- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
93 Nevins/453 Pacific: 2 Eco-smart Townhouses [R&E Brooklyn]
Brownstoner Blog Post on the 2 Eco-smart Townhouses [Brownstoner]
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:
- Orient the Building to Maximize Natural Daylighting
- Place Windows to Provide Good Natural Ventilation
- Select a Light-colored Cool Roof
- Provide overhangs on South-facing Windows (be careful of your hemisphere!)
- Install Whole-House Fans or Ceiling Fans
- Eliminate Air Conditioning
- Provide Combined-Hydronic Heating
- Install Fluorescent Lights with Electronic Ballasts
- Install High R-value Insulation
- Select Energy Star Appliances
- Design Water-efficient Landscapes
- Install Water-efficient Toilets + Fixtures
- Use Permeable Paving Materials
- Use 30-50% Flyash in Concrete
- Use Engineered Wood for Headers, Joists, and Sheathing
- Use Recycled-content Insulation, Drywall, and Carpet
- Use Low- or No-VOC Paint
- Use Formaldehyde-free or Fully Sealed Materials for Cabinets + Counters
- Vent Rangehood to the Outside
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
- Polished Concrete System from RetroPlate (company)
- Underwater Standing Timber Salvage by Triton Logging (company)
- PaperStone Certified Composite Surface Material by Klip Tech Composites, Inc. (company)
- Varia + "100 Percent" Recycled-content Panel Products by 3Form, Inc. (company)
- Recycled-content Interior Molding by Timbron International (company)
- SageGlass Tintable Glazing by Sage Electrochromics (company)
- Water-efficient Showerhead with H20kinetic Technology by Delta (company)
- WeatherTRAK Smart Irrigation Controls by HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc. (company)
- Coolerado Cooler Advanced, Indirect Evaporative Air Conditioner by Coolerado, LLC (company)
- Renewable Energy Credits from Community Energy, Inc. (company)
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!
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.