September Scientific American: All About Green, Sustainability, Energy + Carbon

Scientific_american_september_2006_1 The September edition of Scientific American went completely environmental with topics ranging from nuclear power to renewable energy, from hydrogen transportation to sustainable building, from climate repair to carbon emissions, and from coal to advanced technology.  This issue really covered the important topics in a smart, sophistocated, and thoughtful way.  I wanted to relate some of the concepts that the magazine mentioned in its article by Eberhard K. Jochem, "An Efficient Solution."  Generally speaking, the crux of the article is that wasting less energy is the quickest, cheapest way to curb carbon emissions. 

Need for Green Building:
Swiss_re_tower_london Nearly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and 66% of all energy converted into a form usuable for human consumption is lost in conversion.  By improving the process whereby energy becomes usuable for human consumption, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions.  And more efficient buildings will play a role in this process.  If we assume that energy prices will continue to rise, every piece of technology that saves energy is an economic, business opportunity to be captured. 

Building Construction:
Many buildings are constructed with only the first costs in mind.  Maybe this is attributable to the process of bidding for projects, which seems to only include an analysis of the total build cost.  The life-cycle costs of a building, which would consider the operating costs, never enters into the calculation (unless developers request bids for products with green features and the life-cycle cost is implicit in the construction). 

Example – Green Renovated Apartments:
Edificio_malecon_hok_1The article mentions a project in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with 500 living spaces.  These places were difficult to rent.  So the apartments were renovated to adhere to low-energy consumption standards, which required about 30 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year.  Subsequently, rental demand for the apartments soared to 3 x capacity.  As a business person, this should ring a bell:  an automatic waiting list, pent up demand, nominal advertising as word-of-mouth grows legs, and a healthy business conscience.  Not a bad strategy. 

If you’re thinking about renovating, building, or replacing something, you should know about energy-efficient, green products before making the decision to purchase.  Here are some practical tips from the article for using less energy. 

  • Stove – Convection ovens can cut energy by roughly 20%.
  • Walls – thick cellulose insulation can prevent heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer).
  • Refrigerator – new refrigerators use 25% of the energy required for a 1974 model (just buy all energy star electronics + appliances).
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs – uses 25% of the energy required for incandescents and last 8-10 times longer.Menara_mesiniaga_ken_yeang_1
  • Computers – LCD screens use 60% less energy than conventional CRTs.
  • Windows – Double panes filled with low-conductivity gas (w/ edge seals made of silicone foam) reduce heat flow by 50%+ . 

Overall, the entire magazine was pretty amazing and offered examples of how different buildings are saving money and energy.  Buildings mentioned include the Swiss Re Tower (London), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Edificio Malecon (Buenos Aires), ABN-AMRO Headquarters (Amsterdam), Szencorp Building (Melbourne), Genzyme Corporation headquarters (Cambridge, Mass.), and Procter + Gamble’s factory (Germany).  Go out, get a copy, and read it…you’ll be smarter for doing it.   

By |September 11th, 2006|Gadgets, Modern architecture, Solar|0 Comments

miniHome: Modern + Green Urban RV

Minihome

Introducing the miniHome.  Technically, it’s an RV, but it’s also designed for year-round living in extreme climates.  Ask the company, and they’ll tell you it’s perfect as a ski chalet, vacation retreat, cottage, guest cabin, or simple + luxurious home-away-from-home.  The base price is about $107,000 USD (max price $167,000), and if you’re thinking of hauling it around, you’ll need a vehicle that can handle a 14,000 pound haul.

(more…)

By |September 6th, 2006|Modern architecture, Prefab, Solar|4 Comments

Linz, Austria Hotel Tubes – Dasparkhotel

Dasparkhotel

I was skimming through one of my favorite magazines called Architectural Review, and I noticed a really cool article entitled "Tubular Troglodytes."  I couldn’t find the article online, but I did some research on the architect and discovered a hotel in Linz, Austria with the name of dasparkhotel.  Some of the website is in German, so I found the Google Translator somewhat (not completely) helpful.  From what I understand, Dasparkhotel is a concept creation of Andrea Strauss. 

As far as accomodations, this place isn’t that bad!  You get a double bed, fresh blankets (or sleeping bags–can’t tell from the translation), lighting, moon/day light hole in ceiling, stow-a-way space beneath the bed, 220 V power connection, and an internet connection. Further, the surrounding area has toilets, showers, and a minibar & cafe. 

Each tubular hotel room was created with redesigned, standardized sewer pipes, with a diameter large enough for normal people to stand up.  Reservations for a "room" can be made online, and you use a code received via email to access the room.  Apparently, the pay rate is "pay as you wish."  I couldn’t discover whether the surrounding area services (toilet, minibar, shower, & cafeteria) were "pay as you wish"–meaning if you use it, you pay for it–or the actual hotel tube was "pay as you wish"–choose the amount and pay it.  Regardless, I think this is a great idea!

(more…)

By |September 4th, 2006|Hotel, Modern architecture, Prefab|5 Comments

LivingHomes Prefab in BusinessWeek

Livinghomes

This week’s edition of BusinessWeek has a feature on LivingHomes and entrepreneur Steve Glenn, founder of the company.  Glenn is a leader in the growing movement that is green prefab — modern, prefabricated homes built with sustainability in mind.  The BusinessWeek feature also includes a slide show of the first LEED-H Platinum certified home in the country, and some of photos are pictured above and below.

(more…)

By |September 3rd, 2006|LEED, Modern architecture, Prefab|8 Comments

[August] Architectural Record House of the Month: Belmont Geothermal Home

Belmont_geothermal_house I thought I would post information on this home, not because of its superior green features, although it does have green features, but because of the architect’s attention to modern design and the client’s needs. It’s an excellent looking abode…and at a price tag of $3.2 million, who wouldn’t want it! The sustainable crutch to this Belmont, Massachusetts modern residence is the geothermal heating and cooling pump, but it also comes designed with a water and energy scheme. That’s not all, however…

Chuck_choi_geothermal_house_4 Architecturally designed by Mary Ann Thompson Architects, every aspect of this home was carefully crafted. Thompson designed the U-shaped 4,500 square-foot home specifically for the owner’s large 3-acre lot with a serene pond and meadow. Specifically, rooms receive light on two sides and are designed so that internal activity traces the sun’s path throughout the day. The building also includes the passive design features of overhanging trellises on the southern and western fascades and incorporated cross-ventilation.

Some of the main construction materials include a steel frame, shiplap cedar siding, slate, kota brown sandstone, reclaimed walnut flooring, reclaimed walnut pine stair treads, acid-washed steel, and a poured-in-place cantilevered hearth. This home comes equipt with Dynamic windows and doors, Solar Innovations skylights, Baldwin hinges, Lightolier recessed can lights, Nightscaping sconces, Dornbracht fixtures, and Modern Fan ceiling fans. I love those ceiling fans! 

Chuck_choi_geothermal_house_2Another feature of this home, specific to this family’s needs, is the handicap-accessible guest wing. It is possible that the owner’s elderly parents move in with the family, so these features allow for a wheelchair in the shower and a future ramp for multi-level mobility. To quote the architect, "The house was designed to create a continuum, and this family wants to stay here through retirement and beyond…it’s truly a home for living."

Other links:
Architectural Record House of the Month Posting
Chuck Choi Photography
Mary Ann Thompson Architecture House Information Page

By |August 24th, 2006|Modern architecture, Modern design|0 Comments

Differentiation Strategy: EcoBroker, GreenHomesForSale, Etc.

Hawaiiprefab Applications for building permits have slowed down, some projects have been tosssed, and interest rates are inching higher. Homes sales will be ugly, to use the headline of one news article. All the while, real estate agents are scampering, trying to drum up business and continue the high life. I’m not a real estate agent, but from what I understand, the good ones make real good money and the bad ones make good money, so it hasn’t been that bad of a market…until, the Fed started to cool things off. Enter: EcoBrokers, GreenHomesForSale.com, and differentiation.

I noticed two articles on the same day about EcoBrokers, one on USGBC website and the other on MarketWatch. Becoming an Ecobroker means differentiating yourself from hundreds of other run-of-the-mill real estate agents, and it’s smart business. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the 2005 green building market ($7.4 Billion) is expected to reach from $19 to $38 billion by 2010. The tipping point, or the point where more green homes are built than non-green homes, is supposed to be in around 2007.

According to the MarketWatch article, buyers are interested more in the energy-saving, cost-cutting, sustainable features than the "save the earth" rhetoric (go figure!). And while features can vary from home to home (read: there will be a green standards war just like the current standards war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray), these EcoBrokers are going to have a leg up in explaining to purchasers and sellers the best ways to market homes. Certification for EcoBrokers will cover topics such as energy-efficiency ratings, asbestos, VOCs and lead paint, and indoor air quality.

Even more interesting, at the website, www.ecobroker.com, there is a designation guarantee that says the following: "Earn the EcoBroker designation, and apply the marketing and sales skills you learn. During the first year of your designation, you will increase your personal commission income, or we will refund 100% of your designation fee." From what I understand, the costs are $395, so that should be money well spent. The market is heading that direction (as the NAHB quote urges), so it’s smart to get in early.

Hawaiiprefab2 Another website is www.greenhomesforsale.com. I like the concept; it’s kind of a DIY-type place, and looks like it can be an attractive place for home listing as the listings increase. I looked at some of the listings and they can hardly be considered green (McKinney, Texas home), but it’s a good start. I found a prefab in Hawaii, that I know I’m gonna dream about tonight–if only money was sustainable on my backyard tree!

What I don’t understand about this website, however, is why they don’t invest some money in design and get rid of all those convoluted google ads, etc., sticking up all over the place like a bunch of weeds. It’s hard to take a website serious with all those cheap pay-per-click ads all over the place…my recommendation: pick a strategy for cash generation and stick with it–drive that strategy home. Looks like it costs about $60 to list for 3 months, so stick it out while your making your way down the long tail of sales.

Overall, I digg the future of what’s going on in the green real estate industry. It would be a smart move for real estate agents to get on this and learn the jargon. As the demand for green homes increase, those that can’t speak the jargon will be left trying to catch up. And might I suggest, as a parting note, since buyers are interested in the cost-benefits of green, the jargon includes being able to calculate payback periods, breakevens, inflation, and discounted cash flows, etc.

By |August 21st, 2006|Prefab|0 Comments