Green Building News

Green Building News December 2000

December 6, 2000

Chesapeake Bay Building First to Achieve Top Rating

The recently completed headquarters of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the first building to earn a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Engineering Design (LEED). At least for now, CBF’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center may claim the title of the nation’s “greenest office building.” The award is based on a rating system that provides direction and definition for energy conservation and sustainable design.

Located in Annapolis, Maryland the building features rooftop cisterns that capture rainwater for hand washing and fire suppression, active solar components that produce a portion of the building’s electricity, and composting toilets that reduce nutrient pollution from human waste. These innovations make it a global model of energy conservation and sustainable building techniques:

  • The Center’s "cradle-to-cradle" philosophy emphasizes the use of materials that are recycled, recyclable, or both. For example, the building's beams are parallel-strand lumber, which is constructed from new growth, regenerable wood. Concrete from demolition of the site's previous buildings is now being used in roadbeds.
  • The majority of materials were produced within 300 miles of the facility to reduce air pollution associated with transportation.
  • The building reduces air pollution by using two-thirds less energy than a typical office building of the same size. Natural ventilation will take advantage of the Bay's breezes to cool the building without relying completely on air conditioning. When sensors determine that the outdoor climate is suitable, the mechanical system will shut down, motor-operated windows will open, and green lights will turn on throughout the building, signaling employees to open their windows.
  • Active solar features produce a portion of the building’s electricity using photovoltaic panels. Approximately 30 percent of the building’s energy load is provided through building-integrated or directly connected renewable energy sources. Solar hot-water heating reduces electricity demand.
  • Flushless, composting toilets reduce nutrient pollution from human waste; rooftop cisterns capture rainwater for hand washing and fire suppression.
  • Smart parking design reduces harmful runoff from surfaces by placing parking under the building and using gravel (permeable) surfacing for limited parking outside the building. Any remaining stormwater runoff will be directed through a bioretention stormwater treatment system designed to treat oils and then filter the runoff through a man-made wetland. 

The 32,000-square foot office building, named in honor of CBF trustee Philip Merrill, is part of a 31-acre parcel of land that will serve as an environmental education and training center for students and volunteers. CBF and its volunteers will also restore wetlands, forests, and shoreline habitats that are part of the site.

"One of our goals for the Merrill Center is to promote environmentally sound building design throughout the Bay watershed and the nation," said CBF President Will Baker. "The attention that this award brings will help us expand our message that sustainable building methods work."

Design Competition Deadline Nears

If you hope to enter the Fifth International Design Resource Awards Competition, you'll need to get working. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2001. The entries should: contain a high degree of post-consumer recycled or sustainably harvested material, demonstrate the ability to add value to the recycled or sustainable commodity and increase it’s usage, be designed for future reuse and/or recyclability and be suitable for commercial production. Winning entries will be exhibited in Seattle during Earth Day 2001. Further exhibitions are planned for Australia, Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Following the exhibition, winning entries will be reviewed by Norm Thompson Inc. for potential production. Entry categories include furniture, lighting, consumer products, building components, clothing, packaging and built environments. Student and Professional entries will be juried separately.

Vermont Law School Building Wins ASHRAE Award

Oakes HallA recently completed building at the Vermont Law School has won second place in the ASHRAE Technology Award competition in the Institutional Buildings - New category. Oakes Hall, a 23,500 ft2 teaching facility, pushes the envelope with a wide array of energy saving and environmentally friendly features. The building uses approximately one-eighth the thermal energy of a typical university building in the Northeast, and less than half the electricity. Excellent indoor air quality is maintained by ventilating the building with 100 percent outdoor air. Composting toilets slash water consumption. The building uses less than 15 gallons/day of water and has cut campus water use by almost 50,000 gallons/year, according to Marc Rosenbaum of Energysmiths who consulted on many of the buildings systems. A superinsulated building envelope eliminates the need for perimeter heating. Other key energy-saving features are an enthalpic recovery wheel and a control strategy that delivers fresh air only to occupied spaces.

Kohler & Lewis, the building's mechanical engineers, shares the award with Energysmiths. Rosenbaum's company also won a first place award last year for the Hanover House. Oakes Hall was designed by Truex, Cullins, and Partners of Burlington, VT. The ASHRAE Technology Awards program recognizes successful applications of innovative design, which incorporate ASHRAE standards for effective energy management, indoor air quality, and mechanical design management technology.

Chicago Builds Five Green Homes Based on Winning Designs

Award winning designs will be used to build five homes next year on city-owned lots, two in the Hermosa community on the Northwest Side and three in the Englewood community on the South Side.

"With this project, we're getting much more than just five interesting, energy-efficient new homes," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. "We intend to use the homes as an opportunity to make people in Chicago -- and across the country -- more aware of the need to protect and respect the environment when we make our housing choices."

Known as Green Homes for Chicago, the program is a joint project of the City's Departments of Housing and Environment, and is the latest of the City's efforts to promote and demonstrate "green" design.

Daley noted that while many environmentalists "tend to focus on industry, automobiles and big buildings, a lot of energy is consumed right here in Chicago's neighborhoods, in single-family homes and two-flats that were designed for an era when energy costs were low and air-conditioning was uncommon.

"As these homes are replaced or upgraded, it's important that they be built to work with the environment, rather than against it. And I think the City has a responsibility to show how that can be done. Chicago should be a leader in energy-efficient design."

The project will be funded by Commonwealth Edison through its 1999 settlement agreement with the City. Each home has a construction budget of $115,000, with up to $10,000 of green upgrades and up to $50,000 of innovative cutting-edge enhancements -- for a maximum total budget of $175,000, not including the value of the lot. The homes must be energy-efficient, affordable and easily produced by a conventional builder.

The winning designs include ones that incorporate a rooftop garden and an interior stairwell that has a wall of water bottles for insulation. Most designs used solar power for heat. Construction will begin early next year and be completed by June. Next summer, the City will put the houses on display to help the public learn the features of an energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly home.

The Department of Housing will incorporate successfully features of the five pilot homes into the design specifications for its existing affordable housing programs. It eventually will sell the five pilot homes and invest the proceeds into more green homes.

Student's House Demonstrates Green Technologies

The house on Heap Street doesn't look any different from its neighbors, but it contains many features that make it a cutting edge example of green construction. The house was designed by Prescott College student Brad Tito and built by local contractor James Lazok.

"I set out to build a self-sufficient, environmentally friendly house," said Tito, who studies sustainable development. "I wanted it to be the type of place where the average U.S. citizen could live. This size house is comparable to the average new home built today. It contains the amenities you'd expect but delivers services in an environmentally friendly way. A person doesn't have to compromise his or her lifestyle in a way he or she might in another structure."

About 25 percent of the structure is straw bale -- the first code-approved straw bale building in the City of Prescott, Arizona. The sun room has cast earth walls. Rainwater is collected in a 4,000 gallon underfloor tank, filtered through a gravel bed and purified with ultraviolet, carbon and sediment filters. A constructed wetland processes liquid waste. What little wood is used for flooring, ceilings and doors is either salvaged or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The highly energy efficient structure uses cellulose insulation and triple-pane windows. A solar water heater is barely noticeable on the roof.

"All of my neighbors have been really interested in the house and bring their family by especially to see what I do with my sewage," said Tito. "People identify with the ideas of self-sufficiency. The house is virtually free to operate. A family could live here and be perfectly comfortable without using utilities. The initial cost is 15 to 20 percent higher, but the systems pay for themselves between 10 and 15 years.

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