USGBC MA Film Screening of The Greening of Southie

Join USGBC MA Chapter’s Emerging Professionals group on Saturday, March 31, at 1pm, for a screening of the film The Greening of Southieat the South Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library (down the street from the star of the film, the Macallen Apartment Building.) 

This is a FREE event, open to the public; all are welcome to attend. Please, RSVP through the website, at

THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE is a documentary about building Boston’s first LEED certified residential building. Check out the film summary and information here:

What: Film screening of The Greening of Southie
When: Saturday, March 31, 2012, from 1pm-3pm
Location: South Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library, located at 646 East Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
Cost: FREE

Locavore Design and the 100-mile house

The path to sustainable design got a new branch recently. Or perhaps it is more accurately characterized as an heirloom scion grafted onto the growing family tree of the green movement. The Architecture Foundation of British Columbia announced a competition to design a new house using only “materials and systems made/ manufactured / recycled within 100 miles of the City of Vancouver.” Additional parameters include a maximum area of 1,200 square feet and 4 occupants. Affordability is not the focus of this competition but certainly an important consideration for any real-life project.


While the 100 Mile House idea might seem revolutionary, in some ways it is a return to fundamental ways of designing and building. Materials found close to a site are uniquely adapted to the enviromental conditions of a given region. Vernacular architecture grew out of low-tech (although not unsophisticated) responses to site conditions and building methods and varies considerably from region to region throughout time.

The experience of realizing the design and construction of a 100-mile house near Vancouver provides examples of the challenges and rewards of this approach. Writer and naturalist Briony Penn describes the experience as “fun” in a Good Design article by Mark Boyer. While Vancouver is a major city it is also rich in natural resources and production of wood and other building materials. The 100-mile restriction may be more onerous in a region focused on a different industry or geographically more dispersed. But if this movement gains a foothold it could lead to a revival of smaller and decentralized manufacturing and resource management initiatives to revitalize regional economies and job creation.

Early human settlements were scaled to the distance a person could cover on foot then on horseback/donkey then wooden carriage and bicycle and motorized vehicle. Now we zip from one continent to another in a matter of hours. It is understandable that the footprint of our buildings and their provenance has expanded with our highway systems and passports. Now that we have discovered the whole wide world (superficially or otherwise) the 100-mile House Challenge asks us to reconsider our own backyards and Main Streets. The satisfaction of building a home by supporting businesses that build community is akin to exploring a new country by revisiting our old ways.


Congratulations to the Night Shift Brewing crew and thanks for Sharing the Night

Night Shift Brewing’s official launch at Tommy Doyle’s Pub in Harvard Square was packed tonight! Congratulations to the guys for this huge milestone.

This is your house on Energy

If you live in an older home in New England, chances are your exterior walls looks like the example on the left: no insulation, questionable vapor barrier, plenty of gaps to allow transfer of air between interior and exterior. Even if you don’t have X-ray vision, your heating and cooling bills will give you some clues as to the state of your building envelope. An energy analysis will show specific problem areas but if your home is already on an old lot which won’t accommodate new construction, a Deep Energy Retrofit (DER) may be your best option.
This approach essentially wraps the existing building in a blanket of insulation. The image on the right shows fiber insulation packed into the existing wall framing as well as a new interior wall which houses electrical boxes and other penetrations which reduce the insulation depth at their locations. Foil backed rigid foam insulation has been added to the exterior out to the depth of the roof overhang for the dual benefit of increasing insulation value and providing a continuous air barrier. All joints between materials are carefully sealed and gaps are filled with expanding foam.
This cutaway model is on view at booth 1010 at the NESEA Building Energy 12 conference in Boston through March 8. Exhibitors are Passive House New England and member representatives from Zero Energy Design and Boston Green Building.