Oil Drilling Rigs Going for LEED Certification

ExxonMobil announced today that they will be pursuing LEED certification for a number of their offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The LEED program already recognizes the importance of having buildings that produce their own energy. Photovoltaic panels are a big hit on those gold and platinum buildings, and at ExxonMobil we're all about the gold and platinum," said company representative Paul Myfinger. "Look at how much energy our rigs produce compared to what they use, it's obvious that they're super efficient!"

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Zero Waste

In nature, there is no waste. Or, perhaps a bit more accurately, "waste" from any source becomes the feed for another. Everything is a raw material for some other process or system. Sometimes the changes are minor, as with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in respiration, while at other times they are hugely transformative, such as the use of soil to grow into a structure like a tree.

We're glad to find opportunities to increase efficiency in systems, as a method of waste reduction. Capturing energy is an easy way of improving efficiency and reducing waste. Co-generation systems get double use by generating both electricity and heat, the heat being a waste product of the electrical generation system.

A wide range of companies are pushing to reduce their waste, and "zero waste" is a concept that is being discussed in more and more boardrooms. A recent article in the Boston Globe discusses how this idea is spreading.

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Green Drinks: SE Michigan

The third Wednesday of the month is the regular meeting time for Green Drinks in southeast Michigan at Leopold Bros. in Ann Arbor. This was actually the second Green Drinks of the month, because a special Green Drinks Pub Crawl was organized in conjunction with the Remodel Green Conference last Friday.

The Michigan Green Drinks combines with the o2 Network because the membership of the two groups has so much overlap. This month's Green Drinks had about 15 people atttending over the course of the evening. There is not a set program for the evening. Rather, it is just an opportunity to meet like-minded people.

Discussions (that I was part of or was able to overhear) included industrial ergonomics, supply chains and materials for the auto industry (there have been a number of current and former designers from the auto industry who have attended these events), and a like-minded local group called Junto that is modeled on an intellectual discussion group founded by Benjamin Franklin.

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Green Building Tour: CH2 Melbourne

City of MelbourneImage credit: City of MelbourneThe 10 story Council House 2 (CH2) building in Melbourne is very likely Australia's Greenest Building. It is the first building in the country to receive six stars in the Green Building Council of Australia rating system.

The building is wrapped with photocell-controlled louvers made of recycled wood which help to temper the interior environment by controlling solar gain. Prominent shower towers are used as part of the cooling system for the building, and a set of large wind turbines on top of the building help to exhaust stale air out of the building. In addition to the visually striking aspects of the building, it also contains a host of features inside that contribute to the building serving as an exemplar of sustainable design.

The building is 12,500 square meters (134,500 square feet) and serves as an office building for 540 City of Melbourne staff, plus ground floor retail space. However, the underground parking includes only 20 parking spaces, but 80 bike spaces are provided (and 9 showers for cyclists are also part of the building's amenitites).

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Climate Challenge Game

Modeling and simulation are good tools to use to understand a problem. They let you try out multiple approaches and different possible solutions to see what the results may be. Games can be an appealing way of presenting simulations. Complex ideas can be presented in a context that illuminates the difficulties of the situation. We learn by trying out different options. Multiple, interrelated factors can be more readily presented in an interactive fashion than in a dry recitation. Playing a game can be educational because we are more engaged with understanding what is going on (in the course of trying to figure out how to win) than we are when we are simply reading or hearing about something.

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Insulation Choices

Bonded LogicPhoto Credit: Bonded LogicThere are many, many different options available for insulating a building. Whether for new construction or for an addition, there are many manufacturers and different products which all are meant to accomplish essentially the same thing: controlling the temperature inside the building. Without getting into alternate construction methods, consider some options for insulation in standard frame construction.

Insulation is generally material inserted in the spaces between framing (wall studs). It's purpose is to slow down the process of heat transfer. Creating a lot of little airspaces between the fibers of the insulating material, and using a material that is, itself, a poor conductor of heat makes a wall that retains heat, rather than allowing it to be lost to the outside.

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Meet Your Fellow Greens

Do you feel like no one else in your community is interested in a greener lifestyle? Are you interested in meeting other like-minded, green-oriented people in your area? There are opportunities to make new connections and meet others in your community who are similarly inclined towards green living.

Green Drinks is an international program for people from NGOs, academia, government and business. "These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It's a force for the good and we'd like to help it spread to other cities."

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Using Snow & Ice for Energy Analysis

zeneraPhoto Credit: zenera
Icicles on the eaves and snow on the roof are more than just an ornament of wintertime. They can also be instructive signs that you can use to get a sense of the way your house is using energy and a way to tell whether or not there are problems that you should address to improve your energy efficiency and perhaps even to preserve your roof structure.

With the recent snow that much of the midwest and northeast US has had in the past week, now can be a good time to take a look at your roof to see how well your house is doing in terms of energy performance. An article from Home Energy Magazine gives a good set of guidelines about reading the snow on your roof to see how well your attic insulation is working.

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Getting Local Food

Brines.orgPhoto credit: Brines.org
There is a huge variety of food available throughout the year in grocery stores in the US. In most places, this is due to several factors: far distant farms situated in temperate climate regions; varieties of plants that have been bred to produce food that will ripen slowly and be hardy enough to withstand the rigors of packaging and shipping; and a transportation infrastructure that brings them to our stores. Unless you live in a southern state, much of the produce in your local stores right now is being shipped from far away.

All that shipping has an associated cost (financial cost as well as energy use and carbon release). Locally grown food has many adherents. There are hundreds of farms operating as community supported agriculture (CSA), where people buy memberships in the farm and receive a share of produce (usually on a weekly basis). CSA farms are wonderful for getting food locally, but they are usually tied to the local growing season, meaning that they don't have produce during the winter. But other options can allow even more extension of the growing season.

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Life Cycle Costs

One of the biggest concerns about changing to a green lifestyle is, of course, financial. How much does it cost to switch to a green lifestyle?

There is a perception that all of this must be very expensive, and that only altruists and tree-huggers can afford to live this kind of lifestyle. But a green lifestyle needs to be sustainable in all ways.

Something that is more expensive than its alternative will usually cost less in the long run. This is what makes evaluation of green products and green building materials so difficult. But looking at the life-cycle cost (the cost not just of purchasing the item, but also its operation and maintenance over its useful life) can show that the overall cost of the green option is usually lower.

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