The Unexpected and Questionable Green Products at PCBC

June 27, 2008

As we walked into the mammoth PCBC (Pacific Coast Builder Conference) at the Moscone Center in San Francisco we couldn’t help but notice the hanging banners with the words – Power. Forward. Sustain. Of course we could see Power and Forward, as we wouldn’t expect Weakness and Backward but then – Sustain. That omnipresent word like Green that has seeped into the mindset of builders and developers. Or has it? Is it part of the green spin or are things starting to move forward in a powerfully sustainable direction? We decided that “both” loomed as the right answer. For this installment, we decided to cover some of the unexpected and the questionable lower profile “green” products. Sorry about the ” ” around the green but you’ll see where we go with this idea.

We totally got buzzed about something so innocuous that we almost walked passed it because it didn’t have a bunch of Green banners proclaiming its greenness. This Verve living system offers what they called a living control system which in simple terms operates like a whole house lighting system. We’ve seen these before but this one operates on battery free, self sustaining technology or what they call energy harvesting radio frequency technology. Pretty scientific for us but the little gizmo works in a panel that reduces the power so that certain switches can come on at certain levels and times. The systems extends bulb life and new homes don’t need copper wiring installed if they use this system. We even like the parent control which operates like the driver’s control when it comes to locking and unlocking car doors. We’re locked for this system.

Falling into our questionably green sector we wanderer around the heating area where Greenwood Wood-fired Hydronic Furnaces displayed a giant green (as in the color) furnace. This highly efficient furnace efficiently creates heat for a nice hydronic system that we had to take notice. It operates at a high 85% efficiency level so not much heat escapes like with old furnaces or even hot water heaters. Even better, the system burns wood completely so the smoke, creosote and ash remain minimal. Here’s our problem – you still have to burn wood. That’s like driving a Prius or the like. Good as it is – you’re still using petroleum.

In the same toasty section the Radiant Gas Fireplaces by Valor showed some green heat. The system uses an electronic ignition system instead of a typical pilot light which saves on fuel and CO2 emissions. These fireplaces heat a single room instead of the whole house and do so with minimal BTU use. As much as they want to convince us that there use of natural gas presents one of the cleanest of the fossil fuels – we still have to look ourselves in the fireplace glass door and say that’s still a fossil fuel.

Next week we look at the old school green products and some crazy ridiculous greenwashing at PCBC.