LEED Double Platinum for Construction Offices

The headquarters of a construction firm in Michigan has the distinction of being the first building to achieve LEED “double platinum” certification. What is more, according to the company, the cost of construction was no greater than conventional building practices. The Christman Construction offices in Lansing MI occupy roughly half of the 64,000 square foot building which was initially built in 1928. The project cost $12 million, and also benefited from brownfield credits as well as state and federal historic…

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Permeable Pavers Protect Water Quality

Stormwater management is an urban logistical requirement. Rainwater and the water from melting snow have to be dealt with. When plants and soil, which absorb water from rain and snow are replaced with buildings, roads, and other impervious materials, the water from a storm no longer goes into the ground where it can recharge the water table, but stays on the surface and has to be managed in some fashion to keep the streets and buildings from flooding. Low water…

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Alliance Between USGBC and AIA

There has been a lot of news out of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in the last few weeks, including the draft version of the new LEED standard. But an alliance between the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and USGBC will help bring green building even further into the mainstream.

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Automatically Preheat Water to Save Energy

Usually when we are talking about plumbing fixtures for green building we are dealing with something that conserves water. But some plumbing devices can contribute to energy savings, as well. When you are in the shower, the hot water from the shower strikes your body and transfers some heat before it falls away. But most of the heat in that water simply goes down the drain. Reportedly, 80 to 90 percent of the energy used to heat water for the…

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LEED Version 3 Is Coming

Since 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council has been transforming the built environment through the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. If you’re at all paying attention to green buildings, you are well aware of LEED. There are now over 10,000 projects, representing over 3.5 billion square feet of buildings, that have been registered with LEED. And today, a new draft version of LEED becomes available for public comment. [Ed note: The draft is now available; see link…

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Book Review: Off the Grid Homes – Case Studies for Sustainable Living

Off the Grid Homes combines beautiful images with technical information for sustainable homes. The book by architect Lori Ryker is less of a manual for systems to be used in off the grid homes (though it does include good information about the systems and strategies that are used in sustainable off the grid living) and more of a showcase of state of the art homes at the intersection of appealing architecture and high sustainability. For many, the phrase “off the…

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Green Architecture Versus Great Architecture

Last week, in writing about this year’s AIA Committe on the Environment’s COTE Top Ten winners, representing the best “examples of sustainable architecture and green design solutions that protect and enhance the environment,” I asked “Are COTE Winners Too Much of the Same?” While I am certain I’m not alone in that viewpoint, I’ve come across some other perspectives on that question. One of the jurors from the panel that selected this year’s COTE Top Ten wrote about her experience…

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Are COTE Winners Too Much of the Same?

The winners of this year’s AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Green Buildings were announced this week, and there certainly are some very attractive buildings among the lot. Some of these buildings are certified, or in the process of becoming certified, to high LEED standards, in addition to their COTE Top Ten recognition. But while I’m excited by some of the design presented in this year’s lineup, there are some troubling aspects of the roster as a whole…

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Earth Day: Elements of Building

Tuesday, April 22 is Earth Day, and we thought that a couple special posts would be appropriate on this date. Building has an enormous impact on the Earth, and green building offers the opportunity to lessen or eliminate many of those effects. Today, in a series of articles titled Elements of Building, we take a look at how Water, Energy and Materials each factor in to building operation and building design. In addition to discussing green building, let us also…

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Elements of Building: Materials

At the heart of all building projects are the materials, the stuff, the bricks and sticks, the elements that are assembled to build a building. Different materials have different impacts on the Earth. Some require extensive resources for their manufacture. Steel and other metals need to be refined from ore and processed into their final forms, often several operations, all taking great amounts of energy. The choices that go into selecting building materials have long range ramifications in a number…

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Elements of Building: Energy

Buildings, according to calculations done by Architecture 2030, are responsible for nearly half of the total energy consumption in the United States. And 76 percent of the electricity generated in this country goes to the Building Sector. So while there are a range of steps that need to be taken in moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, Buildings, and the energy they consume, need to be at the forefront of any considerations when moving toward greater sustainability. Saving energy in…

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Grand Rapids Has the First LEED Museum

Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the greenest cities in the country, at least if you go by the number of LEED certified buildings it has. And now it adds to its distinction with the first LEED Gold certified art museum in the country. Grand Rapids is tied with Pittsburgh and Washington at #5 on a list of cities with the most LEED certified buildings, surpassing even cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, New York. Grand Rapids also has embraced…

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Aerogel Insulation Advances

Aerogel is almost a product out of science fiction. Nicknamed “frozen smoke,” aerogel is extremely lightweight material, with a density only 3 times that of air. Only a small fraction of a volume of aerogel is the material itself. Most of the volume is filled with air. This makes aerogel an excellent insulator. (Aerogel provides nearly 40 times the insulation of fiberglass insulation.) Aerogel can withstand great pressures and is also an excellent sound insulator. Aerogels can also be used…

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Architecture Week 2008 – Is It Sustainable?

Architecture Week was first established one year ago as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the American Institute of Architects. This year, for the second Architecture Week, there are three big programs the organization is promoting. But sustainability gets only a passing mention in one of them, and seems not to be part of the focus anywhere in the program. While the AIA has another program it also began last year titled “Walk the Walk” that offers…

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When to Turn Off Fluorescent Lights

As more and more homes have compact fluorescent lights, questions are arising about when (or even whether) they should be turned off. One school of thought is that it takes a huge surge of electricity to start fluorescent lights (like those institutional tubes in your 6th grade classroom), and turning the lights on and off actually uses much more electricity than just turning them off when you are out of a room for a while. In a word: WRONG!

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New Levels of LEED

A new top-level LEED classification called Unobtanium is being proposed to replace the currently proposed Protactinium level, leading to a possible schism in the growing green building rating system. Whether Protactinium or Unobtanium becomes the new top-level of the LEED rating system…? Earlier this year, officials proposed a new level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) that is higher than the current top-end Platinum rating. The new Protactinium level introduces more stringent requirements to ensure the purity of…

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Expanding Green Building Elements Blogroll

Green Building Elements has a few more interesting and useful websites added to its blogroll for you to check out for more information about green building and design. If you have come across a particularly useful or interesting site with a strong emphasis on green building and sustainable design, drop us a note about it at the address on our contacts and info page and let us know about it. Here are some quick reviews of some sites you may…

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Book Review: Solar Power in Building Design

Solar Power in Building Design by Peter Gevorkian is subtitled “The Engineer’s Complete Design Resource,” and it is certainly an apt description of this extensive volume. The book goes far beyond what a casual reader interested in solar power would need to know, but there is a wealth of good information inside, and it is likely to be useful for a wide range of readers who have more than just a casual interest in solar power. It is largely concentrated…

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