Green Building News

Green Building News March 2000

March 31, 2000

Energy Star Recognizes 32 Organizations for Energy Efficient Accomplishments

Panasonic, Sears Roebuck & Co., Whirlpool Corporation and 29 other organizations received ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Awards from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner at a banquet in Washington, D.C. tonight. The eighth annual awards, now sponsored by EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, will recognize the energy efficiency investments made by these ENERGY STAR® Partners that improved their profitability and contributed to a cleaner environment. Winners are selected based on their ability to utilize energy-efficient technologies, communicate energy efficiency benefits to consumers and businesses, and recruit others to join the program. To date, the ENERGY STAR® programs have prevented the annual release of more than 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. The energy reductions from these products have saved U.S. consumers and businesses more than $9 billion in energy costs since 1992. Simply by using ENERGY STAR® labeled products, the average household can save up to $400 per year. A list of the 32 winners appears on the ENERGY STAR® Web site.

DSIRE Offers List of Incentives for Renewable Energy

The North Carolina Solar Center is assembling a database of incentives used by local governments to promote renewable energy. Information is being collected on resource access, licensing and certification, tax policies, construction policies and education programs. To learn more or submit an incentive to the list visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE).

ASAP Promotes Adoption of Appliance Efficiency Standards

Swift adoption of long-awaited appliance efficiency standards would dramatically reduce U.S. energy demand, saving consumers $14 billion a year by 2020 -- equal to more than one month's free electricity for every household -- according to a new report released today by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP).

While the U.S. Department of Energy continues to drag its feet, ASAP has recommended performance standards for DOE to implement that would have a dramatic impact on public health and the environment. The electricity savings would eliminate the need for 64 large power plants by 2010, and 180 plants by 2020. Improved efficiency would eliminate 31 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year, along with 90,000 metric tons of smog-producing nitrogen oxide and 350,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide.

New rules for manufacturers would also help protect reliability of electric utility systems threatened by soaring electric demand. In addition, a new washing machine standard would reduce indoor household water use by 10 percent. Despite these dramatic benefits, the federal government is years behind the legally mandated schedule for issuing new efficiency rules for many appliances. The report ranks energy, water and cost savings for each of the 50 states resulting from seven standards recommended by ASAP, and based on currently available technology.

Products covered in the new study include water heaters, central air conditioners, clothes washers, fluorescent lighting ballasts, transformers, commercial air conditioning and commercial heating equipment.

Congress established the national appliance efficiency program in 1987, creating one of the most effective tools for reducing U.S. energy use and air pollution. For example, refrigerators purchased next year will use 75 percent less energy than those purchased in the early 1970s. Standards already in place for more than a dozen products will save enough energy to supply 6.5 million households in 2000.

But the government's standard-setting process is running years behind schedule. For example, DOE has long since missed the legal deadlines for four of the categories recommended by ASAP. Rules for water heaters and fluorescent ballasts were due in 1992, central air conditioners in 1994 and washers in 1995. Long-standing problems at DOE were made worse in 1995 when a handful of manufacturers successfully lobbied for a one-year moratorium on new efficiency standards.

As a result, DOE has managed to set just two new efficiency standards in the last eight years: one for room air conditioners that takes effect in October and one for refrigerators and freezers that comes into effect in 2001. In its new report, ASAP proposes standards that could be adopted by DOE in categories the department has failed to act on.

On March 15th, 2000, DOE proposed standards for fluorescent ballasts -- 8 years after the legal deadline -- at the level suggested by the ASAP report. This is the first of four standards that DOE has committed to updating this year.

New standards -- especially for air conditioning -- could be an important remedy for the increase in summertime power outages caused by heavy power demand. DOE recently accelerated the schedule for new central AC and heat pump standards in direct response to the increasing frequency of power failures caused by surging peak demand.

Efficiency standards have become a driving force for investment and innovation in the U.S. appliance industry. To meet the new refrigerator rules, for example, Maytag expanded its plant at Galesburg, Ill., increasing its permanent workforce to 2,400. Frigidaire and Whirlpool are similarly upgrading factories in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina.

All three companies have improved both product design and manufacturing facilities well in advance of the anticipated washer standard, despite DOE delays. State of the art, American-made machines now use half the energy of typical current models.

More efficient machines frequently cost slightly more than older designs, but the price difference is quickly made up by savings on utility bills. Each dollar of increased purchase price yields more than two dollars in reduced operating costs, according to the report. For clothes washers, the payoff is nearly five to one.

Lower utility bills also free up money for other things, creating a ripple effect in the economy. DOE estimates that efficiency standards for washers, water heaters and fluorescent ballasts alone will generate 120,000 new jobs by 2020.

Home Builder Uses Buying Power to Protect Old Growth

Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have agreed to develop and implement a wood purchasing policy in order to help protect endangered old growth forests. Kaufman and Broad also announced its commitment to protecting the world's ancient forests and will work with its suppliers and NRDC to phase out the use of such wood products in its homebuilding operations.

"We know that the world's old growth forests are threatened and, ultimately, it is the responsibility of every individual and corporate citizen to do their part for forest conservation," said Jeff Mezger, chief operating officer of Kaufman and Broad. "We're confident that our work with NRDC will help us in this critical effort."

Through previous cooperative efforts between NRDC and Kaufman and Broad, the Company has already developed ways to use wood more efficiently. It also will work with NRDC to phase in use of certified, sustainably harvested wood where feasible. Similar initiatives have been accomplished with respect to other types of environmental issues as well.

"This is a great victory for the environment," said Sami Yassa, a senior scientist in NRDC's forestry program. "Kaufman and Broad's commitment to forest-friendly building will help us protect threatened areas. NRDC applauds Kaufman and Broad and is pleased to be working with them to protect the world's forests."

Kaufman and Broad also has created a senior level environmental audit officer position which is expected to be filled within the coming weeks. The environmental officer is expected to work closely with both NRDC and with the Company's suppliers and strategic partners to determine an appropriate time frame for creating and implementing a wood purchasing policy.

"This sends a clear market signal to wood suppliers that there is strong demand for forest-friendly buildings and wood products. Forest friendly building means eliminating use of old growth; using certified, sustainably harvested wood; and using wood efficiently," said Yassa.

NRDC's Forestry Initiative promotes wood-efficiency through building methods and materials that reduce wood use in construction, including alternatives to wood. It also promotes certification as a seal of approval for wood that is harvested using environmentally and socially responsible forest management practices. The seal enables consumers to identify wood products from well-managed sources, so they can use their purchasing power to influence and reward improved forest management activities around the world.

"The greatest challenge will be to balance environmental sensitivity with our mission of providing affordably-priced homes," Mezger explained.

NEW Says Pacific Northwest Down, But Not Out

Regional think tank Northwest Environment Watch released a comprehensive report on the ecological health of the Pacific Northwest. Covering Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and parts of Alaska, California, and Montana, State of the Northwest documents key ecological trends affecting the Northwest at the turn of the 21st century. State of the Northwest spells out a litany of warning signs pointing to a decline in the region's environment in the 1990s, leaving many of its ecosystems in critical condition.

"Despite improvements in a few areas, the Northwest environment lost ground overall in the 1990s," comments author Ryan. "Most of the key environmental trends in the Pacific Northwest -- like salmon runs, greenhouse gas emissions and sprawl -- are heading in the wrong direction."

Among the reports negative findings: Washington State has the region's worst sprawl, losing an acre of land to development every 7.5 minutes. Oregon loses an acre of land to sprawl every 17 minutes; Idaho every 22 minutes. All told, as of the mid-1990s, sprawl was consuming an acre of rural land every four minutes in the Northwest states -- more than double the pace of a decade ago. Climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and other sources continue to rise. Since 1990, the number of cars and trucks on Northwest roads has grown by more than 1.5 million, and the region's CO2 emissions have risen at least 13 percent. Northwesterners generate nearly our own body weight in greenhouse gases every day -- three times the global rate. The Northwest's population has grown by 2.2 million people, or nearly 17 percent since 1990. At this rate of growth -- faster than in many developing nations -- our population will double in 32 years. (Pages 9-11.

However, there was good news, too. Air quality in many Northwest cities has been improving steadily for a decade. Northwest air is cleaner than in many parts of North America. Despite pollution hot spots scattered throughout the region, our coastal waters are cleaner than in much of North America. Where studies have been conducted, Northwest estuaries are also apparently still dominated by native species, not alien invaders.

Despite the many problems it documents, State of the Northwest draws an optimistic conclusion: the Pacific Northwest remains one of the least degraded regions in the world's temperate latitudes. "Unlike most of the industrial world," Northwest Environment Watch Executive Director Alan Thein Durning commented, "the Northwest still has old-growth forests, wild salmon runs, clean air, and ecosystems with their full roster of species as well as a populace that cares about these things. These assets give us a rare opportunity to build a sustainable economy - one that the Earth can support." With salmon, the region's signature species, in danger of extinction across much of the Northwest, "we need to decide quickly whether we're going to seize our unique opportunity to reconcile people and nature or let it slip away," Ryan concluded.

Southface Energy Institute Seeks Key Employees

Marketing/Communications - market all Southface programs, develop a strategic plan for corporate and media communications, and coordinate special events.

Development Director - manage fund raising programs including capital and operational campaigns.

Mail cover letter with salary expectations, resume, and writing samples to:

Alice Pendergrast
Southface Energy Institute
241 Pine Street
Atlanta, GA 30308
alice@southface.org

 

March 22, 2000

Government Goes Green

The government of the United States is leading by example in the effort to adopt more environmentally responsible building practices. An article by Penny Bonda called Going, Going, Gone (Interiors & Sources, January/February 2000) describes the efforts of two agencies among the many with environmental initiatives.

The Department of the Navy, stands out as the first federal agency to adopt sustainable design for all work. All facility design and construction will incorporate:

  • Increased energy conservation and efficiency and use of renewable energy.
  • Reduction or elimination of harmful substances and waste.
  • Improvements to interior and exterior environments leading to increased productivity and better health.
  • Efficiency in resource and materials utilization, especially water resources.
  • Selection of materials and products based on life-cycle environmental impacts.
  • Recycling and increased use of products with recycled content.

Any architecture or engineering firm wishing to do business with the Navy must "demonstrate extensive knowledge and experience in applying sustainability concepts and principles to facilities and infrastructure problems through an integrated design approach." This directive has design firms scrambling to catch the green wave.

Another federal agency pushing green building is the General Services Administration. GSA is the government's landlord -- responsible for 280 million square feet housing more than one million workers. GSA introduced a new concept in 1998 called Planet GSA. Focusing on four areas where GSA has a federal responsibility: buy green, build green, drive green, and save green. Planet GSA is a cooperative venture with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA Tightens Rules for Small Engine Emissions

New emission reduction standards are now in place for small hand-held engines at or below 25 horsepower that are used in lawn and garden equipment such as trimmers and chainsaws. When the new standards are fully in place in 2007, the ground-level ozone pollution caused by these engines will be cut by 70 percent or 350,000 tons each year. The 20,000,000 small engines sold each year contribute about one tenth of the total U.S. mobile source hydrocarbon emissions and are the largest single contributor to these non-road emissions. Since this equipment is used mostly during the hot summer months, when ground-level ozone is the highest, it causes problems for asthmatics and aggravates other respiratory conditions. These new standards will also increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent which will lower consumer operating costs. Manufacturers of hand-held garden engines have already made significant improvements in emission control technologies since the first standards became effective in 1997. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register during the week of March 13 2000.

Buyers Should Drive Improvement in Forest Management

The purchase order is the most powerful tool available to foster the conservation, protection, and restoration of the world’s forests, according to David Ford, president of the Certified Forest Products Council. He made these remarks in an address to business and community leaders and Washington and Oregon government officials gathered in Portland to discuss sustainability issues.

“The way to bring about lasting improvement in forest management is to create economic incentives,” Ford said to the plenary session of the Sustainable Products Training Seminar. “Every specification that calls for wood from certified well-managed forests –- every purchase order for certified lumber, windows, doors or for chairs, tables, desks, or even pencils made from certified wood –- sends a powerful and unequivocal message through the value chain that there is profit to be made from well-managed forests.”

Wood purchasers have the collaborative power to influence –- and ultimately direct –- the management of the forest, said Ford. “We hold the power to restore habitat, enhance biodiversity and protect species, and yet still enjoy abundant tangible benefits from the forest.”

Ford called for a re-thinking of the public’s role as consumers of wood products, stating that businesses and institutions should be active participants in a “far-reaching string of interconnected decisions” that impact the total forest resource rather than the “passive recipients of goods that somebody, somewhere decided to make.”

“If we are to satisfy sustainability, then we must consume with intention,” Ford challenged his audience. “We need to evolve from ‘consumers’ of wood products –- taking what is offered to us –- to knowledgeable ‘users’ of the forest resource and participants in its stewardship cycle.” Ford urged consideration of the message sent by each purchase decision. “When we prioritize lowest first cost over all other considerations, what signal do we send as to the importance of forest stewardship?” Ford asked.

Ford’s organization, the Certified Forest Products Council, advocates the adoption of independent, third-party forest certification as a means of ensuring that forest processes support sustainability. CFPC brings businesses together with moderate environmental interests to build collaborative, purchase power-based solutions to drive change in the management of the world’s forests.

Legislation Would Undermine Local Land Use Control

The U.S. House of Representatives passed "The Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 1999" (H.R. 2372), a bill that would allow builders and developers to appeal decisions by local land use authorities directly to federal court. Environmentalists see this as a disaster for local efforts to deter sprawl and promote livability. Some fear that local officials will capitulate to developers who threaten costly legal battles.

In a letter opposing the bill, The League of Conservation Voters said,

"By allowing developers, polluters, and others to skip local review and resolution of land use issues by zoning boards, health departments, and state courts, and instead jump directly into federal court, the bill would federalize truly local issues...
"The end result of H.R. 2372 would be more frequent, burdensome, and costly litigation against local government, inevitably leading to lower community protection standards as local authorities seek to avoid expensive lawsuits."

The vote was applauded by the National Association or Home Builders.

Vermont Creates Energy Efficiency Utility

The Vermont Public Service Board has selected Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) to operate the new statewide Energy Efficiency Utility (EEU) under a three-year, $28 million contract.

The new efficiency utility will consolidate and enhance most energy efficiency programs previously offered by Vermont electric utilities. It is expected to increase participation in these programs by consumers, businesses and manufacturers who want to reduce electric bills by improving energy efficiency. The programs will be provided on a uniform statewide basis. Previously, the energy efficiency programs offered by the various utilities differed from town to town. Now Vermonters across our state will all be able to participate in the same efficiency programs.

The Board endorsed this new approach to efficiency services after the Public Service Department (the state's Public Advocate), the state's 22 electric utilities, and a dozen consumer and environmental groups agreed to the creation of the efficiency utility. The EEU will be funded by an energy efficiency charge on consumer's bills. These services were previously included in rates but are now stated separately on consumer's electric bills.

VEIC is a 14-year-old, not-for-profit energy services organization formed with the mission of reducing costs of energy to consumers. VEIC, based in Burlington and operating statewide, has created a consortium of partners and subcontractors to work on this effort including Optimal Energy, Inc. of Bristol, Vermont, and Conservation Services Group of Westborough, Massachusetts.

Get Connected with New PV Intertie Web Site

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council has added a new section to their Web site dedicated to utility interconnection of photovoltaic energy systems. The site includes a non-technical guide to interconnection, lists of utilities that have developed interconnection rules, a library of technical and non-technical documents, back issues of IREC's Interconnection Newsletter.

Eco-Industrial Park Features 42-KW PV Installation

PowerLight Corporation recently completed installation of the largest roof-integrated, thin-film solar electric system in North America. The project is located in a showcase eco-industrial park at the Port of Cape Charles, Virginia, nestled among permanently protected acreage on the Chesapeake Bay.

PowerLight's installation consists of 10,000 square feet of state-of-the- art PowerGuard® roofing tiles. "PowerGuard tiles are a revolutionary concept in building architecture," says PowerLight Executive Vice President Dan Shugar. "In addition to generating solar electricity, the tiles insulate the building, reducing the cost of heating and air-conditioning, while also protecting and extending the life of the roof. They're an integral part of the rooftop, joined by a tongue-and-groove design that requires no roof penetration or adhesives, thus eliminating leakage and related maintenance."

The solar system uses a newly commercialized thin-film solar electric module called the Millennia™ manufactured by BP Solarex.

The 42-kilowatt solar array is mounted on Building Number One of the Cape Charles Sustainable Technology Industrial Park, a high-profile, public-private initiative funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The building is an internationally recognized showcase of green standards. Over its lifetime, the PowerGuard system will prevent more than 6,065 tons of pollutants from being released into the air.

Funding for the PowerLight system was provided in part by the Virginia Alliance for Solar Electricity and the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group's TEAM-UP program, which provides cost-sharing from the U.S. Department of Energy for innovative solar business ventures.

BP Solarex Moves into New "Energy Smart" Building

BP Solarex is incorporating its own solar technology and energy efficient features into its new corporate headquarters. The newly built offices, located just south of Baltimore, boast a series of innovative energy saving features.

Foremost of these features is a 23 kW solar array using 540 of BP Solarex's Millennia thin film solar modules. The solar array will be installed in mid-March by Atlantic Solar Products, BP Solarex's authorized distributor located in Baltimore. Electricity generated from the solar modules are used to power everything in the building except the HVAC and lighting units.

Each office has an individual "outlet from the sun" which are designated by their orange casings. These outlets signify that the electricity from that outlet is provided by the roof mounted solar array. If the power supply to the building should fail, all personal computers, printers, faxes, telephones, security systems, and life safety equipment will switch to an uninterruptible power source (UPS) that is powered by batteries that are charged by the solar array. Depending on demand at the time of a power outage, the UPS can provide power from three to six hours of electricity.

On weekends or on days of low electric demand with bright sun, the solar modules will generate more electricity than is needed. The excess electricity is fed directly to BG&E through a separate meter. At the end of each month, the company will receive a net bill reflecting the difference between electricity consumed and electricity generated.

The interior of the building is monitored by a building management system that monitors and adjusts air conditioning and heating controls to pre-set temperatures. High efficient lighting has also been installed throughout the building. With 25 senior staff, the new offices have 18,717 square feet (1,739 sq. meters) of office and meeting space.

PVs Cross Billion-watt Threshold

Solar energy crossed an important symbolic threshold in 1999 when the worldwide total of solar photovoltaic cells surged past a gigawatt, one billion watts.

The solar PV industry took 27 years to hit its first gigawatt. It will almost certainly take 4 or less to reach its second. In 1999 global PV sales were 160 megawatts (MW), 20 percent over the previous year, Strategies Unlimited estimates. Solar power remains one of the world's fastest growing energy sources.

"The total solar power market is estimated to be approximately $2 billion, growing at 20-25 percent per year," noted the investment firm of Robertson Stevens.

PV underwent its first workout in the 1960s space program but was too costly for just about anything else. When it was born as a commercial industry in 1972, solar PV electricity cost $500/watt. But by 1999, wholesale prices were down to $3.50/watt.

That translates into $8/watt by the time retail solar panels are on the roof pumping juice, around $24,000 for a system capable of meeting all non-heating electrical needs of an average U.S. house -- Not cheap, but public programs from Germany to the U.S. and Japan are supporting early adopters. In remote locations that require reliable power solar PV is already the low-cost alternative. The booming wireless phone industry soaks up fields of photovoltaic panels for its towers and stations.

PV is expected to become markedly cheaper over the coming decade. Learning curves and economies of scale, which have had such spectacular effects on computer chips, work as well with solar cells. A U.S. Department of Energy study shows solar PV costs drop 18 percent each time the amount of PV worldwide doubles. Allied Business Intelligence projects wholesale costs of $1/watt by 2010.

A Strategies Unlimited analyst described that as "optimistic." But another prominent solar researcher Paul Maycock, assesses, "It's perfectly likely to occur."

When PV hits that magic $1 mark, "Demand will rise to several gigawatts per year," says Allied Business Intelligence Senior Analyst Michael Kujawa.

Just how rapidly prices decline depends on how fast production is ramped up. New plants being built today can produce 25 MW of PV annually. With construction of a 100 MW plant, economies of scale will bring wholesale PV down to $1.25/watt, Maycock says. A study done for Greenpeace by KPMG, one of the world's leading accounting firms, projects that a 500 MW plant would drop the wholesale price to 90¢. KPMG estimates that building it, along with an installation to supply raw silicon, would cost $660 million, less than 1 percent of annual global expenditures on oil exploration.

"It comes down to a classic chicken and egg problem," KPMG says. "As long as demand is small, production of solar energy will remain small-scale and expensive, and as long as production is small-scale and expensive, the price will remain high and the demand small: Catch 22. It is clear someone will have to bite the bullet and act." .

"Silicon, which represents 40-60 percent of the cost of a solar panel, remains an impasse. The solar industry has lived off the scraps of computer chip makers. But, notes energy consultant Chris Robertson, "The PV industry cannot grow on that scenario. There just isn't enough material. So it needs a dedicated source of supply."

Robertson, who has worked with Portland's world-class cluster of microchip companies on reducing energy use, points to a new process capable of economically supplying both computer and solar industries called Green Silicon. San Diego-based Schumacher Technology has developed a method to make industrial-grade silicon that does not require the vacuum and intense energy use that are currently involved. Running cooler, the process reduces energy consumption by 80 percent. For PV cells, which now must operate several years before they make up for the energy required in their manufacture, Green Silicon tightens the energy payback time to just one year, developer John Schumacher says.

Ultimately, silicon use could be cut by 100-fold as thin film solar cells come to market. Thin film can be coated on building materials. But thin film does not have the efficiency or proven resiliency and durability of standard solar cells, which are expected to remain the prevailing type for some time.

Trends point to a solar industry reaching mass scale in coming years. A climate under assault from fossil fuel emissions demands this happen sooner rather than later. A combination of supportive public policies and visionary entrepreneurship can move solar forward quickly enough to make a significant contribution toward settling the climate.

-- submitted by Patrick Mazza, staff writer-researcher for Climate Solutions. This article is excerpted from Climate Solutions' upcoming report, Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution: How the Northwest Can Lead. Climate Solutions is co-convening the Symposium on Clean Energy: The Next High Tech Revolution in Seattle, April 3-5, 2000. For more information contact Climate Solutions, 360-352-1763 or rhys@climatesolutions.org.

Residuum Seeks Operator

Residuum, a non-profit construction waste reduction service and used building materials store in Vermont, has an opening for a creative self-starter needed to operate their non-profit scrap/used building materials store. Must be able to lift heavy loads, learn about materials, communicate with public, manage cash, organize materials, work with other staff and volunteers. This is a full-time salaried position ($20,000/year), not an hourly wage job. Must be able to communicate and maintain philosophy of operation, and think on feet. Some Saturday work required. Position begins ASAP. Send or fax cover letter with resume to:

Residuum
70 Smith Street
Barre, VT 05641
reuser@sover.net

Voice: 802/479-9341
Fax: 802/479-5544

CSG Seeks Project Coordinator

Conservation Services Group is seeking a Project Coordinator (PC) in the Residential New Construction Group. The PC's responsibilities will include certifying Energy Star Homes, builder outreach and education, and consumer communications. Additional projects in the portfolio could include market-based consulting projects; assisting with builder trainings and homebuyer education seminars; and research and report writing. Qualified candidate will have a strong understanding of energy efficient new construction and demonstrated ability to work under deadline.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Certify energy efficient homes: Review of construction blueprints, computer modeling with REM/Rate software, builder/buyer consultation, on-site inspections (blower door testing, mechanical ventilation system balancing, HVAC commissioning).
  • Deliver presentations to builders, subcontractors and homebuyers about the methods, products and benefits associated with energy efficient new construction.
  • Assist with the delivery of services for the Joint Management Committee (JMC), including research on technical and infrastructure issues, marketing and promotion development, and development of construction industry relations.
  • Promote and deliver new construction air-sealing services and other market-based services/consulting to builders and developers.

General qualifications include:

  • Knowledge/experience in new home construction.
  • Working knowledge of blower door testing.
  • Proven ability to learn and process technical information from many different sources-- new products, services and measures are regularly introduced into the program.
  • Ability to communicate technical concepts to builders, homebuyers and trades people.
  • Computer proficiency.
  • Ability to work well independently and in a team setting.

Extensive travel is anticipated; successful candidate must have access to a personal vehicle to cover the assigned territory. Ongoing training and education will be provided to keep staff current on latest industry developments.

Deadline: April 7, 2000
Submit resumes to:
Shirley Harris
Personnel Director
Conservation Services Group
40 Washington Street
Westborough, MA 01581

More Jobs at VEIC

The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation Energy Services Division has immediate openings for the following two full-time positions.

Customer Service Representative - Primary job responsibilities are a combination of telemarketing, customer service and administrative support for VEIC's Energy Services "division." Database, spreadsheet and word processing skills desirable. Evening work is required. Specifically, the person will:

  • telephone and enroll eligible electric utility customers in free energy conservation programs four nights per week,
  • input customer information into job tracking databases and assign jobs to energy specialists,
  • answer calls regarding programs and route them to the appropriate staff person
  • work with the customer tracking system to track jobs in progress and answer customer questions on job status, and
  • produce and mail energy analysis reports to customers.

Entry Level Energy Rater - Primary responsibility is to produce energy ratings for Energy Rated Homes of Vermont (a project of VEIC). Requires familiarity with residential building construction, a general knowledge of energy efficiency, and experience with spreadsheets and word processing. The position is located in Burlington and requires a vehicle to get to job sites. Specifically, the job responsibilities include:

  • reading construction documents and performing building take-offs
  • inspecting homes and performing diagnostic tests
  • communicating and advising builders and homeowners on energy efficient building practices.

If you are interested in either position, please respond to this by e-mail to Richard Faesy at rfasey@veic.org.

 

March 9, 2000

Researchers Build the "Total" Solar Home

University of Florida (UF) researchers have built a house that runs completely on solar power, including an air conditioner -- with a heat pump to keep things warm in the winter -- as well as lights and several computers.

"The house is extremely well-insulated, and because of this it's very inexpensive to operate," said Wendell Porter, an energy extension specialist with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "We have taken that a step further and powered the house completely from the sun."

While the UF house doesn't include a kitchen, Porter said the solar panels could easily handle one, including a refrigerator, provided the stove used natural gas. The other major power-guzzling electrical appliances in a home -- the clothes dryer -- also would have to use natural gas, he said.

The solar power system consists of 24 solar panels mounted in three passive solar trackers that use the sun's own heat to track it throughout the daylight hours. The direct current from the panels is routed to a commercially purchased power panel that contains several inverters that convert the direct current into alternating current to power the house and chargers that keep a bank of 32 high-capacity batteries charged up to power the house during the night and when weather conditions block the sun.

Porter said the Florida Energy Office and the US Department of Energy built the house to show how far solar energy has come and what can be done with existing technologies.

"The equipment used here is factory built, installed by qualified people and can be done at any house or any business in the country. This shows where the industry is today," he said.

But while running a house completely on solar power makes for an interesting demonstration, Porter said a more practical application of solar power would be as a backup or supplement to utility-provided power, especially when the weather can cause service interruptions.

"People up north might use a system like this to provide backup lighting and refrigeration and then use a wood stove to heat the house," Porter said. "You could put in a smaller, and less expensive, system than you would use to run an entire house to provide for critical needs."

And even if electricity is flowing, Porter said, a solar power system could run high-energy appliances such as an air conditioner to reduce the need for purchased electricity.

"A homeowner could install a system without the battery backup and route the electricity directly into a circuit panel through an inverter," Porter said. "During the hottest times of the year, most of the energy to power the air conditioner comes from the sun. It decreases the demand on local power companies and allows them a little more flexibility in buying and producing electricity."

"Utility companies are vitally interested in renewable resources," said Mark Spiller, with Gainesville Regional Utilities. "The difficulty to this point in time has been the interconnection issues and the safety of line workers."

Spiller said if the power goes out, a house equipped with solar cells could continue to generate electricity that would flow into the power grid, creating a shock hazard for workers attempting to restore service. To protect workers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in January approved Standard 929-2000, which requires that solar power systems shut off in the event the utility-provided power fails.

"This assumes the strategy is to supplement the electrical needs of the house rather than replace the power grid," Spiller said. "In order to safely provide emergency power, a homeowner would have to add an automatic transfer switch to automatically disconnect the home from the utility grid."

Porter said with rapidly falling prices, solar energy is approaching the break-even point.

"This is an example of things to come," said Porter "and how at some point in the future power will be able to be produced by the consumer in an application that is both good for the environment and good for their pocketbook."

Forest Stewardship Council Relaxes Certification Rules

Products carrying the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo are not exactly what they used to be, according to an article published by the Environment News Service. At the last meeting of its governing board, FSC relaxed its rules to allow higher amounts of wood from non-certified forests in some products. Under the new rules, only 30 percent of the chips or fibers in composite products need to be certified for the entire product to carry the FSC logo. The amount had been 70 percent and it will climb back to 50 percent by 2005. Another change allows the FSC label to appear on a bundle of similar products, such as fence posts, instead of each individual item. The action followed pressure from some European members who are concerned that the high standards were preventing companies from becoming certified.

Army Corps Tightens Wetlands Protection

In an effort to protect dwindling wetlands and their crucial flood buffering function, the US Army Corps of Engineers has issued new rules for building in wetlands. Under the old permit rules, a project could destroy up to three acres of wetlands without individual site inspections. The new rules would reduce the size of the wetlands that may be destroyed without individual permits to one half acre. In many cases, developers would be required to notify the Corps for projects as small as one-tenth acre. The National Association of Home Builders objects to the changes calling them "regulatory overkill" that would significantly increase the time needed to get permits. You can read more in the Environment News Service article and the NAHB statement.

CMHC Offers Monthly Construction Details

Every month the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) publishes a hi-rise construction detail on their web site. The details -- ranging from slab floors to membrane roofs -- are gleaned from their series of excellent construction manuals. Many of the details relate to moisture protection, air sealing and insulation.

Web Site Offers Free Life Cycle Assessment

The Green Design Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University has launched a Web site offering a free life cycle assessments. This site uses an economic input output model, allowing you to estimate the overall environmental impacts from producing a certain dollar amount of any of 500 commodities or services in the United States. It will provide rough guidance on the relative impacts of different types of products, materials, services or industries with respect to resource use and emissions throughout the US. The entire supply chain of requirements is included, so that the effects of producing a $20,000 motor vehicle would include not only the impacts of final assembly, but also the impact from mining of metals, making electronic parts, forming windows, etc. that are needed for parts to build the car. A number of items related to construction are included.

Seattle Plots Pilot Project to Curb Stormwater

A pilot project in Seattle aims to show how a typical residential street can be transformed to reduce impervious surfaces and stormwater runoff. An article in the Daily Journal of Commerce, describes how a Seattle Public Utilities program will transform a typical north Seattle block into a curving, tree-lined strip with a better stormwater management system that uses swales and culverts.

The 650-foot block was chosen for the pilot project because it has no street improvements or drainage system. The project will reduce the width of the street from 20 feet to 14 feet and add six swales on each side of the street, as well as a sidewalk on the west side and 80 to 100 trees. The swales channel water and will be connected by 12 culverts that feed into the existing ditch and culvert system. The system, according to project manager John Arnesen, will reduce peak flow volumes and increase soil infiltration. Reducing stormwater volumes is a crucial step in minimizing creek erosion and flooding. With an estimated design and construction cost of $700,000 to $800,000, it's not clear whether the city will fund additional projects or whether other interested neighborhoods would have to pay for similar improvements, Arnesen said.

March 3, 2000

EnergyValue Housing Award Applications Available

Over the past five years, the EnergyValue Housing Award has recognized builders who voluntarily incorporate energy and resource efficiency into the design, construction and marketing of their new homes. Through their progressive building practices, EVHA winners are building the future. Tomorrow's new homes will look and perform like the ones EVHA winners are building today. EVHA builders have responded to homebuyer's increased environmental awareness, concern for energy prices in an era of deregulation and growing demand for high quality homes. As a result, their homes meet the needs of the future while simultaneously being marketable today.

The awards -- given annually by the NAHB Research Center (NAHBRC) -- are presented in affordable, custom, factory-built, production, and innovative home categories within hot, moderate, and cold climates. Applications for the 2001 EVHA are being accepted now. More details on the awards, a list of this years winners and PDF application forms are available from NAHBRC.

Colorado Family Installs 12 KW Photovoltaic System

Jack Rickard doesn't think small. The 12 kilowatt DC (9 kilowatt AC) photovoltaic system he purchased is the largest system ever to be installed on a home with existing utility power in the Rocky Mountain region. He installed the system because he is fascinated with photovoltaic technology and he wanted to become more self-sufficient. His system includes a battery bank that provides emergency back-up power features and was designed to meet a major portion of the electric needs typically required by his 6,000 square foot home and family of eight.

Rickard's system reduces his family's dependence on utility power and provides back-up power to critical appliances during weather-related utility outages. The system is the largest residential installation in the United States to be listed in the U.S. Department of Energy's Million Solar Roofs Registry.

Altair Energy, a Golden, Colorado-based energy service company, installed Rickard's solar electric system. The company has triggered a 600 percent statewide jump in residential utility-connected solar electricity during the past 1-1/2 years. Altair Energy attributes much of its success to a partnership with Public Service Co. of Colorado called Solarsource. The program now boasts 60 residential customers who are producing their own clean power and reducing their reliance on utility power by 25 percent or more.

Kirk Stokes, president of Altair Energy, said he sees Rickard's installation as an example of growing market interest in a new trend the utility industry calls "distributed generation," or on-site power generation. "More and more people are demanding power that offers increased reliability, self-sufficiency and decreased environmental impacts," said Stokes. Many of Altair Energy's customers have invested in solar electricity for reasons other than protecting the environment, and instead as an alternative to the existing power distribution system.

Stokes said that Rickard, as with all other Public Service Co. of Colorado solar customers, will benefit from "net metering," meaning that they will receive retail credit for any excess solar electricity they feed back through the utility lines. Public Service Co. of Colorado has voluntarily chosen to make net metering available for as many as 200 systems of up to 10 kilowatts AC rating each. Rickard also will receive federal cost-sharing of approximately 12 percent made possible through the Washington, DC-based Utility Photovoltaic Group's TEAM-UP program. These U.S. Department of Energy funds were secured by Altair Energy as part of a competitive bid process.

With a price tag of well over $100,000, Rickard's system is not the norm. The average system cost is about $20,000, which provides 25 to 30 percent of a typical home's electric load while offering back-up power features in the case of utility outages.

Digital Technology Paints Pictures of World’s Forest Under Threat

A unique combination of satellite imagery, geographic information systems (GIS), mapping software, the Internet and on-the-ground observation is giving the general public a clearer picture of the threats to the world’s forests.

The picture is not pretty: the world’s remaining frontier forests are rapidly being logged over and opened up for development. The maps and reports of Canada, Gabon and Cameroon were released this week during the launch of Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute. The website currently uses an interactive map server and the cutting-edge software that easily allows the integration of local data with satellite imagery.

"We have committed that by Sept. 1, we will not use solid wood from natural intact forests. To be able to live up to this, we have to know where the natural intact forests are and which forests need protection," said Jan Kjellman, president of IKEA North America. IKEA is the world’s largest home furnishings company with 156 stores in 28 countries.

Global Forest Watch addresses the perennial lack of access to information by combining on-the-ground knowledge with digital and satellite technology to provide accurate forest information to anyone with access to the Internet. During the next 5 years, this international network will span 21 countries and cover 80 percent of the world’s remaining frontier forests.

"Two years ago, we documented that only a fifth of the world’s historic forest cover remains as frontier forests or large tracts of intact forests. At the current rate of expansion, we estimated that another 40 percent would be lost in the next 10 to 20 years," said Dirk Bryant, director of Global Forest Watch. "It now looks like we have underestimated those threats in some places."

The maps and reports reveal widespread logging in the forests of the Congo Basin, and extensive mining, energy and road construction projects in the forests of Canada.

"For the first time, we are mapping out logging across the Congo Basin, a region that contains the world’s second largest contiguous tropical forest after the Amazon," said Bryant. "Canada’s intact forests are being opened up for large-scale exploitation, including those in the environmentally-sensitive far northern forests."

Global Forest Watch has received support from both environmental groups and industry. It currently has 75 partners in 7 countries. Software companies such as Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and ERDAS, and home furnishings company, IKEA, have given major donations to support Global Forest Watch.

Independent Bookseller Targets Sustainable Design and Construction

You can buy books just about anywhere, so what’s so special about another mail order book seller? The Iris Catalog is the only catalog dedicated entirely to environmentally-friendly construction. “I choose titles very carefully,” says Bruce Sullivan, president of Iris Communications, Inc. “I look for books that are practical, accurate and attractive.”

The 2000 catalog offers more than 150 titles -- 17 of them new. The books cover a wide range of topics relevant to residential and commercial buildings, including energy-efficient construction, passive solar heating, daylighting, landscaping, material and equipment selection, health, building operation, ecological design and community planning. Several books focus on a particular type of construction. Books on straw bale and rammed earth construction are particularly popular. Water conservation is big, too, as shown by large sales of books about rainwater collection and graywater disposal. Other books target architects that need to include sophisticated lighting and mechanical systems in commercial and institutional buildings. The catalog features several product directories that assist with the selection of environmentally-preferable materials and equipment.

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

Iris is an independent bookseller that keeps all titles in stock. Orders are generally processed in one business day. The Iris staff is available to discuss book options with customers to be sure that they make the best choice for their situations. Any book may be returned for a refund within 30 days.

The printed catalog is available free to residents of North America. A PDF version of the printed catalog can be downloaded. The online catalog offers expanded descriptions of each title -- including the complete table of contents -- and secure online ordering.

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