I happened to live in France back in 2002, and during my year there I noticed a pretty significant gap between sustainability as practiced in Europe in the US. In Europe, I was working with large public companies who were already integrating the implications of global warming and sustainbility into their businesses. In the US…
Tag Archives: Energy
Showering is one of the major uses of domestic water. Showering is responsible for roughly 18% of indoor water use. But with a new kind of shower system invented in Australia, showering could, according to the manufacturer, use 4 times less water and save up to 87% of the energy used in typical showering. Australia…
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…
<img src="/files/111/warmboard.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="194" align="top" />
Radiant heating is a popular option in green buildings. Many green buildings feature it because it is a more efficient, and more comfortable, method of heating. If a building doesn't require air conditioning, it may be possible to eliminate ductwork altogether, or at least use a much smaller system that is sized for air conditioning. And even in buildings where air handling is still necessary, the systems that push the air around can be run less frequently because they are needed only to provide fresh air, and don't need to take care of the heating as well. Radiant heating systems don't cause the air to be dried out in the same manner that heated forced-air systems tend to do. Most of all, radiant heating is comfortable because it is warmest at floor level and slightly cooler at higher levels, matching the human desire for warmth for the feet, and less for the head.
A recent <a href="http://jetsongreen.typepad.com/jetson_green/2007/09/solar-decathlon.html">blog post by Jetson Green about the National Solar Decathalon</a> reminded me of an intriguing product that can be used for in-floor radiant heat systems. Warmboard is a specialty subflooring for use in radiant-heated buildings that doesn't require a concrete slab to embed the radiant tubing. This makes it especially useful for multi-story buildings where a concrete slab floor may be less desirable. Warmboard is much lighter than a corresponding concrete slab, meaning that less structural material is needed to support the floor. It also does not need curing time, unlike a concrete slab, which is another factor that makes it appealing for use with modular and pre-fab construction. <br />
<a href="http://www.warmboard.com/">Warmboard</a> is a plywood material that is slightly thicker than typical subflooring plywood. It has regular channels cut into it that the radiant heating system tubing can be laid into. On top of this, an aluminum plate is formed to the surface, providing a transfer surface to uniformly distribute the heat from the tubing across the floor.</p>
Construction, as many of you know by now, is one of the biggest single sources for waste and may be responsible for as much as 30% of the volume used in some landfills. And, because commercial space is turned over more frequently, the interior build-out of office space is one of the biggest sources of construction debris and waste. As companies change their staff, the space they occupy fluctuates, and often old spaces are torn out and new spaces built with different configurations.
Since the spaces in an office are not part of the structure (in most cases), the walls that divide offices and meeting rooms can be relatively quickly disassembled and rebuilt in a new configuration without affecting the building structure. This flexibility appeals to building owners and tenants alike, because space can be easily customized to meet the particular needs of any tenant. But it leads to an awful lot of waste, as well.
A new system of wall construction devised by Sean Dorsy, a graduate architecture student at The Catholic University of America, uses standard 4 x 8 sheets of plywood cut with slots so that the panel can be unfolded like an accordion to make a wall structure to replace standard stud construction.
An article on the ABC News website with the provocative title "Going Green: Fad or the Future?" suggests that while right now "green is the new black," the long term-prospects for the green movement are less certain to remain as strong and as much a part of public awareness as they currently are.
But are Americans experiencing "green fatigue"? The ratings for Live Earth, which was billed as a must-see event, were dismal. The American broadcast drew just 2.7 million viewers, making it the least-watched U.S. program on Saturday night. Despite its undeniable entrenchment in pop culture and media, some experts say that the current incarnation of the green movement is just another "We Are the World" moment that consumers and businesses won’t be able to sustain over the long term.
Of course, this perspective is coming from a media outlet (ABC News) for whom the number of viewers are the most significant measure of importance. But that may not be a reliable indicator of how influential the green movement is. There is a wide gulf between public enthusiasm for a green-oriented rally like Live Earth, and public participation in actual green practice in their daily lives. Small steps, in many cases, but a lot of people have started taking at least a few steps to green their lives.
My perspective lies with the building and construction industry. I see increasing numbers of ads and new product announcements from hundreds of manufacturers. I can’t begin to count the number of trade magazine editorials I’ve seen that begin along the lines of this one: "These days, it seems everyone is jumping on the "green" bandwagon — including many companies in [your industry here]." Green awareness has permeated the building industry from top to bottom. And, while not every new building is a new model of sustainability, green building practice is here to stay.
<img src="http://www.fcnl.org/images/building/building_lg1.jpg" alt="FCNL" width="333" height="222" align="right" />Although there is a growing push for incresing sustainability for buildings, our nation's capital is lagging behind other cities when it comes to green buildings. Though there are over <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/LEED/Project/CertifiedProjectList.aspx?CMSPageID=244&CategoryID=19&">600 LEED certified buildings nationwide</a>, only 6 of them are in Washington DC.
The <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/index.htm">Friends Committee on National Legislation</a> is a Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC. Their building is the first "green" building on Capitol Hill. The building received <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/press/releases/green_building071307.htm">bipartisan congressional recognition</a> at an event last week. They are anticipating LEED certification (which normally takes a few months after the building is substantially completed), and the building has already received other accolades, including the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarding a presidential Citation for Sustainable Design.
<p><img src="/files/images/sol.jpg" border="0" alt="Advanced Glazings, Ltd." width="279" height="186" /><strong>solera : </strong>Image Credit: Advanced Glazings, Ltd.Lighting for buildings is a major part of their energy use. Increasingly, green building design is recognizing the importance of providing natural daylight as a means of lighting the building and reducing energy use. Not only does natural daylight reduce the building's energy use, but it also increases comfort for the people in the building. The LEED system includes credit for providing at least 75% of the spaces in the building with natural lighting and views, and the credit is increased if 90% of the spaces are naturally lit.<br /><br />Windows are good for providing views to the exterior. Skylights can be used to bring in more daylight, but they are not without issues. The problem with skylights is that they tend to create glare. The high contrast between areas where the daylight is streaming through the windows and other parts of the space that are not directly lit is visually (and sometimes even literally) uncomfortable. There's either too much light or too little. Diffuse light is more even and comfortable, and avoids areas of deep shadow and sharp glare. This is why so many older buildings had north oriented skylights or clerestory windows (or south-oriented in the southern hemisphere), and why those spaces were so well thought of as artists' spaces and galleries. The <a href="http://www.advancedglazings.com/ldp/index.php">light quality is much better</a> when it is from an indirect source.<br /><br />Most diffuser options do little to spread the light around. Typical etched or frosted glass has little effect. The light patterns are a little bit softer edged from frosted glass than they are from clear glass, but when it is directly lit, it is little better than clear glass. Advanced Glazings, Ltd. offers much better performance for incorporating daylighting into buildings with a line of insulated glazing called <a href="http://www.advancedglazings.com/index.html">Solera</a>. Architects have known of <a href="http://www.kalwall.com/windows.htm">Kalwall</a>, another company that has been making translucent panels for many years. Kalwall is a panel of polyester and fiberglass that offers translucency and some insulation.</p>
<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, "'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," and goes on to declare, "'Green building' is an oxymoron." <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>
Photo Credit: Living Homes (via Inhabitat) Bob Ellenberg wrote a good, thought-provoking (and discussion-starting) article at Inhabitat titled 'Prefab Construction: Green or Greenwashing?' and drew comments from Preston Koerner (of Jetson Green) and Lloyd Alter (an architecture writer at Treehugger with whom I had some inter-blog discussion over the past couple of weeks regarding foundations, but more importantly also an entrepreneur in prefab construction with direct experience in the process).
Prefab is a popular concept in green design circles and shows up regularly on a number of blogs. A few of the more prominent examples include: Inhabitat (Pre-Fab Friday); Jetson Green; Treehugger; BldgBlog; MoCo Loco; and even a website devoted to prefabs: FabPrefab. But it's a valid question that is being asked. How "green" is prefab building, and should it be embraced by those who want a greener building? Bob sums his article up this way: "I want to honestly question what is and what isn't 'green' about prefabrication and encourage others to do the same."
Prefab construction can be very green. The LivingHomes prefab illustrating this article is a LEED Platinum building. But, there are very few examples of prefabs that have LEED certificaion. And not every prefab qualifies even as a LEED certified building, let alone a Platinum one.
The Genzyme Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts is in rare company.
<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>
<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>