Green Building News

Green Building News April 1999

May 5, 1999

Miscellaneous Energy Uses Skyrocket

Miscellaneous uses of electricity, including televisions, stereos, aquariums, computers and electric toothbrushes, now account for one-fifth of the use in the residential sector, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. They project that it will grow dramatically by 2010, unless policies are implemented to address the problem. Consumer electronics are expected to make up 40 percent of the increase with another 30 percent coming from halogen torchiere lamps. Even more astonishing, 20 percent of the miscellaneous energy is consumed by appliances that are turned "off" or not performing their principal function. These standby losses -- sometimes called "leaking electricity" -- mainly occur in consumer electronics. The analysis is contained in a report "Miscellaneous Electricity Use in the U.S. Residential Secto."

Grants Offered for Energy Research

The California Energy Commission is accepting proposals for their Energy Innovations Small Grant Program, which provides up to $75,000 to small businesses, small non-profits, individuals and academic institutions to conduct research that establishes the feasibility of new, innovative energy concepts. Research projects must target one of the six program areas, address a California market need and provide a potential benefit to California ratepayers. Program areas are: Industrial/Agriculture/Water End-use Efficiency, Building End-use Efficiency, Environmentally Preferred Advanced Generation, Renewable Generation, Energy-Related Environmental Research, and Strategic Energy Research. Four solicitations per year are planned and will run back to back, allowing grant applications to be submitted at any time during the year. Applications in the current cycle will be accepted until May 31, 1999.

Group Claims Northwest Salmon Not in Jeopardy

Hoping to stop restrictions on their activities, a coalition of builders, cattlemen and farmers has challenged recent salmon listing under the Endangered Species Act. Among other things the group -- called Common Sense Salmon Recovery -- says that salmon are not on the brink of extinction. In response Will Stelle, NMFS's Seattle-based Northwest regional administrator says "I've seen a lot of nutty lawsuits in my time, but this one may take the cake." Source: Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce

Design Opportunity on Whidbey Island

The Whidbey Institute is looking for design services for two projects. One project is guest lodging for up to 30 people. The other project is a Sanctuary space for gatherings of up to 40 people. Combining elements of a spiritual retreat, a conference center and an educational facility, the Whidbey Institute is dedicated to providing programs related to earth, spirit and the human future to help address society's most critical concerns. The Institute is located on Whidbey Island, one hour north of Seattle on 100 acres of evergreen forest. Central to the site is a turn of the century Finnish family homestead. This old farmhouse has been renovated with guest rooms and meeting space. Near the farmhouse, a new building housing a meeting hall, kitchen and dining hall was completed last year. This next year the Institute is planning to construct additional housing to bring the on-site housing up to 50 guests along with a Sanctuary space concurrent with the construction of the housing. The Institute is seeking interested firms to submit proposals for either or both of these projects. Proposals for both projects will be due on June 7, 1999. There will be a mandatory site visit on May 19. If you are interested in being considered for either the Housing project or the Sanctuary building please contact the Project Manager, Dan Neumeyer, at Dan@JadeDesignBuild.Com. Please specify which project(s) you are interested in, and we will mail you the appropriate Request(s) for Proposal.

Sustainability in the News

Green construction is making news all over the place. Here are a few examples:

Building for the Future - Puget Sound Business Journal
Barker Spurs Sellen Toward Sustainability - Puget Sound Business Journal
How Green Is My Mini-Bar? - Outside Magazine

 

April 28, 1999

University Approves Phase II of Huge Green Renovation

At their meeting last month, University of Michigan Regents approved the second phase of a major renovation project of the S.T. Dana Building, which houses the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). "Our students will not only learn in the building, but from the building," says SNRE Dean Daniel Mazmanian, who sees the renovation as a golden opportunity for the School to practice what it teaches by making environmental concerns a top priority. Phase II alone involves 39,000 square feet with an estimated price tag of $15 million. You can see more information on the Dana Building in the Oikos Showcase.

Exterior Basement Insulation Material Performs Well In Canadian Test

Most builders have heard that extruded polystyrene is the only insulation board suitable for below grade application. Researchers in Canada have found little difference in the performance of several different types of insulation material installed below grade. The materials tested were high-density fiber glass and mineral fiber insulation, sprayed polyurethane foam and expanded polystyrene board of different types, including one specimen wrapped in polyethylene.

In October 1995, researchers attached insulation samples to the east and west walls of a test hut at the National Research Council site in Ottawa. Instruments were installed before backfilling. For two years, daily readings were taken, including thermal performance, soil temperature and moisture along with weather conditions. At the end of the test period, the samples were retrieved. Laboratory tests of their thermal, moisture and mechanical properties were compared with the initial values.

In all cases, thermal performance remained stable. Water was handled at the outer surface despite periods of heavy rain and major thaws. Most of the concrete wall showed no evidence of wetting. These results were reported in Construction Innovations published by the Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC).

Forty-one Grants Awarded for Sustainable Development Projects

The USEPA awarded almost $5 million to 41 groups around the country for a wide array of projects to promote sustainable communities. The projects range from wind power for a native village in Alaska to an Eco-Garden in Maryland. The projects address housing, agriculture, forestry, transportation, food, heavy industry and community building. These Sustainable Development Challenge Grants provide seed money to help local groups begin to use sustainable development strategies to solve environmental problems. Guidelines for the next round of grant proposals will be available in early summer 1999.

Organic Solvents Pose Serious Threat

Painters and carpenters are among the occupations most often exposed to organic solvents. According to an article in Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly (#647 April 22, 1999), half a dozen studies have implicated solvents in several serious health problems, including major birth defects, immune system disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and lupus erythematosus), and several kinds of cancer, including breast cancer.

Chemicals in the "organic solvent" class include aliphatic hydrocarbons (mineral spirits, varnish, kerosene), aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene), chlorinated hydrocarbons (carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene [also known as perchloroethylene, or perc]), aliphatic alcohols (methanol), glycols (ethylene glycol), and glycol ethers (methoxyethanol). There are hundreds of different organic solvents on the market. It's rare to be exposed to only one at a time -- mixtures are common. Source: ECONET

Virtual Tour Showcases Sustainable Buildings of Washington State

The new enCompass Web site profiles buildings and construction products made from recycled materials. You can take a virtual tour of the Pacific Northwest to see actual products installed in noteworthy buildings. King County, Washington, created the Web site to help divert waste from the landfill, create markets for recycled materials and support the region's sustainable building initiatives.

Program manager Ann Thorpe says that enCompass inspires confidence in the materials by using a tour to demonstrate the acceptance of recycled materials by well-respected building professionals. Drawing on the "map and compass" concept and the fact that the buildings encompass recycled materials, enCompass gives virtual tours of buildings in the Northwest that used recycled materials. Viewers find dozens of pictures and descriptions for a range of buildings. EnCompass also delivers an interactive street map for each building profiled.

Prominent examples such as Bell Harbor International Conference Center, NW Federal Credit Union and REI catch the viewer's attention and the contact information for every project reveals that many local design and construction firms are experienced with recycled-content materials as well as other sustainable building practices. Professionals with sustainable building experience will be in greater demand as green building takes off in the northwest, prompted by a new nationwide environmental rating system for commercial buildings as well as local concern over restoring salmon habitat.

You'll find profiles of common recycled-content building materials and products. The profiles explain material processing, product types, and typical levels of recycled content.

If you look closely at enCompass you'll find that the largest group of recycled-content buildings is publicly owned. Public agencies promote resource conservation, and many are leading the way by building sustainably. The same is true of non-profit organizations and membership cooperatives, represented by buildings for Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI), Puget Consumers' Cooperative (PCC) and NW Federal Credit Union. Some large corporations are also represented, such as McDonalds and Ben and Jerry's.

 

April 21, 1999

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is April 22nd. Find out how you can celebrate at the Earth Day Network.

Radiant Barrier Wall System Tested

The Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) has been studying "reflective insulation" in wall systems for a number of years. In the most recent issue of their Construction Innovation newsletter, CCMC published results of these tests. According to the article, CCMC Evaluates Thermal Resistance of Low Emissivity Sheet Material, the wall assembly pictured below received 26 percent of its insulating value from the reflective insulation and associated air spaces. However, only 5 precent of the insulating value came from the reflective material itself. The report gave no overall heat loss rate for the assembly.

The material tested comprises polyethylene "bubble pack" with layers of foil adhered to both sides. It is commonly sold in building supply centers.

This confirms the previous thinking that reflective insulation has very little insulating value on its own. To be effective, reflective insulation must be incorporated into a complete wall system that includes sealed air spaces on both sides. The wording of the report implies that the air spaces in the assembly serve the primary insulation function.

"The low emissivity surface of the material increases the effective thermal resistance of the air space by reducing the heat transfer by radiation through this space."

It would be interesting to see testing of a non-reflective sheet material in this same assembly. The CCMC article emphasizes that the tests apply only to this wall system and cannot be applied to other applications.

New York's Governor Unveils Green Building Tax Credit Proposal

New York would be the first state in the nation to provide financial incentives to support green construction, if a proposal by Governor George Pataki is successful. The proposed program would provide $5 million per year for five years to fund state income and franchise tax credits.

Buildings would have to meet certain energy efficiency guidelines and indoor air quality standards, use environmentally-sensitive furnishings and appliances, meet all applicable storm water management and environmental regulations and provide facilities for recycling. Also, new buildings must not be located on a tidal or freshwater wetland.

Credits would be available for building owners and developers, as well as tenants. The following tax credits would be available under the Governor's proposal:

  • A 5-percent tax credit applied to "allowable costs" if the base building -- the space not intended for occupancy by tenants -- is green. This credit would increase to 6-percent of "allowable costs" if the building is located in a State or federal economic development zone. The credit would apply to both new construction and rehabilitation.
  • A 5-percent tax credit applied to "allowable costs" for tenant space; 6-percent if located in a State or federal economic development zone. The credit would apply to both new construction and rehabilitation.
  • A 7-percent tax credit applied to "allowable costs" for a "whole green building," that is a building where the tenant space and the base building are green. This credit would increase to 8-percent if the building is located in a State or federal economic development zone.
  • A tax credit equal to 30-percent of the capitalized costs incurred by the building owner or tenant for the purchase and installation of fuel cells. This would be capped at $1000 per kilowatt of installed DC rated capacity.
  • A tax credit equal to 100-percent of the incremental cost for building integrated solar panels; 25-percent for non-building integrated. This would be capped at $3,000 per kilowatt.

State Legislatures Approve Industrial Hemp Bills

Farmers in North Dakota may soon be able to grow hemp without becoming the target of a DEA para-military operation. The legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill to remove the 1937 prohibition on growing industrial hemp with votes of 44 to 3 in the House and 86 to 7 in the Senate. North Dakota's governor signed the bill into law. Farmers facing sinking prices for corn, soybeans and tobacco see hemp as a possible alternative.

Last month Hawaii also approved growing industrial hemp in a half-acre university test plot. Other states, including Minnesota and Virginia, have introduced industrial hemp legislation.

Industrial hemp is a form of the Canabis sativa plant with a very low concentration of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Instead, it shows promise as a source of high-quality fiber for making paper, fabric, building material and other products. The plant grows vigorously without large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides, so cultivation causes less environmental damage than many other crops.

World Resources Institute Moves into Green Office Building

The World Resources Institute (WRI) opened its new (salvaged wood) doors last month. The facilities will be shown to the public for the first time at an open house on Tuesday, April 27, 1999.

The innovative design, created in conventional leased office space, uses mainly environmentally-friendly alternatives to conventional building products. By choosing materials that are sustainably harvested and produced, WRI is putting its mission to protect the environment into practice in a tangible way.

"We have tried to make our new space a showplace for the best and most innovative thinking in sustainable design," says WRI President Jonathan Lash. "WRI's new office is the physical manifestation of some of our most deeply-held values."

Sustainably harvested and salvaged wood, bamboo and cork, are just a few of the materials used by the designers to reflect WRI's commitment to four core themes: biological resource management, climate, equitable development and sustainable enterprise. Much of the focus in the planning was on energy efficiency, in the types of lighting and appliances selected and in the use of sensors and smart controls. Paints and finishes, countertops and flooring, cabinets and carpentry were all chosen for their environmentally-friendly materials and manufacturing processes.

The move to a "green" office is a new beginning for WRI, but it follows the example of groups such as the National Resource Defense Council, the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy in sustainable design for the workplace. WRI, like other environmental organizations, believes that a healthy environment and a strong economy can coexist. This is evident from the array of products and materials produced by thriving companies -- large and small -- which were used to build, finish and decorate the new office space.

"Companies like Interface Carpeting are proving that creating sustainable products using environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes is not detrimental to the bottom line," says William D. Ruckelshaus, chairman of WRI's Board of Directors. "Since the cost of building a 'green office' is comparable to that of a traditional office, there is no reason that this should not become the norm."

WRI's new office also incorporates state-of-the-art communications capacity to enhance the ability of the staff to share information with colleagues and audiences worldwide. New Web site, multimedia, and videoconferencing capacity increases the opportunities to shape the debate on environment and development around the world, but also reduces the need for staff as often to travel to meetings, lessening WRI's own greenhouse gas emissions.

The new workspace, designed by the architectural firm Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, PC (HOK), is a real-life example of strategic environmental and business management. "HOK has focused on sustainable design for several years. This project really gave us an opportunity to test a lot of ideas we've been exploring in our research," says HOK designer Sandy Mendler. "Through smarter design, we're creating a work environment that really is better for people."

Totten Receives 1999 Lewis Mumford Award for Environment

Michael Totten was recognized as a driving force in the US environmental movement by receiving the 1999 Lewis Mumford Award given annaully by Architects, Designers, Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR). For many years, Totten served as the executive director of CREST, the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology, based in Washington DC. He now works at the World Resources Institute. Under Michael's leadership, CREST developed and spread the environmental message through information age tools, including CD-ROMs and Web sites that provide socially responsible designers with the tools to turn ordinary design programs into sustainable ones.

Energy Star Program Recognizes Partners

The Energy Star® program presented the Energy Star 1999 Awards to acknowledge outstanding public education and promotional efforts that raise consumer awareness of the Energy Star label. Maytag Corporation and Whirlpool Corporation received awards in the appliance category. Andersen Corporation, Soft-Lite L.L.C, Windowmaster Products and Home Depot were recognized in the windows category.

Kafus' Riverside Plant Produces First MDF Panels

Kafus Environmental Industries' plant in Riverside, California produced its first medium density fiberboard panel during a recent test run. The plant is operated by Kafus' subsidiary The CanFibre Group Ltd. Kafus says it's the world's first MDF plant to utilize 100 percent post-consumer waste wood on a full commercial scale. Since receiving its first load of urban wood in February, the mill has also commissioned all of the chipping equipment, the chip washer, all of the safety controls and the environmental equipment. The environmental control equipment is among the most sophisticated of any MDF plant in the world. Commissioning and start-up will continue through this spring and the first commercial shipments are expected to begin by early summer of this year. When the plant reaches steady state operations, it will convert approximately 155,000 tons of locally generated post-consumer waste wood to approximately 80 mm cubic feet of MDF on an annual basis, all of which has been contracted for purchase and/or distribution under a long term contract.

 

April 14, 1999

New Book Ranks Cars, Meat, Appliances and Houses as Consumers' Top Environmental Impacts

A new book takes the first comprehensive look at the full range of consumer activities to identify which cause the least and most environmental damage. The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices shows that only a few consumer activities--primarily our use of cars and trucks, consumption of meat, and choice of homes and appliances--are responsible for the vast majority of consumer-related environmental harm.

"Some consumer decisions, like whether to choose paper or plastic grocery bags, are insignificant," said Dr. Warren Leon, Deputy Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the book. "Our book shows people how to focus on those environmental choices that make the biggest difference."

UCS developed an economic model to analyze the impact of household spending on the most significant consumer-related environmental problems: air pollution, water pollution, alteration of natural habitats, and global warming. After grouping 134 consumer spending choices into 50 categories (like furnishings, clothing, computers), the authors discovered that most environmental degradation is linked to just seven categories: cars; meat; produce and grains; household appliances and lighting; home heating and cooling; home construction; and household water and sewage. Cars and light trucks (including minivans and pickups) cause the most environmental damage overall, and are responsible for nearly half of the toxic air pollution and more than one-quarter of the greenhouse gases traceable to household consumption.

"Driving less and buying a cleaner car are the best things people can do for the environment," said co-author Dr. Michael Brower, a physicist and expert on energy and environmental issues. "Because cars cause so much harm, even modest changes matter."

Food is second only to transportation as a source of consumer-related environmental problems. Red meat causes especially high amounts of environmental damage for the nutrition it delivers. According to the book, cutting the average household's meat consumption (both red meat and poultry) in half would reduce food-related land use and common water pollution by 30 and 24 percent, respectively.

"Replacing beef with grains and produce, or even chicken, can significantly improve the environment," said Brower. "People can also help the environment by buying organic foods."

Some consumer activities that are highly damaging--like lawn pesticides, snowmobiles, large powerboats, and fireplaces--did not make the "dirty seven" because they account for very small shares of total consumer spending. Consumers should either avoid using these items or take precautions. On the other hand, UCS suggests that people stop worrying about choices, like cloth versus disposable diapers, that involve alternatives whose differences are insignificant.

"The book sweeps away confusion over what matters and doesn't matter for the environment," said Leon. "No one should feel guilty about modest use of such things as spray cans, paper napkins, and polystyrene cups."

To help inform consumers about everyday decisions, UCS today launched The Great Green Web Game. The game moves players through an animated board as they face consumer choices that affect the environment. In addition, UCS is teaming up with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt on a campaign to reinvigorate consumer action to protect the Earth. The yogurt-maker is drawing attention to the UCS book and game on 8 million yogurt lids.

BP Amoco Plugs In Photovoltaic Gas Stations

BP Amoco today announced that around 200 of its service stations worldwide would incorporate solar power -- the largest single project of its kind ever undertaken.

Solar electricity will help meet the power needs of all new service stations to be built in the UK, Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan, Portugal and Spain. Solar installations will also be incorporated into prototype sites in France and the US as part of an extended pilot program.

The first phase of the two-year program will see up to 400 solar panels installed on each canopy at some 200 service stations across eleven countries in a $50 million, 3.5megawatt project, saving around 3,500 tons of CO2 emissions every year. As a result of this project, BP Amoco will become one of the world's largest users of solar power. After it's recent aquisition of the 50 percent share of Solarex which it did not already own, it's now one of the world's largest manufacturers of solar cells and modules.

The level of power generated will vary from site to site. But at each, the solar panels on the canopy above the pumps will generate more clean energy than is consumed by the site's lighting needs and the power requirements of the pumps below. The installations, which will be connected to the local electricity networks, will allow any excess electricity to be exported during the day and the shortfall imported at night. Each site will have a maximum power output of 20kWp -- more than eight times the size of a domestic system supplying the electricity needs of an energy-efficient home.

A 40kW solar system will also be installed at three new office buildings as part of the redevelopment of BP's site at Sunbury, UK. BP is also sponsoring rural solar electricity projects in Africa and South America.

Shell Opens Solar Service Stations in Germany and the Netherlands

Royal Dutch/Shell now operates four solar powered service stations where drivers can charge up their electric cars. At solar service stations in Hamburg, Germany drivers of electric vehicles charge them with solar electricity. The rest of the solar power generated will go to the local grid.

In the Netherlands, service stations at Meerkerk and Wezep will use the power generated themselves in addition to supplemental power from the regional utility. In an agreement with electricity company, NUON, supplemental power will be provided exclusively from renewable energy sources via the regional grid.

Eight more stations will be opened in Germany later this year. This link-up between Royal Dutch/Shell's downstream and retail businesses and Shell Renewables is part of the on-going drive to find and develop new business through new energy solutions and by providing more services to our customers.

The four sites will use different solar energy systems in order to test various techniques for environmentally-friendly power generation at industrial locations. The Steilshooper Allee service station in Germany is fitted with a "solar tracker," which follows the position of the sun and boosts energy yield by 30 percent compared to conventional systems with the same number of solar cells.

Both projects are being managed in cooperation with regional electricity companies, HEW (the Hamburg Electricity Works) and the Dutch NUON company.

Shell Renewables solar business produces one million photovoltaic cells a year and 50,000 panels at its factory in Helmond, the Netherlands, which employs 130 people. Capacity is set to increase significantly during this year. Shell's second solar factory - and set to be the world's largest - is currently being constructed in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. It will produce around 13 million solar cells a year.

Small Wind Turbine Finds Major Manufacturer

Airblade Alternative Power Systems (AAPS) has announced a joint venture with Pico Holdings of La Jolla CA and Jon Yang Manufacturing in China. They have finalized agreements to begin immediate large scale manufacture of the Havatex Wind Turbine. The wind machine has been in field testing at the USDA Labs in Amarillo Texas and is classified as a small wind turbine design with a rated output of 2000 watts. Cut in speed is 7-10mph with a furling speed of 28mph.

Jon Yang Manufacturing is an ISO 9002 facility of 4 million square feet working with the provincial government of the region to assess and deploy wind energy and water pumping models throughout the area. Jon Yang Manufacturing employees 100 engineers and staffs 5000 production workers at the facility. Havatex Wind Turbines are available now through AAPS Alternative Power Systems.

McDonald's Restaraunt Installs Microturbine Generator

The Energy Efficient McDonald's (T.E.E.M.) in Bensenville, Ill. is the first installation of the new TurboGenerator™ Power System, a micro-turbine generator system designed to save McDonald's money on energy while providing another source of power for enhanced reliability.

"We're enthusiastic about the range of benefits we'll see from this system, most importantly energy efficiency, cost savings and reliability," said Tony Spata, building systems manager, McDonald's Corporation. "From what we've seen so far, we expect to provide continuous service to our customers here in Bensenville without so much as a flicker of the lights."

The TurboGenerator system is a compact, self-contained unit that uses a microturbine generator to provide electricity from natural gas. It operates parallel to the utility grid. The system is expected to pay for itself in a two- to three-year timeframe, providing an anticipated average of 10 percent reduction in the combined cost of energy and outages.

The Bensenville McDonald's also features energy efficient lighting, cooling, kitchen ventilation, an energy management control system, and building monitoring. Designed to optimize the application of complementary conservation systems, a 10-25 percent reduction in energy consumption is projected. The Bensenville McDonald's is one of only four T.E.E.M. restaurants in the world.

The McDonald's unit is the first commercial installation of the TurboGenerator system, representing the beginning of the final phase of product testing prior to commercial production, which is expected to begin during the second half of 1999. Additional test installations are planned over the next few months, including a CitiBank branch and Heinemann's Bakeries.

The system can provide power for small- to mid-sized commercial, industrial and institutional facilities. It is optimal for buildings ranging in size from a small retail operation to a medium-sized manufacturing operation.

The TurboGenerator is manufactured by Allied Signal Power Systems, Inc. Unicom Distributed Energy is the exclusive distributor of the TurboGenerator system in the 12-state Midwest region of the United States in addition to Puerto Rico and the province of Ontario, Canada. Source: Excite

Green Building Tidbits

The Washington Post covered the first straw bale house built inside the beltway.

ABC News featured efforts in Chicago to reduce the heat island effect with rooftop gardens on downtown buildings.

The Environmental News Network described the Energy Star Homes Program.

 

April 7, 1999

CRBT Joins NCAT

The Center for Resourceful Building Technology (CRBT) has dissolved its nonprofit status and joined the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Both organizations are dedicated to the wise use of natural resources and believe that joining forces allows them to further the aims of both groups. "The board of CRBT is very excited about the great possibilities that our merger with NCAT will create," says Tim Mellgren, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CRBT. CRBT joins several other ventures operated by NCAT, including Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, Resource Efficient Multifamily Housing Services, LIHEAP Clearinghouse and others.

CRBT produces the Guide to Resource Efficient Building Elements, offers design review and materials selection consulting services and provides technical assistance on all aspects of environmentally responsible construction. Located in Missoula, MT, CRBT was founded in 1990 to address issues of natural resource consumption by the building industry. It was the brainchild of Steve Loken of Missoula, a nationally recognized energy and home building technology expert.

A New Generation of Green Consumers Emerges

The environment has always done well in the polls, with around 87 percent of Americans saying they are "concerned" about the environment and 44 percent claiming to be "very concerned." Almost 50 percent of consumers look for environmental labeling on products and almost half will change brands to reduce the environmental impact of their lives. But the attitude of seniors, Boomers, and Gen-Xers has wavered back and forth a bit over the years--tending to strengthen during good economic times. Now the first entire generation of Americans raised after Earth Day is coming into the working world and the marketplace. This generation is even more concerned about the environment than their parents. This could mean greater pressure on producers to make products genuinely kind to the environment. Source: American Demographics

Chicago Area Residents Would Increase Taxes to Protect Farmland

The residents of McHenry, Kane and DeKalb counties in Illinois say they would be willing to pay higher taxes to protect farmland from urban development. Open space preservation is as important as fighting crime and improving education, two consistently important issues in the area. Forty-four percent said preservation was the top priority, surprising even the researchers with American Farmland Trust and Northern Illinois University. Among other things, respondents valued farmland preservation as a way to block urban sprawl. Source: Environmental News Network

Web Site Calculates Air Pollution Avoidance of Renewables

You can calculate how much air pollution you will avoid by using a solar water heater or photovoltaic system using a web site constructed by the USEPA. The emissions avoidance calculator reports on carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The calculator takes into account the typical energy mix of each state. For example, a 10 kW PV panel in Washington state avoids 16,482 pounds of CO2, but 43,812 pounds in Texas.

Professor Brainstorms Electricity from Drainwater

Devices like GFX have shown that it's practical to recover heat from drainwater, but an electrical engineering professor in Wales has demonstrated that it's possible to generate electricity from dirty bathwater. Michael Rowe has successfully powered his color TV using only the heat recovered from the drain or his bathtub. Professor Rowe and a team at Cardiff University's School of Engineering used a series of thermocouples to generate current from heated water. The University has received a $2.9 million grant from the Japanese New Energy Development Organization (NEDO) to develop commercial products based on the idea. Source: Environmental News Service

Demand Water Heater Pulled from Market

In its April issue, Energy Design Update reports that Targa Energy Company (TEC) has withdrawn its gas-fired, on-demand water heater (T-150) from the market, at least temporarily. The decision is apparently linked to economic woes experienced by Haitai Group, TEC's Korea-based parent company.

BP Amoco Buys Remaining Share of Solarex

BP Amoco announced that it would buy the 50 per cent stake it did not already own in Solarex for $45 million. Previously Solarex was a 50:50 joint venture between Amoco and Enron. The integrated company will be called BP Solarex and will build on the current business activities of Solarex and BP Solar. It will have annual revenues of more than $150 million, representing a 20 per cent share of the global market. It will have manufacturing operations in four countries - the USA, Spain, Australia and India, producing around 30 megawatts of solar products each year.

"Our investment is part of BP Amoco's wider aim of making solar an increasingly larger contributor to the energy mix of the 21st century, in line with our determination to offer our customers progressively cleaner fuels with a diminishing impact on the natural environment," Browne said.

BP Amoco recently unveiled plans to make cleaner, greener fuels available in more than 40 of the world's major cities most troubled by pollution and smog. It has also targeted a 10 per cent reduction from a 1990 baseline in greenhouse gas emissions from BP Amoco's own operations by the year 2010. The acquisition from Enron is expected to be complete by the end of April, but is subject to a number of regulatory and other approvals.

Funding Available for R&D on Equipment and Envelope Technologies

The Department of Energy is planning to support research and development projects on technologies that have the potential for significant energy savings in residential and commercial buildings. The procurement's specific objective is to accelerate technologies that, because of their risk, are unlikely to be developed reasonably soon without a partnership between industry, research organizations and the Federal government.

They have issued a solicitation for research and development on materials, components and systems for the full range of building equipment and envelope technologies for residential and commercial buildings. It also covers activities from applied research through engineering development. The solicitation will not support demonstration projects to deploy technology on a large scale.

This solicitation may be obtained from the Federal Energy Technology Center's solicitation page. Look for Solicitation for Cooperative Agreement Proposal No. DE-SC26-99FT40528 entitled "Energy Efficient Building Equipment and Envelope Technologies." Proposals are due by April 13, 1999.

Canadian EnerGuide Label Now Available for Houses

Canadians are familiar with the EnerGuide label that appears on appliances and vehicles. Now a new version of EnerGuide will help them choose energy efficient houses. EnerGuide for Houses provides homeowners with an energy efficiency rating for their houses. Homeowners are given unbiased advice from qualified experts on how to improve the energy efficiency -- and rating -- of their houses while maintaining or improving indoor environmental conditions. The rating can be used to compare the performance of similar-sized houses built in similar climatic regions.

Building with Trees Awards Announced

Conservation-minded builders and developers around the country have been named to receive the 1999 Awards of Excellence in the Building With Trees Recognition program. Six projects received awards including large and small subdivisions, attached housing, a commercial building and a public building. The winners were selected by a jury of development industry and urban forestry professionals. Criteria considered in making the awards included: creativity in and attention to protecting and planting trees during planning, design and construction, and in providing for long-term tree care; commitment to tree protection by having a tree professional on the development team; inventorying existing trees and using that information to help preserve trees; and communication of and adherence to tree protection goals throughout construction.

The Building With Trees Awards were established in 1998 by The National Arbor Day Foundation to recognize builders and developers who save trees during construction and land development. "It makes good sense both economically and environmentally to preserve trees wherever possible," says John Rosenow, president of the National Arbor Day Foundation. "Trees bring beauty to a building's environment, as well as heating and air conditioning savings, reduced development costs and greater employee or homeowner satisfaction." The Building With Trees Program offers two opportunities for recognition: one following planning and design of a project and another following construction. For more information about the program or to request a free booklet contact The National Arbor Day Foundation.

Responses Available to Sustainable Design Questionnaire

Last month Miriam Landman a graduate student at Tufts University posted a questionnaire for design professionals on the Web attempting to identify the real-world obstacles to sustainable design. She has compiled and posted the responses, although her analysis is tied to her thesis and will take some time.

Grundfos Donates Motors to Victims of Hurricane Mitch

Grundfos Pumps Manufacturing Corp. has donated a large shipment of submersible pump motors to Central America. "We definitely wanted to help out and felt that motors like those of our submersibles would be useful to help re-establish the groundwater supply where existing motors had been destroyed," says Bob Early, Grundfos President. The value of the shipment is estimated to be worth about $80,000. The donation was made through The Wheelchair Project, a nonprofit organization delivering aid to Central America.

| News Archives |