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Dual Flush Toilets, Nevada's Green Incentives, New York's Green Improvements, + William McDonough on Earth Day (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. If Your Toilet was Installed Before 1994, it probably Accounts for 40% of Household H2O…Dual Flush Toilets are Newest Way to Save Water
  2. Patagonia’s LEED Gold Distribution Center Gets 50% Real Property Tax Abatement of Next 10 Years, Proves that Nevada is Only State to Offer Green Building Incentives.
  3. New York’s Home Performance with Energy Star Program has invested $100 million to Improve the Energy Efficiency, Comfort, Health, and Safety of More than 13,600 Homes
  4. For Earth Day, William McDonough Asks us to Celebrate the Abundance of Solar Income and Commit to Cradle to Cradle Principles. 

Green Building Gets Easy, Green Hotels, Construction Materials, Wind Capacity Growing, + Low Impact is Popular (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Green Housing Gains Ground: Green Home Building Doesn’t Have to be Complicated, Experts Say; Simple Steps Can Make Houses More Environmentally Friendly
  2. U.S. Wind Energy Grew 20 % in 2006; Now Enough to Generate Power for 3M Average U.S. Homes
  3. Green Is the New Black: Becoming a Popular Approach to Lessen Environmental Impact
  4. Independent Hotels and Major Chains Are Building Green Properties and Renovating Existing Properties Green
  5. Construction Suppliers Go Green: New Products Promise to Cut Pollution, Costs

Has Anyone Seen "The Green House" Exhibit at D.C.'s National Building Museum?

Click to Purchase The Green House When I was in Washington, D.C., a couple weekends back, in addition to participating in GWU’s real estate competition and visiting AWEA, I took a tour of the National Building Museum’s exhibit called "The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design."  If you’ve been there, by all means, leave a comment as to what you thought.  I thought it was a great exhibit.  I wanted to take pictures to show everyone, but no cameras were allowed inside.  Regardless, pictures wouldn’t do it justice, because the entire exhibit showcases some incredible green concepts and materials. 

Included in the tour is a real-life The Glidehouse, which is a prefab by Michelle Kaufmann.  It’s very cool.  Very modern.  The tour also has a Heliodon, or a sun machine, which allows you to see how the sun hits a home (see solar orientation).  The exhibit also explains the 5 Principles of Sustainable Homes:

  1. Optimizing Use of Sun
  2. Improving Indoor Air Quality
  3. Using the Land Responsibly
  4. Creating High-Performance and Moisture-Resistant Homes
  5. Wisely Using the Earth’s Natural Resources

Towards the end, there’s a green materials section that lets you see and feel different green floorings, ceilings, countertops, and paints.  I heard people looking at it saying stuff like, "Wow, that’s nice…," or "That doesn’t look green at all…"  It’s true.  The environmental movement of yesterday has an entirely new face for the future.  It looks good and comes at a competitive price.  If you can’t go to D.C. or you want some more information, you can buy the exhibit book here or at your local bookstore.  The Green House Exhibit will be on display until June 24, 2007.   

SCIPs + Green Sandwich Technologies

[Runtime = 28:46 min.]  You probably heard about Green Sandwich Technologies (GST) earlier this year when William (Bill) McDonough, FAIA, announced that he’d be on the company’s advisory board.  Structural Concrete Insulating Panel (SCIP) technology, also known as Welded Wire Sandwich Panel, has been mentioned in most popular magazines and has the unique achievement of meeting the Cradle to Cradle design protocol.  This video shows Green Sandwich panels in action.

GST panels have 7 main advantages:  (1) strength – wind load capacity of 200 mph+ and earthquake tolerance of 8.0+; panels resist pests, mold, and vermin; have the highest fire rating in the industry and are water resistant; (2) speed – allow buildings to be erected in 1/2 the time of conventional construction; (3) flexibility – panels can be used for residential, commercial, and industrial uses for floors, walls, roofs, ceilings, pools, and fences; (4) superior sound insulation – they transfer 66% less noise than wood and steel frame walls; (5) superior temperature performance – delivers R-40 performance, good for both hot and cold climates; homeowners can save up to 60% on home energy costs; (6) environmental friendliness – panels contain about 60% recycled/reclaimed materials by volume (40% by weight) + all waste is 100% recyclable; and (7) affordable – builders recognize value in cost savings such as 50% less construction time, 4-12% labor savings, 4-12% material savings, equipment savings, loan carrying cost savings, and energy savings up to 60%.  Click here to see a list of building applications.

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.

Bamboo, Too

Bamboo-forest

Grist Magazine wrote about being bamboozled, Dwell talked about bamboo in this month’s article, and Green Source mentioned it recently as well.  Quoted in Dwell in reference to a person’s choice of flooring, Eric Corey Freed said, “Guilt is no way to approach environmentalism. You shouldn’t feel guilty. What you should do is question where the wood for your floor comes from.”  In any event, since everyone is talking about bamboo, I thought I would add a few thoughts. 

When I visited China in May, I was amazed by the labyrinth-work of bamboo used as scaffolding for workers laboring away on huge buildings. From what I understand, curious observers from around the world have visited China to study their method of scaffolding. The bamboo is strong, yet forgiving, and it’s easy to set up, take down, and re-use.

When it comes to green building, bamboo is often referenced with regards to flooring. Bamboo flooring can contribute towards LEED certification, but should it? EcoTimber sells the stuff that they harvest from plantations. It’s good because it grows in various climates and takes about four to six years to be ready-to-use. EcoTimber makes its bamboo flooring with low-VOC finishes, but not all bamboo floor makers do that, so watch out!  To quote Mr. Freed, people take bamboo and finish it with that “nasty oil-based toxic lacquer.” So what’s the purpose of using bamboo?

Bamboo has a quick harvest life and it makes economic, business sense for bamboo sellers. Being a bamboo grower wouldn’t be that bad of a gig. It’s quick, cheap, and multiplies like rabbits—especially when compared to the slow poke tree. Bamboo is easier to replace than a tree, and in some ways, it’s better than a tree. It’s stronger. Often, the end product comes directly from the cheap manufacturing country of China (cheap being a reference to cost, not necessarily the quality). And therein lies the rub.

The amazing eco-grass, bamboo, travels half-way across the globe before it finalizes in the floor of your nice, elegant, modern, new, sustainable, LEED certified home or LEED-platinum office building. Feels good right? Depends.

Here’s what you should start thinking about: Your purchase of bamboo includes a transportation and carbon premium. Built into the price of bamboo is the cost of shipping and transporting bamboo half-way across the globe. So a slice of the price includes payment for oil, gas, and/or coal, depending on the transportation methods.

How’s that for being green? To me, it conflicts with one of sustainable movement’s basic tenets—acquire materials locally. If you’re importing the materials from half-way across the globe, how are you supposed to be ecologically responsible?  There needs to be local farms growing the stuff; with our American ingenuity, someone has to be able to make bamboo floors locally for less than the Chinese (considering they’re paying for shipping, too).

Good Links to Read:
[+]  Wikipedia on Bamboo
[+]  Bamboo of the Americas
[+]  American Bamboo Society
[+]  Environmental Bamboo Foundation
[+]  A Thousand Uses of Bamboo

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