Large Homes Selling, But Tiny Homes Attracting Attention

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The average new home size has crept up as younger buyers are priced out of the market. Some of them are turning to tiny homes.

Large Homes Selling, But Tiny Homes Attracting Attention

The average size of a new home in the U.S. hit a new record in 2013, at 241 square metres. The previous record was about 232 square metres in 2008, just before the housing market imploded.

That might sound like good news, but it actually indicates a weak housing market, according to economist Robert Dietz of the National Association of Homebuilders.

“Higher-end homebuyers, particularly older homebuyers with cash reserves necessary to meet today’s down payment requirements, are in the new home market in greater proportions than first-time homebuyers who typically purchase smaller homes,” Dietz wrote in an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report. “The result of this change in market mix is, at least in the data, rising average new home size on an average basis.”

Not coincidentally, in the decade from 2002 to 2012, home ownership fell most among people 35 and younger — 11 per cent, according to US Census data.

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Advances in Photovoltaic Technology

image: light-sensitive nanoparticle; Advances in Photovoltaic Technology

Paint-on solar cells? They’re on the way.

Advances in Photovoltaic Technology

Recent advances in material technology could soon lead to more advanced solar cells that can be painted or printed onto a surface, such as thin films and roofing materials.

 A new class of solar-sensitive nanoparticle, developed by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, outperforms current versions of light-sensitive nanoparticles.

Post-doctoral researcher Zhijun Ning and Professor Ted Sargent have led the work on colloidal quantum dots, manufactured nanoparticles that generate electricity from sunlight. Their research could “lead to cheaper and more flexible solar cells, as well as better gas sensors, infrared lasers, infrared light emitting diodes and more.”

Read more here.

 

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Getting the Roof Right a Key to Good Design

roof image; Getting the Roof Right a Key to Good Design

Roof design and details can make or break an energy-efficient home.

Getting the Roof Right a Key to Good Design

Designing and building high-performance structures offers many chances for under-performing details, particularly when it comes to roofing.

Some design elements are problematic in and of themselves, and some components can be problematic unless they’re installed perfectly. Aesthetics are one thing, but practicality is another. For practical reasons, it is imperative to get roofing details right.

CAD systems make designing a complex roof fairly easy, but even if a roof performs fine in the modeling software, it still has to be built, insulated, and air-sealed to specs. A simple gable or hip roof, or as close a design as you can come up with, will reap rewards for the designer, builder, homeowner, and remodeler.

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Eight Useful Apps for Builders

apps; Eight Useful Apps for Builders

Builders today have a plethora of helpful apps to choose from.

Eight Useful Apps for Builders

Builders and subcontractors can now manage most, if not all of of their business from their smart phones and/or tablets. Here are a few of the most useful apps.

Home Builder Pro Calcs ($4.99, iPad and iPhone)

This app has more than 350 calculators built in, including loans, pricing, and travel costs; concrete and paving calculators; electrical; floors, walls, and ceilings; foundation work; framing, including siding, joists, studs, stairs; HVAC, including insulation, air conditioning, and airflow; hours estimates for carpentry, concrete, doors and windows, finishes, roofing, and site work; landscape and yard; masonry work; 24 area, volume, and angle calculators for a variety of shapes; 26 different unit conversions; 22 calculators for roof framing and roofing; and wood and materials.

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Multi-Family Passive Houses a Potential Boon for Australia

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Multi-family Passive Houses could serve densely populated Australian cities well.

Multi-Family Passive Houses a Potential Boon for Australia

According to research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), “energy use in buildings is responsible for 26 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the primary cause of peak energy demand on the electricity network.”

Furthermore, on particularly hot days, air conditioners in Australia can consume as much as 22 per cent of all the electricity generated across the nation.

Australia is one of the worlds’ most urbanised nations, with 89 per cent of residents living in cities. The stringent Passive House standard, though not yet much of a factor in Australia, offers the potential for multi-family housing that serves the continued demand for urban housing while drastically reducing energy consumption.

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Making Roofs More Functional with BIPV-T Systems

PV roof photo: Making Roofs More Functional with BIPV-T Systems

New roof technology can provide shelter, electricity, and heat from a single roofing system.

Making Roofs More Functional with BIPV-T Systems

The days of underutilised, single-purpose roofs appear to be fading. New roof technology can provide shelter, electricity, and heat from a single roofing system.

Called a building integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) system, the new technology integrates painted standing-seam steel roof panels with thin-film photovoltaic panels and makes use of the sealed chamber between them for thermal energy.

BlueScope Steel and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have recently installed Australia’s first prototype BIPV-T system at a home in Glebe. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the roofing system was designed specifically for Australia’s climate and building environments to ensure the PV systems were durable and robust. The companies are developing the systems for commercial sales.

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Designing Resilient Places

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Improved building designs can improve the performance, functionality, and resilience of buildings when disasters hit.

Designing Resilient Places

Cities around the world face a variety of natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, heat waves, cyclones, and tornadoes.

In addition to the suffering inflicted by the storms themselves, the built environment’s design and construction shortcomings also cause avoidable problems. Fortunately, improved building designs can improve the performance, functionality, and resilience of buildings when disasters hit.

In an urban context, improving the resilience of buildings requires a holistic approach along with various infrastructure improvements. In other words, improving each building is necessary, but won’t sufficiently address the issues that people and cities will face as sea levels rise, for example, if hurricanes grow stronger and more frequent and cities become more dense and urbanized.

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Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Goes Online

image; NYC Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Goes Online

Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Goes Online

In urban areas, natural disasters can be doubly destructive. Not only do earthquakes, flooding, and hurricanes destroy people’s homes, the dense urban fabric offers few sites for temporary housing such as government-supplied trailers for temporary housing, where people could live while their homes are rebuilt.

New York City has begun an experiment to address the housing issue with what they call “Urban Interim Housing,” a concept that aims to house displaced residents in their neighbourhoods, or as close by as possible. Helping residents to stay in their neighbourhoods lets them maintain jobs, friendships and attendance in school and church, for example, while also giving them an opportunity to help to rebuild their neighbourhoods.

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Cool Roofs Mitigate Urban Heat Islands and Climate Change

photo of city roofs: Cool Roofs Mitigate Urban Heat Islands and Climate Change

Cool roofs—both white and green— can counteract the urban heat island effect.

 

Cool Roofs Mitigate Urban Heat Islands and Climate Change

Both urban expansion and climate change are expected to raise the temperature of cities and the built environment.

A new report, Urban adaptation can roll back warming of emerging megapolitan regions, published in Proceedings of the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that cool roofs and green roofs can counteract both processes. The report was authored by Matei Georgescu of Arizona State University and Philip E. Morefield, Britta G. Bierwagen, and Christopher P. Weaver of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

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A Simpler Approach to Better Buildings

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Is there a simpler way to a high-performance building?

 

A Simpler Approach to Better Buildings

Building rating systems such as Green Star, LEED, and Passive House are here to stay, but many builders and home owners have grown frustrated at their cost and complexity.

 Would it be possible to improve the performance, quality, and sustainability of more homes with a simpler, more streamlined, and cheaper building standard?

As Allison Bailes, accredited energy consultant and writer, asked in his blog, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could list just a handful of measures that a home builder has to achieve to build a Pretty Good House?”

Read more here.

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