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Top-10 Green Building Products 2007 [BuildingGreen]

SunEye from Solmetric

Well, it’s that time again and BuildingGreen, a company that also publishes the GreenSpec Directory, today announced their list of Top-10 Green Building Products.  It’s not so much that these products are better than everything else on the market, although they may be better, it’s that they’re cool additions to the GreenSpec Directory over the last year or so.  Most of the following ten products have multiple environmental attributes, but here’s a slim breakdown:  4 save energy, 2 save water, 3 are made of green materials, 1 helps situate solar power, and 2 avoid hazardous manufacturing/disposal of materials.  Without further ado:

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Top Three Free Reports on Green Building Costs

20bill

Environmentalism is all the rage right now, isn’t it?  It’s good, but we need to sift through some of the noise and clearly identify correct information.  With respect to the costs of green building, depending on who you talk to, it’s possible to get conflicting information.  To prove this point, try to survey a couple real estate pros (informally, of course) and you may be surprised by what you hear.  When I’m around seasoned real estate pros, I make it point to ask them what they think about green building.  The information is rarely consistent.  Below, we have three legitimate reports seeking to clarify the discussion on green building costs.  These reports are free, and by all means, email this post around to your real estate professional friends.  Let’s make this information viral.  Let’s get past any misunderstandings and start building better, more efficient buildings.

  • Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities, Summary Report, World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  Although focusing more on energy efficiency in buildings (as opposed to the entire environmental picture of a building), this report found, among other things, that the costs of green building are often misunderstood, and even overestimated by as much as 300%. 
  • Cost of Green Revisited: Reexamining the Feasibility and Cost Impact of Sustainable Design in the Light of Increased Market Adoption, Davis Langdon.  Using the USGBC’s LEED system as a parameter, this report found that there is no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings.
  • Green Buildings and the Bottom Line: The ‘New Reality’ of Green Building, From Environmental Cause to Financial Opportunity, Building Design + Construction.  Assessing all the different product types individually, this white paper discusses the costs and benefits of green buildings and presents a 10-point action plan for consideration by all the green building stakeholders. 

I think we’re at the point where the information will start to take hold and green building practices will spread.  It will gather such momentum that all the players in the real estate world, whether lenders, investors, contractors, engineers, architects, lawyers, owners, or developers, will have a seat at the table and will push for smarter, greener decisions. 

Top 10 Problems with Sprawl

Sprawl

At some point over the past year, the American population surpassed 300 million, and if we continue as expected, we’re going to have another 92 million people over the next 34 years.  That’s a lot of people and they’ll need places to live.  Over that period of time, it’s real important that we get planning right.  The problem is, however, planning decisions are made by thousands of different people with thousands of conflicting interests.  The gist, though, is that sprawl isn’t green.  Here are ten good reasons to back that up. 

  1. Sprawl development contributes to a loss of support for public facilities and public amenities.
  2. Sprawl undermines effective maintenance of existing infrastructure. 
  3. Sprawl increases societal costs for transportation.
  4. Sprawl consumes more resources than other development patterns. 
  5. Sprawl separates urban poor people from jobs. 
  6. Sprawl imposes a tax on time.
  7. Sprawl degrades water and air quality. 
  8. Sprawl results in the permanent alteration and destruction of habitats. 
  9. Sprawl creates difficulty in maintaining community.
  10. Sprawl offers the promise of choice while only delivering more of the same. 

I’m a child of sprawl.  I’ve seen the effects of it.  I’ve personally experienced #3, #4, #6, #9, and #10.  Every smart person in this country needs to realize the effect of various policy and regulatory decisions and find a way to dig out of the mess we’re in.  If not, sprawl will continue to hamper us more and more in the future. 

Is there a silver bullet to fixing the problem?  That’s tough.  There is a temporary solution for some people:  live near your work, church, and family.  It will make your life more abundant when the places you go are close.  Just find a way to live near the places you frequently go. 

This list was created by James M. McElfish, Jr., Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program, Environmental Law Institute

Ray Kappe, FAIA: 10 Most Important Principles to Success

Photo_ray_kappe Lately, Ray Kappe has been getting a lot of attention for his residences designed for LivingHomes, the Steve Glenn prefab company.  Kappe’s first home has been featured all over the place for achieving the highest LEED certification possible, the Platinum rating.  I think his work is incredible, so I was studying his stuff when I came across this list of his, "the ten most important principles that helped make me a successful architect, planner, and educator."  In the interests of learning from those that are remarkable examples of continuing achievement, I thought I would be good to share his list with the JG readers.  Any thoughts?

  1. Think positively, not negatively.
  2. Accept structure but know that it is to be questioned and broken when necessary.
  3. Always be willing to explore, experiment and invent.  Do not accept the status quo.
  4. Know yourself and keep your work consistent with who you are and how you think.
  5. Maintain good moral and social values.
  6. Be humble, honest, compassionate, and egalitarian.
  7. Have conviction about your work.
  8. Be open and say yes to most ideas and requests. The good ones will be valuable, the bad ones will cease to exist.
  9. Allow employees and fellow workers freedom and the ability to work to their strengths. Avoid hierarchy.
  10. Money should be the residual of work, not the goal.  But do not compromise your worth.

RK2

Throwback: Henry David Thoreau on Small Living

Hdt Recently, I wrote an article for another website (full disclosure: I decided to stop writing for this website) called, "What’s the Deal with Big Green Homes?"  The article lead to some good comments and discussion, but I’ve been nagged by some thoughts that were in the comments.  Two of the homes that were discussed in the article were very green by almost all green measures except that of size: one was 4,700+ sf and the other 6,000+ sf.  I readily admit the superior green amenities and features of each home, but here’s a portion of my argument:

Think about all the materials that went into such a behemoth. In many ways, big a** homes represent the unsustainability of gross commercialization and over-consumption. Good old fashioned American waste. If you’re the Cheaper by the Dozen family, a big house might be necessary. Otherwise, big does not equal green.

One of the entrepreneurs of this green website disagreed stating, "if it’s Green, go as Big as you can and want."  I don’t understand this line of thinking because for this to be logical, a green home would have to have absolutely zero impact.  But there’s always an impact, even if it’s managed or negligible or offset or balanced.  There’s always an impact, even if it’s the impact of taking something that could go to someone else. 

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Top 20 No- or Low-Cost Green Building Strategies

Global_green_no_winner

One aspect of green building that gets overlooked is financial independence.  For instance, a commercial business may make an investment in solar power (provided incentives and rebates make it economically feasible) to stabilize electricity bills and hedge against future electricity cost increases.  Another example is the principle of waste reduction in green building.  Did you know that building green often costs the same or just a little bit more than standard code-built homes?  And did you know that even then, green homes will require less money going forward than standard code-built homes?  To that end, here are some affordable green building strategies (click this link to read more about each strategy):  Global Green’s 20 Affordable Green Building Strategies:

  1. Orient the Building to Maximize Natural Daylighting
  2. Place Windows to Provide Good Natural Ventilation
  3. Select a Light-colored Cool Roof
  4. Provide overhangs on South-facing Windows (be careful of your hemisphere!)
  5. Install Whole-House Fans or Ceiling Fans
  6. Eliminate Air Conditioning
  7. Provide Combined-Hydronic Heating
  8. Install Fluorescent Lights with Electronic Ballasts
  9. Install High R-value Insulation
  10. Select Energy Star Appliances
  11. Design Water-efficient Landscapes
  12. Install Water-efficient Toilets + Fixtures
  13. Use Permeable Paving Materials
  14. Use 30-50% Flyash in Concrete
  15. Use Engineered Wood for Headers, Joists, and Sheathing
  16. Use Recycled-content Insulation, Drywall, and Carpet
  17. Use Low- or No-VOC Paint
  18. Use Formaldehyde-free or Fully Sealed Materials for Cabinets + Counters
  19. Vent Rangehood to the Outside
  20. Install Carbon Monoxide Detector

[Key: Energy, Water, Materials, Indoor Air Quality]  Now, some of these may only work for new construction or for renovation, etc., but this is a good starting point for going green, in an affordable way.  Keep in mind the geographic constraints–this isn’t an exhaustive list for every location in the world.  Different locations present unique circumstances and opportunities can vary greatly.  Via Global Green.

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