Green Building News

Green Building News February 2000

February 25, 2000

Sprawl Now Joins Crime as Top Concern

A new series of polls reveals that American's frustrations over sprawl and growth are now edging out more traditional issues, such as crime. Moreover, minorities view their local institutions starkly differently than white Americans, according to the surveys released by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism.

"Sprawl is now a bread-and-butter community issue, like crime," said Jan Schaffer, Executive Director of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, "and Americans are divided about the best solution for dealing with growth, development and traffic congestion."

"At the same time, clear fault lines detail how the rich and the poor, suburbanites and city dwellers and African-Americans and white Americans voice vastly different views of reality. For journalists in pursuit of truth, there is no single truth here, there are many."

The findings are based on a national survey of 1,000 people and four regional surveys of 500 people each in Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Tampa. Among the findings:

In the four cities surveyed, a complex of issues including sprawl, unfettered growth and traffic congestion surfaced as an overwhelming concern, outstripping or joining traditional issues such as crime, the economy, and education. In Denver, 60 percent cited sprawl as a top concern in an open-ended question, as did 47 percent in San Francisco and 33 percent in Tampa.

The surveys were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates with additional analysis by Dwight Morris of the Campaign Study Group. The margin for error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Complete copies of the reports are available at the Pew Center's web site.

NASA Studies Urban Heat Islands

Dr. Dale Quattrochi and Dr. Jeff Luvall are "heat hunters" for the Global Hydrology and Climate Center, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. For more than three years, they’ve worked with other NASA centers and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state and local governments and city planners across the country, to determine ways to make our cities more habitable. Their goal: to create healthy, sustainable environments for current residents and future generations. Earlier this week, Dr. Quattrochi presented a paper on NASA’s urban heat research during a conference session titled: "Heat, Smog and Weird Weather: Studying the Effects of Urban Sprawl From Space."

Cities often are dominated by asphalt and concrete and contain little natural vegetation to shade buildings, block solar radiation and cool the air. Thus, urban centers get much hotter during the day than rural areas. That heat is stored and released at night, creating hot-air "domes" that can keep temperatures in affected cities up to 10 degrees F warmer at night than in suburbs or neighboring woodlands. NASA has prepared a QuickTime animation showing how NASA remote sensing studies identify thermal "hot spots" in metropolitan Atlanta and its suburbs. It also shows potential weather phenomenon created by Atlanta’s sizeable urban heat island.

The effects are dramatic. Big cities suffer a marked upswing in ozone formation -- a major pollutant and health threat to human beings. On sweltering summer days, city power supplies are often taxed by increased air conditioning use, as citizens struggle to beat the heat. And those domes of trapped, heated air can actually create their own weather patterns over urban areas, increasing rainstorms.

Equipped with remote sensing technology developed for the space program, the heat hunters fly NASA aircraft over urban areas, documenting patterns of heat formation in large metropolitan centers. This information helps determine strategies to reduce heat islands, such as installation of reflective roofing and paving materials to bounce thermal energy back into the atmosphere.

To date, the heat hunters have conducted studies in Atlanta, Ga.; Sacramento, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Baton Rouge, La. Further tests in other metropolitan areas are planned.

Green Seal Accepts Comments on Proposed Adhesives Standard

Green Seal, a national environmental labeling organization, is asking for comments on its proposed standard for environmentally responsible commercial adhesives. Adhesives and sealants comprise a $22 billion a year global industry. The market for adhesive products spans a diverse range of industries including: electronics, packaging, appliances, automotive, medical products, construction, industrial assemblies, furniture, paper, and aerospace. Although the adhesive products in the marketplace comply with all applicable regulations, there are still hazards generally associated with the manufacture and use of these products. For most applications, there are several suitable adhesive choices, which provides an opportunity to choose an adhesive with reduced environmental impacts. The difficulty has been identifying those environmentally responsible products. Existing specification guides for adhesives typically address the technical attributes of adhesives and leave the user to consider safety, health, and environmental practices when purchasing and using the product. Efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of adhesives have focused primarily on reducing volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. Green Seal's proposed standard focuses on eliminating carcinogens, reproductive toxins, ozone-depleting substances, and persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic compounds from adhesives used for flooring, building and construction and material bonding. In addition, restrictions on VOC levels and packaging are outlined. A copy of the proposed adhesives standard can be downloaded from their Web site. Comments must be postmarked no later than March 24, 2000.

USDOE Announces National Design Competition

Want to design a major architectural and technological landmark in the nation's capitol? The US Department of Energy is holding a competition to design the 30,000 square foot vertical south-facing wall of The Department of Energy National Headquarters Forrestal Building in Washington, DC. Through the Sun Wall Competition, they hope to find a technologically advanced and visually exciting design for a solar energy system. This competition is open to all architects, building designers and engineers, whether professional practitioners or aspiring students. Entries will be accepted from individuals or firms, educational institutions and other professional enterprises as well as team efforts. A cash prize totaling $20,000 will be awarded to the winning design. Second and third place design awards, as well as honorable mentions will also be given. The registration deadline is July 1, 2000.


February 16, 2000

Vermiculite Contaminated with Asbestos

Vermiculite has been used for many years in building insulation and as a soil conditioner. Up to 80 percent of the world's supply of vermiculite was mined in Libby, Montana between 1920 and 1990. The US EPA has just announced that the vermiculite from the Libby mine was contaminated with a particularly toxic form of naturally-occurring asbestos called tremolite-actinolite. Vermiculite building insulation originating at the Libby mine was sold for many years under the name Zonolite. According to an article posted on the Lycos Environment News Service, the EPA concluded in 1981 that consumers using Zonolite attic insulation "may be particularly vulnerable and unprotected due to ignorance of the potential hazard." However, a public warning was not issued until this month. For now, EPA cautions consumers not to disturb vermiculite that is already in place pending more research into the matter. EPA Action in Libby, Montana is detailed on the EPA Website.

Cellulose Increases the Fire Resistance of Walls

Independent laboratory tests have shown cellulose insulation can increase the fire resistance of walls up to 77 percent compared to uninsulated walls. Cellulose can now be used in a one-hour fire wall assembly that meets the new International Building Code and International Residential Code. Walls for the test were constructed with both 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch Type X drywall. The insulation was standard off-the-shelf cellulose installed by a local contractor. The tests were conducted according to the ASTM E119 protocol by Omega Point Laboratories of Elmendorf, Texas and were commissioned by the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association (CIMA). Details of the tests were reported in the February 2000 issue of Energy Design Update.

North Carolina Spends $700,000 to Divert C&D Waste from Landfills

About 30 percent of the waste buried in North Carolina's landfills comes from construction and demolition (C&D). That's why a coalition of business, industry and government plan to invest $700,000 to divert about 42,000 tons of it. These investments include $278,700 in grants from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This state funding will support 17 public and private sector projects for three different project categories: mixed C&D processing, source separated recovery and market development. Matching funds totaling $427,000 will be made by grant recipients.

Microturbine Finds Nearly 100 Percent Efficient Application

The Second Law of Thermodynamics has always been the stumbling block for energy efficiency efforts. No matter how efficient an application, there was always wasted energy in the form of heat. BG Technology has found a way capture that last bit of energy by placing a combined heat and power system entirely inside a commercial greenhouse. Their "MiniGen" is an ultra-low emission microturbine based package providing clean electricity that can be used in a range of power generation and cogeneration (combined heat and power) applications. The first MiniGen has been successfully installed at W. J. Findon & Son, a large horticultural grower based in Stratford-upon-Avon in the United Kingdom. A 30kW MiniGen unit powered by a Capstone MicroTurbine™, will provide heat and power to a large commercial greenhouse. In addition, the clean exhaust will be passed directly into the greenhouse to boost carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, improving plant quality. Expensive exhaust gas clean-up equipment is not required as the exhaust of the Capstone MicroTurbine™ is sufficiently clean to use directly. NOx emissions are less than 9 ppm, traditional diesel generators exceed 2000 ppm.

Newest FRESA Software Now Available

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has updated the Federal Renewable Energy Screening Assistant (FRESA) software. The software is available to help identify candidate buildings for renewable energy. FRESA allows users to input building data and determine the opportunities for adding renewable energy systems. The software is free and can be downloaded from their web site. If you have trouble with the download, FRESA 2.5 installation CD-ROMs will soon be available from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC) at 800-DOE-EREC.

Nominations Open for 2000 BEST Business Awards

If your company is saving energy, conserving water, reducing waste or using transportation alternatives, it deserves recoginition. One form of recognition is the BEST Business Awards. BEST stands for Businesses for an Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow. The awards are issued jointly by the City of Portland, the Association for Portland Progress (APP), the Portland Business Journal, the Environmental Federation of Oregon (EFO), and, a new sponsor this year, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). You can download a PDF application form anytime from the Portland Energy Office web site or call 503-823-7222. Applications are due February 20, 2000.

Contest Accepts Designs for Electric Meter of the Future

Want to design a "technically accurate, artistically creative, adaptable to many different cultural contexts, marketable, and above all, very, very cool" electric meter? If so, the First International Viridian Design Competition wants you. The Viridian Electric Meter is a concept originated by Stefan Jones, a member of the Viridian Curia (an international core group of designers and writers, linked by internet). The Meter began, like most Viridian ideas, as an imaginary product. The purpose of the competition is to generate as many different design ideas for the Viridian Meter as possible, to increase the likelihood of discovering one or more ideas with mass market potential. A Total of $8000 in prizes will be awarded for excellence in the design of a functional and aesthetically dazzling meter.

The Viridian Electricity Meter is a household energy consumption meter that resides in a prominent place inside the home. Its purpose is to provide accurate, compelling and artistically fascinating feedback to homeowners about their current energy use. Users are rewarded aesthetically for reducing energy consumption (and for switching their energy source to a renewable one). In other words, the more sustainable their energy consumption, the more beautiful and fascinating the meter's display.

Commercially produced Viridian Meters should be capable of generating consumer desire. The ideal Viridian Electricity Meter would be so attractive, people would simply want one, regardless of whether they personally cared very much about saving energy.

The deadline for initial submissions is May 31, 2000. Information about the submission procedure is available from


February 9, 2000

Menards To Drop Old Growth Products

Menards, the third largest home improvement retailer in the U.S., has agreed to phase out wood products originating from old growth forests by 2003, according to a news release issued by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

"Menards has joined a growing movement among powerful wood consumers who recognize that selling old growth wood is unacceptable," declared RAN Old Growth Campaign Director Michael Brune. Other corporations who have phased out old growth forest products include: Home Depot, Wickes Lumber and HomeBase. RAN will now shift the pressure to other retailers including 84 Lumber, Payless Cashways, Lanoga Corporation and others.

USDOE Accelerates Heat Pump Efficiency Standards

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is on track to speed up efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps, which will reduce homeowners' utility bills, save energy and improve air quality.

"Air conditioning can account for more than 50 percent of summer household electricity consumption, and costs homeowners billions of dollars each year," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "By increasing the efficiency of central air conditioners and heat pumps, we will help minimize the impact of future heat waves on the U.S. power grid and help consumers and businesses save money and energy."

The current air conditioner standard is a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) of 10. DOE's proposal identifies potential higher efficiency standards ranging from 11 - 13 SEER. If adopted, a higher standard could represent an increase in efficiency of 10 to 30 percent over today's central air conditioners. Higher minimum efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps can save significant amounts of energy. For example, increasing the existing minimum efficiency standard for air conditioners and heat pumps by 10 percent to 20 percent would save enough energy over 25 years to supply electricity for up to 26 million homes in the U.S. for one year. In addition to the energy savings, more efficient air conditioners will substantially decrease greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change.

Secretary Richardson challenged industry representatives and energy efficiency advocates to reach an agreement similar to the one announced on October 15, 1999 which will improve the efficiency of fluorescent lighting in commercial and industrial applications. That agreement, worked out between lamp ballast manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates, marked a turning point in the process by which energy efficiency standards are set.

New York Announces Incentives for Residential Photovoltaics

Governor George Pataki announced that New York State has contracted with three manufacturers of photovoltaic systems to aggressively promote the State's solar energy tax credit and assure homeowners proper access to the utility grid, so they can sell surplus power to their local electric utility.

The State will provide $1.25 million among the three manufacturers, who will in turn match this funding, to lower the cost of solar systems to the consumer. In total, more than $5 million will be spent among the state, the contractors and the federal government to promote the use of solar energy systems in New York.

"New York has been a leader in developing the renewable and clean energy sources that we need for our future," Governor Pataki said. "Now it's time to use our resources to get these technologies into homes by offering homeowners income tax credits, reduced equipment costs, increased sales and service through dealer networks, and proper access to the utility grid.

Three firms SunWize Technologies, Fours Seasons Solar Products and Astropower, cooperating with the Pace Energy Project in New York City, presented competitive proposals to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for funding and will carry out their designated projects during the coming months. The resulting contracts call for specific marketing strategies, reduced equipment costs and community education about solar energy in New York. Each contract also provides about two matching dollars for each NYSERDA dollar.

VEIC Has a Slew of Job Openings

The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation is looking for energetic, enthusiastic people who care about the environment to work on a host of exciting new energy efficiency programs in Vermont. Get in on the ground floor of a new division of an established organization. Excellent written and oral communication, word processing, database and spreadsheet skills needed for all positions. Familiarity with energy efficiency programs and technologies an asset.

Energy Analyst / Project Manager – manage energy efficiency projects in commercial, and multifamily buildings; provide technical and financial analysis of energy measures. Work directly with building owners, developers, designers, builders and managers. Experience in building energy analysis and ability to manage multiple projects a must. Mechanical or electrical engineer or CEM preferred.

Senior Energy Project Manager – manage a variety of consulting projects to promote cutting-edge utility energy programs for progressive clients throughout the U.S. Knowledge of residential energy efficiency program design and market transformation initiatives required; familiarity with economic analysis and ability a plus. Some travel required.

Business Development Specialist – hit the road from one end of VT to the other to introduce developers, business owners, wholesalers, retailers and others to new energy efficiency programs. Recruit participants and facilitate program communications with customers. Requires demonstrated ability to understand the needs of a broad range of customers and match them with programs and services that will benefit them. Success will require working with program management and delivery team. Sales experience necessary.

Low-Income Program Manager
– manage a new program to deliver energy efficiency to low-income households. Responsibilities include developing operating procedures, training staff and monitoring performance. Management skills experience with residential energy efficiency and database software required.

Residential Energy Specialist – show people how they can lower their bills and make their homes more comfortable. - Perform residential energy services in Central Vermont by identifying energy-saving opportunities such as efficient lighting and hot water conservation products. Knowledge of residential buildings and personal transportation required.

Assistant to the Managing Director – combine an exciting mix of senior administration and management tasks with general support to senior management team and work on special projects. You’ll need to have superior organizational and writing capabilities and a proven ability to manage multiple, diverse and complex tasks.

Assistant Program Managers – The managers can’t do it all themselves – they’ll need a lot of help. Here is an opportunity to learn on the job – a clear career track to program management. You’ll be an integral part of this new energy initiative. Responsibilities include administration, customer service, a generous share of computer work, and great attention to detail.

Enjoy competitive salaries and an excellent benefits package working in a dynamic and exciting environment. Please mail resumes by 2/18/2000 to VEIC Recruitment, 255 S. Champlain St., Burlington, VT 05401, or by email to

Clinton Shows Off the Green White House

Home improvement expert, Bob Vila took CBS Early Show viewers on a tour of the White House. The tour guide was White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. During the tour of energy saving improvements, the current tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue popped in to expound on fluorescent lights and greenhouse gases. Improvements in lighting, office equipment and other energy systems cost $1.4 million to install and now save $300,000 per year in lower energy costs. President Clinton started a program called Greening of the White House in 1993, his first year in office.

Audubon Article Promotes Industrial Hemp

Ted Williams lays out a case supporting the legalization of industrial hemp in a column called Legalize It in the November 1999 issue of Audubon Magazine. This versatile fiber can be used to make clothing, paper, rope, food and a variety of building materials. Drug crusaders claim that hemp products are a "subterfuge to promote marijuana." Williams points out that "some hemp products do contain trace amounts of THC -- as intoxicating as, say, the opiates you get from a poppy-seed bagel."


February 2, 2000

Training Center LEEDS the Way for Naval Green Design

The recently completed Bachelor Enlisted Quarters complex at Great Lakes Naval Training Center (NTC) is one of eight sustainable showcase projects selected by Naval Facilities Engineering Command to gain experience with sustainable design. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Building Rating System was used to define and measure the project’s sustainability in terms of environmental impact, energy efficiency, occupant comfort and other criteria. Energy efficiency received special emphasis in design and equipment selection.

San Jose Proposes CandD Waste Deposit

Under a proposal by the San Jose Environmental Services Department, contractors would pay a refundable recycling fee for construction and demolition waste as a part of the building permit process. The amount of the fee would be based on the type and quantity of CandD waste expected from the project. The money would be returned when the contractor shows receipts indicating that the waste had been accepted at a city-certified recycling facilitiy. The new program could start as early as this summer.

"The intent is to encourage recycling/diversion through the use of financial incentives and return the deposit," says Stephen Bantillo of the Environmental Services Department. "Any unclaimed deposits will go back into the system via a grant program to develop processing infrastructure and hopefully encourage markets."

Energy Mortgages Offer Cash Discounts, an online mortgage lender and broker, has announced a new program that offers a $250 cash discount paid to consumers at closing for energy efficient home improvements. The Energy Loanz discount is offered to any customer seeking a first lien mortgage loan from If the transaction is handled by a real estate agent in the network, the customer is also eligible for a 25 percent cash discount on the real estate commission. In order to receive the discount, the consumer must contact before contacting an agent so that can secure the discount for the customer. While the discounts are intended for the purchase of energy efficient products, enforces no specific efficiency standards. The company is seeking co-marketing and private labeling arrangements with other organizations, such as utilities, manufacturers and vendors.

Seattle Commits to Green Building

Seattle is making green construction a big issue. According to an article in the Daily Journal of Commerce, Mayor Paul Schell announced the city's commitment to building and renovating sustainable structures. Schell said the city would adhere to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standards. Eventually, the City would like all capital improvement projects larger than 5,000 square feet to meet the LEED silver standard, according to Lucia Athens, sustainable design and construction specialist with Seattle Public Utilities. The initiative would affect several high-profile projects planned for Seattle, such as the new Civic Center, Seattle Center Performance Hall and the new aquarium.

SC Johnson Recalls Dust Mite Powder

A carpet powder designed to kill dust mites has been causing adverse health impacts in humans and pets. After urging from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SC Johnson removed AllerCare™ Dust Mite Powder and AllerCare™ Dust Mite Allergen Spray for Carpet and Upholstery from the marketplace. The incidents reported range from severe to minor reactions, including asthma attacks, respiratory problems, burning sensations and skin irritation. In most cases, the reported effects began within 15-30 minutes after use of the products. EPA has published a page of questions and answers concerning the recall.

Renewable Energy Guide for Parks

The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) has developed a guidebook showing how to use renewable energy. Using Renewable Energy in Minnesota Parks: A Guidebook for Park Managers was prepared for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It's also a good primer for anyone interested in applications that make practical and economic sense today. The guide contains general background about renewable energy and helpful information about making decisions. It describes these applications: aeration of lakes, battery charging, communications, composting toilets, electric fencing, electric vehicles, hot water - passive tempering tanks, hot water - active solar systems, lighting, monitoring and data collection, remote facility power, ventilation and water pumping.

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