Green Building News

Green Building News September 2000

September 20, 2000

Andersen Windows Prefers Certified Wood

According to a statement released by the Forest Stewardship Council, Andersen Corporation has announced that it will not source wood from endangered forests and will give preference to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or equivalent certified wood supplies in the manufacture of its wood window and patio door products.

"We applaud Andersen’s decision to use its purchasing policy to help conserve the world's forests," said Hank Cauley, Executive Director of the Forest Stewardship Council U.S. "By setting a preference for FSC-certified forest products, Andersen is sending an important message to forest managers that environmental and social responsibility is a priority. And they are providing a solid guarantee to their customers that the wood that they are buying comes from forests that are well-managed. We thank Andersen for their leadership in this endeavor and welcome them into the growing family of companies who are doing their part to protect our precious forests."

First Insulated Panel Home Shows Strength and Efficiency

Prototype manufactured home made with structural insulated panesl (SIPS)The first manufactured HUD-code home constructed entirely with structural insulated panels (SIPs) rolled off the production line at the end of June. (This story was first mentioned in June 2000, but these new details were just released by the company.) The home is now undergoing rigorous testing that so far shows superior strength and energy efficiency. The project was a partnership between Champion Enterprises, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

SIPs are one-piece building panels that consist of a solid core of expanded polystyrene foam sandwiched between oriented strandboard (OSB) panels. The technology has been around for more than 50 years, but has been slow to gain popularity in the building industry -- an industry that has a reputation for being resistant to change.

The 1,384 sq. ft. home, built at Champion's Redman plant in Silverton, Oregon, used SIPs in the walls, floors and ceiling. The energy efficiency of the home is being tested by Champion and by energy specialists from DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. From an environmental perspective, the home, which has already received certification by the Oregon Department of Energy as an Energy Star and Super Good Cents home, is expected to reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 50 percent. Other environmental benefits of SIPs include:

  • Use of fast-growth harvested farm trees rather than old growth forests,
  • Use of up to 35 percent less raw timber,
  • Lower heating bills translating to lower energy/fossil fuel consumption and
  • Less job site/construction/manufacturing waste.

Two SIPs manufacturers, Premier Building Systems and Precision Panel Structures, provided the panels and hardware for the home, and sent work crews to help train Champion's production line crew.

"In addition to the environmental aspects, we've found the SIPs home to offer great efficiencies in the building and production processes," says Ron Sparkman, Director of Engineering, Champion Enterprises, "which in the end means it is a win-win situation -- for the consumer and the industry."

The home recently completed a 300-mile road test and exceeded all expectations. The structural integrity of the home was maintained after more than five hours on roads of varying conditions. Structurally, the home is superior in terms of wind and seismic resistance, snow load and soundproofing. The construction efficiencies included:

  • Time and labor savings -- the traditional framing method of the shell would have involved more than 1,000 parts -- with SIPs that number was reduced to 60 panels.
  • As a manufactured product, the quality of SIPs panels is consistent, as opposed to the varying quality of dimensional lumber. The fact that OSB is cured before construction results in straighter walls, as opposed to 2x4s that often dry and warp inside a completed wall.
  • The structural superiority will translate into fewer customer service issues after installation.

For a consumer, the possibility of purchasing a home constructed with SIPs has many benefits. It is more affordable to own in the long term -- it's more efficient, less expensive to heat and cool, and requires less ongoing maintenance. From a livability standpoint, the home is quieter and the interior design is enhanced by the lack of ceiling trusses, which allows for full cathedral ceilings.

Champion estimates that should SIPs be used in production, it would add approximately $5,000 to the cost of the home. The payback time to meet this additional cost in energy savings will be determined by further evaluation.

"We are proud to have created the very first SIPs-constructed manufactured home," says Young. "Sturdier, safer, greener and cheaper-to-own, it is worth exploring as an addition to our product offerings. Together with the DOE, Champion's production and tests on this home may prove to make SIPs a staple of our industry." A Web site provides more information on this manufactured home demonstration project, including many photos of the process.

DOE Adopts New Standards for Fluorescent Lighting Ballasts

New U.S. standards for the ballasts used with fluorescent lights in commercial and industrial buildings will go into effect on April 1, 2005. After that time, fluorescent lamp ballasts produced by lighting manufacturers for commercial and industrial new construction or the renovation market must be electronic ballasts that meet the new standards. Magnetic ballasts will be available until 2010 for building owners to maintain current systems.

The new standards are based on an agreement between the lighting industry and energy efficiency advocates that mark a more open, negotiated process for setting higher efficiency standards. Parties to the agreement include the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

Electronic ballasts are far more efficient than magnetic ballasts, because they raise the electrical frequency to levels that improve the efficiency of the fluorescent tube.

"The savings from the new fluorescent lamp standards will be enough to supply power to 13 million homes across the country for one full year," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "Lighting accounts for approximately 14 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States."

The new standards are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons of carbon and by 60,000 tons of nitrous oxide over the next 20 years -- the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of 1 million cars for 15 years.

Sydney's Green Games Combine Sport and Sustainability

The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, have made more than a token statement about energy efficiency and renewable energy use in the facilities constructed for the events. Most of the new sporting venues include energy efficient technologies, such as daylighting and natural ventilation designs. At the Sydney SuperDome, all electricity comes from green sources, some of it from an on-site 70 KW photovoltaic system. Energy use at the Olypmic Village was reduced 50 percent through passive cooling and other energy saving technologies. The Homebush Bay area was transformed from a discarded industrial site laced with 9 million cubic meters of waste into an Olympic showcase. The Hotel at Homebush Bay features Australia's largest solar water heating system that supplies 60 percent of the hotel's hot water. Shuttle buses run on compressed natural gas and even the Olympic torch sports an energy-efficient design. More information on the environmental aspects of the 2000 Olympics can be seen at the official Olympic site's Sydney 2000 Green Games page and a site produced by Environment Australia called The Green Games 2000.

Armstrong Recycles Used Ceiling Tiles

Armstrong World Industries has announced a program that allows building owners to recycle their old ceiling tiles rather than dumping them in landfills. The company will even pay the cost of shipping the old tiles to its plant, which it uses as raw materials in the manufacture of new acoustical ceilings.The program involves three steps. First, building owners need to verify that their old ceiling tiles can be recycled. Neither the old nor the new replacement ceilings need to be Armstrong products to qualify for the program. Following verification, owners must then stack their old ceiling tiles on pallets and wrap them for pick-up. (More detailed information on verification and packaging procedures is available from the company.) Once a full trailer load of old ceiling tiles has been collected, the owner simply needs to contact Armstrong. The company will arrange for a truck to pick up the material anywhere in the continental United States and transfer it to its nearest manufacturing facility. Armstrong will pay the freight for shipment to the plant.

In a recent time analysis, the process for recycling old ceilings proved to be nearly as fast as dumping them, so the program should have little, if any, adverse impact on demolition or renovation schedules. A number of corporations -- such as Microsoft, General Motors, Aetna and others -- have already taken advantage of Ceiling Recycling Program in their attempts to cut back on landfill disposal of building materials.

All Armstrong ceilings contain recycled materials. While a portion of the content is old scrap ceilings, the company also uses waste products from other industries. Most of that waste is in the form of old newsprint and a by-product of steel production known as "mineral wool." For more information on the ceiling recycling program, call 1-888-CEILINGS (1-888-234-5464).

Loewen Windows Supports Stand Tall Education Program

A program to educate students about the benefits of trees and the responsible use of trees as a sustainable resource. The program -- called Stand Tall -- will provide curriculum materials, a step-by-step guide and up to 20 trees for planting on the school grounds. A kick off event will be held on September 21st at the Loewen Windows plant in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. Stand Tall is a joint project of The C. P. Loewen Family Foundation, Tree Canada Foundation (TCF) and Loewen Windows.

September 8, 2000

"Smart Windows" Show Promise in Tests

Electrochromic glazings promise to be the next major advance in energy-efficient window technology, helping to achieve the goal of transforming windows and skylights from an energy liability in buildings to an energy source for the nation's building stock. The glazing can be reversibly switched from clear to a transparent, colored state by applying a low voltage, resulting in dynamically controllable thermal and optical properties ("smart windows"). Incorporating electrochromic glazings could reduce peak electric loads by 20 to 30 percent in many commercial buildings and increase daylighting benefits throughout the U.S., as well as improve comfort and potentially enhance productivity in our homes and offices. The technology is being studied by the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories.

EPA Releases Report on Vermiculite

USEPA conducted two small samplings of commercial vermiculite products to determine if the products were contaminated. Sixteen vermiculite products from the Seattle, Washington area were analyzed and one of these products was found to have asbestos at a level that could pose a potential for exposure. In a separate sampling, 38 vermiculite products from across the country were analyzed. Five were found to contain levels of asbestos that could expose people working with the products to the hazardous substance. All five were straight vermiculite products. Seventeen of the 38 products were found to have trace amounts of asbestos. So far the investigation has focused on vermiculite in gardening products, but the material also has been used as building insulation. Vermiculte mined in Libby, Montana has been found to be contaminated with a particularly nasty form of asbestos called tremolite.

Research Calculates Energy "Break-Even" of Photovoltaics

It takes between two and three years for photovoltaic modules to generate the same amount of energy it took to make them, according to research conducted by Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. Their study of crystaline silicon and copper indium diselinide (CIS) materials were evaluated. The researchers calculated energy consumed in the manufacture of photovoltaic modules currently in production at Siemens Solar. Calculations included process energy, used in cell and module manufacturing as well as the energy used in producing both direct and indirect raw materials. Historical and directly measured data were employed in deriving process and embodied energy. Sources included utility bills, monthly production data, measured energy consumption, and detailed bills of materials. The data was used to measure the amount of energy required to make photovoltaic panels, i.e. the "energy payback time." The full report, Initial Empirical Results for the Energy Payback Time of Photovoltaic Modules is available in PDF from Siemens Solar.

PV Shipments Leap 52 Percent in 1999

Shipments of photovoltaic modules and cells reported by U.S. manufacturers in 1999 jumped 52 percent from 1998, according to the Energy Information Administration. This marked the fourteenth consecutive annual increase in photovoltaic shipments. Perhaps even more significant was the decrease in the average price of cells and modules. Average PV cell prices dropped one third between 1998 and 1999 to $2.01 per peak watt. Module prices also declined by eight percent, from $3.94 per peak watt in 1998 to $3.62 in 1999.

Interface Announces Bio-based Carpet

By the end of this year, a carpet made from corn will be available from Interface, Inc. The product is a polylactide (PLA) polymer called NatureWorks, which the makers claim "is the only commercially viable polymer to combine performance and cost competitiveness with outstanding environmental benefits." NatureWorks was developed under a joint venture of Dow Chemical and Cargill, Inc.

Elementary School Sports Eco-features

The Millennium Elementary School in Kent, Washington was built from the ground up to focus on environmental issues. A portion of its electricity comes from on-site solar and wind generation. The heating plant is a geothermal heat pump. Stormwater is stored and reused for irrigation. Water conservation includes "waterless" urinals. Not only was a five-acre wetland preserved on the site, but it figures prominently in the curriculum. For more details see New Kent elementary school is state's most earth-friendly in the Seattle Times.

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