So. That happened.

Donald Trump is now the president of the United States of America. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was up late following the election results. I tried to go to bed early, but was wired by worry. It was a rough night, and I find myself reaching for hope this morning. Looking at my girls with doubt in my heart about the world they will inherit.

So. What to do. Keep working. Keep fighting for freedom. Keep trying to make the world a better place. I was reminded this morning of this quote by Utah Phillips:

The state can't give you freedom, and the state can't take it away. You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free...

Freedom ain’t free, and we were all reminded of that last night.

So. What am I going to do today? I’m going to redouble my efforts to shift the world toward better buildings, energy efficiency, and green energy. I am going to do whatever I can to make things better.

Low Carbon Heating Solutions in Ontario

From the Arborus Efficiency Journal:

The GHG impact from building heating can be easily reduced by close to 90% through better building design and the use of low carbon energy in off-peak hours from the electricity grid. In order to capitalize on this low carbon energy, the use of thermal energy storage is required. The proposed strategy utilizes water/mass storage in combination with the building mass to serve day-time heating needs ...

The best energy saving strategies offer multiple benefits that go beyond energy savings and GHG reductions. Designing a building for low carbon heating offers significant benefits, including improved occupant comfort and satisfaction, better indoor air quality, and a corresponding potential for decreased absenteeism and higher productivity. These additional benefits deliver human health and financial benefits that go well beyond those realized by energy cost savings.

Carbon intensity and the Ontario electrical grid

With more renewable power coming on line every year — I just checked Gridwatch on a weekday morning in April and wind was supplying more electricity (11%) than natural gas (5%) — it’s more clear than ever that if the Ontario government wants to reduce carbon emissions in buildings, it will have to encourage the development of low-carbon space heating strategies that do not rely on natural gas. If the carbon intensity factors of the OBC were to change so that electricity had a lower carbon intensity than natural gas, this would represent a dramatic swing to a new structure that favours energy saving strategies that reduce natural gas consumption over those that reduce electricity consumption.


Understanding heating loads in commercial buildings

From my latest post on the Arborus Efficiency Journal:

We recently encountered some head-scratching results in an energy analysis of an existing office building in downtown Ottawa. This is an old building with out-of-date, metal-framed, leaky windows and we wanted to know what would happen if we replaced the old windows with well-sealed insulating windows. Expectations for energy savings for high, but when we finished the analysis the annual energy savings were only 7%. What happened?


Einstein’s theory about gravitational waves confirmed today

This is amazing! People have detected gravitational waves for the first time. I remember working on gravitational waves for my undergraduate thesis project. At the time – almost 20 years ago – the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) was still under construction. Many scientists have dedicated years of effort to detecting gravitational waves and their efforts have finally come to fruition. Hooray!

How to Maximize Thermal Performance in a Wall Assembly

From my latest post on the Arborus Efficiency Journal:

Adding insulation to building walls and roofs is a simple and straightforward energy saving strategy. By resisting the flow of heat through the building envelope, insulation keeps buildings comfortable while reducing the energy required for heating and cooling. Unfortunately, many wall assemblies, and details at, for example, corners, parapets, and windows, are designed in such a way that large amounts of heat can bypass the insulation by flowing through structural components and framing elements, leading to decreased comfort and increased energy consumption. Quantifying the impact of these thermal bridging details can difficult, requiring precise three dimensional calculations and measurements of heat flow rates through assemblies under carefully calibrated conditions. Fortunately, a great deal of this work has already been done.

Cornel West

I loved this interview between Paul Kennedy and Cornel West. Given the struggles that people are up against, Cornel West is asked “Where do you find your hope?”. His response is pure gold:

I don't think hope is predicated on the future getting better ... that's the difference between hope and optimism. You see, I come from a people terrorized for four hundred years, traumatized four hundred years, stigmatized four hundred years. You can imagine slaves in the first thirty years didn't believe things would get better. They just said as a human being I am going to live this kind of life of integrity, honesty and decency. That's what I'm called here to do and whether there are consequences that flow beyond that that make the world a better place is beyond my control. So I don't think that there has to be some direct connection between trying to be a decent person and somehow decency becoming more pervasive in the world.

Wind leapfrogging coal in South Africa

The Guardian is reporting on the amazing growth in renewable energy generation in South Africa:

Although still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, South Africa has been quietly creating one of the world’s most progressive alternative energy plans. Solar, biomass and wind energy systems are popping up all over the country and feeding clean energy into the strained electrical grid ...

“What we are seeing is not only is the technology producing much cleaner power but it’s doing so at a lower cost than traditional fossil fuel technologies,” said Evan Rice, chief executive of Greencape, in Cape Town, a government funded not-for-profit development agency.

The technical advances that could make wind power viable everywhere

Ars Technica has a great summary of the current state of the art in wind turbine technology:

As a result, enough wind power has been installed in the US to avoid 115 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in 2013 alone.

Despite that progress, wind currently accounts for less than five percent of the total electricity generated in the US. That stands in stark contrast with the total potential for wind power, which is more than 10 times our current electrical consumption.

We aren't taking full advantage of this for several reasons. It's partly a matter of manufacturing capacity; wind has only been booming for about a decade, and it takes time for companies to respond to that demand. But two interrelated factors have also slowed wind's adoption. Many of the best areas of the US for wind power are in the most sparsely populated states, far from the high-capacity transmission grids that support more populous regions. And many of the most populous regions have wind resources that we simply can't harvest economically at the moment.

Frames Matter

From the Aborus Efficiency Journal, a new post on the importance of window frames to window performance:

So how do we get the most out of our windows? Specify larger windows, and use simulated divided-lites to maintain the appearance of smaller windows where desired. Specify better thermal breaks, and swap out the aluminum edge spacer with steel or with insulating foamed rubber. Your building will use less energy, feel more comfortable, and your windows will be less likely to suffer from condensation.

Windows Matter

Check out my latest post on the Aborus Efficiency Journal:

Windows are one of the most important elements of a building envelope. They provide views to the outdoors, and bring in sunlight while protecting the building interior from the elements. Unfortunately, windows tend to do a poor job of resisting the movement of heat. Compared to an opaque wall, which will likely have three to six inches of insulation, windows are weak thermal insulators and usually make up the weakest link in the building envelope. Given that windows take up increasingly large fractions of walls in modern buildings, this presents some challenges to building designers who wish to provide a high performance building envelope.


I have been struggling to stay hopeful lately. The ways in which we are drawing down the ability of our planet to sustain and enrich our lives often seem too numerous to cope with and the appetite for change often seems too weak. Climate change is starting to bite. Hard.

In this context, it was incredibly inspiring to see hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets around the world and demand action on climate change. We know what we need to do. It's time to get to work.

Climate Change is a Matter of Morality

Joe Romm quoting Naomi Klein in his review of her recent book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”:

But we will not win the battle for a stable climate by trying to beat the bean counters at their own game... . We will win by asserting that such calculations are morally monstrous, they imply there is an acceptable price for allowing entire countries to disappear, for leaving untold millions to die on harsh land, for depriving today’s children of their right to live in a world teeming with the wonders and beauty of creation.