Green Building News

Green Building News October 2001

October 17, 2001

In Colorado, 15 Percent of New Homes Are Green

Colorado is serious about saving energy and resources. Just look to the state's home building industry for strong evidence. In 2001, 15 percent of the new homes built in the state of Colorado will meet the standards of Built Green Colorado, a voluntary program that encourages energy and resource efficient home building practices.

"By the close of 2002 we expect that 10,000 Colorado homes will have been built to the standards of Built Green Colorado," says Built Green Colorado program director Kim Calomino. Those homes will have a total market value of $2.5 billion.

The program was developed in 1995 by the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver, along with the Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation, Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility provider, and E-Star Colorado, a provider of home energy ratings.

Recently Village Homes, the state's largest privately owned home building company, decided that each of its homes will meet the standards of the program. This year Village Homes will build about 650 homes across the state. That decision will bump enrollment in the program by 25 percent this year.

"What we are experiencing is a shift in the culture of home building in Colorado," says Roger Reinhardt, executive vice president, HBA of Metro Denver. "One day we believe that virtually every home in the state will be built to Built Green Colorado standards." Why?

"Built Green homes make sense for Colorado," says Jeff Whiton, president, U.S. Home Colorado, which last year enrolled 1,550 homes in the program and received the first EnergyValue Housing Award ever given to a major home builder in the state by the National Association of Home Builders, U.S. Department of Energy and National Renewable Energies Laboratory. "Home owners want the comfort and savings that come from sensibly designed and built homes," says Whiton.

U.S. Home Colorado spent one year reviewing the merits of Built Green Colorado before converting all of its production to the standards of the program in 1997. "It's the right thing to do," says Whiton of the decision, which has been backed by a company-wide education program and market-wide advertising.

Built Green Colorado is by far the largest green building initiative in U.S. history and the standard bearer of similar programs that have popped up across the nation in recent years in places such as Atlanta and Seattle.

Homes built under the standards of the program are designed using the Built Green Checklist, which stresses environmentally sensible home building practices that improve energy efficiency, cut pollution, reduce water usage, improve indoor air quality, preserve natural resources and reduce maintenance and operating costs.

Village Homes and U.S. Home Colorado are two of the top-five Colorado homebuilders in the state and together with more than 100 other builder members of Built Green represent the movement toward improved energy and resource efficiency that is rapidly changing the essence of the state's home building industry.

Other major homebuilders that enroll all of their homes in the program include Metropolitan Homes, The Genesee Company, McStain Enterprises, Inc., Ashcroft Homes, James Company, Wonderland Custom Homes and Greentree Homes.


Removable Adhesive Eases Product Disassembly and Recycling

A Sandia National Laboratories research team, led by scientist Jim Aubert, has developed a removable epoxy adhesive that makes bonding and detaching parts a matter of temperature change.

“Our approach to a removable adhesive relies on the use of a reversible chemistry that breaks apart the adhesive at elevated temperatures, resulting in low adhesive molecular weight and low bond strength,” Aubert says.

Sandia technologist Patti Sawyer holds a sheet of unheated adhesive developed by Jim Aubert. In the unheated state, it looks and feels like a rubber band.

No other adhesive with the strong bonding characteristics of an epoxy has the capability of melting -- becoming liquid -- and losing its bonding capability at high temperatures and then rebonding when the temperature is lowered. Conventional adhesives become soft at high temperatures, but do not melt and do not lose their ability to bond. So, to detach two objects, they must be pried apart, which can cause damage.

The bond in the Sandia adhesive breaks at 90 to 130 degrees C (roughly 190 to 260 F) depending on the formulation. Minimal force is then required to separate the pieces at this heated state. The adhesive will rebond between room temperature (about 20 to 25 C) and 60 C.

Aubert notes, however, that this rebonding capability is finite. The adhesive will retain the ability to bond and unbond a number of times but will at some point become nonremovable.

The relatively low debonding temperature makes for versatile component assembly, easier and cheaper component repair, easy upgrading, and simplified dismantlement and recycling. It allows for upgrading as new technology becomes available or rebuilding if any defects are discovered after deployment or during the original manufacturing.

“Normally, no thought is given to disassembly after bonding parts with an epoxy,” Aubert says. “Yet disassembly is becoming an increasingly important aspect of manufacturing as we become more concerned with the cradle-to-grave aspect of materials for environmental and economic reasons.”

The removable adhesive has been successfully applied to numerous metals and to some foams and polymers. Sandia is a Department of Energy National Laboratory.


EPA Moves Forward with CCA Investigation, Public Comment Sought

Several draft guidelines ("protocols") for sampling and analyzing chemical residues from chromated copper arsenate (CCA) pressure-treated playground equipment have been released for public review and comment. Prior to initiating any actual sampling and analysis, a 30-day comment period is open to solicit public input on the study design. The comment period will remain open until Oct. 22.

The sampling protocol will be on the agenda when a panel of independent scientists meet on October 23 through 25. They will be reviewing a set of issues being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its ongoing reassessment of CCA-treated wood used in playground equipment. The Scientific Advisory Panel will provide specific input regarding EPA's development of a preliminary evaluation of hazard and exposure to children from contact with CCA-treated wood equipment and associated CCA-contaminated soil. The public meeting will be held at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel, 1800 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Va. The EPA Web site offers an agenda for this meeting and general information about CCA.


Got Mold? Tell NAHB Research Center

The NAHB Research Center is currently conducting field investigations of mold problems in houses. The purpose of the field research is to gain greater insight into the causes of mold problems in houses and to identify solutions. If you are a builder and are interested in participating in this research program, please contact Jamie Lyons. The Research Center promises to maintain confidentiality with all participants.


Steelcase Dedicates Certified Green Factory

Steelcase Inc. dedicated a new, $25 million wood furniture plant Monday that is the first manufacturing facility to be certified "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council. More than 700 employees work at the plant, which became fully operational in August. It is one of three U.S. plants maintained by the company's Steelcase Wood Furniture division.

"This represents the world's most advanced wood factory in the residential and commercial furniture industry," said James P. Hackett, Steelcase's president and chief executive officer.

During the ceremony, Christine A. Ervin, president and CEO of the Green Building Council, presented Hackett with a certificate from the council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The wood furniture plant, which makes seating and filing products, is one of 14 commercial, institutional or high-rise residential buildings to have received LEED certification. It is the first factory to do so.

Under the LEED program, which started last year, credits are earned toward "green" certification by meeting standards in site planning, improving energy efficiency, conserving materials and resources, enhancing indoor environmental quality and safeguarding water.

To help achieve certification, the plant's designers worked with council officials from the earliest planning stages, Ervin said.

The 600,000-square-foot plant sits on a 60-acre site in Kent County's Gaines Township, just southeast of Grand Rapids. The site provides 30 acres of open land, even though local zoning ordinances only require that the facility be built on a 38-acre site with 3.9 open acres.

The factory was constructed from 24 percent recycled materials; 95 percent of the steel used was recycled. The company installed a state-of-the-art wood-finishing process that uses water, reducing annual toxic emissions by 380 tons, or 70 percent, The Grand Rapids Press reported Monday.

Hackett said Grand Rapids-based Steelcase, which was founded in 1912, has a legacy of environmentalism and wanted to work closely with the council to produce an environmentally friendly building.

"It's one of our core values, to protect the environment," he said.


Report Maps Path to Hydrogen-powered Future

A world powered by hydrogen-the lightest and most abundant element in the universe-is the stuff of Jules Verne's 19th century science fiction. But it is also on its way to becoming 21st century reality, reports the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based environmental research organization.

The shift to clean hydrogen is being driven in part by rapid improvements in the fuel cell-which uses hydrogen to produce electricity, with water as a byproduct-and by the billion-dollar bets that leading multinationals are now placing on this technology. The move to hydrogen is also motivated by the need to address three of the world's most pressing energy-related problems: worsening urban air pollution, rising geopolitical instability due to oil import dependence, and accelerating climate change from fossil fuel combustion.

"The critical question is no longer whether we are headed toward hydrogen, but how we should get there, and how long it will take," said Seth Dunn, research associate and author of Hydrogen Futures: Toward a Sustainable Energy System. "Market forces alone will not move us along the best, fastest route to a hydrogen economy. Just as the government catalyzed the early development of the Internet, there is a critical role for governments to play in speeding the creation of a clean hydrogen economy."
Much of the recent activity in hydrogen and fuel cells has taken place in the auto industry. DaimlerChrysler has committed $1 billion over 10 years to fuel cell development, and is working with Ford and Ballard Power Systems to put transit fuel cell buses on the road in Europe in 2002. General Motors aims to be the first car company to sell one million fuel cell vehicles, beginning mass production by 2010, and in June announced major investments in two companies specializing in hydrogen storage and delivery. Toyota recently sent shock waves through the industry by announcing it would start selling its fuel cell car in Japan in 2003.

The energy industry is also getting serious about hydrogen. Both Shell and BP have established core hydrogen divisions within their companies. ExxonMobil is teaming up with GM and Toyota to develop fuel cells. Texaco has become a major investor in hydrogen storage technology. Company executive Frank Ingriselli told a U.S. House of Representatives panel in April that "Greenery, innovation, and market forces are…propelling us inexorably toward hydrogen energy. Those who don't pursue it, will rue it."

There will be substantial commercial, political, and environmental benefits to the companies and countries that are first to market hydrogen technologies. Fuel cells using hydrogen could replace not only internal combustion engines, but also central power plants and batteries in portable electronics-like laptop computers and cell phones. Some of the countries leading the race to hydrogen include:

  • Germany - leading the world in demonstrations of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen fueling stations, and using renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen from water through electrolysis.
  • Japan - undertaking the most ambitious and comprehensive hydrogen initiatives in the world, with plans to spend $4 billion by 2020, starting with an $88 million budget over the next five years.
  • Iceland - partnering with DaimlerChrysler, Shell, and Norsk Hydro to make the island nation the world's first hydrogen economy, replacing petroleum in its buses, cars, and fishing boats over the next 30 to 40 years.

"Just as the aggressive tapping of oil enabled the United States to eclipse Great Britain and become the economic and political power of the twentieth century, nations that move first to harness hydrogen could potentially erode U.S. competitiveness," said Dunn. As other countries step up support for what scientists call "tomorrow's petroleum," the U.S. risks lagging behind. The Bush Administration's May energy policy report describes hydrogen merely as "an important fuel of the distant future," and the federal budget for the Energy Department's hydrogen program is currently about one fifth the amount proposed for clean coal technologies, and one tenth that for nuclear energy.

The study lists ten general policies that governments can introduce to help build a hydrogen economy. These steps include offering tax incentives to buyers of fuel cell vehicles, phasing out the roughly $300 billion spent annually to subsidize fossil fuel use worldwide, and boosting support for research and development aimed at improving hydrogen production and storage and cutting fuel cell costs. "Governments should hasten the hydrogen transition by promoting innovations that have potentially enormous long-term benefits-just as the U.S. government did with transistors, computers, and the Internet."


AT&T Group Recycled Carpet Earns Award

AT&T Global Real Estate (GRE) was one of several groups to receive the company's Champions of the Environment award.  The GRE team joined Milliken Carpet to "re-pattern" seven thousand yards of used carpet from AT&T's Herndon, Virginia, facility and reuse it at the company's Mt. Kemble facility in Morristown, N.J.  Five thousand yards of carpet removed from Mt. Kemble was then sent back to the Milliken "pool" and will be held for future projects.  More than 40 tons of carpet was diverted from landfills as a result of choosing renewed carpet tiles processed through Milliken Carpet's Earth Square program for the Mt. Kemble project.

Last August, AT&T announced its Champions of the Environment winners for 2001.  The Champions of the Environment program, which started in 1995 on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, underscores AT&T's commitment to helping the environment while recognizing employees who demonstrate their care for the future of the planet.

The program recognizes five employee environmental workplace projects and five community projects.  AT&T will enable the winners to donate $1,000 to the non-profit environmental group of their choice.  The Institute for Conservation Leadership, a non-profit environmental group, coordinated the judging.


EPA Funds Energy Efficiency and Green Building Research

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has award a host of grants intended to promote energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) will receive $99,974 to develop a green rating system for existing buildings that will improve and promote optimal building performance and efficiency. The USGBC will develop, test and promote a comprehensive "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System for Building Operations and Retrofit" that will provide standards and guides for achieving better environmental performance. The system will address every aspect of a building's environmental impact, from off site water runoff, to indoor building materials that minimize virgin materials, to energy consumption.

The Energy Efficient Building Association (EEBA) will receive $90,850 to promote energy efficiency in residential homes. This is the sixth year that EPA has supported EEBA in their mission to educate builders in energy efficient construction and best management practices for reducing energy consumption in homes. EEBA will use this grant to reach about 15,000 industry professionals by supporting their annual builder conference, distributing climate specific and other best practices builder guides, and recognizing outstanding builders who use energy efficient building practices.

Energy Rated Homes of America (ERHA) of Oceanside, California will receive $50,000 to increase demand for new energy efficient homes and help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of existing ones. Acting through its Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), ERHA will use this grant to encourage certified home energy raters to expand their line of services beyond new homes to include rating energy efficiency in existing homes.

The University of Maryland will receive $37,000 to study the energy efficiency of combining heating, air conditioning and power systems in small buildings. These combined systems have the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide - the main global warming gas - by up to 70 percent, improve indoor air quality and increase the availability of reliable power.

Iowa State University was awarded a $350,000 grant to conduct research at its Ames campus on improving energy performance in buildings. The grant will provide information on improving control systems to building owners and operators, engineers and anyone determining the proper installation of mechanical or electrical equipment. Control systems are the hardware and software that regulate the electrical (lighting, elevators, fire, security, etc.) and mechanical (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) operations of a building. For the past two decades, commercial building energy efficiency programs have focused on the technologies that go into the design of a building, such as motors, chillers, fans, boilers and lighting. This focus has resulted in improved energy performance. However, these technologies all rely upon a control system to regulate energy use. Commercial building control systems play a key role in energy efficiency, yet there has been a lack of objective standards, testing and user guidance in this field, leading to poor performance. Less attention has been focused upon these critical controls because of software problems and the impracticality of replacing entire systems.

The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance of Arlington, Va. will test new alternative blowing agents under a $135,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These agents are used to produce different densities and bubble sizes of insulation foam in homes and commercial buildings. Currently, most spray polyurethane foam is made with an ozone depleting chemical, HCFC-141b, which is being phased out of production in the United States in accord with the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol. The grant will assist the spray polyurethane foam industry to safely convert to alternative technologies that are economically viable and provide energy-efficient products for consumers. This grant will allow the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance to collect detailed technical information on field applications in various parts of the country. In addition, the Alliance will monitor physical properties and performance of insulation spray foam produced with new formulations. The information collected will allow chemical companies and spray foam applicators to more efficiently develop new formulations that do not deplete the ozone layer but do provide excellent thermal insulation value.


Combined Heat and Power Partnership Created

A new organization, called the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, was recently established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with 17 Fortune 500 companies, city and state governments and nonprofits. The group aims to promote a more efficient, clean and reliable alternative to conventional electricity generation.

Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as co-generation, is a highly efficient form of electric generation, which recycles and utilizes heat that is normally lost under traditional power combustion methods. CHP captures this leftover heat, providing a source of residential and industrial heating and air conditioning in the local area around a power plant.

"Combined Heat and Power is not only better than conventional electricity generation at reducing air pollution and fuel consumption, it's more reliable and costs less to do so," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Founding partners in this program are leading the way toward a cleaner future."

At the kick-off event at EPA Headquarters, partners in the program agreed to work with the Agency to develop and promote the benefits of new CHP projects. EPA will provide public recognition of projects and benefits to the company, public and the environment. EPA will also support accelerated development of new projects, through education, streamlined permitting and provision of technical tools and services.

In fact, CHP systems are already being used by the 17 founding partners: Abbott Laboratories, Archer Daniels Midland, Bethlehem Steel, Caterpillar Energy Products Group, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, General Motors, International Paper, Real Energy, Solar Turbines, Texaco Power and Gasification International, Trigen Energy, U.S. Steel, Verizon Communications and Weyerhaeuser, the College of New Jersey in Ewing, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Partnership also includes "endorsing" organizations: Gas Technology Institute, International District Energy Association, Midwest Application Center for CHP for Buildings, Midwest Cogeneration Association, Northeast-Midwest Institute, and the U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is also a partner.

These existing CHP projects of the founding partners represent more than 5,800 megawatts of power generating capacity, an amount capable of serving almost six million households (about the size of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area). The projects annually reduce the main global warming gas, carbon dioxide, by more than 8 million tons above what would achieved from traditional generation methods; in addition, the annual energy savings equal 19 million barrels of oil more than would be attained under conventional combustion.

In addition to establishing the CHP Partnership, EPA is working to implement several other actions to promote co-generation in the United States. EPA will be publishing soon in the Federal Register draft guidance clarifying the Clean Air Act requirements for constructing CHP facilities, to speed permitting and ensure that environmental benefits are fully realized. In another action, EPA will evaluate CHP applications under its Brownfields program. Brownfields helps communities to reduce the potential health risks and restore the economic viability of abandoned, idled or under-used industrial and commercial properties. By the end of the year, EPA will put up a special Web site for Combined Heat and Power Partnership.

| News Archives |