Book Review: Solar Power in Building Design

Solar Power in Building Design by Peter Gevorkian is subtitled “The Engineer’s Complete Design Resource,” and it is certainly an apt description of this extensive volume. The book goes far beyond what a casual reader interested in solar power would need to know, but there is a wealth of good information inside, and it is likely to be useful for a wide range of readers who have more than just a casual interest in solar power. It is largely concentrated…

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Very Efficient Clothes Washers

Since its inception in 1992, the ENERGY STAR program, a joint program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, has sought to protect the environment by promoting energy efficiency. Starting with personal computers and monitors, ENERGY STAR established energy usage guidelines that set the bar for energy conservation. Over the years the ENERGY STAR program has brought just about anything that uses energy or water under its umbrella, saving an estimated $14 billion in energy…

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Green Building Efforts in Alaska

The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for being progressive when it comes to green building, with Washington and Oregon setting the pace. But where does Alaska fit into the picture, and how do its green building efforts measure up? With regard to the LEED program, Washington and Oregon each have certified or registered projects numbering in the hundreds. By comparison, Alaska has only three LEED certified buildings (A National Weather Service facility, a visitor’s center at Denali Park, and the…

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Moving Beyond LEED

The Cascadia Region Green Building Council (covering Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia) is already attempting to push beyond the LEED envelope by issuing its Living Building Challenge. This challenge sets a new standard for what it means to be green. Its icon is a vibrant orange flower, meant to suggest elegance and efficiency; the flower, like a pie graph, is broken into parts, or petals. The 6 petals correspond to performance measures in the built environment: Site Materials Energy Indoor…

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555 Mission and the Green memo

From time to time we hear talk about builders and developers saying that they can’t or won’t build Green because of “initial first cost” and Green buildings being “more expensive” to build (incorrect) but we’re glad to see what going on with 555 Mission Street. Apparently there were many Green naysayers in the Tishman-Speyer company saying that they couldn’t build 555 Green because of the costs and time constraints. A little green sparrow also chirped that the head of Tishman-Speyer…

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LEED-EB Silver for World's Largest Commercial Building

The Merchandise Mart in Chicago is the largest commercial building and second only to the Pentagon as the largest building. So getting such a large building into the LEED program was a great step for promoting green buildings. In November, the Merchandise Mart received its certification as a LEED-EB Silver building. That’s a whole lot of square footage (4.2 million square feet) to be part of the LEED-EB program.

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Sustainable Architecture Benefits Chicago’s Underprivileged

This is the first of our Guest Posts through the Green Options network. Jason Phillip is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. He writes about the “green scene” in the Windy City for Sustainablog. The urban fabric of Chicago is getting greener every year. Since 1989, more than 500,000 trees have been planted, more than 80 miles of landscaped medians constructed, and 2 million square feet of green roofs built or negotiated—more than all other American cities combined.…

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Buy Locally, Build Locally

Use of local materials can be a good way to help make a construction project greener. If the materials being used don’t need to be transported from great distances, there is less embodied energy in the transportation of the materials, and thereby the production of those materials has less environmental impact. Of course, there are trade-offs, as this is only one factor in the overall evaluation. Does it make more sense to use a locally produced material if the manufacture…

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Green Building: The Advantages of Dark Skies


While most of the focus in sustainable building is on energy efficiency, water conservation, and the efficient use of appropriate materials, preserving dark skies is a feature that may not immediately come to mind. But the LEED rating system includes a credit (Sustainable Sites: Light Pollution Reduction) for minimizing light pollution. So why are dark skies an element of green building?

Perhaps the most vocal advocates for dark skies are astronomers, both professionals as well as amateurs. The Bortle Dark-Sky Scale was created by astronomers to evaluate the quality of a dark nighttime sky.

Dark nighttime skies are needed by birds for navigation. Animals (and humans, too) are adapted to the day-night cycle. There have been reports of robins in urban areas that have stopped singing at daybreak because the city never becomes dark enough for the birds to perceive that it has become night.

Of course, part of the issue is the use of appropriately sized and placed lights on a building site to illuminate only the portions of a site that needs to be lit. By reducing the size or number of fixtures, in addition to helping to maintain a dark nighttime sky, a building owner will also pay for fewer fixtures, and will pay less for the electricity to operate those fixtures.

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LEED Gold Costs an Extra… Nothing

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<img src="/files/111/sg3a.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="158" align="right" />Advocates of green building, and specifically of the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) <a href="/2007/01/03/concrete_jungle_getting_greener">LEED program</a>, have maintained that green building does not have to mean extra cost. An exceptional case for this argument is found in a recently completed multi-purpose university building. The less-than-poetically named <a href="http://www.shadygrove.umd.edu/about/SGIII/">Education Building III</a> (SG III) at the University of Maryland's Shady Grove campus was built with the intent of attaining LEED Silver certification and ended up being certified as LEED Gold, but <a href="http://www.edcmag.com/CDA/Articles/Web_Exclusive/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000092336">without an increase in the budget</a>.<br />
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The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a collaborative effort by eight institutions in the University System of Maryland, begun in 2000. Due to its popularity and convenience, the demand for classes and services at the Shady Grove location grew quickly and necessitated the construction of a new, multi-purpose building with classrooms and services.</p>

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Green Building Tour: FCNL Building

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<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&amp;CategoryID=19&amp;">600 LEED certified buildings nationwide</a>, only 6 of them are in Washington DC.
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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 &quot;green&quot; 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.
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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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