Articles - Technology RSS Feed

Top 20 No- or Low-Cost Green Building Strategies

Global_green_no_winner

One aspect of green building that gets overlooked is financial independence.  For instance, a commercial business may make an investment in solar power (provided incentives and rebates make it economically feasible) to stabilize electricity bills and hedge against future electricity cost increases.  Another example is the principle of waste reduction in green building.  Did you know that building green often costs the same or just a little bit more than standard code-built homes?  And did you know that even then, green homes will require less money going forward than standard code-built homes?  To that end, here are some affordable green building strategies (click this link to read more about each strategy):  Global Green’s 20 Affordable Green Building Strategies:

  1. Orient the Building to Maximize Natural Daylighting
  2. Place Windows to Provide Good Natural Ventilation
  3. Select a Light-colored Cool Roof
  4. Provide overhangs on South-facing Windows (be careful of your hemisphere!)
  5. Install Whole-House Fans or Ceiling Fans
  6. Eliminate Air Conditioning
  7. Provide Combined-Hydronic Heating
  8. Install Fluorescent Lights with Electronic Ballasts
  9. Install High R-value Insulation
  10. Select Energy Star Appliances
  11. Design Water-efficient Landscapes
  12. Install Water-efficient Toilets + Fixtures
  13. Use Permeable Paving Materials
  14. Use 30-50% Flyash in Concrete
  15. Use Engineered Wood for Headers, Joists, and Sheathing
  16. Use Recycled-content Insulation, Drywall, and Carpet
  17. Use Low- or No-VOC Paint
  18. Use Formaldehyde-free or Fully Sealed Materials for Cabinets + Counters
  19. Vent Rangehood to the Outside
  20. Install Carbon Monoxide Detector

[Key: Energy, Water, Materials, Indoor Air Quality]  Now, some of these may only work for new construction or for renovation, etc., but this is a good starting point for going green, in an affordable way.  Keep in mind the geographic constraints–this isn’t an exhaustive list for every location in the world.  Different locations present unique circumstances and opportunities can vary greatly.  Via Global Green.

Shizen Urban Design Condominium: A Net Zero Energy Project

Shizen_condo

Every now and then, I find an innovative real estate development group that just knocks my socks off.  After living in Japan for 2 years, I love to hear anything about the place, so you can imagine how cool I think Sakura Urban Concepts is.  Sakura is Japanese for the "cherry blossom tree," which buds in early April and you can see blossoming trees all over Japan for about two weeks.  It’s incredible to see.  This forward-thinking group is behind a new urban design building in Portland called Shizen, which happens to be Japanese for "nature."  Not only is Shizen going to be a net zero energy building, but it’s going to have sophisticated design, sense of community, and sustainable lifestyle written all over it.  Be sure to check out Shizen’s website!

Green Features:
Shizen_kanji This project is funded, in part, by a grant from Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development (via funds from a Green Investment Fund partnership).  First, the site was home to a famous Portland Bakery, the Helen Bernhard Bakery, so Sakura purchased the property and had the house moved down the street.  The house was renovated and looks pretty good.  By moving the house, 200 tons of material was diverted from the landfill.  The condo will have a 23 kW photovoltaic array that generates roughly 1/3 of Shizen’s annual electricity; a biodiesel fueled microturbine will generate the other 2/3 (and enough to heat domestic hot water and space heating); there will be radiant floors in entries and bathrooms; rain that falls on the roof will flow to a 25,000 gallon cistern under the parking level, and that water will be used for toilet and irrigation water; 60% of Shizen’s energy savings will be through its high mass, well insulated envelope and high efficiency lights and appliances; double-glazed, argon-filled, triple coated low-e windows will allow light and block solar gain in the summer; and the roof will be a r-38 insulation. 

Site Specifics:
Shizen will be located on 1706 NE Schuyler (one block north of Broadway/NE 17th).  There will be 7 units, and construction starts in March 2007.  The total building will have about 15,500 square feet (so average of 2,200 square feet per residence?) and the land site is 7,500 square feet.  Not bad at all…Once you go green, you don’t go back.

BuildingGreen's 2006 Top-10 Green Building Products + GreenSpec Directory

100_percent_3form

The fact of the matter is, if you’re going to build green buildings, you gotta have green materials.  And green building is getting easier because demand is increasing and creating innovative green products to fit all varieties of projects.  There are different angles to take with a sustainable project and it’s not all about energy efficiency.  You’ll want to look at everything.  I like to think in terms of consumption.  What are you consuming and how much of it are you consuming?  Is the building water efficient?  What does it do with waste (such as recycling)?  Does waste equal food (C2C)?  Did you have to ship it across the world to procure it?  What’s the indoor air quality of the building?  How does it look and feel?   Did you benefit the community by buying the materials, paying the laborers, or building the project? 

Greenspec_2006_cover To make life a little easier, there’s the GreenSpec Directory, which includes more than 2,100 green product listings.  It’s a veritable idea bank ($89.90).  To give you a taste of what some of the products are, BuildingGreen announced the Top-10 Green Building Products during GreenBuild in November.  Here they are.  I’ve linked to the BuildingGreen product information and used "(company)" for the corporate website link.  BuildingGreen doesn’t receive money from these companies for placing a product in the GreenSpec Directory, so the information is totally objective in that regard. 

If you have an experience with any of these products, feel free to drop a comment so all the readers can benefit.  Once you go green, you never go back!

Green Economics: City of Phoenix Saving $600k/year Due to Energy-Efficiency Program

Cfls If you’re new to CFLs, feel free to check out the Department of Energy’s information page on them.  When compared to incandescents, CFLs last longer, use less energy, and emit less heat.  While you need to pick the right one depending on your lighting idiosyncrasies and bulbs need to be disposed of at a hazardous waste center (see your packaging), groups like One Billion Bulbs are trying to get the word out on the benefits of CFLs.  It’s hard to calculate, but when energy is saved, the grid is called upon less and that’s a tangible benefit to your bill and your city.  Cities that keep using more energy end up debating with large companies like TXU about the pragmatics of building 11 more coal plants to meet out-of-control demand for cheap energy.  There are alternatives…

There’s an economic case for CFLs.  The City of Phoenix is saving about $600,000 a year after replacing traditional lighting with CFLs.  Mayor Phil Gordon said the city has replaced about 95% of the city’s lights with energy-efficient alternatives (as part of a $1.2 million one-time investment) and is starting to see the rewards.  At $600,000 in savings per year, that’s a 2 year payback on your investment.  This is smart business. 

Bioclimatic Design, Menara Mesiniaga + Ken Yeang (S2)

Iaa0291_1

I’ve had people ask me why I haven’t mentioned the Menara Mesiniaga, designed by architect Ken Yeang, in Subang Jaya Selangor, Malaysia.  Well…the building was modern + famous when it was finished in the ’90s, and it’s still modern + famous.  I don’t really know if I can do any justice trying to describe the structure, but I’ll direct you to some more detailed information on the building, in case you’re interested in studying bioclimatic skyscraper design and the like.  The Menara Mesiniaga, often referred to as the IBM building, is owned by Mesiniaga, a Malaysian public company in the IT sector that is somehow connected to IBM.  The 15 floor, 207 foot, intelligent building was finished in 1992, and interestingly, property values of the land around the building have flourished. 

Iaa0296 Excluding the costs of land acquisition, Menara Mesiniaga was constructed at a cost of roughly $8.9 M (USD).  The building design reduces long-term maintenance costs and lowers energy use.  On the north + south facades, curtain wall glazing minimizes solar gain.  On the east + west facades, aluminum fins and louvers provide sun shading.  All the office floor terraces have sliding doors that allow the occupants to control natural ventilation.  The trussed steel + aluminum sunroof also incorporates solar panels that power the building.  Some other features include the skycourt, vertical landscaping, and naturally ventilated core.  The Menara Mesiniaga is the epitome of building design that reflects climate characteristics specific to the location of the building. 

Good Links:
++Ken Yeang’s Book: Bioclimatic Skyscrapers [Online version]
++Aga Kahn Award for Architecture

::"S2" is short for "Skyscraper Sunday," a weekly article on green skyscrapers posted every Sunday::

A Simple, Effective PowerCost Monitor

Powercost-monitor-blue-line-innovations

When I lived in Japan, I was always feeling the pinch of electricity bills.  It wasn't because of over-consumption.  Things were just plain expensive.  And luckily, the electricity meter was always near the front door, so I got in the habit of opening the door to check the spin rate on the meter.  After looking at the meter, I'd walk around and unplug things that weren't in use.  Here in the U.S., though, there's no easy access to the meter, especially in the traditional single-family home.  Which is why something like the PowerCost Monitor could come in handy. 

Read more »



Popular Topics on Jetson Green