Green Building News

Green Building News July 1999

July 28, 1999

Studies Show Productivity Boost from Daylighting

The Heschong Mahone Group has published two reports documenting the tangible benefits of daylighting in buildings. A study of retail stores showed 40 percent higher sales in stores with skylights. Analysis of school records for 21,000 elementary students in three different states showed that reading scores were 26 percent higher and math scores were 20 percent higher in classrooms with the most daylight. The results were statistically valid to a 99 percent degree of confidence, making this some of the most reliable information on the topic yet developed.

Truly Touts Renewables

Speaking at the National Press Club, Richard Truly, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory said America must invest in its energy future now. Otherwise the nation could face supply shortages and fall behind foreign competitors. Truly said that U.S. policy and research and development decisions should recognize that worldwide energy demand will outstrip the supply of fossil fuels in coming decades. To overcome this requires investment in a diverse set of energy options. Research and development of alternative energy technologies should be accelerated to ensure secure energy supplies and U.S. leadership in the future global energy economy.

"Now is not the time to pull back once again on our commitment to a strong energy efficiency and renewable energy program," Truly said. To be an energy leader, the U.S. needs to be constant in its purpose; recognize the need for a variety of energy sources; be consistent in funding; and help new technology reach the market, he said.

Truly pointed to a wide array of successes in developing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Wind turbines can now produce electricity at the cost of about 4 to 6 cents a kilowatt-hour and, because of increases in efficiency and reliability, by the start of the next millennium nearly 200 million watts of PV panels will be shipped yearly for use across the globe. Laboratory scientists have made great strides in learning how to produce environmentally friendly hydrogen from sunlight and water and how to store it. Progress also has been made in bioenergy, the use of plants to produce fuels, chemicals and other products. But this progress is at risk, Truly said. Without a commitment to continued research and development of energy from the sun, wind and plant life, the potential of clean, never-ending supplies of energy won't be realized. And without a commitment to bring those technologies to market, the science will go wasted. Vice Admiral Richard Truly (retired), former NASA administrator and astronaut, became director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in May 1997.

NW Clean Energy Challenge Seeks Campaign Coordinator

Climate Solutions is seeking an experienced and highly-motivated Clean Energy Campaign coordinator to manage specific aspects of an Earth Day 2000 affiliated campaign to encourage the production and use of clean, renewable energy systems in the Pacific Northwest. This contract will begin on September 1, 1999 and end on December 31, 1999. It is anticipated but not guaranteed that the contract will resume for an additional nine months and possibly more. The Clean Energy Challenge Campaign Coordinator will assemble an outreach committee, coordinate the creation and oversee the implementation of a communications/publicity plan, design and implement a Clean Energy Challenge web site, and assist the Program Director with the recruitment and recognition of campaign sponsors. The deadline for applications is 4:30 pm, Friday, August 6, 1999. For more information, contact Paul Horton.

NTIS Offers New Videos and Reports to Aid Lawyers and Contractors with Lead Abatement

Lead-based paint was banned in residences in 1978, but it's still poisoning children when they spend time in older residences, recreation facilities and day care centers. Contractors and environmental professionals who are looking for the latest regulations on how to conduct lead-based paint abatement and inspection can look to new materials from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). "Lead Abatement Training for Supervisors and Contractors" and "Lead Abatement Training for Workers" are new training courses presented on video and CD-ROM. Paper reports on lead now available from NTIS include: Volumes 1 and 2 of Risk Analysis to Support Standards for Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil. Volume 1 assesses health risks to young children from exposures to lead-based paint hazards, lead-contaminated dust, and lead- contaminated soil in the nation's housing and how to reduce these risks. Volume 2 further discusses health effects from lead exposure and internal lead doses in humans and how it is measured. These products are available from NTIS, 800-553-6847 or 703-605-6000. Access information on more than 400,000 government information products on the NTIS Web site.

TVA Tries Green Power

The Tennessee Valley Authority -- the largest electricity generator in the US -- wants to offer green energy to its customers. If it proves popular, the agency could make green power available through all its 159 power distributors as early as 2003. TVA's green energy programs started in 1998. So far, the agency has committed $6 million to renewable energy projects in seven states. This fall plans will be completed for eight photovoltaic generating stations, two windfarms, and a waste-to-energy plant. By next summer these projects should be generating up to 6 megawatts of power or enough electricity to serve 15,000 residents.

Paper Identifies Barriers to Sustainable Building

Although interest in sustainable design and construction is clearly growing, many green-leaning building professionals wish that it would move more quickly into the mainstream. The barriers to a more widespread practice of green construction are identified in a master's thesis written by Miriam Landman, titled Breaking Through the Barriers to Sustainable Building: Insights from Building Professionals on Government Initiatives to Promote Environmentally Sound Practices. The paper discusses the concept, benefits and history of sustainable building. It then describes these barriers:

  • a lack of interest in or demand for sustainable building from clients (owners/developers),
  • a lack of training and education in sustainable design/construction,
  • the failure of service fee structures to account for the recovery of long-term savings, and
  • the higher costs (both real and perceived) of sustainable building options.

Government actions to address each of these barriers are outlined.

News Bits

Building Green on a Budget - Environmental Building News

Poll Shows Strong Support for Open Space - Environmental News Network

Low-Flow Toilets All Wet, Some Lawmakers Say - LA Times

DOE Renewable Energy Reports Questioned - Environmental News Network

GMAC Announces Solar Loan - USDOE

July 21, 1999

Ashland Gets PV Grant from Bonneville Environmental Foundation

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation will offer matching funds to finance Solar Ashland, a project by the City of Ashland, Oregon to deploy photovoltaic power systems on homes, businesses and community facilities in the southern Oregon town. The Foundation will provide between $25,000 and $62,500 on a 1:2 match basis with Ashland, which is committing $50,000 to $125,000 to the project. The first phase will install up to 25 kilowatts of PV arrays on City, educational and other public facilities. The power will be sold to the host institutions and to the public. A second phase will market both power and solar arrays to Ashland residents. The Foundation's startup funding came from major 1998/99 Hewlett and Packard Foundation grants. It has already recorded green power sales, in collaboration with the Bonneville Power Administration and Klickatat Public Utility District, to utility and industrial customers throughout the four Northwest states.

Buy or Sell Green Real Estate Online

Sustainable Sources recently unveiled online real estate advertising. Sellers can enter detailed information about their properties, including a photo. Realtors are welcome to submit listings. Buyers can find properties around the country with sustainable features. The system is free during this initial period. After September 1, the publishers will charge a small, one-time fee based on the asking price.

Lighting Design Lab Offers Virtual Tour

People outside the Puget Sound area often wonder what they might see if they dropped by the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle. Now you can see exactly what the LDL has to offer through a virtual tour on their web site. The Lab offers product demos, lighting mock-ups, a daylight modeling lab and an extensive library.

Energy Star Considers Expanding Product Coverage

Energy Star® Labeling Programs currently cover 29 product types, such as computers, monitors, home heating and cooling (HVAC) equipment and appliances. EPA is considering expanding its labeling programs to include energy-efficiency guidelines for set-top boxes, commercial tce machines, residential spot ventilation fans, ceiling fans, vending machines, LED traffic lights, Telephony, visi-coolers, water coolers, residential dehumidifiers and reach-in refrigerators and freezers.

Development Planned to be Utility-Independent

A 2,500-unit planned unit development (PUD) will be built around a unique waste-to-energy system, making it independent of energy, water and sewer utilities. Toups Technology Licensing, Inc. will install, operate and maintain the fully self-contained waste to energy system that will provide the PUD: electricity, potable water, water for irrigation, sewage treatment, garbage collection and treatment, salt water desalinization facilities, hot water for common areas and swimming pools, chillers to air condition common buildings as well as alternative fuel gas for cooking and motor vehicles. The system does not burn or incinerate waste, and it uses a portion of the gas created by the waste treatment process to fuel itself. Heat generated from the treatment process can be used to heat water and cool buildings, while the gas created (at the rate of 15,000 cubic feet per ton of waste) may be used for water treatment processing, electrical generation, cooking and as an alternative fuel for vehicles. The development, located in the Dominican Republic, will house federal government employees. It is expected to be complete and occupied by the third quarter of 2000. Source: Environmental News Network

Sierra Club Urges Scrutiny of Weyerhaeuser Forest Practices

When Weyerhaeuser acquired Canadian timber giant MacMillan Bloedel, the US-based company agreed to honor previous MB's environmental commitments. Last week, Steven Rogel, CEO of Weyerhaeuser, reiterated that commitment. However, The Sierra Club expressed concern regarding Weyerhaeuser's lack of commitment to protect British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, the largest remaining intact temperate rainforest in the world. The group cites Weyerhaeuser's poor environmental track record. "As a global leader in the forest industry, Weyerhaeuser has an obligation to protect the last remaining temperate rainforest," said Susan Holmes, Sierra Club Senior Regional Representative. "The world is watching."

July 14, 1999

Neil Kelly Switches to Strawboard

All cabinets coming from Neil Kelly in Portland, Oregon will soon be made with strawboard cases. The switch to strawboard follows the fall 1998 introduction of their Naturals Collection, the first line of cabinets in the U.S. to use certified wood and veneers. Initially, the line used standard particleboard for case material, with formaldehyde free medium density fiberboard or certified particleboard offered as upgrades. Now, straw-based particleboard will be the standard case material for all Neil Kelly cabinets. "With strawboard, we feel we have an environmentally improved product that competes effectively in terms of quality and cost with standard particleboard," says Rick Fields, V.P. and General Manager of the Cabinet Division. "It allows us to improve the environmental performance of the entire product line, not just the Naturals Collection, without pricing ourselves out of reach." In addition to the Naturals Collection, Neil Kelly offers its American Craftsman and Transitions Collections.

The Neil Kelly Company, which includes both cabinet manufacturing and a design/remodeling business, has woven environmental consciousness into the fabric of the company culture. "We look to reduce waste and seek out 'green' products for use in our remodeling business and we've become active in the Natrual Step," says Fields.

Scientists Create First Insulated Auto

Cars and other vehicles can reach unbearably high temperatures. To combat over heating, car makers typically install large, inefficient air conditioners -- often about the size needed to cool a small house. Now scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL) have applied the thermal principles of buildings to vehicles. If adopted by the auto industry, these changes could save more than a billion dollars worth of gasoline per year. Increasing the thermal efficiency of a 1998 Ford Taurus reduced the heating load by 80 percent and the cooling load by 75 percent. Because a smaller, lighter air conditioner is needed, the overall fuel economy improves, too. The Lab's patented gas-filled panel (GFP) insulation uses thin polymer-film bags filled with low-conductivity gas to create a lightweight panels that can take on a variety of shapes and sizes and can be up to three times as effective as conventional foam insulation. The weight savings achieved by GFPs over other insulation options made it possible to retrofit the test vehicle with gas-filled, double pane windows for the side and back. The new windows used Low-E coatings to reject ultraviolet light and heat. The concept also applies to electric vehicles that must expend valuable battery capacity on cooling.

Marriott International Launches Energy Alliance With PG&E Energy Services

PG&E Energy Services, a retail unit of PG&E Corporation, and The Marketplace by Marriott, the procurement arm of Marriott International, Inc., announced a long-term contract for electricity supply and comprehensive energy management services at hundreds of Marriott-managed and franchised hotels, resorts, suites, distribution centers and senior living communities in California. The five-year alliance is the first in the nation to provide total, integrated energy services to a broad base of lodging properties.

According to PG&E Energy Services, preliminary assessments of several facilities indicate a potential of $65 million in cost-effective energy efficiency projects at Marriott properties in California over the next several years. Electricity discount and facility improvements together are expected to lower each participating property's energy costs by as much as 30 percent. Source: Excite News

Evaporative Coolers Effective in Dry Climates

To some people, evaporative coolers (also called "swamp coolers) seem like antiquated devices. In fact, they can be a highly efficient method of staying comfortable -- if you live in a dry summer climate. Evaporative coolers take advantage of the huge amount of energy needed to change water from a liquid to a gas. It's the same principle used by people to cool their bodies by sweating. Much of the cooling power of trees comes from evaporation. Fountains, ponds and other water features also cool their immediate area through evaporation. Evaporative coolers simply put this natural process in a box and pump it into a building. There are two types of systems: direct and indirect. Direct units blow outside air across water-soaked pads, which increases the relative humidity of the air inside the building. Indirect units use a heat exchanger to cool the air, so the relative humidity isn't affected. Installation and operation costs for an evaporative cooler are substantially lower than a typical air conditioner. And they're naturally ozone friendly. You can use the bioclimatic chart to determine if your climate is suitable. The Energy Outlet has a good introductory article about evaporative coolers.

Winery Installs 40 kW Photovoltaic System

The new photovoltaic solar power system at Fetzer Vineyards will produce enough energy to bottle about 1.2 million bottles of wine annually, making it the largest known solar winery project in the world.

PowerLight Corporation installed the just-completed solar rooftop project undertaken jointly by Fetzer Vineyards and Real Goods Trading Corporation in just two weeks -- even faster than the ambitious 3-week schedule originally planned. The system uses 360 high-efficiency photovoltaic modules from AstroPower, Inc. to produce 42 kWp and 32 kWac. Rather than charging a battery bank, the installation incorporates a high-efficiency DC-to-AC inverter and connects to the Pacific Gas & Electric public utility power grid. Consequently it is capable of feeding any excess power it produces into PG&E's grid, particularly during intensely sunny midsummer days when public utility power demand is highest. Conversely, the winery can draw upon public utility power if a lengthy spell of cloudy weather should temporarily reduce the photovoltaic system's power output. Fetzer gets both the benefits of producing their own power and the reliability of being connected to the PG&E grid.

In addition to providing clean sustainable power, the system is designed to accumulate a wealth of data by automatically scanning meteorological and photovoltaic performance each second, and then calculating and storing average data for 15-minute periods. The stored data will be retrievable via the internet.

The system was supported, in part, through PowerLight's contract for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy through an award from the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group's TEAM-UP program. Additional cofunding arranged by Real Goods was provided by the California Energy Commission's Emerging Renewables Program.

Energy Photovoltiacs To Build Plant in Sacramento

Energy Photovoltaics, Inc. (EPV) has agreed to a long-term lease of a building owned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). The Rancho Seco Technical Center building and adjoining property will be used as a solar manufacturing center that would bring 100 to 200 local, energy-related jobs to the Rancho Seco site.

"This partnership works to accomplish two of SMUD's top priorities -- helping to attract businesses that bring jobs to the community and working to sustain the environment through the development of renewable energy," said SMUD General Manager Jan Schori.

Last May, SMUD contracted with EPV to purchase up to $19.3 million worth of photovoltaic panels over a 5-year period. As part of the agreement, EPV agreed to build a manufacturing facility in Sacramento County. EPV has since formed an affiliated entity known as CalSolar Manufacturing Inc.

Sustainability in the News

How to Build or Remodel Your Own "Green" House - EDF Letter

Choose 'green' when pulling planks for home building projects - Environmental News Network

DOE renewable energy reports questioned - Environmental News Network


July 7, 1999

Four Utilities Drop Ground Source Heat Pump Rebates

After a little more than one year, four northeast utilities are abandoning programs that offered cash rebates to promote the installation of ground source heat pumps. The July edition of Energy Design Update reports that New England Electric, Boston Edison, Eastern Edison and Commonwealth Electric will stop paying the $2.25 per square foot rebate next year. New rebate agreements will be available through the end of this year. Systems must be installed and inspected by July, 2000 in order to receive payments.

The utilities cited three reasons for terminating the program. The broad participation that utilities had hoped for didn't materialize. The systems didn't perform as expected in the New England climate. And the major factor: the utilities have decided to join the fuel-neutral Energy Star® program. Northeast Utilities will continue it's ground source heat pump program for new home construction, but will switch from a square-foot-based rebate to one based on the size of the ground loop.

30-Kilowatt Solar Energy System Dedicated at the Pentagon

DOE and the Department of Defense dedicated a 30-kilowatt solar electric system at the Pentagon on June 28th. Both agencies and several private companies contributed to the cost of the system, which is one of the largest photovoltaic solar installations on the East Coast. The modules used in the Pentagon's Photovoltaic (PV) panels were built by Ascension Technology, a division of Applied Power Company of Lacey, Washington. Unlike most modules, they have micro-inverters which transform the suns rays directly into alternating current, the type of electricity used in the typical American home. The Pentagon's solar energy system is the largest in the United States to employ this new technology. Developed with the support of DOE and more than 20 electric power companies across the nation, the new module complies with the National Electric Code and is the world's first Underwriters Laboratories-certified alternating current module.

Sustainable Design Curriculum Materials

Three new FREE publications have just been added to the online Sustainable Architecture collection. These curriculum materials will give you educators a big head start on college-level courses in sustainable design.

"Fundamentals and Methods of Sustainable Design" (173K Acrobat file; 28 pp.): Intended for college architecture courses, this paper examines the environmental impact of building design and construction. Principles of sustainable architecture are discussed as a means of reducing this impact. Analysis of a building's phases of construction ("pre-building," "building," and "post-building") are used to explore the concepts of Economy of Resources, Life Cycle Design, and Humane Design.

"Sustainable Design Bibliography" (88K Acrobat file; 6 pp.): Lists 130 books and journals specifically related to sustainable design theory and application. Tells how to obtain cited materials not commonly available from your university library or local bookstore. Arranged by topic.

"Sustainable Design Annotated Bibliography" (95K Acrobat file; 2 pp.): Describes 12 of the publications cited in the Bibliography.

You may view or print any of these publications from the site for free. There is a small fee for printed copies.

European Forest Industry Creates Certification Scheme

A new forest certification agency in Europe recently launched a certification scheme for sustainably-produced timber which is expected to compete with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Meeting in Paris, representatives of 12 national bodies participating in the Pan-European Forest Certification Scheme (PEFC), signed the new body's statutes.

In a statement, the group said it expected over 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of woodlands to be certified under the scheme by early 2000, possibly rising to double this figure by next summer.

The PEFC's development originated with small forest owners in Finland and some other European countries who opposed the FSC certification scheme, which was inspired by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Organizations from 17 European countries are now participating in the PEFC, and organizers say that expressions of interest have been received from forest industry organizations in Australia, Canada, the USA and Brazil.

Key to its design, according to PEFC general secretary Ben Gunneberg, is that the scheme is based on certification of woodland owners by independent auditors who must be accredited by national accreditation agencies. The program has wide support among Europe's timber industry. According to organizers, the initiative now has the support of associations representing about 12 million woodland owners in Europe, who manage 100 million hectares of woodlands and cut 280 million cubic metres of timber annually.

Gunneberg strongly played down any implication that the PEFC and FSC would necessarily become rivals, though both now have their own labels for sustainably managed woodland products. The PEFC explicitly allowed for participation by all stakeholders, including environmental groups, retailers and others, as well as forest owners and forest industries. Source: Environmental News Service

Sustainability in the News

U.S. Postal Service thinks green - Nando Times

More people suing over indoor air quality problems - San Jose Business Journal

Developers must control erosion, council says - The Oregonian

Businesses, homes are getting their own power plants - San Jose Mercury News

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