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Book Review: Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry

first_imgSam Rashkin, until very recently the head of Energy Star for Homes, recently published Retooling The US Housing industry, a book of his opinions on, and suggestions of how to improve, the new home industry. The book is a fairly quick read with a great history of housing, and a good analysis of how the U.S. home building industry evolved to its current state.The book starts off with a recap of the financial crisis, and the involvement of the home construction industry in that crisis. While this is not new information to most people in the construction industry, a couple of statistics clarify the depth of our problems: In 2006, housing accounting for 6.2% of GDP; in 2010, that figure dropped to 2.4%, and we are not likely to see a full recovery soon, if ever.One major point with which I agree is that the long-promoted concept that everyone should own a home is no longer valid. Here’s a quote in the book from a 2010 Price Waterhouse study: “Not everybody can afford or should own a home.”History classThere are two separate history lessons in the book. The first covers the expansion of suburban development following WWII, encouraged by FHA and VA mortgage programs, that “discouraged renovation of existing housing stock, multifamily homes, and mixed use buildings.”The second is a timeline of developments in construction, starting with the Egyptians, and moving quickly into a brief recap of several key eras described as:• 1750 – 1850: Birth of a Nation• 1850 – 1920: The Industrial Revolution• 1920 – 1950: The Electric Grid Emerges• 1950 – 1985: Age of Cheap Energy• 1985 – Present: Building Science ArrivesEach of these sections includes descriptions of typical techniques of the era for Foundations, Framing, Materials, Insulation, Windows, Space Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electricity, providing a nice overview of the development of building technologies.Lessons not learnedOne key theme running through the book is best described by this section subtitle: “Key Lessons From Prominent Failures Have Not Been Learned.” In a parallel structure to the historical review sections, key failures and the lessons that should be learned from them in each building component are addressed.These include hardboard siding, urea formaldehyde in insulation, missing window flashing, and polybutylene pipe. This is followed by another review of very specific materials and techniques for each building component that, when employed properly, will lead to high-performance homes.The main takeaway is that builders need to invest in quality design and construction, which will result in high-performance homes. The big question is whether or not home builders will actually be willing to make these investments, or will they simply continue to do the same thing over and over again, make their money, and move on, rarely if ever worrying about how their homes perform over the long term?How long a warranty?Probably the most radical thing proposed in this book is the concept of builders providing a 30-year warranty on their homes. This isn’t quite as far-fetched as it might seem, as this extended warranty will require regular maintenance, quite like car warranties, which, if managed properly, can provide a steady income stream for businesses willing to take on this work.The book wraps up with a section on selling high-performance homes; the section provides a good outline on how to make the case for them to the consumer. I am not, however, hopeful that there will be enough of a market transformation, particularly in our currently troubled economy, to move the home building industry fast enough to make an impact.Thumbs upI found the book a fast read, with enough interesting information to keep me engaged through most of it.I am a little disappointed that our existing housing stock was not addressed at all, but that is clearly outside the scope of this book, and would probably fill a much larger volume. We can only hope that enough home builders will read the book and follow its recommendations as the industry begins to recover.last_img read more

Collection and Use of Urine

first_imgJust when you thought it was safe to enjoy this blog over your morning cup of coffee, here’s an article on… urine?Really?Let me explain.Urine is a largely sterile, nutrient-rich resource that can be used in fertilizing plants. In fact, according to the Rich Earth Institute, the urine from one adult in a year can produce over 300 pounds of wheat — enough for nearly a loaf of bread per day.The Rich Earth Institute is a Brattleboro-based organization that’s at the leading edge of this little-known practice of urine collection and use — something that’s emerging in Sweden and a few other places. This past Friday night roughly 200 people gathered at the Strolling of the Heifers’ River Garden in downtown Brattleboro to hear Abe Noe-Hays and Kim Nace from the Rich Earth Institute, along with a New York City comedian/activist, Shawn Shafner, discuss the idea.I thought I should weigh in and describe some of the benefits — both from an energy and nutrient-flow standpoint. Conventional practiceWith conventional practice, human waste (urine and fecal matter) is mixed with large quantities of potable water and flushed down toilets. From there, it typically flows to municipal wastewater treatment plants where energy- and chemical-intensive processes use bacteria to break down organic wastes, separate out biosolids, kill pathogens, and release that water into rivers or aquifers. RELATED ARTICLES Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. In 2012 he founded the Resilient Design Institute. To keep up with Alex’s latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed. It’s better than letting the nutrients evaporateI have long been a fan of composting toilets. I like the idea of not mixing human waste with potable water, and I’ve always felt that flushing away the nutrients in human waste was a lost opportunity. But when I learned about urine separation and use (believe it or not in a luncheon presentation on the topic at a conference in Houston, Texas in 2009), I began to see the benefits of urine separation over standard composting toilets.With standard composting toilets, most of the nitrogen in the waste ends up being volatilized as either nitrogen gas or ammonia — and lost into the atmosphere. With urine collection and use, the nutrients aren’t lost; they are recycled in a sustainable nutrient cycle.This is something we’re considering for Leonard Farm, though we have not installed such a system yet. For more information or to participate in ongoing studies, contact the Rich Earth Institute. SterilizationAccording to most experts, simply storing urine for a while in a sealed container is enough to kill bacteria, due to the high alkalinity and ammonia from the urine. But the Rich Earth Institute is experimenting with faster pasteurization systems that heat the urine (including with solar systems that circulate solar-heated fluid through heat exchangers in the urine tanks).They are also testing various strategies for controlling odor — likely the biggest hurdle we face with urine collection and use. Utilizing human urineWhen most people think of creating fertilizer from animal waste, they think of manure. Composted cow manure, for example, is widely sold in garden centers. But there are actually far more nutrients in urine than in fecal matter.In human waste, 88% of the nitrogen is contained in the urine, along with 66% of the phosphorous, according to Swedish research (see table at end of blog), while nearly all of the hazards — including bacterial pathogens — are contained in the fecal matter.The idea that the Rich Earth Institute has been advancing for the past several years is to collect human urine, sanitize that urine to kill any bacteria that may be in it (from urinary tract infections, for example, or fecal contamination), and then apply it on fields as a fertilizer.Abe Noe-Hays, who used to work for our company, BuildingGreen, has been leading the charge with this idea in the U.S. The Rich Earth Institute secured funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to study urine collection and use as fertilizer, and the Institute is into its second year of this study. Land applicationIn Sweden urine is being applied on food crops, but to date, with USDA support and permits from the State of Vermont, the Rich Earth Institute has stuck with less controversial applications on non-food crops — specifically hay fields.Initial results last year with undiluted urine and dilution rates of 1:1 and 3:1, dramatic improvement in hay production was seen (see photo).Because urine may contain pharmaceuticals, there is an important question about whether that poses a problem. This year, the Institute will begin an EPA-funded study to test whether residual pharmaceuticals in urine are taken up by vegetables grown on experimental plots. Collecting urineSpecialized urine-separating flush toilets are available in Scandinavian countries with front chambers for capturing urine. Abe Noe-Hays manufacturers a urine-separating composting toilet, and the Institute provides special toilet insets for urine collection. On a larger scale, collection of urine from men’s rooms that have waterless urinals is very easy.With the help of Best Septic Service in Brattleboro, the Institute collected 3,000 gallons of urine from over 170 participants in 2013. Does a Composting Toilet Stink Up Your House?GBA Product Guide: Composting Toilet SystemsGBA Encyclopedia: Green Plumbing SystemsDo Low-Flow Toilets Really Work?Natural Building In NicaraguaQ&A: Experiences with grey-water and composting toilets?Or, if we live in rural areas not served by a municipal sewer system, that wastewater flows into septic tanks where solids settle out and the effluent then flows into the soil through leach fields — in most cases with most of the nutrients in that waste filtering down into the underground aquifers. I learned when researching on-site wastewater disposal years ago for an article in Environmental Building News that the aquifers under rural New England towns almost always have nitrate levels that significantly exceed federal drinking water standards.At the same time, in the chemical industry, tremendous quantities of natural gas are used in the Haber-Bosch process (invented in 1915) to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere, which is made up of roughly 78% nitrogen gas (N2), to produce ammonia fertilizer, the mainstay of commercial agriculture.last_img read more

Classes empty as schools reopen in J&K

first_imgThe J&K government on Thursday re-opened all higher secondary schools across the Valley, after 60 days of closure, only to a very negligible attendance by students, while teachers complained of several structures being occupied by the security forces. Srinagar’s prominent government-run Sri Pratap Higher Secondary School at Lal Chowk wore a deserted look, with no student presence on its sprawling campus. Just two students without uniform appeared from the nearby Barbar Shah area to know the status of the school.“I was shocked to see a security bullet-proof picket come up at the gate. I was stopped by the security personnel and questioned. I immediately left the premises,” the students said, on the condition of anonymity.Top officials of the school told The Hindu that no attendance of students was recorded. “We have around 1,500 students in the school. A very negligible number turned up. We decided not to hold any classes. However, teachers met to chalk out the future course of action,” school authorities said.The teachers said around 500 security personnel had been stationed at the main building of the school after the August 5 decision to revoke J&K’s special status. “Security personnel need to be vacated so that students feel safe in the school,” said a teacher. There was a similar scene at the all-girls Government Kothi Bagh Higher Secondary school, another prominent educational institution. “We are hopeful that attendance will improve in coming days,” said an official.last_img read more

London Olympics: Bronze medallist Gagan Narang gets a hero’s welcome in Pune

first_imgA sea of people, a bright red pheta and a flower bedecked chariot welcomed India’s Olympic hero Gagan Narang who kickstarted the medal rush for India at the London Olympics with a bronze. The ace shooter won a bronze on July 30 when he finished third in the 10m air rifle event at the Royal Artillery Barracks.Yesterday, he crashed out of the Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions qualifying round and returned to Pune, the city where he had trained for the past four years.The champion went directly to the Balewadi Sports Complex where he runs an academy called Gun for Glory that trains aspiring shooters. Dressed in a dark suit, he frequently flashed his medal as he beamed at the rousing welcome that the gathered crowds gave him.At Gun For Glory, where his students and supporters had gathered, Maharashtra state sports minister Padmakar Valvi felicitated Narang for winning his first ever medal at the Olympics.”The Maharashtra government congratulates him and we will soon organise a public function for his felicitation. The government will extend the lease of the academy for another five years in recognition of the good work that Narang has done,” he said.The minister further announced that the government would provide financial grant for ammunition and rifles for training aspiring shooters at the Academy that Narang founded a year ago.”We are sure that in the 2016 Olympics, he will succeed in winning and continue to keep the Indian flag flying high,” said Valvi, adding that 25 shooters of national and international standards had trained here with Narang.advertisementThe sports hero’s parents were also felicitated at the event. “It is a very proud moment for the country that he brought the medal and having trained at the Balewadi stadium range, he wanted to first come here and light a lamp.The country and Pune, in particular, are very proud of him,” said his father B S Narang. The crowd applauded as the Olympic hero flashed his bronze once again, saying, “This medal belongs to all of you; it belongs to the country.”Cradling it in his hand, the winner at several prestigious sports events across the world thanked all who had been a part of his journey-his family, coach, students at the Academy, fans on FaceBook who he “hadn’t been able to reply to” and friends who he “hadn’t been able to communicate with” over the last few  busy weeks.”Thank you for your appreciation of my efforts. It has not been easy; in fact, it’s been tough. Looking at your support, it’s now sinking in that I’ve won something big,” he said.Narang appealed to parents to encourage children to pursue their interest in sports and urged the state government to include sports in the study curriculum. “A sport teaches you a lot; I have learnt lot from people who didn’t believe in me, that’s where the motivation came from,” he said.Recalling his first visit to Balewadi in 2008, he said, “I first came here in 2008 and today, I am extremely happy to be here for my felicitation.”Stating that he was “surprised” to see the facilities that the Maharashtra government had provided at the Balewadi Sports Complex, he urged the state, along with Haryana, to be the “torchbearers for sports.”Ending his brief speech, Narang said, “I trained here for four years and winning an Olympic medal was very difficult. I came back here because this is where I had trained and this is where I want to train you all.”last_img read more


first_imgDuring the arguments in court, Nalinis counsel Vijayanarayan alleged that the prosecution had “gone beyond its line” and dubbed it as “persecution” and “an attempt for political reasons” to harass (her).He claimed that even the CBI chargesheet had not mentioned anything about the amount received by Nalini as professional fee as being proceeds of the alleged crime (Saradha scam).The other counsels (in the TV channel deal) had not been summoned, he submitted, adding that the fee was received when the scam was yet to come to light.”An attempt has been made for political reasons and unless the court interferes, anything can happen,” he submitted.Explaining her appearance before the Company Law Board and the Delhi High Court in the matter related to a dispute over the TV channel purchase deal, Nalinis counsel said, according to an agreement between Manoranjana and Sudipto Sen, the Bengal Media Pvt. Ltd, run by Sen, had committed to professionally and legally assist in her ongoing litigations.Accordingly, Sen, through his real estate company Saradha Realty India Limited, paid the “professional fee” of about Rs one crore to Nalini.But, the CBI later registered a case against Sen for failure to return deposits made in his chit funds. It was in this connection, the professional fee paid to Nalini from one of Sens companies was inquired by the CBI.The counsel also said Nalini had fully explained to the CBI about the receipt of the professional fee.It was in this connection, the ED had issued four summonses for her appearance, which was challenged by her.advertisementHe further submitted that Nalini had also sent her authorised representative to the ED in response to earlier summonses and the questionnaire was fully answered and all the documents were submitted to the agency.Stating that the same questionnaire was again issued by the ED, he said in the fourth and last summons, the words “authorised representative” were struck off.Assistant Solicitor General G Rajagopalan, appearing on behalf of the ED, submitted that the matter was only in the stage of summons. Mere summoning itself could not be assumed as the person had been made an accused.He also said the ED had summoned the petitioner as it might not have been satisfied with the answers furnished by the “authorised” person.”It is only in the stage of collecting evidence and the officer who issues summons does not know about the person and personalities,” he said, apparently rejecting the charge of “political reasons”. PTI CORR VS RClast_img read more

Hamsik is Slovakia’s greatest ever – Sylvestr

first_imgNapoli star Marek Hamsik should be regarded as Slovakia’s greatest ever ahead of former Liverpool centre-back Martin Skrtel, international team-mate Jakub Sylvestr feels. The 31-year-old will win his 108th cap for Slovakia if he features in Saturday’s Nations League encounter against Czech Republic to become his country’s most-capped player, erasing previous record holder Miroslav Karhan’s name from the record books.Hamsik has not only impressed at international level throughout his career, but has also shone at club level, deplacing the legendary Diego Maradona as Napoli’s all-time top goalscorer.  Article continues below Editors’ Picks Man Utd ready to spend big on Sancho and Haaland in January Who is Marcus Thuram? Lilian’s son who is top of the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach Brazil, beware! Messi and Argentina out for revenge after Copa controversy Best player in MLS? Zlatan wasn’t even the best player in LA! Sylvestr grew up in the same city as Hamsik – Banska Bystrica – and even though they did not play together at local club Jupie Podlavice, he vividly remembers how his compatriot made a big impression at a young age already.”I know Marek very well,” the Beitar Jerusalem attacker told Goal. “We grew up in the same city and our fathers played together. We went to the same football academy in my town. I have known him since I was eight or nine years old. He was always a big talent in Slovakia.”He was two years older, I would leave the pitch and his team would enter in a lot of games and tournaments at our club. At that time he was regarded as a huge talent already. As he got older, he continued to progress and develop. I think he has always been a big player at all his clubs and he proved that he is the best in Slovakia and one of the best in the world.”He worked really hard, taking these small steps in his career. Then he went to bigger and bigger clubs. A lot of people in Slovakia say, ‘oh he is not that good’ and we don’t really appreciate his success in Slovakia. Sometimes I think people are a little bit jealous.”I can tell you that he is also one of the best players that I have ever played with. For sure, in the world too. He is good with his weaker left foot and it is basically just as good as his right foot. He is really talented and he is possibly the best in Slovakian history.”He had been competing with Martin Skrtel for the best player in Slovakia award every season, espescially when Martin was at Liverpool. But for me, Marek is the best. Skrtel was really tough, a destroyer in defence and a great player, but for me Marek has everything. Shooting, passing, crossing and great vision. He is amazing to watch. For me, he is the top one.”Hamsik has enjoyed a fine career at Napoli, but many feel he could have represented an even bigger club. Sylvestr, however, is adamant the Serie A side are a huge team already.”I think he at in one of the best teams in Italy, it is unfortunate that he never won Serie A,” he added.”I think it is great that he has spent 10 years there. He beat Maradona’s record and he is loved in Naples. I think he could have done it somewhere else and it isn’t exactly like Napoli is Livorno, their fans are incredible.”last_img read more

Abu Dhabi GP: Mercedes lock front grid as Hamilton beats Bottas to pole

first_imgFive-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes front-row lockout with a blistering pole position at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.The pole was a record-extending 83rd of the Briton’s career and 11th of the season, as well as the fifth year in succession that Mercedes have swept the front row at the floodlit Yas Marina circuit.Hamilton’s pole lap of one minute 34.794 seconds was also a track record.Lewis Hamilton clears the air after calling India ‘a poor place’ in earlier commentFinnish team mate Valtteri Bottas secured his front-row slot, last year’s race winner being 0.162 seconds off the pace, with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen filling the second row.”It’s quite an emotional qualifying session for me because it’s the last time I’m going to be qualifying in this car,” said Hamilton after stepping out of the Mercedes to kiss it and then wave to the crowd.Lewis Hamilton faces social media backlash after questioning Indian Grand Prix”The emotional roller-coaster that I’ve gone through with this car, I’m probably the closest to this car that I’ve ever been with any car. So I’m emotionally attached,” added the 33-year-old.”It’s not always been easy, it’s been a struggle with her but it’s been a real privilege to work with her this year and I’m just so grateful to the team, to everyone, for putting it together.”Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton says he felt conflicted racing in IndiaSaturday was a last chance for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to become the youngest ever driver on pole but the 21-year-old ended up sixth on the grid and behind Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo.advertisementRomain Grosjean qualified seventh for Haas with Charles Leclerc eighth in his last race for Sauber before taking Raikkonen’s place at Ferrari.French youngster Esteban Ocon, who will drop back to a reserve role at Mercedes next season, put his Force India ninth on the grid and ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.With nothing at stake for the top teams, and no orders holding anyone back, Sunday’s race promises to be a full-on fight for victory.”Today was so much fun,” said Hamilton. “To go out there and be able to just express yourself and push the car the way you want, there’s no better feeling.”Bottas, without a win this season while Hamilton has taken 10 victories, had hoped to take the top slot for the second year in a row but recognised his team mate had once again pulled a stunning lap out of the bag.”P2 (second) wasn’t what I was expecting… but a one-two for the final race is good,” he said. “He was performing well, it was tough to beat his time. He did a better job in the lap.”last_img read more

Mrs. Pistols Predicts the Oklahoma State-Central Arkansas Game

first_imgMrs. Pistols, back.If you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers!last_img

Liverpool have the world’s best full-backs

first_imgThe dream, says Pep Lijnders, is simple.“We want like four or five players in the box,” the Liverpool assistant manager told Goal back in February. “We always said that our dream is one full-back crosses, and the other full-back scores. That would be perfect.” Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? The dream wasn’t quite realised this season – there’s still one game to go, in fairness – but in terms of attacking full-back play, the Reds have taken things to the next level.In Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, they surely have the best pair in the world right now. Forget Dani Carvajal and Marcelo, or Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba, Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro, it is the pair from West Derby and Glasgow who are changing the game.Between them, they have been responsible for 27 per cent of Liverpool’s goals this season. The Reds have netted 113 times in all competitions, and 31 of those have been scored or assisted by their right or left-back.It was Gianluca Vialli who once opined that the right-back in any football team is usually its weakest player, the one who wasn’t quick enough for the wing, tall enough to play centre-back or skilful enough to play in midfield or attack. The Italian’s point seemed a fairly logical one when it was made, 13 years ago, but one imagines he has revised his viewpoint since. Alexander-Arnold, of course, makes a mockery of it. Technically immaculate and athletic with it, the 20-year-old is the perfect embodiment of the all-action, modern-day full-back. And the scary thing is, he’s only likely to improve in the coming years too.“If he doesn’t go on to become the best right-back in the world, he should be disappointed,” says Jamie Carragher. Plenty believe Alexander-Arnold is already there.Jamie Carragher on Trent Alexander-Arnold 2019He is already well on the way to 100 senior appearances for Liverpool, and on Saturday he will start his second Champions League final – the youngest player to achieve such a feat. He’s played – and scored – for England, featured at a World Cup and been named in the PFA Team of the Year. He doesn’t turn 21 until October.It was the youngster’s quick thinking which brought Liverpool to their second European Cup final in a row, his corner swept home by Divock Origi while Barcelona’s experienced stars stood with their backs to the play. “A genius moment,” Klopp called it. It was one of 16 assists the Scouser has racked up across the campaign.On the other flank, Robertson has been equally productive. For the first time in Premier League history, two defenders from the same team provided 10 or more assists in a single season. Meanwhile, they were part of the league’s meanest defence too. Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in 38 Premier League games. “How many runs Robbo and Trent make, I don’t know,” says Joel Matip. “It has a big impact on our defending, because the wingers of the other team get tired.”Even Jose Mourinho is a fan. “I am still tired just looking at Robertson,” he said after what turned out to be his final game as Manchester United manager, a 3-1 defeat at Anfield back in December. “He makes 100 metre sprints per minute, absolutely incredible.”Incredible, too, is the fact that between them, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson cost just £8 million (€9m/$10m). You could add a zero onto that figure now and still wouldn’t come close to buying them. Both are on long contracts, both will be at Liverpool for many years to come.Jose Mourinho on Andy Robertson 2018“He has exceeded expectations,” Klopp said of Robertson in January.“He might be from Glasgow originally, but everything about him screams Liverpool. His progression is an example to any player joining us.”The manager is right. Robertson had to wait for his chance at Liverpool, but Alberto Moreno’s misfortune – an injury suffered in a Champions League tie against Spartak Moscow – was the 25-year-old’s gain. Like Alexander-Arnold, he seized his opportunity and never looked back.When Klopp arrived at Anfield in October 2015, his first-choice full-backs were Nathaniel Clyne and Moreno. Both will be allowed to leave the club this summer. Reasonable players, both of them, but Liverpool have evolved past ‘reasonable players’. They need exceptional ones.And in Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, they now have arguably the world’s best full-back duo. Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the weblast_img read more