Recently, I blogged about Jennifer Siegal and Office of Mobile Design (OMD) and wanted follow up because I found this video of her Venice, California show house. It’s a short, 2-minute video packed with modern + green information and mentions the following products: Japanese recycled grass board called "Kirei" (Japanese for pretty or beautiful), radiant heating ceiling panels called "People Heaters," the in-wall iPod sound system called iPort, energy-efficient appliances by Sub-zero, a tank-less water heater, and industrial-grade flooring in the bathroom to withstand heavy use. Take a look at some of these products if you’re doing a renovation and enjoy the video if you’re interested in modern + green prefab.
Every now and then I get a question on green building, or I’ll ask someone a question on green building, and almost every time, the reaction I receive is bitter beer face. What’s the problem? It’s like by saying the word "green building," I’m a hippie, a crazed environmentalist, or worse: "a tree-hugger." I don’t know about hippie, but words like "environmentalist," "tree-hugger," and "sustainability," are losing that subtle, pejorative connotation in a quick way. In fact, the real smart cities (i.e., San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Honolulu, and San Diego) are often the greenest. Catch my drift? Green = Smart; Green = Opportunity. Intelligent people are rethinking antiquated notions about the environment and are moving in a green direction.
That said, I want to clarify and delineate the two main categories of green building that you might be interested in: (1) Building and (2) Maintenance. Lets explore the myriad of sustainable opportunities to be found in each category.
- Building – this includes new construction, renovation, and rehabilitation. Opportunities to save money + energy, pollute less, create less waste, and discover new uses for old materials abound. There are hundreds of entrepreneurial opportunities along the building spectrum from design to build, from deconstruction to renovation. We’re talking xeriscaping, getting solar panels, incorporating passive solar design, insulating correctly, using the right windows, and finding the right mixture of water, electricity, and gas-guzzling appliances.
- Maintenance – this includes everything related to using and abusing a structure on a going forward basis. You will find money + energy saving opportunities in energy efficient appliances, light bulb choices, decorative decisions, and lifestyle choices. Here, we’re talking about choosing the right TV, light bulbs, lamps, blinds + shades, decorative paints, and furniture. We’re also talking about cutting out waste in your lifestyle, like running the water while you brush your teeth for 8 minutes every day.
Think big, think innovative, and think independent. Going green requires taking proactive choices about how you interact with the world we live in. I like to think of all these green opportunities as web widgets that you can pull out of the sky and place them in your home. I’ll take the Energy Star appliance widget, the plug-in hybrid vehicle widget, the CFL light bulb widget, the zero-VOC paint widget, the dual-flush toilet widget, etc.! For motivation.
On September 20, 2006, Cincinnati City Council took a bold step to pass an ordinance, at the motion of council members Laketa Cole and Chris Bortz, that provides tax and $ incentives to residential and commercial developers that build or rehab structures to LEED standards (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum). Even more notable was the simultaneous creation of a Community Development Block Grant, which aims to provide financing to residential (low or qualified mixed-income) structures built to LEED standards by paying the difference between the cost of the LEED building versus the cost of the building if it were built to standard codes.
City Council is thinking also about establishing a "green permitting" process, which would allow green developers to bypass the bureaucratic bottlenecks and move to the front of the line for development approvals. This is great news. Developers are always looking for a way to get their projects approved, so green permitting will force them to rethink their options.
The LEED-H standard, which is the USGBC‘s standard for residential green homes, is relatively new, when compared to the LEED standards for commercial building. LEED buildings will start to gain in popularity and provide tangible benefits to the city because green buildings use less water, less energy, and pollute less. And from what I understand, there are tons of cities out there (other than Cincinnati) that have water shortages, energy shortages, and dirty skies–why not empower your citizens and businesses to solve resource problems by building green? It’s one of the smartest things you can do as a politician, regardless of your partisan affiliation.
When you’re buying appliances for the home, whether you’re replacing or starting new, it is imperative to go for products that are energy efficient. Many times, you can look for the Energy Star label, which shows the buyer that the product will use 10-50% less energy + water than standard models. Importantly, if 10% of homes used Energy Star-qualified appliances, the change would be like planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. This w+d combo is Energy Star certified, but remember to do the same with TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, kitchen appliances, and every other energy-sucking apparatus you use in the home.
The washer is the world’s first fabric sensing washer. Here are some other handy features in the Eco Intuitive: auto out of balance correction, auto water level, auto lint disposal, controlled temperature mixing chamber, delayed start (from 15 minutes – 18 hours), time remaining display screen, eco-water saver cycle, "How Dirty" option, 5 rinse options, 6 wash temperature controls, load sensing, lid lock, Eco Active wash system, and 3 spin speeds and unlimited agitator actions. Its sophisticated design makes washing clothes a simple task. The genius, intelligent wash machine constantly monitors and calculates the wash action and water load to suit the fabric and load. You’ll love the How Dirty button, too.
The dryer is the world’s first large capacity top loading dryer with auto-sensing that makes sure all the clothes are evenly dried. That top loading design sure makes laundry a breeze, it’s no more difficult than drag and drop on your computer. The Eco Intuitive dryer also has a high airflow fan to ensure a faster drying process (without overheating your clothing). And it has many of the same options that the Eco Intuitive washer has–technology that takes that labor out of laundry!
As for $, the washer is $799 and the dryer is $789 ($809 for the gas dryer). So while you can find Energy Star w+d’s out there, and that’s important, with the Eco Intuitive combo, we’re talking about a new level of smart technology. By Fisher + Paykel USA.
I noticed this futuristic, yet realistic, home concept in the latest issue of Popular Science. It’s was designed by PB+CO (aka Philippe Barriere Collective) and "reflects the desire to create socially responsible communities with an environmental ethos. The idea is to converge the scattered remnants and residual land ‘vacancies’ mapped by the uneven contours of a disassembled suburbia, to reclaim them as Readymade Parks and, finally, to recycle the undefined ‘greenways,’ which will constitute inhabitable wooded Public Parks: Parkurbia."
The prototype is based on the desire for housing with a minimal environmental footprint. It incorporates recycled materials and translucent photovoltaic films that provide electricity and filtered natural light. I think it’s a nice idea actually: there are active windows for ventilation, two floors with a balcony, and intrinsic flood-protected design. It’s modern, too. What more could you ask for?
Green Wombat reports that the Governator was pumping up California’s commitment to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced, clean energy by 2017. Think about that. We’re talking about governmental support for empowering and supporting residents to generate their own energy. Relatedly, the Solar Umbrella House is a modern + green example of what can happen when home owners take advantage of the governmental benefits of clean energy subsidization. It was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2006, by architect Pugh + Scarpa. What more can I say than that the Solar Umbrella House looks good and sunlight provides 95% of the electricity (less than $300 /year in energy bills).
In addition to being designed passively to optimize the balance of sun and shade, the home has 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid with a net meter provided by the city of Los Angeles. The house is decked out with energy-efficient everything. Indoor air quality is perpetually monitored. The design is LEED-H (v2) consistent. Certified wood, recycled materials + salvaged materials were used all over the place.
The photovoltaic system, solar hot-water system, thermally broken glazing, and energy efficient appliances cost about $39,000. Not cheap, but that’s where rebates come in. To pay for the solar panels, there was a $18,600 rebate from the City Department of Water and Power and a $4,000 rebate from the federal government. After applying the rebates, the payback on this investment becomes 12 years, and the solar panel warranty lasts for 25 years. Not bad.
So what’s the big deal? If your city isn’t on board with clean energy, there isn’t a 12 year payback and you continue to buy electricity created from dirty coal plants (unless it’s a green provider). Which is better? Option A) independent, site-generated electricity that pays for itself after 12 years + is warrantied for 25 years + creates lower electricity bills or B) no site-generated electricity + persistently increasing electricity bills + dirty air. This is common sense, get your state and local governments to support renewable energy so that you can create a better living environment for your family. If you do it like the Solar Umbrella House, you can do it in green style!