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Sustainable Building Precursor: Opportunities + Widgets

Breathing_earth
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

Texas + Private-sector Partners to Invest $10 B in New Wind Energy Infrastructure

Vestas_wind Today’s a day when I feel pride as an SMU Mustang.  I was taking my little pooch, Colt, to the vet for his yearlies, when I saw a HUGE wing from a wind turbine with the logo "www.vestas.com."  I’ve never seen one of those up close, but it was tons bigger than I thought it would be.  Anyway, Governor Perry and tons of other private companies came to SMU to announce a partnership to invest $10 billion dollars in new wind energy infrastructure.  The partners include:  AES Wind Generation; Airtricity, Inc.; Babcock & Brown, L.P.; Gamesa Energy Southwest; Horizon Wind Energy; John Deere Wind Energy; Orion Energy L.L.C.; PPM Energy; Renewable Energy Systems (USA); Shell Wind Energy Inc.; Superior Renewable Energy; D.H. Blattner; GE Energy L.L.C.; Mortenson; Siemens; Trinity Structural Towers, Inc.; and Vestas-Americas Inc. 

To begin with, I’m a little skeptical.  Recently Governor Perry came out in support of TXU’s plan to dot the Texas map with 16-17 coal plants.  Not only does Kinky support renewables, but he’s against TXU.  The same goes for Strayhorn and Chris Bell.  I mentioned in my blog that I thought the state could do more to chase renewables and added that coal energy has hidden costs that don’t factor into the consumer’s bill–cheap energy for small towns is a small-minded solution.  Nevertheless, regardless of whether Perry is political grandstanding, I’m excited about this partnership for wind energy infrastructure.

Portugal_1531 V52_crete_1448 Vesev2_60

As of December 2004, about 10% of Texas’ energy needs were sourced from renewables.  Under this partnership, private companies will invest capital in wind energy generation while the Public Utility Commission will construct additional transmission lines to deliver the power.  Such a large investment in wind energy should help Texas diversify its energy sourcing and slow down carbon dioxide emissions.  For every 1,000 megawatts of new wind energy, Texas reduces emissions by 6 million tons over a 20 year span.  This is great news for the state of Texas. 

Extra Links:
State, Private Partners to Invest $10B in Wind Energy [Dallas Business Journal]
Governor Uses SMU’s Embrey Building to Announce Wind Initiative [SMU]
::UPDATE: TXU Reveals Competitive Strategy [Dallas Business Journal]

There's a New Prefab in Town: Michelle Kaufmann Designs + mkSolaire

Mksolaire If you haven’t noticed, there’s a new prefab in town.  But if you’ve been following the modern prefab movement, you’ll recognize this newest installment comes from an experienced architect:  Michelle Kaufann Designs.  MKD is behind the glidehouse and sunset breezehouse prefabs that have become the talk in modern + sustainable building circles.  But these aren’t just prefab concepts or designs.  Recently, MKD finished building the first U.S. factory dedicated to sustainable, modular custom homes (www.mkConstructs.com).  This Washington (state) factory is wholly-owned by MKD and will serve California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. 

Solaire_interior The mkSolaire is an open, loft-like home designed for healthy, green living in the urban context.  The architecturally designed roof and windows allow a perfect mixture of air and light to enter the home.  Initial design to completion lead time is roughly 8-14 months, which varies depending on a variety of factors specific to your design and location.  Some of the things that will be available include solar panel roofing, geothermal system, wind generator system, hybrid system, icynene insulation, bamboo or reclaimed wood flooring, recycled paper countertops, recycled glass countertops, on-demand water heaters, water-saving dual-flush toilets, non-toxic paints, and formaldehyde-free cabinetry, etc. 

Solaire_roofSolaire_18  Solaire_17

Because the mkSolaire is built from a modular system, there are endless possibilities as far as layouts and floorplans.  The website has 5+ floorplan options, but it looks like those can be further customized.  And if you’re really interested in taking the plunge, MKD has tried to take the sting out of prefab costing by explaining how it all works.  This stuff isn’t cheap:  factory costs ($150-175 square foot), transportation + installation ($3,000 – $8,000 per module), site costs (depends on location), and miscellaneous costs (permit fees, architectural and engineering fees, sales tax for some states, appliance costs, add-on costs, etc.).  That said, homes do come with high-end Kohler  and Hansgrohe fixtures, Anderson windows + doors, and slate-tile flooring.

I could go on and on, so feel free to visit their site and see if this looks like something you’re interested in.  As far as modern + green custom architectural design is concerned, this is about as good an option as they come.  Source via Linton + Yahoo Finance

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