Browsing the "Uncategorized" Category

U.S. Wood Design Awards

September 18th, 2014 | by Glenn Meyers

This call for wood design nominations is for all lovers of wood! The due date is fast approaching (September 30 [&hellip

How Green Is Renewable Energy?

July 1st, 2014 | by Dawn Killough

Thanks to ClimateWire for their interesting article on research into the environmental impact of manufacturing the equipment used to create [&hellip

Guest Post: Tokyo Off Nuclear Energy Grid

June 7th, 2012 | by GBE FACTS

As a result of this problem, Japan’s trade minister, Yukio Edano, would like to bring back online two of the nuclear reactors currently offline. In order to resume operations of these facilities, however, he would need to receive the support of both the governor and mayor of the region, who both have expressed concerns regarding the safety of doing so

Green and Super-Sized?

October 8th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Can a 10,000 square foot house really be green? Is a hybrid GMC Yukon SUV an oxymoron? At what point does the alleged greenness of something go from truly being green to mere greenwashing?

The environmental bandwagon is getting crowded as more and more people recognize the benefits and importance of going green. Sometimes it is out of a genuine sense of commitment to green principles. But sometimes it is just marketing.

Green houses are one area where this is becoming an issue. Houses which many people would consider oversized behemoths are being touted for their supposed greenness. In a recent article, Jetson Green pointed out the absurdity of a 9,800 square foot house in Larkspur, Colorado being called a "green" building. A couple of weeks ago, when I attended a GM-sponsored event (along with David Anderson), I test-drove a 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid. How truly green are these?

Green Building Elements: Brick

October 3rd, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Brick may not be the first thing that springs to mind when we talk about green building. But there are qualities that bricks posess that make them worth considering as a green building material.

For starters, let's take a look at the materials that go into brick: clay and water. That's it. No complex chemicals, no exotic compounds, no imported components. At the end of its life, a brick is effectively just a manufactured clay stone with a special shape. It breaks down into earth since it comes from earth. Clay mining is comparatively benign, compared to ore mining for metals, which requires far more material to be extracted and processed to produce the finished product. Clay is not a resource that is in short supply, which makes it a more attractive material to use, as well.

The main reason brick isn't an even greener building material is that it takes a lot of energy to make a brick. However, the extra energy is relative. An Australian government website comparing wood siding to brick veneer shows that exterior walls with the same backing construction with brick have about three times as much embodied energy per unit of wall area. (A timber board clad wall takes 188 MJ per square meter; brick veneer requires 561 MJ per square meter.) The tradeoff is in durability and maintenance. Brick is much lower maintenance than other materials. Most brick will last for generations with only some minor tuckpointing to repair joints.

Reasonable Rules for Eating Locally

September 26th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

A local friend of mine recently tried out the Consumer Consequences game from American Public Media. (Shirley Siluk Gregory offered a review of the game here last week, as well.) It is essentially another version of a set of questions that help model the now familiar question, "How many Earths would we need so that everyone could live the way you do?" My friend was a bit shocked to find that her lifestyle would require almost 3 Earths.

When she wrote about this in her own blog, she wrote, in part, "The eye-opening part is that our biggest contributor to non-sustainability is our family's food habits. More reason to work on 1) eating more fruits and vegetables, and 2) eating locally." That triggered a discussion about local food and food miles, and this is an expansion on my thoughts in that discussion.

There are many variables in food production and transportation, so there may be some foods that ship effectively. But when Michael Pollan, in The Omnivore's Dilemma, points out that there are 10 calories of energy going into the production and transportation of every calorie of food we eat, it's clear that the system is pretty inefficient. (There, too, it's an average figure.)

There was an article in TreeHugger several months ago that was looking at whether it was better to get your bottled water shipped from the South Pacific or trucked from France (to the UK... it was a UK article). In terms of fuel consumed per pound of material delivered, the more local option was less efficient, because sea freight is an efficient method of transportation. (The absurdity of bottled water is its own issue, but that was the example the article was using.)

But when you are eating California produce in Michigan, you aren't getting that brought here by ship; it's being trucked. Even McDonalds' beef from South American ranches may be shipped to American shores, but if you're eating it in Michigan, it rode several hundred miles, in addition to those thousands of sea miles, to get to you

Global Green's Holy Cross Development in New Orleans

August 29th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Two years ago Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and brought enormous devestation to the city and the region. Since then, numerous agencies and programs have been working on projects to rebuild and revitalize this region. An architect and online friend of mine wrote an excellent article about the recently publicized pictures for Global Green's proposed Holy Cross development for the redevelopment of New Orleans.

This guest post is by Sarah Nagy. Sarah is in a position to be a much better critic of proposed New Orleans construction because she, too, lives in a hurricane-prone region (the Florida panhandle), and is directly acquainted with appropriate design for a Gulf Coast environment. I think her analysis offers an excellent review of this project, balancing the applause for what she calls 'Sleek Contemporary Prefab Housing Solutions' with some pointed criticisms of some of the apparent problems in the design.

The complete essay can be found on Sarah's blog, Front Step Design.

[Disclaimer: As critical as this post will be, I want to applaud the folks involved with this project for their initial feelings of goodwill, their obvious effort, and all the good green decisions that lie under the aesthetics.]

To look at the images of these houses, Holy Cross is clearly located on the rural prairies of Southern Louisiana. Each of these houses will survey 20 acres. But enough sarcasm. The situation, to anyone who has been there, looks more like the pictures below (from The Urban Conservancy).

Weekly DIY: Build a Bathouse

August 1st, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Bats are wonderful creatures, though they are often misunderstood. Bats are especially good at helping to control insects. Some bats eat as many as 500 to 1000 insects in a single hour. So having a few flitting around can be a wonderful way to reduce the nuisance of insects in your yard without resorting to chemicals and poisons.

To encourage bats to settle near your house and bring their insect devouring prowess to work for you, a bat house is a relatively easy project that provides a place for the bats to nest. In order to be attractive to bats, a bat house needs to be narrow. In the wild, bats like the spaces between bark and a tree trunk. So a space that is narrow and dark is ideal.

Carla Brown from the National Wildlife Federation has put together her own, very well illustrated, step-by-step process for building a bat house for her home. So, rather than repeating what she has already done, I'm just going to point you to her project page for the step by step details.

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