Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s treat is a neat video that a builder made during the construction of his brother’s home.

The way he made this video is actually really cool. By programming a route for the drone, and then flying that exact route every day, Youtube user ChuckPPhotography then edited the video from around 32 to 34 of the passes together. The end result makes it look as if the entire home was constructed during a single pass of the drone.

My team and I have been working on something similar for our clients.

Check out the video below:

Hammer and Hand is a Portland, Oregon-based contractor specializing in high performance residential construction. Sam Hagerman, Skylar Swinford and Dan Whitmore, three of the green building experts at Hammer and Hand, put together their predictions for high performance residential construction in 2014. The entire article is worth the read.

Here is a summary:

  1. Focus will move beyond Net Zero Energy to Net Positive Energy buildings.
  2. Market mechanisms that reward energy conservation and renewable energy production will flourish.
  3. Building energy codes will move away from prescriptive rules toward performance-based measures.
  4. CO2 heat pumps will help transform heating and cooling performance.
  5. US-made high performance windows will continue to make high performance building easier here.
  6. Builders and designers of high performance homes will design ventilation systems with a focus on quality of ventilation rather than just quantity.
  7. The US-led move to make Passive House more climate-specific will improve performance at both micro and macro levels.
  8. Passive House competition will result in better software tools for high performance building practitioners.
  9. Europe’s push to eliminate thermal bridges in buildings will make high performance building more mainstream in the US, too.
  10. China’s interest in high performance building will propel US market.

Source: Hammer and Hand, via Regenerative Homes’ Stephen Bolling

Research funded by two industry organizations is underway at MIT to answer the following question:

Can residential construction using insulated concrete forms, or ICFs, be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than current building practices?

A close-up of the ICF walls after the concrete...
Image via Wikipedia

Good question. In order to answer the multi-faceted question, it must be broken down into distinct components that can be isolated and tested using rigorous protocol. So that gives us two main categories: cost and environmental friendliness. Unfortunately, those categories require further analysis in order to make a fair comparison between ICF construction methods and current building practices, which for simplicity, we’ll assume means wood-frame construction with batt insulation and an exterior cladding of either stucco (most common here in the Southwest U.S.) or siding.


Let’s analyze this metric first. Does cost refer to the price of the material itself, the cost of the material plus the labor to install it, the total cost of a prototypical building using these methods/materials, or the total cost over time? I’m not sure. According to Lloyd Alter’s analysis at TreeHugger, based upon a research study conducted by the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) through the NAHB Research Center, Inc., the cost is much higher for ICFs than other methods. Specifically, unit-pricing and assembly-based methods from real-world contractors indicate that ICF construction increases costs by a factor of 38%.

The cost analysis was based on standards used by RSMeans for estimating construction costs. Unfortunately whereas RSMeans’ data comes from thousands of sources across the country for standard materials and methods, resulting in a more statistically valid estimated cost per unit, the study by PCA and NAHB included data from only sixteen contractors. As anyone in the industry knows, the cost of construction varies greatly depending on whether the end product is “merchant” grade or tract or production housing versus high-end custom construction. Since adoption of ICF methods and materials remain low, there isn’t going to be much good data required for production housing cost comparisons.

“Environmental Friendliness”

How is this term defined? According to an article by John Caulfield at Builder, an interim report released by MIT states that ICF construction, “demonstrates the potential energy savings due to the benefits of thermal mass, effective insulation, and reduced air infiltration.” In addition to the completed home’s energy usage, the report will also analyze the life-cycle performance of homes constructed with ICFs versus wood-framed homes. The difficulty here, as Lloyd Alter points out, is that the two primary components of insulated concrete forms – concrete and insulation – are not very environmentally friendly themselves. The styrofoam used for the forms is derived from petroleum, contains numerous toxic chemicals, and if exposed to fire, create extremely toxic smoke. Portland cement-based concrete requires a great deal of energy to manufacture, and the production releases