Green Building News

Green Building News March 1999

March 30, 1999

Atlanta Clearly Shows Heat Island Effect

Researchers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) say that the temperatures in the city of Atlanta are often 10 degrees higher than the surrounding countryside due to the urban heat island effect. Urban development has created heat islands as trees and other vegetation are replaced with heat-absorbing asphalt, concrete and rooftops. Urban heat islands can generate their own winds and thunderstorms, warm the city well into the night and dramatically increase the production of harmful ground-level ozone. The city already has a serious ozone problem, and the 10-degree rise in temperature doubles the amount of ozone that is produced. (The book Cooling our Communities offers tips on how individuals, businesses and local governments can reverse this troubling trend.)

Energy Efficient Construction Tax Credit Bill Introduced

Rep. William Thomas (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1358, a bill to establish tax credits for the construction of highly energy-efficient homes. The "Energy Efficient Affordable Home Act of 1999" features a revamped credit for improved efficiency in existing homes, along with other changes. For new construction, the bill would establish a $2,000 income tax credit for homes that exceed the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) by 30 percent. (The IECC is the latest evolution of the Model Energy Code.) The credit for existing homes would be performance based. Homeowners who retrofit their homes to be 30 percent more energy efficient will receive a tax credit of 20 percent of the cost of the upgrades with a limit of $2,000. Improvements that qualify for the credit include any energy-efficient building envelope component (such as insulation or windows) and any energy-efficient heating, cooling or water heating appliance. The Clinton Administration is proposing a similar tax credit. Source: Alliance to Save Energy

Federal Facilities Receive $1.5 Billion in Energy Saving Contracts

Federal facilities will now be able to contract with private energy service companies (ESCOs) to implement energy efficiency projects. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson announced the award of up to $1.5 billion in contracts to companies to implement energy saving measures. Any Federal facility from office buildings to Navy bases to National Parks to art museums can contract with selected ESCOs to get energy-saving equipment and upgrades without putting any money upfront. Under these Super Energy Savings Performance Contracts, the companies pay for the energy improvements and in return are paid from a portion of the energy savings.

"We expect most Federal facilities can save 15-40 percent annually on their energy bills if they use these innovative contracts. With these awards we are announcing today every Federal facility, in all 50 States, now has access to the best energy-saving technologies available," said Secretary Richardson. "All around it is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for the taxpayers."

Last July, President Clinton directed Federal agencies to reduce energy use by 30 percent by 2005, to save taxpayer dollars and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Under the Super Energy Saving Performance contracts, Federal buildings can be retrofitted with energy-efficient lighting, more efficient boilers and chillers, building automation and energy management control systems, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, building envelope modifications, chilled water piping and hot water and steam distribution systems, electric motors, refrigeration, electrical or cogeneration systems, renewable energy systems, and electrical distribution systems.

The National Gallery of Art will make improvements to lighting, electric motors, and steam distribution systems. The National Agriculture Library, Beltsville, MD, also in the Mid-Atlantic region, will reduce energy costs by retrofitting light and building automation systems and upgrading chillers and boilers.

Food Lion Joins Energy Star Program

The Food Lion supermarket chain has signed on to USEPA's Energy Star Buildings and Green Lights Programs. In a signing ceremony at the grand opening of a store in Lexington, S.C., Food Lion unveiled plans to reduce its energy consumption and air pollution emissions by installing more energy-efficient equipment. The new Lexington store, Food Lion's first Energy Star building, recovers waste heat from refrigeration equipment to use for water heating. Food Lion has committed to upgrade more than 650 facilities across its 11-state operating area. Source: Excite News

Natural Resources Canada Offers Incentive for Commercial Buildings

Commercial and institutional building projects in Canada may be eligible for an incentive up to $ 80,000 (Canadian) from Natural Resources Canada. The Commercial Buildings Incentive Program (CBIP) became available in April 1998 with a $ 30 million (Canadian) budget for three years. Grants from the program are intended to help offset additional design costs for energy efficient buildings. To qualify for the incentive, a building must be at least 25 percent more energy-efficient than if it were constructed to meet the requirements of the Model National Energy Code for Buildings (MNECB). The one-time cash incentive is equal to twice the difference between the estimated annual energy costs for the approved design and the estimated annual energy costs if the building were built to the MNECB standard -- or the total design cost -- whichever is less. Projects currently underway may be eligible if the building permit was issued after April 1, 1998.

Yestermorrow Seeks Assistant Director

The Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont is seeking an Assistant Director. The successful applicant will have a bachelor's or higher degree in architecture or a related design discipline. Experience in construction and education are a plus. The assistant director reports to the executive director and has primary responsibility for the professional curriculum and will recruit students and instructors, interact with schools of architecture, develop courses and interact with the Building and Grounds committee on campus design and development. Routine office functions are also included. The salary is $24,000 per year. Yestermorrow is a non-profit school with a mission to re-establish the continuity and inter-relationship between the processes of conceiving, making and using the buildings and landscape, and to empower individuals to house themselves, and is committed to sustainability in its practice and courses. Please contact Peter Walcott, Executive Director at 888-496-5541 or

Little Rock Seeks Energy Efficiency Program Administrator

The City of Little Rock, Arkansas, is searching for an administrator to develop and implement the energy efficiency program for monitoring and controlling energy costs for the City of Little Rock. Applications are due by April 1, 1999. The salary range is $32,475 - $48,713. More information is available from the Little Rock Human Resources Dept. at 501-371-4496.

Architecture + Energy Calls for Entries

The American Institute of Architects/Portland is now accepting entries for the 1999 Architecture + Energy Awards: Building Excellence in the Northwest. The competition honors the successful integration of architectural design and energy efficient technology. Effective, creative use of daylighting, passive ventilation and waste management practices are some of the successful strategies demonstrated by past years' award winners. The competition is open to commercial buildings in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Both new construction and major renovation projects are eligible. All construction must be completed at the time of entry. Submittals will be judged on energy performance, treatment of energy related elements, climatic responsive design, resource efficiency and creativity. Administered by AIA/Portland and sponsored by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the competition is now in its seventh year. Deadline for entries is June 4, 1999. Entry packets are available from AIA/Portland, 503-223-8757 or

GFX Gets More Exposure

Energy paparazzi have spied the GFX Drainwater Heat Recovery device in several new places. GFX units will receive a $100 rebate through Minnesota Power's Triple-E program. A GFX unit was installed in Ryan Homes project that won an Energy Value Housing Award from the NAHB Research Center. Telltale items in Bob Vila's trash suggest that he taped a segment on GFX for an upcoming episode of his Home Again show. What's next? A centerfold in Popular Mechanics?

Workshop Promotes Daylighting for All Buildings

It's hard to argue with the promise of daylighting: make buildings more beautiful, improve workers' health and productivity and cut long term energy costs by 30 to 70 percent. To share the latest information about daylighting, the Daylighting Collaborative will present Daylighting Goes Mainstream: How to Daylight Every Office Building, on June 10, 1999 at the Dane County Expo Center, Madison Wisconsin. The training is for architects, engineers, building owners, facility managers, lighting designers and builders who want to learn how daylighting can be a part of commercial buildings. Participants will learn about the effect of light on human performance, how to integrate electric lights and daylighting, how buildings use energy and how "cool daylighting" can reduce the need for air conditioning. The workshop costs $95 and offers AIA continuing education credit. More information is available from Marge Anderson, Energy Center of Wisconsin at 608-238-8276 x32 or


March 22, 1999

Applied Power Buys Alternative Energy Engineering

Last week Applied Power Corporation (APC) announced that it had acquired Alternative Energy Engineering (AEE). APC, a subsidiary of Idaho Power, provides photovoltaic systems for a wide variety of applications throughout the world. AEE is a distributor and reseller of solar, wind, and energy related products. AEE produces a comprehensive catalog of alternative energy products, servicing an extensive dealer and retail client base.

Ft. Collins Seeks Energy Services Engineer

The City of Ft. Collins, Colorado, is looking for an Energy Services Engineer to work with it's municipal electric utility. Duties include developing, implementing and evaluating energy efficiency programs. The salary ranges from $3724 - $5065 per month and the application deadline is April 2, 1999. "Fort Collins Utilities has long been a leader in energy services, particularly for its size" says Doug Swartz, longtime FCU staffer. "We've got a budget and a supportive community. The new person will have a lot of input into how the job evolves in the future and which programs the city pursues. There are many interesting projects on the horizon." An application and more details are available from Wendy Williams, 970-221-6768. Fort Collins is a progressive city of about 100,000, with a major university and a sweet climate. Big mountains with deep powder and whitewater are just up the road.

Article Spotlights Green Building Schools

The Environmental News Network ran an interesting article on green building schools. Yestermorrow and Fox Maple (publisher of Joiners' Quarterly) were both mentioned by name. There's also a link to a list of 35 green building schools and learning events maintained by the Ecological Design Education Network.

Endangered Species Listing Affects Urban Areas

For the first time, major urban areas will be directly affected by an endangered species listing. Last week, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service added nine species of salmon and steelhead to the endangered species list. These new listings cover much of the Pacific Northwest, including the metropolitan areas of Seattle and Portland. Although no new regulations were announced, NMFS says "any accidental or incidental 'take' of Upper Columbia River spring chinook would require a permit." NMFS says it will work closely with its partners to develop state and local conservation initiatives. These are certain to affect development and construction in the region. The fisheries service said that the listing decisions would go into effect in two months.

Database Lists Financial Incentives

The National Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) was initiated in 1995 by the U.S. Department of Energy. Each of the 50 states was surveyed for information on financial and regulatory incentives designed to promote the application of renewable energy technologies. This information was compiled into a database that details the incentives on a state-by-state basis. The database is now available via the Internet. Although the database was established to help states share information, it's also a great way to discover what assistance is available in your own state.

New York State To Spend $1 Million on Residential Photovoltaics

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has $1 million available to support programs that expand the use of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) technology to power New York State residences. The goal of the Residential Photovoltaics Program is to stimulate the PV market by installing high-quality, well designed, reliable, grid-connected photovoltaic systems at residences in the State. NYSERDA expects multiple awards with a maximum award per project of $500,000. NYSERDA will pay no more than 50% of the PV installation cost for any proposed project. Proposers are encouraged to submit an optional pre-proposal for review and comment. This pre-proposal is due by April 28, 1999.


March 16, 1999

Home Depot Endorses Certified Wood -- Takes Heat

Last week Annette Verschuren, Chairperson of Home Depot's Environmental Council and President of The Home Depot Canada, announced that Home Depot had joined the Certified Forest Products Council and would promote wood products certified to come from well-managed forests. She also called on other home improvement centers and lumber retailers to conserve the world's forests.

Instead of offering congratulations, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) lambasted Home Depot for continuing to sell products from old-growth forests. RAN plans to hold protests at Home Depot stores on March 17th encouraging patrons to "go green" for St. Patrick's Day.

"Home Depot still plans to sell products made from the planet's last remaining old growth forests, and that's simply barbaric when a scant 20 percent of these ancient forests still survive," says Michael Brune, Rainforest Action Network old growth campaign director. "Unless Home Depot stops selling old growth wood this gesture will be meaningless," he says. "We don't intend to let Home Depot score a public relations victory with this half-measure."

In her speech to a forest industry group, Verschuren also listed her company's other environmental initiatives, including plans to expand recycling of shrink wrap, metal, wood and wood pallets. Already, 65 percent of the pallets used in their Canadian stores are recycled. "Green Specs are being created to decrease the impact on the environment when new stores are built and the impact of daily operations that existing stores have on their local environment. With 777 stores currently operating and nearly 850 new stores to be built in the next four years, there is tremendous opportunity to continue innovations in energy conversation and green building practices," Verschuren explained. Source: Environmental News Network

Ohio's First Solar-Electric School Plugs into the Internet

Having a solar-powered school is pretty cool, but Bluffsview Elementary School went a big step further by allowing the system to be monitored over the internet. The school in Worthington, Ohio recently installed 2 kiloWatts worth of PV modules, comprising 30 75-watt modules. American Electric Power connected it's Datapult Information Sensor to the solar cells and to the lights in the school. This device measures electricity every fifteen minutes and sends the data to a special computer, which makes a graph showing how much electricity was made and how much was used. The graphing function can be accessed via a web page. This is a project of the Solar Schools program, a collaborative effort of companies interested in helping schools around the world install solar energy panels and learn about energy resources. The Bluffsview project is the first of what the group hopes will be 100 schools to install such a system. Since January, five Ohio schools have pledged to join the program. The Million Solar Roofs Initiative also supported the project.

Solar Cell Sets Efficiency Record

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently took another step toward reduced costs and increased competitiveness for solar energy by setting a world record for thin-film solar cell efficiency. The measurement of 18.8 percent efficiency for the copper indium gallium diselenide (CIS) cell topped the previous record, also set at NREL, by more than 1 percent. The efficiency of a solar cell is the percentage of available sunlight converted by the photovoltaic cell into electricity.

"As the scientists and researchers at the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) push the envelope of solar-cell efficiency, we can begin to visualize the day when energy from the sun will be generating a significant portion of country's electric power demand," said NCPV Director Larry Kazmerski. "The technology has been proven. The task before us now is to lower the cost, and improved cell efficiency is one of the most effective ways of doing that. With this advancement, we take another step toward that goal."

Interim Home Energy Guide Adopted

The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) have adopted an Interim Home Energy Rating System Technical Guide. NASEO intends to "establish guidelines which any provider of home energy ratings may follow to produce uniform home energy ratings, and to enable and encourage the use of home mortgages or home improvement loans." An annotated version of the interim NASEO HERS can be viewed on RESNET's web site. Comments are being accepted on the interim version before final wording is recommended in July 1999.

AFG Announces Advanced Low-E Coating

Low-emmissivity coatings are one big reason for the huge improvement in the energy performance of windows in recent years. According to an article in the March 1999 issue of Energy Design Update, AFG Industries has introduced a new family of soft-coat, low-e coatings using ultrahard titanium. Called Comfort-Ti, the new products provides better visibility and energy performance. Now, you can choose from three versions to better match your climate and design goals. Comfort Ti-PS provides high levels of passive solar transmission (50%), so you can capitalize on solar gains to reduce heating costs in colder regions. Comfort Ti-R boasts the lowest emissivity of any glazing on the market (.03) and a U-value of 0.29. Comfort Ti-AC offers a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.39, which makes it a solar heat blocker, designed for regions where air conditioning is used most of the year. All three versions are approved by the Energy Star program although some approvals are limited to specific climates. Window fabricators will enjoy one of Comfort-Ti's powerful advantages. It can be tempered after it's coated and cut, so they can keep the material in stock and temper as customers need it. AFG Industries will continue to offer its hardcoat low-e.

Iris Catalog Features Carefully Selected Books, Videos and Software for Sustainable Design and Construction

The Iris Catalog is unique among mail order book catalogs in its dedication to environmentally-friendly construction. "I choose titles very carefully," says Bruce Sullivan, president of Iris Communications, Inc. "I look for books that are practical, accurate, attractive and focused on environmentally-sound construction." In addition to titles from major publishers, the catalog offers items created by innovators outside the mainstream. "Their budgets may be small, but they have important ideas and hands-on experience. You won't find these titles offered by a major bookstore" says Sullivan. The 1999 Spring catalog offers more than 150 titles. Titles new to this edition include:

The Stonebuilder's Primer
The Not So Big House
Wind Power for Home and Business
More Small Houses
Building with Bamboo
Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged

The books, videos and software included in the Iris Catalog cover a wide range of topics relevant to residential and commercial buildings, including energy-efficient construction, passive solar heating, daylighting, landscaping, material and equipment selection, building operation, ecological design and community planning. Books on sustainable construction are particularly popular and cover straw bale and earth architecture as well as building with lime, cob, stone and bamboo. Other books target architects that need to include sophisticated lighting and mechanical systems in commercial and institutional buildings. The catalog features several product directories that assist with the selection of environmentally-preferable materials and equipment.

Most of the titles are intended for building professionals, such as architects, contractors, engineers and consultants. However, home owners planning or engaged in a construction project also will find the information essential.


March 8, 1999

Solar Subdivision Planned for Downtown Tucson

An all-electric development located in the historic Armory Park area of Tucson, Arizona will employ the latest technologies for using solar energy to supply electricity, hot water and space heating to each of its 99 homes. Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP), its sister company Global Solar Energy and John Wesley Miller Companies, a Tucson commercial and home building firm, will develop the 14-acre community. One goal of the project is to reduce the need for commercially-generated electric power by 75 percent.

Ground breaking for the neighborhood and construction of the homes is planned to start later this summer. The homes will range in price from $80,000 to $150,000, and will range in size from 800 to 1,200 square feet. Custom home sites also will be available.

Architectural styling of all homes will complement those already found in the historic Armory Park community, while using the latest in modern building technologies. New home construction will feature thermal mass walls, highly insulated windows and other energy saving devices. The development's layout will promote a walker friendly environment, reminiscent of older neighborhoods. Homes will face each other across a spacious walkway rather than a typical street access. Parking will be in the rear of each home.

The new development will allow residents who work in the downtown area to walk to work instead of using air-polluting vehicles. A number of other amenities, including existing restaurants, small businesses, theater arts and other entertainment facilities also are within easy walking or biking distances. Plans include several open areas and will be landscaped with shade trees and desert plants. Reclaimed water will be used for outside irrigation.

Energy Star® Looking for Top 25% of Commercial Buildings

The Energy Star® Buildings program has introduced the Energy Star® Building label. Using a web-based benchmarking tool, you can compare your commercial or institutional building to others. Those that perform in the top 25 percent for efficiency may designate themselves as Energy Star® Buildings and use that in marketing and public relations. The benchmarking tool generates a Statement of Energy Performance -- which must be verified, stamped and signed by a Professional Engineer -- and a Letter of Agreement.

NAHB's National Green Builder Conference Debuts in April

While conferences and expositions on green building seem to be popping up all around the US, there don't seem to be very many actual builders in attendance. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) may be able to change that when it sponsors it's first conference on environmentally friendly home building practices April 8-10 in Denver.

Organized by and for builders, The National Green Building Conference will provide builders, remodelers, developers and home builder associations with the latest information and experiential knowledge on green building practices and products.

The first green building conference dedicated solely to the building industry, The National Green Building Conference will educate and inform members of the housing industry who wish to learn how to use their building materials and resources more efficiently, reduce costs, and market their green building practices. The Conference, which will be hosted by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Denver, will bring together housing industry practitioners from around the country who have benefited from and perfected green building to teach other builders the tools of their trade.

Seminars and case studies will examine: green building by production and custom builders; green building materials and systems; indoor air quality; resource efficiency such as waste recycling and house framing; green remodeling; how to market your company as a green building company; and how local home builder associations can create a green building program for their area. As part of the presentations, a model green builder program based on a review of existing local HBA programs will be detailed.

Unlike other green building conferences which concentrate on the theory of green building, The National Green Building Conference will rely on the tried-and-true experiences of builders who practice green building techniques every day.

The conference will kickoff on Thursday, April 8 with keynote speaker Steve Loken. Loken is founder of the Center for Resourceful Building Technology and a nationally recognized energy and home building technology expert. Loken will share his perspective on resource-efficient residential construction and provide an analysis of the green-building movement. NAHB President Charlie Ruma and NAHB Research Center President Liza Bowles will also address the conference on Thursday.

Registration fees for the conference are: $250 for NAHB members; $300 for non-members. Fees go up after March 8. The conference is sponsored by NAHB, Professional Builder and the NAHB Research Center, with financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sustainable Development Indicators Unveiled

"When decision makers in government, firms, communities and families see measures of the environment, economic indicators and social data all in separate reports, important aspects of national and individual well-being may not be considered when choices are made," says David Berry, Executive Director of the Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators. "The connections among the economy, environment and society tend to be ignored or forgotten."

In order to bring together information on all aspects of development the Working Group recently released their first report, which is intended to establish a framework for using indicators of sustainable development. The report identifies 40 experimental indicators that can serve as benchmarks for measuring progress toward goals. The purpose of this first report is to start a discussion of how indicators can be used. The complete report can be seen at the Sustainable Development Indicators Web site. Comments on the report are encouraged.

Green Building Conferences Abound

If the number of meetings, conferences and exhibitions is any indicator, then the green building movement must be growing by leaps and bounds. Here are just a few of the upcoming events:

Affordable Comfort, Rosemont, Illinois, April 19 - 24

Sustainable America National Town Meeting, Detroit, Michigan, May 2 - 5

American Solar Energy Society, Portland, Maine, June 12 - 17

EcoScan 2.0 Performs Life Cycle Assessment

EcoScan 2.0 allows designers to assess the environmental impact of any type of product from consumer goods to architectural designs. Developed by Turtle Bay and the giant Dutch corporation Philips, the software considers production, use, disposal and transportation. The heart of EcoScan is a database of Eco-Indicators that take into account ozone layer depletion, heavy metals, carcinogens, summer smog, winter smog, pesticides, greenhouse effect, eutrophication and acidification. The standard database was developed by the Dutch government and is intended for use in Europe. A more extensive database compiled by Philips is also available and you can create your own database. EcoScan uses weighting factors that allow you to quickly add up the total impact of the product. A free demo can be downloaded from the EcoScan Web site.

A Ready-made Course in Sustainable Architecture

Let's say that you teach architecture. Then your boss walks in your office and informs you that next term there will be a course on sustainable architecture... and you have to teach it. Where do you find the course material? You'll find a major cache of resource lists, bibliographies and course syllabi in the Architecture section of the National Pollution Prevention Center at the University of Michigan. Don't teach your class without it.


March 2, 1999

Oikos Gallery Displays New Products

New additions to this month's Oikos Product Gallery include transparent insulation, recycled glass architectural accessories and certified particleboard. Still on display from last month you'll see, compact fluorescent torchieres, insulating concrete forms, solar greenhouse materials and an emergency power kit.

Living Machine May Treat Wastewater In Oregon

The Marine Environment Research and Training Station (MERTS) near Astoria, Oregon may have the honor of hosting the first Living Machine® in the Pacific Northwest. Living Machines use natural systems, including microbes, algae, aquatic vegetation and solar energy to filter and breakdown nutrients, solids, bacteria and trace metals in wastewater. This process was pioneered by John Todd of Living Machines, Inc. (You may remember his early work from the New Alchemy Institute.) Located near the Columbia River, MERTS currently uses a sand filter that limits discharge options. The Living Machine will give them additional possibilities, including land disposal and reusing treated water for toilet flushing. In addition, the Living Machine is a wonderful teaching tool. MERTS plans to demonstrate the technology and assist communities who want to investigate the it. The technology might be attractive to coastal communities and food processing plants. MERTS has announced its intention to install the system, but additional funding is needed. Just over half of the $1.6 million cost could come from a US Environmental Protection Agency Grant. If the grant is approved construction could start within a year.
Sources: Tidepool and Environmental News Service

Aspen Pays Homeowners to Install Photovoltaics

Homeowners in Aspen, Colorado, can receive up to $3,000 for generating electricity with photovoltaic panels. The program is spearheaded by Aspen's Community Office of Renewable Energy (CORE) with a $60,000 grant from the Turner Foundation, the Aspen Municipal Electric Co. and the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, an international group representing 160 cities. Under the CORE program, homeowners would receive 25¢/kWh for the electricity they generate in the first two years. They may also be eligible for a state tax credit of $2,500. Together, the incentives dramatically reduce the upfront cost of installing a photovoltaic system. CORE hopes to install 30 to 40 systems through the program. While this idea is new in the United States, it's already happening in 40 European cities.
Source: Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce

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