Green Building News

Green Building News February 1999

February 24, 1999

Nation's First Photovoltaic Carpet Factory Dedicated

Bentley Mills, a carpet maker in southern California, dedicated a 127 kiloWatt photovoltaic plant that will supply about six percent of the factory's electric load. Bentley is a division of Interface, Inc., a global supplier of carpet products and a leader in the growing movement to sustainable business.

"The 127 kilowatt (kW) solar array is an important first step in Interface's global vision to become the first sustainable industrial organization -- that is, to take nothing harmful or nonrenewable from the Earth's crust and to emit nothing harmful into the biosphere as a result of its operations. More than replacing a small percentage of the electricity that powers this plant every day, this is a pivotal event in our company's history," said Ray C. Anderson, Interface Chairman and CEO. "It's a stake in the ground; a place where we can begin important research and development on the potential of solar energy to power our industrial operations worldwide."

The system comprises 448 photovoltaic modules measuring 4.2 feet by 6.2 feet each which are stationed on over one-half acre of land next to the factory. The system contributes power to operate 29 carpet tufting machines and support services. The $1 million project was initiated by Interface Research Corporation and Bentley Mills with partial funding from the California Energy Commission and through the U.S. Department of Energy's Utility Photovoltaic Group's "TEAM-UP" Program.

Warner Bros. Seeks Experienced Project Manager

The Warner Bros. Studios Design & Construction Department is looking for a Project Manager with knowledge and experience in green design who can help support the studio's environmental programs. The position title is "Project Manager, Studio Design & Construction," and requires extensive experience in the field. WB is looking for a person who can work effectively with a diverse group of entertainment industry clients as well as city officials and studio personnel. Knowledge of building codes and constructability issues, 5-10 years experience and a degree in architecture are required. This senior position will be filled within a couple of weeks. Resumes should be submitted no later than Friday, March 5th to: Lorraine Cuevas, WBSF Human Resources, 4000 Warner Blvd., Bldg. 14, Burbank, CA 91522.

Collins & Aikman Move to 100% Recycled Carpet Backing

Starting last November, the backing of Collins & Aikman carpet tiles was made entirely from recycled material. According to an article in the January issue of Environmental Building News, C&A's ER3 backing originally contained 25 percent virgin vinyl resin along with recycled content. With this recent change, ER3 is now made entirely with recycled materials. Post-consumer content ranges from four to 56 percent, with the remainder coming from C&A's own production waste and post-industrial waste from the automotive industry.

Funds Available for Renewable Energy on Native American Lands

USDOE is offering $1.8 million in funds to advance the use of commercially available renewable energy technologies on Native American lands. The department will select 10 to 20 projects that demonstrate market penetration of renewable power technology, the potential for job creation and environmental benefits. Technologies to be considered for the $1.8 million in funding include photovoltaics, wind, biomass power, hydro, concentrating solar power, geothermal electricity generation, geothermal direct uses, ground-coupled heat pumps and other renewable hybrid systems. A minimum cost share of at least 20 percent is required from non-federal sources. Only proposals with federally recognized Indian tribes or Alaskan Native Corporations as active partners will be considered for award. Applications are available from the department's Golden Field Office by calling 303-275-4716. Applications are due May 18, 1999.

Production Builder Offers Solar Water Heaters

Pulte Homes is offering solar water heaters at three subdivisions in Las Vegas and Phoenix. According to an article in the February issue of Energy Design Update, Pulte selected two technologies: an active (pumped) solar collector system manufactured by Heliodyne and an integrated passive system (which combines collection and storage) that's built by Sun Systems. The first of its kind, this residential project is a cooperative effort between Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTRR), Pulte Homes, Nevada Power Company, the Nevada State Energy Office, and the University and Community College System of Nevada. The US Department of Energy provided $182,880 -- administered through CSTRR -- to help offset the costs of planning, product selection, advertising and marketing. "We've done extensive customer research on solar technology," says Bill Jackson, manager of product development for Nevada Power. "Eighty percent of the customers we surveyed feel that having a renewable resource option is something they would be interested in."

Aluminum Waste May Be Useful in Concrete Building Materials

Researchers at Michigan Technological University are looking for ways to use a waste product of aluminum smelting called a "salt cake." Concrete building materials are high on their list of commercial possibilities. Aluminum is used as a foaming agent in aerated concrete products made by Hebel and Ytong. The material may also be useful as a fine aggregate. With growing demand for lightweight concrete products, the aluminum industry may be able to sell salt cake instead of spending millions of dollars to landfill it. The Environmental New Network reports that the aluminum industry discards about one million pounds of aluminum waste each year.

Eco-industrial Design Competition

Cornell Work and Environment Initiative (WEI) and the Town of Londonderry, NH are conducting a national design competition for a site design of an eco-industrial park and for a 25,000-sq. ft. flexible industrial building. Londonderry has posted $10,000 in prize money for winning entries. Both a professional and student competition will be held. A collection of the best entries will be exhibited at the National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America in Detroit in May and also in Cornell galleries. This competition challenges the design community to identify images and practices that bring eco-industrial activity alive. By rooting the competition in Londonderry's actual setting, it will show concretely how new notions of industrial development can occur.


February 15, 1999

UL Revises Standard for Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) set a new standard for carbon monoxide alarms which took effect last October, in an effort to correct problems with older products listed under a version of the standard published in 1995. An article in Energy Design Update points out that the new standard UL 2034-98 will lead to improved products in the long run. However, in the short term, many suppliers have cut prices on older models. These $9.99 "specials" tempt consumers to buy flawed technology that would not be allowed under the new standard. The new models will be clearly labeled with the new standard UL 2034-98 instead of the old number UL 2034-95. It may be necessary to remove the alarm from the packaging to check the official UL sticker on the underside of the product. In it's December 1998 issue, EDU reported that only four manufacturers had alarms on the market that met the new 1998 standard. They were First Alert, MTI, Nighthawk (Kidde) and Patrick Plastic. The new standard raises the false alarm resistance specification to 30 ppm / 30 days. It also sets exposure limits to 240 minutes at 70ppm, 50 minutes at 150 ppm and 15 minutes at 400 ppm. The standard also changes the name of the device to CO "alarm" from CO "detector."

Web Site Shows Ways to Temper Overheated Cities

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is searching for ways to curb the "urban heat island effect." Studies show that summertime temperatures in cities can be six to eight degrees higher than the surrounding countryside. Peak demand for electric power increases as compressors and chillers hum to keep buildings cool. The probability that smog will develop increases with temperature. Elevated temperatures are caused by large expanses of heat absorbing surfaces, such as pavement and roofing. LBNL conducts research to find, analyze, and implement solutions to the heat island effect. Their Mitigation of Heat Islands web site describes the problem and offers ideas for addressing it. Two principal solutions are to make surfaces more reflective and plant vegetation. The site offers information on both topics, including a Cool Roofing Materials Database.

GEO Proposes Solutions to Sprawl

The trend toward increasing sprawl development -- and the poor air quality, traffic congestion and environmental destruction it brings -- is becoming unacceptable as citizens across the US realize that they have a choice when it comes to creating smarter, healthier, happier communities.

One forward-looking solution to sprawl is to rethink traditional work patterns -- distributing work among dispersed, information linked buildings. While some organizations are beginning to experiment with alternative work places, most companies are still designing industrial age buildings which add to the problem. For example, a 200,000 square foot, centralized building serviced by a fleet of cars results in long commute times for employees, increased air pollution, and a lower quality of life for everyone. By rethinking the program and design, a smaller building with a number of well connected satellite offices can meet the demands of modern work, have a lower impact on the environment, and improve people's lives.

To help meet the need of businesses and the public for information on sprawl and solutions, Global Environmental Options has launched a web-based resource clearinghouse on sprawl. The site offers a list of online resources, each with a brief description so that users can go directly to information they actually need. Visitors will find everything from a unique study of development in Chicago's suburbs to federal contacts who will help communities promote sustainable land use. Other resources include case studies, definitions, articles, action tool-kits and books. An online poll allows visitors to register their opinions on sprawl.

Worldwatch Reports on Rampant Consumption

A new paper by Worldwatch -- Mind Over Matter: Recasting the Role of Materials in Our Lives -- says the average American consumes (directly or indirectly) more than 200 pounds of materials every day. This trend is clearly not sustainable, especially if people in developing nations attempt to follow the same path to prosperity. The good news is that some nations and businesses have found ways to use materials more intelligently by reducing waste, increasing the durability of goods and finding more ways to reuse, remanufacture and recycle. According to the report, some nations, international organizations and environmental groups are calling for dramatic reductions in material use -- as much as 90 percent. They believe that incremental change will fall far short. Instead, the solution lies in a creative remaking of the material world to align human economies more closely with the natural world that supports them.


February 11, 1999

Twenty Builders Honored for Energy-Efficient Home Construction

Twenty homebuilders from around the country received 1999 EnergyValue Housing Awards from the NAHB Research Center. These twenty builders demonstrate that energy efficiency and innovation can be integrated into a successful construction business. Although the homes vary widely in design, price and location, they typically share several energy- and resource-efficiency features and construction practices. EnergyValue Housing Award-winning homes have high levels of insulation, framing that reduces lumber use, air-sealing practices, mechanical ventilation, high-performance windows, environmentally-sensitive landscape design and building orientation to capture solar energy. To communicate these energy saving features -- which are often hidden inside the building's structure -- EVHA builders include information about the benefits of energy efficiency in their marketing materials. Some builders guarantee annual energy bills and most cooperate with certification programs, such as E-Seal and Energy Star. Applications for the 2000 EnergyValue Housing Awards are now available.

Amount of Certified Forests Reaches 37 Million Acres

With the announcement that Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (a Swedish multi-national company) has achieved certification for almost 5 million acres (2 million hectares) under the Forest Stewardship Council, the amount of forest land certified around the world reached 37 million acres (15 million hectares). "We have set aside all old growth forests," says Communications Manager for SCA, Bjorn Lynjfelt, "and maintain that biodiversity is a major priority in our nature conservation strategy."

European Forest Industry Creates New Certification

Unhappy with the Forest Stewardship Council process for certifying sustainable forestry practices, a group of European companies have created their own program. Industry representatives meeting in Oslo, Norway agreed to the pan-European forest certification scheme (PEFC) document that lays out the basic structure of the system, including a technical framework, certification procedures, third-party auditing of certified woodlands, labelling and chain of custody verification. Representatives of American forest industries were on hand to observe the meeting.

Environmental Law Conference Burns with a Fierce Green Fire

The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference is a major gathering for environmentalists world wide. Now in its 17th year, the Conference unites more than 3,000 students, attorneys, activists and concerned citizens from around the globe to share their experiences and expertise. With over 100 panels, workshops, multi-media presentations, keynote addresses and other activities, the Conference has become an event full of energy, innovation and action for all who participate in the environmental movement. The event is unique in its focus on public interest environmental law as an instrument for change worldwide. The conference will be held from March 4-7, 1999 at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Commonwealth Energy Goes Exclusively Green

Independent power marketer Commonwealth Energy Corporation announced that they would sell only environmentally-friendly power to its residential and small business customers in California. The price for Commonwealth's green power will be lower than the price most pay for the conventional power mix thanks to a 1.5 cents/kWh rebate authorized by California's landmark utility restructuring law. The change means that all the company's existing customers will support environmentally-friendly sources of electricity. Previously, Commonwealth had been selling mostly "generic" system power.

Ancient Architectural System Can Enhance Modern Homes

Sthapatya Ved is a dynamic, timeless system of design that changes to match current cosmic conditions. This ancient system of building originates in India. Applying these principles to the housing design improves health, increases creativity and intelligence, increases longevity, enhances the total quality of life, improves the emotional bond between family members and increases the owner's respect for nature.According to Sthapatya Ved, the same order and laws of nature apply from the level of the atom to the level of the cosmos, including the human body.

If this sounds interesting, you might want to attend an intensive 5-day course called "Creating Architecture in Harmony with Nature" with instructor Deepak Bakshi. The course begins on April 5, 1999. Contact Architectural Design Services by phone (515-469-6307) or email ( This is a rare opportunity to learn first hand about Sthapatya Veda, the architectural system of India, and its application to modern building.


February 2, 1999

Homebuilder Delivers Total Solar Electric Home

Japanese home buyers can now buy a home that requires almost no outside energy and almost no electric bill. The Hybrid-Z home is built by Misawa Homes, Japan's largest homebuilder, and MSK Corp., the Japanese distributor for Solarex. The new home's entire roof is covered with 12.5 kiloWatts worth of photovoltaic modules. The homes use no natural gas or oil, so all energy use is electric, including household appliances, cooking facilities, and a water heater. Because of national net-metering, the grid-connected home sells power to the electric utility at retail rates when the system generates more than the house uses. The solar modules are assembled at MSK Corporation's facility in Nagano and are integrated into the roof at Misawa's factory. While it takes three days for Misawa to build the modular home, it takes only eight hours to fully install it on site. Misawa Homes plans to sell 2,000 of its Hybrid-Z homes and has already sold more than 500.

Travel to Rome, Study Sustainable Design

Next year, the Dinkeloo Fellowship will send one architect to Rome for study and travel. The Dinkeloo Fellow will receive between $3500 and $7000 of indirect support for a two month stay at the American Academy in Rome, plus a direct award of $3500 for travel expenses. Fellows are expected to supplement their stay at the American Academy with a minimum of one month's travel, and to budget adequate resources to document their project. Following their return, fellows must present their work to the Institute. The fellowship is open to U.S. citizens who have or will graduate from an accepted architecture (or related) degree program from May 1990 to September 1999. This year's jury-reviewed competition calls for "portfolios and accompanying proposals that demonstrate an understanding that contemporary architectural design, in concert with technology, can be environmentally conscious. In addition, the competition challenges entrants to address how this 'green' consciousness a conscience can improve the public realm." Submissions must be received by May 7, 1999.

 Portland Leads Nation in Energy-Efficient Retrofits

Portland, Oregon, has exceeded it's goal of energy efficient retrofit projects by 64 percent. Staff at the Portland Energy Office set their sights on improving 26.9 million square feet of existing commercial and institutional space. Instead, they achieved 42.3 million square feet. The historic, 87,500 square foot Portland City hall was one prominent project. The success of the effort can be attributed in part to a parade of public and private programs, including Portland Partners for Energy Efficiency, Rebuild America, Earth Smart, Green Neighborhood Network and a 35 percent state Business Energy Tax Credit. The performance makes Portland the top leader among Rebuild America participants.

Utility Restructuring Creates Opportunity for Renewables

Two new studies from the Union of Concerned Scientists show that utility restructuring is creating an important opportunity for renewable energy, and that renewables can deliver economic and environmental benefits.

A Powerful Opportunity: Making Renewable Electricity the Standard finds that the U.S. could increase the amount of electricity from renewable energy sources to about 10 times current levels over the next 20 years, and still see a 13 percent decrease in electricity prices. Expanding renewable electricity use to these levels would freeze power plant emissions of carbon dioxide -- the primary cause of global warming -- at about year 2000 levels, making a major contribution to meeting the U.S. reduction targets under the Kyoto global warming treaty.

Powerful Solutions: 7 Ways to Switch America to Renewable Electricity describes seven practical measures to switch America to renewable electricity sources, including renewable portfolio standards, public benefits funding, net metering, fair transmission and distribution rules, fair pollution rules, consumer information, and putting green customer demand to work. The report shows that eight states have already adopted minimum renewable energy requirements. Together, these state initiatives will likely provide enough renewable electricity over the next 10 years to power 4 million homes.

Northwest Aims to Mainstream Sustainable Building

Over the next two to three years, the Pacific Northwest intends to make major strides towards bringing sustainable construction into the mainstream. As a road map for this effort, supporters have begun an ambitious region-wide effort to write a Sustainable Building Action Plan. Dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals are already involved. The plan will identify the steps needed to make sustainable building the standard practice in the Pacific Northwest. The Plan's overall goals for the next 2-3 years are to:

  • Create a commonly accepted definition and language for sustainable building for the region;
  • Create a vision/message for sustainable building that will motivate people;
  • Increase demand for sustainable building services/products/projects by increasing awareness and understanding, and by providing incentives; and
  • Increase the supply of sustainable building services/products/projects by providing industry professionals with information, tools, resources, incentives, and rewards to enable them to undertake sustainable building practices.

Study Reveals Energy Efficient Homes Have Higher Market Value

A new study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concludes that energy efficiency substantially increases the market value of homes. This peer-reviewed study, "Evidence of Rational Market Values for Home Energy Efficiency," was published in the October 1998 issue of The Appraisal Journal. Among the findings: Energy-efficient homes have a higher market or resale value regardless of how long you own your home. Home value increases $20 for every $1 reduction in average annual utility bill. A typical ENERGY STAR® Home reduces utility bills by $35 per month or $420 a year. The study indicates that on average, these annual saving will add $8,400 to the market value of the home.

Cadet Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Under the strain of a recently expanded product recall, Cadet Manufacturing of Vancouver, Washington has filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. The company plans to reorganize and continue operations. In 1997, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) and the company negotiated a recall of certain heaters manufactured before 1992 because of a faulty high limit switch. Cadet's web site helps you identify the suspected heaters and allows you to order replacement parts. According to a statement from the company president, Hutch Johnson, the bankruptcy filing will not affect the limit switch replacement program. The company's bankruptcy filing was prompted by last month's CSPC administrative complaint that seeks to expand the recall to 1.8 million heaters.

Sustainable Building Questionnaire Deadline Extended

If you wanted to share your views on sustainable building through the questionnaire mentioned last week, you still have time. The deadline has been extended until February 5.

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