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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.   

October 7, 2006: National Tour of Solar Homes Day

Asestourlogo119 To kick off the Natural Energy Awareness Month of October, the American Solar Energy Society (www.ases.org) will be sponsoring the National Tour of Solar Homes on October 7, 2006.  A solar home tour will happen in most states on or near this date.  Depending on the state, the tour may (or may not) have modern homes, but this will be an excellent opportunity to get first-hand information on solar energy:  information relevant to the particularities of the state YOU live in. 

Del_junco_solar_residence To find a list of links relevant to the state you live in, click here.  The tour in Texas will be in Houston and costs a nominal $10.  This looks to be an awesome tour, and as of today, there will be 8 homes with various green features.  Here’s a link to the list of homes with pictures and a description of each sustainable home. 

This is an awesome opportunity for anyone thinking about retrofitting their house or building a new sustainable house.  Why not learn from the experiences of others that have already taken the green plunge?  They will be able to talk about solar power, solar heating, cooling, passive cooling, wind power, day lighting, and other various green building technologies.  The Texas tour includes access to all 8 homes, a guide book, and a free energy efficient light bulb.  I’m thinking of taking the 5-hour drive (from Dallas to Houston) just to see some of these places and learn about the tax incentives specific to my state. 

For my Colorado readers (and there’s a lot of you), my friend in the blogosphere, Tom Konrad, Ph.d., has some good info on what’s going on in that state.  Just an FYI…

2006 National Solar Tour Sponsor Links:
U.S. Department of Energy EE/RE
Sunplan.com
Solar Today Magazine
Find Solar
Renewable Energy Access
Fronius

miniHome: Modern + Green Urban RV

Minihome

Introducing the miniHome.  Technically, it’s an RV, but it’s also designed for year-round living in extreme climates.  Ask the company, and they’ll tell you it’s perfect as a ski chalet, vacation retreat, cottage, guest cabin, or simple + luxurious home-away-from-home.  The base price is about $107,000 USD (max price $167,000), and if you’re thinking of hauling it around, you’ll need a vehicle that can handle a 14,000 pound haul.

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