Green Building News

Green Building News September 1999

September 30, 1999

Solar Power Featured in New Industrial Park

A 340-watt photovoltiac array will help to power industrial buildings in Pleasanton, California. Called PowerPark, this project will place PV modules on three 30,000-square-foot industrial buildings. The development is designed as a distributed energy resource -- an alternative to centralized power plants. It goal is to incorporate a blend of various generation, reliability, power quality, energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to benefit the occupants at lower-than-grid prices for cleaner-than-grid power.

Local officials welcomed this renewable feature of the 250,000 square-foot industrial park. "This is a special project which implements many of the General Plan policies related to energy production," said Brian Swift, Pleasanton director of Planning and Community Development.

Design work and construction of the industrial buildings will begin this fall, with occupancy expected late this year or early 2000. Photovoltaic panels will be installed on the building's roof as part of the 25-year development agreement.This is the first phase of a $2.7 million project. PowerPark developer INTERGY has contrated Edison Development Corporation to install the system. The California Energy Commission is contributing $1 million to the project through its Renewables Buy-Down program. Another $740,000 will be provided by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group's TEAM-UP program.

Big Green Site Spotlights Large Projects

Large-scale construction projects striving to reduce environmental impact face unique challenges. Helping designers, contractors and suppliers deal with those challenges is the goal of a new Web site called Big Green. With the unveiling of the Web site comes a unique online registry of large-scale green building projects. Anyone can submit a project to the Big Green Registry. Each submission, which must be approved before it appears, includes the name and location of the project, a list of the professional team that worked on design and construction and a list of green features. The Registry is now active and entering an initial testing phase. The site also serves as a home to the Big Green Discussion Group, which was launched last summer. The site contains instructions for joining the group and a searchable archive of past messages. The primary sponsor behind Big Green is Drew George, who works for an international construction management firm. Adding support and assistance to the project are Nadav Malin, editor of Environmental Building News, and Bruce Sullivan, president of Iris Communications.

Funding Available for Inventors

Do you have a great idea for a new invention that could save energy? If so, the US Department of Energy wants to hear from you. DOE's Inventions and Innovations Program provides as much as $200,000 in financial assistance for establishing technical performance and conducting early development of innovative energy-saving ideas and inventions. Projects relating to the most energy-intensive industries -- agriculture, aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass, metalcasting, mining, petroleum and steel -- will get special consideration. The program is now accepting preliminary applications for next year's funds.

Building Officials Support Energy Code

The Alliance to Save Energy called it a "a clear victory for the public interest, for better energy codes, and more affordable housing for the 21st century." The victory occured at the Annual Conference and Codes forum on September 16th, where rank-and-file members of the International Code Council (ICC) voted to endorse a proposal for improved, simpler home energy codes. The proposal adopted by ICC members was submitted by Bill Prindle of the Alliance. A competing proposal submitted by the National Association of Home Builders was defeated. In the September/October Issue of their e-FFICIENCY News, the Alliance called the vote " the culmination of a multi-year struggle between the Alliance and its allies and the National Association of Home Builders."

September 22, 1999

Pulte Opening New Subdivision

Pulte Homes recently held a grand opening for its new energy-efficient subdivision in Tucson, Arizona, called Retreat at the Bluffs. According to Pulte representatives, the homes in the subdivision are 50 percent more energy efficient than the model building code and 30 percent more efficient than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star homes. The homes, which range in size from 952 to 1618 square feet, are so energy efficient that Pulte guarantees the average monthly energy bill will not exceed $37 per month and many will be as low as $24 per month.

"Pulte adopted a systems engineering approach to designing the homes," said Randy Folts, vice president of construction. "Designers, engineers, heating and cooling equipment and materials suppliers were involved in designing the home to reduce energy use and minimize increases in building costs." Examples of the new approach to designing the homes include:

  • Advanced framing system, using 2 x 6 studs spaced at 24 inches, reduces labor cost and allows for more insulation while retaining the strength of the building
  • Centrally located heating and air-conditioning units reduces length of duct runs
  • Ducts built within living space to reduce heating and cooling losses
  • High performance windows to reduce cooling loads

Pulte Homes is a building partner to Building America's Building Science Consortium (BSC).

Four Projects Recieve Architecture+Energy Awards

Each year, the Portland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognizes building projects that blend art and energy efficiency. Awards of Honor were given to Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington and Emerald People's Utility District Headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. Award of Merit went to Multnomah County Central Library Rehabilitation and Addition in Portland, Oregon and Commander Headquarters and Navy Band Facility in Bangor, Washington. Descriptions of each project and photos can be seen at the AIA Portland Web site. The competition is sponsored by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Paint Recycling Center Serves Northwest Oregon

A new state-of-the-art facility for recycling latex paint has just opened in the Portland, Oregon area. According to the operator, Metro, it's the largest publicly owned facility of its kind in North America.

Metro is producing its recycled paint in 10 exterior colors: white, cream, light brown, dark brown, gray, green, blue, yellow, barn red and pink. Metro also mixes one white interior color. The paint receives high marks from commercial painters and contractors, who say it covers well and does not require applying a second coat.

Each can of paint is checked for quality, sorted by color and then poured into one of eleven 330-gallon vats. Workers at the facility are able to achieve color consistency month-to-month so that one month's "barn red" batch of paint is nearly identical to the following month's. Metro had been recycling the paint it collects in a much smaller facility and in smaller batches.

Last year Metro collected 85,000 of gallons of unwanted latex paint, recycling most of it and returning it to the community for painting projects ranging from barns to churches to apartment complexes. With the opening of its new latex paint processing facility, Metro will be able to significantly increase the amount of paint it collects and recycles.

To help defray processing costs, Metro sells the paint at economical prices, primarily to nonprofit organizations, other local governments and commercial painters. The paint also is available to the public, although all colors are not always available. Metro charges nonprofit organizations and government organizations $12 for a five-gallon bucket, $110 for a 55-gallon drum, and $495 for a 330-gallon vat. Rates to commercial businesses and private individuals are $22 for a five-gallon bucket, $220 for a 55-gallon drum, and $1,155 for a 330-gallon vat.

This quality of paint would retail for $50-$75 for a five-gallon bucket. Color choices are limited to the 11 colors that Metro mixes, and not all colors are available at all times. There may be a waiting period for the more popular shades, especially cream and white.

Metro is a regional government serving three counties and 24 cities in northwest Oregon. It provides transportation and land-use planning services and oversees regional garbage disposal and recycling waste reductions programs.

Hennepin County Completes Green Public Works Facility

For their first officially green project, the Board of Commissioners of Hennepin County, Minnesota chose a 242,000 square foot facility that now houses 300 employees and cost $24 million to build. The design, described in an article by Chris Hammer in Architecture, includes on-site waste treatment, water conservation and wetlands restoration. A key element of the design is a system that treats water used to wash down snow plows and captures road salt and sand for reuse. Overall, the facility has reduced water use by 75 percent.

September 15, 1999

Two Companies Go Under

Two different manufacturers of unique green building materials have ceased operation this year according to separate reports in Environmental Building News. Financial difficulties have forced Gridcore Systems International to halt production of their unique structural panels made from recycled wood fiber. The US Forest Service, which holds the patent, is working with GSI to bring the product back to market. Financial difficulties also sank Agriboard after additional government-guaranteed loans fell through. However, the manufacturing plant may find a new owner in the future. More information on both Gridcore and Agriboard can be found here on Oikos.

Traffic Exhaust and Cooking Poison Home Air

It's no surprise that scientists have demonstrated that where you live -- and, specifically, the traffic outside your front door -- affect the quality of the air inside your home. A recently published study showed that homes situated near major highways had worse indoor air pollution than those in more rural settings, with respect to PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), a class of compounds that contain known cancer-causing toxins.

The surprise came in secondary findings which showed that cooking also contributes substantially to PAH concentrations indoors. Individuals with underlying respiratory disease, such as, asthma or emphysema, are susceptible to the effects of this air pollution.

PAHs are a family of molecules produced by incomplete combustion, often from open burning, incineration, industrial power generation and motor vehicles. Because they can be carcinogenic and are dispersed throughout the environment, PAHs pose a significant public health concern, said senior author Timothy J. Buckley, PhD, assistant professor, Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "And," he noted, "since people spend most of their time indoors, it's important to evaluate both the indoor and outdoor sources of PAH that contribute to indoor exposure so we can determine effective ways they can be controlled and lessened."

The study appeared in the August issue of the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Health. A news release describing the study appears on the Web site of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Consumer Demand Builds Solar Plant

Claiming that it's the first new solar electric generating facility built as a result of consumer demand, a group of companies has announced plans to build a 132 KW photovoltaic power plant. The companies, Green Mountain Energy, GPU Solar and Real Goods, have agreed to collaborate on the project. GPU will build, own and operate the plant, Green Mountain will market the power to consumers and Real Goods will host the facility at its Solar Living Center in Hopland, California. Construction is scheduled to take only one month.

Get the Skinny on Screwbase CFLs

If you need to select the right screwbase compact fluorescent lamp, look no further than a new Specifier Report from the Lighting Research Center. The report provides detailed technical information about products and guidance for those who want to use them. The 44-page report presents product information on 258 products from 14 manufacturers and detailed test data on 28 products from eight manufacturers. It covers modular and self-ballasted CFLs, amalgam CFLs, and analyzes the differences between CFL products and incandescents. Comprehensive tables compare performance characteristics such as efficacy, life, light output, power quality, light distribution, dimming, starting and more. The report also provides preliminary results from long-term testing of 11 diferent CFL products showing that long-term performance varies widely across manufacturers. The report is available free online (registration is required).

DuPont Makes Environmental Commitment

One of the world's largest chemical companies and manufacturer of the housewrap, Tyvek, has publicly committed to reducing it's environmental impact over the next decade. Speaking at the Pew Center Conference, Dennis Reilly, DuPont's Cheif Operating Officer made these promises:

  • Reduce global carbon-equivalent greenhouse gases by 65 percent by 2010.
  • Hold total energy use at the 1990 level.
  • Acquire 10 percent of all energy needs from renewable sources -- estimated to be 300 megawatts.

Concerning global climate change, Reilly said "As a company, we believe that action is warranted, not further debate. We also believe that the best approach is for business to lead, not wait for public outcry or government mandates. The full text of his speech appears on the DuPont Web site.

September 8, 1999

San Francisco Looking for Resource-Efficient Building Coordinator

If you have professional experience in green building, the San Francisco may be interested in your skills to oversee their new Resource-Efficient Building (REB) Program. A new position called REB Coordinator will be responsible for overseeing the program including a pilot project. The REB Coordinator will perform outreach to and coordinate all City departments, and perform outreach to private and public sectors. The REB Coordinator will report to the Director of the Department of the Environment and earn a salary from $55,332 to $67,260. The Coordinator's duties will include:

  • Coordinate City Departments and meetings; implement and enforce the Resource-Efficient Building Ordinances for all City Departments; respond to inquiries from City employees and the public; review and recommend exemptions when appropriate;
  • Draft and/or coordinate resource-efficient building guidelines; develop and implement a program-related incentive and rating system; establish baseline budget and track costs, savings and benefits; identify and respond to barriers and obstacles; establish evaluation mechanisms to determine the effect of the ordinances;
  • Coordinate and develop plans for marketing pilot projects; develop and present guidelines, technical measures and criteria for pilot projects; identify and secure outside funding for pilot projects.

The position will reamain open until an acceptable candidate is selected. For more details contact the Department of Environment at 415-554-6390 or fax 415-554-6393.

September 7, 1999

Home Depot Pledges to Stop Selling Old Growth

The Home Depot President and CEO Arthur M. Blank announced that it will stop selling wood products from environmentally sensitive areas. "Home Depot embraces its responsibility as a global leader to help protect endangered forests. By the end of 2002, we will eliminate from our stores wood from endangered areas -- including certain lauan, redwood and cedar products -- and give preference to 'certified' wood," said Blank.

To carry the "certified" label, a supplier's wood must be tracked from the forest, through manufacturing and distribution, to the customer and must ensure a balance of social, economic and environmental factors.

Environmental groups, such as the Rainforest Action Network, had been waging a campaign seeking the company's pledge not to sell wood products from old growth forests.

"This is indeed a bold step in advancing the cause of independent certification and responsible wood use throughout the industry," said David A. Ford, president of the Certified Forest Products Council, whose organization helps connect buyers and sellers of products coming from certified well-managed forests. "We're pleased that Home Depot is taking decisive action to protect endangered forested ecosystems around the world."

The company's commitment is a huge challenge for Home Depot as well as for its suppliers, noted Blank.

"Our company sells less than 10 percent of the lumber in the world, but is still the largest single retailer of lumber in the world," Blank said. "Today, the world supply of certified wood is extremely limited

"Home Depot will use the power of its purchasing dollars to vote for products that do the most to preserve environmentally sensitive areas," he said. "We are asking our vendors to help us by dramatically increasing the supply of certified forest products. We're also working to ensure that the transition is completely transparent to customers, and will not appreciably affect pricing or product availability."

Blank said Home Depot is encouraging other home improvement retailers to follow its lead.

"I hope our competitors join us in this effort to save environmentally sensitive areas around the world and to promote alternative wood products," he said.

Other stories:
Home Depot News Release
Environmental News Service
Environmental News Network

GFX Appears on Bob Vila's "Home Again"

If you'd like to see the GFX Drainwater Heat Recovery device in action, check out Bob Vila's Home Again show on September 13, 1999. The Yonkers Habitat for Humanity project also features structural insulated panels. This episode is scheduled to air again on March 13, 2000.

National Solar Home Tour Scheduled for October

Every October, solar homeowners open their doors to show visitors the renewable energy and conservation features of their homes. This year the tour hopes to include 100 homes in 42 states. Organized by the American Solar Energy Society and local groups around the country, the tour highlights solar energy technologies that are working right now, in real places, for real people. The ASES web site offers more information about the tour.

Green Building Goes Bi-coastal

In recent months, two of the largest US cities have adopted green building guidelines. In New York City, High Performance Building Guidelines were adopted. Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, San Francisco passed a Resource Efficient Building Ordinance.

DOE Announces Funding for Building Efficiency Research and Development Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $8.2 million in funding for the initial phase of 19 cooperative agreements for building efficiency research and development projects to help stimulate the economy, save energy and reduce pollution.

"Energy use in residential and commercial buildings accounts for approximately 65 percent of the electricity and 40 percent of the natural gas used in the United States," said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "These Energy Department grants will help create cleaner, more livable communities by increasing energy-efficiency."

The agreements will fund projects that target research and development activities in two broad areas:

  • Building Equipment, which encompasses energy-conversion and control equipment for lighting, space heating, cooling, ventilation, cogeneration (on-site power generation) and;
  • Building Envelope, which includes construction materials and components for windows, walls, roofs and foundations.

The research will help develop technologies such as electricity-producing fuel cells, operationally dynamic window and wall systems, solid-state ceramic lamps and heat pump water heaters. A complete list of the projects along with a brief description of each appears at the DOE web site.

Sierra Club Files Lawsuit to Reduce Cement Kiln Pollution

In an effort to cut pollution that causes lung diseases and cancer, the Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit aimed at cutting the amount of harmful chemicals spewed into the air by cement kilns. The group claims that cement kilns are among America's worst polluters and that the federal government has done very little to control the pollution they release into the air.

"Cement kilns foul our air, land and food. These cement kilns make it tougher for kids with asthma to breathe, fill our lungs with toxic chemicals, and poison the food we eat," said Jane Williams, Vice Chair of Sierra Club's National Waste Committee. "The government has been asleep at the wheel, letting the cement industry pollute as much as they can. Sierra Club's lawsuit will prod the government to wake up and force cement-makers to stop poisoning our lungs."

Over 110 cement kilns operate in the U.S., producing "Portland cement," commonly used for construction. According to the Sierra Club, these kilns are major sources of highly poisonous persistent, bioaccumulative toxins including mercury, carcinogens and particulate matter, small particles that lodge deep in the lungs and cause respiratory disease. Cement kilns burn large amounts of coal to fuel their enormous energy requirements, and many also burn waste including iron slag, tires and other materials

The Sierra Club believes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recently released standards continue their do-nothing approach, Sierra Club has asked a federal appeals court to force the agency to take action to protect people from the release of mercury and other dangerous chemicals.

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