Green Building News

Green Building News September 2001

September 27, 2001

ASTM Issues Two Standards Concerning Sustainability

In an effort to facilitate communication between those who make building products and those who buy them, the American Society of Testing and Materials has issued two new standards. Standard Terminology for Sustainability Relative to the Performance of Buildings (E 2114) provides meanings and explanations of terms applicable to sustainable development. Consistent word usage helps to eliminate the major barrier to effective technical communication. Standard E 2129, Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products, includes a questionnaire that can be used to query product vendors about the environmental attributes of their products. Questions on the questionnaire involve: materials, manufacturing process, operational performance, indoor health and corporate environmental policy. These are the first two standards to emerge from the three-year-old Subcommittee on Sustainability (E06.71) of ASTM Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings.


ASES Offers Tour of 800 Solar Homes Nationwide

On October 13, Americans will have the opportunity to tour over 800 homes and businesses powered by solar energy in 44 states and see first-hand the benefits of the clean, non-polluting power of the sun. The annual Tour of Solar Homes is organized by the American Solar Energy Society and operated by local groups.

Solar technology is becoming a more cost-effective way to save energy, lower utility bills, and enhance national energy security, wherever you live in the country, from the Northeast to the Southwest. The owners of these homes are welcoming visitors and will explain:

  • How photovoltaic and passive solar energy systems work
  • How solar energy can maximize your home's energy efficiency
  • How solar energy can significantly cut your water heating bill
  • How some homeowners sell solar energy back to their local utility
  • Why a solar-powered home is attractive, profitable to own, and within your grasp

Solar technologies, whether used for generating electricity or heating water, can be added to an existing home or designed into a new home. A photovoltaic system can be sized to provide almost any percentage of a home's electricity, and even generate enough power to sell back to the utility.

And today's solar water-heating systems can provide 40 to 80 percent of a typical household's hot water demand, depending on the local climate, system size and type.


NEEA Assumes Sub-CFL Program

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance will assume management of an Energy Department program to introduce better-performing, lower-cost subcompact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that also reduce lighting costs to consumers. The program, which is already saving American consumers more than $22 million in energy costs each year will launch a private venture to support retail sales of sub-CFL products in the marketplace.

These new CFLs are achieving success in the American marketplace because they are smaller, brighter, and cost less than earlier compact fluorescent lamps. Their subcompact size and screw-in base enables them to fit in most lighting fixtures designed for incandescent bulbs. These CFLs provide the same energy efficiency benefits as larger CFLs and meet stricter technical specifications for color rendition and light output. All the bulbs promoted and sold under programs organized by the department or the alliance meet the stringent energy efficient requirements for Energy Star® labeled CFLs.

"This project is an outstanding example of how a partnership between government and the private sector can bring energy saving products to the marketplace without a government subsidy," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "With sub-CFLs now well established, the Energy Department will now step aside and let market forces carry the sales."

In the initial program phase, researchers at the Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., learned of the needs of multi-family housing owners, and other large potential buyers for a shorter, brighter and more affordable CFL. They established minimum specifications for lamps that fit those needs. Lights of America, Sunpark, JKRL and Surya were selected as program participants and introduced 17 newly designed CFLs to the marketplace. The alliance has already selected Sunpark and JKRL to participate in the new program, and expects to add additional suppliers.

The alliance plans to increase the market share of these easy-to-use subcompact fluorescent lamps by promoting sales to retail outlets in the Pacific Northwest through its new web site The Web site will provide retailers, utilities and other large volume buyers with a streamlined ordering process, tips on merchandising these products, and access to sales training and other support available through the alliance's Northwest Energy Star Lighting Initiative. The alliance is a non-profit group of electric utilities, state governments, public interest groups and industry representatives committed to bringing affordable, energy-efficient products and services to the marketplace.

Several large retailers already stock and promote sub-CFLs, and hotels have purchased more than 100,000 of the lamps. The success of sub-CFLs will allow the department to shift its technology procurement efforts to new efficient lighting products, including energy-efficient CFL reflector lamps, dimmable sub-CFLs and efficient recessed lighting fixtures.


ASHRAE Opens Proposed Ventilation and IAQ Standards for Public Review

Proposed Standard 62.2P- Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings was released for public review by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The public review period will close on October 8, 2001.

This standard will establish minimum requirements for mechanical and natural ventilation systems in all single-family houses, manufactured homes and multifamily structures (new and existing) of three stories or fewer. The standard is intended for adoption and reference in building codes.

The proposed Standard includes:

  • Whole-house mechanical ventilation in most climates;
  • Exhaust fans in all bathrooms;
  • Vented kitchen exhaust fans;
  • Low-sound ratings on most fans;
  • Backdraft testing of natural draft furnaces, water heaters and
    fireplaces in smaller homes & in homes with large exhaust fans;
  • Duct leakage testing on houses with return ducts in garages.

A copy of the standard and comment forms can be accessed through the ASHRAE website and selecting "Standards for Public Review."


Waterless Urinals, Geothermal Heating/Cooling, Turn New Building "Green"

Waterless urinals, a geothermal heating and cooling system and other "green" innovations mean Bellevue Community College's newest classroom building will be one of the most environment-friendly structures in the region.

The innovations are expected to save more than 4 million gallons of water, 24 million cubic feet of natural gas and $1 million in operating costs over the 30-year depreciable life of the building.

The R Building's three-story classroom wing and two-story office wing will form the largest building on BCC's campus -- providing 29 classrooms and faculty/staff offices to help accommodate the College's rapid growth. The 68,000 square-foot, L-shaped structure also will provide meeting rooms, common areas for informal study and social interaction, and a dance studio.

"The R Building is designed not only to provide a quality learning environment but also to be kind to the natural environment," said John Carroll, BCC's Director of Campus Operations. "We are especially grateful to the City of Bellevue for their willingness to consider new ways to meet these goals."

In addition to waterless urinals and the geothermal system, the R Building's advanced conservation features include natural lighting and natural ventilation, recycled and environmentally neutral materials, and a storm drainage system that helps to preserve water quality. More information is on this project is available in the Oikos Showcase.


Updated GreenSpec™ Guide to Building Products Available

Finding products and materials to improve the environmental performance of buildings is now easier than ever. The publishers of Environmental Building News, the leading publication in the green building field, have just issued the second edition of GreenSpec Directory. This 362-page guide includes detailed information on more than 1,500 carefully screened products -- from access flooring to zero-VOC paint -- along with generic guideline specification language, all organized in the industry-standard 16-division CSI MasterSpec™ system. The directory, which is available either alone or packaged into the GreenSpec Binder with manufacturers’ product literature, is the most comprehensive green product resource available for architects, designers, specifiers, builders, developers, building managers, and homeowners.

"The second edition of GreenSpec is significantly improved," noted EBN publisher Dan Woodbury. "Our editors have added more than 450 products that weren’t in the first edition. And more than a hundred products have been removed, either because they are no longer available, or because they don’t meet the current standards for inclusion in GreenSpec."

Environmental Building News has been researching, evaluating, and reporting on green building products for the past nine years. GreenSpec, first published in 1999, has gained wide acceptance as the premier source for detailed, up-to-date, non-biased information on green building products. Products are selected for GreenSpec on the basis of standards developed by EBN editors.

"For those wanting to look through actual product literature, we offer the GreenSpec Binder, which includes the GreenSpec Directory plus more than 145 pages of product literature," said Woodbury.

The guideline specification language provided in GreenSpec Directory offers additional information on selecting and using environmentally preferable materials. Written by Larry Strain, AIA of Siegel & Strain Architects, this language can be adapted by the user to fit the needs of a particular project. Buyers of either the GreenSpec Directory or GreenSpec Binder have access to an electronic text file of the spec language.

Conserving Energy No Sweat, Says New Poll

Californians seem to be reducing energy consumption and global warming emissions without sacrifice. According to a survey commissioned by the non-profit Center for a New American Dream, a whopping 81 percent of Californians who took personal action to conserve energy during the recent power crunch report that it has not had a significant negative impact on their quality of life.   The poll, conducted in late July, found that 89 percent of Californians acted to reduce their energy consumption.  

“We don’t have to shiver in the dark or droop in the heat in order to protect the environment,” said Center Executive Director Betsy Taylor.  “This is a dramatic rebuke to the myth that Americans have to suffer if they want to conserve resources,” Taylor said.  “Our findings also show that not only can Americans reduce their energy usage without sacrifice -- they are in fact more than willing to do so.”

In a separate national survey conducted by the Center, almost two-thirds of Americans acknowledge that they would do more to conserve energy if they felt that their actions had a measurable positive impact on the environment. Turn The Tide, a unique new program by the Center for a New American Dream, provides that necessary information. By showing the actual environmental benefits of nine simple everyday actions using a real-time online calculator, Turn the Tide demonstrates to Americans that what they do matters.

Nationwide, according to the survey, almost half of all Americans are willing to reduce their driving by 20 miles a week, and seven in ten would install energy efficient light bulbs, if they felt it would have a measurable positive environmental impact. Using the Turn the Tide calculations, this would save an astonishing 159 billion pounds of carbon dioxide each year. These two actions alone would account for nearly 6 percent of the necessary carbon reductions needed to meet the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol.

Based on the recommendations of consumer behavior experts and environmental scientists, the Center for the New American Dream compiled nine simple individual actions that would be easy to implement and have a measurable positive impact on the environment.  At the Web site visitors are given a personal web page to track individual environmental impact, along with the combined impact of every other person participating in the program. For those without computers, Turn the Tide will provide the same information through the mail.

In just the first month of the program, Turn the Tide participants have already recorded personal action that will prevent the emission of almost half a million pounds of carbon dioxide and save over 1 million gallons of water per year.

Home Depot to Carry AstroPower PV Systems

Home improvement giant Home Depot has agreed to sell AstroPower residential solar electric power systems, beginning in the greater San Diego area. AstroPower’s SunUPS® and SunLine™ solar electric home power systems are currently featured at The Home Depot’s Escondido, Carmel Mountain and Sports Arena stores. Customers visiting these stores can learn about the systems through interactive displays that show how easy it is to generate their own electricity with clean home solar electric power systems.

Both the SunUPS and SunLine systems operate in conjunction with the utility grid, feeding power to appliances in the home and back into the utility grid when the system produces more electricity than the home requires. Homeowners can watch their utility meter spin backward. In addition, AstroPower’s SunUPS systems include batteries to provide uninterrupted power 24 hours a day even during utility outages. AstroPower’s SunUPS and SunLine solar electric home power systems are complete packaged systems that are installed by AstroPower’s fully trained and licensed installer network.

The systems are being sold and installed under The Home Depot’s "Installed Products" initiative, a full service program which provides product sales, financing, installation and service.
Bill Patterson, Divisional Install Merchant at The Home Depot, said: "The Home Depot is very pleased to be partnering with AstroPower in this exciting new product category. The Home Depot is committed to bringing energy solutions to our customers, and we believe that solar electric home power is the ultimate energy technology."

September 13, 2001

Architecture + Energy Awards Expand to National Scope

AIA/Portland's Architecture + Energy Program provides awards and educational opportunities that demonstrate the integration of design, sustainable principles and conservation technology. In past years, entries were accepted only from the Pacific Northwest. Beginning this year, projects from throughout U.S. were eligible.

A goal of the A+E program is to elevate "business as usual" by recognizing mainstream buildings that are making a difference, either as examples of how to take the next step or serving as inspiration by leading the way. Effective, creative use of daylighting, passive ventilation and waste-management practices are some of the successful strategies demonstrated by award winners. This year, the winners are:


Bank of Astoria
  Astoria, Oregon Tom Bender, Architect
A small project that comprehensively addresses green design issues, such as local materials, recycled materials, storm water retention and solar power. Also reflects a spiritual dimension. (For more on the spiritual side, see an excerpt of Tom's book, Silence, Song and Shadows.)

Food For Lane County
  Eugene, Oregon Inte' gra' re Architecture, Inc.
This low-budget project for a local food bank displays features that are simple and direct. It includes extensive daylighting, passive cooling and natural ventilation.

California College of Arts & Crafts, Montgomery Campus
  San Francisco California William Leddy- TLMS Arch.
Starting with a bus maintenance building on a contaminated site, the architects developed an urban school in close proximity to mass transit. This project illustrates the difficult compromises that are often necessary.

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Office & Training Complex
  Ankeny Iowa Renaissance Design Group
By replacing wetlands and prairie to this abandoned coal mine, the project restored the site to a higher use. The building includes simple, but effective daylighting and recycled power poles.


Schenectady Habitat for Humanity House Shows Green is Practical and Affordable

Green building is a practical and affordable way to do business, according to participants in a Schenectady, N.Y., house for Habitat for Humanity. The Capital Region Green Building Committee (CRGBC) is constructing a green house using mainstream building principles to demonstrate that concept and to encourage the use of resource-efficient construction practices that reduce environmental impact over the life of a home, according to Craig Stevens, a member of the CRGBC and executive editor of Capital Region Building magazine. He said, "Energy efficiency is a priority in green building. Therefore, the house will feature an insulated concrete foundation, state-of-the art insulating methods, and in-floor radiant heating."

With funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Schenectady Builders and Remodelers Association formed the CRGBC to develop a green building program for the region's residential construction and remodeling industry.

As part of the national Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) project, the 1,340 square foot, three-bedroom home will serve as a research site for the evaluation of its heating and insulation systems. The NAHB Research Center will assess the home's energy efficiency and air quality. PATH is a joint government/industry partnership that is designed to bring about dramatic improvements in housing affordability, durability, energy and resource efficiency, disaster resistance, and safety.

A description of the house along with many photos can be seen at the NAHB
Research Center's ToolBase web site.


Study to Assess Actual Energy Performance of Commercial Buildings

The New Buildings Institute, White Salmon, Wash., will study the energy efficiency of newly constructed commercial buildings under a $150,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The study will help determine if new buildings actually are as efficient as their intended design.

The Institute will compare newly constructed buildings to existing, top-rated, energy-efficient buildings using the Energy Star® rating system as a benchmark. For commercial buildings, energy performance is rated on a one-to-100 scale where a score of 50 signifies energy performance better than 50 percent of similar buildings. Benchmarking provides the foundation for fundamental property management decisions and is changing the building industry's perception of energy performance.

The New Buildings Institute will use existing data from energy utility bills to study the difference between design intent and actual, as-built energy efficiency in buildings. The study will look at actual and anticipated energy consumption of new buildings. The expertise of key stakeholders will be used to provide the necessary data and to help perform analysis of that data.

The findings of this study could help provide insight for making design decisions that affect energy performance and influence the interpretation of energy codes for commercial building design. The findings could also significantly help state, local, and private sector programs benefit from knowing the actual, rather than perceived, differences between design intent and energy performance in commercial buildings. For technical information contact Karen Butler at 202-564-9717.  


EPA Unveils Energy Star Label for Ceiling Fans

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a new Energy Star label for ceiling fans at the National Hardware Show and Building Products Exposition in Chicago. The first Energy Star labeled ceiling fans are not scheduled to reach stores until next January, but some manufacturers exhibited their fans at the show.

Ceiling fans help consumers cut their air conditioning bills, but some fans do the job more efficiently than others. EPA research has shown that the best ceiling fans are three to nine times more efficient at moving air than the least efficient models. "We developed the Energy Star label to recognize superior performance," said Andrew Fantara, EPA product development manger for Energy Star. "It will help consumers find the fans that provide maximum comfort and energy savings. As a result of Energy Star, consumers for the first time, will be able to compare the amount of air a fan moves with the power it uses. Energy Star labeled models will move air at least 15 to 20 percent more efficiently than a typical ceiling fan.


Poplar Farm Earns FSC Certification

Potlatch Corporation's 17,000-acre, intensively managed hybrid poplar plantation at Boardman, Oregon, has become the first such operation in North America to be independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Other Potlatch forest operations are not included in the FSC certification.

Potlatch's pursuit of FSC certification at Boardman reflects a willingness of some segments of the U.S. lumber market to pay a premium for FSC certified products. Potlatch intends to capitalize on this segment of the market through an agreement to supply poplar logs to the Kinzua Resources LLC sawmill at Pilot Rock, Oregon, just south of Pendleton. The mill, which is FSC certified for "chain of custody," will turn the light colored hardwood into lumber for furniture framing and other non-structural lumber products. Kinzua and Potlatch are working together to establish markets for the certified lumber around the country.

Potlatch is selling some of the fiber from the trees to Boise-Cascade's paper mill at Wallula Junction, Washington, and to Jeld-Wen, makers of a medium-density fiberboard called MDF Duraskin.

Olson said the company underwent a tough assessment, and earned the recognition by meeting FSC requirements and agreeing to certain management improvements. The company will also submit to annual field audits of performance, he added. "We will continually prove that we are managing some of the nation's most valuable poplar plantations to the FSC forestry standards."

Potlatch was evaluated by and received certification from FSC-accredited certifier Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) on August 24, 2001. Certifiers looked at environmental, economic and social variables during the process. FSC certification is the first step for Potlatch at Boardman. To maintain certification, Potlatch must also undergo annual field audits to continue to meet standards and make improvements as required by FSC. The Potlatch Poplar Public Summary Report can be downloaded from the SCS Web site.


Teak Plantations Lose Smartwood Certification

The Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program, accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to conduct forest management certifications, has suspended Perum Perhutani's teak plantation certificates. The suspension is based on the company's noncompliance with the certification conditions based on FSC principles and criteria as well as the SmartWood standards. SmartWood believes that the long term sustainability of the plantation resources is at a serious risk.

The action was taken, because the company failed to act agressively enough to Smartwood's requests for corrective action. They also failed to adequately share the benefits of its operation with local communities as required by the certification process.

The suspension affects the forest districts of Cepu, Kebonharjo, Kendal and Madiun on the island of Java, Indonesia. Perum Perhutani is the principal plantation forestry operation on Java. The suspension will become effective on October 20. It will affect at least 36 companies that buy teak from Perum Perhutani for use in making FSC certified products such as garden furniture.

Perhutani manages about two million hectares (more than 4.9 million acres) of plantations in 54 forest management districts (KPH), mostly in teak. At the time of the certification suspension, the FSC certified districts comprised about five percent of the total area owned by the company.

SmartWood annual audits are conducted in cooperation with independent consulting auditors and local Indonesian nongovernmental organizations. The decision to suspend Perhutani's certificate is based on the audits of the four Perhutani management districts. More information about the action can be found on the Smartwood Web site: A Perspective on the Perum Perhutani Certification Suspension by Richard Z. Donovan, Chief of Forestry, Rainforest Alliance.


Record Sales of Roof-Top Solar Systems in Chicago

Spire Corporation, says that sales of solar electric systems by its Spire Solar Chicago operation rose sharply in the second quarter of this year.

Spire Solar Chicago, which supplies PV systems to the City of Chicago and the ComEd utility under a three-year $8 million purchase commitment, recorded its best sales ever, according to Roger Little, president and CEO of Spire. The Illinois Department of Commerce & Community Affairs has been very supportive of the efforts through its Renewable Energy Resources Program, according to Little.

The most recent rooftop installation on the Field Museum of Natural History is the largest solar electric system in Illinois and one of the largest in the U.S. midwest, he explains. To date, Spire has installed PV electric systems on Chicago museums, schools and commercial buildings valued at $1.8 million, representing more than 160 peak kilowatts of solar generating capacity. By the end of this year, Spire Solar Chicago plans to install grid-connected systems on as many as 15 more buildings.

"We believe that the Spire Solar Chicago business model can be adapted to other cities where the growing demand for clean, renewable sources of energy is opening up new business opportunities for the local production of PV systems geared to local markets," says Little. "In July, the City of Brockton, Massachusetts invited Spire to participate in an economic and technical feasibility study that could lead to establishing a large-scale solar power project on two industrial brownfields."

Spire Solar Chicago is a PV manufacturing facility established in cooperation with the City of Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, the state of Illinois and BP Solar. It assembles solar panels, integrates panels into PV systems and installs and maintains the systems at customer sites.


Home Energy Ratings Now Available in All 50 States

The Mortgage Industry Home Energy Rating Accreditation Committee has recently accredited Horizon -Residential Energy Services to provide home energy ratings in the state of Maine. With the accreditation of the home energy rater provider in the state of Maine, there are accredited home energy rating providers in all fifty states.

Competition is a sign of a maturing industry. Currently there are thirty-one states that have more than one rating provider accredited in the state. Twelve states have three or more accredited rating providers and Pennsylvania and Texas lead the nation with six accredited rating providers each.

The directory of accredited home energy rating providers can be viewed at RESNET.


NYSERDA's High-Performance Building Products Program

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is seeking proposals to develop, demonstrate or commercialize innovative building products and systems for residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. Proposals for High Performance Building Products can be new technologies or substantial improvements to existing technologies, but must provide energy, economic and/or environmental benefits in New York State. NYSERDA will make multiple awards of up to $200,000 per project. NYSERDA will make multiple awards for total not to exceed $750,000 for this program. Proposals for this program are due at 3:00 PM on October 3, 2001.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • Development of building envelope materials and products that improve performance,
  • Demonstrations of industrialized building methods that make energy-efficiency more affordable,
  • Evaluation of resource-efficient materials made from waste products,
  • Demonstration of indoor air quality strategies that reduce the energy impact of maintaining occupant comfort and health, and
  • Design of integrated building systems that provide construction or operational savings.

Questions can be directed to Bob Carver at (518) 862-1090, ext. 3242. Additional information may also be downloaded from NYSERDA's Web site.


Saratoga County to be Site of Nation's First Clean Energy Business Development Park

An area near Albany, New York will be the site of the first business park in the country that is specifically devoted to promoting the development of new, clean energy technologies. Over the next five years, it is estimated that the new Saratoga Technology Energy Park (STEP) will help attract between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs to the local area as emerging, environmentally-friendly energy companies take advantage of the park's resources.

"With this innovative new park, New York State will continue to set a national example in its support for the development of clean, environmentally-sound energy sources," Governor Pataki said. "By providing these businesses with a broad spectrum of financial, technological and business support, this initiative will create new job opportunities, increase our access to clean energy sources and promote a cleaner, healthier environment for all New Yorkers."

The STEP project is a joint effort of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the University at Albany, and the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC). The park will be located on a 280 acre site in Malta and includes a 21,000 square foot facility built by NYSERDA in the mid 1970's. It is adjacent to the site of the former Malta Test Station.

The new business park will provide companies with technology development and prototyping support through the University at Albany, funding to support technology development and commercialization through NYSERDA, and expanded economic opportunities through SEDC. The project reflects the growing need for cleaner energy technologies that can address concerns over energy supply and reliability issues, as well as environmental impact concerns.

National statistics indicate that the energy technology sector grew by 134 percent in 2000 and the market for clean energy technologies is projected to grow from $7 billion per year to about $82 billion per year by 2010. New York State, already home to more than 20 leading energy technology companies, is well suited to take advantage of this rapid growth.

NYSERDA has invested more than $60 million over the past three years to help businesses develop and commercialize new energy technologies that are more efficient or take advantage of renewable resources. Funding opportunities would be available to businesses moving into the Tech Park to reduce the risks associated with developing these new technologies and create additional partnerships that will better enable these small businesses to accomplish their objectives.

The University at Albany, which was recently designated by the U.S. Department of Energy as a member of the national Clean Energy Incubator Program, has extensive technology development and prototyping capabilities for small businesses and start-ups. The University at Albany's Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics and its Energy and Environmental Technologies Applications Center will play large roles in helping businesses in the new park develop the new technologies.

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