If you’ve heard of the Husten-Haskin house (mentioned in NYTimes + SF Chronicle), then you’ve heard of the architect behind the the Vital House prefab: Erin Vali of Ulterior Mode. The Vital House is designed to be both economical (1,500 sq-ft. at $300,000) and eco-friendly. Practically speaking, the firm is Brooklyn-based, so this prefab design will serve the east coast, at least in the near short-term, but this four-bedroom model was designed to adapt to virtually any location. The prefab utilizes solar-power and passive heating during the winter (with double-height walls on the south + east orientation). It also has water-filled tanks placed on the south + east spaces, which absorb radiant energy and distribute it through the house. Interestingly, construction is raised slightly off the ground, which accommodates both flat and sloped land sites. Another benefit of raised construction is that wind + air can cool the home. Some of the other specifics on the Vital House are still in flux, but I think this is a good start.
Sustainable business entrepreneurship requires sophisticated financiers, so I wanted to let the Jetson Green readers know about an innovative, newly-founded banking institution called "New Resource Bank." They are "financing sustainable resources in [their] community." The bank was started by a group of entrepreneurs with expertise in the banking industry, and their start-up story is revealing: 240 founding shareholders subscribed to $24.75 M of the bank’s stock offering, and the community backed it as well bringing the initial subscription amount to $35 M–that’s a 60% over-subscription. This made it one of the largest initial capitalizations for a start-up bank in Northern California. Talk about suppressed demand for sustainably-minded banking institutions and investments!
They are all about green. The bricks + mortar bank was certified LEED-CI Gold. Plus, they announced an alliance with SunPower Corp. (company that manufactures high-efficiency solar cells and panels) to provide one-step financing of residential solar energy installations. Under the program, customers work out a home-equity type loan that allows monthly payments on the solar installation while they save money on their electricity bills. Factoring in governmental incentives, and if there are local incentives, you could end up with a mad case of energy and financial independence. Typical financing is for 25 years on a system ranging from $20,000-40,000 (before federal, state, + local incentives). If you’re a Californian, after the Governator’s program kicks in, there should be no reason not to go solar. Tip via GreenBiz.
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.
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?