Creative Commons Catalyst Grants As we reported this week, Creative Commons is accepting applications for their Catalyst Grants through the end of the month. These grants are meant to seed activities that support the Creative Commons mission. Applications due June 30. Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Venture Capital in Education SummitThe Venture Capital in Education Summit will bring together innovators and investors in the field of education technology. June 8 – 9, New York, NYWomen 2.0 Labs Women 2.0 is sponsoring Women 2.0 Labs, a new 5-week program (July 6 – August 5, 2010) for engineers, developers, biz dev folks, and marketing mavens to develop high-growth technology ventures in San Francisco, CA. Applications due June 20. Related Posts SemTech Start-Up CompetitionSemantic Universe is seeking to identify and recognize promising start-ups in the SemTech field. In partnership with Vator.tv Semantic Universe is hosting its 2010 SemTech Start-Up Competition. Winners will receive an overall prize package totaling over $12,000. Applications due June 6. A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Send us your suggestions for other events! 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Next Top Startup The finalists have been chosen for this event, sponsored by f3fundit. The winner, crowned “Next Top Startup,” will take home a a 25,000 prize. June 17, Barcelona, Spain. audrey watters Last week, we launched our ReadWriteStart calendar, a way to help you track the various events and deadlines in the startup world. If you’d like to add something to the calendar, leave a comment here or email us.As with the ReadWriteWeb Events Guide, we have included ways for you to easily import or download the information into your own calendar.Here are some of the upcoming deadlines and events this month: Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Tags:#events#start
Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Tags:#mobile#web Related Posts Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement Standing in line for the big conference could become a much less painful experience if a new class of mobile apps that use QR codes prove effective. Once you’ve gotten through the line, your experience attending an event could be made richer with the same technology. EventBee, a startup that sells tickets to events for a flat rate of $1 each, launched Android app today that event organizers can download to their phones. The app then scans 2D bar-codes, or QR codes, that attendees received with their receipts when they buy a ticket. The company says an iPhone app will be launched with-in the next 30 days.Eventbee isn’t alone in thinking QR codes could go well with events. Another startup called Mogotix aims to offer a very similar function, though its organizer-side app is listed as “coming soon.” The advantage of the Eventbee software is that attendees don’t have to do anything but bring their receipts, printed or on their phones. Leading competitor Eventbrite launched an iPhone app this Spring but does not support code scanning for check in. Using Eventbee’s new app, anyone on an event’s staff can be turned into a quick check-in administrator with a simple download to their phones. The check-ins will be much faster and richer than scanning names on paper. QR code-driven check-ins can also provide much richer analytics, in theory, than would be practical to collect manually. Every code can carry a payload of data about the person checking in.Beyond Check-insCodes for events are believed to have a lot of potential beyond checking in, too. Designer Andreas Carlsson articulated a number of different possibilities for consumer-side QR use in a recent blog post; imagine scanning a conference guide with your phone to get a speaker’s slide deck live on your phone while they are speaking, for example.So far event attendees have not adopted QR codes with the enthusiasm that advocates have hoped, however. That may change in the future, but Eventbee’s strategy of focusing on getting codes and readers into the hands of event organizers first seems smart.Regarding consumer features, Eventbee founder Bala Musrif says those are on the road-map. “We’ve got more in the pipe-line in that direction,” he says. “This is our first step – but we’ve got big games planned in real time check-in scenarios.”Disclosure: ReadWriteWeb has purchased the services of Eventbee for ticketing at past events. What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology marshall kirkpatrick
chris cameron A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… The Good & the BadFor startups, strategic partnerships boil down to pretty clear pros and cons.The Good: Strategic partners can provide much needed capital, especially at a time when financial investors may be balking at the company. They can also provide resources and exposure for the startup than can be invaluable to its success.The Bad: Strategic partners aren’t as focused on the interests of your company, and in most cases aren’t even in it for the money. Companies take on smaller partners to help promote their own brand or to leverage new technologies. While a strategic partner could lead to an eventual acquisition, it could also prevent the startup from being acquired elsewhere.The Solution: Be wise. Carefully inspect the details of the partnership and be sure it doesn’t forfeit too much power to the partner. If need be, use merit-based rewards or other incentives to ensure the partner holds up its end of the bargain.For startups, a strategic partner is a careful endeavor to consider, but if done right it can be beneficial. If you have any other reasons why a startup should or should not take on strategic partners, please share your thoughts in the comments below! Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts In the world of the investing in and acquiring of companies, strategic investments sit on the fence between these two camps. When an established company sees a smaller one making progress in a field that it is interested in, it may make an investment in the company for one of several reasons. Doing so can give the company a bit of leverage in terms of helping steer the startup while not dropping a big acquisition investment. That said, it is important for startups to understand both sides of the coin before taking on strategic investors. “One way I’ve seen a startup navigate [the right of first refusal] clause is by narrowing the timing of such a blocking right to 6 months or 12 months. I’m not a fan of that either.”– Bijan Sabet, Spark CapitalSpark Capital partner Bijan Sabet wrote on this very topic today, pointing out the potential pitfalls for startups with strategic investors. He says that in his experience, relationships with strategic investors are usually not positive ones for startups because of the misalignment of incentives. A venture capitalist is incentivized to see the startup succeed; the better the startup does, the greater the VC’s return on investment. Strategic partners, on the other hand, obviously care more about protecting themselves than the success of a smaller company. As Sabet adds, this can lead to bad deal terms for the startup, including giving the partner the ability to block an acquisition.“They don’t want to see your company being sold to a competitor,” writes Sabet, referencing a “right of first refusal” agreement. “One way I’ve seen a startup navigate this clause is by narrowing the timing of such a blocking right to 6 months or 12 months. I’m not a fan of that either.”Another way that Sabet suggests startups can avoid bad strategic partnerships is to introduce incentives for the partner to turn the tables a bit. Startups can set goals or quotas that will incentivize the partner to provide for the startup in order to receive its equity. With this safeguard, if the startup doesn’t significantly benefit from the relationship in the way that it needs, the partner goes home empty handed. Tags:#start#tips Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market
What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Because podcasts are an important part of my mobile experience, I quickly sought a way to replace them. What I found was a dedicated app from Google that is supposed to function as a podcast player: Google Listen. Although it’s a Labs project (meaning beta or early release), it sounded perfect: “search, subscribe, download and stream” it said. What more do you need? Only one problem: Google Listen required an SD card to store its downloads to. The Nexus S doesn’t have an SD card slot, so Google Listen wouldn’t work. (This problem appears to be solved by one of the latest updates, however.) My first thought at the time: this would never happen with Apple. Tags:#Google#mobile#NYT#Product Reviews#web But Wait, Where’s my Google iTunes?One of the first major pain points I hit from the iPhone to Android transition was iTunes withdrawal. Although I rarely purchase music from iTunes these days (MOG, a $10 per month, all-you-can-stream music service fulfills my needs), I do use iTunes for music and podcast management, organizing my apps, and downloading or renting TV shows and movies.There are third-party services that allow you to copy over your media libraries from the computer to Android, but they aren’t provided by Google and are often incomplete, lacking features and functionality. DoubleTwist, a popular application which has been called the “iTunes for Android,” doesn’t allow you to subscribe to podcasts if you’re a Mac user. The other thing I really missed by leaving iTunes behind was video. Where do you get video on Android? And I mean professional content, not “user-gen,” YouTube videos and Internet webcasts. I mean Hollywood-produced stuff. Current TV shows, movies? The answer: you don’t, not really. There’s no Netflix app for Android (yet), there’s no iTunes ecosystem, there’s no Hulu. The few apps that do allow for streaming either include you having to configure software on your PC (Orb), subscribe to a service (Slingbox) or they offer limited selection (mSpot Movies). It’s an oddball mix. That means the easiest way to get movies and TV shows to your Android, sorry to say, is bittorrent. You torrent the file, drop into into DoubleTwist (or another media management app) and sync. Of course that’s wrong, and it’s illegal. So don’t do it!The Killer Apps (& the Rest)Then there are the apps. There was an interesting discussion on the Internet recently where a longtime Apple insider John Gruber asked: where are the killer Android apps? He wanted to know about the Android exclusives, the Instagrams and Flipboards of the Android world, that is. He didn’t want to count the innovative keyboard replacement apps like Swype or homescreen replacements like Slide Screen, because those couldn’t exist on Apple, so that’s not a fair comparison. OK, fine. Nor did he want to count Google’s own apps because… wait, what? Because Google’s apps are far, far better on its own OS than on iPhone, perhaps? Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement As a (relatively) new mom, the one thing my smartphone needs to do and do well is take great photos. Google touts its camera as being able to take “stunning photos and videos.” I disagree. The camera couldn’t get an action shot of my 1-year old to save its life. Try after try after try. When I shared this information on Twitter, a discussion flared up on FriendFeed, where my tweets are archived.As one user (Johnny Worthington) explained, it’s not just the megapixels that matter when it comes to taking photos. The camera’s sensors matter too. Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed this out in his keynote address, saying, “megapixels are nice, but what these cameras are really about is capturing photons and low light photography. So we’ve gone from 3 megapixel to 5 megapixel, but we’re using a backside illuminated sensor.” Long story short, moving toddler + varying lighting conditions + iPhone = great photo. On Android, those same conditions lead to a series of blurred images.Another minor bug with the photo gallery occurred when I uploaded a photo taken vertically directly from the gallery to Facebook (handy feature, by the way), it posted horizontally. Maddening. Happens every time.On yet another occasion, after posting pictures to Foursquare using the new check-in feature, I later returned to the phone’s photo gallery to find that all of my newest pictures were gone. Pictures that only existed on the phone, because I had yet to post them elsewhere. (I guess I should have left Pixelpipe enabled, hmm?) While my husband teased that it must be “user error,” I pulled out a bag of tricks left over from my Windows days – I rebooted the phone.Sure enough, upon restart, the phone noted it was “checking USB storage” for errors and when it completed the boot up, the photos had returned.Oh, Android.Battery LifeSupposedly, the battery life is supposed to be improved on the Nexus S – Engadget, for example, got 20 hours during heavy use. I’d love to know how. My Nexus S battery can’t make it through a day. Even after pairing down the apps to just those from “responsible” developers, making heavy use of the Android Task Killer app, the battery just drains. The most common activity that leads to drains appears to be the Web browser, from what I can tell. Although, according to the phone’s battery drain monitor (an included Android tool, if that tells you something), the top offenders are the display, Google Maps, Android System, Cell standby, Android OS and Wi-Fi. Yes, just my phone being a phone.Comparatively, my iPhone, jailbroken no less, can make it much, much longer. It will still have a charge even if I forget to plug it in overnight, for example. The Nexus S would just die.Plus, while in use, the phone really heats up. Cold winter? Break out the Nexus S. That’s a hot little handheld… literally.iPhone or Android? Granted, I’ve mostly focused on the glitches and problems I had with the Nexus S, some of which were even corrected before I posted this (e.g. Google Listen). I don’t want to take away from what the Nexus S’s many strengths are – the complete Google Experience, the Voice Actions, the integrated Google Voice and Skype calling, the portable Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC, Navigation, a better keyboard, and, although I didn’t mention it – the speedy, well-equipped Web browser and a usable copy-and-paste (still needs improvement, though).At the end of the day, however, can I switch to Android? I guess not. I took my waterlogged iPhone to the local i-Hospital and they’ve repaired it. A new cable, a battery and $160 dollars later, my iPhone is ready for pick up. I haven’t gotten it just yet. I’m going to give the Nexus S until the end of the month to change my mind, before switching back. After 30 minutes of frantic searching, I found my iPhone. Under four inches of water. In a pond. Sunken deep into the sandy bottom. The story of how it got there isn’t all that interesting – it involves chasing a squealing toddler running towards the water’s edge – I never even heard the quiet sploosh at the time, when the phone slipped out of my pocket somehow, and into the water. But the horror I felt seeing the shiny little Apple logo glinting in the afternoon sun beneath the rippling surface is something I won’t soon forget. My iPhone. Destroyed.Luckily for me, I had a backup. For over a week, I had been playing with the brand-new Nexus S, Google’s latest flagship Android device, running the stock version of the Android mobile operating system code-named Gingerbread. But I hadn’t switched over to make it my primary device. Now I had no choice.We’ve been a dual iPhone/Android household for some time now, because my husband bought the Galaxy S (AT&T Captivate) shortly after it launched and I had the iPhone 4, after an upgrade from the 3G. I’ve had plenty of time to go hands-on with Android, delving into both the OS and the flourishing application ecosystem. I’ve installed, configured and tested many apps on the Galaxy S, and for a while, I was even jealous that he had the newer phone. Android felt more modern, more functional and more “tweakable” than the iPhone. The screen was bright, it had widgets, live wallpaper, built-in navigation, voice-activated everything and a notification system I still long for. It seemed like a step up.But now I wondered: can Android be my permanent device?Before getting started, understand that this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive review. I don’t review gadgets, nor does ReadWriteWeb. We know there are plenty of other places where you can get detailed specs, analysis, and descriptions of everything about this phone, from hardware to software. This is not that. Not by a long shot.Getting Set UpInitially, once I got over the shock of the iPhone’s unfortunate death, I was excited to try the Nexus S. I installed widgets and apps and set up the phone to work with my Google Voice account. That alone was a major plus. On Android, you don’t have to launch a separate app to make a Google Voice call – it’s integrated with your phone. You can make outgoing calls via Google voice, send and receive text messages through Google Voice, even access visual voicemail messages with the app – and they’re transcribed.Or, if you prefer, you can use Skype Out to make calls, too. Again, just by pressing the phone button.These are great features.Talking to Your Phone sarah perez Related Posts I went in search of replacement apps. Unfortunately, outside of the Google app ecosystem, the apps I found were a huge step down in terms of functionality. One I tried called Podcast by Magma Mobile just stopped playing my podcast in the middle of an episode because the podcast I was downloading in the background completed. As I tried to figure out what was going on, I somehow even ended up playing two podcasts at once. That shouldn’t even be possible!I found that for some podcasts (CNET, Engadget, TWiT, e.g.), it was actually preferable to use their own dedicated app. But this leads to a disjointed experience, where features, controls and user interface vary wildly from app to app. It’s true. Google Maps has 3D. Google Navigation gives you spoken, turn-by-turn directions. Google Voice, as noted above, is built-in and integrated with your phone. On the Nexus S, Google Tags is the first mainstream NFC (near field communications) app that lets you scan NFC tags, soon to be a revolution in mobile advertising and mobile payments – just wave your phone by a poster with an NFC tag, and your phone will take action, opening the Web browser and navigating to a particular Google Place page, perhaps, like Google is testing now in Portland.Gmail, Calendar, Voice Search, Google Earth, YouTube, etc. – all the Google Apps are built-in. The phone is the complete Google experience where Google’s latest innovations have a chance to shine, instead of being begrudgingly admitted into a curated app marketplace after FCC pressure demanded it, as Google Voice was, at long last, on iPhone.That said, working with the non-Google apps was an odd experience. Of course, the mainstays are there: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, Amazon, IMDb, Pandora, Pixlepipe, Skype, WeatherBug, etc. But the features and functions of each app are tucked away in menus and settings, with no real consistency from app to app. There’s a surprising amount of configuration that has to be done with the apps, too. For example, in CNET’s app, I was surprised to find it hadn’t updated the podcast list – you have to tell it to download new episodes and when. After installing Pixelpipe, I was surprised to find that, after taking a photo, I was immediately prompted to share it via Pixelpipe – a handy feature, but on by default? That’s odd. I had to shut it off, or hit “cancel” after every snap. The Magma Mobile podcast app oddly began running in the background, providing me with “notifications” from “Magma Mobile News,” which, if tapped, took you to a list of news about new Android apps and updates. It was like I had installed some sort of adware on my phone. And I had to kill the app from running with the ever-present Advanced Task Killer app. Sigh.For the second time, I thought: this would never happen on iPhone. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can choose to do more on Android out-of-the-box. I mean, who doesn’t want a mobile hotspot? But sometimes that openness felt too open. I’d rather apps ask before they integrate, for example.So what apps did I end up installing? Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Amazon, Kindle, Angry Birds, Barcode Scanner, Best Buy, Bump, CNET Audio, DoubleTwist, Dropbox, Engadget, FiOS Mobile Remote, Grocery iQ, IMDb, Google Listen, mSpot Movies, picplz, Pixlepipe, ShopSavvy, Skype, SwiftKey and Swype, Microsoft Tag, Tango, Target, Trapster, TripIt, TweetDeck, Waze, WeatherBug, Where’s My Droid and Yelp. That got me going, now I’m hunting for the unique and interesting apps, and exploring the popular homescreen replacements.Taking Photos Something as simple as texting a friend or performing a Google search can be done via voice. With the Nexus S, you can really talk to your phone. Voice access is everywhere – on homescreen widgets, a “voice” button on the new Android Gingerbread keyboard, or you can just press and hold the Search button. Voice Actions, a new pre-installed feature on the Nexus S lets you give the phone commands. You can send texts, start phone calls, ask for directions, launch Navigation, see a map, launch the browser, configure an alarm, play your favorite music and more.And anywhere there’s a blank text box, you have the option of hitting the voice button instead of having to type in letters, one by one. If you choose to enter text the old-fashioned way, however, the new Android keyboard works well. With auto-suggested word completions appearing above the entry box, (very much like the SwiftKey app allows for although not quite as smart – it doesn’t appear to be an adaptive system), typing is much faster than on iPhone. The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology
Related Posts However, as noted above, the margin of error is too close to really give the winning title to any of the three.The stats are remarkably different when looked at in terms of recent acquirers (as defined by Nielsen, “recent” means within the past 6 months). Here, you can more clearly visualize Android’s dramatic rise over the course of 2010, from June to November, the months which Nielsen analyzed. Clearly, more new smartphone users are choosing Android (40.8%), instead of BlackBerry (19.2%) or Apple (26.9%). The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology Nielsen doesn’t go so far as to speculate on why Android is gaining, but it could very well be the lower price points for Android devices that seal the deal for many consumers. Some Android phones are priced so low – for example the $179 Huawei Ascend on MetroPCS or the $99 (with rebate) Samsung Intercept on Sprint – that they’re almost comparable to feature phone prices. Considering that, up until recently, roughly two-thirds of the market consisted of feature phone users, pricing has been a critical component in mobile phone choice. But now, thanks to the availability of more low-cost phones combined with the new, lower-priced data plans offered by many carriers, smartphones are becoming more affordable for price-sensitive consumers.So Who’s Winning? You Are.Although much of the focus of today’s news is on who’s winning the smartphone race, the real answer is simple: it’s the consumer, of course.Smartphone adoption is increasing in the U.S. In November 2010, 45% of recent acquirers chose a smartphone, said Nielsen, compared with 34% back in June. It’s obvious that the demand for smartphones is growing as the race between the different platforms heats up, with each trend fueling the other. For consumers, this means the manufacturers and operating system makers will battle for their attention – a battle that will bring new and better hardware, more features and functions and even more price drops. Sounds like a good time to buy a smartphone, if you haven’t already. sarah perez Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement Tags:#Apple#Google#mobile#Trends#web Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … Apple is still the U.S. market share leader when in comes to smartphone operating systems, according to new data revealed today by Nielsen, but just barely. In fact, its lead is so tenuous, that the margin of error on Nielsen’s report places second-place platform RIM BlackBerry in a statistical tie for both Apple’s top spot and the third place spot now occupied by Google’s Android.Says Nielsen, “this race might still be too close to call.”According to Nielsen’s report, Apple has a 28.6% share, RIM a 26.1% share and Android, despite its recent surges, remains in third place with a 25.8% share.
Related Posts 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now klint finley Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… Tags:#enterprise#Trends Ketan Karia, CMO and Senior Vice President of Ingres Corporation, provides 11 big data analytics predictions for 2011. I thought we were through with predictions for 2011, but this is worthwhile. Karia focuses on the fact that big data alone doesn’t bring big insights: analytics does. He looks at key trends such as in-memory analytics and self-service business intelligence, but what he really emphasizes are the chips.“In 2011, expect to see more solutions hit the market that enable business software to exploit the tremendous capabilities of modern chips that aren’t currently doing so, rather than forcing chip customization or blindly throwing hardware at the problem,” he writes.His 11 predictions are:We’ll hark the chips, not the hardware.Chip scale-out will date MPP and shrink big data networks.Memory will go RAM.Chip companies will spend more on R&D in 2011.Acceleration of analytics will support the agile enterprise.Businesses will sponsor their own analytical capabilities.Analytics gets more embedded into business applications.Open source moves to more hybrid models.Subscriptions stack up by the hour.Self-service BI gets more attention.Users want to be “in the moment” with data insights.That last prediction ties everything else together: real-time analytics is driving in-memory analytics, the hardware race and the evolution of BI and analytics software.We covered business analytics predictions from Forrester and Gartner here.Photo by iurikothe IT + Project Management: A Love Affair
A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit Tags:#Groupware#news#Open Source#social networks#web Open source social network framework Elgg (like WordPress for Facebooks) is now supported by social media client app Seesmic, according to an announcement on the Seesmic blog this morning. With the addition of the Elgg plug-in, Seesmic users can now view and update multiple Elgg networks in the same interface they use for Twitter, Facebook, Ning and numerous others. That’s good news for Seesmic, which is in a very competitive market.Elgg is good for groups interested in creating niche networks under their own control, either publicly or privately. The service can run on your own servers or through a hosted version just launched last Summer. It came from the Education world and is used today by various organizations including Oxfam, Hill & Knowlton PR, the Australian government and the state of Ohio. Seesmic is a Salesforce-backed social network meta-service, allowing users to interact with multiple networks on multiple platforms.Open source social networking is good for the web and for the world because it advances user and community freedom and helps mitigate the power of social network behemoths. Support for open source social networks by proprietary software like Seesmic is great for everyone and helps enrich the usefulness of those networks and the software used to build them.Neither of Seesmic’s leading competitors, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, appear to support Elgg to date.Leading social business analyst firm Altimeter published a research report last month about this sector of apps, which it calls social media management systems. That report identified 28 leading vendors. Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang writes about the market:“Social Media Management Systems… which help companies manage, maintain, and measure thousands of social media accounts, [and] are the next growth market for the social business category. While saturation is at 58% of corporate buyers, the average deal size is a meager $22,000 but will expect to grow to six figure annual deals in coming quarters to meet market demand. White label social networks, like Elgg, are plentiful as well. ReadWriteWeb has done two in-depth interviews with Elgg co-founder David Tosh over the past 4 years. Tosh is now “experimenting” on a stealth project called Bluejac.Below, a screenshot of an Elgg community accessed via Seesmic. The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos Related Posts marshall kirkpatrick Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification
“Hi, my name is Rob and I’m a recovering public school teacher.” Before I was a green builder, I taught high school for seven years. I loved it for six and three quarters. One of the biggest forces that convinced me to leave education was the constrictive state testing system. I recognize that it is absolutely necessary to have standards, indicators and tests, however that can limit creativity and energy in the classroom. I am a very experiential teacher and believe that of all the learning styles, you can reach the most people by having them “see” and “do.” Teaching to the test strangled me out of the classroom.The USGBC’s LEED Version 3 is a great lunge toward experiential learning using tests and measures that make pragmatic sense. My biggest complaint about the old LEED AP program was that it tested people on their ability to complete the certification process, not their green building knowledge. LEED V3 will include the LEED 2009 Rating and certification system, the new professional accreditation & education program and LEED online. It is the USGBCs goal to streamline the certification process for LEED projects and evolve their metric to be more practical and efficient. They are not reinventing the wheel, just improving upon the existing. I’m so glad to see the USGBC respond in this way.The LEED rating system turns 9 this year with lots of momentum. As of January there were 17,450 registered and 2,122 certified commercial projects and 13,836 registered and 1,304 certified residential projects. There 77,434 LEED Accredited Professionals. In response to increasing urgency of conserving resources and their own internal and external initiatives, USGBC aims to continually improve the LEED system.Here’s a description of the changes that are heading our way:LEED 2009 :: Rating System ChangesThere are 4 major goals of this revamp:First, USGBC (staff, LEED Steering Committee, and LEED committee volunteers) scrutinized the credits within the different rating systems with the goal of consolidating, aligning and updating them. This should simplify the systems and fix issues that previously existed. They also scrubbed the Credit Interpretation Rulings, eliminating the fluff and improving the remainder.Secondly, the rating system will be updated on a regular schedule in order to evolve with the green building industry. This should allow the USGBC to respond to feedback on credit interpretations and alternative compliance paths.The third, and possibly the biggest change, is the transparent weightings that will be applied to the credits. Here, a logical, scientific approach was taken to give more credit where more credit is due. Basically, the more the positive impact a green building strategy has on the environment, the more value a credit will have.Fourthly, bonus credits will be rewarded for a project team recognizing regional priorities and implementing strategies to uphold those. The LEED Steering Committee is working with Regional Councils and Chapters to determine the priorities for different geographic areas.These changes are scheduled to take affect in April of this year. If a project is already registered when the new system rolls out, the team will have the opportunity to upgrade to LEED 2009, or stick with the system in which their project was originally registered. LEED 2009 is for New Construction (commercial), Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance, Commercial Interiors, Schools, Retail, Healthcare and Core and Shell.In the next installment I will review the changes to the LEED AP program and I will explain why I think that builders should become familiar with LEED, take some USGBC courses and even become LEED APs.Informal Poll:The USGBC repeatedly states that they do not treat the LEED rating system as a building code. What do you think about that? Please comment.
Over a thousand home performance contractors, weatherization experts, HERS raters, and energy nerds are gathered in Kansas City, Missouri, this week to attend the ACI Home Performance conference (formerly known as the Affordable Comfort conference).At one well-attended workshop, energy consultant Michael Blasnik and Shaun Hassel of Advanced Energy Corporation shared a roundup of data on the performance of Energy Star homes — data which are unlikely to be happily received at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Among the findings presented by Blasnik and Hassel:“The Energy Star program started with a low bar,” noted Blasnik. “No one has found that Energy Star homes use 25% less energy than other homes.”Explaining the findings, Hassel noted, “Baseline homes are not as bad as many models assume, and Energy Star homes are not as good as many models assume.”More Mandatory RequirementsAs codes have become more stringent, the Energy Star program has been struggling to play catch-up. In many states — most notably in California and Florida — Energy Star lost the battle for a while, slipping below minimum code.At an evening workshop in Kansas City, Sam Rashkin, the national director of the EPA’s Energy Star Homes program, explained the details of the EPA’s latest proposal to raise the bar on requirements for Energy Star homes. Set to be released for public comment within a few days, the proposal is known as the 2011 Specification.The highlights of the new requirements:Of course, Energy Star’s proposed 2011 Specification is subject to change after the public comment period. Stay tuned. This article is only available to GBA Prime Members Sign up for a free trial and get instant access to this article as well as GBA’s complete library of premium articles and construction details. Start Free Trial Already a member? Log in
There’s nothing new about the notion that many people respond to economic uncertainty by trying to live more economically. This week, one research company reaffirmed that notion with a take on the market for energy-efficient products and clean-technology services. Another research firm, meanwhile, has been examining consumers’ thinking behind these green purchases.On Tuesday, Pike Research, based in Boulder, Colorado, announced results of a study, titled “Energy Efficient Homes,” that indicates recovery from the recession will be accompanied by solid growth in three energy efficiency categories: the market for home energy audits, which Pike expects will almost triple in size, from $8.1 billion in 2009 to $23.4 billion, by 2014; the retrofit market, with a 31% increase, to $50.2 billion from $38.3 billion, by 2014; and purchases of Energy Star certified refrigerators and clothes washers, generating $21.9 billion in revenue from 2009 to 2014.“Energy efficiency is stepping into the light after a long period of obscurity,” Pike’s managing director, Clint Wheelock, said in the release. The principal market drivers, he noted, include “increased environmental awareness among consumers, government incentives, utility energy efficiency programs, and new offerings and rebates from product manufacturers.”Getting real with marketingBack in December another green-trends researcher, Knoxville-based Shelton Group, presented a list titled “Six consumer trends to watch for 2010.” The list noted in-house survey results showing that while consumers respond favorably to the prospect of saving money through green behavior, they even more strongly embraced the “don’t waste” motivation to conserve. The trends list also pointed to consumers’ increased disenchantment with energy efficiency measures that don’t live up to expectations created by the marketing – and the need for marketers to better manage expectations. Also, the list notes, the prospect of saving money will play a somewhat lesser a role in motivating consumers to go green than the prospect of increased comfort and convenience.As for climate change, Shelton Group surveys show fewer and fewer people believe that it is happening and is caused by human activity – a consequence, in part, says the company, of Climategate. (Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann, a Climategate figure and major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was this week cleared of scientific misconduct in three claims against him; a fourth claim is being reviewed separately.)Dissecting consumer motivationOverall, though, the kerfuffle over Climategate and the apparent drop-off in the number of global-warming believers aren’t having the expected effect, according to the researcher’s preliminary reading of data it collected for its 2010 Eco Pulse study of consumer trends in the green sector. “It appears that green purchasing behavior and propensity is actually up,” Shelton Group says in a blog post. “We’ve been advising our clients and our blog readers for years that most folks don’t go green to save the planet, and this is just more data to that effect. We’re seeing comfort and convenience continue to take precedence over the environment, and we’re seeing health and safety concerns continue to gain ground in priority in some categories.”We’ll keep our eyes peeled for a summary of the final report.
UPDATED 12/14/2010: With added information about the Schaller Eco-Home and corrected specifications for the third-place home, built by BPC Green Builders.The winning entries in the Connecticut Zero Energy Challenge, announced on Wednesday, make for an interesting trio: two homes larger than 4,500 sq. ft. and one at 2,690. The first-place winner landed a HERS index score of minus 7. The Challenge, a design and build competition for single-family and multifamily homes, included 15 projects built in Connecticut between May 2009 and December 1, 2010. The top prize, $15,000, went to a four-bedroom project in Killingworth designed and built by Consulting Engineering Services, of Middletown, and J.W. Huber Architect, of Essex. The home includes R-20 slab floors, R-39 foundation walls, R-42 exterior walls, an R-62 vaulted ceiling, geothermal heating, an energy-recovery ventilation system, and a 13.65 kW photovoltaic system. A blower-door test showed airtightness of 0.43 air changes per hour at a pressure difference of 50 Pascals. The conditioned area: 4,539 sq. ft., just under the 5,000-sq.-ft. contest limit.Less extravagant, but still big performanceThe second-place prize, $10,000, went to the smallest house among the top three, a 2,690-sq.-ft. three-bedroom in New Hartford whose owners, Jeremy and Karann Schaller, designed the home to include R-15 foundation slab and walls, R-25 structural-insulated-panel exterior walls, an R-42 SIP vaulted ceiling, solar hot water (with a propane-fuel backup system), and a 7.6 kW solar power system. The home’s HERS rating is 4, and it showed airtightness of 0.40 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals. The construction costs on this project, Jeremy Schaller noted in a recent post to a blog site focused on the project, came in at around $320,000, or about $120 per sq. ft. – likely nowhere near the same construction-cost universe as the first-place and third-place projects. A five-bedroom in New Canaan, built by BPC Green Builders, of Wilton, took the $5,000 third-place prize. This 4,944-sq.-ft. project, which, like the first-place winner, barely scraped under the 5,000-sq.-ft. contest limit, also is seeking LEED for Homes Platinum certification. It is designed with an R-10 foundation slab, R-44.8 foundation walls, R-64 frame floors, R-30 exterior walls, an R-57 vaulted ceiling, a 450-sq.-ft. solar thermal system, and a 10.8 kW ground-mounted, grid-tied solar power system.The Zero Energy Challenge is sponsored by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, Connecticut Light and Power, and the United Illuminating Company. Like Connecticut’s other major energy conservation programs, the Challenge is funded by a charge on customers’ utility bills and administered by the state’s electric and gas utilities.
Sign up for a free trial and get instant access to this article as well as GBA’s complete library of premium articles and construction details. Start Free Trial Already a member? Log in Katrin Klingenberg, the founder of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS), caused a minor earthquake earlier this year when she suggested that the existing Passivhaus standard didn’t make sense in North America. On January 31, 2012, Klingenberg wrote, “We came to the conclusion that it’s time to allow for a modification process to the rigid annual heating and cooling requirement of less or equal to 15 kWh/m2yr … for the North American continent’s more extreme climates, and define what has been missing all together so far – a stringent requirement for the third load which is the significant energy consumed in North America for dehumidification. This idea that we need to adapt the standard to various regions has taken root around the world from domestic energy experts like Martin Holladay, Alex Wilson, and Marc Rosenbaum and to Passive House groups from other countries, like the Swedes.”As GBA reported earlier this year, many U.S. Passivhaus consultants were unsettled by Klingenberg’s proposal. Their main concern: builders and home buyers would be confused by the existence of two different superinsulation standards that shared the same name. Because of this concern, Hayden Robinson, an architect and certified Passivhaus consultant based in Seattle, launched a petition urging Klingenberg to choose a name other than “Passivhaus standard” or “passive house standard” for her proposed new North American standard.Joseph Lstiburek and Betsy Pettit, who host the annual Westford Symposium on Building Science in Westford, Massachusetts, invited Klingenberg to speak at this year’s conference. In her July 31 presentation, “Climate-Specific Passive Building Standards for the U.S.,” Klingenberg suggested several reasons why the European Passivhaus standard might need to be tweaked for use in North America.She began by acknowledging a critic of some aspects of the Passivhaus standard: one of Lstiburek’s partners,… This article is only available to GBA Prime Members
Dealing with potential leaksWright’s one remaining concern is the possibility of the cellulose getting wet if the floor were to be flooded by a leak.If the cellulose does get wet, it should be removed, Dorsett says, adding, “It can dry through OSB, but it would take forever.”If the prospect of removing a section of sheathing and digging out soggy cellulose isn’t appealing, Dorsett continues, “you could quasi-dense pack a fiberglass blowing wool in a similar manner, which doesn’t hang onto the water as readily as cellulose, and would make leaks easier to spot. Even minor plumbing leaks would drip through, unlike with cellulose, which would soak it up for weeks before it became evident.”Wright would still have to replace soaked insulation in the event of a major leak, but it should be a smaller, more localized problem. “Simple spills wouldn’t be a major concern with either cellulose or fiberglass,” Dorsett says, “but major plumbing leaks involving tens or hundreds of gallons would be a problem with any fiber insulation.” Jim Wright’s house in western Arkansas has a pier foundation that elevates floor framing about 40 inches off the ground. Unlike a house with a basement, crawl space, or slab foundation, there is no enclosure at the bottom of the house, so the floor is more or less like another exterior wall.How, Wright wonders, should this be insulated?“I am considering two methods of insulation,” he writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor. “The first method is 7.25-inch-thick Roxul batts (R-30) that are covered with 7/16-inch OSB sheets. The second method is 1.5-inch (R-10) of sprayed closed-cell foam.”Not counting his labor to install the mineral wool batts, the cost of either of those options is about $2,000. Because of its thickness, the Roxul would have three times the insulating value of the foam. But it would be harder to install because the 2×8 batts are installed on 19.2-inch centers and all of the batts would have to be cut to fit. How to Install Cellulose Insulation How to Insulate a Cold FloorInstalling Fiberglass RightMineral Wool Insulation Isn’t Like FiberglassIt’s OK to Skimp On Insulation, Icynene SaysReturn to the Backyard Tape Test Wright considered cellulose but initially rejected the idea“Actually,” Wright replies, “my original plan was to use cellulose and blow it in as you suggested in both the walls and the floor; and, of course, the attic as well.”But he decided against it when he discovered the cellulose should be blown in to a density of at least 3.5 lb./cu. ft. to avoid settling and voids. “And to do that you would need a high-pressure blower rather than the type available at the box stores,” Wright adds. “But there isn’t any place in my area that rents such blowers.”Ultimately, Wright packed walls with cellulose by hand to an estimated density of 5 lb./cu. ft., and with Dorsett’s encouragement he’s back to favoring cellulose in the floor.“As to the thermal bridging of the joists,” he says, “I was thinking of buying a few sheets of rigid foam and cutting them into 1 1/2-inch strips and stapling them to the bottom of the joists before installing the OSB sheets.”When packed to a density of 5 lb./cu. ft., Dorsett tells Wright, cellulose has a slightly lower R-value than it would at 3.5 lb./cu. ft. And in reality, there’s no real need to hit the 3.5 lb./cu. ft. mark to prevent settling. A density of 2.8 to 3 lb./cu. ft. in an Arkansas location should be fine. The first job is to meet minimum code requirementsTo meet the requirements of the 2009 International Residential Code, floor insulation in Wright’s climate zone should have a minimum R-value of 19, says GBA senior editor Martin Holladay. While the mineral wool batts easily get the job done, the proposed thin layer of spray polyurethane foam would not.“Your spray foam contractor is suggesting an installation that doesn’t even meet minimum code requirements,” Holladay writes. “I have a problem with contractors like that — and I’ve been writing about the problem for years. It seems that the problem is particularly common among spray foam contractors. But that’s an issue for another blog.”Holladay suggests filling the joist bays with “almost any kind of fluffy insulation” — for example, cellulose, fiberglass, or mineral wool. That should be followed by a continuous layer of rigid foam insulation at least 2 inches thick (foil-faced polyisocyanurate being the most environmentally friendly), and finally a layer of oriented strand board (OSB).“That approach may be too expensive for you,” he adds, “but it’s the best way to go.” Blown-in cellulose is a good choiceEven “crummy” kraft-faced R-19 batts would do a better job than the amount of spray foam recommended by Wright’s contractor, says Dana Dorsett. Instead of Roxul, Dorsett suggests cellulose that Wright, with the help of an assistant, could blow in himself with equipment rented from a big-box store.The procedure he recommends goes like this:Install OSB over the bottom of the joists.Using a hole saw, cut holes measuring 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter in the OSB every 6 feet or so along the length of each bay.Blow cellulose into the bays after blocking off all holes save the one currently in use with heavy rags.With a single-stage blower and a 2 1/2-inch-diameter hose, Wright should be able to get the cellulose installed at a density of 2.5 lb./cu. ft., which would only settle 1/2 inch in 20 years if it settled at all.The cellulose would be “quite a bit cheaper” than R-30 mineral wool batts in Dorsett’s area but more expensive than R-19 fiberglass. Wright should be able to buy the cellulose for about $350, and the store might include 24 hours of blower rental. Adding 1 1/2 inch of polyiso would be another $1,200, he says, with the total well under the $2,000 the foam contractor would charge.“If you install the wood sheathing and pre-drill the blowing holes, with somebody to help with the blower you should be able to knock it out the blowing in less than a full day,” Dorsett writes. “The R-value of cellulose at 2.5 lb. density is near its optimal peak performance at about R-3.8 per inch, so for 7 1/4 inches you’d be looking at about R-28, comparable to the Roxul, but at a fraction of the price.” RELATED ARTICLES Our expert’s opinionHere’s what GBA technical director Peter Yost had to say:First and foremost, you need a continuous air barrier at the floor level in addition to a good insulation system. I would suggest a rigid sheet material on the underside of the whole floor assembly, either taped rigid foam, OSB, or plywood. Rigid foam has the advantage of providing a thermal break to interrupt conduction through your floor framing, while OSB or plywood is a better approach to protect against bugs and other pests getting into your floor cavities. Make sure that the tape you choose is compatible with the substrate you choose. (For guidance on pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes, blogs on GBA and BuildingGreen are good resources.)In the photo you sent, it looks as though you have limited floor obstacles and penetrations to deal with, but getting a good seal around the carrying beam and all the plumbing and electrical penetrations will be key. I would take a look at this excellent LSU resource on insulating and air sealing pier and open crawlspace foundation systems.Dealing with bulk water leaks in this sort of floor assembly is no small consideration. But since they are almost always coming from interior plumbing leaks, there are two good approaches:Easy and accessible single-throw shut-offs for “hard-piped” appliances. We hard-pipe for 24/7 house pressure for washing machines, ice-makers, and dishwashers. And yet, it is not all that hard to plumb them with easy-access shut-offs so that you treat them like you do your switched lights: on when you need them, off when you don’t.Leak detection systems. While they may not be inexpensive, consider whole-house leak detection systems, such as these GreenSpec listings: FloLogic or FloodStopper. They use flow analysis to monitor your water consumption around the clock and will shut down your whole house whenever a leak is detected. And if they seem expensive, consider the alternative.More than one insurance company will give you a discount for either individual appliance shut-offs or leak detection systems. “A big advantage of the closed-cell foam is that I would not be doing any of the labor,” Wright adds. “Also, it appears that the foam would seal better against air infiltration. The only apparent disadvantage of the foam is the lesser R-value. However, I’m not sure that I really need more than R-10 in the floor.”Overall, the 68-year-old Wright is leaning toward the spray foam. “What say ye?” he asks.
Products as diverse as pizza boxes, architectural membranes, certain paints, carpet treatments, and coatings for metal roofing contain a common type of chemical that is drawing fresh concern from a group of scientists, public health experts and others. The New York Times reported that scientists are concerned about a class of chemicals called poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).DuPont and other manufacturers dropped one type of PFAS over concerns the chemical increased the risk of cancer and caused other health problems. Chemicals developed to replace that PFAS are the focus of new health warnings, The Times reported.The chemicals are used in thousands of products. According to the FluoroCouncil, an industry trade group, the list includes a variety of building materials, such as architectural membranes, caulk, wire and cable, paint and metal roof coatings. PFASs make materials more durable, more UV-resistant, and less likely to corrode, among other things. Scientists call for more researchWriting in Environmental Health Perspectives, Linda Birnbaum, the head of the national toxicology program for the Department of Health and Human Services, pointed to a statement called the Madrid Statement, which warns of the dangers of PFASs.“The Madrid Statement documents the scientific consensus about the extreme environmental persistence, bioaccumulation, and potential toxicity of the overall class of PFASs,” Birnbaum and fellow author Philippe Grandjean wrote.Since the document was presented at a conference in Madrid, Spain, in 2014, more than 200 scientists and professionals from 40 countries have signed it, she added.The FluoroCouncil says the replacement PFASs, called short-chain PFASs, are much less dangerous than the original long-chain PFASs, and that they are not expected to harm either human health or the environment.The authors, however, cited warnings that the two groups of chemicals aren’t really that different.“Given the fact that research raised concern about the long-chain PFASs for many years before action was taken and that global contamination and toxicity have been documented in the general population, potential risks of the short-chain PFASs should be taken into account when choosing replacements for the longer-chain compounds,” they wrote.There are numerous examples of industry replacing one group of chemicals with another, they said, adding, “Manufacturers may yet incur costs if the closely related alternative is later found to be as toxic as its predecessor.”They called for more research into the potential health risks from short-chain PFASs, and suggested safe alternatives for all current uses of PFASs be identified.“The question is, should these chemicals continue to be used in consumer products in the meantime, given their persistence in the environment?” they wrote. “And, in the absence of indisputably safe alternatives, are consumers willing to give up certain product functionalities, such as stain resistance, to protect themselves against potential health risks?” Industry calls the chemicals ‘essential’The American Chemistry Council said PFASs were “essential technology for many aspects of modern life,” according to the article in The Times, and that tests by the Environmental Protection Agency found the newer PFASs were safer than the chemicals they replaced.“We don’t dismiss the right of folks to debate this,” said Thomas Samples, DuPont’s head of risk management for the division that makes the chemicals. “But we just believe based on the 10-year history of extensive studies done on the alternatives that the regulatory agencies have done their job of determining that these things are safe for the intended uses.”
The first phase nears an endIn the late ‘90s we had invested in double-pane replacement windows. This had been done without making any structural changes to the house. Imagine my surprise when I saw straight through to the interior wallboard backing from the outside while removing the siding—the gap between the rough framing and the window jamb had never been sealed. Not only were the old windows cold and drafty, but without any insulation around them, most of our heat had been conducted straight out the wall. Even with the newer windows, heat retention was negligible. My best investment at that point was a foam gun and cans of low-expansion foam.First solar array. Kuenn’s first foray into photovoltaics was an eight-panel array on his garage roof, a grid-tied system with a rated capacity of about 1.5 kilowatts.By the end of the summer of 2007 I was able to start putting things back in place while planning the new PV array. With our previously removed plantings back in place and window frames built out, you’d hardly know the house had changed. At that point, we were just tired of the mess. We immediately noticed the house remaining cool on hot humid days as long as we shut windows early in the morning. Without air conditioning, this was a great benefit and relief.I needed to upgrade from the original 100-amp main panel to a 200-amp panel. I also did not want the power lines to cross over our yard and shade our solar modules. That meant hand digging (yes, again — I didn’t want to hurt the roots of my grapes or apple trees) a 100-foot long trench 2 feet deep for buried utility lines.By late November, with cold hands and a headlamp, I completed the adjustable-tilt PV rack on the garage roof and wired up the array: eight 190-watt modules for a total rated capacity of about 1.5 kW.We really lucked out. Our solar power was commissioned on December 6, 2007, and the next day more than 8 inches of snow fell.Goal accomplished? Stay tuned… We replaced the windowsThe first update came in 2000 when we decided to get double-pane windows and a new patio door, and to replace the hail-dented aluminum siding with vinyl. We replaced the storm-damaged roof shingles as well. The second installment of Paul Kuenn’s blog series is here: One Man’s Quest for Energy Independence — Part 2. Wait, what’s that breeze?In the winter of 2006-2007, I spent some time in my basement workshop and for the first time on a windy, cold winter day I noticed some cobwebs moving above my head. I followed the breeze past the unfaced fiberglass insulation stuffed between the floor joists at the rim. I was shocked to see through a horizontal space between wood and basement concrete wall into the back yard. My first thought: “I’m heating the back yard!”Running out to the garage to find some caulk, I noticed the wind forcing the power line to scrape the roof, taking grains of asphalt shingles with every swing. Obviously, some changes were needed to make this a comfortable home and keep my hard-earned pay away from the utilities.While taking in all the facts and figures of photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal installation, I knew I needed first-hand experience by living with it. My significant other was game after dealing with my organic ways for 20 years. At about the same time, I received a letter in the mail regarding a life insurance policy that had terminated and needed to be cashed. It was like rain during a drought.We had already taken out the house’s original water heater and replaced it with an on-demand unit as a back-up to one solar thermal collector and 50-gallon storage tank. The liquid circulating through the collector heated water for domestic use via an external heat exchanger.Making way for insulation. To gain access to the area around the foundation, the author rented a masonry saw and sliced through an existing concrete patio. The pieces would become a retaining wall on the other side of the house.The next stage would be to seal and re-insulate the house and add a grid-tied PV system. Paul Kuenn lives in Appleton, Wisconsin. He is a past owner of a climbing school and guide service who has studied environmentally sound building practices, along with plumbing and electrical. He’s a graduate of solar thermal and photovoltaic installation programs at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. In the last eight years Paul also has worked as a third-party inspector for fire and rescue apparatus. In his spare time, he helps homeowners use the least amount of fossil fuel energy possible. We didn’t add any new insulation, but we did cover the torn tar paper on the exterior walls with a water-resistant barrier (WRB) — a big update for someone who is gone a lot. We were smart enough to hire a contractor even though I had been in the building trades most of my life and built my first solar home in Colorado in ‘85. Needless to say, we wanted it done quickly.By 2006 I had retired as a climbing guide after 29 years in cold climates above the clouds appreciating every bit of warmth the sun could give me. I spent most of the winter studying and taking courses through my lifetime membership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in Amherst, Wisconsin.While I began installing solar equipment professionally close to home, I also befriended Rob Ryf of Solar Heating Services who helped me install our solar domestic hot water system (one solar thermal panel feeding one storage tank) with a Rinnai on-demand water heater as a backup. With his long history in the heating and cooling industry, he appreciated any opportunity for a retrofit. Better yet, he was game to try anything to make things work if I were to advance my system in the future. Insulation and a modest PV arrayAfter consulting with another MREA member and PV installer, I began in the spring of 2007 with efficiency measures and house insulation. I received the electrical and building permit through the inspector’s office ($25). As solar installation was new to them, they trusted my MREA training as long as it was used on my own house.All spring and summer I beefed up the existing framing in the garage roof (2×6 rafters 24 inches on center) to accept an adjustable tilt rack for the new 1.52-kW PV system.I’d also started retrofitting the house. I removed the siding and dug by hand a 5-foot-deep trench around the basement. I also began working odd solar jobs for local installers and whatever I could do to keep cash flowing to maintain my schedule. Some long days and warm early spring weather allowed me to move fast while listening to my favorite public radio shows. The radio and rechargeable hand tools were powered by my homemade portable solar display.With an EPA-approved breathing mask and full protection suit, I attacked the attic. Keep in mind, you have to do all this work with few inches to spare at full arm’s reach. With a 4:12 roof pitch, the nails from the roofing are sticking into your head even while you are laying prone five feet from the outer walls. When this house was built the standard bird’s mouth cut was sawed into the rafters. This lowered the soffit below the wall height. It also left only 3 inches (2×6 rafters back then on this hip roof) of free space for ventilation from top plate to roof sheathing.I pulled back the 50-year-old blown fiberglass from the top of the perimeter walls to expose holes in the top plate where wiring had been pulled. I knew the walls could never really be warm with the top plate exposed to the cold. Any wall joints and soffit areas that had direct wall top openings were closed with expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation and sealed with my polyurethane foam gun.It was a filthy and tiresome job that I couldn’t imagine anyone doing for a living. I’m 6-foot-2 and the hip roof was only 5 feet high at the center. There were vents in the soffit and three vents near the ridge. That left 4 feet of attic floor less than 16 inches from the rafters along the entire perimeter of the hip roof. I’d come down drenched in sweat even on cool nights. RELATED ARTICLES A Leaky Old House Becomes a Net-Zero ShowcaseMission Zero House: A Net-Zero RetrofitRetrofits versus ReductionsDeep Energy Retrofits Are Often MisguidedThe History of the Chainsaw RetrofitThe High Cost of Deep-Energy RetrofitsEnergy-Efficiency Retrofits: Insulation or Solar Power? Brand New Appearance and Performance for An Older DuplexDeep Energy Makeover: One Step At A TimeAn Old House Gets a Superinsulation RetrofitRoofing and Siding Jobs Are Energy-Retrofit OpportunitiesFrom ‘Tea House’ to Tight House BLOGS BY PAUL KUENN One Man’s Quest for Energy Independence — Part 2One Man’s Quest for Energy Independence — Part 3One Man’s Quest for Energy Independence — Part 4 Insulating the foundation wallsOn hot days I insulated and sealed the basement rim joist. I had found enough EPS, 2 to 4 inches thick, for half of the exterior basement walls at the nearby Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. The 8-foot lengths would be glued sideways to reduce heat loss at the top 4 feet of the 7-foot tall foundation.Going down. After digging around the foundation by hand, the author installed sheets of expanded polystyrene insulation on the upper four feet of the foundation wall.The patio slab had to be cut to allow trenching against the house. I rented a water-cooled diamond saw for an afternoon and cut blocks 3 feet in length and 14 inches wide. With a grunt, I shoved them onto a dolly and hauled them to the north side of the house where the grade was lower. Stacked neatly, they could form a terrace and help insulate the coldest basement wall.Once flipped over, the concrete looked enough like stone to pass as a natural wall. I didn’t have time or the motivation to dig fully to the base of the wall so I planned on laying down a frost protective surface (2 inches of extruded polystyrene) 4 feet outwards from the wall just under the top layer of dirt surrounding the basement. This horizontal layer plus the new upper basement wall insulation would control heat loss and still allow natural cooling in summer (from the lower wall and slab).To control air leakage at the rim joist and force out any water behind the wall’s WRB, I pulled out the staples at the bottom of the WRB’s, caulked along the joint between the concrete foundation and wall, and put flexible butyl window wrap under the WRB and down and over the top of the new vertical 2-inch insulation. It would have been nice to work from the bottom up but I had to work around the weather. One day I’d be down in the trench with the shovel, the next would be spent stretched out on my stomach in the corners of the attic.Opportunities abound when you decide to make a house wider and longer by 4 inches (2 inches of new insulation on each adjoining wall). I didn’t want to move the windows outward as I had read they stay warmer when deeper in the wall. I built out the sills and framing to match the new 2+ inches of insulation thickness. We had enough old vinyl siding that had been left in the garage loft to make up the difference in the width and length of the house. It would take just a bit of moving pieces around. Seemed easy enough.After sealing any holes in the plaster ceiling and closing off any holes in top plates with foam, we blew in 18 inches of cellulose, and with all of the siding removed, I installed 2 inches of EPS on all outside walls. In 1987, my wife and I purchased a one-story, 1,200-square-foot ranch with a basement in Appleton, Wisconsin. It had been built in 1960. Its 2×4 walls were filled with 3 inches of fiberglass batting; the house had single-pane windows. The basement slab had been poured directly onto clay without a gravel drainage base. There was sectional tile drain around the exterior perimeter and one sump. The house had a large patio door facing west and a bay window facing east, and only two windows on the south side.Faced with opportunities galore, we started by ripping out the ugly free-standing fireplace. You know, the kind that looks like the Martian in Bugs Bunny cartoons. We threw R-30 insulation into the attic over the ceiling joists, which were barely covered by blown-in fiberglass.We both love winters and sweaters, and we spent the next 20 years verifying that fact. It didn’t matter what temperature you set the furnace at, it was a drafty, cold house.
Maine center is active in wood researchYildirim earned his degree at the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources, and also graduated from the university’s Innovation Engineering Program. The Maine campus is home to the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, one of the world’s largest laboratories experimenting with nanocellulose composites and engineered lumber, according to The Portland Press Herald.The center has a staff of 180 and some 500 clients around the world. Among the products being tested or developed there are cross-laminated timber (CLT) and cellulose-based composites that can last a century underwater without corroding.Center director Habib Dagher told The Press Herald that wood “is our largest natural resource right now. We need to come up with next-generation ways to use it.” A Maine entrepreneur has found a way to combine water and nano-fibers of cellulose into rigid insulation with insulating properties rivaling extruded polystyrene.Arbolate, as Nadir Yildirim calls it, is still years away from commercial development, but his startup company has produced eight different prototypes of the insulation so far with help from a National Science Foundation grant. As development continues, Yildirim is looking into manufacturing or licensing partners. He says that Arbolate could be on the market by 2019.The project is an outgrowth of Yildirim’s doctoral work at the University of Maine, which focused on the development of “eco-friendly composite foam boards” using “cellulose nanofibrils” (CNF). His startup, Revolution Research, is housed at the flagship campus of the University of Maine system in Orono.Each of the eight prototypes is a little different, but all of them are made mostly with water and CNF. Some contain corn starch.“We are using very, very tiny fibers that can be found in the wood, and we call that cellulose nanofibrils,” he said by telephone. “We are applying a unique production technology that is different than the other foam production processes. For instance, we don’t use blowing agents, and it doesn’t include petroleum based chemicals like styrene.”Yildirim offered no details on how the insulation is manufactured but said he’s trying to patent the process. “It’s easy to make, actually,” he said. Insulation can be made from mushrooms, tooYildirim isn’t the only one doing some bio-engineering to produce insulation for houses. In upstate New York, a firm called Evocative Design is “beta testing” insulation panels made in a process that combines agricultural waste and the cells of mushroom roots.The roots, called mycelium, spread into the base or organic material with tendril-like filaments that bind the mass together. After about a week, a heat treatment stops the growth. The process is used to make molded packaging, shaped panels that can be used as a plywood substitute in furniture, and insulation.Emily Moore, a spokeswoman for the company, said by telephone insulation panels have been put into the hands of some builders for testing (she did not know how many). Panels also are available in small numbers at the company’s web store; a 3-ft. by 6 ft. panel 2 1/2 in. thick costs $75. Builders interested in buying larger lots — enough, say, to insulate an entire house — can contact the company for a bulk rate. (For more information on this type of insulation, see Grow Your Own Green … Insulation, That Is and Grow-In-Place Mushroom Insulation.)The insulation has an R-value of 3.6 per inch and is water-resistant, but not waterproof, she said.Moore didn’t know when the insulation would go into full production, or how much it would cost when it does. “I’m not aware of a release date for our prefabricated panels,” she said. Maine has lots of wood fiberYildirim’s announcement comes at a good time for Maine’s wood products industry. More than 80% of the state’s land area is covered by forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service. But the most important end use for all that wood fiber, the paper industry, has been suffering as worldwide demand for newsprint and other kinds of printing paper declines.Paper mills in East Millinocket, Lincoln, Old Town, Bucksport, and Madison have closed in recent years, according to The Bangor Daily News. At the same time, lower prices for fossil fuels and other factors have led to the closure of two biomass plants that produced electricity while threatening the future of four others.The closures affect not only people who work in the mills but the hundreds of others who cut, process, and truck wood. If Revolution Research insulation and other wood-based products were to get a toehold in the market, it would certainly be good news for the state.The company was awarded a $247,496 grant from the National Science Foundation last year, and Yildirim said that he will be applying for a second round of funding in February that could mean the influx of as much as $750,000 in new capital.“The project objectives are to create the first corn-starch-based foam board with the desired material properties of low density, high mechanical properties, fire retardancy, water repellency and low thermal conductivity,” the grant abstract says. “The team will explore various materials combinations and chemical treatments to produce foam boards that have the material properties required to meet market needs. The foam board will have comparable or better mechanical and thermal properties to typical petroleum-based polystyrene foam boards on the market, but with a dramatically lower carbon footprint.” R-values similar to polystyreneTo date, Yildirim has produced only small panels measuring 10 inches by 20 inches and up to 1 inch thick. But in time, he says the process should yield panels in standard sizes.R-values are between 4 and 5 per inch, he said, putting it in the same league as extruded polystyrene (R-5 per inch) and expanded polystyrene (about R-4 per inch). But Yildirim says he is working on versions of Arbolate that will have double the R-value, making it a better thermal insulator than polyisocyanurate or closed-cell polyurethane foam.There’s no data yet on Arbolate’s vapor permeability but Yildirim says test results should be available in about a month. “Arbolate is breathable, not closed-cell,” he said.Cellulose fibers, water and corn starch don’t have much natural resistance to moisture or fire, so Yildirim is testing various “eco-friendly” chemicals to make Arbolate more durable. Exactly which ones he doesn’t say. “We want to see which ones give us the optimum results,” he said. “It needs to be good on the mechanical performance, good on the thermal performance, and good on the cost side as well.”Cost is another potential stumbling block. In this pre-production period, Yildirim says it’s difficult to be exact, but Arbolate will probably cost more than competing products. He hopes to keep the premium to 20% or less and says the absence of petrochemicals and chemical blowing agents, plus the prospect of earning extra credits in programs like LEED, will convince buyers any extra costs are worth it.
Start Free Trial Already a member? Log in This article is only available to GBA Prime Members Production builders in the U.S. love 2×4 walls. They also love keeping the cost to build their homes as low as possible.When energy codes ratcheted up in the 1980s and 1990s, cold-climate home builders eventually switched to 2×6 studs. But most production builders are still reluctant to install exterior rigid foam or furring strips.In Climate Zones 6, 7, and 8, new codes are forcing builders to consider the implications of the “R-20 + R-5” requirements for walls. But many builders are unhappy with current options for building high-R walls.Responding to builders’ concerns, engineers at a research facility associated with the National Association of Home Builders (the Home Innovation Research Labs, formerly known as the NAHB Research Center) have developed a new wall system called the “extended plate and beam” system. The main developers of the system were Vladimir Kochkin and Joe Wiehagen. (Wiehagen recently left his job at the Home Innovation Research Labs). Kochkin and Wieghagen wanted to come up with a wall that performs better than a typical 2×6 wall, but that isn’t expensive or scary enough to disturb production builders. Cantilevered plates At its most basic, here’s the idea: builders should frame 2×4 walls on 2×6 plates. The 2×6 plates should be flush with the 2x4s on the interior, but should be proud of the studs on the exterior. The protruding plates leave room for 2 inches of rigid foam to be installed on the exterior side of the studs (see the close-up image below).The OSB or plywood wall sheathing is installed on the exterior side of the rigid foam. In this respect, an “extended plate and beam” wall resembles a wall with Zip R sheathing. (For more information on Zip R sheathing, see “Nailbase Panels for Walls.”)In a recent phone… Sign up for a free trial and get instant access to this article as well as GBA’s complete library of premium articles and construction details.
It was only a matter of time. Tweets are now transactions.A new service called Chirpify has opened Twitter to e-commerce, enabling people to buy, sell, donate, pay and otherwise transact in-stream with their Twitter accounts.It’s a storefront upload that’s already being adopted by big companies like Hewlett-Packard, PowerBar and VH1.Here’s how it works: Brands, small businesses and musicians tweet offers using a product image. Shoppers reply to the post with the word “buy.” And that’s it.Seriously. It’s that easy. Payment is made via PayPal, with Chirpify taking a 4% flat fee. Boom. Done. The potential to turn followers into instant customers is beyond staggering. The question of the dollar value of a Twitter follower has just been taken to a whole new level.In April, Chirpify, based in Portland, Ore., raised north of $1 million in funding, with investments coming from HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes, BuddyTV CEO Andy Liu, and former Facebook exec Rudy Gadre. In early July, the company hired former American Express director Rayburn Chan to lead its social-payment platform. Chan spent a decade at AmEx, where he helped develop that company’s mobile-wallet platform. Right now the startup is looking to expand to allow linking to debit and credit accounts, and even expand beyond Twitter. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Facebook, an area in which Chirpify has reportedly expressed no interest. Keep your eye on this company. With strong management and a new twist on e-commerce, they might just lead the way in Twitter’s evolving advertising ecosystem.Global Twitter ad sales were $288 million in fiscal 2012, up from about $140 million in 2011. These numbers could keep going up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other startups follow in Chirpify’s footsteps to create similar business models. Is this the future of e-commerce sales on Twitter? The end of the promoted tweet and the beginning of the purchase tweet? Could well be. Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… adam popescu 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts Tags:#e-commerce#web
Microsoft has showed off research that takes us significantly closer to a Star Trek-style universal translator: natural language translation, in real time, in the user’s own voice.The demonstration by Microsoft chief research officer Rick Rashid (see embedded video below) at Microsoft Research Asia’s 21st Century Computing event was part of a speech to about 2,000 students in China on October. 25, and doesn’t actually represent a product in the works. “This work is in the pure research stages to push the boundaries of what’s currently possible,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email. The potential value of such capability is enormous, and obvious. On Star Trek, the universal translator made alien relations possible. For business travelers and tourists, speaking even a few words of the native tongue, let alone fluently, can make a big difference. For immigrants, learning the language of their new country is often the biggest barrier to assimilation. That’s why Microsoft – and competitors like Google, among others – have worked for years to develop real-time translation systems. Rashid’s demonstration shows a real-time speech-to-text translation engine, with a similarly real-time assessment of its accuracy. (Microsoft didn’t say how it generated the accuracy measurement.) According to Rashid, however, the accuracy has been improved by more than 30% compared to previous generations, with a current error rate as little as one in seven or eight words, or 13% to 14%. (Disclosing the error rate is significant, as competitors like Nuance usually compare recognition rates against their own products.)Translation Needs Big DataMicrosoft is no stranger to automated translation; on Halloween, the company announced that it would be working with researchers in Central America to buid a version of the Microsoft Translator Hub to preserve the Mayan language. The Hub lets users create a model, add language data, then use Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud service to power the automated translation. The idea, as Microsoft took pains to explain, was to preserve the dying language through the next b’ak’tun, the calendar cycle that ends this December, prompting waves of end-of-the-world predictions, including movies like 2012.As Microsoft’s Translator Hub suggests, translation is predicated upon big data. The calculations are immensely complicated, not just dealing with the phonemes that make up each word, but also working out how thoughts are organized into proper grammar, as well as other elements like the genders of certain nouns, honorifics, and other cultural nuances. Microsoft built in speech-to-text tools inside of Windows XP, as Rashid points out, but the technology suffered arbitrary speech errors of about one in every four words. Although speech-to-text (and text-to-speech) has remained inside of Microsoft’s software as an accessibility tool, it hasn’t yet served as a general replacement for the keyboard – even, as Scott Forstall’s departure from Apple demonstrates – with some of the top minds in the industry powering technologies like Apple’s Siri.Typically, machine translation is improved through training, as the software learns how a user pronounces various phonemes and generally becomes familiar with how the user says individual words. His Master’s VoiceRashid’s demonstration went a step farther, however. The software not only learned what Rashid was saying, but also parsed the meaning, reorganizing it into Chinese. It also took his voice and recast the Chinese phonology in Rashid’s natural voice. How? By using a few hours speech of a native Chinese speaker and properties of Rashid’s own voice taken from about one hour of pre-recorded English data – recordings of previous speeches he had made.Real-time voice translation isn’t exactly new. In the mobile space. Both Microsoft and Google, for example, have released apps that can translate text that a smartphone camera sees. And both offer “conversational modes” that are actually more akin to a CB radio: one person talks, taps “stop,” the phone translates and plays back a recorded voice, the other person speaks, and so on. What Rashid’s demonstration showed off was a much more conversational, continuous, natural means of translation.And as Rashid’s blog post and the video highlight, the crowd applauded nearly every line. That’s the type of response every business traveler and tourist wouldn’t mind when trying to make herself understood.Lead image from Memory Alpha. Related Posts Serverless Backups: Viable Data Protection for … Tags:#cloud#Microsoft markhachman Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting How Intelligent Data Addresses the Chasm in Cloud Cloud Hosting for WordPress: Why Everyone is Mo…
Tags:#Microsoft#Windows 8 IT + Project Management: A Love Affair 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… Microsoft reported an unexpected boost in both profits and revenue within its Windows division for the fourth quarter, and yet little of that had to do with real demand for Windows 8.Well, possibly. Or maybe not. Or perhaps we’re completely wrong.(See Microsoft Earnings Surprise: Windows Soars, While Office Stuggles.)That’s because Microsoft revealed very few details about the success or failure of Windows 8 in its quarterly earnings call on Thursday afternoon, and what little company executives divulged had already been disclosed. Yes, we know that Microsoft has sold more than 60 million Windows 8 licenses to date. Big deal. Windows marketing chief Tami Reller said as much earlier this month.The big statement from Peter Klein, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, on Windows 8 simply reiterated what most Microsoft followers already knew:“With the launch in October, we collectively took the first of many steps in changing the way people use technology at work and at play,” Klein said. “Since then, the number of Windows 8 certified systems has nearly doubled, the number of apps in the Windows store has quadrupled, and Windows users have downloaded over 100 million apps. To date, we have sold over 60 million licenses of Windows 8. Our partners, including OEM hardware manufacturers, app developers, and retailers, have worked hard to get us to where we are today. It’s early days and an ambitious endeavor like this takes time. Together with our partners, we remain focused on fully delivering the promise of Windows 8.”Why Windows WonMicrosoft’s Windows and Windows Live revenue grew 24% to $5.88 billion, while the division’s profits grew 14% to $3.3 billion. Why? Three reasons, according to Klein, were responsible for the bulk of the revenue increase:Retail upgrades.Surface sales.Multi-year license agreements struck with enterprises.Some, like ex-Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff, suspected that the bulk of the Windows division’s sudden boost in revenues was money that had been deferred from pre-sales of Windows 8 before the launch. Subtract that, and the 24% increase drops to 11%. According to Microsoft, sales to equipment makers outpaced the x86 PC market – no surprise there, given that the third-quarter PC market dropped.Probably the most important news is that enterprise volume license sales – multi-year license deals that are typically signed for three years – were up “double digits” Klein said. (We don’t know, however, if they were for Windows 7 or Windows 8.) More than 60% of all corporate PCs currently run Windows 7, which is an indication of strong enterprise support.Unfortunately, Microsoft said virtually nothing about its Surface tablet, including sales figures. And how many consumers took advantage of the cheap $39.99 Windows 7-to-8 upgrade, or the $19.99 upgrade for those who bought a new PC before Windows 8 was released? We may never know.“The Microsoft financials show that they did indeed profit well from the work they did on Windows 8,” Patrick Moorhead, principal with Moor Insights, said in an email. “Unfortunately their [manufacturing partners] can’t say the same. The fact is, the jury is still out on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft has a long way to go to show that both operating systems are strategically a success.”We Know NothinkWhat else did we learn that we already knew? For one thing, we know that Klein is a master at dodging questions. Give credit to Walter Pritchard of Citigroup, who asked one of the more adroit questions: In the months following the Windows 8 launch, what has Microsoft learned about the importance of price (in terms of the Surface tablet, we presume) in terms of driving sales, and will Microsoft eventually lower prices?Mr. Klein?“We learned a lot… about the price points customers are looking for from their devices,” Klein returned. “We saw some really great demand for touch devices for the market. In some cases we didn’t have the supply we needed to satisfy that demand. I think from a price point we learned what we always suspected: there’s segmentation and differentiation. One of the powers of the Windows ecosystem is obviously, a variety of devices and form factors and experiences at a variety of price points. And I think we learned from experience that that continues to be important, and as I said we continue to work closely with our chip partners as well as OEMs to bring the right mix of devices, which to your point, mean the right set of touch devices at the right price point of the unique needs of the individual. I think we learned a lot about that and one of the things you’ll see is a greater variety of devices at a bigger variety of price points to meet the different needs of consumers.”Stop. The. Presses.Unfortunately, the only Microsoft exec that can actually be goaded into something resembling an answer wasn’t on the call. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer was absent (“he pulled a Sinofsky!” one friend quipped) but made an appearance via press release:“Our big, bold ambition to reimagine Windows as well as launch Surface and Windows Phone 8 has sparked growing enthusiasm with our customers and unprecedented opportunity and creativity with our partners and developers. With new Windows devices, including Surface Pro, and the new Office on the horizon, we’ll continue to drive excitement for the Windows ecosystem…”What We Do KnowMicrosoft did provide some additional… well, they weren’t “facts,” exactly.Sales of Windows Phones are up four times compared to last year, whatever that figure was. Online ad revenue grew 15% (although the Online Division lost money, again: $283 million)If one factored out $788 million of deferred Office upgrade revenue, Microsoft’s Business Division grew revenues by 3%.Deferring $380 million in video game revenue (for add-on packs and the like) meant that Entertainment revenue was down only 2%, not 11%.The Windows upgrade offer expires at the end of February, when Microsoft will recongnize $1.1 billion in revenue – giving a nice little boost to Microsoft’s third fiscal quarter Windows revenues, too.According to Klein, Microsoft is positioned for growth across a “massive” market, from tablets to laptops, to ultrabooks and all-in-ones.OK, we know the potential is there. Microsoft has been saying that for months. So what’s going on now? markhachman Related Posts