Green Building News

Green Building News November 2000

November 17, 2000

Collins Announces Design Contest Winners

The Collins Companies announced the winners of the International CollinsWood® Millennium awards. The awards focus attention not only on fine furniture design, but also on the need and the demand by consumers and environmentalists to protect forest ecosystems while still harvesting trees in a sustainable manner. CollinsWood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By using CollinsWood, designers, builders, architects, and manufacturers are supporting the most rigorous and scientific methods of forest management.

The FSC is the only forest certifying organization in the world endorsed by the major environmental groups including the World Wildlife Fund, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Rainforest Alliance, and the World Resources Institute.

Charles Shackleton Furniture
Christine Toupin and Peter Murkett

Architectural Forest Enterprises
 The Joinery

In the Kitchen & Bath category, Charles Shackleton Furniture of Bridgewater, Vermont won with their “Kitchen Dresser,” an heirloom piece using 100 percent CollinsWood rough sawn cherry and poplar. Their design featured sliding dovetail case joinery, dado and tenon face frame construction, hand carved dentil molding in crown and half-blind dovetail drawer joinery. The runner-up in this category was The Joinery of Portland, Oregon with their “Lawless Table,” constructed of solid CollinsWood steamed red maple and cherry.

The Joinery was also a winner in the Entertainment category with “Lorelei's Bed,” designed by Terrence E. Hall. This ingenious design stretches the practicality of the bed from strictly a sleeping platform to a more ergonomically multipurpose leisure zone. Crafted with 100 percent CollinsWood cherry, the bed features a graceful, curved chair-like headboard and a simple, short-foot board at the end of the bed for sitting. It’s an ideal design as a space saver for a small master bedroom, yet enduring enough in its craftsmanship to be handed down from generation to generation.

Architectural Forest Enterprises of Brisbane, California was a co-winner in the SoHo (small office / home office) category with their new line of office furniture fabricated with CollinsWood particleboard, veneers, lumber, and finished with a zero-emissions UV cured coating. The collection was designed by Tony Garrett of San Francisco, California.

Co-winner in the SoHo category was the “Toupin Office Table” designed by Christine Toupin, AIA, and built by Peter Murkett of Monterey, Massachusetts. The table is constructed of solid lumber throughout, utilizing 100 percent FSC-certified CollinsWood cherry. Highlighting up-to-date technology, the voice/data and power cables are separated in the table and the electrical component is the Interact Module (UL listed) manufactured by ElectriCable Assembly Inc. The table can be shipped disassembled with easy assembly instructions and only an electric screwdriver with two tips needed for tools. The solid cherry tabletop attaches to the base with fasteners riding in grooves, which allows for seasonal expansion and contraction across the grain without warping, buckling, or cracking. An initial production run of twenty-five tables was enthusiastically received at the Bloomfield College library.

All the winning pieces are available for purchase either directly through the designer/builder or through The Collins Companies.

Certified Lumber Has Small Impact on Housing Costs

Critics of logging restrictions on public lands often claim that reducing the log supply drives up lumber prices. Higher lumber costs translate into housing that is less affordable, especially for those with lower incomes. In a recent posting to the GuildNW email discussion group (sponsored by the GuildNW chapter of the Forest Stewards Guild), construction cost estimator, Tom Giesen, presented this perspective on the impact of certified lumber on housing costs.

In the second quarter of 1999, the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Index was $425. At that time, the average 2050 sq. ft. house cost $158,000. In the third quarter of 2000, the index was at $294 -- a drop of 31 percent, while that same 2050 sq. ft. house sold for $160,000 -- up $2000.

"Lumber was way down, but housing costs were slightly up," said Giesen. "Whatever else acted on the market, the cost of lumber is probably not significantly related to the cost of a house. It's probably unrealistic to expect even a drop of nearly one-third in framing lumber prices to show up in prices of new houses. After all, the 12,000 board feet or so of framing lumber used to build a typical new home represents a small part of the total cost. On average, 12,000 board feet at an average of $450/thousand board feet, it is but $5,400 or 3 percent of the $160,000 price tag of the house. If certified wood commands a 20 percent price premium, it is but $1080, or just 0.675 percent of the total home cost."

Sales of Energy-Efficient Appliances Show Big Jump

Sales of Energy Star labeled appliances jumped 31 percent in the first nine months of 2000, compared with the same period in 1999. Dishwashers and air conditioners posted the largest increase, at 66 percent, while washing machines increased 11 percent, despite costing 129 percent more than less energy-efficient washers. Refrigerators showed a 5 percent decline. Energy Star refrigerators cost 72 percent more than less energy-efficient models, but their energy savings often pays back the added cost within several years. The study was conducted by market tracking firm NPD Intelect which summarized the results in a press release.

New Report Explores Ways to Encourage Consumers To Buy Energy-Efficient Home Appliances

Public policies to encourage turnover of aging home appliances and purchases of more efficient models could help reduce the emissions linked to global warming, according to a new report released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

"The economics are generally attractive for consumers to upgrade to energy-efficient models when they replace old or broken appliances," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "But without targeted public policies, consumers may be unaware of the potential cost savings and environmental benefits of doing so."

The report identifies the major home appliances that require the most electricity, such as refrigerators, clothes washers and room air conditioners. Then, it analyzes the economic ramifications for consumers of various appliance purchase options. Next, it identifies important consumer characteristics to be considered at different stages in the appliance purchase process. Finally, it reviews past attempts to influence consumer choice through public policy initiatives and suggests how new initiatives could be targeted more effectively.

Experience from these past programs has demonstrated that:

  • Well crafted programs including rebates, publicity and assistance in disposing of old appliances appear to motivate consumers to replace refrigerators before the end of the expected life of the appliance. It is likely that the refrigerator experience can be generalized to other appliances.
  • There is little or no evidence that consumer tax credits are effective in influencing a significant number of consumers to change their purchasing behavior.
  • Energy labels and the US EPA's Energy Star logo are good indicators of cost-effective and energy-efficient appliances, but the labels in themselves are not sufficient to cause substantial change in consumer purchasing practices.

The more successful programs offer insights that should drive the development of any future programs:

  • It is much easier to influence consumers who are actively engaged in appliance purchases than to influence the general public.
  • Retail appliance salespeople have significant influence on consumer choice. Incentives aimed at the salesperson, coupled with simple sales tools, can steer consumers in the direction of energy-efficient appliances.
  • Direct financial incentives for consumers may not be necessary.

The report, entitled "Global Warming and Appliances: Increasing Consumer Participation in Reducing Greenhouse Gases," was written by two leading experts in the field: Everett Shorey of Shorey Consulting, Inc. and Tom Eckman of the Northwest Power Planning Council.

Home Depot Accepts Grant Proposals

Tax-exempt non-profit organizations may submit proposals for grants until December 15th. Instead of an application form, Home Depot asks that you tell them about your project in your own words, including the scope, budget and other details. Awards will be announced in mid-February. For complete details, visit the Home Depot Web site and select Company Info > Environment > Outreach & Grants .

Energy Star Award Applications Due January 5th

The Energy Star program presents awards for the entire range of Energy Star activities, including products, buildings, consumer education and combined heat and power. January 5th is the deadline to submit an application on behalf of your company. For an application form and schedule, visit the Energy Star Web site.

Environment and Economy Linked According to New Study

States with the best environmental records also offer the best job opportunities and climate for long-term economic development. That's the conclusion of a study released today by the Institute for Southern Studies, a non-profit research center in Durham, North Carolina.

"In the 2000 elections, political leaders were still debating about whether protecting the environment will cost jobs," says Chris Kromm, a co-author of the report and Director of the Institute.

"What this study finds is that the trade-off myth is untrue. At the state policy level, efforts to promote a healthy environment and a sound economy go hand-in-hand." The study, entitled Gold and Green 2000, uses two separate lists of indicators to evaluate each state's economic performance and the stresses on the natural environment. The 20 economic indicators include annual pay, job opportunities, business start-ups, and workplace injury rates; the 20 environmental measures range from toxic emissions and pesticide use, to energy consumption and urban sprawl. The report ranks states on each indicator, and the sum of ranks produces a state's final score. Comparing the two lists reveals remarkable correlations:

Seven states rank in the top 15 for both economic and environmental health. Vermont, Rhode Island and Minnesota rank in the top six on both lists. Other "top performers" with high marks on both scales are Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Wisconsin

Conversely, 10 states are among the worst 15 on both lists. For example, Louisiana ranks 48th on economic performance and 50th on the environment. Others in the cellar are: Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina.

"States that sacrifice their natural resources for quick-fix development aren't improving their long-term economic prospects," says co-author Keith Ernst, Research Director at the Institute. Gold and Green 2000 joins a growing chorus of experts who argue that, while businesses may invoke the "jobs versus the environment" trade-off to resist regulation, the myth is unfounded. For one, environmental regulation comes at a small cost.

"Even in the most highly regulated industries, the cost tops out at two to three percent of total operating costs," says Dr. James Barrett, environmental economist at the D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute. "Clearly, when industry says its going to shut down or move, it's not the environmental laws that are causing this."

"This study shows that sustainable development is a matter of political will," says Kromm of the Institute. "States that protect their natural resources also cherish their human resources. And states seeking quick-fix, unsustainable development end up sacrificing both workers and the environment."

Donate Inventory, Build Good Karma

What do you do with obsolete, out-dated or slow-moving inventory? Often it just stays in the warehouse taking up valuable space, or is disposed of at a tremendous cost. Some companies resell building materials on secondary markets to receive at least a little return on their investment. However, there are benefits to donating building materials to non-profit reuse centers. You save money by avoiding disposal and freeing up valuable warehouse space. You also receive a tax benefit for not just the value of the material, but often up to one and a half times the value of the inventory.

The Reuse Development Organization's (ReDO's) Donations Program helps manufacturers, distributors and retailers to get inventory into the hands of non-profit organizations across the country. ReDO assures donors that materials end up in qualified non-profit reuse centers, and are distributed only to qualified clients. ReDO can even work with companies to target donations in certain areas, or restrict distribution in certain areas. More than anything, ReDO can help companies save time and money. The program also provides the piece of mind that materials are handled in the manner intended, and give participating companies the satisfaction of helping hundreds of needy families nationally benefit from it's corporate generosity.

What is a building material reuse center? Independent centers have been founded in cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Boston and Portland. Each program accepts materials no longer needed by one and redistributes it to people in need. These centers are mission driven to serve the local, needy populations, to help rehabilitate deteriorating inner-city neighborhoods, and to help low-income level families stay in their homes. Daily, these reuse centers accept doors, windows, cabinets, plumbing supplies and fixtures, tools, floor covering, paint and more! These are the very items needed by their qualified clients to make their house a home.

Donors save time, money, and help provide needed materials to low-income people. Recently, Home Depot's regional distribution center in Savannah, Georgia, found themselves with a dilemma. They had 75 pallets of ceramic floor tile that had been left out in the rain. Though the tile was perfectly fine, the packaging was damaged, and Home Depot officials did not want to distribute the material through their stores. ReDO's Donations Program placed the materials with building material reuse centers and disaster relief efforts throughout the South, Midwest and East. Home Depot was able to take advantage of an enhanced tax deduction for the $28,000 worth of tile, while ReDO kept 183,500 pounds of materials from landfills, and got needed materials to organizations serving low-income people.

ReDO also provided assistance to a national drywall company recently when they were faced with a large amount of material they needed to move. ReDO's Donation Program placed 10.5 truckloads of drywall with building material reuse centers throughout the country.

These are just a few examples of how donated building materials have provided an outlet for surplus items, kept materials out of the landfill, and gotten building supplies to people in need. Remember, donating now can help you rid warehouses and shelves of slow-moving inventory, and get your company a tax deduction for 2000. Inventory donations are often eligible for the "enhanced" tax deduction, which can provide a deduction up you 1 1/2 times your cost!

Businesses interested in donating excess inventory that is currently taking up valuable warehouse or shelf space can contact ReDO's Donations Program for more information at

November 1, 2000

Real Goods Merges with Gaiam

Real Goods Trading Corporation has agreed to merge with Gaiam, Inc. a lifestyle company marketing to customers who value the environment, personal development and a healthy lifestyle. The tax free stock for stock exchange, valued at $8.7 million, is expected to close in January. Real Goods shareholders will receive one share of Gaiam Class A common stock in exchange for each ten shares of Real Goods owned. In addition, Real Goods shareholders will receive $1 in gift certificates for Gaiam products for each Real Goods share owned up to $100 per person.

Jirka Rysavy, Chairman and founder of Gaiam, commented: "We’re excited to welcome Real Goods into Gaiam. Real Goods’ long history of environmental commitment and loyal customer base will allow Gaiam to bring its selection of lifestyle products and information to a broader market."

Gaiam intends to consolidate a majority of Real Goods’ operations into its established infrastructure and leverage Gaiam’s operational efficiencies and proprietary products, while maintaining the Real Goods' brand name and mission.

The Real Goods Solar Living Center, a 12-acre solar-powered environmental and healthy living demonstration site in Hopland, California with over 150,000 visitors per year, will become an important public relations vehicle for Gaiam’s message.

"Jirka and I have been talking about ways to work together for many years," said John Schaeffer, Chairman and founder of Real Goods. "I’m glad our two companies have finally combined energies, and I think we’ll make an incredibly strong team to further our mutual missions that are now more important than ever before. With the depth of the Gaiam team, Gaiam’s unique proprietary products, and their operational and marketing strength, Real Goods will finally be able to achieve the economies of scale to reach a far wider audience. Together we will be far stronger than Real Goods could be on its own.”

Manufacturer's Energy Efficiency Toolkit Released

The Manufacturing Institute, the research and education arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, has released an energy-efficiency toolkit developed to help make saving energy a part of the daily routine for manufacturers and their employees.

"This toolkit, based on the "best practices" already used by many manufacturers, will encourage more companies to pare down their energy use," noted NAM President Jerry Jasinowski.

"A recent survey of our members showed that over the past five years, 85 percent of U.S. manufacturers have upgraded and improved the energy efficiency of their U.S.-based plants and offices - even though the relative price of energy increased only slightly during this time," said Jasinowski. "It's important to note, however, that manufacturers are directly affected by energy costs, and they are constantly looking for innovative ways to improve their bottom lines."

Jasinowski went on to say, "Fortunately, energy efficiency comes naturally to manufacturers because it is an application of total quality management that eliminates waste in the production process. Technological advances and the application of total quality management in the workplace have spurred an extraordinary growth in the manufacturing productivity over the past decade."

The toolkit offers the eight steps that manufacturers can take to reduce energy costs, each one accompanied by a profile of a company that has saved energy in this manner.

The eight steps are based on the work of Leanardo Academy, Inc. which offers a version of the steps with links to additional information. They also have sections for residential and commercial buildings.

BEES 2.0 Provides Green Product Comparisons

The BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability) software brings to your fingertips a way to balance the environmental and economic performance of building products. Version 2.0 of the Windows-based decision support software is aimed at designers, builders, and product manufacturers. It includes actual environmental and economic performance data for 65 generic building products. The program was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH).

Renewable Energy Research Funding Increases 20 Percent

President Clinton approved the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, which includes a $65 million increase in funding for research in renewable energy technologies. That's about 20 percent more than in fiscal year 2000, bringing the total funding to $375 million. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will also receive $123 million -- a 19 percent increase -- for its Climate Change Technology Initiative, which helps businesses and consumers save energy and money.

Insulating Concrete Forms Testing Protocol Proposed

The National Evaluation Service, Inc. (NES) Building Innovation Center (BIC), with the assistance of Walker Engineering, Inc. of Birmingham AL, has developed a protocol for the evaluation and acceptance of insulating concrete form (ICF) technology. That protocol will be available for review and comment until December 31, 2000.

The purpose of the effort is to facilitate the use of ICF technology in building construction. Manufacturers of ICF technology will be able to use the protocol to establish the scope of the evaluation for their ICF product(s) and the necessary testing and documentation needed to support the evaluation. This will better prepare them to secure a more timely and robust evaluation by NES. The protocol focuses on structural, fire and thermal properties of ICF technology as well as durability, maintenance and constructability issues.

The Expert Panel who developed the evaluation protocol is comprised of individuals with backgrounds in ICF prefabrication and installation, civil engineering, structural engineering, building design, manufacturing, materials science, building construction and construction management, code enforcement and building inspection, research, product development and testing, and architecture.

This effort is being conducted in support of the public/private Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH). With the support of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the NES will direct this particular effort toward the PATH goal to "accelerate the creation and widespread use of advanced technologies in housing".

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