GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted
BS* + Beer

The BS* + Beer Show: Foundation Systems

A look at some foundation types that minimize embodied carbon from concrete

Helical piles can be a low-cost, low-carbon foundation solution but they present unique challenges, including (oddly) noise from wind blowing under the house.

This episode of the BS* + Beer Show features Lucas Johnson, Josh Salinger, and Steve Demetrick discussing Foundation Systems. To minimize their carbon footprint, these high-performance-home builders are taking concrete out of their foundations (or severely limiting the amount used). They share methods and materials they have tried and explain the benefits of those they have adopted. Climate-specific considerations are a running thread in the conversation, and the group represents good regional diversity. Among the talking points: the issue of cement (and sand) as a complicated resource; the feasibility of minimizing wall thicknesses and number of footings; obstacles around the use of helical piles; concrete admixtures, “certified” mixes, and CarbonCure; floating plywood slabs; working with Pango Wrap, a sub-slab vapor/termite barrier from Stego; the problems with precast concrete walls; and the beauty of ICCFs.

Enjoy the show!

The BS* + Beer Show schedule

Episodes air the first Thursday of the month. The next show is on July 7, 2022, from 6-7:30 p.m. ET, when Chris Magwood and Jacob Deva Racusin will demonstrate how to use their newly launched BEAM Estimator. The embodied-carbon-calculating software is aimed at helping developers, designers, builders, and consultants make verified climate-smart specifications.


Chris Magwood is obsessed with helping reverse climate change by making carbon-storing buildings that are also healthy, beautiful, efficient, and inspiring. Chris is the executive director of The Endeavour Centre, a not-for-profit sustainable building school in Peterborough, Ontario. He helped establish Builders for Climate Action, a grassroots organization with a mission to actively transform our building practices to become climate positive as quickly and intelligently as possible. Chris has authored several books on sustainable building, including the recently released Build Beyond Zero with co-author Bruce King. Chris has completed an MA at Trent University. His thesis, “Opportunities for Carbon Removal and Storage in Building Materials,” was published in 2019.

Jacob Deva Racusin is Studio Director and Director of Building Science and Sustainability with New Frameworks Natural Design/Build in Vermont, offering services in renovation, new construction, consultation, and education. As a builder, consultant, designer, and educator, Jacob merges his passions for ecological stewardship, relationship to place, and social justice. Jacob has authored two books and numerous articles, and regularly instructs on topics of building science and climate impact. An active member of the Carbon Leadership Forum, Jacob is engaged in code and policy development, professional training, and other initiatives supporting the transition to a more just industry.

Use this link to register for The BS* + Beer Show


Kiley Jacques is senior editor at Green Building Advisor. Photo courtesy of







  1. PBP1 | | #1

    Thanks for posting, at about 35:00 - discussion on helical piers, code and engineering considerations. Wind noise under house can be reduced with vegetation and fencing. As to fear of critters living under house, there are ways to address that too.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #2


      I think Josh Salinger put it best. The benefits and downsides of each option are very regionally dependent - and include not only climate and site specific constraints, but also local prices, and code considerations.

      I agree that noise and pests wouldn't be sufficient problems for me to dismiss pier foundations

  2. Expert Member

    I don't know who is responsible for assembling the participants - but well done! They are thoughtful, articulate, inquisitive - and all seem to have their hearts in the right place. These conversations are great.

    1. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #5

      I'm glad to hear you enjoy the show, Malcolm. Mike Maines, Emily Mottram, Travis Brungardt, Ben Bogie, and I work together to choose the topics and guests. You are right, the conversations are incredibly rich and informative. It's a rewarding venture, for sure.

  3. jackofalltrades777 | | #4

    The efforts are to be noted and I am all behind making things more energy efficient. Yet, the realist in me looks at the environmental impact of the war in Ukraine. How many thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed (mostly concrete), roads, bridges, infrastructure, millions of tons of concrete and steel all destroyed. The tens of thousands of pounds of ammunition pounding the land of Ukraine on a daily basis. If and when this war ends, what about all the concrete and steel that must be used to rebuild the thousands of homes and buildings destroyed. Besides the horrific human impact. What is the environmental impact of the war?

    Best case scenario, the war ends maybe in 2023. Another possible scenario is Putin launches nukes and we go into nuclear war with Russia and the USA. All the green building things we did will be in vain if we enter into a thermonuclear war. Thick concrete walls will be your best friend for radiation mitigation or going underground.

    I am not a pessimist or a doomsday type of person but a realist. What is the point of all of this if in the end it's all destroyed by war? Part of me believes mankind's fate is to destroy itself and nothing we do can stop it.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #6

      I think it's hard not to feel the way you do. Pretty well everyone I talk to feels a bit the same. I reconcile myself to the realization that anything I do might not make a difference by simply choosing which side I want to be on whether that effort proves futile or not.

      Much as with our individual future, our collective one could turn out to be much shorter than we hope. But until then I'll be doing what I can not to contribute to the problems we face.

    2. Andrew_C | | #8

      I too have some doubts about how we’ll all survive on this earth with the rate that we’re extracting resources and with the easy flow of disinformation that seems to undermine so many things. But, I tell myself, it’s never the wrong time to try to do the right thing.
      And specific to this war and its environmental toll, it’s possible that it will be a net positive if it results in more energy conservation and faster conversion in many parts of the world to renewable energies. That’s a very thin silver lining in the midst of so much sorrow, to be sure.

    3. Expert Member
      Josh Salinger | | #9

      A quote from Martin Luther:

      'Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree'

    4. exeric | | #11

      "I am not a pessimist or a doomsday type of person but a realist. What is the point of all of this if in the end it's all destroyed by war? Part of me believes mankind's fate is to destroy itself and nothing we do can stop it."

      That's poignant but doesn't cover the entirety of what we face. Persons of every stripe need to learn better critical thinking skills and not accept blindly what they are being told. This has never been so true as now with the internet. The majority of Russians, but by no means all, believe what they are told by state media. This is what sets conditions in motion for disaster.

      However, many of us in the western world do exactly the same. We are led by state actors that capitulate to fear and anxiety. One only has to look at gun culture in parts of the USA to see that we act equally irrationally as Russia and don't think in a critical way. It's best not concentrate just on foibles of others because it gives us all an excuse to not change things that we actually have some agency to change. I think it is easiest for all of us to look at the irrationality of others so as not to have to look at our own silliness.

      It is indeed hard not to capitulate to doom and gloom if you only look at the insanity of others. But we should recognize our own insanity first. I realize this is pretty far afield of the original subject, but I have some very sad emotions from recent events that have happened relatively locally. I applaud what Canada is doing in its recent gun laws. That, to me, is the equivalent of planting an apple tree on your own land in the midst of chaos.

  4. Deleted | | #7


  5. jackofalltrades777 | | #10

    Malcolm & Andrew,

    Thank you for the responses. I guess at the minimum, building an energy efficient home makes for a comfortable place to live and keeps my electric bill low :) We can't control what happens on the world scene, so sometimes it does make our small individual efforts seem futile when wars like this break out.

    What surprised me with the Ukraine war was how dependent on Russian fossil fuels Germany, Poland and other European countries are. I thought Germany was almost energy independent but I was wrong. What history taught us is that when you rely on foreign countries to get your energy supplies, things can go south very quickly, especially if that country turns into a foe.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #12


      As I recall you built an efficient, climate appropriate house in the dry south-west. Whatever happens whenever, I hope you find some joy in living there.

  6. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #13

    Here's a bump to remind folks that tomorrow is our July BS + Beer Show, on the topic of the BEAM tool for calculating up-front carbon emissions in homes, with experts Chris Magwood and Jacob Deva Racusin. It's a very important topic and couldn't be more timely, so please join us! Link in the article above.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.



Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |