Articles With "residential" Tag

Green Building: A Contractor's Perspective by Chris Hurst

Petrangelo_001

Guest post contributed by Chris Hurst, President/Contractor at Hurst Construction since 1986.  Over the past five years, I’ve focused on energy-efficient construction, passive solar design, and sustainable construction; here are a few observations on the green building movement from a nuts and bolts, contractor’s perspective.

Challenge #1:  Lack of Knowledge and/or Awareness
The average consumer, architect, or designer has no clue what I am talking about when I describe energy-efficient, sustainable construction.  To build a super-insulated passive house is not really difficult–sure it costs more, but the payback averages about 5 years for the extra cost.  Then you’re insulated from future energy price hikes (i.e., you can pay me a little bit more now or the utility/oil company can take a lot more for the rest of your life!). 

There really is an enormous amount of bad design out there…I average one client a month who has a horrible set of plans for a home with absolutely no regard for energy-efficiency, passive solar design, or practical sustainable design criteria.  Recently, a couple came to me with a home design plan with 58 corners (every extra corner adds time and money to a construction job); unfortunately, they payed $10,000 for this pile of crap.  We told them the only option was to trash it and start over. 

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Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Gold Connecting Old + New (Seattle)

Fifth_and_madison Boc_north_face

I came across an interesting statistic (which will be obsolete in no time) about LEED certified office buildings.  There are about 669 LEED certified office buildings, and of that number, only 38 are remodels.  Why?  When you have a building that’s occupied, how are you going do a green renovation without losing rents?  Here’s one way.  The former Union Bank of California Center, the 41-story, 34-year-old building owned by Beacon Capital Partners, is looking to be one of the few LEED-Existing Building (EB) certified structure in the United States.  Because most of the leases are due to expire over the next five years, the company will be able to renovate as space opens up.  They’ll shift tenants around until the building is complete.   

This is about a $36 million remodel job.  Green amenities will include the following:  shaved columns for added light; automated artificial lights; recycled and recyclable carpet; no- or low-VOC paints; recycled metal in ceilings; new insulation in walls that were uninsulated; new high-efficiency heating and cooling systems; water-efficient bathroom fixtures; and runoff water landscaping. 

Additionally, BCP started construction next door on a new, 24-story, 126-unit green condo tower at Fifth Avenue and Madison Street.  The new building will be complete in 2008.  BCP officials said they are seeking LEED Gold for both buildings.  I must say that will be a powerful juxtaposition of the old and new:  both environmental leaders in their own way (EB + NC).  Via Seattle Post-Intelligencer + Emporis.

BusinessWeek's Residential Green Tech: Wind Turbines, Geothermal, Solar Panels

There’s a slide show on BusinessWeek, which is part of a story written by Aili McConnon.  The story is called, "For Houses, It’s Glamorous to be Green."  For attribution, the link to the slide show is here, but I’ve taken the slide show images and text and created a photo loop through the filmloop software (shown above).  It’s pretty handy software, if I say so myself.  You can do a lot of editing in it and there are several different ways to display a show. 

In the slide show, there’s information on the StealthGen micro wind turbine, geothermal heating and cooling technology, Sharp’s solar panel easy-installation technology, and AeroVironment‘s Architectural Wind turbines (mentioned here before).  Easy learning, have a good weekend…

Noteworthy Green News: Week in Review

Week in Review
  1. Enertia: Houses Heated + Cooled by the Sun – [includes video] No furnace, air conditioner, heat pump or swamp cooler — just an innovative design that harnesses geothermal energy and sunlight year round.
  2. Sydney Leading Light in Hour of No Power – This ambitious plan aims to send a message to Australians about climate change. It hopes its Earth Hour campaign will demonstrate the connection between the electricity people use in homes and offices and the climate change pollution that coal-fired power stations generate.  Via Linton
  3. New World Record Achieved in Solar Cell Technology – With DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance.  Via Celsias.
  4. Mileage From Megawatts: Enough Grid Capacity to Charge Plug-in Hybrids – A new study for the Department of Energy finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country’s 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

Eco-Friendly Knight Benches from Forms+Surfaces

Knight_bench The December 2006 edition of Buildings magazine included the Editor’s Choice Top Product Picks (about 100 different products) and I wanted to talk about one certain product.  Assume the following:  you’re a developer, you’re going green, and you’re working hard to get approval on something like a large PUD, or maybe something like what the guys at LandPooling do.  Well, you’re going to have beautiful, open green space and the proper benches and lighting to allow residents to enjoy the development.  Take a gander at the Knight family of products available at Forms+Surfaces.  The Knight Bench is sharp looking and comes backed/backless, with/without armrests, in 6-foot + 8-foot lengths.  You choose.  The bench is surface mounted. 

Green Features:
First, it’s fabricated with solid aluminum made of 95 % recycled content.  The surface is then clear-coated to resist oxidation (not sure what the coat is).  The wood slats are Ipe, which is a sustainably harvested wood that has the USDA Forest Products Laboratory’s highest rating for decay and insect resistance.  The bench is fully recyclable, which is important when looking to the life cycle.

The Knight series also includes a litter receptacle, bollard (CFL or HID), and pedestrian lighting.  The geometric design of the Knight series is completely amazing.  You’ll note that Forms+Surfaces is a member of the USGBC and committed to sustainability (www.forms-surfaces.com).

Knight_receptacle_1   Knight_bollard_2

Natural Home + 2 Eco-Smart Townhouses: A Project in Green Renovation (Brooklyn)

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Green building renovation is the future; there are so many inefficient structures and the time will come when deciding not to renovate a building would be similar to using a typewriter when you have a laptop.  Why not start now?  Natural Home Magazine is chronicling a developer who will take a seedy, dilapidated (Boerum Hill) Brooklyn building and remodel it with cutting edge technology and green features.  The developers, Rolf Grimstead + Emily Fisher of R&E Brooklyn, bought it and plan to make it New York’s first American Lung Association Health House.

Green Features:
The interior will use IceStone recycled counters (C2C), salvaged wood or bamboo flooring, and Kirei board cabinets.  Finishes will be with low or no-VOC water-based poly (American Pride).  The house will be wired with solar energy via photovoltaic panels.  Also, there will be a solar-thermal and gas-fired system to heat and cool the place.  In addition, the developers will use the Health House criteria (regarding moisture + humidity control, energy efficiency, and air filtration + ventilation) to guide them in making the indoor air quality top notch.  This should be an interesting project to follow throughout 2007.

Extra Links:
93 Nevins/453 Pacific: 2 Eco-smart Townhouses [R&E Brooklyn]
Brownstoner Blog Post on the 2 Eco-smart Townhouses [Brownstoner]



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