Prizewinning Affordable Housing

The contemporary looking building pictured here is not a high-end green building full of high tech features. Rather, it is a prizewinning affordable housing design for South Africa that costs significantly less than a new car. This is a house designed to provide affordable housing for very little cost: 50,000 South African rand (which is about US$ 6,000). And there are a lot of things to like about this design.

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Super-Effficient Water-Saving Shower

Showering is one of the major uses of domestic water. Showering is responsible for roughly 18% of indoor water use. But with a new kind of shower system invented in Australia, showering could, according to the manufacturer, use 4 times less water and save up to 87% of the energy used in typical showering. Australia has been suffering through a drought for the last several years. Since 2003, most of Australia has been experiencing the most severe drought conditions on…

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Canadian Proposal for Green Building Incentives

As part of the current Canadian election campaign, leaders of the Canadian Liberal Party have announced a plan for spending more than a half a billion dollars to improve the energy efficiency of homes across Canada, if they are elected next month. Under the four-year proposal, the Liberals would offer homeowners $10,000 in financial support for investing in energy-saving measures such as insulation, weatherproofing and more efficient heating systems. Up to $10,000 would also be available to homeowners as an…

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New Options for Home Wind Power

Utility-scale windpower is an important and growing part of the US energy portfolio. Farms ranging in size from dozens to hundreds of turbines can produce in excess of 60 megawatts of power. Plans for gigawatts of wind power are being proposed all over the globe, and new wind farms are regularly being proposed that outstrip one another to be the largest in their respective locations, or in the world. At the far end of the scale, the largest size wind…

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Building a DIY Wetland

A family in Australia has created their own tiny wetland as a part of a household grey water system. It is a fairly large DIY project, but, as the article demonstrates, not an overwhelming project. The writer even enlisted his young children to help in the construction. Black water is toilet waste and other water that requires more substantial treatment. Grey water is non-sewer waste water from washing clothes and showers and the like. Although in most homes, both black…

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Are Extruded Houses Green?

For several years, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California has been working on systems for rapidly creating buildings with system that is essentially a very large 3-dimensional printer. Called Contour Crafting, the equipment is able to rapidly build up walls. Already, test runs have been able to produce six-foot high concrete walls. One goal of the team developing this technology is to be able to build a house in a day, a goal that they hope to…

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California Moving to Block Sprawl

Sprawl is a constant issue at the outside periphery of every city in the country. Although matters have abated temporarily in the midst of the housing and mortgage crunch, new construction continues to decimate the countryside at further distances away from the city centers. However, the state of California is weighing a measure in the state legislature that might help curtail the growth of exurban sprawl developments. The extension of suburbs further and further out from the core of businesses…

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How Green Are the Beijing Olympics Buildings?

The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing are supposed to be the greenest yet. There has been some coverage on television, and despite all the attempts to clean things up beforehand and to limit especially the air pollution during the games, pictures from the city show it still in many ways to be a smoggy, grimy place. It’s not wholly bad, however. The buildings constructed for some of the competitions are architecturally striking, and they seem to be a functional success,…

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Green Communities, Part 2: Cottage Communities

Sometimes, some of the greenest solutions come from the simplest of ideas. Take the cottage community. What could be simpler than the idea of building houses that are radically smaller in square footage than the national average? Not everyone wants all that extra space, and many would rather have a smaller home built well than a cheaply made box full of emptiness. Cottage communities are not yet widely known in planning and development. Cottage communities are primarily located in the…

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Weighing the Value of Concrete Housing

A South African company called Moladi is promoting their system for quickly building homes. Using their system, the exterior walls for a single-family dwelling can be built in a matter of just a day or two, and it can be done using unskilled labor. But, while their goals are admirable, it’s a question whether or not this is a really green method of building. The system uses lightweight formwork panels, much like those used for poured concrete walls. Once erected,…

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Showing the Green Building Process

What does it look like to build a house with lots of green features? We see pictures of the finished buildings, and we read about the features that make them green. We know about the importance of good insulation and reducing electrical loads and choosing efficient equipment. But what does it look like while it all goes together?

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Recessed Lights and Greenwash

Recessed can lighting is a familiar method of lighting rooms. Rather than having fixtures protruding into the space, the light source is hidden in a recess in the ceiling, reducing glare. But, when the ceiling above is insulated, the can light fixture is a potential source of air leaks and thermal bridging. I recently got a press release from a company advertising a product to quickly and easily “convert” recessed can lights to a pendant light look. But, after a…

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Green Building Mandates

Governments are beginning to mandate green building for some new construction, and that ought to be a cause for celebration. But because of the way these requirements are made, the possibility of problems arising when a building does not meet a required level of green building could lead to legal difficulties and lawsuits.

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Hawaii Mandates Solar Hot Water

Solar water heaters are far more efficient and have a much shorter payback period than do solar photovoltaic systems. Getting heat from direct solar radiation is extremely simple (just step outside on a sunny day), and can be done with far less complex systems than what solar PV requires. Starting in 2010 all single family homes in Hawaii will be required to have solar hot water heaters. A bill signed by the state’s Republican governor, Linda Lingle, makes the state…

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Green Building Game Misses the Point

I recently came across an online game called “Design Your Dream Home” on the Green Is Universal website. I was shocked by what I found and how bad the game really was. I prefer to focus on the positive aspects of green building, but this strikes me as so misguided that I could not let it pass unremarked. Whoever designed this game has no understanding of real green building in any meaningful sense. Instead of providing any insight or education…

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Community Solar Power

A community in Canada has an unusual form of solar power that can provide over 90% of the annual heating and hot water needs for the homes, despite being situated in a cold Alberta location where winter temperatures can reach -33 degrees C (-27 F). The Drake Landing Solar Community collects solar energy in a heat storage fluid through an array of solar panels on the roof of each home and covering all of the garages at the back of…

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Small Homes Banned

Smaller homes are more energy efficient generally, and consume fewer resources for their construction. In the United States, the average house size has been skyrocketing in the past few decades from 983 square feet in 1950 to almost 2,350 square feet in 2004. Smaller buildings are potentially more affordable, are better suited to livable neighborhoods, and serve the needs of smaller families (while our houses have more than doubled in size since 1950, the size of the average family has…

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Solar Power and RVs

How does driving an unsustainable fuel hog around contribute to the adoption of solar power? While some purists might point out that RVs are great fuel hogs and a waste of energy, nevertheless, they do offer an educational opportunity to help spread the acceptance and familiarity with solar power.

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