In the last "Green Office" segment here on Jetson Green, I talked about the merits of investing in a Think chair from Steelcase for your office. Need a desk? Some of you may shut down purely at the price tag ($2,200), but there’s a price premium for style + sustainability. You can find the Liege Desk, designed by Jeffrey Bernett + Nicholas Dodziuk, exclusively at Design Within Reach. The desk uses sustainable chestnut or oak veneers and the stainless steel is finish-free. The wood varnish is non-toxic and low in volatile organic compounds. Measuring H 30" x W 60" x D 30", the Liege Desk accommodates storage that can be placed on the right or left, depending on your orientation. It’s a pretty good looking desk solution and would definitely go well with the Think chair. Via Collin Dunn at Treehugger.
Green Wombat reports that the Governator was pumping up California’s commitment to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced, clean energy by 2017. Think about that. We’re talking about governmental support for empowering and supporting residents to generate their own energy. Relatedly, the Solar Umbrella House is a modern + green example of what can happen when home owners take advantage of the governmental benefits of clean energy subsidization. It was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2006, by architect Pugh + Scarpa. What more can I say than that the Solar Umbrella House looks good and sunlight provides 95% of the electricity (less than $300 /year in energy bills).
In addition to being designed passively to optimize the balance of sun and shade, the home has 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid with a net meter provided by the city of Los Angeles. The house is decked out with energy-efficient everything. Indoor air quality is perpetually monitored. The design is LEED-H (v2) consistent. Certified wood, recycled materials + salvaged materials were used all over the place.
The photovoltaic system, solar hot-water system, thermally broken glazing, and energy efficient appliances cost about $39,000. Not cheap, but that’s where rebates come in. To pay for the solar panels, there was a $18,600 rebate from the City Department of Water and Power and a $4,000 rebate from the federal government. After applying the rebates, the payback on this investment becomes 12 years, and the solar panel warranty lasts for 25 years. Not bad.
So what’s the big deal? If your city isn’t on board with clean energy, there isn’t a 12 year payback and you continue to buy electricity created from dirty coal plants (unless it’s a green provider). Which is better? Option A) independent, site-generated electricity that pays for itself after 12 years + is warrantied for 25 years + creates lower electricity bills or B) no site-generated electricity + persistently increasing electricity bills + dirty air. This is common sense, get your state and local governments to support renewable energy so that you can create a better living environment for your family. If you do it like the Solar Umbrella House, you can do it in green style!
If you haven’t noticed, commercial enterprises use lots of neon in their signage. I drove around the neighborhood and found a few gas stations and a Sonic Drive-in with neons wrapped around the structure. You can tell because the neon lighting breaks at the nodes. Well, LEDs, while still a nascent lighting technology, have the potential to become the future signage lighting behemoth, if building owners can catch on to their benefits. To get to that point, however, the stars will need to align so that the key decision maker does a costing analysis incorporating the operational benefits, in addition to the sticker price (initial costs).
LED Technology Benefits:
LEDs have energy savings of up to 80% over neon lighting. In addition to the energy savings, LEDs differ in size and electronic control. Point blank, with LEDs, there’s reduced maintenance, reduced energy consumption, better light quality output, safer + lower voltage requirements, and low temperature performance. They last longer, too. There’s no gap in the illumination like there is with the neon. And with a technology like LightMark, the units are variable so you use just the right amount for the project.
Costing + Payback:
LEDs pay for themselves in about 2-3 years. When a decision maker is comparing neons (or some other light source) and LEDs, it’s important to make sure that the comparison is apples-to-apples. Use a "lifetime cost of ownership" analysis: (1) initial purchase price + (2) initial installation costs + (3) lifetime energy usage + (4) lifetime maintenance charges. I’d suggest two more external considerations, which aren’t factored into the lifetime cost of ownership. First, consider the extent of liability (i.e., if neons tend to flame up at gas stations more than LEDs, there’s a tangible savings benefit [note - this may or may not be true]). Second, consider the tax implications (i.e., state, local, or federal government offers tax credits/deductions for LED use, etc.).
A few companies that have been incorporating this new technology include Arco, A&W, BP, McDonald’s, KalTire (Canada), Tsutaya (Japan), and Petro-Canada. What it takes, however, is a paradigm shift from initial cost, or sticker price, to lifetime cost, and if owners aren’t making the change, the contractor should speak up and create value for the customer.