Short Takes and a Cold-Frame Follow-up

April 23, 2007

I've got a couple small items to share today. These are both regional items; just further manifestations of the old adage of "Think Globally, Act Locally." But, though they both have a regional focus, they will both have wider interest for all who are interested in green building.

New York House magazine is organizing the first regional residential green building contest. The program is open until the end of the year, but they already have 40 homes that are going to enter. The contest is open to homes built since January 2000. Architects, builders and homeowners in New York City and the surrounding counties who have been involved with a green home in the region are asked to submit them for this contest.

According to information we received, some of the homes are zero net energy users, which is a category we'd like to see more examples of, particularly in the single-family residential category. The criteria for the contest are based on the LEED for Homes guidelines:

  • Use building resources efficiently through improved design, sizing, material selection and utilization, and construction practices;
  • Consume less energy through improved insulation, HVAC sizing, and renewable energy systems;
  • Enhance comfort and health through improved indoor air quality and abundant natural light;
  • Use land wisely through careful site selection, orientation, and landscaping;
  • And are built to last for many years with minimal maintenance.

This contest should provide a lot of examples of green homes for everyone to see. We hope that they have a comprehensive list of all entrants that is available. Look for this to be coming out some time next year.

GreenBean is one of my regular reads, it's a sustainable building blog about "Built, in-progress, and unbuilt green buildings in Chicago." Although it's specific to one city, they manage to keep active with several posts a month. GreenBean has articles about residential, commercial, and public buildings, both LEED certified and not, as long as the buildings have a green component.

They are now looking for someone to help expand their coverage of the greater Chicago area with more stories from the Chicago suburbs. If you know someone with connections or knowledge about building in the suburbs around Chicago, or if you yourself are interested in contributing to Green Bean, there's more information here.

I got my first job after grad school with a small firm in Kane County, and know the Fox Valley, though it's been a few years since I've been back there. I'd personally love to see this expanded coverage, and look forward to finding out about green projects in an area where I used to live.

Regular readers may recall that I wrote a Weekly DIY article here last month about building a cold frame to start growing vegetables and extending the growing season. Shortly after writing the article, I planted some mixed greens in my cold frame to see how well it worked, though at first it didn't seem that we would need it. We had some very warm weather in March, but then had a very cold early April with several days of snow, and overnight lows in the 20s (-5 C). I went from confidence about my seedlings, to being concerned whether my cold frame would be adequate to protect them at all.

With this weekend's great weather, I took off the glazing to look at the seedlings and see how they have fared. The short answer is that the cold frame did provide sufficient cover for them, and they have continued to grow. They didn't do much during the cold snap, but that wasn't unexpected. But, in the last few days, they have really taken off. I tried another experiment with the plants as well. I planted some of the mesclun in a seed starter tray, and the rest directly in the ground. I didn't know if there would be a noticable difference between one and the other. Interestingly, there is a significant difference, and the seedlings planted directly in the ground have grown much larger than the ones in the tray. I think that this is because the ground could absorb more heat during the day (when it was available) while the seedling tray had only a limited thermal mass.