Green Building News

Green Building News October 1998

October 29, 1998

Safe, Efficient Torchieres

The most popular light fixtures in America can also waste energy and pose a threat to life and property. Of course, there's a better way. Check it out our new article on compact fluorescent torchieres.


October 26, 1998 

Utility Deregulation Bad for Consumers

Have you noticed the great sucking sound made by electric utilities in the U.S. as they abandon energy efficiency programs? The Environmental Working Group and World Wildlife Fund have noticed and they published a report detailing how electric utilities are eliminating or drastically reducing programs that save their customers money, while reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases. As a result, consumers will pay an extra $1 billion for energy each year over the next decade, according to a report called "Unplugged". The reason? Utilities are eager to cut costs and raise profits to prepare for a deregulated market.

The report -- based on documents utilities are required to file with the U.S. Department of Energy -- finds that cuts in energy efficiency programs totaled $736 million between 1993 and 1997. The cuts have also meant dirtier air across the U.S. According to the study, if energy efficiency programs had been fully funded in 1997 utilities would have avoided emitting 11 million tons of global warming gases and 79,000 tons of soot and smog-forming pollutants. Forty-two of the largest electric utilities completely eliminated their investments in energy efficiency.

The report ranked the nation's largest utilities on their commitment to energy efficiency programs. The municipal utility in Eugene, Oregon, which utility serves some 73,000 customers, invested more in energy efficiency than the combined outlay of Southern Company, Entergy, Commonwealth Edison, and American Electric Power, which serve more than 12 million customers. Not only is this a striking illustration of just how huge the shift away from energy efficiency has been, but it's also an indication that publicly-owned utilities may do a better job of serving the public than bottom-line-focued mega-utilities.


October 19, 1998

Detailed Life Cycle Assessment Shows Impact of Energy Efficient Construction

Energy-efficient construction measures reduced the life-cycle energy of a theoretical house by 63 percent according to a study published by researchers at the University of Michigan. In their peer-reveiwed paper, Life Cycle Analysis of a Residential Home in Michigan, Steven Blanchard and Peter Reppe, modeled a typical home and an energy efficient home using computer simulation tools including Energy-10 software. Both homes shared the same design at 2,450 square feet. Among the interesting findings:

  • Energy consumed during both buildings' use phase (heating, cooling, plug loads, etc) accounted for the vast majority of the life-cycle energy--about 94 percent for the standard home and 83 percent for the energy-efficient home.
  • The global warming potential of the energy-efficient home was 63 percent lower than the standard home over the assumed 50 life cycle.
  • The energy efficient home's features included R-35, double-stud walls, super air tightening, high efficiency air-conditioning equipment (SEER 13), efficient appliances and compact fluorescent lights.
  • In both houses, carpet had the highest life-cycle energy consumption of all materials, because it must be replaced every eight years, has a high embodied energy and was specified for a large area in in the homes. Concrete had the second highest life-cycle energy and the highest global warming potential.


EEBA's 1998 Excellence in Building Conference and Expo!

This year's Excellence in Building Conference, located for the first time in Washington, D.C., promises to be one of the best ever. More than 80 speakers will present the latest in developments in building science, sustainable construction, energy policy and efficiency programs. In the associated Exposition, you'll see the latest building materials and equipment. The conference is organized by the Energy and Environmental Building Association.


October 15, 1998

Defective Entran II Hydronic Heating Tubing

The August 15, 1998 Denver Post headline reads, "Homeowners Hot About Failed Radiant Heating." Other Colorado newspapers feature titles such as "High-end homes experiencing problems with heating hoses," and "Homeowners hot about heating." I was telling my neighbor about my new radiant heating system and his response was, "Oh, the kind they have been having trouble with?" Obviously no one in the radiant heating industry wants to see this kind of publicity, least of all Heatway Systems, the Springfield, Mo. company which supplied the hose in question.

Unfortunately, the articles are founded in fact. Heatway's Entran II, which was manufactured by Goodyear from 1989 to 1994, has had numerous failures in the field. The hose made from nitrile rubber, in some cases, turned deep brownish red and became brittle and easily broken within two years of operation. A spokesman from Heatway indicated that currently only a small portion (far less than 10%) of the Entran II installed has experienced this problem.

He also related that any contractor who has been on a job site and witnessed a single piece of Entran II hard at the manifold, soft five feet in, and then hard again, knows that the pipe is the issue, not the quality of water, system operation or installation techniques. Heatway readily acknowledges that the tube itself is defective. They are also quick to point out that only the Entran II is in question, as it is their only product made from nitrile rubber. The original Entran I, Entran III, Entran IIId, and the current Entran Onix are all made from a completely different formulation of high temperature EPDMs that have a proven record. These products are manufactured by Dayton Rubber, not Goodyear.

Heatway originally switched in 1989 to Goodyear from Dayton as a manufacturer of their hose because Goodyear promised an improved product over the Entran I. Heatway even agreed to pay more for the product based on the promised improvements which had to do primarily with the oxygen diffusion issue. Goodyear produced the nitrile rubber hose from a closely guarded formulation which was not even revealed to Heatway personnel.

Heatway is currently in legal negotiations with Goodyear to sort out who is responsible. They feel strongly that Goodyear should stand behind its product and assist them in servicing those customers who have encountered the problem. According to the Denver Post, Goodyear has taken the stance that, "customers should look to Heatway Systems to honor its warranty responsibilities ... and not Goodyear."

Even though the defective tube has shown up in relatively few installations, all Entran II hose is suspect. Only time will tell if all or only a portion of the product will fail. In the meantime, Heatway is attempting to deal with the problem head on. They have established a special web page called Goodyear Made Entran 2 to answer questions, provide information and collect data on all Entran projects.

Heatway has built a reputation on quality customer service and a readiness to stand behind its product. The scope of the problem could be enormous if all Entran II proves to be defective and could stretch Heatway well beyond its capacity to cope. They believe that Goodyear will step up to the plate and assist in the job of making things right with their customers.

Bad news spreads fast and tubing failure is our industry's worst nightmare. This is not just a Heatway problem ... it affects us all. A knee-jerk reaction could severely dampen the positive growth we have seen in recent years. It is imperative that the industry cope with this situation in a constructive manner. The public will tend to lump all radiant floor heating systems into the same category with Entran II. It is our job to make sure that customers understand the difference.

Here is what you should tell customers:

  1. The defective hose, Entran II, is the only radiant floor tubing made from nitrile rubber.
  2. The vast majority of radiant floor tubing is manufactured from plastic or rubber formulations that have been installed and tested for well over thirty years.
  3. Heatway is a responsible company and is making every effort to provide a solution for the affected customers.
  4. Those wanting more information on Entran II can visit the special Internet site Heatway has set up at

Keep in mind that Heatway did not intentionally go to market with defective merchandise. They felt that they were investing their future in a superior product. This is a time when the best and wisest thing our industry can do is to support our injured comrade and help minimize the damage done. That is one very good reason for an association like the RPA. (--Submitted by Larry Drake, Executive Director, Radiant Panel Association)

October 8, 1998

Greenprints '99 is a conference and trade show scheduled for February 22-23, 1999 in Atlanta by the Soutface Energy Institute. The conference promises to keep you up to speed with latest innovations in the fast emerging filed of sustainable development and includes topics such as: new green products, building technology solutions, land preservation and smart growth. Two conference tracks will be offered: green buildings and sustainable communities.

Homeowner's could save $81 million per year and prevent 226,000 tons of unecessary air pollution if their homes were built to Model Energy Code according to a recent report titled Opportunity Lost published by the Alliance to Save Energy. Currently, more than half a million homes are built in 36 states that have yet to adopt the MEC (or more stringent energy codes). Among the slacker states are: Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Kentucky and Missouri. Michigan adopted the MEC but then repealed the new code under pressure from home builder groups.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's web site offers a number of excellent online publications on indoor air quality. The pubs cover both commercial and residential buildings. Some topics include duct cleaning, ozone air cleaners, filters, second hand smoke, carbon monoxide and flood clean up.


October 2, 1998

Ten energy-efficient homes are featured in a series of case studies that appear on the USDOE's EREN web site. The homes represent across section of American climates and styles, so there should be something for everyone. All of the homes display passive solar features along with other site-inspired ideas. There's an affordable home built on an in-fill lot in Portland, Oregon. A factory-built home that combines passive solar features with integrated photovoltaics. Row houses in Philadelphia and an earth-integrated home in Wisconsin. Each case study features photos, a floor plan and energy performance data.

If you prefer a real-world tour, the National Tour of Solar Homes is scheduled (in most locations) for October 17th. A complete list of locations around the U.S. and other details can be found at the American Solar Energy Society Web site.

Requests for Propoals will be issued under A Sustainable Development/Affordable Housing Pilot Program intends to promote sustainable development, primarily in the areas of energy efficiency and affordability. This fall, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs will solicit proposals from housing development teams to design and construct housing that meets a strict set of energy and environmental criteria, including Energy Star Home efficiency standards. Projects are expected to range from 5 to 50 units and can be for new development as well as reconstruction of existing buildings. Developers are encouraged to team up with consultants, planners, architects and builders with demonstrated experience in sustainable design. Proposals will be evaluated by a team of sustainable design experts. The program is partly supported by Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) through their Energy Efficient Home 5-Star Program, which provides incentives which cover the typical incremental cost of meeting the 5-Star/EPA Energy-Star standard. A bidders' conference is being planned for early December, which will include at least one presentation on sustainable design, question and answer sessions and a chance for consultants, architects, planners, and others to connect with New Jersey housing developers. Full details and a copy of the RFP can be obtained from DCA. Until October 28th call 633-6303. After that contact Peggy Hutchet at DCA - 609-633-6284. (-- Submitted by Andy Shapiro, Energy Balance Inc.)

October 1, 1998

October's Product Gallery features three new products: a kit for adding hydronic radiant heat to existing buildings, a line of environmentally-freindly flooring adhesive and a prismatic skylight. Still online from last month: a distributor that specializes in green building products, photovoltaic roofing that's actually shipping and a solution for thermal bridging in steel framed buildings.

REDI was updated on October 1st.

A paper titled Indoor Air Quality, Healthy Buildings, and Breathing Walls by John Straube and V. Acahrya has just been added to the Library. John will present the paper at the Energy Efficient Building Association Conference, which runs from Oct. 29- 31 in Washington, D.C.

We've added about 20 new items to Fall edition of the Iris Catalog. The printed version is crawling around the US via snail mail, but you can see the latest right here on Oikos.

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