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.
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?
This home isn’t necessarily modern, but it has all the modern conveniences one could ask for: solar panels, small wind, radiant floor heating, air filtration system, and a trombe wall, etc. Kent and Kathy Lawrence’s custom country home, which was completed in 2005, ended up costing roughly $300 psf. The wind turbine alone came in at a cool $37,100 (producing 13,000 kwh/year), and that’s without tax subsidies. And unlike many custom homes that tend to explore new boundaries of profusion, this home is only 2,200 sf. Not bad. But the Lawrence’s weren’t just concerned with smart design and energy efficiency. Currently, they’re removing invasive plant species and planting native flowers, just trying to be gentle stewards of the land they inhabit. I think this is a rather picturesque setting for a home … much the American Dream.
Many of you have probably seen this house by Stuart Tanner Architects, it was the Architectural Record House of the Month in July 2006. But I just noticed it and want to post a few images. It’s a small house of 1,184 sf located near Eaglehawk Neck on Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula. As you can see, it juts out into the air, blending the boundary between the wildlife and sea. I’m sure the owners have witnessed the grandeur of nature at its best, being enveloped by the eucalypt forest and the sea. Due to the location, the architect had the home partially prefabricated — framing was complete in two days. The home also has many of the green features most homes should have, such as energy-saving lights, heating, and appliances. It’s well-insulated throughout and designed to maximize cross ventilation. And there’s an on-site waste management system, greywater recycling, and fresh water catchment and storage, too.
I’ve got a press release on "One of the Greenest Luxury Homes Ever Built," a home that is "sure to raise the bar for building green in the high-end market." Folks, in our day and age, why spend $2,000 per month on heating and electricity for your 9,800 sf home, when you can trim that bill right down to a paltry $350 per month? At a time when luxury living is scrutinized for excess energy consumption, why not build a 5 bedroom, 6.5 bath high-end home with a "small environmental footprint"? Seriously, with smart, energy-efficient design (read: 4 extra solar panels), you can generate enough electricity to run all 6 interior refrigerators. And by using recycled and reclaimed wood (where possible of course), non-toxic blow-in insulation, and low-VOC finishings, this home is going to surpass Built Green standards. Designers worked their hearts out to build the greenest home possible without sacrificing precious square footage, and this home could house at least four regular sized families by our calculations. You’ll be glad to know this hulking home, located at 995 Longbow Place in Larkspur, Colorado, is on sale for the very reasonable, and very green, price of $4.5 million.
Are we confusing the words "green," "sustainable," "energy efficient," and "small footprint"? You tell me, is this green?