Green Building News

Green Building News October 2009

October 1, 2009

More than 150,000 Expected to Participate in National Solar Tour

On October 3rd, the non-profit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) holds it's 14th Annual National Solar Tour providing solar-interested citizens an opportunity to view the real-life energy solutions people in their communities are deploying to save money, assert their energy independence and help the environment. Last year, 140,000 people in 49 states participated.

"After decades of development and growing numbers of installations, solar energy solutions have moved into the mainstream," said ASES Executive Director Brad Collins. "Solar prices are 30 percent lower than we saw a year ago. State and federal incentives are gaining steam, and a new awareness surrounding how solar cuts energy costs, creates green jobs and improves property values is emerging," he said.

No longer price-prohibitive, solar electric and solar water-heating solutions are reaching middle America at an unprecedented pace. Those attending this year's tour will discover a diverse solar landscape - including solar-powered duplexes, houses, condos, businesses—even solar-powered funeral homes, schools, farms, courthouses and donut shops.

Solar tour locations, dates and times are listed by state at: Those attending these open-house tours learn how to use solar and energy efficiency strategies to save on monthly utility bills, qualify for big tax incentives, improve property values, create a hedge against rising energy costs and help preserve the environment. ASES is providing "Get Started" solar guides to solar-inspired tour goers across the U.S.

The National Solar Tour is supported by a collaboration of volunteers, industry experts, environmental groups, community coalitions, partner organizations and corporate and government sponsors, among them the U.S. Department of Energy, Conergy, the Sierra Club, Trina Solar, Apricus, BP Solar, Radiantec, Sanyo, Sun Crystals and Whole Foods Market. The event is coordinated nationally by the non-profit American Solar Energy Society (ASES). One item on which this unusual complement of businesses, government agencies, educators and environmental groups (groups often at odds on myriad issues) can agree is solar's place as an energizing force behind America's desire for energy independence—and a vibrant clean energy economy.


Two Surveys Reveal That For Green Consumers, Saving Money is Top Priority:

NAHB Survey Shows Home Buyers Want To Save Energy - But Only At The Right Price

Even though prospective home buyers want the benefits of new, more efficient homes, they are unwilling to pay much more for a “green” home, according to a recent member survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“Although we are seeing significant interest in green building, cost effectiveness is clearly a key concern among home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a home builder and developer in Tulsa, OK. “Builders said that among buyers who are willing to pay more for green features, more than half—57 percent—are unlikely to pay more than an additional two percent.”

The August survey coincides with news that the NAHB National Green Building Program continues to grow. More than 400 homes, developments and remodeling projects have been certified by the NAHB Research Center, which administers the program and trains and accredits local project verifiers. Of those projects, 43 have been certified to the National Green Building Standard, approved earlier this year by the American National Standards Institute.

Preferences for specific green building techniques are decidedly regional, with builders in the West reporting much more interest in water efficiency than builders in other areas. Interest in homes built with recycled materials is particularly high in the Northeast (the region where the fewest new homes are built) and low in the South (the region with the highest number of housing starts).

Only 11 percent of builders nationwide indicated that their customers ask about environmentally friendly features, according to the survey. “Fortunately, our members are increasingly taking the initiative to educate the home-buying public about the benefits of green construction,” Robson said.

Overall, energy efficiency continues to be the primary factor driving the green building movement, squaring with previous NAHB surveys of home builders when asked about buyer preferences.

“More and more, our members are able to convince their clients of the benefits of a home built with efficiency and sustainability in mind,” Robson said. “However, when buyers prepare to sign on the dotted line, cost-effectiveness clearly drives their decisions. We need to make sure that our energy policies reflect that reality so that builders have the flexibility to use lot and site design, high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment and other features to achieve the desired results at the right price,” he continued.

Study Shatters Stereotype of the ‘Green Consumer’

A new national study, one of four annual surveys conducted by Shelton Group, polled 1,007 U.S. consumers who at least occasionally buy green products (77 percent of the population) and found there is no typical “green consumer.”

“Most green advertising is created as if there’s one pool of green consumers and they’re all motivated by ‘save the planet!’ messaging,” Shelton said. “We need a revolution in this thinking. Not all green consumers are the same, they’re not all motivated by the same messages and they’re not all inclined to buy only green products.”

The study, called Green Living Pulse, shattered six myths:

1. Myth: Green consumers’ top concern is the environment.

When asked to identify their top concern, the economy, by far, is No. 1 (with 59 percent calling it their top concern) and the environment falls far behind (8 percent).

2. Myth: Green consumers’ main motivation when reducing their energy use is to save the planet.

When asked the most important reason to reduce energy consumption, 73 percent chose “to reduce my bills/control costs” and only 26 percent chose “to lessen my impact on the environment.”

3. Myth: Green consumers are all-knowledgeable about environmental issues.

For example, the survey asked, “From what you have read or heard about CO2 (carbon dioxide), please place a check beside any of the following statements you think are true.” Almost half (49 percent) chose the incorrect answer, “It depletes the ozone layer.”

4. Myth: Green consumers fall into a simple demographic profile.

While the study detected some demographic tendencies, it found that green consumers aren’t easily defined by their age, income or ethnicity. Instead, the survey found that green consumers generally share one of two mindsets. The Engaged Green Mindset is marked by optimism, extroversion, and a propensity to try new things -- and is more likely to respond to themes of innovation and possibility. The Mainstream Green Mindset is more pessimistic, introverted and apt to like things known and tried – responding to themes of security and reliability.

5. Myth: Children play a big part in influencing their parents to be green.

Only 20 percent of respondents with children said their kids encouraged them to be greener - promoting recycling and turning off lights, for example.

6. Myth: If people just knew the facts they'd make greener choices.

The study showed that knowledge does not always lead to behavior. Individuals who answered all of the science questions correctly did report participating in a significantly higher average number of green activities—such as driving a fuel-efficient car or lowering their thermostat. However, the 25-34 age group consistently answered the questions correctly, yet, on average, their green activity levels were lower than those of older respondents.

“Because green consumers are being stereotyped, and these myths we tested are embraced by marketers as facts, many green messages are falling on deaf ears,” Shelton said. “If these messages were better targeted, more people would be buying green products, conserving electricity and doing more to save the planet.”

Shelton Group conducts four proprietary consumer opinion studies annually – Eco Pulse, Energy Pulse®, Utility Pulse and Green Living Pulse.

Working to Prevent Climate Change is No Longer Enough

Working to prevent or slow down climate change should continue to be a major focus of the building industry, but that is no longer enough, according to Alex Wilson and Andrea Ward in a new article in Environmental Building News (EBN). We also need to address how to adapt our buildings and communities to the impacts of those changes, which are already underway, they argue in a September 2009 feature article entitled, “Design for Adaptation: Living in a Climate-Changing World.”

“Even if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions were to be somehow turned off tomorrow,” Wilson points out, “warming temperatures, more intense storms, flooding and other impacts of climate change will continue—and we need to address that in our design practices.”

The EBN article makes the case that climate change is not only happening, but it is happening at a more rapid rate than even the most pessimistic climate models predicted just a few years ago.

“The reality of climate change is unequivocal,” according to Jonathan Overpeck, Ph.D., co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, who was quoted in the article. He and other experts interviewed for the article, including Stephen Schneider, Ph.D., of Stanford University, argue that adaptation to a changing climate is a high priority today.

The article describes 36 specific strategies for addressing adaptation to climate change, organized into five major headings. These headings and a sampling of the specific strategies are listed below:

Warmer temperatures

  • Design cooling-load-avoidance measures into buildings;
  • Model energy performance with higher cooling design temperatures;
  • Plan for termites extending their range to the north;

Drought and water shortages

  • Plumb buildings for graywater separation;
  • Plant native, climatically appropriate trees and other vegetation;

More intense storms, flooding and rising sea levels

  • Expand stormwater management capacity and rely on natural systems;
  • Design buildings to survive extreme winds;
  • Specify materials that can survive flooding;


  • Eliminate gutters or design and maintain them to minimize fire risk (for wildfire-prone areas);
  • Avoid vented roofs or protect vents from ember entry (for wildfire-prone areas);

Power interruptions

  • Design buildings to maintain passive survivability;
  • Provide dual-mode operability with high-rise buildings;
  • Plan and zone communities to maintain functionality without power.

“We are fortunate,” says Wilson, “that many of the strategies available for adapting to climate change offer other benefits, such as lower building operating costs, better environmental performance and improved durability.”

The article argues that these strategies are also relatively straightforward and eminently doable. “It makes sense to incorporate these into our design palette today,” concludes the article.


DOE's Solar Decathlon to Highlight Innovation - Oct. 9-18

Twenty collegiate teams from the United States, Canada, Spain and Germany will each build a completely self-sufficient solar powered house, showcasing energy-efficient amenities and smart home systems that provide reduced carbon emissions without sacrificing the comfort of modern conveniences.

DOE’s Solar Decathlon, which takes place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., consists of 10 individual contests that evaluate the teams’ skills in architecture, home design and communications. The homes constructed by the teams must produce enough electricity and hot water from solar panels to perform all the normal functions of a home—from powering the lights, to cooking, washing clothes and dishes, to powering home electronics and maintaining a comfortable temperature.

This year, a new net-metering contest will evaluate each home’s ability to produce its own power. The competition focuses on cutting edge energy efficient and renewable energy innovation while providing a unique green jobs training opportunity for each of the students. The start of the competition marks the culmination of more than two years of hard work by the student teams. The twenty teams will assemble their homes on the National Mall in early October. The homes will be open for public tours October 9-13 and 15-18.

Green Building China 2009 - Nov. 3-4

In the evolving global construction market, Asia has proven to be an area of rapid development. Within a year, it is expected that China, with an annual increase of over nine percent, will become a leader in the construction industry. Green Building China 2009, held in Beijing, aims to accelerate the development of green building industry and cater to companies’ requirements for finding business partners in the emerging market for technological cooperation.

More information.


Greenbuild 2009 - Nov. 11-13

If designing, building, living and working in green buildings is important to you, Greenbuild is a great opportunity to build new relationships and connect with colleagues from throughout the industry and around the world. Greenbuild features three days of inspiring speakers, networking opportunities, industry showcases, LEED workshops and tours of the host city's green buildings. Held in Phoenix, Arizona, this year's keynote speaker is former Vice President Al Gore.

More information.

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