Webinar: Materials Matter – Design Trends for a Sustainable Future

Wood is an abundant, affordable and renewable, natural resource.  Using scientific analysis through internationally standardized Life Cycle Assessment methodology, the significance of carbon is changing the way buildings are being built around the world.  Greater Logo for Woodworksobjectivity in ‘green’ disclosure is being realized through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), resulting in greater recognition of wood’s benefits which include durability, fire performance, moisture resistance, and a positive impact on human health, in addition to sustainability.  From six-story mid-rise, to 30-story wood composite structures, to Olympic ice arenas, and wood bridges with 100-year service lives, the world of wood today is an exciting display of creativity and innovation.  Diverse projects from around the world demonstrate and inspire an unprecedented collaboration of materials destined to influence building professionals for decades to come.

Cheryl A. Ciecko, AIA, ALA, LEED AP, CSI, GGP
Midwest Regional Director
WoodWorks USA

An architect for over 25 years and Senior Technical Director for the Wood Products Council non-profit initiative ‘WoodWorks’ since 2008, Cheryl is an experienced and dynamic speaker with a passion for excellence, innovation and informed sustainable design. Specialties include low carbon and sustainable design, green building rating systems, moisture, mold and decay issues in buildings, as well as wood products selection, technical wood resources and forest resources throughout the world.Cheryl is a licensed architect in Illinois, with a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Illinois with High Honors and a Master of Architecture from the University of Minnesota. Cheryl has also studied in France and China. Cheryl is an elected member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Licensed Architects in Illinois and appointed member on the Sustainability Committee for the International Code Council.Topic Specialties: Wood construction, moisture, mold and decay in buildings, Heavy Timber Construction/Timber Frame, Green Building Rating Systems, Worldwide Green Building initiatives, Wood/Forestry Industry & Green/Sustainable Design Solution

Continuing Education 

  • 1 GBCI – General
  • 1 AIA – LU|HSW
  • 1 NARI Green
  • 1 MI Contractor (Code & Green)
  • 1 MI Architect
  • If you need continuing education units for a license in another state, this course may apply. Please consult your state’s requirements.

This webinar is free to review. If you are interested in continuing education credits, you must follow the following steps:

1. Watch the webinar for FREE.

2. Take the 10 question quiz and score at least 80% to be approved. Please also post a comment below and help add to the conversation.

3. Pay the fee below to get your certificate and CEUs. You must be an  member to pay the reduced member fee.

Webinar Pricing

Energy Star V3 Homes – HVAC Lessons Learned – Recorded Webinar CEUs

In this webinar, Ryan Miller, Program Manager of Advanced Energy’s Quality-Assured Professional (QAP) for HVAC program, one of two national HVAC Contractor credentialing programs for the ENERGY STAR® Certified New Homes program v3.0, will present lessons learned from the HVAC Contractor owner/operators the program has worked with during its first year in operation.QAP_Energy Star Homes _ HVAC Know How Graphic Brett

Topics include:

1.    The changing role of HVAC Contractors working in the ENERGY STAR® program.  What HVAC Contractors are required to do and should be doing.

2.    How to save time, money, and increase customer satisfaction by performing quality ENERGY STAR® work.  Tips for developing internal quality control plans and procedures will be provided.

3.    Training crews on performing ENERGY STAR® jobs.  What they need to know, how you can train them, and resources available to them that can decrease their time and cost on jobs while increasing quality.

4.    Marketing your company as a (ENERGY STAR® v3.0 required) credentialed HVAC Contractor.  Tips for setting your company apart from others in the market.

5.    How to evolve your role with Builders and Raters from receiving design plans to having significant input in the upfront design process.  How acting as an HVAC design advisor on ENERGY STAR® jobs, not just an installer, can yield across the board savings for all parties involved and reduce comfort issues.

Target Audience: HVAC Contractor owner/operators currently working in or interested in working in the ENERGY STAR® Certified New Homes program.  Prior experience in the ENERGY STAR® program is not necessary

Recording can be viewed here 

Please take a min to fill out this survey after viewing. Thank  you! 

Ryan Miller PICInstructor

Ryan Miller: Project Manager II and Quality-Assured Professional (QAP) Program Manager, Advanced Energy Corporation

Ryan Miller joined Advanced Energy in 2011 to manage residential new construction projects for utility and other clients from across the country.  As a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Six Sigma Black Belt, Miller brings significant project management and business process improvement experience to the organization and its customers.

In 2012, Miller managed the development and launch of the first nationwide residential energy efficiency program in Advanced Energy’s 30-plus year history with the Quality-Assured Professional (QAP) program.  As Program Manager, Miller is responsible for the managing the strategic direction of the program as well as the day-to-day administration of the staff and program participants.

Prior to joining Advanced Energy, Miller was the Operations Manager for a home performance contractor in Durham, NC, where he learned energy efficiency improvements and HVAC contracting from the ground-up.  Managing the office and warehouse functions of the company, Miller made significant operational and financial improvements to the organization.  Prior to this experience, Miller served as Business Process Manager for Texas Electric Cooperatives (TEC) in Austin, TX.  In this position, Miller again tackled business and system improvement projects throughout the state, working closely with the statewide electric cooperatives and other utilities to lower costs, improve efficiencies, and lead training initiatives. 

AIA & GBCI CEUs In order for CEUs to be processed we will need a  small donation based on what value you found on the course. As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses throughout the Midwest at minimal cost and at no profit. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.

Webinar: How I Made a Million Dollars as a Green Remodeler

Let’s face it, if it doesn’t put money in your client’s pockets, or your pockets, it is very likely not going to happen.  Sustainability is just fine as a concept but where the pedal hits the metal is on the accounting ledger. Learn how one remodeler, who refuses to do anything except green remodeling, has built a super successful, industry-leading company, which (even during the down turn) provided ample resources allowing him to take 3 months off each year. How does your vacation schedule look?


Michael Anschel, a nationally recognized expert on green design, remodeling and building, writes, trains, and speaks for various publications and events around the nation. He is the owner of Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build–an award winning nationally celebrated design-build firm–and CEO of Verified Green Inc. which consults with local government, product manufacturers, suppliers, builders, and architects on green building. Michael led the effort to develop MN GreenStar, and now serves as Technical Research and Development liaison on the Board of Directors. Called “one of the nation’s most outspoken green building advocates” by MN Business, Michael successfully straddles the building, design, and green worlds by engineering profitability into sustainability.
Learn about you can get involved in a Midwest Pilot launch of the GreenStar remodeling certification program and trainings. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how you can utilize a green remodeling program that is cheaper and more inclusive than LEED for Homes Gut Rehabs and the National Green Building Standard small projects program.

Continuing Education

  • 1 MI Contractor (Code & Green)
  • 1 MI Architect
  • If you need continuing education units for a license in another state, this course may apply. Please consult your state’s requirements.

Watch the webinar for FREE.

Webinar: Natural Building Materials in Cold & Wet Climates

HIJY-diningAre natural, locally or regionally sourced, non toxic, bio-based wall assemblies possible in the cold weather climate regions of the US? How can strawbale be effective without causing mold, moisture, and durability issues? Can clay be incorporated into a design and still avoid moisture, rot and mold issues?

This webinar will provide an understanding of two fundamental natural materials: straw and clay. It will also describe material properties and a methodology for using each of them appropriately in cold, wet climates.

SigiAbout the Presenter
Sigi Koko is the principal designer at Down to Earth Design, which she founded in 1998 to help her clients manifest their dreams of living in a natural, healthy home. She translates each client’s vision into a unique building design that reflects their personality & lifestyle, while responding to the surrounding landscape & climate. Sigi’s unique collaborative design process provides information & support that encourages her clients to engage fully throughout the design process. Sigi also teaches natural building workshops that empower her clients to contribute creatively during the construction of their own home. All of Sigi’s projects are designed to function in synchronicity with their environment. Each building relates to seasonal cycles of sun, wind, and rain to provide natural heating and cooling primarily from passive (free!) sources. Her clients enjoy an average 75% reduction in total energy usage compared to conventional buildings. She uses building materials that ensure healthy indoor spaces & minimal environmental impact.
Continuing Education 
  • 1 GBCI – General
  • 1 AIA – LU|HSW
  • 1 NARI Green
  • 1 MI Contractor (Code & Green)
  • 1 MI Architect
  • If you need continuing education units for a license in another state, this course may apply. Please consult your state’s requirements.

This webinar is free to review. If you are interested in continuing education credits, you must follow the following steps:

1. Watch the webinar for FREE.

2. Take the 10 question quiz and score at least 80% to be approved. Please also post a comment below and help add to the conversation.

3. Pay the fee below to get your certificate and CEUs. You must be an  member to pay the reduced member fee.

Webinar Pricing

Tankless Water Heaters Come Of Age: Are They The Right Choice For Your Home?

Tankless water heaters have not been widely available in the U.S. market for long. Early on, the selection was limited; building codes were not always accommodating and finding a good contractor was a challenge. Nevertheless, they gained a foothold and are now a growing aspect of the building market.

Many of the early obstacles to installing tankless heaters have diminished. To be sure, there are still significant issues to be addressed, and buyers should educate themselves before replacing their traditional tank based unit.

How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work?

Unlike traditional models which usually hold between 40 and 60 gallons, a tankless water heater does not store water. Instead, the water is heated continuously as it passes through a heat exchanger between the water supply and the tap. The heating mechanism is only invoked when the hot water is turned on. This is why these are sometimes referred to as “on-demand” heaters.

Tankless water heaters are mounted to a wall instead of resting on a stand or on the floor. They usually require different plumbing and ventilation configurations than a conventional tank unit. Tankless units have sophisticated circuitry, sensors and switches compared to the relatively simple design and components on a typical tank unit.

The Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

  • Because the hot water supply is continuous, tankless systems never run out of hot water.
  • Tankless systems are much more expensive to purchase and install. A licensed contractor will usually be required to change your existing plumbing and ventilation. Preparing a wall and mounting the unit will also add cost.
  • Because they are much more complex, tankless systems may not be as reliable as those with a tank and may require more maintenance.
  • Tankless systems may last 8 to 10 years longer than a conventional tank heater. Many tank heaters eventually succumb to water leaks and can sometimes cause damage if the entire tank leaks out in a short period of time.
  • Hot water flow rates may be much lower with a tankless unit. This could be a problem for consumers who need to, for example, run the shower and the washing machine at the same time. Two or more tankless units are sometimes installed to get around this constraint. Of course, if you need to purchase two tankless heaters to replace a single tank unit, the additional cost will be even higher.
  • Tankless units generally consume less energy than a unit with a tank. This is because you don’t need to maintain a tank of hot water at the desired temperature for 24 hours a day. The energy used to keep the tank heated when it is not in use is called stand-by heat loss. While monthly energy costs may be lower, they may not necessarily pay back the entire cost of a tankless system.
  • Because they mount on the wall, tankless units can be a big benefit in homes with space constraints.

Which System Is Best for You?

There is no easy answer to this question. It really depends on your personal preference and your budget. Most people fall into one of five camps:

  1. Affluent consumers who are attracted to the endless showers that a tankless system can provide. Some of these individuals may also have multi-head showers or new soaking tubs that would completely drain a conventional tank heater.
  2. Big households that consume large amounts of hot water for bathing, laundry, etc. In these households, the last person in line for a shower in the morning may run out of hot water altogether. Tankless systems can provide welcome relief to this daily challenge.
  3. Cost conscious consumers who can’t stomach the high price and installation cost of tankless heaters, particularly if multiple units are required to meet the existing hot water flow rates. For these individuals, even the monthly energy savings is not enough to justify the upfront cost.
  4. Consumers who are concerned about global warming and want to reduce their carbon footprint. To them, the energy efficiency of tankless heaters alone justifies the high upfront cost.
  5. Risk-averse individuals who have read about the problems experienced by some tankless users. These users may stick with their trusty tank units until tankless technology improves or has a better track record.

Regardless of which system you choose, be sure that you understand how the costs and benefits will affect your particular situation. If you elect to install a tankless system, make sure that you get several installation quotes from licensed contractors and can meet your local building codes.

Written by: Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs. He also writes for the Home Depot blog. Chris’ interests in household plumbing topics including providing help with a tankless hot water heater and toilet repair tips.

Consumers Believe Green Certified Homes have More Value

“This Consumer Green Preferences Survey, conducted by Green Builder® Media, is aimed to understand the sustainable lifestyle preferences, attitudes, behaviors, and purchasing patterns of adults aged 35-55 with an active and healthy lifestyle who are interested in sustainable living. The survey was fielded from March 11-31, 2013, with a sample size of 582 adults. Respondents were 67% female/33% male; 85% between the ages of 31-60, spread equally throughout the country; 81% are homeowners, 60% of whom believe they live a green life. ” Certified Green Homes are More Valuable

“Respondents also realize that a green home is more valuable: 85% of respondents thought highlighting the energy efficiency features of their homes would help their house sell faster and 87% thought showcasing the durability of the products in their home would positively impact a home sale.”

Looking for practical advice on how to value you a green home?  Complete this form and give it to the appraiser! Youtube video explains Green Appraisals

If you are looking to learn more about Green Certified Homes in the Midwest and how you can get involved, give us a call 616 458 6733 ext 1 or info@allianceES.org. has 7 years of over 1,500 certified green homes in the Midwest.

Both of these charts and quotes come from a big thanks to Green Builder Magazine.  Learn more




Bathroom Wallboard Requirements for Green Building

LEED for Homes, Enterprise Green Communities and Energy Star have certain requirements for wallboard installed in moisture prone locations such as bathrooms. All of these programs prohibit the use of typical “green board.”
LEED and Enterprise require either a paperless product or one meeting mold-resistant standard ASTM D3273(with score of 10). Energy Star also allows products meeting ASTM D6329. These requirements do not apply to powder rooms.

There may be other products available, but here are a few examples:

Georgia Pacific’s DensArmor Plus

National Gypsum’s Gold Bond XP

Certainteed’s ProRoc

Mold Tough 

If using a product other than the above, please supply a cut sheet showing that it meets the applicable standard.
Enterprise Green Communities has additional requirements for installation as follows:
 Criteria 7.9c: To be in compliance with the criteria we require that projects use a non-paper-faced backing material such as cement board, fiber cement board, or equivalent in portions of the bathroom in the following areas that are susceptible to bulk moisture damage (i.e. splash-prone and puddleforming
areas), including:
o 4” surrounding the entire perimeter of the tub/shower enclosure,
o 4” up from where the floor meets the vertical wall throughout the entire bathroom (creating a
band around the bathroom floor).
For the rest of the bathroom wall and ceiling surfaces, projects can use an ASTM D 3273 compliant
board with a score of 10.

Article by 

Janice Romanosky, LEED AP BD+C, Green Rater 

Principal, Pando Alliance


Direct: 443-852-5969


Webinar: Journey to Almost Passive House & LEED Platinum Near-Zero Home

Finally it is here – after 2 years of filming and a big thanks to four Grand Valley State University Interns, 2 hours of video detailed in over 10 sections on the how and why of LEED for Homes and Passive House construction specifically to Sam Pobst’s home.

Sumac Grove Pobst Residence LEED Platinum Home

Sam and some of the other high performance building professionals take us through many aspects: site selection/design, insulation, heating and cooling, passive building, water efficiency and renewable energy. 

What makes it Green? For starters, Michael Holcomb – President/CEO and owner of Home Inspector General has called this “the tightest home I have ever tested.” It comes in at 0.44 ACH @50PA (for all you energy geeks). Michael has test thousands of homes and buildings in the Midwest in his 20 years of experience, so that is saying something.

Next, this project almost achieved Passive House standards! Sam worked with an experienced PHIUS rater “John Semmelhack” to use the advanced modeling software to design his house. The house tested below the air change requirements of Passive House but only made 7.20 KBTu’s as opposed to the required 4.75 (energy geek talk). Sam’s reasoning: “The primary driver of that cost was the building geometry. Since a primary objective was to build a barrier free home, we designed it all to be on one level. This meant that the ratio of exterior wall and roof area to the floor area was not optimal for thermal design (of Passive House). It was more important to us to have the barrier free design than to meet the PH requirements, though we came very close. The only changes we made from the original PH design was to reduce the thickness of the perimeter walls from 22” to 19”, and specify a window that was not quite as high performing as the one that would attain the PH rating.” Sam told me that there was 99 year back on the window required to meet the standard (at that time).

LEED Label for Sumac Grove Sam Pobst LEED certified PlatinumLast, LEED for Homes Platinum Certification has been achieved. This
requires 3rd party onsite verification that proves through actual testing that the home is green.

This must have cost millions right? 

“We spent $167.00/Square Foot, but if you add in O+P, design fees, and my sweat equity, I estimate about a $200/Square Foot cost to construct.” – Sam Pobst

•         Gross Square Feet                         2010

•         Basement Square Feet                851

•         Conditioned Square Feet           2547

•         Garage / Workshop                      621

•         $167/Square Foot  Hard Cost

•         $200/ Square Foot Buildable Cost

  1. + Overhead and Profit
  2. + Design Fees
  3. + Sweat Equity


  1. Gain a basic understanding of the Passive House (PH) design standards for homes and products or technologies are needed to achieve it.
  2. Discriminate between LEED, Net Zero, universal design and Passive House objectives and how they interact.
  3. Learn about behind the wall thermal envelope strategies for a super tight and insulated home.
  4. Identify costs, ROI and payback on high performance home LEED projects

Continuing Education

  • 2 GBCI – LEED Specific
  • 2 AIA – LU|HSW
  • 2 MI Contractor (Code & Green)
  • 2 MI Architect
  • If you need continuing education units for a license in another state, this course may apply. Please consult your state’s requirements.

Project utility data update and ROI data

These webinars are free to review. If you are interested in continuing education credits, you must follow the following steps:

1. Read the info above, watch the webinars for FREE and check out the Project Profile.

2. Take the 13 question quiz and score at least 80% to be approved. Please also post a comment below and help add to the conversation.

3. Pay the fee below if this is not taken as part of our GreenHome Associates series to get your certificate and CEUs. You must be a member to pay the reduced member fee.

Webinar Pricing

Further Resources 

Read back on Sam’s progress documented on his Blog and stay informed as he monitors the home’s energy use, durability, comfort, indoor air quality and water use. http://sumacgrove.blogspot.com/2013/01/certified.html

  • Sumac Grove certificateRecorded 1 Hour Webinar on the entire project – 1 AIA/GBCI 
  •  2 Hour GBCI approved Film Series documenting the project from start to post occupancy informed can be seen here for free

How to Buy a Refrigerator that Doesn't Suck (Energy)

How to Buy a Refrigerator that Doesn’t Suck (Energy)

That 200-pound towering box of steel in your kitchen prevents food from spoiling every second of every day. Whether it contains a single jar of pickles or all the ingredients for a holiday feast, it’s hard at work all the time—even when you’re asleep or away on vacation. Consequently, your refrigerator consumes more energy than most other appliances in your home.

If you’re shopping around for a new refrigerator, why not choose a brand new unit that helps protect the environment and save you money? Below are some tips for finding an energy-efficient refrigerator that won’t suck up your power or your wallet.

Labels Tell an Important Story

While you’ll be tempted most of all while shopping to visualize yourself using the various amenities offered with today’s refrigerators, be sure to first slip on your reading glasses and examine the contents of two important labels adhered to the appliance.

  • ENERGY STAR. Since the mid-1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has helped consumers identify appliances that “substantially exceed minimum federal standards for efficiency and quality.” A product earns the ENERGY STAR label when it meets strict criteria, including:
    • Product must provide energy savings nationwide
    • Product must deliver energy efficiency without sacrificing the features or performance consumers demand
    • Consumers can quickly recover the extra cost of an energy-efficient product by paying lower energy bills
    • The technology used to make a product energy efficient is easily accessible and can be duplicated by multiple manufacturers
    • Product can be tested to verify energy savings
    • EnergyGuide. To help shoppers make an informed purchase decision, this yellow label displays the appliance’s average energy consumption and operating cost over the course of a year (based on the national average cost of electricity). The federal government requires manufacturers to place an EnergyGuide label on most appliances.

Part of attaining a well-rounded view of your options includes comparing the various operating costs. Remember you’ll be creating a long-term commitment to paying operating costs through power bills for whichever appliance you buy. If that expense clashes with your budget, keep exploring your options until you find the right combination of purchase price, operating cost and refrigerator features that excite you the most—which brings up a few noteworthy considerations.

Beware the Awesome Features that Suck!

Certain refrigerator amenities are impressive, for sure. And in this twenty-first century shouldn’t appliances perform at least a dozen different functions out of convenience? That is a common mindset for many homeowners nowadays, but there’s more to consider about a refrigerator than if it can replace the can opener. For example:

  • Refrigerators with bottom-mount or side-by-side freezers use 10 to 25 percent more energy than models with top-mounted freezers
  • The larger the refrigerator, the more energy consumption
  • Models with automatic ice makers and dispensers use 14 to 20 percent more energy than models without

Once again, while these features may be great to have, you need to take into account the operating cost they each incur. Are they worth the added expense or can you live without them? Think big picture over big appliance—avoid buying a model that is larger than you truly need (16 to 20 cubic-feet models are typically the most energy efficient).

You will no doubt locate the ENERGY STAR-minted refrigerator that best fits your needs and your budget. New models are released every year from top brands like Frigidaire, GE, Whirlpool and many more. Just be sure to forecast a refrigerator’s operating cost, and think twice about its flashy amenities, before you make the purchase.

Were you aware of the magnitude of your refrigerator’s energy suck before reading this? Are you ready to (safely!) scoot your fridge away from the wall and read its labels? Please share your findings and thoughts in the comments below.

James writes on behalf of Sears and is a member of the Sears Community, an online community where you can discover new ideas, ask questions, and just be you. When he’s not writing about the importance of energy-efficiency, he spends his time searching for the next big thing.


PHIUS+ Passive Certification for Building – Recorded Webinar – CEUs

PHIUS+ Certification for Building Projects is the only voluntary certification program on the US Market at an affordable cost that requires both: a thorougPHIUS_low resh third party review of the design and energy/hygrothermal modeling of a project as well as a third party verification of the actual implementation on site through expert trained PHIUS+ RESNET Raters. A successful project earns the PHIUS+ Certified passive house or building plaque/certificate as well as the DOE Challenge Home and Energy Star labels.

GBCI / AIA – Recorded webinar instructions below 

Learning Objectives:

1) Understand why Quality Assurance is essential to verified performance

2) Learn about the pre-certification process and what is required for the design review

3) Learn about the onsite verification performed by a Certified PHIUS+ Rater

4) Learn about the collaboration and endorsement by the DOE challenge Home program

Review the Webinar here 

Presenter Katrin Klingenberg

Co-founder and Executive Director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)
Katrin Klingenberg


Katrin Klingenberg is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS). PHIUS promotes the wide adoption of passive building principles in North America through specialized consultant training and certification, project and product certification, and educational efforts for building professionals and the general public.

Ms Klingenberg designed and built the very first home built in the United States using the European standard and design specifications in 2002-2003. She has designed and consulted on numerous passive projects since across North America’s varied climate zones and has made proposals for the possible refinement of current passive house standards to North American climate zones. In addition to her executive role she is the lead instructor for PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant training. In that role she directs curriculum. She also directs the technical and research programs of PHIUS. She holds a Masters Degree in architecture from Ball State University and is a licensed architect in Germany.

In order to be approved for GBCI/AIA you must follow the below steps

1. View the Audio/Visual Recording Here 

2. Complete Survey + 10 Question Quiz and get a passing score of 80% 

3. In order for CEUs to be processed we will need a  small donation based on what value you found on the course. As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses throughout the Midwest at minimal cost and at no profit. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.