March 9, 2009
Typical issues with Residential Homes (new and existing):
1. Built 16″ On Center
2. Unconditioned plumbing lines (specifically hot)
3. High presence of IAQ (indoor air quality) issues
4. Lead, Mercury, asbestos, VOC’s, chlorides, formaldehyde, mold exist within YOUR home
5. Don’t believe me – get your blood tested – these chemicals don’t go away!
6. Lack insulation – over 50% of our stock has none in the walls and little in the ceiling
7. Air leakages (most homes have the equivalent leakage of having a window fully open year round
8. Unconditioned Basements/Crawlspaces (no vapor barrier) – Radioactive gas is an issue in some areas
9. Air is still our main source of heating spaces – water has 8 times the heat capacity of air
10. We still import materials from distant sources (most framing lumber comes from Brazil)
Typical issues with Commercial Buildings (new and existing):
1. Thermal comfort control – entire floors are conditioned at the same 70 degree temperature
2. Inefficient Lighting Sources – T12′s and too much light – use task lighting!
3. No connection to outdoor – stuffed in a cubicle inside a box (like a rat in a maze)
4. Inefficient use of fuel or electricity – they just consume so much.
There are so many more I could list but commercial buildings are so different in so many ways. For the most part residential construction can be understood – there aren’t too many different ways to do it and as far as existing goes, we always used to do it the same. Commercial buildings have several of the same air quality problems – in fact existing commercial space often has air quality that is 10 times worse than the air quality outside – and yes that includes the air in very urban settings.
At some point we need to realize how much our buildings consume and how much time we spend inside of them consuming those elements. Whether it be electricity, water, materials, food, or fuel we have built these structures and literally encapsulated our lives to the point where we feel uncomfortable outside of that protective shell. When will we start using the world to our advantage?
It is generally understood that you can’t F*%& with mother nature right? So why do we continue to try. We are sucking her dry of oil, water, materials and oxygen – what do you think she’s going to do? Well if you can’t think of anything lets me remind you of the recent Tsunami and Hurricane.
That being said why haven’t we adopted policies where we use her to our advantage. Everyday the wind blows, the sun shines and the skies rain right? I think I just solved every issue besides the materials one. From wind we can get energy and ventilation. From the sun we get our vitamins, energy, and light. From rain we get the water that is essential for all life. Hmmmm… Seems like a no brainer to me. Maybe architects will catch on before we implode.