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National Solar Tour Day – October 6, 2007

Sunpower

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s that time again:  October 6, 2007 – The National Solar Tour.  The ASES National Solar Tour is the largest tour of sustainable energy technology for buildings in the U.S.  Now in its 12th year, some 100,000 people across the nation will see how neighbors are using clean sources of energy to save on energy bills and protect the environment.  Through a series of open-houses and informative tours, participants learn about renewable energy options, energy efficient design, real-world costs, current rebates available, and other valuable insights. 

Tours are being organized in dang near every state, so if you have the interest, there’s probably a place you can go.  Here’s the main page to find a tour near you.  Image Credit: Sunpower.

Brad Pitt to Make It Right with 150 Affordable, Sustainable Homes

Brad Pitt - Make It Right

UPDATE:: 12/3/2007 Make It Right Project: 13 Designs, 150 Homes

Hot on the heels of Pitt’s latest work in New Orleans comes this new announcement that he and Steve Bing are planning a new 150-home community in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.  He wants to Make It Right, in a place that gets less and less attention.  So at this point, I would consider Brad Pitt a developer — he has vision and can bring all the different players together to move meaningful projects forward.  Pitt, with an eye towards design, sustainability, and affordability, keeps stacking success upon success.  It’s really interesting to follow.   

Naturally, these homes will be affordable and sustainable, but to get the project going, both Bing and Pitt have pledged $5 million each in matching funds.  If you’re interested, here’s where you can submit donations.  He’s already retained William McDonough + Partners (think: Cradle to Cradle) to lead the sustainable construction process, but look who else is helping out … Pugh + Scarpa Architecture, Morphosis, Shigeru Ban Architects, and Adjaye Architects, to name a few.  Enough said.  I can’t wait to see the renderings. 

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PG&E Puts $10 M Towards Ice-Based Peak Demand Energy Shifting

Ice Energy

Recently, Ice Energy, a company that makes an ice-based air-conditioning system (explained below), announced their collaboration with PG&E in California on a $10-million dollar project.  The project is called "Shift and Save," and here’s the background: in the middle of the day, when the temperature is the highest, energy demand and the cost of energy is very high.  But with Ice Energy’s product, consumers can "Shift and Save" by using energy in the nighttime, instead of the daytime.  Daytime energy consumption is the bottleneck, it’s the peak, so energy generation must be sufficient to match peak demand.  Interestingly, to the extent demand for peak energy can be permanently reduced, the need for new energy generation (i.e. coal plants) is reduced as well.  Nice. 

The system consists of a large plastic attachment for commercial air conditioning units that is filled with water, frozen overnight, and used to cool refrigerant during the day.  According to Ice Energy CEO, Frank Ramirez, "It stores energy at night, when energy is cleaner to produce, cheaper to buy and easier to obtain, and it makes it available for use during the day."  The new hardware costs about $10,500 and weighs about 5,000 pounds when filled with water.  It looks very similar to a standard AC unit.  Also, there can be an additional retrofitting cost of as much as $10,000 for existing buildings and a minimum $750 cost for new construction.  Ice Energy is testing residential models (but another company called Trinity Thermal with the IceCycle has residential models already out right now).  Anyone have experience to share?

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LEED Costs, Urban Wind, Green Building Growth + Clinton Global Initiative Commitments (WIR)

Week in Review

UMB Bank Colorado, Denver's Second Green Roof Building [Updated]

UMB Stapleton

UMB Bank Colorado, a chartered bank of UMB Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: UMBF), is getting ready to unveil their new “green” banking center at Stapleton, which opens to the public on Monday, October 1. The UMB Bank at Stapleton is Denver’s second building to incorporate a grass roof into the structural design. The banking center is located at 3515 Quebec Street in Quebec Square at Stapleton.  Speaking of the building’s green roof, Mariner Kemper, chairman and CEO of UMB Bank Colorado, said, “Amidst growing concerns over the health of the environment and the rising cost of natural resources, there is a national trend to develop ‘green’ buildings … green buildings are designed to reduce the impact on the environment by conserving resources such as water and energy while blending with the features of the natural landscape. Our new banking center in Stapleton further supports UMB’s commitment to a cleaner, safer, and sustainable environment.” 

NOTE: I wasn’t able to find an actual picture of the building, but I know we have some JG readers in Denver on the scene.  Feel free to email me live pictures if you have them (jetsongreen at yahoo dot com).

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Before Buying a Prefab [Blogging NYT]

PrefabArtWeb by Nancy Doninger

Over the weekend, I noticed another good article in the NY Times by Amy Gunderson, with the above illustration by Nancy Doninger.  The article makes some salient points about prefab, things that must be considered before getting into it.  For instance, one customer said "there is no substitute for seeing a house in person," because what you see online or in a rendering, may not be what you actually get.  The same customer opted for Rocio Romero, and the home took 10 months to build at a cost of $300 psf (including installation and finishes).  That price ends up being pretty decent, when compared to the cost of going after a custom-design modernist home. 

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