Green Building: Finding True South to Optimize Orientation

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You may have already heard that House & Garden Magazine took a green approach in its latest installment, the February issue I believe.  One article talks about an interview with William McDonough, in which he mentions the orientation of a home.  Earlier, I blogged about Global Green USA’s Top 20 list of low- or no-cost green building strategies and orientation was #1.  Regarding orientation, the rule is to "orient a building to maximize natural daylighting."  As part of the orientation process, one needs to find a building’s true south and build it in such a way, to maximize sun exposure/non-exposure, and thereby, optimize energy-efficiency (i.e., use the sun instead of artificial lighting, use the sun’s warmth instead of heating, use the shade’s cool instead of air conditioning, etc.). 

McDonough pointed out that many architects and builders don’t know how to find true south.  If a compass is used, the compass indicates south, which can differ from true south by more than 15 degrees.  Remember, orienting a home is about orienting the home to sun exposure, not magnetic south.  To find true south, one needs two things:  (1) to know your geography’s solar noon, and (2) to use the sun to draw perfect north/south line exactly at solar noon.  Solar noon is the time when the sun hits the highest point in the sky and can be found using the following Sunrise/Sunset Calculator.  Once the solar noon is figured out, take a line with a weight attached to it, hold it up in the air at solar noon, and the shadow line will reveal the proper north/south orientation of a home.  That line will point to true south and will help you build the home properly, assuming you have some latitude in deciding the orientation of the home.

By |January 18th, 2007|Nature|0 Comments

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.

By |December 25th, 2006|Materials|10 Comments

Top 20 No- or Low-Cost Green Building Strategies

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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.

By |December 11th, 2006|Energy Efficiency, Gadgets, Lists, Materials, Water Efficiency|1 Comment

S2: Charlotte's Green Wachovia Tower by TVS Architects

Wachovia_tower_2_1 Here on Jetson Green, there’s a tradition where I focus on a green skyscraper of notable interest.  This weekly column is called Skyscraper Sunday (click to see archives).  Last week, TVS Architects unveiled the design of what will be Charlotte’s second tallest building, the Wachovia Tower.  It will be 48 stories, 800 feet tall, and have 1.5 million square feet of space, and Wachovia will eat up about half of the building in what seems to be long-term lease commitment.  The word is, owners of the building will be seeking USGBC certification (not sure what level) and will include features such as recycled rainwater and a greenroof, obviously among many other green features.  While there’s not much information on the project just yet, news reports suggest that the price tag will be about $880 million (seem a little high?).  Via Hugg + Forex.

::"S2" is short for "Skyscraper Sunday," a weekly article on green skyscrapers posted every Sunday::

By |December 10th, 2006|LEED, Modern architecture, Modern design, Nature, Skyscraper|2 Comments

LEED-H New Urban Home by David Baker + Partners at Blue Star Corner

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I hate to post this on Saturday, because I’m afraid it won’t get a large readership, but I wanted to talk about David Baker + Partners‘ (DBP) new design for a development called Blue Star Corner.  The design is called the New Urban Home.  The New Urban Home philosophy blends loft and condominium attitudes, with a modern feel that tends to build up–not out.  This philosophy was brought to the Blue Star Corner development to create a sustainable (LEED for Homes), modern, urban design for the historic Park Avenue District in the Bay Area.  All the appliances will be Energy Star, all the plumbing will be water efficient, and the site is located near mass transit.  Blue Star Corner is planned for completion in mid-2007. 

Green Features:
The developer, Holliday Development, and DBP hope to achieve LEED for Homes certification on this project.  Here’s some of what they’re going to do:  will use recycled and non-toxic building materials, non-endangered woods, galvanized metal, bamboo flooring, and environmentally-fabricated CaesarStone quartz countertops; will try to source materials locally as much as possible (keeps money in local economy + eliminates the transportation/gas premium); open spaces will feature sustainable landscaping by Conger Moss Guillard Landscape; appliances will be energy-efficient with Duravit, Kohler, and Bosch brands; and much more. 

Other Amenities:
Bsc_rendering Units will include also Ann Sacks bathtubs, Sub-zero + Jenn-Air refrigerators, Bisazza tiles, Benjamin Moore paint, in-unit iPod docking stations, and personal garages with fold-up work stations.  This is all going in with the general setup with a master bedroom, living room, kitchen, and flex room.  To add to that, homes will be unique–they won’t all have identical features, colors, or design.  It’s important to cater to individuality. 

Extra Links:
New Urban Home at Blue Star Corner [Generalized Case Study]
David Baker + Partners Provide Design for "Green" Amsterdam-Inspired Townhouses [MHN]

By |December 9th, 2006|LEED, Modern architecture, Modern design, Recycled|2 Comments

BuildingGreen's 2006 Top-10 Green Building Products + GreenSpec Directory

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The fact of the matter is, if you’re going to build green buildings, you gotta have green materials.  And green building is getting easier because demand is increasing and creating innovative green products to fit all varieties of projects.  There are different angles to take with a sustainable project and it’s not all about energy efficiency.  You’ll want to look at everything.  I like to think in terms of consumption.  What are you consuming and how much of it are you consuming?  Is the building water efficient?  What does it do with waste (such as recycling)?  Does waste equal food (C2C)?  Did you have to ship it across the world to procure it?  What’s the indoor air quality of the building?  How does it look and feel?   Did you benefit the community by buying the materials, paying the laborers, or building the project? 

Greenspec_2006_cover To make life a little easier, there’s the GreenSpec Directory, which includes more than 2,100 green product listings.  It’s a veritable idea bank ($89.90).  To give you a taste of what some of the products are, BuildingGreen announced the Top-10 Green Building Products during GreenBuild in November.  Here they are.  I’ve linked to the BuildingGreen product information and used "(company)" for the corporate website link.  BuildingGreen doesn’t receive money from these companies for placing a product in the GreenSpec Directory, so the information is totally objective in that regard. 

If you have an experience with any of these products, feel free to drop a comment so all the readers can benefit.  Once you go green, you never go back!

By |December 6th, 2006|Gadgets, LEED, Recycled, Wind|2 Comments