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5 Ways to Start Your Home's Green Remodel

Green_remodeling_david_johnston Let’s face it, not everyone can go out there and build a new house to have a green home.  A lot of older homes will need to be renovated.  With green renovations, there’s a sequence to what you do.  For example, if your home has poor insulation and leaks energy, putting solar panels on the roof shouldn’t be your first step to greening the home.  You’d still be wasting too much energy and not getting much bang out the solar panels.  The following list is going to be fairly generic, but if you’d like to get more information on green rehabs, give David Johnston’s book a look, he’s the expert on green remodeling. 

  1. Purchase Energy Star – these days, appliances that don’t have the Energy Star label probably don’t sell, but you may have a lot of stuff lying around that hogs the energy.  Gradually think about replacing that stuff with Energy Star stuff. 
  2. Mind the Gaps – there’s no reason to lose energy through cracks, gaps, and creases in your home.  In the summer, you’ll lose cool air.  In the winter, you’ll lose warm air.  Also, you’re probably having to over-cool or over-heat your place depending on what’s going on in the attic.  Insulation is good.  Caulking is good.  Weather-stripping is good.
  3. Do a Blow Test - what you’re doing here is finding the air holes in a house and patching them up.  It’s important to have the proper air tightness and the blower door test can help. 
  4. Watch Your Water – consider all the myriad of ways water is used and think about doing things differently.  If you’re going to get a new toilet, you might as well get the dual-flush.  If you’re remodeling, you might as well swap out the fixtures for new, low-flow fixtures.  Maybe a tankless water heater would be good, too. 
  5. Upgrade the Windows – this step may not be as important as minding the gaps or doing a blow test, but new windows change the feel of a home.  These days, windows can allow natural light and block heat gain, but you’ll want to look for low-E coatings and double-paned windows. 

These five steps are going to help you save water and energy, but this is only one portion of the green home equation.  Later on, you might think about what you have inside your home and how that stuff affects indoor air quality.  Also, if you’re doing any type of repair or rehabbing, you’ll also want to work with sustainable materials.  Three prongs: resource efficiency, sustainable materials, and indoor air quality.  Via BusinessWeek; see also 5 Dumbest Renovation Fads
 

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Platinum Banner Bank Building

Banner Bank Building

Well actually, it’s more of a mid-rise, but 11 stories in Boise is about as skyscraper as it gets.  According to Gary Christensen, Christensen Corporation owner and Banner Bank Building developer, "we created a beautiful, high-performance building that’s good for the environment.  And it didn’t cost us any more to do it."  Specifically, the 195,000 sf, $25 million building was built to spec (ulation), so the ability to strike market-competitive lease deals was paramount on the project.  Also, on July 27, 2006, Banner Bank Building received the coveted LEED-CS Platinum certification, earning 49 out of a possible 62 points in the Core and Shell Development system.  In tangible savings, the building uses 65% less energy and 80% less water. 

The following is a list of some of the many green features built into the Banner Bank Building:  proximately situated near public transportation access; indoor bicycle storage and individual shower rooms; drought tolerant vegetation and automated irrigation system with motion sensors; state-of-the-art water reclamation system and conserving water fixtures, systems, and mechanical equipment; geothermal heat system and underfloor air distribution HVAC; 75%+ construction waste was separated, collected, and recycled; the building was constructed using locally sourced materials and 40%+ recycled content materials; zero- to low-VOC indoor finish materials; dimmable energy-efficient lighting; and a biodiesel fuel-powered backup generator. 

Extra Links:
+USGBC Project Profile LEED Facts
+HDR Project Summary Page
+Better Bricks Interview with Gary Christensen

Skyscraper Sunday: 1180 Peachtree, One Symphony Center

Symphony_main_1 The subject of this week’s Skyscraper Sunday is the striking 1180 Peachtree in Atlanta, Georgia.  Designed by Pickard Chilton Architects, 1180 Peachtree rises 41-stories with a 119-foot lighted veil at the top.  It was also one of the first offices nationally to receive LEED-CS Silver pre-certification for its use of recycled materials, encouragement of alternative transportation, minimization of environmental impact by sourcing materials locally, and attention to using no- or low-VOC adhesives, sealants, and carpets.  Developed by Hines, the building has vegetation on the roof to absorb rainwater, store it in underground storage, and use for landscaping (eliminating the need for city water).  With about 670,000 sf of office + 35,000 sf of retail, this building is a gem in the Atlanta market.  In the middle of 2006, the local real estate community did a double take when 1180 Peachtree sold for $400 per sf.  Some people said this was part of a trend (good office market in Atlanta, lots of capital, etc.), but I think the selling price was a reflection of the excellence of the property.  It’s a flagship, a trophy property, a green property.  Green properties are (1) new, (2) well-designed, (3) easy to lease, and (4) fit well with all companies.  It’s not hard to sell an amazing, great-looking, stabilized asset with low vacancy. 

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.

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