Articles With "Green Business" Tag

September Scientific American: All About Green, Sustainability, Energy + Carbon

Scientific_american_september_2006_1 The September edition of Scientific American went completely environmental with topics ranging from nuclear power to renewable energy, from hydrogen transportation to sustainable building, from climate repair to carbon emissions, and from coal to advanced technology.  This issue really covered the important topics in a smart, sophistocated, and thoughtful way.  I wanted to relate some of the concepts that the magazine mentioned in its article by Eberhard K. Jochem, "An Efficient Solution."  Generally speaking, the crux of the article is that wasting less energy is the quickest, cheapest way to curb carbon emissions. 

Need for Green Building:
Swiss_re_tower_london Nearly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and 66% of all energy converted into a form usuable for human consumption is lost in conversion.  By improving the process whereby energy becomes usuable for human consumption, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions.  And more efficient buildings will play a role in this process.  If we assume that energy prices will continue to rise, every piece of technology that saves energy is an economic, business opportunity to be captured. 

Building Construction:
Many buildings are constructed with only the first costs in mind.  Maybe this is attributable to the process of bidding for projects, which seems to only include an analysis of the total build cost.  The life-cycle costs of a building, which would consider the operating costs, never enters into the calculation (unless developers request bids for products with green features and the life-cycle cost is implicit in the construction). 

Example – Green Renovated Apartments:
Edificio_malecon_hok_1The article mentions a project in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with 500 living spaces.  These places were difficult to rent.  So the apartments were renovated to adhere to low-energy consumption standards, which required about 30 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year.  Subsequently, rental demand for the apartments soared to 3 x capacity.  As a business person, this should ring a bell:  an automatic waiting list, pent up demand, nominal advertising as word-of-mouth grows legs, and a healthy business conscience.  Not a bad strategy. 

If you’re thinking about renovating, building, or replacing something, you should know about energy-efficient, green products before making the decision to purchase.  Here are some practical tips from the article for using less energy. 

  • Stove – Convection ovens can cut energy by roughly 20%.
  • Walls – thick cellulose insulation can prevent heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer).
  • Refrigerator – new refrigerators use 25% of the energy required for a 1974 model (just buy all energy star electronics + appliances).
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs – uses 25% of the energy required for incandescents and last 8-10 times longer.Menara_mesiniaga_ken_yeang_1
  • Computers – LCD screens use 60% less energy than conventional CRTs.
  • Windows – Double panes filled with low-conductivity gas (w/ edge seals made of silicone foam) reduce heat flow by 50%+ . 

Overall, the entire magazine was pretty amazing and offered examples of how different buildings are saving money and energy.  Buildings mentioned include the Swiss Re Tower (London), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Edificio Malecon (Buenos Aires), ABN-AMRO Headquarters (Amsterdam), Szencorp Building (Melbourne), Genzyme Corporation headquarters (Cambridge, Mass.), and Procter + Gamble’s factory (Germany).  Go out, get a copy, and read it…you’ll be smarter for doing it.   

Adobe's San Jose Building Goes LEED-EB Platinum Green

Adobe_headquarters_leedeb As a person smitten with the entrepreneurial bug, I always love to read Business 2.0 magazine when it comes in the mail.  And it’s not that the magazine has ideas for me to start businesses, but it makes me think differently about trends and the future …it makes me come up with new business ideas.  Business 2.0’s September Magazine contains an article about Adobe’s retrofitted USGBC-certified, LEED Platinum building.    

This article is awesome because Jeff Nachtigal, the author, actually quantifies each retrofit and illustrates that going green makes economic sense. Some of my counterparts in the blogosphere are adamant that going green is about doing the right thing for our planet, and I respect that, but as a businessman and entrepreneur, going green must make economic sense. Generically speaking, public companies have a fiduciary duty to the shareholder to create value, so there should be some financial incentive to adopt green concepts into buildings. Now there is. 

Here are some of the eco-friendly renovations and the break even calculations:       

(1)  Waterless Urinals with Nontoxic chemicals:
Cost:                        $35,374
Annual Savings:        $14,896
Breakeven:               2.4 years

(2)  Automatic Faucets:
Cost:                        $110,000
Annual Savings:        $  24,000
Breakeven:                4.6 years

(3) Compact Fluorescent Lights:
Cost:                        $ 11,000
Annual Savings:        $105,000
Breakeven:                .11 years

(4) Automated Irrigation System:
Cost:                         $ 3,610
Annual Savings:         $10,000
Breakeven:                .36 years

(5) Timed Outages of Garage Exhaust Fans & Outdoor Lighting Systems:
Cost:                        $    150
Annual Savings:        $68,000
Breakeven:               .002 years (immediately!!)

These are hard, quantifiable savings. The payback on investments like these is relatively soon, the most attenuated being close to five years out. That's not a bad payback period at all! So these are rational, smart, responsible decisions, and other companies should take notice that Adobe has raised the bar for building operating efficiencies. It's time to hop on the train.

What’s more amazing is that Adobe has been able to foster the right business climate that allows employees to notice waste and make the right changes on a going forward basis. That’s where the real benefits will be realized…and further, employees buy into the benefits and go home making similar changes to their homes. Then they will tell their friends how they saved on their monthly utility bills because of some pragmatic, and economic, changes. Great article Business 2.0!

Good Links:
++Adobe's Announcement to Work with USGBC to Go LEED
++Press Release of Adobe's Receival of Platinum Certification
++Adobe's Environmental Committment
++GreenBiz Artice with CEO Comments

Differentiation Strategy: EcoBroker, GreenHomesForSale, Etc.

Hawaiiprefab Applications for building permits have slowed down, some projects have been tosssed, and interest rates are inching higher. Homes sales will be ugly, to use the headline of one news article. All the while, real estate agents are scampering, trying to drum up business and continue the high life. I’m not a real estate agent, but from what I understand, the good ones make real good money and the bad ones make good money, so it hasn’t been that bad of a market…until, the Fed started to cool things off. Enter: EcoBrokers, GreenHomesForSale.com, and differentiation.

I noticed two articles on the same day about EcoBrokers, one on USGBC website and the other on MarketWatch. Becoming an Ecobroker means differentiating yourself from hundreds of other run-of-the-mill real estate agents, and it’s smart business. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the 2005 green building market ($7.4 Billion) is expected to reach from $19 to $38 billion by 2010. The tipping point, or the point where more green homes are built than non-green homes, is supposed to be in around 2007.

According to the MarketWatch article, buyers are interested more in the energy-saving, cost-cutting, sustainable features than the "save the earth" rhetoric (go figure!). And while features can vary from home to home (read: there will be a green standards war just like the current standards war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray), these EcoBrokers are going to have a leg up in explaining to purchasers and sellers the best ways to market homes. Certification for EcoBrokers will cover topics such as energy-efficiency ratings, asbestos, VOCs and lead paint, and indoor air quality.

Even more interesting, at the website, www.ecobroker.com, there is a designation guarantee that says the following: "Earn the EcoBroker designation, and apply the marketing and sales skills you learn. During the first year of your designation, you will increase your personal commission income, or we will refund 100% of your designation fee." From what I understand, the costs are $395, so that should be money well spent. The market is heading that direction (as the NAHB quote urges), so it’s smart to get in early.

Hawaiiprefab2 Another website is www.greenhomesforsale.com. I like the concept; it’s kind of a DIY-type place, and looks like it can be an attractive place for home listing as the listings increase. I looked at some of the listings and they can hardly be considered green (McKinney, Texas home), but it’s a good start. I found a prefab in Hawaii, that I know I’m gonna dream about tonight–if only money was sustainable on my backyard tree!

What I don’t understand about this website, however, is why they don’t invest some money in design and get rid of all those convoluted google ads, etc., sticking up all over the place like a bunch of weeds. It’s hard to take a website serious with all those cheap pay-per-click ads all over the place…my recommendation: pick a strategy for cash generation and stick with it–drive that strategy home. Looks like it costs about $60 to list for 3 months, so stick it out while your making your way down the long tail of sales.

Overall, I digg the future of what’s going on in the green real estate industry. It would be a smart move for real estate agents to get on this and learn the jargon. As the demand for green homes increase, those that can’t speak the jargon will be left trying to catch up. And might I suggest, as a parting note, since buyers are interested in the cost-benefits of green, the jargon includes being able to calculate payback periods, breakevens, inflation, and discounted cash flows, etc.

Mini-Wind Turbines: Case Study on Payback, Breakeven, & Pricing

Archwind

I recently ran across an article in BuildingGreen.com about a new wind turbine concept. A company based in Monrovia, California, called AeroVironment has created “turbines on a parapet.” These 400-watt turbines are made to be placed in a row, attached to the parapet of a building. The AVX400 turbine, which will be commercially released in the Fall 2006, can come with a canopy—designed to protect birds. To give you an idea of the actual size, the rotors for these fans are 4 feet in diameter and install side-by-side on 6 foot centers.

Read more »

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

Hollywood Green v. Jetson Green

The-green-store

Funny right?! You know it’s true. I saw this happening with “organic” foods early on. Still happens. Words like “organic” and “green” have several meanings, depending on the person using the word. When organic food providers first came on the scene, it seemed to me that they were the ones truly converted to the concept and necessity of eating organic. Let’s just say they were the hard-core of organic food supporters. The extremists. Soon other people realized that the word “organic,” when affixed to products, had the power to command a price premium. So what happened? Everyone else capitalized big time!  With various "organic" levels, sometimes, it's hard to figure out what's really organic and what's met the organic standard.  Green building will be similar in all likelihood.  Be careful not to get caught up in standards because the product is what's important. 

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