Jim Gunshinan's Blog (60)

Check out the latest "Housing and Home Environment News"

Home Energy authors and Cornell College of Human Ecology professors Joe Laquatra and Mark Pierce and colleagues provide important information for anyone interested in energy efficient and healthy homes. In this issue they cover the presence of dangerous levels of radon in natural gas extracted through…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on November 4, 2013 at 3:30pm — 3 Comments

Leading from Within

When I was still active as a minister in the Catholic Church, I did not enjoy very much presiding at weddings. I had an inkling of the reason at the time, but now I can admit clearly that I was jealous. I didn’t want to bless someone else’s sacramental union as much as I wanted to be in a sacramental union.

I had another, similar insight while participating in an Emerge workshop last weekend. Emerge is a leadership program…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on October 10, 2013 at 3:30pm — 2 Comments

Do We Give People Energy or Help Them to Save It?

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was budgeted $2.5-billion by Congress in 2013. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) was allowed $68-million. Does anyone see a contradiction here?

LIHEAP provides, primarily, emergency help for households who can’t afford to heat their homes in the winter or cool their homes in the summer. It saves the health and sometimes the lives of vulnerable people. It’s a great program. But it is designed to provide help during…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on September 23, 2013 at 3:28pm — 6 Comments

About Fry Bread and Hope for a Greener Planet

Last evening my wife Michele and I walked a few blocks from the hotel in Phoenix where the National Association of State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) is holding it’s Annual Training Conference, to an Open Market. There were a circle of food trucks and tables offering fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on September 12, 2013 at 11:50am — No Comments

What Sustainability Is Really About

Just read a book about the work of an environmental mediator, Lucy Moore, Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator (Island Press). What I liked most about this book was that it was a series of ten stories. There…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on August 12, 2013 at 11:30am — No Comments

Be a Little Like a Used Car Salesperson

Used car salesmen get a bad rap, and there are good reasons for that. But I think the home performance community can learn from them in some important ways. I say that as someone who once had a serious case of buyer’s remorse, but got over it.

When I first moved to California I was working at an independent bookstore in Berkeley, and I liked the idea of not having a car. But after a year I realized that I couldn’t get everywhere I wanted to go in a timely manner on BART (Bay…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on August 5, 2013 at 3:30pm — No Comments

Checklists—The Professional's Best Friend

Want to know why air travel is still, by far, the safest way to go? Do you want to know how hospitals around the world can cut the risk of post-surgical complications and death by more than half? Do you wonder why the greatest triumphs of engineering, buildings and infrastructure, are beautiful, as well as safe and functional? The answer is checklists. I was inspired by this simple and powerful tool after reading The Checklist…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on July 24, 2013 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Warning: This Blog Post Contains Gross Generalizations

I try to avoid generalizations, especially the gross kind, but sometimes you have to climb up on the mountain to get the big picture.

My wife and I were recently discussing the cover story in the May 20, 2013 Time magazine called “Millennials’ Moment”. The subtitle is “They’re…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on June 25, 2013 at 1:00pm — No Comments

More Evidence of Link Between Energy Efficient Homes and Occupants' Health.

New Study: "Impact of LEED-Certified Affordable Housing on Asthma in the South Bronx"

Here is more evidence that the occupants of energy efficient, healthy, and affordable housing enjoy better health compared to those in traditional low-income housing. The results of an in-depth study by Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City of residents who recently moved into LEED-certified low-income multifamily housing showed:

  • Decreases in continuous daily respiratory…

Added by Jim Gunshinan on June 20, 2013 at 5:00pm — No Comments

Change is Hard—How Do You Get People to Accept It?

Changing one’s daily routine and making big decisions about money is hard. When a home performance contractor asks a customer to consider an audit, they are asking a lot. Besides the cost of the audit and any retrofit measures the homeowner chooses to pay for, which is probably the biggest challenge, there is also the inconvenience. The audit and retrofit may require the homeowner to take time off from work. Having workers climb in and out of the attic, under the crawlspace, and drill holes…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on May 28, 2013 at 2:37pm — No Comments

The Universe Is Made of Stories

The late poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser famously said, The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms. It’s not just words that make up stories. A scientific equation is a story, and so is getting up from my seat and stretching—it’s the story of back care for an editor. We can tell a story with the expression on our faces. What does it tell you when a loved one rolls her eyes at you, or blows you a kiss? How do you feel when a stranger winks at you? Flips you the bird? That last…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on May 17, 2013 at 11:30am — No Comments

The Night the Lights Went Out In New Orleans

When the lights went out at the New Orleans Superdome during the Super Bowl last month, I was strangely reminded of a little known religious ceremony of the Catholic Church. The ceremony is called Tenebrae, from the Latin for “darkness” or “shadows”. It takes place late on Holy Thursday, when…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on February 15, 2013 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Sacred Work

A building is not sacred. A church or a temple, no matter how old, or big, or beautiful, by itself is not sacred. It’s the attitude of the people and the things that people do in a building that make it sacred or not. I have met many people in the home performance field who quietly go about the work of…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on January 11, 2013 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Speaking to the Heart and Soul of Home Performance

It was my first weatherization conference since becoming the editor of Home Energy. I remember sitting in the crowd listening to the opening speaker and being very inspired. We’re soldiers, I thought. Some of us are on the front lines—the weatherization workers—and some of us, like the staff at Home Energy, offer support from the safety of our offices in Berkeley. We are fighting for our nation’s energy security, and for the health of children and adults, and for the survival…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on October 17, 2012 at 3:00pm — No Comments

Dispatches from Summer Study: Watch Japan and Expect a Great Deal

What’s happening in Japan? Quite a lot according to the 2012 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Tuesday night plenary speaker, Andrew DeWit, Professor in the School of Policy Studies at Rikkyo University. Professor DeWit described nothing less than a battle taking place upon the ruins of the Fukushima power plants, between sustainability and crushing debt; same-old same-old, and the new green economy.

DeWit described the “Hashimoto Phenomenon”. Hashimoto is an Osaka-based…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on August 21, 2012 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Dispatches from Summer Study: A Night in the Life of the Summer Study

The Monday night plenary speaker at the 2012 American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Summer Study of Energy Efficiency in Buildings, held every two years in beautiful Asilomar, California, was Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Wellinghoff described his coming to FERC in 2006 as a border crossing from the world of energy efficiency—according to Steve Nadel, before joining FERC, Chairman Wellinghoff attended 12 Summer Studies—to the…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on August 21, 2012 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Dispatches from Summer Study: Something of a Study in Contrasts

Another American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings has come and gone from the beautiful Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. But the reverberations of the talks, discussions, and connections made will reverberate until the…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on August 20, 2012 at 4:00pm — No Comments

I Confess the Need for Building Standards and Worker Training

I was discussing an upcoming article with my colleagues at Home Energy magazine about the Standard Work Specifications (SWS) being developed by DOE for single home, multifamily, and manufactured housing retrofits, and it brought to mind an experience I had as teenager, the need for confession, and the importance of standards.

Here is my confession:

When I was in high school I worked after school and summers doing building maintenance at a local elementary school. (Brag…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on July 19, 2012 at 1:00pm — No Comments

The "Snackwell Effect" Revisited

(I posted this blog to the KQED Quest site a few years ago, but a recent discussion begun by Tom Delconte in the General Forum has raised the issue again. Hope to—paraphrasing Evan Mills in his response to Tom—make a mountain into the molehill it really is.)

Recent articles in USA Today and California's Flex Your Power e-Newswire discussed the phenomenon known in energy efficiency circles as "take back" or the "Snackwell Effect" (see "…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on July 11, 2012 at 10:30am — No Comments

Energy, Faith, and the Narratives We Live By

(This post first appeared as an article in America Magazine, a Jesuit, Catholic, national weekly journal, in the May 6, 2012 issue.)

Since the beginning of the 20th century, oil has played the role of cheap labor in the U.S. economy and in economies around the world. Traditionally, we have been interested in the horsepower of our car engines, but what if we measured the energy we use in terms of human labor? To power a typical…


Added by Jim Gunshinan on June 7, 2012 at 4:47pm — No Comments

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