blogging the latest news and technology for
sustainable construction and net zero energy



Argon-filled Windows- High efficiency windows that include argon gas between the two or three window panes. The argon gas reduces convection of hot air to interior rooms better than a regular air space.

Alternative Energy- As opposed to conventional fuel sources such as gas, oil, or coal; alernative energy fuel sources include clean burning technologies such as nuclear, or are products of renewable resources such as the wind, the sun, and water. These forms of energy are vital to designing successful net zero energy buildings.



Building Information Modeling (BIM)- a type of design software that builds an electronic model of the building that contains digital information about construction details, materials, and schedules.  The software is capable of providing a full set of architectural drawings from one complete model. Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural drawings can also be provided using BIM.

Brownfield Sites- A site that was previously of industrial or commercial use.  These sites are often abandoned and contaminated but can be environmentally remediated to become reused as a healthy site for a new building. 



Carbon Neutral- a concept that describes a manufacturing process, vehicle, energy production process, or building that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and green house gas emissions as it produces.  The carbon emissions produced are compensated by the creation of an equivalent amount of renewable energy produced.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)- A configuration of mirrors and lenses that focuses sunlight onto a small area of concentrated heat that can be used to create steam in a turbine and generate electrical power. 

Cohousing- A housing and community model that allows residents to collaborate and design a place to live.  Cohousing principles include privacy of conventional housing while bringing a community together by offering and encouraging shared use and communal areas such as courtyards, playgrounds, laundry rooms and common houses.



Dynamic Windows- Energy-efficient windows that contain a thin layer of electrochromic material and can be controlled to adjust the level of sunlight or heat allowed into a building.

Demand Response- Shifting and cooridinating operating schedules of both commercial and residential consumers in order to lower peak energy demands that drive up energy costs and put cities at risk for blackouts.


Energy Load- a measurement that refers to the combined demand of all energy sources by a building.  These sources include energy used for heating and cooling, and electricity.  Many goals in sustainable buildings are focused on decreasing this energy load.



Fly Ash- An admixture to concrete that increases strength and makes the concrete process less carbon intensive. Fly ash is a bi product of burning coal and is gathered from coal-fired power plants. This recycled powder is used as a substitute for a certain amount of cement making the concrete mix more sustainable.



Geothermal Heat- An alternative heat source that uses the constant temperature of the earth to heat a building.  The heat is moved from pipes that go 150-250 feet into the ground by an electric pump.   Compared to furnaces and boilers that burn fuel, geothermal heat systems use 40%-70% less fuel.



Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)- this mechanical system is used as a supplement to HVAC ductwork.  Its purpose is to remove stale air from a building and replace it with fresh outdoor air without changing the temperature of the indoor air.  It is primarily used in sustainable buildings that have airtight building envelopes. 



Insulated Concrete Form (ICF)An energy efficient wall system that uses insulated blocks that fit together to build formwork in which the concrete is poured directly into.  The form stays creating a highly insulated, durable thermal mass.  



Low-e Coating- Low emissive coating is used on windows and glazing to reflect UV rays from the sun that are harmful to interior spaces.  This thin metallic coating is essentially invisible and prevents the radiant heat from penetrating and altering the interior of a building.

Light Emitting Diode (LED)lighting technology that serves as a sustainable alternative to incandescent lights.  They do not burn as hot, use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer.



Net Zero Energy- A concept describing the energy efficiency of a building that produces as much energy as it uses.



Occupancy Sensor- A product used in sustainable buildings to automatically regulate the use of lighting, enhancing the energy efficiency and security. An occupancy sensor switch will automatically turn the lights on when someone enters a room and turn the lights off when nobody is in the room. 


Passive HouseA sustainable building standard that was developed in Germany (originally known as Passivhaus).  A building designed according to passive house standards will be 90% more energy efficient than a traditionally built home.  The design principles focus on superinsulation and high tech energy systems. 

Passive Solar- Designing a system to collect, circulate and store heat using conduction and convection of air currents. 

Photovoltaics(PVs) an array of solar cells mounted on a panel that absorbs the sun's energy and convert it into direct current.  Photovoltaic systems can provide electrical power for a building or be used for water heating systems among other building uses.

Prefabshort for prefabricated buildings or structures; a sustainable approach to design and construction that consists of the majority of construction to be completed in a factory and delivered modularly to be assembled quickly on site. 




R-valueA measurement of thermal resistance of a material.  It is a ratio based on the thickness of material, and its conductivity.  This ratio is helpful in comparing the efficiencies of insulations and wall systems.

RetrofitReplacing or upgrading a system or structure of an existing building to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. 



SREC- Solar Renewable Energy Credits are currently one of the most effective incentives when considering an investment in a commercial photovoltaic panel system.  SRECs are certificates that are sold to energy companies for a certain market price per MWh.  The demand for these certificates and inherently the sale price is based on the energy companies' needs to reach state regulated alternative energy production levels.

Structual Insulated Panel (SIP)A panelized energy efficient wall system that consists of an extruded polystyrene foam sandwiched between two boards OSB plywood or similar sheathing. 

Sustainability- The concept of combining social, environmental, and economic values.  Providing amenities for the earth's inhabitants that offer a health, comfort and affordability while considering using durable, renewable resources with life-cycles that inflict minimal impact on the earth.

Sustainable ROI- a unique process developed by HDR inc. that offers a return on investment analysis for sustainable construction process. 



Thermal BreakUsed to eliminate thermal bridging. Insulation or airspace placed between components of a wall section assembly to prevent the flow of thermal conductivity. 



 Urban Renewal- Redeveloping land in an urban area to create economic growth and social reform.  The process could involve relocating businesses, reconfiguring roadways and reorganizing where people live and gather.  Urban renewal projects are a great opportunity to introduce sustainability into the daily lives of many people.



Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)-Carbon-based chemicals that are released from a material, adhesive or paints at room temperature.  Interior home products and finishes that contain these toxic chemicals harm the indoor air quality and are a threat to the health of individuals in the building.

Vapor Barrier- a thin sheet material that is used in exterior walls betwee sheathing and exterior cladding in order to prevent exterior moisture or condensation from building up in the structural elements and insulation.



XeriscapingLandscaping a site to conserve water using native plants that are accustomed to the local climate, needing little to no water and are drought resistant. 


ZamRay- A website designed to connect the construction industry with contractor discussion forums, construction job listings, and information resources. However, the main feature of the website is for users to buy and sell surplus or reclaimed building materials. For this aspect, ZamRay is a quality technology that supports the sustainable construction industry.

 John Noriega © 2012 Sustainable Construction Blog. Blogging the latest news and technology for sustainable construction and net zero energy.

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