Green Building News

Green Building News July 2001

June 27, 2001

EPA Requires Warning Labels on Treated Wood, Critics Say It's Not Enough

Treated wood sold in lumber yards and home improvement centers will soon carry labels informing the public that the products contain arsenic. Treated wood is protected against decay by chromated copper arsenicals (CCA), a wood preservative that contains arsenic. USEPA has completed its review of a plan developed by the American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI) to strengthen information available to consumers for CCA-treated wood, which is widely used for many outdoor applications including decks, fences, posts, picnic tables, docks and playground equipment. The expanded consumer information program begins immediately, and by early fall will include labeling on all pieces of CCA-treated lumber, in-store displays and additional information available to the public. All these information materials should be in place by this fall.

"Now consumers will understand that this treated wood contains arsenic," said Stephen Johnson, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. "I am pleased that the public discussions about CCA-treated wood resulted in a commitment by the industry to include end-tag labeling, in-store bin stickers and signs, and a new toll-free hotline and web site," added Johnson.

At the same time, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has taken the first steps toward considering a ban on CCA in playground equipment.

The Environmental Working Group, which is one of the groups pressing the ban, reacted to the EPA labelling agreement by saying the "EPA is more interested in defending arsenic than it is in protecting the public. Consumers may now know that this wood has arsenic in it, but they will still think that it is safe to use, and it is not. This is the equivalent of labeling lead paint, but allowing it to stay on the market. The result will be millions of people unnecessarily exposed to arsenic, just to protect the economic interests of the pesticide and timber industries. This decision does nothing to protect children. Better labeling is a cheap way to avoid action necessary to protect the public health."

EPA will hold a public meeting of the Scientific Advisory Panel during the week of Oct. 22 to invite scientific peer review on the Agency's hazard assessment and methodologies for calculating children's potential exposure in playgrounds where equipment is made from CCA-treated wood. The children's assessment is one aspect of the Agency's comprehensive reassessment of CCA, which is currently underway and will be released for public review in 2002. EPA will also carefully evaluate the success of the voluntary consumer information program as part of the overall reassessment of CCA.

Wood can also be treated with Ammonium/Copper/Quantenarium (ACQ). In some applications, plastic lumber can be substituted. (See the Oikos Product Directory for sources of ACQ treated lumber and plastic lumber.)

Time Magazine published a detailed article about treated wood, called Toxic Playgrounds, in its July 16, 2000 edition.

Energy Star Products Now Available in Canada

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with the Canadian Government to bring Energy Star products to citizens and businesses north of the border.

"The Energy Star label makes it easy for consumers and businesses in the U.S. -- and now Canada -- to use energy more efficiently, save money, and help protect the environment," EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said. "Our new partnership with Natural Resources Canada will provide consumers there with an easy way to determine a product's energy efficiency."

In the United States alone in the year 2000, Energy Star resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking ten million cars off the road. Eight hundred and sixty four billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions have been prevented due to Energy Star commitments to date, with cumulative energy bill savings of $60 billion through 2010.

By establishing uniform criteria for energy efficiency in the United States and Canada, this agreement should increase global supply and demand for energy efficient equipment. American manufacturers will find it easier to highlight the efficiency of their products in Canada.

Green Power Meets Efficient Appliances

Manufacturers of energy efficient home appliances joined renewable electricity providers to create a roadmap for a sustainable approach to energy production and use. The resulting venture will utilize two well-known certification brands in their industries: the Energy Star logo designating energy efficiency and the Green-e logo denoting superiority in renewable electricity.

Hosted by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), the meeting of the companies launched a pilot project for the “Green-e Plus” Program.

The objective of the “Green-e Plus” Program is to create linkages between manufacturers of energy-efficient products and green power providers, and to facilitate co-marketing arrangements between the parties. Offerings will include financial incentives for customers to purchase energy efficient appliances, along with similar motivations to subscribe to a renewable electricity provider. Manufacturers and retailers of Energy Star labeled home appliances are eligible to participate in the pilot. Energy Star is a government/industry partnership run by US Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.

The Green-e Program administered by CRS sets consumer protection and environmental standards for electricity products, and verifies that Green-e certified products meet these standards. Inspired by the success of the recycling logo, the Green-e logo helps customers easily identify renewable-based electricity products. By setting environmental product standards and requiring companies to disclose information about their products, Green-e helps consumers make responsible choices about the power they purchase.

This marriage of interests will encourage consumers to reduce their energy demand while they green their energy supply and help consumers take a more holistic approach toward new green power markets. Green-e Plus uses market approaches to promote sustainable energy development in the United States. This new approach can be a critical component in efforts aimed at cleaning up the electric utility industry, which contributes 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Philips Lighitng Retrofits a City Block in Berkeley

As America searches for a way out of the energy crisis currently gripping California and threatening to spread nationwide, Telegraph Avenue just might light the way.

An entire city block along this avenue in Berkeley, California, cut its projected lighting usage nearly in half -- an astounding 45 percent (or 62,712 kWh/yr) annually -- simply by switching to energy-efficient light bulbs.

Lamps of every kind, from common household light bulbs to industrial fluorescent tubes, were replaced with the most energy-efficient light bulbs throughout this city block (2350-2392 Telegraph Avenue), which is a mix of offices, restaurants and residential apartment complexes. "Relamping" this Telegraph Avenue block was the work of Philips Lighting Company together with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the City of Berkeley and local community organizations, including the Telegraph Area Association and the Telegraph Business Improvement District. Part of a national initiative, this grassroots effort is intended as a blueprint for energy conservation, illustrating how simple changes, such as switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, can result in dramatic savings.

"A big part of these projected savings come from installing compact fluorescent bulbs, which are a fantastic but surprisingly little-known solution for home and office," said Larry Wilton, President and CEO, Philips Lighting Company North America. "Really, if we could stop debating over long-term solutions for a minute and start looking at the terrific technology we already have -- such as the compact fluorescent light bulb technology that Philips invented more than a decade ago -- we probably wouldn't be using the word 'crisis' for long."

Research conducted on behalf of Philips uncovered that two-thirds of consumers felt they could make a difference in the energy crisis, yet more than one third had not taken one of the easiest steps -- changing their light bulbs at home. This suggests that one-third of the U.S. population is primed and ready to make some changes if given the proper resources.

If other cities across the country were to take these same steps, collectively the savings would be astronomical. For example:

  • New York's Times Square could save 23 million kWh and $5.8 million annually
  • Chicago's Miracle Mile could save 45 million kWh and $3.6 million annually
  • The Strip in Las Vegas could save 105 million kWh and $8.4 million annually
  • Dallas' Downtown could save 51.5 million kWh and $4.1 million annually
  • Baltimore's Inner Harbor 2.1 million kWh and $168 thousand annually

Philips Lighting Company and Amtech Lighting conducted a lighting audit to determine the best energy-efficient lighting options available for each building. The two companies are then donating their products and installation services to conduct the actual lighting retrofit. They'll replace all of the current lamps in the buildings on the city block with the most energy-efficient light bulbs available, from compact fluorescent lamps to T8 linear fluorescent lamps. As an example of energy efficiency, a Philips Marathon(TM) compact fluorescent lamp uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent and saves at least $26 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb.

Solar Patriot Marches on the Mall

One of the highlights of “Solar Energy: Power to Choose,” the Forum 2001 conference in Washington, D.C. this past April, was the construction of a solar-powered home on the National Mall. Called the “Solar Patriot,” it featured passive solar design strategies, an integrated photovoltaic (PV) system, domestic solar hot water, high-efficiency lights and appliances, and a host of other sustainable, market-ready components, materials, and systems. The home’s two different PV systems -- building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) shingles and low profile solar panels -- provide sufficient power for it to operate completely independent of the utility grid. The PV systems generate 6 kilowatts of energy; electricity is stored in eight 75-amp batteries, and an inverter converts the PV-produced DC current to 120-volt AC current. The event was sponsored by more than a dozen organizations, and organized by the Sustainable Buildings Industries Council (SBIC), which Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) manages. The 3,000-square-foot home was toured by over 26,000 visitors, including senators, representatives, congressional staff and Bush administration members, such as Christie Todd Whitman, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. SWA’s principal Helen English, Chair of Forum 2001, notes that the house brought “commercially available solar components, passive solar design strategies and sustainable building materials together in a product that is highly cost competitive with more traditional single-family homes…” Energy analysis of the house revealed that it would save approximately $200 to $300 a month in energy costs.

Long Island Power Connects Fuel Cells to Grid

Under a $7 million program designed to show how fuel cell technology may ultimately generate electricity for residential customers, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) today announced that it will connect 75 fuel cells to its electric grid at its West Babylon substation this summer.

The program is intended to begin identifying and developing the measures and systems needed to facilitate the eventual use of fuel cells operating in parallel with, and contributing to the overall reliability and performance of LIPA's electrical grid system.

Site planning is underway and construction is expected to start this month. The fuel cells are being manufactured by Plug Power Inc., of Latham, N.Y., and are expected to produce over one million kilowatt hours of electricity over the duration of the program, which is enough to power about 100 average-sized homes.

By connecting the fuel cells directly to the transmission grid, the electricity created by the fuel cells will be distributed to customers through LIPA's electric transmission and distribution system. It will be the first large-scale use of fuel cells for this purpose in New York State.

The program is being funded through LIPA's Clean Energy Initiative (CEI). The CEI is a five-year, $170 million program, proposed by Governor Pataki, that is designed, in part, to foster the development and application of clean energy technologies, such as fuel cells, solar, wind generation and geothermal. LIPA's CEI program also offers 11 energy conservation and load management programs that residential and commercial customers can take advantage of to reduce electric consumption and save money.

Two Large PV Installations Completed

Two building mounted photovoltaic systems have been completed. One is a 49 KW system on the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The other is a 200 KW system on the Nuetrogena building in Los Angeles. Both systems became operational only a few months after they were announced.

The Field Museum installation, by Spire Corporation, is the largest solar electric system in Illinois and one of the largest in the Midwest. This project is part of a multi-year, multi-site program of solar power installations that Spire is completing in conjunction with the City of Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. Spire plans to install as many as 15 more utility-connected solar installations this year in Chicago public schools, museums and commercial buildings. By connecting the roof-top system to ComEd's electricity grid, the amount of power that has to be delivered from non-renewable, high-emissions sources is reduced during peak periods.

The 200 KW system mounted on the Neutrogena Corporation headquarters covers 24,000 square feet of roof area and will help reduce the company’s monthly energy consumption by approximately 20 percent. One million dollars of the $1.4 million cost was covered by a grant from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's (LADWP) Solar Incentive Program.

Through the program, LADWP offers its residential and commercial customers an incentive payment or rebate of $3 or $5 per watt for solar electric systems, in order to make these systems more affordable. To date, LADWP has received Solar Incentive requests that total over $2.7 million dollars. The Department goal is to encourage the installation of 100,000 solar systems in Los Angeles by 2010, and to install up to 1.5 megawatts of power each year for the next five years.

In addition to the customer incentive program, the LADWP is installing solar systems at 35 municipal buildings every year for the next five years. Most city library branches and many park facilities will receive the solar installations. 

Pardee Homes Offers Solar Electric Home in California

Pardee Homes joins other large builders in Southern California in offering buyers the option of installing photovoltaic arrays on their new homes. The arrangement with AstroPower aims to build a total of 200 solar-powered homes over the next two and a half years. The companies will offer solar electric home power systems to new homebuyers within Pardee Homes' Southern California communities.

"Pardee has recognized solar electric power as a value-added feature," said Bob Ruggio, AstroPower's Manager, Residential Sales.

Pardee will offer its homebuyers AstroPower's SunUPS™ packaged solar electric power system with battery backup, which enables homeowners to experience uninterrupted power during utility outages. Homeowners can also 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 packaged systems, including all necessary components for installation and operation. "The systems are designed to integrate seamlessly into the construction process," Ruggio said. "Not only does this minimize installation time, it provides Pardee with tremendous economies of scale that it can pass on to its homebuyers."

California Furnaces Recalled for Fire Danger

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing a recall of about 30,000 furnaces sold in California from January 1983 through December 1992. Seven firms are offering to repair or replace certain furnaces, which were sold under their own labels, but were manufactured by Consolidated Industries Inc. The units involved are gas-fired horizontal furnaces equipped with steel "NOx" rods installed above the burners and are commonly called NOx rod furnaces. These furnaces pose a substantial risk of fire.

CPSC has received 50 reports of fires associated with the 140,000 horizontal furnaces manufactured by Consolidated Industries Inc. No injuries have been reported. All the furnaces can be identified by the steel rods installed above the burners. The firms participating in this recall are Amana Company, Bard Manufacturing, Carrier Corporation, Goettl Air Conditioning Inc., Goodman Manufacturing Company L.P., Heat Controller Inc. and The Trane Company.

A complete list of affected products appears on the CSPC Web site and on the California Furnace Inspection Program Web site.

BP Joins Alliance to Save Energy

As the first petroleum company in the world to recognize climate change as a threat to the environment, BP recently became the only oil company to join the Alliance to Save Energy, which includes 70 other leading companies in their industries that are committed to promote energy efficiency domestically and overseas.

"We are pleased to have BP join the Alliance to Save Energy. As the world's third largest oil company, BP is a good example of how the private sector can utilize energy efficiency to not only affect their bottom line but also to improve the environment," said Alliance Chairman U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) who is also Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"If a global company as diversified and energy intensive as BP can address their corporation's energy usage through efficiency and conservation measures, then other firms should certainly be able to painlessly follow suit," explained Alliance President David M. Nemtzow.

Nemtzow was referring to BP's program to control their greenhouse gas emissions through an internal program of corporate energy management and emissions trading among individual business divisions. In 1997 BP Chairman and CEO Sir John Browne outlined an agenda to address the issue of climate change. Since then BP has adopted a precautionary approach to climate change and recognizes that climate change is a genuine public concern. Faced with this reality, BP has set itself a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by the year 2010 and has already achieved their midway milestone.

Speaking on behalf of BP, U.S. Regional President John Manzoni said, "We are excited about our new partnership with the Alliance and look forward to working with the Alliance, and its members to raise the profile of responsible energy management at our facilities in the U.S. and around the world. BP recognizes the role energy plays in the economic security of every country and the personal security and quality of life of every individual. Promoting a balanced approach of conservation, energy efficiency, exploration and technology development is something we must all be focused on and involved in. We view the Alliance as a key conduit in the constructive engagement process concerning these energy policy issues with both the Administration and Congress in the current policy debate."

BP is expected to play a role in the Alliance's recently launched initiative to promote leadership in corporate energy management among the nation's leading CEOs and industry leaders. "We hope that corporate leaders like Sir John Browne can lead by example in the promotion of energy efficiency at their facilities and those of their suppliers," said Nemtzow.

| News Archives |