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Green Building = Buzz, but Localization = Key

Cameron_armstrong_metal_home_2 Green building articles abound, but it’s important to note the subtle differences in perspective, which may change depending on the writer’s geography.  An article may give green building advice that doesn’t make sense in your geography.  Take this Houston article for instance.  It’s a good read.  In Houston, the climate requires an innovative balance of green building techniques.  Houston is hot and humid.  I won’t say it’s the armpit of America, but it’s hard to keep dry in that place.  Here are a couple examples of localization in green building. 

  1. Passive Design – Houston architects suggest putting most of your windows in a north/south orientation because the east/west orientation draws too much heat into the home and doesn’t allow exposure to the cool breezes that blow from the southeast in the summer. 
  2. Materials – Houston architects will building with metal, as opposed to brick or stucco.  Metal reflects the sun, while brick holds in heat and stucco is prone to mold.  Unfortunately, metal doesn’t work for all applications, so you have to balance and make trade-offs. 

Rule:  Consult a knowledgeable professional to pick the optimal green building strategy that effectively considers the ramifications of the local geography and materials on your site.  It’ll pay dividends later when you actually start to occupy the building and use it.  Pictures via Cameron Armstrong Architects, a Houston architectural firm with several metal homes in their portfolio. 

Bahrain WTC, 3 Building Integrated Wind Turbines (S2)

Bahrain_wtc_turbines Recently, in the Week in Review, I blogged about these twin skyscrapers becoming the world’s first commercial development to include large-scale wind turbines in its structure.  As you can see from the pictures, Bahrain WTC towers have three, 32-yard diameter propellers that supply about 11-15 % of the buildings’ energy needs, or about 1100 to 1300 megawatts per year.  The shape of the towers create an airflow tunnel through the buildings for improved energy generation output and each turbine will be suspended on a bridge connecting the buildings.  According to BWTC designer Shaun Killa, solar panels available at the time of construction lost their efficiency due to the high Bahrain temperatures, so wind technology was the better choice for renewable supply.  The turbines will be tested throughout the year and the building will open for business later in 2007. 

The dueling towers are 50 stories each, with 34 floors of office space.  When complete, the entire complex will include a shopping mall, including about 150-200 luxury brand retail sites, and a 5-star Sheraton hotel.  In addition to having SMART features that include high-tech security and IT infrastructure, the building will use an environmentally friendly water cooling system.  Via GE Eco-Business

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Zero-Energy Issaquah Town Homes, GreenSource + ENR Get Neals, + Bahrain Wind Turbine Towers (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Ten "Zero-Energy" Town Home Community Planned in Issaquah, Washington [Seattle Times]
  2. McGraw-Hill Construction’s GreenSource Magazine and ENR.com Win Neal Awards [PRNewswire]
  3. Bahrain Twin Skyscraper Complex Becomes World’s First Commercial Development to Include Large-Scale Wind Turbines in its Structure [GE Eco-Business]

LEED Platinum Sweetwater, A Model of Economics + Design

Sweetwater2  Sweetwater

Back in December, the USGBC awarded Sweetwater Creek State Visitors Center the coveted Platinum level LEED-NC, making it just the 20th building in the world to receive the USGBC’s highest certification.  Sweetwater was designed by Gerding Collaborative, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to reduce the building’s potable water usage by 77% and energy usage by 51%.  At these numbers, when compared to a similar building, Sweetwater avoids about 27 tons of carbon emissions annually.  Plus, there’s the financial case for the building.  Sweetwater was completed at $175 per sf, which I understand is highly competitive for the area. 

In the words of Dan Gerding, AIA, Managing Principal of Gerding Collaborative, "The Sweetwater Project is a great example of how a new way of looking at design is good for the building’s owner, good for the people who use the building on a daily basis, and good for the environment."  His firm walks the talk.  About 70% of the firm’s technical staff is LEED Accredited (LEED-AP). 

The building has a slew of classic green features such as a 10.5 KW photovoltaic array, vegetated roof, composting toilet system, drip irrigation system, and rainwater collection system.  Also, for the architects out there, Sweetwater is one of the first LEED-Platinum buildings to be designed using 3D "virtual building" technology, Archicad 10.  I understand the technology allowed different members of the team to visualize the project in context to provide design and technology solutions more effectively than if the project were designed with the typical 2D approach. 

Extra Links:
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release

2007 New American Home Goes Green in a Big Way

[Email/RSS - Click to View Images] Every year, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sponsors a home project and industry experts team up to create a demonstration home with the newest technologies and products.  This year’s New American Home was unveiled at the 2007 International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida last month.  The 2007 New American Home is a 3-story, 4,707 sf urban loft home with a roof plaza.  There’s also a first floor terrace, pool, and a 576 sf suite with the two-car garage.  Designed by BSB Design, the New American Home has a distinct look.  The mission of the home was to illustrate that housing performance can be incorporated into the most simple or complex homes without sacrificing aesthetics.  And as it turns out, housing performance = green home. 

Green Features:
The New American Home is a standout in green achievement: it’s designed with universal design compliance, designated to be Energy Star certified, and certified green by the Florida Green Building Coalition.  The home includes a 2.4 kw solar photovoltaic system; pre-cast, insulated structural concrete wall system; impact resistant, low-emissivity windows; residential automation and home control for all low-voltage systems; air conditioning systems between 15 + 17.8 SEER; four-foot overhangs over most of the south- and west-facing windows; and natural gas instantaneous water heaters.  Nice. 

So you’re saying, "Yeah but, this house is freakin’ huge!"  Yes it is.  It’s huge with Cribs-type amenities such as automated, built-in home theaters, an elevator, and a state-of-the-art security system. It’s a model home with tons of green features.  More precisely, it uses 73 percent less energy for heating and cooling and 54 percent less energy for water heating, compared to a comparable house in a similar climate.  For whatever reason, people build houses this big, so if you’re gonna go big, you might as well go green and energy efficient, too. 

Philips Wants More Efficiency, DOE Selects 13, + Lennar Gets Crazy Solar (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Homebuilder Lennar to Build Largest Solar Homes Development in U.S. – According to a deal with Sacramento Municipality Utility District (SMUD), Lennar will build 1,254 energy-efficient homes with solar power systems as a standard feature in 11 communities in the Sacramento area.  SMUD will provide a maximum of $10.9 million in incentives and Lennar will receive the rebates after homes are constructed.  That’s about $8,700 per home for solar.
  2. Philips Supports a New Call-to-Action to Adopt More Energy-Efficient Lighting in North America – A congressional coalition of energy efficiency advocates announced plans for proposed legislative action for a major shift toward incorporating high-efficiency lighting technologies in home and office settings. The call-to-action was introduced by Philips Lighting North America, the Lighting Efficiency Coalition, Congressman Don Manzullo (R- Ill.) and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to support the adoption of more energy- efficient lighting in North America.
  3. DOE Selects 13 Solar Energy Projects for up to $168 Million in Funding – U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced the selection of 13 industry-led solar technology development projects for negotiation for up to $168 million (FY’07-’09) in funding, subject to appropriation from Congress under President Bush’s Solar America Initiative.  These projects will help significantly reduce the cost of producing and distributing solar energy.


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