Green Building News

Green Building News June 2001

June 27, 2001

DOE Sued for About Face on Air Conditioner Standards

Three states have joined a suit by activists groups against the Department of Energy over their attempt to weaken new performance standards for air-conditioners and heat pumps.

The state attorneys general of New York, Connecticut and California have joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Consumer Federation of America and the Public Utility Law Project in filing suit against Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham for his department's attempt to weaken a rule made in the final days of the Clinton administration.

"This is a time when the federal government should be doing everything possible to encourage the efficient use of energy," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "Instead, the Bush administration has dramatically weakened one of the most effective ways to conserve energy. With this lawsuit, we are seeking to compel the administration to adopt a more forward-looking course that will help lower energy bills and reduce air pollution."

In separate lawsuits that they expect will later be consolidated, the plaintiffs charge that DOE has illegally attempted to delay and weaken a final rule that set the federally allowed minimum energy efficiency standard for residential air conditioners and heat pumps at a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 13, which is a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency from the previous federal standard of 10. The plaintiffs ask the court to invalidate DOE's attempts to delay the final rule and to prevent DOE from attempting to weaken it.

The Bush Administration is seeking to weaken the air conditioner standard from 13 SEER to 12 SEER. NRDC calculates that by rolling back the air conditioner efficiency standards from 13 SEER to 12 SEER, peak electric demand in the United States would increase by 18,000 MW by 2030. That is an increase that would require the construction of 60 average-sized (300 MW) power plants. Total annual electricity consumption by U.S. households would increase by 11 billion kilowatt hours by 2020, equivalent to the total annual power used by 1.1 million households. Cumulatively, over the period from 2006 to 2030, U.S. consumers would pay a total of $18.4 billion more to run air conditioners. Finally, the nation would emit another 45 million metric tons of carbon (the equivalent of carbon emissions from 30 million cars for one year).

"Secretary Abraham's plan to weaken the air conditioner efficiency standard is in blatant violation of federal law," said NRDC Senior Attorney Katherine Kennedy. "Under federal energy law, DOE can't change an energy efficiency standard to make it weaker," added Kennedy. "So DOE is trying to act as if the Clinton Administration's final rule was just a proposal and make it go away. But we won't let them."

Despite the Bush Administration's claim that it is only reviewing rules and regulations made final during the very last days of the Clinton Administration, the Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Conservation Rule was actually in development over a seven-year period. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2001 and was to take effect on February 21, 2001, but the Department of Energy has twice delayed and suspended this effective date without providing for public notice or comment, according to the plaintiffs' complaint filed today. On April 20, 2001, DOE also announced its intention to "revise" the Rule's energy efficiency standards by proposing a weaker energy efficiency standard of SEER 12.

California EPA Headquarters Shows Off Green Features

The new headquarters building of the California Environmental Protection Agency, which rises 375 feet above Sacramento, demonstrates several environmentally-sensible features. The building's long axis runs east-west to maximize daylight. The window glazing were selected to reject solar heat. Many of the workstations are near the building perimeter, so more workers can benefit from natural light. Each workstation is served by an automatically controlled desk lamp that operates only when someone is there. Ceiling tiles contain 82 percent recycled content. Low VOC interior paints were used. Each floor has two huge vents -- one on the north side and one on the south -- that flush that floor with cool air each night to reduce the amount of energy used for air conditioning. The building can generate a portion of its own electricity with a 30 KW photovoltaic array. However, the $1 million system provides only one percent of the electricity needed to run the huge building. The building has 150 parking spaces -- not for cars, but for bicycles.

US Home Will Make Photovoltaic Systems Standard Feature in New Development

US Home -- one of the largest home builders in the U.S. -- has asked AstroPower to supply at least 500 solar electric home power systems for US Home's new home construction. Under a recent agreement, US Home will offer AstroPower's solar electric home power systems as a standard feature in its Bickford Ranch community. The total number of PV systems could reach 1,000.

"This agreement is a significant advance for the solar industry," said Bob Johnson, Vice President and Director, Photovoltaic Services at Strategies Unlimited, an independent market research firm. "At 1,000 solar-powered homes, Bickford Ranch will be the world's largest single-family grid-connected solar installation. The magnitude of the installation sends an important signal to California and to the rest of the world regarding the growing importance of solar electric home power and an individual's ability to take control over his own electricity generation."

Situated on 1,954 acres near Sacramento, Bickford Ranch will include 1,880 single-family homes, 60 acres of public parks, and 27 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. More than 58% of the land will be preserved as recreational and natural open space. In addition, about half of the homes in the community are age-qualified, meaning that the homeowners will be at least 55 years of age.

"We are proud that this community will be the largest solar installation of its kind in the world," said Brian Bombeck, President of US Home's Sacramento Land Division. "With the ever-increasing cost of electricity and the unreliability of the utility grid, there's value in solar power that we could not have left untapped.

US Home will offer its homebuyers AstroPower's SunUPS™ solar electric home power system with battery backup. A premium power system, it provides homeowners with uninterrupted power even during utility outages. Alternatively, homeowners can choose AstroPower's SunLine™ system, which offers the same packaged components of the SunUPS™ system without the continuous power option. Both the SunUPS™ and SunLine™ systems are fully packaged systems.

"From the day they move in, residents who choose solar electric power in the Bickford Ranch community will begin saving money," said Howard Wenger, AstroPower's Vice President, Premium Power. "The bottom line is that solar power at Bickford Ranch will be more affordable than today's utility grid power, thanks to streamlined costs realized in new construction, built-in financing and a California incentive rebate that cuts the installed cost in half."

Who Are These People Who Want Higher Electricity Bills?

These customers are highly educated, they tend to be in their prime earning years, they are located in every region of the country, and they have proven that they are willing to pay more for their electricity if it comes from renewable or "green" generation sources. So who are these people? To answer that question, E Source partnered with four regulated utilities in the U.S. and Canada and talked with 1,200 of their residential customers who currently purchase green energy. E Source also called 400 randomly selected people who don't purchase green energy, but who live in the same utility territories, to serve as a control group.

Findings from this research are compiled in the latest in a series of reports by E Source about how to successfully sell green energy. "Understanding Residential Green Energy Buyers: A Market Research Survey" explains how to cost-effectively find likely green energy buyers and provides tips for marketing to them. The survey was the first of its kind to take green energy buyer profiles from the theoretical to the actual.

E Source analyzed data from people who have already bought green energy. The research reveals what beliefs and opinions motivate green energy buyers and describes the most effective marketing channels for reaching them at low cost. Adam Capage, lead researcher for this report, explains, "For too many years now, green energy marketers have relied on what people say they are going to do. We wanted to provide information about people who have already acted to buy green energy."

Some key findings include:

  • Likely green energy buyers can be found in every region of the United States, though they are more prevalent in the Northwest and Northeast.
  • Green energy buyers are best described as well educated and politically liberal. Income is not one of the strongest predictors of who is most likely to purchase green energy.
  • Eighty-five percent of households currently purchasing green energy say they are "very likely" to continue doing so. Seventy-one percent say they will do so even if the price increases by $1 per month, or about 15 percent more than they are paying now for their green energy.

To learn more about this report, or to order a copy, please contact Adam Capage at 720-548-5404. E Source is an energy information and consulting service providing organizations with unbiased, independent analysis of retail energy markets, services, and technologies. They publish an excellent series of "technology atlases" on key end uses: Lighting, Heating, Cooling, Appliances and Drivepower.

EPA Talks with Industry about CCA

After a recent public meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted a proposal by the American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI) as a reasonable first step to help consumers make an informed decision about the safe use and handling of wood pressure treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a wood preservative that contains arsenic. AWPI's suggestions included placement of individual tags with specific safe handling information on each piece of CCA-treated lumber before being sold to consumers. The proposal also describes other measures to inform consumers about safe use and handling of CCA-treated wood, such as display of in-store stickers and signs, and the establishment of a toll-free hotline and a web site.

EPA has begun an expedited assessment of children's exposure to CCA-treated wood in playgrounds, which is expected to be complete by the end of the summer. The overall reassessment of CCA-treated wood is part of the Agency's ongoing pesticide reregistration program which periodically re-evaluates older pesticides for compliance with current health and environmental safety standards.

In March, the St. Petersburg Times revealed alarming test results showing elevated levels of arsenic in soil around playground equipment made with CCA-treated wood.

Portable Classrooms Will Be Safer for California Kids

In California schools, a "portable" is shorthand for the portable classrooms that sprout like mushrooms as some schools cope with rapidly growing population. Kids that spend several hours a day in portables can be exposed to airborne chemicals known to cause cancer, asthma and other illnesses, according to As You Sow. The San Francisco based environmental group sued makers and suppliers of the portables under a state law that requires products containing chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive harm to carry warning labels. A settlement was reached recently, in which the companies did not admit liability. However, they paid As You Sow $150,000 in restitution, $10,000 in civil penalties and all of As You Sow's legal fees. The restitution will be distributed other non-profit groups working on the issue.

In 1999, the Environmental Working Group published a report that claimed more than two million school children were potentially exposed to harmful levels of formaldehyde, benzene and other chemicals inside portables. The report said this exposure could double their chances of developing cancer. The EWG study, "Reading, Writing and Risk," is available at their web site.

Radon in Blue Ridge Ground Water Among Highest In Nation

Radon concentrations in ground water from residential wells in the Blue Ridge area of the New River watershed, in parts of North Carolina and Virginia, were among the highest measured in the nation in a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey. Radon is a radioactive gas, and radon in air is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

"These results for ground water suggest that many homes in the Blue Ridge region may have excessive radon in their indoor air," said USGS project leader Mark D. Kozar. The igneous and metamorphic rocks in the area have high natural uranium content. Radon forms during the decay of uranium. Radon can seep through soil and accumulate in poorly ventilated homes, especially in basements.

Water from 87 percent of wells sampled in the Blue Ridge region exceeded the proposed national drinking-water standard of radon which is 300 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). One-third of the wells contained more than 4,000 pCi/L, the alternate standard proposed for areas where action is taken to decrease radon levels in indoor air. The maximum radon concentration detected was 30,900 pCi/L. Similar radon concentrations may be expected in other parts of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont in Virginia and North Carolina where similar rocks are present. Nationally, the USGS has found that the median radon concentration is 410 pCi/L.

Radon concentration in the soil varies widely across the U.S. Homeowners can test their air or water for radon using inexpensive test kits.

Breathing radon poses a greater risk than drinking water containing radon. Radon, in addition to seeping into homes through soil and rock, can also escape into the air when ground water containing radon is used for bathing, laundry and cooking. "Water in rivers or lakes usually contains very little radon," said Kozar.

The USGS sampled 30 wells in the New River watershed as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Ground-water samples from the wells were also analyzed for bacteria, nutrients, trace metals, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds. A new USGS report, "Ground-Water Quality and Geohydrology of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province, New River Basin, Virginia and North Carolina," describes the complete results of the study. A limited number of copies of the printed report are available at no cost from USGS offices in Richmond, Virginia (phone 304-347-5130. Please identify the report as USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4270.

Additional information on radon can be found at the National Safety Council's telephone hotline 800–SOS–RADON or the EPA web sites for indoor air quality and drinking water.

Green Village Offers Carbon Neutral Living

In designing the Beddington Zero Energy Development - BedZED - every conceivable aspect of carbon emissions was considered. The 82 home community built was on a brownfield in Sutton, south London, England using recycled or renewable materials from sources no more than 35 miles away to reduce energy used for shipping.

All homes come with private gardens, so residents can grow their own vegetables -- energy free. The community has ample work space for home-grown businesses, too. Dependence on automobiles is reduced by installing high-speed Internet connections to each residence for telecommuting and electronic shopping . By next year, car sharing will be available using a fleet of electric vehicles recharged from roof mounted solar panels.

Each unit has large south-facing triple-glazed windows which maximize solar heat gain. The community has a waste-wood fired cogenerating powerplant. All of the community’s electricity will come from tree prunings. Thermal energy - heat and hot water -- should be reduced up to 90 percent compared with a conventional home of the same size. Overall a 60 percent reduction in energy consumption should be realized.

The first six properties are now ready for sale. Rental and sale residences range from one bedroom apartments to four bedroom homes. City managers elsewhere on the globe with decayed neighborhoods and wasted industrial land can look to BedZED as way to bring people back into their communities.

Texas Adopts Strong New Energy Codes

The Texas legislature last month passed a bill that for the first time creates a statewide building energy
code. Given Texas's history as a home-rule state with a strong bias toward local government autonomy, this is a major achievement. Analysis of the code's impact, conducted by the Alliance to Save Energy, shows that by 2020 the code will save 1.8 billion kWh per year, avoid the need for more than 700 Megawatts of power plant capacity, and prevent the emissions of nearly 400 million tons of carbon and 5000 tons of nitrogen oxides. These estimates are based on cooling savings alone. The analysis report is available from the ASE Web site.

Apartment Building Will Generate Most of its Own Power

Colorado Court in Santa Monica is still under construction, but it's already showing that it's more than a pretty face. Under the abstract architecture and the trendy colors, designed by Monica-based Pugh & Scarpa, is an apartment complex that will generate 92 percent of the power it consumes. According to an article in the LA Times, the project is scheduled to open in October and will be adorned with 199 solar panels, supplying about a third of the building's electricity. The bulk of the building's power will come primarily from a natural gas-fired micro-turbine generator, with the remainder supplied by Southern California Edison.

In addition to the electric generation, the complex includes a wide array of energy-saving features. Water is heated as a by-product of the micro-turbine. The building will not have air conditioners, but is designed to take advantage of natural breezes for cooling. Compact fluorescent lights will be used throughout the building. It also includes green features, such as on-site storm water retention.

The $5.8-million project is intended as "single-room occupancy" housing for low-income renters. To some it may seem odd that a low-income project would include such a long list of spendy features. It actually makes perfect sense to include energy-saving and money-saving features in a development for people that don't have money to spare. A group called the Regional Energy Efficiency Initiative has contributed $250,000 to pay for energy-saving measures.

Forest Certification Systems Compared

Fern, a non-governmental organization based in Europe, has released an in-depth comparison of the four major sustainable forestry certification systems -- the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Pan-European Forest Certification (PEFC), the Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management Standard (CSA) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) . They concluded that

    "... the Forest Stewardship Council is currently the only independent and credible certification scheme in the market. So far, this is the only scheme to bring labelled products to the marketplace and it offers a good option to consumers. This does not mean that the FSC scheme is perfect. Continued vigilance is required to ensure that its implementation lives up to its commitments. Of the remaining three schemes, the PEFC raises the most concerns, which is particularly alarming given the context of its aggressive push for market visibility and access. Both CSA and SFI score poorly against most of the criteria."

The full report as well as a short summary can be obtained from the Fern Web site.

NEMA Launches Premium Efficient Motor Program

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has launched a national Premium Efficient Electric Motor program, known and marketed as "NEMA Premium™." The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) agreed today to co-promote the specifications, which are generally 1-2 percent higher than federal minimum standards (set by the Energy Policy Act of 1992), depending on motor type and size.

"This is a major step in establishing a single definition for premium efficiency in the motors marketplace," said CEE Board Chairman Tim Stout. "With a consistent branding and marketing program in place, customers will have a much easier time identifying and selecting motors that save electricity and money."

Motors typically consume 10-25 times their purchase price in electricity each year, meaning that even small increases in efficiency can add up to large energy savings. Over 1.2 million integral electric motors are sold each year. These motors drive systems used in a wide range of industries, including chemicals, mining, forest products, oil and gas, utility, irrigation, general manufacturing, commercial pumps and fans, and compressors.

According to the NEMA, more than 1.2 million integral electric motors are sold each year. The premium efficiency motor program is equivalent in carbon reductions over 10 years to keeping 16 million cars off the road.

The joint specification is very similar to the one CEE and participating member organizations have been promoting through CEE's Premium-Efficiency Motors Initiative. At CEE's request, NEMA made significant upward adjustments to its original specification for NEMA Premium. At the same time, NEMA identified several practical considerations regarding the market acceptance of CEE's original specification, recommending an adjustment for certain motor categories. The result was a consensus specification and a brand that should provide a real boost in the sales of premium-efficiency motors.

Both NEMA and CEE believe NEMA Premium efficiency motors will be specified by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and by utility motor programs as replacements for older, failed motors because of an accompanying reduction in electrical energy consumption and improved reliability.

Recyclers Take Spent Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent lamps are energy efficient, but each lamp contains about 11 milligrams of mercury. Although they have a long useful life, fluorescent lamps must be replaced eventually. Because they contain mercury, they require special handling and disposal. Most states require businesses to follow special procedures and file certain documents. This has created a small industry of companies that recycle fluorescent lamps and sometimes ballasts, too. The North American Electrical Manufacturers Association has a web site dedicated to fluorescent lamp recycling, called It includes a list of recycling companies around the U.S.

Sanyo Working on Detergent-less Washing Machine

Sanyo Electric Co. announced the world's first washing machine that cleans clothes without detergent -- most of the time. Their new Denkaisui models use ultrasonic waves and electrolysis instead of liquids or powders. The ultrasonic waves produce bubbles that batter dirt particles, which are then dissolved by a combination of activated oxygen and hypochlorous acid generated by electrolyzing the wash water. The company admits that the meanest stains will still need detergent. This top-of-the-line model is scheduled to arrive in Japanese stores in August and will sell for $1,030.


June 11, 2001

Maryland Launches Vigorous Green Building Program

Maryland Governor Parris Glendening has issued an executive order creating a commission to make recommendations and set criteria for constructing and maintaining energy efficient and environmentally responsible state facilities, setting goals for the purchase of "green power" and outlining a comprehensive energy conservation strategy.

"State government has a responsibility to maximize our resources and minimize the impact on our environment," said Governor Glendening. "While Smart Growth focuses on where we build, our green building initiative focuses on how we build. It is the next step in our efforts to grow smarter, live more in balance with our environment and help protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay."

The Executive Order sets a new goal for the procurement of electricity, calling for at least 6 percent of consumption in state-owned facilities to be produced from "green energy," which includes wind power, solar, biomass and landfill gas generated sources. To promote a diversity of "green energy" resources, no more than 50 percent of the procurement goal may be from the combustion of municipal solid waste.

The Governor's Order also establishes a 16-member Maryland Green Buildings Council to develop a High Efficiency Green Buildings Program which will guide the design, construction, operations and maintenance of all new state-built facilities, as well as the renovations of existing state owned and leased buildings.

The Executive Order will also encourage wider adoption of energy-efficient office products, use of renewable energy components (such as solar roofs) and reduction of waste production. Specific goals include reducing energy consumption in State buildings by 10 percent per square foot by 2005 and by 15 percent per square foot by 2010 (based on 2000 average consumption figures). All new energy-using products are to carry the "Energy Star" label developed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, or must be in the top 25 percent of energy-efficiency when labeled products are unavailable. Beginning on January 1, 2003, all State agencies have been directed to divert or recycle at least 20 percent of the waste they generate.

The Executive Order also makes it easier for the State to purchase alternative-fuel and low-emission vehicles for its fleet.

Greenpeace Report Alleges Hidden Dangers in Homes

A new Greenpeace report claims that children are needlessly exposed to hazardous chemicals found in vinyl plastic childcare products and home furnishings. Independent laboratories analyzed items from vinyl mattress pads to vinyl flooring, and found a range of additives, primarily phthalates and organotins, but also lead, cadmium and bisphenol A. The chemicals found in the products have been shown to cause a variety of adverse health effects.

Some phthalates cause liver cancer, kidney damage and reproductive system impairment in animals. Organotins cause reproductive and developmental damage in animals and nervous and respiratory problems in humans. Most chemicals remain untested, meaning parents can't be sure whether these products are harmful to their children.

"We should not gamble with the health of children," said Mary-Elizabeth Harmon, PhD, Greenpeace toxics campaign scientist. "There are cheap, safer alternative products readily available to consumers."

Among other findings in the Greenpeace study:

  • Several products contained the phthalate, DEHP, a probable human carcinogen according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 1986, the Toy Manufacturers of America and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) agreed upon a voluntary limit of three percent DEHP in teething toys.
  • The product testing showed that the phthalate DINP continues to be used in children's products at levels up to 33 percent by weight. In 1999, the CPSC requested toy makers voluntarily eliminate DINP in teething toys.
  • A majority of the products contain a group of metals called organotins. Some of the highest levels of organotins were found in vinyl floor tiles, where small children can spend a lot of time crawling and playing.

The full report, This Vinyl House: Hazardous Additives in Vinyl Consumer Products and Home Furnishings is available at the Greenpeace Web site.

DOE Seeks Public Input on Energy Plan

The Energy Department will hold seven public meetings around the nation this month to discuss the agency's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs. The outreach effort will allow the public, elected officials and energy experts to provide the department with information regarding the current funding and historic performance of its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs. These meetings are part of a comprehensive review of the programs called for in President Bush's National Energy Policy released last month.

"Energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy resources are critical elements of the President's National Energy Policy," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "The public's input at these meetings will help us identify opportunities for future research and investment while assessing our past effectiveness in these areas."

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) funds research, development, demonstration and deployment of advanced energy technologies in five energy sectors - buildings, industry, transportation, power generation and delivery and federal government facilities.

Comments offered at these meetings should address the objectives of the current energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment programs; suggested potential objectives for future programs; implementation of current and future programs; and whether these federal programs are achieving intended objectives.

Each meeting will be held from 9 am to 9 pm. To accommodate as many individuals as possible speakers will be limited to five minutes.

Written comments will also be accepted but must be submitted by 5 pm on June 29, via electronic mail to:

The public meetings will be held:

  • June 12, Atlanta, Georgia, Richard B. Russell Federal Building and Courthouse
  • June 12, Chicago, Illinois, Dirksen Federal Building
  • June 19, Boston, Massachusetts, John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
  • June 19, Seattle, Washington, Bell Harbor International Conference Center
  • June 21, Denver, Colorado, Adam's Mark Hotel Denver
  • June 21, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Myerson Auditorium
  • June 26, Washington, DC, Washington Hilton and Towers

A Few Republicans Take Issue with Bush Energy Plan

Republicans for Environmental Protection have published a forthright statement opposing the Bush/Cheney energy plan in their magazine, Green Elephant. The group, which is not affiliated with the Republican National Committee, opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), supports renewable sources and deplores waste as not "conservative." Here are a few pithy excerpts:

We do not have an energy crisis in America right now. What confounds us is a political crisis... We are living in a world of our own making...

We have known for years that America will always be at the mercy of foreign oil powers as long as we rely on oil. Even if we drill in every wildlife refuge and put oil rigs off all our coasts, we will still have no more than 4 percent of the world’s reserves. Yet we consume 25 percent of the world’s production. We delude ourselves if we think we can drill our way to energy independence...

We have known for years that our road to energy independence must be built upon efficiency, technology and the abundant all-American, clean and renewable sources of power that surround us: wind, solar, geothermal, ocean and biomass energy...

While President Bush’s budget slashes funding for renewable energy research, the rest of the world surges forward... has been five years since our Republican Congress prohibited the federal government from even studying fuel efficiency. And now Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott seems to have invented a new right -- call it “the right to waste” -- to justify retarding progress: “The American people have a right to drive a great big road hog SUV if they want to. And I’m gonna get me one,” Lott said in a Roll Call interview published March 12, 2001...

Efficiency implies no reduction in comfort or quality of life. Efficiency does not threaten America’s pride and self-image. To the contrary, “The demand for efficiency,” Theodore Roosevelt said, “has given us vigor, effectiveness, decision and power, and a capacity for achievement which has never been matched.”

No one can effectively mount an argument against efficiency. The alternative to efficiency is waste, and who wants to defend that side of the debate? Don’t conservatives value efficiency? Aren’t we no-nonsense, hard-headed, bottom-line folks who demand efficiency in everything?

Californians Embrace Conservation

Californians used 11 percent less electricity this May compared to last year. Overall peak demand for electricity use dropped by 10 percent in May compared to one year ago. This is the first month that the Energy Commission has calculated monthly electricity use and compared it to the previous year.

"In January, I asked Californians to reduce their electricity use by 10 percent. We are getting the job done," Governor Davis said. "Recent information from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that California is the most electricity efficient state in the nation. Clearly, conservation is making a critical difference." California residents and businesses reduced their electricity demand by 3,595 megawatts compared to last year, according to California Energy Commission figures, California has been steadily reducing electricity use during peak times, which are those hours when electricity demand is at its highest. One megawatt is enough energy to power 1,000 typical homes. The Energy Commission's analysis for peak demand reductions and monthly electricity use includes adjustments for weather and economic growth.

Deconstruction Training Manual Available

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance recently completed, Building a Deconstruction Company: A Training Manual for Facilitators and Entrepreneurs. This report by Dennis Livingston and Mark Jackson provides an excellent resource for anyone interested in starting a deconstruction company. If you are an entrepreneur, community-based organization, construction-related company or governmental organization, this manual will introduce you to many of the steps needed to form a solid company, from setup and funding, to planning, deconstruction and material resale. The report is available for $25 (plus S&H) from the ILSR Web site.

ILSR has a large database of companies and individuals who are involved or interested in deconstruction and building material reuse. They are looking for others interested in decontruction to enlarge the database and to help synchronize local efforts. Contact Mark Jackson for more information.

The Greening of Real Estate Agents

Real estate sales people are joining the green building movement. Green Housing: It's No Illusion -- an article published last month on -- describes how real estate agents can contribute to the sale of energy-efficient homes. Agents find energy-efficient homes offer several selling advantages. Strong consumer desire. A larger pool of qualified buyers and buyers qualifying for more expensive homes. Financing for energy-saving improvements. Much of this relies on the concept of energy-efficient mortgages that has been taking hold slowly over the last 20 years. One unique observation made in the article was that real estate deals seldom fall apart over a bad roof. Buying and selling agents routinely cope with this obstacle. Now real estate agents are finding that making a home greener as part of the real estate transaction isn't a problem, but an opportunity.

Willamette Industries Donates Critical Habitats to The Nature Conservancy

Oregon's largest private forest landowner has donated six ecologically sensitive properties to The Nature Conservancy for permanent protection as nature sanctuaries. The gift from Willamette Industries will safeguard imperiled habitats including Oregon's largest remaining coastal wetland of its kind, an isolated mountain refuge for rare plants, large remnants of native valley prairie and other areas of rare botanical diversity.

The six sites harbor more than a dozen rare and sensitive plant and wildlife species thriving in remnant native habitats in Oregon's Coast Range and Willamette Valley.  At-risk species include the peregrine falcon, Fender's blue butterfly and northern red-legged frog. The Willamette Industries gift includes permanent conservation easements totaling 1,740 acres.  At a seventh, 137-acre site, Willamette and the Conservancy will work together to study methods of restoring native prairie and oak woodland habitats.

The company estimates the value of the six conservation easements at $1.5 million.  The Conservancy is committed to raise an additional $1.5 million for perpetual management of the protected areas.  Willamette and the Conservancy will jointly develop management plans for each of the seven properties.

"Willamette Industries has made a tremendous gift to Oregonians," said Russell Hoeflich, vice president and Oregon director for The Nature Conservancy.  "We can all  be extremely grateful for their leadership in protecting these critical pieces of Oregon's natural heritage."

Nationwide, Willamette has preserved more than 1,100 special sites for protection because of environmental, cultural or historical significance.

Documentary Relates Demise of Cities and Explores Solutions

For the first fifty years of the twentieth century, American cities worked well. They were centers of business and commerce, magnets of opportunity open to all ethnic groups. But after World War II, the implementation of three major government programs-the Veterans Administration, the Federal Housing Administration and the Interstate Highway System-changed our landscape. The programs split cities apart by abetting the flight of whites to suburbs and put into motion a systematic cycle of disinvestment from cities, a cycle that continues today.

At the center of Inner City Blues are those who have been left behind. The documentary -- produced by Great Lakes Television -- examines the institutional and geographic racism that fueled white flight, resulting in racial isolation, an ever-widening racial gap and growing chronic poverty in the inner city. Inner City Blues looks for solutions to sprawl and urban decline from pioneers of the "new urbanism" movement, "smart growth" advocates and historians. The documentary can be viewed from the Great Lakes Television Web site.

Global Report Describes the State of Cities

The world's metropolitan areas are dangerously unmanageable, according to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) first report on "The State of the World's Cities."

The existing institutions governing the administration of cities are not adequate to control today's sprawling urban centers, the UN agency says.

Introducing the report at a press conference in New York, the world's second largest city, Habitat Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said the challenge of economically divided cities is the main message in the report. In many urban centers, there are affluent central business districts in one area, while slum and squatter settlements exist in another section of the city.

"Not unlike Charles Dickens' time 150 years ago, the city is increasingly divided," Tibaijuka said. "The problems are the result of poverty and exclusion, in the context of globalization. Along with economic opportunities, globalization has created cut-throat competition among cities to attract business. "Such competition has not necessarily benefited all city residents," she said.

With more than 29 million people, Tokyo, Japan is the world's largest city, far outstripping the second most populous metropolitan area, New York City with its 20 plus million people. Although only one African city is in the top 10 most populous - Lagos, Nigeria with more than 13 million people - Africa poses a special challenge, because people there are moving away from wars in the countryside, Tibaijuka said.

Habitat defines a sustainable city as one that has a lasting supply of the natural resources on which its development depends and a lasting security from environmental hazards which may threaten development achievements.

The problem of sprawl is linked with energy supplies. "Current dependence in most urban centers on non-renewable energy sources can lead to climate change, air pollution and consequent environmental and human health problems and may represent a serious threat to sustainable development," according to the Habitat Agenda which serves as a standard against which to measure urban patterns. Sustainable energy production and use can be enhanced by encouraging energy efficiency, by such means as pricing policies, fuel switching, alternative energy, mass transit and public awareness. Human settlements and energy policies should be actively coordinated, the Habitat Agenda says.

Jay Moor, the coordinator of the report, told reporters that one of the messages from the analysis is that institutions have not been developed well enough to manage cities.

"Indeed, the process of governing cities is just now being learned, and in very few places is it being done successfully," he said. "Many people have said that national governments are losing their authority in a globalizing world. In some ways, they are losing control over liberalized financial elements of globalization, but they still play a very strong role in development and regulation."

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