Green Building News

Green Building News May 2001

May 25, 2001

Groups Petition Feds to Ban Arsenic in Treated Wood

The Healthy Building Network (HBN) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban arsenic-treated wood in playground equipment and to review its safety for use in other consumer items. The petition was sent in conjunction with the groups' release of their report, "Poisoned Playgrounds: Arsenic in Pressure Treated Wood."

Virtually all of the lumber sold in the U.S. is pressure-treated and injected with chemicals to preserve the wood and prevent insect damage. The most common wood preservative and pesticide used for this purpose is chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which is 22 percent pure arsenic. The U.S. wood products industry is the world's largest consumer of arsenic, using half of the total amount produced worldwide. Arsenic is banned for all agricultural and food uses, but it has a specific exemption for use in wood under the federal pesticide law.

"We know that arsenic in drinking water is dangerous for children, but what we found was that the arsenic in lumber is an even greater risk," said EWG Analyst Renee Sharp, principal author of the report. "In less than two weeks, an average five-year-old playing on an arsenic-treated playset would exceed the lifetime cancer risk considered acceptable under federal pesticide law."

Earlier this month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered a fast-track review of cancer risk from arsenic-treated wood. The agency has not said when the risk assessment will be made public.

In addition to the CPSC petition asking for an outright ban, HBN and EWG are urging retailers and playground equipment manufacturers to switch to alternative types of wood. For now, among the things consumers can do to reduce the risk of arsenic from pressure-treated wood:

  • Seal arsenic-treated wood structures every year with polyurethane or other hard lacquer.
  • Don't let children eat at arsenic-treated picnic tables, or at least cover the table with a coated tablecloth.
  • Make sure children wash their hands after playing on arsenic-treated surfaces, particularly before eating. .

Gallup Poll Says Americans Favor Conservation Over Production

A Gallup poll conducted May 7-9 shows that an emphasis on conservation is likely to appeal to the public. Americans express widespread support for several measures to deal with the current energy situation, including both new production and conservation initiatives, but when asked to make a trade-off between the two approaches, more Americans choose conservation than new production. Still, the margin in favor of conservation has declined by half over the past two months.

The poll also shows that while there is much support for steps to mandate more energy efficient products -- like appliances, cars and buildings -- there is less support for additional investments in some of the infrastructures that would be needed to produce more power. Also, Americans are divided over whether to increase the use of nuclear power and they remain opposed to opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration.

According to the poll, 35 percent of Americans favor an emphasis on the production of more oil, gas and coal supplies as a way to solve the nation's energy problems, while 47 percent favor emphasizing more conservation. An additional 14 percent volunteer that they would like an emphasis on both approaches.

Among 11 approaches to deal with the country's energy problems that are covered in the poll, Americans are most supportive of the general concept of investing in new sources of energy, such as solar, wind and fuel cells -- 91 percent favor this. Almost as strong is the support for mandating more energy efficient appliances (87 percent), buildings (86 percent) and cars (85 percent). A government partnership with the auto industry, in order to manufacture more efficient cars, is favored by 76 percent of the public.

While Americans also favor investing in new power generating plants (84 percent), support for investing in more electrical transmission lines (69 percent) and more gas pipelines (64 percent) is considerably lower, as is support for drilling for natural gas on federal lands (63 percent). Americans are about evenly divided over increasing the use of nuclear power, as 48 percent favor and 44 percent oppose that proposal. And Americans remain opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with 57 percent against it and 38 percent in favor. In March, the numbers also showed net opposition, by 56 percent to 40 percent.

President Bush Releases Energy Policy

Want to see for yourself what all the hubbub is about? You can download the Bush energy policy document from the White House web site.

USDOE Announces Project to Map Future of Buildings

Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced a 20-year plan to make homes more energy efficient and more comfortable and healthy for their occupants that was jointly released by the building envelope industry, which produces walls, floors and ceilings, and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The Building Envelope Technology Roadmap will guide cooperation among researchers, industry, and federal and state government to make tomorrow’s homes more energy efficient and more healthy for the environment. It addresses industry trends, such as increased competition, consumer demands for lower cost and lower maintenance houses, reduced environmental impact, technological developments and market barriers to new innovations.

"While the Energy Department has invested in technologies that make buildings more energy efficient for many years, this new roadmap reflects a new way of doing business. It is an industry-led effort, created by our industry partners," said Secretary Abraham. "This roadmap will help business and government better align our research, development and deployment priorities and leverage our resources for greater impact."

By 2020, the industry envisions building envelopes that are net producers of energy, with movable walls and rooms that adapt to changing needs and environmental factors. The 2020 building envelope’s intelligent features will adjust the interior climate based on the weather and provide naturally derived lighting and ventilation, enhancing overall comfort and occupant health.

Homes and their construction will be resource-efficient and increased durability will reduce maintenance effort and cost. Overall, the amount of construction time, material used, energy consumption and cost will be less than they are today.

To fulfill this vision, the industry identified 120 joint government and industry research activities in the areas of materials, systems, design and construction process and performance evaluation and identified strategies to overcome major barriers to technological progress, including consumer and builder acceptance of innovative building envelopes.

Clean Technologies Poised for Explosive Growth

Clean technologies including renewable energy, alternative transportation, water cleanzing systems and new, environmentally friendly materials are poised for dramatic growth in a manner that will offer significant economic, environmental and social benefits, according to Clean Edge, a marketing and publishing firm focusing on clean technologies.

The report, Clean Tech: Profits and Potential, defines the clean-tech market and makes market forecasts for 2005 and 2010. It also describes the growing investment climate for clean technologies, including which venture funds and energy companies are taking a stake in clean technology.

Markets for clean energy technologies will grow from less than $7 billion today to $82 billion by 2010. Some clean technologies, such as wind power, photovoltaics and fuel cells, will continue to experience double-digit annual growth. However, the growth of clean technologies will be uneven, with some experiencing faster commercial ramp-up than others.

The number of companies offering clean-tech goods and services will experience a similar growth curve, with hundreds of start-ups reminiscent of early markets for e-business, telecom and wireless technologies. The significant differences that exist between clean-tech and e-biz companies likely will result in fewer boom-and-bust business cycles than were experienced among many high-tech companies.

Investment money will pour into clean technology firms at an accelerating rate as investors, though chastened by the nosedive in technology stocks, view clean tech's attractive growth potential. During 2000, more than $1.4 billion of equity investments were made in clean-tech companies by angels and venture capital firms. Adding the money invested in clean-tech firms through initial public offerings the total escalates to more than $2 billion. Company research-and development investments in clean tech will skyrocket, too, with a few leadership companies in each sector leading the way.

Clean technologies stand to provide significant relief to shortages in energy, water and other natural resources, while providing a path for both developed and developing countries to address such pressing concerns as greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, resource scarcity and air and water pollution.

Clean technologies will generate a variety of social benefits, from reduced illness and infant mortality to citizens' improved ability to hold meaningful jobs and raise families. As such, clean tech increasingly will become a cornerstone of the growing global movement toward a more just and sustainable society.

Europeans Bring High Design to CFLs

The European Design Competition for Energy-Saving Luminaires was launch in April 1999 at the Hannover Fair -- the world's largest lighting trade show. By the first judging in January, 2000, the competition had attracted about 200 design ideas from all over Europe. More than 60 entrants were invited to submit design prototypes. From these prototypes 27 winning entries have been selected. These designs have earned the right to free use of the European Union Design Excellence Logo. The details of these winners and all the other prototypes can be found at the ETSU Web site.

Portland Offers Incentives Through G/Rated Program

The City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development is offering incentives to build green in Portland. Applications will be chosen based on a desired mix of renovation and new construction, building types, locations, green measures incorporated and project costs.

Commercial innovations are eligible for a $5,000 grant to apply green building measures to commercial renovations. Portland homeowners planning to remodel or build a new home can receive a cash incentive of $3,000 for building green and sharing their experience with the community. The application deadline for the current round of grants is June 4th. The next round of residential applications will close September 10th.

Buildings which plan to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating with the U.S. Green Building Council may receive up to a $20,000 incentive. This is an on-going program with no application deadline. More information is available from the G/Rated Program.

Developer's Gift Assures Future of Green Education Center

Florida Gulf Coast University's commitment to environmental education forged ahead when WCI Communities, Inc. President Jerry Starkey recently delivered a $350,000 check to FGCU President William C. Merwin, helping the University complete its fundraising campaign for the Green Building project. To be named the WCI Green Building Demonstration and Learning Center, the facility will foster environmentally sustainable and healthy building, housing and landscape practices in Southwest Florida through demonstration projects and educational outreach programs.

"We are delighted that WCI is partnering with the University on this important project that emphasizes environmental sustainability," said President Merwin. "FGCU offers a strong academic curriculum and degree program in environmental studies and our students will benefit from the instructional attributes of this demonstration project that illustrates the appropriate balance between responsible development and environmental conservation."

The WCI Green Building Demonstration and Learning Center will be a catalyst for environmentally sustainable demonstration projects and outreach programs designed for building and landscape professionals and conservationists. The building itself will offer an example of:

  • Environmentally sustainable building practices
  • Use of resource efficient materials
  • Healthy house design
  • Environmentally friendly landscaping
  • Water conservation systems
  • Solar energy applications
  • Energy efficiency
  • Non-toxic building materials
  • Design for handicapped and elderly
  • Hurricane protection features
  • Recycling systems
  • Safe house features
  • Low maintenance cost
  • Long term durability
  • Ease of use

The educational outreach program will strive to:

  • Reach a broad range of individuals and groups in the community
  • Partner with others that have already developed similar programs
  • Identify gaps in the educational process
  • Develop marketing strategies to insure for maximum participants
  • Use a mix of delivery modes for delivery of green building information to the community

Florida Gulf Coast University is currently offering courses such as a Colloquium, required of all students, Issues in Ecology and the Environment, Environmental Technology and Conservation Strategies for Sustainable Future to address environmental sustainability issues. FGCU continuing education programs in partnerships with professional architecture, building, interior design and landscape design associations can be provided. The FGCU Small Business Innovation Center offers advice and information to new entrepreneurial green building businesses.

EPA Develops New Test for Molds

Two scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have developed an innovative way to detect potentially dangerous molds much faster and with more accuracy. The new technology can be used to detect the mold Stachybotrys, commonly known as "black mold" and more than 50 other possibly problematic molds.

Molds typically grow in buildings affected by water damage and have been found in homes, hospitals, schools and office buildings. It is estimated that about 50 to l00 common indoor mold types have the potential for creating health problems. Exposure to mold has been identified as a potential cause of many health problems including asthma, sinusitis and infections. It is also believed that molds play a major role in cases of sick building syndrome and related illnesses.

Drs. Stephen J. Vesper and Richard Haugland at the EPA Office of Research and Development, National Exposure Research laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio have developed a DNA-based system that allows rapid identification and quantification of molds in a matter of hours. Current methodologies require days or weeks to identify molds before remedial action can be taken. With the new technology, up to 96 analyses can be run simultaneously by laboratory technicians, reducing the labor required to analyze samples while significantly increasing the accuracy and validity of the analysis. The new technology also enables scientists to make risk assessments by identifying which mold is present and in what numbers.

In recognition of their work in developing the technology, the EPA scientists received the prestigious Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. They were in competition with researchers from all the Federal laboratories.

Technology is being introduced by the Environmental Technology Commercialization Center, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, one of the agency's technology transfer centers that assists U.S. industries in the licensing of EPA technologies. The technology is available for licensing on a non-exclusive basis by laboratories, indoor air quality specialists, or other environmental professionals. Aerotech Laboratories, Inc., a small Arizona business, is the first licensee under this government patent.

New Homes “Greener,” More Energy Efficient Than When Earth Day Was First Celebrated

New homes today are 100 percent more energy efficient than when Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 and numerous market-driven  features are making them “greener” than ever, according to Building Greener, Building Better: The Quiet Revolution, a new publication produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the NAHB Research Center.

"Market-driven green building advances such as engineered lumber, energy efficient appliances,  insulated exterior doors and windows and a host of other features  are becoming commonplace in new homes,” said NAHB President Bruce Smith, a home builder from Walnut Creek, Calif. “The result is not just better homes, but state-of-the art green homes that are available to buyers now.  And with the help and cooperation of government officials, we can make more green building features staples of new homes, townhouses, apartments and condominiums."

Featuring a four-color cutaway drawing of a typical new home, Building Greener, Building Better provides details on just how far the housing industry has come in providing greener housing choices to the American home-buying public.  In reviewing housing industry changes in materials, products and practices over the past 23 years, NAHB found that:

  • Increasing use of precision-measured pre-hung doors and other factory-built new home components significantly reduces wood waste at job sites.
  • Plastic “lumber” crafted from recycled materials has reduced use of redwood for decks from a 20 percent market share in 1978 to 6.3 percent in 1999.
  • Increased acceptance of environmentally friendly floor framing materials such as I-joists has caused reliance on dimensional lumber to drop by more than 20 percent.
  • Insulation levels in foundations, walls, ceilings and attics have increased significantly.
  • Dishwashers use 40 percent less energy and clothes washers use 45 percent less energy than models manufactured in 1972.
  • Passive solar design that captures the sun’s rays and gives home owners “free” heat is often incorporated in new homes.
  • Preserving trees around residences provides shade and reduces energy costs by cooling the home.
  • Landscaping with native plants that require little or no watering by home owners is reducing water bills for home owners and conserving this valuable resource.

Evaluation Protocol for Insulating Concrete Forms Completed

An evaluation protocol for insulating concrete forms (ICF) has been completed by the National Evaluation Service, Inc. (NES). The protocol will assist manufacturers of ICF technology prepare for an NES evaluation with respect to U.S. model building codes. The availability of an NES National Evaluation Report helps accelerate and streamline the approval of ICF installations by U.S. building regulatory agencies and the building community. The protocol was developed by an Expert Panel appointed by the Management Board of the National Evaluation Service, Inc. (NES) Building Innovation Center (BIC).

This protocol was developed 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 directed this particular effort toward the PATH goal to "accelerate the creation and widespread use of advanced technologies in housing".

EPRI to Test Residential Fuel Cells

Several Chicago-area families will soon produce their own electric power in a pilot project to assess the technical, economic and environmental benefits of using small residential fuel cell generating systems. The pre-commercial units, designed for single and multi-family dwellings, will be installed by the Community Energy Cooperative and EPRIsolutions, a subsidiary of the Electric Power Research Institute.

The furnace-sized units, which can produce three-to-seven kilowatts of electricity, could become a practical reality within about two years, according to Dan Rastler, EPRIsolutions’ area manager for distributed resources.

"We hope to work with as many of the leading fuel cell manufacturers as possible to showcase their units,” Rastler said. “EPRIsolutions has issued an RFP on the project and energy companies and other cities interested in participating in the development of fuel cell power systems are invited to join the Cooperative/EPRIsolutions collaborative initiative."

The pilot project will include the development of as many as five fuel cell systems and will involve procurement, baseline testing, installation, interconnection and test monitoring. EPRIsolutions will provide technical management and test monitoring support as well as educational material that explains the operation, environmental benefits and energy features of the technology. For technical information, Contact Dan Rastler, EPRIsolutions, at (650) 855-2521, e-mail drastler@epri.com or MaurieGamze, Energy Cooperative, at (773) 486-7600 ext. 127, maurie@energycooperative.net.

According to Rastler, the test, which will begin in the fourth quarter of 2001, is a step toward decentralized mini-grids where communities might be partially served by residential size or larger distributed resources.

May 2, 2001

Zero Energy House Wins Award

A precast concrete home was chosen the winner in the Building Category of 2001 Best Practice Sustainability Awards program. The program is run by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC). Called the Zero Energy House by it's builder, Tierra Concrete Homes of Pueblo, Colorado, the home features a number of highly energy-efficient features. The most unique feature is the pre-cast concrete walls with integral exterior insulation. The walls are poured at the site similar to tilt-up construction common in commercial construction. Three inches of polyisocyanurate insulation board (R-21) was laid in a sand bed near the foundation. Rebar was added and block outs for electrical runs and window openings were placed. Finally, four inches of concrete was poured and finished. A crane lifts the walls into place on leveling pads. Structural insulated panels were used for the roof, giving a ceiling insulation value of R-40. Low-e windows are placed to promote daylighting and solar heat gain. Building energy performance was modeled with Energy-10 software. Other features include: compact fluorescent lighting, radiant floor backup heat, a tankless water heater and a solar water heater.

After Review, DOE Approves New Standards for Washers and Water Heaters

After reviewing Clinton-administration standards that would increase the energy efficiency of clothes washers and water heaters, Bush's Energy Department will let the new rules stand. According to a DOE news release the new standards will "result in savings to consumers, greater environmental stewardship and power and water conservation for the country."

Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham took the opportunity to endorse the Bush Administration's supply-side energy policies. "As I have said many times, America faces an energy crisis. This crisis is, in part, a supply crisis," he said. "We simply have gone too long without responsibly planning for increased demand for energy, particularly electricity. But, we should also use technology where we can to promote energy efficiency and thus lessen demand. My principle focus during this review was to ensure that we promoted energy efficiency in a way that minimized any adverse effects on consumers and I believe that these two standards accomplish both of those goals."

The standard for clothes washers, when fully implemented, will lead to approximately $48 in utility bill savings per year for consumers and save over 7,090 gallons of water per year for the average consumer. In total the Department estimates the net economic benefit to the nation of this standard will be $15.3 billion from 2004 to 2030. The new standard will require future manufactured clothes washers to be 22 percent more efficient by 2004 and 35 percent more efficient by 2007. The implementation date for the higher efficiency level was delayed to 2007 giving manufacturers more time to research and develop lower-cost solutions to achieve the higher standard. However, several clothes washer models currently offered on the market meet the standard outlined for full compliance in 2007. The energy and water savings result primarily from design innovations. Sensors that are more accurate will lead to more efficient use of hot and cold water and higher spin speeds to remove more water from clothes will result in less drying time, thereby saving energy. Current standards for clothes washers have been in effect since 1994.

The standard for water heaters will result in utility savings of $117 for a gas-fired water heater and $182 for an electric water heater over the life of the product. Consumer savings in annual utility bills will be approximately $12 and $13 for gas and electric heaters and eight percent and four percent increases in energy efficiency, respectively. Over the life of the product, consumers will "breakeven" for paying higher prices for water heaters due to the increased efficiency standards in 7.4 years for electric and 3.6 years for gas water heaters. Standards governing water heaters have not changed since 1991.

DOE Backs Off Standards for Residential Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps

The Energy Department intends to reduce it's proposed increase in energy efficiency standards for residential heat pumps and air conditioners from 13 SEER to 12 SEER. The higher proposal came in the waning days of the Clinton Administration. The newer proposal would increase efficiency by 20 percent over current standards. In a news release, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said the newer standard would achieve significant energy savings and protect consumers.

"The Bush Administration's decision to reduce the air conditioner and heat pump standards is an outrage. This is bad policy and it's illegal, said David M. Nemtzow, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "By lowering the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) from 13 to 12 the Administration has dealt a cruel blow to American consumers and the reliability of the nation's electricity grid. This action not only will cost American consumers more than $700 million in annual electricity bills but also will create more unnecessary pollution.

"The fact is that the Administration has cut the existing standards by a third, yet they tout that this 'new standard' is a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency.

"As California and the Pacific Northwest deal with electricity shortages and increased potential for rolling blackouts and Chicago and New York City face the same dilemma this summer, this rollback cannot be justified. The states of Texas, California and New York all favored the higher air conditioning standards for a good reason. Air-conditioners are the single largest contributors to peak electricity demand."

DOE Releases New Energy Software

Architects, engineers, building owners and managers now have a new tool to minimize energy use and optimize building performance by simulating building energy use. The Department of Energy's EnergyPlus computer simulation program will assist home builders and designers to dramatically lower energy use in buildings. EnergyPlus allows users to calculate the impacts of different heating, cooling and ventilating equipment and various types of lighting and windows to maximize building energy efficiency and occupant comfort. Users can simulate the effect of window blinds, electrochromic window glazings and complex daylighting systems, features not seen in earlier DOE software. EnergyPlus builds on the most popular features and capabilities of BLAST and DOE-2 but includes many innovative simulation capabilities including time steps of less than an hour and modular systems simulation modules that are integrated with a heat balance-based zone simulation.

Highlights of the new software include:

  • Realistic system controls
  • Moisture adsorption and desorption in building elements
  • Interzone air flow
  • Low temp radiant heating/cooling
  • Interior surface convection
  • Thermal comfort modeling options
  • Evaporative cooler models
  • Steam absorption chiller
  • Air flow sizing based on zone requirements
  • Accurate sky illumination model for daylighting calculations
  • Ability to read multiple interval per hour weather data files
  • Plenums
  • Enhanced calculation of return air heat gain from lights
  • Flat plate exhaust air heat recovery
  • Automated creation of EnergyPlus geometry input from CAD files
  • Example heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system and equipment input templates
  • User-customizable reports
  • Atmospheric pollution calculation

The EnergyPlus simulation program reads and writes output as text files. Its input and output data structure is designed to allow easy development of third-party interfaces -- such as the 15 already available for DOE-2. Most users will use graphical user interfaces when these tools become available later this year. The program was created primarily for use in Windows; but adaptations for Linux and UNIX are available. EnergyPlus can be downloaded at no cost from the DOE Web site.

Green Building Guidelines Published

Over 50 local professionals who create and manage public buildings in the North Carolina counties of Durham, Orange and Wake counties have produced a 150-page document called "High Performance Guidelines: Triangle Region Public Facilities" to promote and measure cost-effective, efficient, durable and environmentally sound structures. The guidlines are targeted at public buildings, but offer many ideas suitable for private sector buildings. The guidelines describe specific measures to save energy and water, reduce the use of materials, reduce indoor pollutants and achieve other goals. The document includes examples and a list of resources to help professionals learn more. The document can be downloaded at no cost here.

Wanted: Cool Roofers

The California Energy Commission is looking for cool roofers to participate in their Cool Roof Retrofit Program. The program offers incentives averaging 10 cents per square foot of qualifying roofs. The Cool Roof Web site offers further information, frequently asked questions and links about cool roofs.

"While cool roofs (of white colored materials) do not generally cost any more than dark roofs, they have been shown to lower cooling costs by 20 percent," said Energy Commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld. "This simple change will eventually save California thousands of megawatts of peak power."

The surface of a dark roof can reach temperatures of 150-170 degrees F during a hot summer day. A cool roof can lower the temperature by 50-60 degrees F, thus reducing the conduction of heat into the building and lowering the amount of air conditioning needed to remove that heat.

Because temperature extremes can contribute to the degradation of the roofing materials, cool roofs can lower roof repair and maintenance costs as well, helping to prevent expensive "tear-offs" and the disposal of tons of old roofing materials in our landfills. Cool roofs also help reduce the temperature of urban areas, lowering what is referred to as "Urban Heat Island" effect, helping to reduce air pollution and the corresponding health impacts.

In Florida, White Roofs are Best

A reflective white roof can cut cooling costs by 20 percent or more, According to a a recent study in Florida (Oikos Green Building News February 2001).

Deconstruction as a Community Tool

A report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) examines deconstruction activities in El Paso, Miami, Milwaukee and Nashville. The report describes how deconstruction can support other community objectives. Deconstruction has the potential to (1) create job training and job opportunities for unskilled and unemployed workers, (2) foster the creation and expansion of small businesses to handle the salvaged material from deconstruction projects and (3) benefit the environment by diverting valuable resources from crowded landfills into profitable uses, which in turn would enable deconstruction to pay for itself by generating revenues and reducing landfill and disposal costs.

A Study of the Feasibility of Deconstruction (PDF) provides a brief analysis of the feasibility of deconstruction based on a study of four urban communities and lessons from other local deconstruction initiatives. It describes the conditions under which deconstruction is likely to work and the barriers -- economic, organizational and public policy -- that must be overcome for it to be a viable part of a community revitalization strategy.

Insulating Concrete Form Named Outstanding Green Product

ARXX Building Products was selected as the product with the most significant impact on advancing resource-efficient home construction at this year's Green Building Conference in Seattle. The company was selected by conference attendees from almost 50 exhibitors. The interlocking, lightweight expanded polystyrene concrete forms were named the 2001 Outstanding Green Building Product.

California Law Enables New One Megawatt Net Metering

Californians who generate small amounts of electricity can now make more. The legislature and Governor Davis have passed a new net metering law that raises the size limit for projects from 10 kilowatts to one megawatt. Net metering rules govern sales of electricity by small generators, usually homes and small businesses.

"Net metering is simply good public policy," said California Solar Energy Industries Association Executive Director Les Nelson. "By allowing a return on investment, it encourages average customers to invest in their own on-site power generation and reduces the overall load on the electric grid during peak usage hours - those times when prices are highest and the grid is most vulnerable to statewide supply disruptions. Expanded net metering legislation will improve the economics of on-site customer owned solar generation, encourage new clean power generation statewide and ensure California resource diversity."

"By increasing net metering system size from 10kW to 1 MW, consumers will have greater incentive to size their systems to better meet their peak energy needs," added Nelson. "The wider adoption of large solar energy systems is good for everyone because it will result in reduced energy prices for ALL customers. PV solar systems have proved that they provide demand reduction during peak times and increase the State's overall power supply during off-peak hours. The one MW net metering law will help California's utilities -and the State of California- avoid buying peak power at California's wildly expensive spot market prices. And by reducing the need to buy expensive power on the spot market, all customers' rates will be lowered because the savings can be shared among all customers"

"The beauty of one MW net metering legislation is that one of the cleanest sources of electric generation -solar- can be used to displace the dirtiest generating power system -diesel- at no cost to the taxpayer," added Nelson. "Reduced peak demand made possible by solar means reduced need for additional dirty diesel generators that are coming on line all over California to meet peak demand."

Consumer Guide to Renewable Energy for Your Home or Business

The tumultuous electricity market has many people thinking about generating at least some of their own power. DOE recently unveilied a new Web site called Consumer Guide to Renewable Energy for Your Home or Business that shows consumers how they can buy electricity made from renewable sources in their state, evaluate the environmental benefits of clean power and learn how clean power is generated. In addition, the site helps visitors decide if owning a renewable energy system is right for them by helping to evaluate the available technologies, teaching about connecting to the grid and sizing a system and presenting the available incentives. A special section on powering a home or small business with a small wind system is also included.

Largest Fuel Cell Installation to Date Planned for Connecticut

The Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) in Middletown will be powered by six, 200-kilowatt (kW) fuel cells connected in parallel to the region’s electric power grid. The project will cost approximately $18 million to construct and approximately $2 million annually to operate and maintain. When completed, the plant will supply on a guaranteed basis 1,200 kW of electricity, 9 million British thermal units (Btu) per hour of hot water and 680 tons of chilled water. This capacity output will serve all heating, cooling and electrical power needs of CJTS’ 227,000 square feet of buildings including residences, greenhouse and other campus facilities. The State of Connecticut awarded the contract for construction, operation and maintenance to Select Energy. According to Michael Cassella, Select Energy’s director of new business and large project development, the project constitutes the largest single-site installation of grid-connected fuel cell technology in the country and perhaps the world.

Residential Fuel Cell Planned for Japanese Market

H Power Corp. and Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., the natural gas utility serving more than 6,000,000 customers in the Kansai area of Japan, announced plans that H Power will develop a new 500 watt residential cogeneration fuel cell system for the Japanese residential market, using Osaka Gas’ compact fuel processor. The new unit will incorporate H Power’s proprietary fuel cell technology and Osaka Gas’ proprietary steam reforming technology. Osaka Gas is scheduled to begin evaluation of the new systems at selected customer sites in Japan before year-end.

Yuji Matsumura, Head of Technology, Managing Director of Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., commented, “We believe that our reformer technology, combined with H Power’s cogeneration fuel cell expertise, is a marriage of world-class technologies that will produce an efficient, cost-effective fuel cell system well suited to the residential and apartment markets. We look to offer compact one-kilowatt and 500-watt systems in Japan where the demand for low-power alternative energy sources is strong. When mass produced, we believe the low manufacturing cost, high durability and reliability of our reformers will help promote interest in H Power’s cogeneration fuel cell systems.”

H. Frank Gibbard, chief executive officer of H Power Corp., said, “ The fuel cell system we develop for Japan will also provide a technology base for new products in the United States and Europe, where we see a significant demand for 500 to 1000 watt systems. Osaka Gas’ compact fuel processor will add to the system’s appeal by reducing overall size. We anticipate production of the 500 watt systems for Japan as early as 2003.

Residential Fuel Cell Co-gen Units Coming in Europe

International Fuel Cells and Buderus today announced they will work together to develop and market fuel cell systems for residential applications. Under terms of the agreement, Buderus will market in Europe the IFC fuel cell system now being developed for homes and light commercial buildings. The two expect to test initial units in important European markets beginning mid 2003. IFC is currently developing a five-kilowatt fuel cell for residential and light commercial applications. These units, which operate on natural gas or propane, will be used to generate electricity for assured electrical power or as primary power.

Buderus will offer fuel cells in co-generation units, using the heat generated by the fuel cell for space heating and domestic hot water. The electricity produced will replace or reduce use of electricity from the electrical grid. The fuel cell units will expand Buderus' current offerings for co-generation units. Buderus already markets gas-engine based co-generation units in the range of 17 to 230 kilowatts.

Phoenix Awards Recognizes Brownfield Accomplishments

Each year, the Phoenix Awards recognizes outstanding brownfields projects from across the U.S. Since the creation of the Phoenix Awards in 1997, 28 projects from 17 different states have been honored. This year, one Phoenix Awards winner will be selected from each of the EPA's 10 regions. Additional special winners will be recognized for other exceptional projects. A grand prizewinner will be selected from among all the chosen winners. Any individual, group, government body or agency, company or organization is eligible to apply for a Phoenix Award. Phoenix Award winners will showcase their projects at the Brownfields 2001 conference and will be presented with a handcrafted crystal trophy at a special conference ceremony. Award winners will receive national publicity and recognition in professional journals and newspapers and on the Internet. Successful projects also serve as models and inspiration for other communities. Past Phoenix Award winners are real-life examples of the accomplishments that can arise from new brownfields initiatives across the United States. These projects represent a blend of disciplines, including the environmental consulting community, the public, real estate developers, bankers, economic development agencies, attorneys and federal, state and local government. The 2001 Phoenix Awards deadline is June 15, 2001. For an application, visit the Phoenix Awards Web site.

Installer's Guide to Moisture Sensitive Wood Sheathing

Builders should consider taking steps beyond code minimum requirements to prevent water and moisture from infiltrating the structure. The consequences of failing to do so can be disgruntled customers and burdensome liability. Where chronic water intrusion problems exist the consequences may include water damage to framing, sheathing, insulation and interior finish in the form of mold or other water-related deterioration. Moisture Protection of Wood Sheathing is a four-page primer to installation techniques and practices builders and trade contractors can use to create a water-resistant barrier around a wood-based structural system. Exterior claddings including brick, stucco, vinyl siding and exterior insulation finish systems (EIFS) all have the same potential for sheathing and stud damage if weather barriers, flashings and opening protections are not used or are installed incorrectly.The guide was published by the NAHB Research Center and is available in PDF format in English and Spanish .

Horticultural Exhibition Sprouts World's Largest Solar Roof

The Floriade 2002 international horticultural exhibition in Amsterdam will take place under a semi-transparent roof made of about 19,000 photovoltaic modules. According to Siemens Solar Industries, the 2.3 megawatt installation will be the largest solar roof in the world... so far. The solar modules will function as the roof for a semi-open glasshouse and as an electrical plant that will provide electricity directly to the local grid. The total surface area of the solar installation is around 25,000 square meters or equivalent to almost three soccer fields. Siemens Solar has developed a semitransparent solar module for this project which allows light to shine through to the plants and flowers. The power plant is scheduled to become operational in December 2001.

Union Installs Solar Roof on Training Facility

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 332 will install a 23 kilowatt solar power array at IBEW's new downtown San Jose headquarters. It will be the first commerical solar installation in the city. The IBEW plans to use this building as a training facility for union members interested in learning state-of-the-art solar system installation techniques.

The IBEW's installation will comprise nearly 200 PowerGuard® solar roofing tiles from PowerLight Corporation and will generate about 30,000 kwh per year . The tile's insulating properties will also reduce heating and air conditioning costs.

"The IBEW believes the solar industry will generate more and better paying jobs in California. Greater energy awareness and customer interest in alternative generation is allowing the IBEW to train its members on the installation and maintenance of PV systems and to do so in a safe manner." said George Ingham, International Executive Director of the National Photovoltaic Construction Standards and Certification Partnership (NPCSCP), which is guiding the IBEW through the solar deployment process. "Soon we'll see many more IBEW facilities deploying solar power - as electricians and others become increasingly familiar with this smart approach to energy generation."

San Jose's new IBEW headquarters has been designated a 'green building' model by San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and the city's City Council. It will serve as a showcase illustrating environmentally responsible technologies that can be incorporated into future construction projects, as well as retrofits to existing buildings.

BP Brings Solar Electricity to 150 Villages

Over 150 Philippine villages will receive electricity for first time as a result of a deal between BP Solar and the Spanish and Philippine governments. Led by the Philippines Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the $48 million contract the largest solar energy project ever is financed by the Spanish government and will be implemented in two phases, the first scheduled to begin in September. The first phase of the project will center on 35 Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. BP will use solar in around 70 villages to power:

  • 5,500 home lighting systems
  • 25 irrigation systems
  • 97 potable water and distribution systems
  • 68 schools, 68 community centers, 35 health clinics and 100 communal lights
  • 35 new AC power supply systems for income generation purposes
  • Project management and installation of 428 packaged solar systems
  • Social preparation, community development and training for 200 community organizations.

The second phase will provide an additional 44 ARCs with:

  • 9,500 home lighting systems
  • 44 irrigation systems
  • 79 schools, 80 community centers, 2 health clinics and 193 communal lights
  • 44 AC power supply systems for income generation purposes
  • Project management and installation of 442 packaged solar systems
  • Social preparation, community development and training for 220 community organizations.

Because of the prohibitive cost of extending power lines and the difficulty of transporting generator fuel to remote, developing areas, international funding organizations are increasingly turning to solar as a low-cost way to supply electricity for the first time to remote areas and build the foundation for social and economic advancement in developing countries.

Book Describes How to Take Control of the Electricity System

Few Americans feel they understand, let alone have any say over, the intricate forces that determine whether their lights go on. In today's energy system, we have become utterly dependent on distant power plants, long-haul transmission lines and unaccountable decision-makers.

To regain reliability and peace of mind citizens must take charge of their electrons, according to a new book called Seeing the Light: Regaining Control of our Electricity System published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).

Author and ILSR Director, David Morris outlines the steps necessary to develop a flexible network of small-scale power plants, including microturbines, fuel cells and renewable generators. Consumers and communities have already begun to move in this direction. Seeing the Light points out how many cities and states are redefining their electric futures in ways that achieve not only reliability and low cost, but social and environmental goals as well. Texas is rewriting its rules to encourage a new generation of on-site, small-scale power plants. Ohio has enacted legislation that encourages cities to become electricity buyers for their residents. Sacramento and Los Angeles have embraced a decentralized power approach focused on rooftop solar cells.

But the power plants of the 21st century will not flourish until cities and states adopt new rules that reject both the top-down regulated utility model of the past and the out-of-control deregulation of today.

Seeing the Light also describes how citizens are taking back control over their distribution and transmission grids. Customer-owned utilities are increasingly seen as a means of avoiding the risks of deregulation while still capturing its promises: lower costs, better service and genuine customer choice.

"For those who want to know what is wrong with our electricity system and how to fix it, Seeing the Light is a must read," says U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Seeing the Light can be ordered for $15 directly from the ILSR's New Rules Project web site.

Sustainability Dashboard Shows National Status

The prototype of a new tool to help policy makers and the public visualize and track progress towards sustainable development was unveiled at United Nations headquarters. "The Dashboard of Sustainability" is a unique new way to present indicators of sustainable development - as gauges similar to the control panel of an aircraft or car. The instrument turns a complex array of economic, social and environmental performance indicators into a simple graphic representation of a country's current position relative to an agreed consensus about sustainability.

The prototype, the product of a six year international project led by the Canadian-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, presents the performance of three countries (Finland, the Philippines and South Africa) on a set of 57 indicators of sustainable development currently being tested by the CSD. Data for other nations, obtained from the U.N. Statistical Division, the World Bank, the OECD and other international agencies, have also been included in the prototype.

The goal is to enable quick assessment of the weak and strong points of a nation's performance. On-going data updates will facilitate tracking of trends over time. On completion of testing, the Dashboard will be freely available for download from the Internet. The data clusters can also be modified according to the end-users' specific needs.

W.R. Grace Latest Asbestos Casualty

Citing the growing costs of asbestos related lawsuits, W.R. Grace & Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Most of the suits stem from the asbestos added to some of Grace's fire protection products. The company stopped adding any asbestos to its products in 1973. Grace is a co-defendant with many other companies in asbestos litigation and has claims filed against it across the country. The company to date has received over 325,000 asbestos personal injury claims and has paid $1.9 billion to manage and resolve asbestos related suits. For the year 2000, asbestos related claims against the company were up 81 percent from 1999, with even higher increases for the first three months of 2001. The filing will allow the company to continue to operate its businesses under court protection from its creditors and claimants, while using the Chapter 11 process to develop a plan for addressing the asbestos related claims against it.

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