Air conditioners will have an easier time doing their job and electrical bills should drop when radiant barriers are added to home attics, a study finds.

The Energy Center at Appalachian State University (ASU), Boone, N.C., reached that conclusion after installing 61 sensors inside and outside a pair of four-bedroom model homes in Charlotte, N.C. When radiant barriers were installed in home attics, ASU found:

  • A 23-degree F drop in the peak attic temperature.
  • A 20% reduction in the AC unit's run time during the seven hours of peak attic temperatures.
  • A 57% efficiency improvement in the cooled air delivered through the air ducts.

The study was conducted last summer by the university and led by Jeff Tiller, chair of the Technology Department, and Bruce Davis, building research scientist at the ASU Energy Center. It was funded by a U.S. DOE Building America grant provided through the North Carolina Energy Office. Centex built the homes.

Architects' Group Reports Growing Demand for Smaller Homes, Lower Utility Bills

Demand for less living space and overall smaller-sized homes has increased in recent years, according to the American Institute of Architects' first quarter 2009 "Home Design Trends Survey." Homeowners also are showing a greater preference for lower ceilings and fewer two-story foyers than in past years. The costs of heating and cooling homes with high-volume living spaces and excess square footage have become onerous for many homeowners, particularly during the housing and economic downturn.

Sixty-three percent of surveyed architects reported increased inquiries for in-home accessibility features; 49% said access into and out of homes were top concerns for homeowners. Respondents also indicated increased client interest in open layouts (50%) and more requests for single-floor plans (34%).

Southern Pine Producers Show Scant Interest in Getting Green Certification

A majority of Southern Pine producers responding to a recent Southern Pine Council survey don't have green certification for their forests now and nearly half don't plan to do so, despite getting regular requests for certified products and feeling it's important to market Southern Pine's green qualities.

The cost of certification appears to help explain the dichotomy, said an official from the Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA), which conducted the survey and received 18 responses from the roughly 50 members solicited. Studies indicate certification can cost a forester as much as $20,000.

The SFPA said its poll of Southern Pine Council members found that 61% of respondents don't use a certification system now, and 46% of the entire group polled don't plan to seek certification any time soon. Meanwhile, roughly 60% of the producers said they get regular requests for certified products, and 89% "feel it is important to market Southern Pine lumber as a 'green' product," SFPA said in a news release.

Edward Mazria Receives the 2009 Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing

Edward Mazria, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based architect and champion of building energy efficiency, was named this year's winner of The Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing. Mazria will receive the award and its $50,000 grant in Phoenix on Nov. 12 at the U.S. Green Building Council Hanley Award Dinner during USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

In 1979, Mazria wrote The Passive Solar Energy Book, a groundbreaking publication. He taught architecture at a number of institutions until 2002, when he suspended his architectural practice and formed Architecture 2030, a non-profit environmental research and education organization. The organization gets its name from its goal: leading the building sector to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2030. Mazria's research through Architecture 2030 helped show conclusively that buildings are responsible for half of all U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Mazria now focuses on providing well-researched solutions wherein buildings move from being a major contributor to climate change to being a key means to addressing climate change and limiting its impacts.