Sexy Retrofits

Vindication edition: Obama declares insulation “sexy”

Here at Sexy Retrofits, we’ve been pointing out for a while the absolute hotness of making buildings more energy efficient. Today, our President said this: “I know the idea [of investing in upgrades to inefficient buildings] may not be very glamorous, although I get really excited about it. Insulation is sexy stuff.” Know what else is sexy? Obama. Glorious day!

The jobs of saving energy

Could AlertMe be the Apple of energy efficiency?

AlertMe iphone app.Photo: Courtesy of AlertMeI’m sitting in a conference room at a PR agency on the San Francisco waterfront when the chief executive of AlertMe, a British energy management startup, pulls out his iPhone to check on a colleague’s kilowatt consumption back in the U.K. The executive, who has the Vonnegutian name of Pilgrim Beart, taps the “history” icon on the screen. “I can see that his wife has arrived home,” he says before touching the energy button. “They’re watching TV right now,” Beart notes, staring at the iPhone screen. “I could turn the TV off if I wanted …


Amy Bauman is greening the construction industry, one steel I-beam at a time

This interview is part of a series on people who are making their communities smarter, greener places to live. Got a nomination? Leave it in the comments section or send it along to us. Redoing a kitchen? Hosting a national convention? Demolishing a school? Things are bound to get trashy, and that’s where Amy Bauman comes in. A former financial analyst, Bauman founded a nonprofit called greenGoat in 2001 to help Boston-area architects and contractors green their projects and create less waste. From consulting on LEED plans to finding new uses for cast-off materials, the small greenGoat team has worked …

Forward Progress

Take a walk through the JP Green House [video]

JP Green House walk-through from Ken Ward on Vimeo. Walk through of JP Green House, by Ken Ward, co-founder, and Simon Hare & Declan Keefe of Placetailor, showing materials, design and construction techiques being used, aiming to meet passivhaus standards and meet negative, net carbon impact objective.

I'm only human, of flesh and blood I'm made

Making buildings more efficient: It helps to understand human behavior

If I told you how much energy your neighbors use on average, and whether you fell above or below that average, would that induce you to save more energy? What if, depending on whether you came in above or below average, you got an emoticon on your energy bill? Say, a smiley face if you save more energy than they do, a frowny face if less. Sounds silly, right? We’re all rational people here. We do things for considered reasons, not some cartoon face! Except not so much. In a 2007 experiment in California, homeowners given an emoticon on their …

Toward a more perfect invisible hand

Making buildings more efficient: rationalizing retrofit markets

As I said in my last post, taking energy efficiency in buildings seriously means expanding our policy horizons beyond the blunt tool of raising energy prices. We have to think in creative ways about how to remove market and behavioral failures that inhibit cost-effective responses to today’s energy prices. How can we make efficiency markets more rational and robust? What follows is not intended to be comprehensive, just to call out some of the bigger challenges and a few interesting attempts to overcome them. There are folks out there who know much more about this than me — I hope …

Of price and men

Making buildings more efficient: looking beyond price

Photo courtesy kimberlyfaye via Flickr Using energy more efficiently in buildings may be the fastest, cheapest way to substantially reduce carbon emissions in the short-term. How can we make it happen? Last week, New York Times‘ David Leonhardt wrote a great column about a new proposal bouncing around the White House: “cash for caulkers,” a stimulus program to support building retrofits and efficiency. (Leonhardt has more details on his blog.) And as I wrote on Saturday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is pushing to have a similar program included in the upcoming Senate jobs bill. So it seems that national policymakers …

Jobs we can believe in

Merkley wants Senate jobs bill to help finance building efficiency retrofits

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with the chairs of six committees that might have some hand in developing the clean energy bill. The question at issue was whether the bill should be pushed back in favor of a short-term focus on finance reform, jobs, and the deficit. Though John Kerry argued vigorously that the clean energy is a jobs bill that won’t grow the deficit, it looks like he lost out and there will be some kind of standalone jobs bill in the interim. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is now advocating that any jobs bill include support …

How a simple renovation turned into the "Big Dig" of rehabs

Home Economics of the JP Green House, Part 1

More work than anyone imagined — watch a slideshow of the project unfolding.Leise JonesIt is worth noting that the original JP Green House budget for the first year of the project was $25k. In retrospect, this was woefully inadequate, but by no means out of line with the four previous rehabs I had completed. We now project that total expenses for the first phase of the rehab, from purchase (July 2009) through occupancy (January 2010), will come in over $200k, a cost overrun of Big Dig proportions. Like the largest public works boondoggle in U.S. history, we seriously underestimated the …

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