  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What does “Green” even mean?

The term “green” is a bit amorphous and does not really have a set definition; and this causes a problem with the idea of being green (in my opinion, anyway). The Green concept is based on things like using fast-growth materials so that we are not laying the land bare, using materials that are bio and photo-degradable so that we are not filling landfills, using recycled materials (for obvious reasons), using highly efficient materials in order to save energy, use locally grown materials to reduce the carbon footprint, using adhesives and chemicals that are not bad for the environment (formaldehyde, etc), using things like solar, thermal and wind energy, using materials in new ways that would have otherwise been thrown away (engineered lumber uses scrap wood), and this list goes on and on.
The problem comes in when you take a myopic look at something and are tempted to call it “green” based on only one of the criteria listed above. For example, one of the commonly used green materials is bamboo – but as far as I have been able to tell, a huge majority of the bamboo used in the U.S. is imported and importing creates a huge carbon foot -print. Maybe this should negate this from being a green product? Well, the truth is, I do not know…because I guess it is all relative.
Together, let’s take a challenge, and do a comparison and contrast of materials / methods that are being called green… Over the next months, I will try to come up with a “green grading system” that can be used to compare and contrast materials and methods that will give an easy to read “green score” so that we can decipher what is and what is not actually green. If anyone can help with methodology for figuring out carbon footprints, that would be very helpful, and any suggestions of items to be included in the list would be great too. Keep in touch and explore this with me in the weeks and months to come…

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 9:01 am  

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