March 22nd, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
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.
March 21st, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Image 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).
March 19th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FGreen-Remodeling-Changing-World-Room%2Fdp%2F0865714983%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1174317245%26sr%3D8-2&tag=greeopti-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&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&l=ur2&o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" /> and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FBuilding-Green-Black-White-World%2Fdp%2F0867185074%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1174317593%26sr%3D8-1&tag=greeopti-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325">Building Green in a Black and White World</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=greeopti-20&l=ur2&o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" />)who spoke about climate issues and about why building greener buildings matters. Johnston prefers the term "Global Climate Change" to "Global Warming" because the effects will be more complex and catastrophic than mere warming. "Global Warming" 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>
March 14th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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" anymore.</p>
March 14th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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>
March 12th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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>
March 7th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
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
March 5th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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 "earth sheltered" 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 "growth media" engineered soil that sustains the plants.</p>
February 28th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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>
February 26th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Photo 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.
February 26th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Photo Credit: Heat-Kit.com
Heating your house with firewood is completely retro. I mean, cutting up trees and burning them, that's just so old fashioned and inefficient, and not green at all.
What do you mean, wood burning can be green?
In fact, masonry heaters (which are also sometimes called "Finnish heaters" or "Russian heaters") can be a green source for heating a home. While a traditional fireplace may be only 10% efficient (which is to say not!), a masonry heater can be 90% efficient. A well insulated house (even in a cold, Canadian location) can be heated on a single cord of wood per season. In a sense, a masonry heater is to a traditional fireplace what a compact fluorescent (or, even better, and LED light) is to an incandescent bulb.
February 21st, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
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."
February 19th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<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>
February 15th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Photo 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
February 14th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Photo 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.
February 12th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
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.
February 7th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Heliotube: Photo source: Practical InstrumentsSilicon solar cells are a pretty established technology. The panels have become more or less standardized to a regular form factor so that installers can use the same mounting hardware regardless of whose panels are being used. Big corporations like Wal-Mart and Google are readying large installations of panels that will produce enough electricity to rival a small power plant. Manufacturers are developing the technology, and new models of solar panels regularly outperform their older cousins by squeezing out a few more watts per square foot.
The silicon portion is still the most expensive portion of the photovoltaic (PV) solar panel, however. So a new solar panel that uses 88% less PV material than traditional panels could help cut the cost of going solar.
February 5th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Co-generation is a systems approach for producing poth power and heat. Combined heat-and-power (CHP) plants produce electrical power, and use the heat from that production to also provide heat to local buildings (often through underground steam or hot-water piping systems). These systems have been most often found at hospitals and universities, where a large number of buildings can be efficiently served by a combined facility such as this. But new systems are bringing this same technology into the home.
Micro-CHP units are new to the US, with the first installations just beginning in the northeast. The technology for these units is not brand new, however. There are more than 30,000 homes with these units installed in Japan, where the gas utilities have been promoting them. In Britain, 80,000 under-counter micro-CHP systems are on their way and will be installed in the coming years.