Pretty Good House Handbook
References for Volume 2
Where can you get it?
References for Volume 2
Water Usage
And What If You're Not In Maine?
Building Science sites
Heating, Ventilation
Contact Us
Helen Watts, the author
House Siting
Existing Homes

I collected cool, informative sites, in a much more organized fashion, this time around. I've weeded some sites that are outdated (CFLs are so... 2005. And the prices of solar PV? Plummeting. There's a huge plant due to come online in upstate New York that will take the 2012 prices and chop them in HALF when it starts cranking them out in 2017.) – Whole house energy checklist, DOE Building Technologies Program. - Polyisocyanurate and Polyurethane - So - what IS embodied energy? Well, there's 2 kinds, initial embodied energy (the energy to build the car) and recurring embodied energy (the gas to run the car). So taking good care of a car and running it for 13 years at 28 mpg has a lower embodied energy than trading in a car every 4 years. (Not to mention having to figure out all those new buttons. And don't get me started on the backup camera - I will hit things or drive off the driveway...) (SIGH - what a Luddite.)

Guidelines for reducing embodied energy:

Design for long life and adaptability, using durable low maintenance materials.
Ensure materials can be easily separated.
Avoid building a bigger house than you need. This will save materials.
Modify or refurbish instead of demolishing or adding.
Ensure materials from demolition of existing buildings, and construction wastes are reused or recycled.
Use locally sourced materials (including materials salvaged on site) to reduce transport.
Select low embodied energy materials (which may include materials with a high recycled content) preferably based on supplier-specific data.
Avoid wasteful material use.
Specify standard sizes, don’t use energy intensive materials as fillers.
Ensure off-cuts are recycled and avoid redundant structure, etc. Some very energy intensive finishes, such as paints, often have high wastage levels.
Select materials that can be re-used or recycled easily at the end of their lives using existing recycling systems.
Give preference to materials manufactured using renewable energy sources.
Use efficient building envelope design and fittings to minimize materials (eg. an energy efficient building envelope can downsize or eliminate the need for heaters and coolers, water-efficient taps allow downsizing of water pipes).
Ask suppliers for information on their products and share this information.
See also:

"The Greenest Building is the One Already Built"; Carl Elefante

…here are 10 tips for greening your historic home:

And 10 more tips:

Energystar has a great site: This is their info on air leaks:

This site talks about how Arizona State University approached going to Zero Waste: For example, "food waste" is now called "food scraps" - and it makes a difference. Solar panel users talk about their systems, financing. - for specifications solar power incentives by state - note that in a Net-Zero house the lights and appliances take more energy than heating.

Toss me an e-mail if you have some other favorite sites! There are other references mentioned on my website - see

Not-Quite Net-Zero Houses in Maine