Two writers who’ve influenced my life and career, William Shakespeare and Christopher Alexander, explore the human condition. Shakespeare’s works reflect universal human truths, Alexander’s the universal patterns of building and organizing communities. All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players, They have their exits and entrances, And one man in his time plays many…

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There’s a catch-all phrase in green building:  Don’t Do Stupid Things. This newsletter explores how not doing stupid things begins with asking the right questions. Low-tech hammer and nail homebuilding days are gone. Construction, along with everything else, is driven by CADs, composites and spreadsheets. New technologies foster new mistakes at digital-speed. Design and install errors are more likely to cause major defects.…

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Our tenant’s Christmas cooking party turned out to be a stinker when mice took up residence in the back of the gas oven. Building Science informs us that heating accelerates chemical reactions.  Imagine Old Dog Smell to the 10th power. Cleaning did not change the smell factor.  Here’s the sexed-up explanation why:  http://www.salon.com/2012/11/03/chances_are_your_house_is_soaked_in_mouse_urine/   Animals obey their biological imperatives.  They’re adapted to survive.  They seek shelter from the…

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Built to a Higher Standard Codes, Ordinances and Permits are the regulatory foundation our homes are built on.  They are designed to protect buildings and people, to promote safety and function.  Standards (Codes, Ordinances, and Permits) reflect changes in climate, materials, methods and culture.  They correct past mistakes, adjust to new conditions and provide a path forward.…

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When researching my next inspection I always check the build date.  If it’s between 1978 to 1995 I’ll be on the lookout for questionable workmanship and defective products.  1995 represents a turning point, a time when established presumptions about how to build houses proved inadequate for new products and updated efficiency requirements.  The change was not as immediate or catastrophic as 9/11.…

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The end of spring/summer real estate season is time to catch up on personal business, analyze trends and plan ahead. Armed with flashlight, screwdriver and little gray cells here’smy look around the housing industry Mega-trends I’ve worked for up-and-coming multi-degreed professionals, investors, software engineers/designers/managers, medical professionals, first-time buyers, retirees, divorced and widowed persons; everyone except my main source of income; the middle-middle class.…

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Inspectors typically work Point of Sale transactions.  A lot of what we do gets lost in the buyers rush to negotiate, move and settle. Here are my reasons to schedule aMaintenance Inspection every 6-9 years. The science of how we build and live in homes is changing.  Materials, methods and lifestyle all have an impact on function and…

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These recent intown Atlanta inspections put my understanding of building science to the test 1.  Poor Drainage A reputable builder purchased mid-block properties in an older neighborhood.  Local ordinance required he dispose of roof and surface moisture on-site, not to the storm sewer.  He built a comfortable, durable and efficient Earthcraft home.  This property and adjacent lots contain large amounts of organic clay…

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Thermostat Wars and The Streetlight Effect Too much A/C gives me sinusitis, too little and I can’t sleep.  You may be comfortable at 79, but it’s 78 for me. Family beach week is a constant battle between the 70F-crew and grumpy uncle Dan. Individual comfort depends very much on the specific needs of the comforted. How homeowners solve cooling deficiencies depends upon their understanding of the problem. When I see a fan in every room during an…

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Economies in Equilibrium Efficient systems require balance.   Part of my job is to discover out-of-balance components before they compromise function and safety.  I rail against the over-emphasis on appearance at the expense of durability because I know, sometime in the future, failures will occur. Appearances do make a difference, especially when they express common architectural language with a unique voice. Lowes and Lead Paint Contractors are tasked with…

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