Green Building: A Contractor's Perspective by Chris Hurst

Petrangelo_001

Guest post contributed by Chris Hurst, President/Contractor at Hurst Construction since 1986.  Over the past five years, I’ve focused on energy-efficient construction, passive solar design, and sustainable construction; here are a few observations on the green building movement from a nuts and bolts, contractor’s perspective.

Challenge #1:  Lack of Knowledge and/or Awareness
The average consumer, architect, or designer has no clue what I am talking about when I describe energy-efficient, sustainable construction.  To build a super-insulated passive house is not really difficult–sure it costs more, but the payback averages about 5 years for the extra cost.  Then you’re insulated from future energy price hikes (i.e., you can pay me a little bit more now or the utility/oil company can take a lot more for the rest of your life!). 

There really is an enormous amount of bad design out there…I average one client a month who has a horrible set of plans for a home with absolutely no regard for energy-efficiency, passive solar design, or practical sustainable design criteria.  Recently, a couple came to me with a home design plan with 58 corners (every extra corner adds time and money to a construction job); unfortunately, they payed $10,000 for this pile of crap.  We told them the only option was to trash it and start over. 

Read more »

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Gold Connecting Old + New (Seattle)

Fifth_and_madison Boc_north_face

I came across an interesting statistic (which will be obsolete in no time) about LEED certified office buildings.  There are about 669 LEED certified office buildings, and of that number, only 38 are remodels.  Why?  When you have a building that’s occupied, how are you going do a green renovation without losing rents?  Here’s one way.  The former Union Bank of California Center, the 41-story, 34-year-old building owned by Beacon Capital Partners, is looking to be one of the few LEED-Existing Building (EB) certified structure in the United States.  Because most of the leases are due to expire over the next five years, the company will be able to renovate as space opens up.  They’ll shift tenants around until the building is complete.   

This is about a $36 million remodel job.  Green amenities will include the following:  shaved columns for added light; automated artificial lights; recycled and recyclable carpet; no- or low-VOC paints; recycled metal in ceilings; new insulation in walls that were uninsulated; new high-efficiency heating and cooling systems; water-efficient bathroom fixtures; and runoff water landscaping. 

Additionally, BCP started construction next door on a new, 24-story, 126-unit green condo tower at Fifth Avenue and Madison Street.  The new building will be complete in 2008.  BCP officials said they are seeking LEED Gold for both buildings.  I must say that will be a powerful juxtaposition of the old and new:  both environmental leaders in their own way (EB + NC).  Via Seattle Post-Intelligencer + Emporis.

Noteworthy Green News: Week in Review

Week in Review
  1. Kulongoski Proposes $30 Million for Green Energy – Oregon Governor Kulongoski’s budget proposal includes $5.2 million for the nation’s first in-water wave generation and demonstration research facility, $2 million to the state’s energy department to place solar panels on top of schools and $10 million to foster geothermal projects at Oregon universities. Another chunk of money, $3.7 million, would provide tax breaks for businesses that use and make products that consume biofuel.
  2. Help Wanted–Green; Green Development Could Be a Big Generator of Good Jobs, If America will Seize the Opportunity – There are good jobs to be had in environmentally friendly development, and construction jobs are just the beginning. Thousands of jobs are in products that go into green buildings. The job potential in renewable energy production is even more impressive…
  3. China Chokes on Coal-fired Boom: Toxic Cloud of Progress Can be Seen from Space – the Chinese plan to build no fewer than 500 new coal-fired power stations, adding to some 2,000, most of them unmodernised, that spew smoke, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere…Cancer rates are soaring, child health is a time bomb and…an estimated 400,000 premature deaths nationwide because of pollution every year.
  4. Short-term Air Pollution Increases Risk of Heart Attack for Those with Clogged Arteries – A new Brigham Young University study (by Arden Pope) published in the world’s top heart journal shows that a one- or two-day rise in air pollution causes a significant increase in the risk of unstable angina and heart attacks in the millions of Americans who have significant coronary artery blockage.

Nominate Jetson Green for the 2007 Bloggies: "Best New Weblog"?!

Best_new_weblog

Well, I don’t know how this will go, but who cares, right?  I’m going to give it a shot.  Preliminary voting has opened for The Seventh Annual Weblog Awards: The 2007 Bloggies.  There are a few different categories that you can vote in, but I’m only going for the "Best New Weblog" category.  Prizes are nominal, if that, but I think it would be fun to increase exposure to modern + green building and real estate development.  Here’s how:

  • Category: "Best New Weblog"
  • Nominee: "Jetson Green"
  • URL: "http://jetsongreen.typepad.com

And make sure to confirm you vote when it’s emailed to you.  Voting closes on Wednesday, January 10, 2007, at 10:00 pm EST.  If you read green blogs, Treehugger and GroovyGreen are going for a bid as well.

BusinessWeek's Residential Green Tech: Wind Turbines, Geothermal, Solar Panels

There’s a slide show on BusinessWeek, which is part of a story written by Aili McConnon.  The story is called, "For Houses, It’s Glamorous to be Green."  For attribution, the link to the slide show is here, but I’ve taken the slide show images and text and created a photo loop through the filmloop software (shown above).  It’s pretty handy software, if I say so myself.  You can do a lot of editing in it and there are several different ways to display a show. 

In the slide show, there’s information on the StealthGen micro wind turbine, geothermal heating and cooling technology, Sharp’s solar panel easy-installation technology, and AeroVironment‘s Architectural Wind turbines (mentioned here before).  Easy learning, have a good weekend…

LEED Gold David L. Lawrence Convention Center: The Three Rs in 2006

Dll_convention_center_1

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLLCC) was conceived from a design competition in 1999, which was won by Rafael Vinoly Architects, P.C..  After a few years of construction and phased openings, the large structure was completed in September 2003.  After receiving LEED Gold certification, the Pittsburgh structure became the world’s first green convention center.  What’s interesting, however, is that the DLLCC just released some statistics from 2006 detailing the building’s operating performance. 

In their press release, the DLLCC explained its green performance within the framework of the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle): 

  • Reduce – utilizing the natural ventilation system for 58 days, roughly 33% of Exhibit Hall’s event days, eliminated the need for artificial heating and cooling;
  • Reuse – reclaimed more than 4.75 million gallons of water via the water treatment facility and reused about 1,500 wooden pallets;
  • Recycle – recycled 65,480 pounds of paper and cardboard (equivalent of 557 trees + 229,000 gallons of water) and 1,720 pounds of glass, plastic, and aluminum. 

General Manager of DLLCC, Mark Leahy explains, "These practices and results are reinforcing the community’s belief that greening has a short and long-term positive impact on Pittsburgh and the region."  Exactly.  Yet another example of positive economics and green buildings. 

Popular Topics on Jetson Green