Green Building News

Green Building News January 2000

January 26, 2000

CollinsWood Competition Calls for Entries

Entries are now being accepted for the CollinsWood Millennium Awards. This year's special Millennium Awards focus on the use of FSC certified CollinsWood and are open to craftsmen and manufacturers who build and design for the following markets: small/home office, entertainment/gaming, and kitchen and bath cabinets. Each entry must primarily feature wood and contain a minimum of 70 percent CollinsWood (softwood, hardwood, particleboard, plywood or veneer). A panel of judges representing the wood products media and industry, designers and the environment will critique the entries based on a number of factors including: aesthetics, design, functionality and durability, percent of CollinsWood in the product, use of environmentally-friendly finishes and adhesives, and ability to manufacture in quantity. Award winners will receive $2,000, a commitment from Collins to assist in marketing and facilitation of FSC certification. Deadline for entries is August 31, 2000. For a complete entry form contact CollinsWood at 800-329-1219.

AIA Seattle Seeks Earth Day Exhibits

As part of observation of Earth Day 2000, the AIA Seattle Committee on the Environment (COTE) seeks projects for display, discussion and publication illustrating regional efforts to integrate environmentally responsible design methods and materials into buildings. Both built and unbuilt (including academic) projects are welcome. Categories to consider when submitting nominations:

Energy - conserving and creating
Site - preserving water and ecosystem quality
Waste - limiting during construction and/or occupation
Materials – recycling, re-using, and/or limiting
Indoor Air Quality – protecting and/or enhancing
Integration – integrating green design in the design process.

At a minimum, nominated projects must build in an environmentally responsible way that is beyond current industry standards. For example, meeting energy code is not sufficient to qualify as “energy conservation”. Projects will be reviewed with an eye towards quality as well as quantity of contributions with an emphasis on implementation strategies and end results.

Selected Projects will be discussed publicly by a multidisciplinary panel, exhibited during the panel discussion on April 20, displayed at AIA Seattle Gallery for the remainder of the month of April and published along with excerpts of green projects and panel commentary. Entry forms are due 10 am, Wednesday, March 1, 2000 at AIA Seattle, 1911 First Ave, Seattle 98101. For details and entry forms call 206-448-4938.

Radon Risk Revealed

Columbia University and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have developed the Radon Project Web site that lets users assess the radon risk at any site in the contiguous 48 United States. A map gives an overall view of the radon risk and then a questionnaire helps you assess the risk of your own home.

The map shows average home radon levels. (The site displays a substantially larger version of the map.) Areas in blue mostly have low radon levels; green, yellow, and red areas have higher levels. However, conditions vary from one house to the next. High-radon houses and low-radon houses exist in all areas of the U.S.

Contaminated Railyard to Get a New Life

A former railyard in northwest Portland, Oregon, will be decontaminated and converted to commercial and residential uses. The former railyard is located at the northern edge of downtown Portland in an area called the River District. The site was used for industrial purposes since the late 1800s, and was a railyard from the early 1900s until 1998. The site is now vacant and most structures and tracks have been removed. Property uses surrounding the site include urban residential, commercial, and industrial. Environmental investigations at the 26-acre site found petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil and groundwater along with lead from battery servicing. The area is slated for commercial and residential development under the The City of Portland's River District Plan. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has proposed a $5.1 million cleanup plan that would remove or cap contaminated soil and pump out contaminated groundwater. A 15-page summary of the plan is available at the DEQ's Web site.

Due Date for the MSRI State and Local Partnership Solicitation Extended

Last December, the Department of Energy posted a solicitation for grants to support State and Local Million Solar Roofs Partnerships on the Golden Field Office Web site. Applications were originally due to the Golden Field Office on February 1, 2000. Due to some questions about the solicitation, the deadline for submission has been extended to February 4, 2000. Specific Questions about the solicitation must be directed to the Golden Field Office.

Cutter Offers Free Trial of EDU Resource Center

The EDU Resource Center is an Internet-based, one-stop source of energy-efficient building information. Its content comes from Energy Design Update, a leader in the field for twenty years. Client companies receive multi-user access, via Cutter's Web site, to almost a decade of information published by EDU plus a continuous flow of the latest monthly Energy Design Update issues and weekly building tips

In-depth information is available on many subjects, including: insulation products, heating and cooling systems, framing techniques, water heaters, insulated concrete forms, energy-tight windows, and setback thermostats. The Resource Center offers instant access to the objective, hard-hitting reviews ... cutting edge tips and techniques for building and retrofitting energy-efficient homes ... and practical research results that EDU is famous for.

For a limited time, Cutter is offering a free trial to demonstrate the wealth of information available. To get your free trial to the EDU Resource Center, contact Dennis Crowley by phone: 800-964-5125 or 781-648-5125, or e-mail: Please provide your company name, full address, telephone and fax.


January 19, 2000

Fume Hood Cuts Air Flow 70 Percent

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed an advanced, energy-efficient laboratory fume hood technology. After passing standard tests for fume hoods, it is now ready for field-testing at an advanced lab facility planned for Montana State University at Bozeman.

"The new fume hood technology uses only 30 percent of the airflow of standard laboratory fume hood installations," says Geoffrey Bell, who developed the new hood along with Dale Sartor.

They estimate that in California alone, the efficient technology could save 360 gigawatt-hours (GWh or billion watt-hours) of energy per year, which might result in an annual cost savings of $30 million. Nationwide, the total savings is estimated to be ten times higher. For comparison, one energy-intensive industrial sector, semiconductor manufacturers in California, consumed about 1,500 GWh of electricity in 1997, according to California Energy Commission data.

fume hoodFume hoods are ubiquitous in industrial, medical, and university research facilities. They are box-like structures often mounted at tabletop level with a movable window-like front called a sash. Fume hoods capture, contain and exhaust hazardous fumes created during industrial processing or laboratory experiments. The fumes are drawn out of the hood by fans through a port at the top of the hood. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology facilities have hoods, as do facilities ranging from industrial shops, to medical testing labs, university research labs, and high school chemistry labs.

Fume hoods typically require large exhaust flows and are usually never turned off, so they use a tremendous amount of energy both in fan power and for heating and cooling room air. The new fume hood technology could save hundreds of thousand of dollars per year in energy costs at a typical multi-laboratory facility, according to Sartor and Bell.

The design of laboratory buildings -- exhaust capacity, duct size, fan power requirements, boiler size and chiller capacity -- is heavily affected by the number and size of fume hoods in the facility. A typical fume hood, perhaps six feet wide and two to three feet high, circulates air through its sash at 100 feet per minute. The energy to filter, move, cool or heat, and in some cases, scrub (clean) this air is one of the largest loads in most lab facilities. In the conventional fume hood design, air is sucked in through the sash and vented out the top.

The Berkeley Lab design uses a "push-pull" approach to contain the fumes and move the air. Small supply fans are located at the top and bottom of the hood's face, pushing air into the hood and into the user's breathing zone, setting up a "divider" of air at the face. The air divider prevents fumes from reaching the user standing in front of the hood. Consequently, the exhaust fan can be operated at a much lower flow. Current research has reduced the flow to 30 percent of a typical hood installation. Because less air is flowing through the hood, the building's environmental conditioning system can be downsized, saving both energy and initial costs of construction.

With the successful testing of the new prototype fume hood complete, a private company, Fisher Hamilton Inc., will build a commercial unit for testing and demonstration at a new pilot facility at Montana State University.

MSU's EPIcenter Project is an ambitious plan to construct a multidisciplinary educational building, whose goal is to be the prototype of a 21st century academic laboratory, incorporating advanced design principles and sustainable building construction and practice. Berkeley Lab is one of MSU's partners in the design phase. Construction of a pilot facility to demonstrate some of the advanced design concepts to be used in the EPIcenter is expected to begin in mid-2000.

New Code Approvals for Rastra

Builders will now find it much easier to get code approval for projects using RASTRA light weight insulated concrete elements. In June, 1999 RASTRA's ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials) report was reissued eliminating all restrictions, such as wall heights and number of stories, The Report (Number 4203) was revised following extensive structural dynamic testing by the University of California, Irvine.

SBCCI (Southern Building Code Congress International - Public Safety Testing & Evaluation Services) also has approved the Rastra system (Report Number 9955). This approval also includes recognition under the Standards for Hurricane Resistant Residential Construction, the One and Two Family Dwelling Code and the International Code 2000.

RASTRA also extended the testing on fire safety and smoke development. This is reflected in both the approvals by allowing the Rastra wall to be left exposed. ICBO also offers a "Prescriptive Method " in lieu of detailed engineering as long as certain design limits are met. The code approvals recommend study of the RASTRA Installation Guide and the RASTRA Engineering Guide, available through RASTRA dealerships or direct from Rastra.

Both the reports can be found on the RASTRA web page.

After some confusing information has been found in some literature about the insulation value, RASTRA has published numbers for thermal performance on their web page. These values are based on tests by independent test facilities and ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratories). But testing in ORNL is being continued as RASTRA has real life energy consumption reports which result in even more favorable results.

Plant to Increase Production and Slash Emissions

Steelcase, manufacturer of office furniture systems, will build a new plant in Gaines Township Michigan with the help of architect William McDonough. The project will include unique low-impact technology that will reduce emissions by 380 tons per year or by 70% compared to the existing Steelcase Wood facility in Kentwood.

In addition, Steelcase has chosen to retire unused emission credits rather than sell them to other companies. The credits are valued in excess of $5 million over five years.

Steelcase is working with the U.S. Green Building Council to use the building as a pilot project in its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. It is the first manufacturing building of its size to seek registration as a LEED facility.

The facility, to be fully occupied in the 3rd quarter of 2001, will employ more than 700 Steelcase employees and will produce wood furniture including desks, file cabinets and seating. With the help of two industry leading suppliers, the plant will replace a largely solvent based finishing system used at the existing facility with an innovative water-based finishing system.

The company has already begun converting steel finishing systems at other plants to new, low-emitting powder coating technology. This technology has already helped reduce the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by more than 60 percent from its Grand Rapids and Kentwood manufacturing facilities. At the same time, production levels at these facilities continued to increase.

Constructed Wetlands on HGTV

An Episode of "21st Century Home" will feature constructed wetlands as an alternative to more traditional on-site waste disposal. Called "Sayonara Septic", the episode will air at 6:30 pm (Eastern Time), February 8 on Home and Garden Television (HGTV). The program was recorded last June in Washington state at a project designed by 2020 Engineering of Bellingham.

DOE Offers Grants for Solar Installations

State and local programs that fund the installation of solar energy systems are eligible for $500,000 in grants available from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Million Solar Roofs Initiative. The grants are available only to groups who have been recognized as State or Community Partnerships. Individuals are not eligible for the grants, but should contact the partner in their area. Solicitations are available from the DOE's Golden Field office and must be submitted by the end of January.

January 12, 2000

Green Building Tax Break Proposed in New York

The fiscal year 2001 budget proposed by New York Governor George Pataki contains a new program of financial incentives for developers that use environmentally sound materials and practices to construct and renovate buildings. The initiative would provide up to $25 million in tax breaks over the next several years for using technologies that reduce pollution and save energy and materials. The program would make New York a national leader in promoting environmentally friendly building technologies. The governor said the measure would promote improved environmental standards, increase energy efficiency, and create awareness of new technologies that can improve the quality of life of those living in environmentally friendly buildings.

The Green Buildings Tax Credit would encourage the construction and rehabilitation of environmentally sound buildings by providing a credit for the development of "green buildings." Only buildings larger than 20,000 square feet would qualify for the tax breaks. Pataki cited a proposed 25 story residential building slated for Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan as an example of buildings that could benefit from the new measure. The building’s planners have proposed using energy saving lights and windows, and paints and carpeting that emit no hazardous fumes. The project includes "high environmental standards that put New York State and Battery Park City solidly in the green," Pataki said. The new credit would become effective January 1, 2001.

Oregon Expands Energy Tax Credits, Includes GFX

To kick off the new year, the State of Oregon now offers income tax credits for the GFX drainwater heat recovery device. The tax credit is the lesser of 25 percent of the equipment purchase price (excluding labor, shipping, etc.) or the maximum annual savings, which has been calculated for each GFX model.

"The Oregon Office of Energy deserves special praise for being unique in targeting America's shameful practice of wasting 955 billion kWh of renewable hot water energy down the drain each year," said Carmine Vasile, the inventor of GFX. Minnesota Power also offers a rebate for the device.

Oregon is also unique in the wide range of technologies that qualify for residential income tax credits, including appliances, duct sealing, solar water heating, geothermal heat pumps, solar space heating, photovoltaics and alternative-fuel vehicles. According to Charlie Stephens of OOE, they have added fuel cell systems and a heat pump/air conditioning system testing/tune-up components to the program, along with some new models of refrigerators and clothes washers. Wind power systems also came back after being dropped from the program for a short time.

For many years, Oregon has offered a program of business tax credits to assist with energy conservation, renewable energy, recycling, alternative fuels, rental housing and transportation.

McDonough Greens Ford

William McDonough is helping Ford Motor Company improve the environmental side of it's Dearborn, Michigan manufacturing plant. In an interview with ENN, McDonough outlines what he calls "The Next Industrial Revolution." He advocates wholesale retooling of industry rather than a piecemeal reduction of environmental impacts. "Being less bad does not mean that you're necessarily being good," he said. Instead of tighly controlling the use of limited resources, and prolonging a basically bad system, he promotes an entirely new system based on natural abundance. "We design buildings every day that make more energy than they use. So, we say, celebrate that abundance! "

Cargill Dow Polymers to Make Corn-based Plastics

Cargill Dow Polymers LLC (CDP) announced that it plans to build a world-scale facility in Blair, Nebraska, that will use corn-derived dextrose to make polylactide (PLA) polymers for fibers, plastic packaging and other products.

This new technology allows the company to "harvest" the carbon that living plants remove from the air through photosynthesis. Carbon is stored in plant starches, which can be broken down into natural plant sugars. The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are then used to make NatureWorks PLA, which will reach the consumer in clothes, cups, packaging and many other everyday products.

A 50/50 joint venture between Cargill Incorporated and The Dow Chemical Company, CDP offers its customers a family of polymers derived entirely from annually renewable resources that can compete with hydrocarbon based fibers and packing materials on a cost and performance basis. Future applications of the technology could include injection blow molded bottles, foams, emulsions and chemical intermediaries.

"NatureWorks polymers offer the opportunity to develop truly sustainable products, and because we are using raw material that can be regenerated year after year, it is cost competitive and environmentally responsible," said William S. Stavropoulos, president and CEO of Dow.

January 6, 2000

New Solar Technology Could Triple Efficiency

A new type of solar collection system under development at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) could boost solar efficiency and economic performance by 300 percent.

The "full-spectrum solar energy system" uses energy more efficiently than is possible with traditional solar energy systems by departing from conventional approaches that apply solar energy to a single purpose, such as heat or electricity. The new system captures the visible portion of the spectrum for lighting while other wavelengths generate electricity.

"Instead of inefficiently converting the visible light found in sunlight into electricity only to reconvert a sizable portion back into interior light, it makes more sense to just collect and distribute the light directly," said Jeff Muhs, a researcher in ORNL's Engineering Technology Division.

Interior lighting is the single largest user of electrical power in commercial buildings, accounting for more than a third of all of the electricity consumed commercially in the United States.

The system being developed by Muhs and industry partners uses novel roof-mounted two-axis tracking concentrators that separate the visible and infrared portions of the sun's rays. Using large-diameter optical fibers, it distributes visible light to interior areas of a building. The system converts infrared, or non-visible, portions of the solar spectrum into electricity.

To effectively use the visible light from the sun for interior lighting of commercial buildings, it must be combined with artificial light yet still maintain uniform lighting -- even when the amount of sunlight changes. Muhs has dubbed this combination of natural and artificial light "hybrid lighting." Hybrid lighting eliminates glare and variability, better utilizes direct sunlight, reduces architectural intrusion and cuts peak energy demand.

"Hybrid lighting is poised to compete with conventional day lighting and conventional solar technologies as the preferred use of solar energy in commercial buildings," Muhs said. "Integrated with full-spectrum solar energy systems, it offers even further advantages."

Industry partners, including Translight LLC, agree that the potential for commercial application of a full-spectrum solar energy system is significant.

McDonald's Pledges to Cut Restaurant Energy Use

Over the last 10 years, McDonald's has worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to reduce the environmental impact of the fast food giant's operations. Originally, they focused on packaging and waste reduction. (Remember those foam clamshells?)

EDF executive director Fred Krupp and Jack Greenberg, McDonald's CEO and Chairman, jointly announced cumulative highlights from their decade of environmental partnership:

  • Eliminated 150,000 tons of McDonald's packaging by redesigning or reducing the amount of material used to make straws, napkins, sandwich packaging, cups, french fry containers and numerous other items.
  • Purchased more than $3 billion worth of products made from recycled materials for use in the operation and construction of McDonald's restaurants. These goods include construction blocks, booster seats, tables, trays, roof tiles, bags and many other quality products made from recycled glass, rubber, plastic and paper.
  • Recycled more than 2 million tons of corrugated cardboard, the most commonly used material for shipping products to restaurants in the U.S., decreasing restaurant waste by 30 percent.

Now this dynamic duo has turned its attention to energy use in the chain's 12,500 restaurants. While firm goals won't be set until Earth Day 2000, a figure of 10 percent reduction in energy use was mentioned. The company has already taken some steps. They have installed energy-efficient lights saving more than 510 million kilowatt hours and 4,000 tons of greenhouse gases. They have built five state-of-the-art, energy-efficient restaurants in the U.S. Each one has cut energy use by 10-15 percent.

State of Pennsylvania Buys Green Power

Pennsylvania became the first state in the U.S. to give the green light to cleaner electricity through a historic agreement between and the government of the Commonwealth. The contract, which specifically requires cleaner and renewable electricity, is the first of its kind in the nation. will supply 37,500 megawatt hours to more than a half dozen Commonwealth government accounts. The supply contract represents five percent of the Department of General Services aggregated power purchase for 2000. Part of the electricity will come from the Green Mountain Wind Farm in Garrett, Pennsylvania. Ground was broken on this 10.4 megawatt facility on December 1, 1999. Once completed, it will be the largest wind powered facility in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the eastern United States.

DJC Article Features EcoBuilder

If you're engaged in green building in the Pacific Northwest, you probably know Tom St. Louis, co-owner of T. R. Strong Building Systems and tireless supporter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. Tom was recently featured in Seattle's Daily Journal of Commerce.

Software Helps Make Energy Improvement Decisions

Would replacing a building’s heating system save enough in energy costs to be worthwhile? Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a tool to help answer how to make a building more energy efficient and whether it’s worth the cost.

Windows-based and user-friendly, the Facility Energy Decision System software quickly and objectively identifies the energy improvements that offer maximum savings. The software creates a building prototype from simple information such as the building’s size, location and the year it was built. From there, users can review and edit all of the inferred engineering inputs if they desire.

Whether assessing a single office building or every school in an education district, the program can identify the best retrofits based on minimum life cycle costs and economic opportunity. It develops an optimum set of retrofits from a database of thousands of proven technologies in heating, cooling, lighting, motors, building shell and water heating. The software even can provide information about how projects will impact carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions.

FSEC Announces Home Rating Software

The Florida Solar Energy Center is developing a new home energy rating software program that builds on their two ENERGYGAUGE products. ENERGYGAUGE USA which will allow simple calculation and rating of residential buildings anywhere in the United States. The software uses the proven DOE-2.1E simulation engine to allow users to examine many different energy saving and/or renewable energy options, based on the power of a more versatile hourly calculation. The simulation calculates a six zone model of the residence (conditioned zone, attic, crawlspace, basement, garage and sunspace) with the various buffered paces linked to the interior as appropriate. TMY weather data for the program are available for 213 locations around the U.S. Other TMY data, even for international sites, can be added. Unique capabilities of the program include:

Simulation of the impact of duct system leakage and heat transfer on building thermal performance depending on duct system location and tested performance parameters.

  • Impact of light colored building surfaces on annual cooling and heating and performance and indirect impacts on duct systems when located in the attic space.
  • Evaluation of performance of advanced glazing products and interaction with interior and exterior shading.
  • Assessment of the energy impacts of various building ventilation approaches.
  • Characterization of appliance and lighting loads along with interactions with space heating and cooling.
  • Improved characterization of the part load performance of air conditioners and heat pumps
  • Formatted output capable of use within HERS, MEC, and Energy Efficient Mortgage programs
  • Characterization of solar hot water and photovoltaic systems performance against hour-by-hour building loads

The new software is currently available for alpha testing by a limited number of users. For further information contact Danny Parker at

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