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Citizen Wisdom: Dallas Building Wants Green Renovation, Any Ideas?

Dallas Green RenovationThe bloggers over at the Practical Environmentalist just bought a non-green building in Dallas for their business, Clean Air Gardening.  The 13,000 sf building was built in the 1960s and they have a budget of about $50,000 to make it green.  We’re talking LEED, Energy Star, etc., you name it, they want to go green in an economically pragmatic way.  I figure we can tap the wisdom of the crowds and find a way to help them out, citizen wisdom style.  Feel free to drop your ideas into the comments here, or go over to PE directly and leave a comment.  Also, if you’re a Dallas business and want to get involved helping them do their thing, make sure to let them know. 

Already, PE seems to have this situation under control.  I like that they are signing up with Green Mountain Energy, using low-VOCs inside (good for indoor air quality), replacing old toilets with more water-efficient ones, adding a rainwater cistern to avoid using new water for landscaping, and replacing the door with a more energy-efficient set up.  Here are a few additional suggestions I have:

  • Consider a commercial-grade energy audit to determine where you may be losing air or energy.  Use that information to seal up cracks and fix stuff as needed (which will allow you to rely less on the dated HVAC system). 
  • Like you say, go with the Commercial Solatube lighting, if possible.  The more natural light, the better.  Why pay for light when the sun gives it away for free? 
  • For the interior design, use low-VOC carpets tiles and adaptable workstations/furniture from a company like Haworth (big-time commitment to recycled and sustainable products).  Haworth has a strong Dallas presence. 
  • Before making the investment in solar, try using a thermal energy storage product (like the ones offered by Dallas-based Trinity Thermal) that captures cheaper energy during off-peak times for use during more expensive peak periods.  This can contribute to LEED certification and has good $$ benefits. 
  • If you’re renovating the exterior, continue using a light color to reflect heat from the building.  Also, landscape in ways to shade the hottest parts of the building.  You guys are experts here, but natural landscaping will help with water conservation, too. 

That’s what I have so far, but I’m sure there are Dallas experts out there waiting to get your business and showcase their products.  Good luck!

M-CH: Less is More Edition

m-ch

Let’s face it, less is more.  What you see is the micro compact home, aka m-ch, which is a 76 sf home designed by Richard Horden, a professor at Technical University of Munich (TUM).  m-ch was designed to meet the growing demand for short-stay living.  I think Horden’s on to something.  Right now, there’s a horde of 7 m-chs that TUM students and staff occasionally stay in.  But there’s also a 16-unit village of m-chs being developed for a site near Vienna, Austria. 

What’s great about the m-ch is its high-tech design.  It’s all geeked out with the latest in electronics and technology.  Future models plan to use solar panels and horizontal-axis wind turbines to make the home self-sustaining.  For $96,000 (delivery + installation anywhere in Europe), you get a sliding table for 5, two 7.5 foot beds, shelves and drawers, an electrical systems control panel, bathroom and shower, and a kitchen with a microwave, fridge/freezer, sink, waste unit, and work surface.  For a quick jaunt and a little fun, what more could you ask for?  Via WiredCool images below the fold. 

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Masdar City: Zero Carbon, Zero Waste

1064_4_1000_foster_mascar_4

Foster + Partners has created a master plan for a massive and bold 6 million square meter sustainable development near Abu Dhabi called Masdar.  Driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar will be a zero carbon, zero waste community, one that will be entirely car free. 

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Gatorade Building Becomes Largest, Green Food + Beverage Facility in World

Gatoradelogo That’s right.  Another example of the business case for going green.  Recently, Gatorade received LEED Gold-level certification for the Gatorade Thirst Quencher Blue Ridge facility in Wytheville, Virginia.  At 950,000 sf, it weighs in as the largest green food and beverage facility in the world.  Notice the oxymoron: large green; but it’s not really fair for me to say that.  Building a manufacturing facility to the LEED Gold level can be quite the accomplishment.  Like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo (which owns Gatorade) sees the benefits of having green production facilities.  In addition to the PR benefits of showing the community that you’re not wasteful of valuable water resources, you build a better work environment for employees and waste less energy.  Big companies with green buildings show their employees that green is good, and this thinking starts to cascade.  Eventually, employees will greenify their homes and habits.  Employees will tell their friends and families, too.  Word will spread and there will be a point, not in the too distant future, when everyone accepts green as the standard and non-green as passé, wasteful, and unsophisticated. 

Good Links:
+Gatorade LEED Gold Press Release
+Gatorade Press Release with Blue Ridge Image [CSRwire]
+Coca-Cola Flaunts Business Case for Green Renovations [JG]

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

The Importance of Natural Lighting

Click to Enlarge It’s free.  Use it.  Design with it in mind.  Natural light = equity.  More natural light = less artificial light.  It feels good.  Workers appreciate it.  Light chases away inhibition.  Natural light does not have to be hot.  Natural light is from the sun.  The sun moves.  Design with natural light is more advanced than design with artificial light.  Artificial light is fake.  CFLs + incandescents are artificial light.  Artificial light requires electricity.  Electricity can be used for other things during the day besides artificial lighting.  Artificial light is man made.  Natural light is not man made.  Animals are cognizant of day and night.  The day/night distinction is irrelevant to humans.  Natural light comes from one source.  Artificial light radiates from countless sources.  Natural light = gift.  Artificial light = debt.  Image via

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