Is Green Building an Oxymoron?

<p><a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f"><img src="/files/images/greenenvy_0.jpg" border="0" alt="San Francisco Chronicle" width="200" height="200" /></a>Image credit: <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em>An opinion article by Jane Powell in the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em> titled '<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/13/CMGA7PCMDH1.DTL">Green Envy</a>' begins by saying, &quot;'Green building' is the feel-good trend of the moment. Cities stipulate it, builders market it and home buyers supposedly demand it. Who could be against it? It's the panacea that will combat global warming, prevent sprawl, revitalize our downtowns, contribute to the region's economic growth and keep California on the leading edge,&quot; and goes on to declare, &quot;'Green building' is an oxymoron.&quot; <br /><br />I have a different opinion about green building. I spent all day yesterday attending a USGBC Technical Training Seminar, in order to become a LEED-accredited professional. To dismiss all green building as an oxymoron overlooks much of the good that is involved. Green building is not an oxymoron. Green building is taking steps for real change, improving the performance of buildings, and establishing methods for construction of buildings that will improve the spaces where we spend as much as 90% of our lives.</p>

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FSC Printing

You are most likely already aware of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and know that FSC certified lumber is preferred for use in green construction because it is sustainably managed and harvested. It also has a chain of custody reporting system that ensures that everyone in the processing chain is following the correct procedures with their materials sourcing and their handling of the material. However, construction is not the only place where you will find FSC certified products.

The printing industry is another huge user of wood and forest products. And, as with construction uses, FSC is heavily involved in promoting sustainable practices for printing and paper-making uses. In order to use the FSC trademark on a product, the producer must be a member of FSC. Every step of the way, from the management of the forest and the cutting of the trees, through the pulping of the wood and the manufacture of the paper must meet FSC guidelines, and the product produced carries a certificate that has been independently verified by a third-party source. For a printer to use the FSC trademark on a catalog, for example, they need to be certified themselves as FSC chain-of-custody certificate holders.

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Weekend Web Review: The Ramsay Home Project

Some blogs start out from a small beginning premise and expand their scope and scale as they go on. Early posts on The Ramsay Home Project were just progress photos documenting the construction of a new home for a young, newlywed couple who wanted to build "an eco-friendly nest in the heart of Canada's oil capital: Calgary, Alberta."

But it appears that their interests grew, and as part of their investigation of greener living, the blog began to include articles about green news and topics of interest. It has grown to include links to a couple dozen other green websites and blogs (some of which are familiar, others may not be), and resources on elements of green construction.

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Green Building Tour: Center for Neighborhood Technology

<p><img src="/files/images/CNTa-4_0.jpg" border="0" alt="Center for Neighborhood Technology" width="233" height="231" />Photo Credit: Center for Neighborhood TechnologyThis installment of the Green Building Tour brings us to another LEED Platinum building, and the second LEED Platinum building in Chicago. Not only is this project an excellent example of sustainable building design, but the mission that it serves, with the <a href="http://www.cnt.org">Center for Neighborhood Technology</a>, is also a very green- oriented endeavor.<br /><br />&quot;Since 1978, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) has worked to show urban communities locally and all across the country how to develop more sustainably. With smarts, creativity and innovation, and before the term sustainable development was even widely used, CNT has been demonstrating its unique brand of sustainable development: development that is good for the economy and the environment; makes better use of existing resources and community assets; and improves the health of natural systems and the wealth of people—today and in the future.&quot;</p>

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Green Building Elements: Open Building

<p><img src="/files/images/structwall_0.jpg" width="280" height="221" alt="Digital Be-In" /> <br />The strategy of &quot;open building&quot; can be traced back to European and Japanese roots. While it has been widely adopted in those parts of the world, it is only relatively recently beginning to see any use in North America. However, an increased interest in pre-fabricated construction is helping to expand awareness of this approach to building.</p><p>The principle is to maintain a separation between the different aspects of the building in order to be able to make repairs and do upgrades with a minimum of interference with other elements of the building. Open building stipulates separate zones or chases for different functions and services. This will, for example, make it easier to change plumbing systems without needing to repair other systems that cross or interfere with access to the necessary parts of the plumbing system.</p>

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How to Find a Green Builder — Part 2

<p><img src="/files/images/greenbuilder_0.png" border="0" width="235" height="170" /><em>Editor's note: In <a href="/blog/2007/04/25/how_to_find_a_green_builder_part_1">Part 1 of &quot;How to Find a Green Builder,&quot;</a> Philip addressed some of the general concepts underlying green homebuilding; today, he discussses specific guidelines for green homes, and the professionals that can implement those ideas.</em> </p><p>Looking for a builder may not be the best first step, either. Working with an architect, rather than having a builder try to &quot;green up&quot; an existing plan that they have built before, may lead to a much more satisfying project in the end. Builders may believe that they can add some green features to their existing product line, but I think much better results are had when a client works with both their architect and their builder in order to create a green building as a team. </p><p>Architects are perhaps better situated to offer their clients advice about the variety of options they are considering without trying to sell them something. There are also issues such as passive solar design that require a much broader approach, like an architect offers, than what most builders can offer. Much of green building already incorporates &quot;not doing more work but doing more thoughtful work.&quot; Working with an architect engages that thoughtful planning process, and leads to better and more fully considered plans and better homes. </p>

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Weekly DIY: Copper Garden Trellis

<p><img src="/files/images/rosetrellis_0.png" border="0" width="198" height="198" />A few years ago, when we started getting our garden together my wife wanted to have a trellis for some roses to climb on. We looked at various options. There are pre-built or kit trellises, but those are expensive. We could build one with wood, but it would need to be treated with preservatives (nasty chemicals) and would need maintenance. We ended up deciding to build one using simple copper pipe.</p>

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Insulated Concrete Forms

<img src="/files/images/ICF.png" border="0" alt="Insulock" width="239" height="178" />Photo Credit: InsulockInsulated concrete forms (ICFs) are an alternative method for building concrete walls. They are most typically used for foundation (basement) walls, but can be used in some other applications as well. Of course, they offer green benefits. <br /><br />The most obvious improvement offered by using ICFs is the addition of insulation. Concrete has a very low <a href="http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11340">R-value</a> (an 8&quot; thick concrete basement wall would typically have an R-value of approximately 0.75; even less than a single-glazed window with an average R-value of 1.0). So concrete walls offer very poor thermal performance. Even in the summertime, a concrete basement wall will be cool to the touch, because of this. Adding even a small amount of insulation to the concrete wall makes it better, and ICFs provide a good way of getting an insulated concrete wall.

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Remodel Green Midwest

<p><img src="/files/images/x.gif" width="272" height="189" alt="The BioDaversity Code" />This past Friday, I attended the <a href="http://remodelgreen.org">Remodel Green</a> Expo and Conference in Plymouth, Michigan. This was a one-day conference largely coordinated through the local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). There were two rooms of exhibits by manufacturers and suppliers for products ranging from architectural salvage and materials, to home power generation systems, to lighting and plumbing manufacturers, all emphasizing green solutions for building and remodeling. <br /><br />The keynote address was by David Johnston, a former remodeling contractor, who is now a consultant and author (<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FGreen-Remodeling-Changing-World-Room%2Fdp%2F0865714983%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1174317245%26sr%3D8-2&amp;tag=greeopti-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325">Green Remodeling : Changing the World One Room at a Time</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=greeopti-20&amp;l=ur2&amp;o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" /> and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FBuilding-Green-Black-White-World%2Fdp%2F0867185074%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1174317593%26sr%3D8-1&amp;tag=greeopti-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325">Building Green in a Black and White World</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=greeopti-20&amp;l=ur2&amp;o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" />)who spoke about climate issues and about why building greener buildings matters. Johnston prefers the term &quot;Global Climate Change&quot; to &quot;Global Warming&quot; because the effects will be more complex and catastrophic than mere warming. &quot;Global Warming&quot; will actually make for a colder Europe, with the Gulf Stream diverted further south by a gradually warming polar cap. In addition to talking about why greener buildings are important, he also spoke extensively about how to make better, greener buildings. </p><p></p>

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Green Labels

<p><img src="/files/images/veg.jpg" border="0" width="240" height="160" />Does a building need to be LEED certified in order to be green? Can produce be good even if it isn't labeled organic? I've come across a couple articles recently that ask some questions about the labels people use to try to promote their products, and the value those terms offer. </p><p>There are costs (sometimes very high costs) for participating in these programs. These costs can be prohibitive for small-scale businesses, which, ironically, are often the ones most interested in pursuing a greener way in order to distinguish themselves from their larger competitors.<br /><br />'Organic' has become a regulated term. In 2002, the USDA set guidelines for using the term. A farm earning more than $5,000 per year is required to complete extensive paperwork and pay certification fees if they want to advertise their produce as being 'Certified Organic.' And there are questions about the value of the term 'Organic&quot; anymore.</p>

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Weekly DIY: Cold Frame

<p><img src="/files/images/coldframe-b.png" border="0" width="230" height="217" />This weekend we got the first tantalizing taste of spring as the weather was clear and bright and temperatures rose well above freezing for the first time in months. Snow melted (though not entirely yet), and started the <a href="/blog/2007/03/13/lets_talk_about_it_sustainable_gardening_tips">thoughts of summer gardens</a> in mind. But nighttime temperatures are still falling below freezing, and it's far too early to put plants in the ground, unless you provide a little assistance.<br /><br />If your garden has a spot with good access to the sun throughout the day, you can use a cold frame to start your plants earlier in the year than you would otherwise. A cold frame is a very simple item. It is really just a small greenhouse. Daytime sun will warm the air and the ground inside, making it easier for plants to start growing. Nighttime temperatures inside the cold frame may fall back close to outdoor ambient temperature, but the extra heat gained during the day and the wind protection the encosure provides will help keep the plants alive even if there is an overnight frost.<br /></p>

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Green Building Tour: Kelly-Woodford Home

<p><img src="/files/images/KWhouse1.jpg" width="234" height="200" alt=" GRID Alternatives" />The first LEED for houses (LEED-H) project in the Northwest to achieve a Silver rating was the 2,000 square foot Kelly-Woodford Home in Parkdale, Oregon. The house was built by the <a href="http://www.neilkelly.com/">Neil Kelly Company</a>, a Portland area builder. The company has been a leader in environmentally oriented construction for a number of years.</p>

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Green Building Tour: Green Building Surfaces

<p><img src="/files/images/Mur_vegetal_quai_branly.img_assist_custom.png" border="0" alt="Wikipedia" width="240" height="180" /><strong>Vegetated Wall at Quai Branly Museum: </strong>Photo Credit: WikipediaGreen roofs are possibly one of the more radical green features being introduced to many people through the green building movement. Although they have been well established in central Europe for decades, it is only relatively recently that the idea of a vegetated roof has been considered in North America.<br /><br />Contemporary vegetated roofs have little in common with old &quot;earth sheltered&quot; buildings of the 70s. A vegetated roof is an integrated system, with everything engineered for its performance in the system from the roof membranes which keep water from entering the building to the &quot;growth media&quot; engineered soil that sustains the plants.</p>

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Vancouver Adaptive Reuse

<p><img src="/files/images/koos1.jpg" border="0" alt="cmhc.ca" width="339" height="243" />Photo Credit: cmhc.ca<br />Adaptive reuse is the use of an existing structure for a new purpose; in short, it is recycling for buildings. Rather than demolishing an old structure to clear a site, the existing structure is rehabilitated and used for a new purpose. </p><p><a href="http://www.chestermangroup.com/koos/index.html">Koo's Corner</a> is a project in Vancouver that took an old automotive repair shop and turned it into six urban loft residences. The existing garage building was turned into two of the lofts, and another four units were built to fit the neighborhood context. Building in an existing neighborhood helps to increase urban density (which makes for more efficient use of existing city services) and makes use of available property rather than buldozing undeveloped land for construction.</p>

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Award Winning Chicago Green Building

<p><a href="/"><img src="/files/images/wolbrink-elev.img_assist_custom.jpg" border="0" alt=" Chicagoland Avenues " width="200" height="267" /></a><strong>2020 W Rice-Elevation: </strong>Photo Credit: Chicagoland Avenues Green building isn't a style, it's an approach. While there may be common features that appear in many green homes and buildings, there is not a single style that all green buildings follow.</p>

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Ibs symptoms

Get used to it...Editor's note: Philip Proefrock, another new writer at Green Options, will be covering the exciting world of green building and architecture for us. We're happy to welcome Philip on board!

At some point in this decade, human history reached a unique milestone. For the first time, more than half of the world's population (and more than 80% of that in the United States) now lives in cities. We are an increasingly urbanized species, and our buildings are a huge part of the impact we have on the environment.

In the United States, it has been noted that buildings are responsible for nearly half of all energy consumption. More than manufacturing or transportation, buildings have the greatest impact on energy use. Consequently, buildings offer the greatest opportunities for improving performance and reducing energy use.

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