Green Building News

Green Building News November 2001

November 19 , 2001

San Francisco Voters Approve Huge Renewable Energy Bond

Residents of San Francisco voted overwhelmingly to approve a $100 million revenue bond that will result in the installation of 40 megawatts of renewable energy, including between 10 and 12 megawatts of solar power on city-owned facilities and schools. That amount represents about 25 percent of the city government's electricity usage. If fully implemented, the city would become the largest producers of solar electricity in the U.S.

"The actions being taken in San Francisco represent the next big steps in bringing solar electricity into the mainstream as a significant and cost-effective part of the nation's energy mix," said Donald Osborn, Superintendent of Renewable Generation Assets for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Chairman of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).

While many cities already are using solar power in their energy mix, San Francisco has raised the bar by providing a much needed financing solution, showing significant levels of support from the local government, and having 73 percent of residents vote in favor of the proposition. The Solar Electric Power Association anticipates that San Francisco's bond offering will be a catalyst for other cities in the U.S. to follow suit.

"The actions in San Francisco, coupled with efforts underway by various SEPA members," says Osborn, "are poised to make this the first decade of the 'Solar Century'. With these combined efforts, we will see the continued and rapid expansion of clean, renewable energy bringing benefits to electric customers and the public at large."

This may be only the beginning. The measure passed by voters authorizes city government to issue more renewable energy bonds without voter approval.

 

Cal/EPA Building Completed

The tallest building in Sacramento is now one of the greenest. After extensive renovation, the headquarters of the California Environmental Protection Agency now stands out for more that just its height. Oikos News ran a short item about the building back in June, 2001. The building is now complete, and the subject of an extensively illustrated article in DesignArchitecture, called "Sustainability Stands Tall: Cal/EPA Headquarters by AC Martin Partners and IA."

The building exceeds California's Title 29 energy code by 29 percent. It makes extensive use of recycled materials, low-VOC finishes and energy saving strategies. A special ventilation design dramatically increases the amount of outside air circulated, which improves indoor air quality and allows night cooling of the building. A 30-KW photovoltaic array offsets a small portion of the electricity use.

 

Army Corps Reverses "No Net Loss" Wetlands Policy

Five of the country's foremost conservation groups expressed outrage over an Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Regulatory Guidance Letter on wetlands mitigation released late Friday. Without public notice or coordination with other federal agencies who share responsibility for wetlands policy, the Corps has unilaterally ignored the national goal of achieving "no net loss" of wetlands. The policy was established during the first Bush administration, and has been the guiding principle of the national wetlands regulatory program since.

"This arrogant move by the Corps demonstrates the agency's complete lack of respect for the public, other federal agencies, and most of all for our country's natural resources," said Julie Sibbing, Wetlands Legislative Representative for the National Wildlife Federation.

The Regulatory Guidance Letter, dated October 31, sets out new Corps' policy regarding compensation for destroyed wetlands. Mitigation involves construction of new wetlands to replace those destroyed by development activities. The Corps is supposed to place highest priority on avoiding harm to wetlands, rather than mitigating damage after it has occurred. Unfortunately, the Corps often overlooks avoidance and allows destruction of wetlands, based on speculative promises of mitigation.

According to Robin Mann, Chair of the Sierra Club Wetlands Committee, the Corps' new policy sets up an "anything goes approach" to wetland replacement. The policy allows for wetland mitigation to consist of preservation or enhancement of existing wetlands, small buffer strips along streams, upland areas, ponds and other waters, or simply deepening an existing wetlands for swimming or fishing. "None of these types of 'mitigation' can compensate for the loss of natural wetlands and will contribute to a continued net loss of our nation's valuable wetlands," said Mann.

The Corps has come under increased criticism over the past year for its failure to ensure that compensatory mitigation adequately replaces the functions and acreage lost when wetlands are allowed to be destroyed. The General Accounting Office (GAO) published a study last spring, which was extremely critical of the Corps' use of certain third party mitigation schemes. The National Academy of Science (NAS) also published a report last spring that found that Corps' mitigation policy was not providing for "no net loss" of wetlands within the regulatory program and that serious improvements were needed.

While the Corps claims that the new guidance letter is responsive to recommendations of the National Academy of Science study, only a few of the NAS recommendations are incorporated into the new policy, the GAO study is not mentioned and several weakening policy changes are included that were not recommended by either study.

"It is bizarre that the Corps proposes to weaken their inadequate program further, given that recent studies by the National Academy of Sciences, GAO and the Corps itself detail the widespread failure of the Corps' current mitigation policies to adequately protect wetlands and achieve the goal of "no net loss," said Daniel Rosenberg, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Apparently, when it comes to wetland protection, there is no success like failure for the Army Corps," he added.

According to Melissa Samet, Senior Director of Water Resources with American Rivers, the Corps' guidance letter "violates the spirit of interagency cooperation in administering the 404 program, and goes against the specific agreement that has guided wetlands compensatory mitigation in recent years." She points out that the Corps has a 1990 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the U.S. EPA on mitigation. This MOA can be modified or revoked only by agreement of both agencies or else by one agency with six months advance notice. "Yet it appears that the Corps has decided to informally revoke this agreement by replacing it with weaker standards," says Samet.

In April, the Bush Administration allowed a Clinton-era wetlands protection rule to take effect and pledged that it would continue to take responsible steps to ensure the protection of wetlands. "Either the Corps didn't get the memo, or the Administration's policies regarding wetlands protection have been reversed without notice to the public," said Rosenberg.

While the Corps' press statements tout the guidance letter as improving protection for the nation's waters, Howard Fox of Earthjustice points out, "if this document were truly protective of wetlands and streams, the Corps wouldn't have felt the need to rush it onto the street without any public input. Refusing to allow the public a chance to point out the problems with the Corps' approach won't make those problems go away." The Sierra Club's Robin Mann agreed, adding, "the Administration must not allow this guidance letter to stand."

 

Clean Energy can Produce 1.3 Million Jobs

A new World Wildlife Fund study indicates that energy efficiency policies and development of renewable energy resources could result in 750,000 new jobs nationwide over the next nine years and 1.3 million new jobs by 2020. According to the study "Clean Energy: Jobs for America's Future" the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) would also increase by $23 billion by 2010 and continue to grow under such conditions. The net increase in U.S. GDP would be $43.9 billion by 2020.

"This study shows that a responsible approach to energy policy can help us meet the challenge of climate change while still benefiting the economy and creating new jobs," added Brooks Yeager, vice president of Global Threats for World Wildlife Fund. "A serious and sustained national effort to improve the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks and buildings will offer us a better future with sustainable economic growth and allow us to conserve irreplaceable wilderness refuges for future generations."

A related benefit would be an additional $220 increase in annual wage and salary earnings per household by 2010, increasing to $400 per household by 2020. The policies analyzed in the WWF study would serve national interests in reducing American demand and therefore, dependency on oil.

The study shows that these policies also create more jobs and offer greater economic benefits than can be generated by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The portfolio of policies analyzed in the study are as follows.

    Buildings and Industry Sector: Appliance Standards, Building Codes, Voluntary Measures, Research and Development, Public Benefits Fund, Tax Credits, Combined Heat and Power and District Energy Systems

    Electric Sector: Renewable Portfolio Standard, NOx/SO2 Cap and Trade, Carbon Cap and Trade

    Transport Sector: Light Duty Vehicle Efficiency Improvements, Heavy Duty Vehicle Efficiency Improvements, Aircraft Efficiency Improvements, Greenhouse Gas Standards for Fuels, Travel Demand Reductions and High Speed Rail

The study is based on research and analysis conducted by the Tellus Institute on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund. The data used in the study is from the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook for 2001 and Bureau of Labor Statistics' Economic and Employment Projections.

 

Greenpeace Study Describes Solar Promise

According to a new study by Greenpeace, the United States must embrace solar energy as a way to attain energy independence, create new jobs and boost the economy. The report - Solar Promise - also claims that the U.S will lose its edge in solar energy technology as other nations promote solar development. As solar energy use is expanded world wide, technology should improve and costs should go down.

Here are a few highlights from the study:

  • There are 986 solar-electric systems, with a total of just over 19 megawatts (MW) of solar-electric power, currently installed in the United States alone. In addition to this there are another 69 MW planned or currently under construction. (Figures based on current DOE data for grid-connected photovoltaic systems). The ballot measures in California, which look like they will pass, could add another 70 MW.
  • California leads the nation in installed solar capacity, with just over 10 megawatts (MW), followed by Arizona (1.8 MW), New York (1.2 MW), and Texas (1 MW).
  • Hawaii leads in installed solar capacity per capita, followed by Arizona and California.
  • Vermont, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California have the lowest overall carbon emissions from in-state power plants.
  • North Dakota, Wyoming, Delaware, Indiana, and New Mexico have the highest carbon emissions from in-state power plants.

The study asserts that the United States could derive the following benefits from a modest increase in solar power. If 1 percent of the 105 million households nationwide installed a small, 480-watt solar system:

  • 500,000 - 700,000 megawatt hours (MWH) of electricity would be generated.
  • Using solar power to generate that electricity would save 678 - 910 million pounds (lbs.) of CO2 emissions.
  • To generate that amount of electricity would require the burning of 478 - 658 million pounds of coal. Solar energy can replace fossil fuels in electricity generation, thereby decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and helping to stop global warming.
  • Installation and maintenance for these solar electric systems would create over 15,000 green, high paying, high tech jobs

 

Sprawl is Hazardous to your Health

Urban sprawl has been blamed for many things, including pollution and habitat destruction. Now it is blamed for harming human health. In a new report, officials from the Centers for Disease Control, sprawl say that sprawl contributes to asthma, heart disease, obesity and other maladies. Sprawling, automobile-dependent communities lead inhabitants to sedentary lifestyles which dramatically increase risk factors such as obesity. The study says that the number of overweight Americans climbed to 61 percent in 1999 from 47 percent in 1976.

The number of vehicle miles driven is related to the number of respiratory ailments. As proof, the authors point to traffic restrictions during the Atlanta Olympics that reduced ozone levels by 27.9 percent. At the same time, the number of asthma emergencies plunged 41.6 percent.

Another threat is flooding, which killed 850 people. Weak zoning laws were cited for allowing development in flood plains.

The report, "Creating A Healthy Environment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health," was written by Richard J. Jackson, Director, CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Chris Kochtitzky, CDC's Associate Director for Policy and Planning. The report was published by Sprawl Watch. A complete copy can be downloaded from their Web site.

 

Deadline Nears for Manufacturers to Be in Included in BEES

Time is running out for manufacturers who want their products to be included in the 2002 version of BEES, a Windows-based software designed to help the construction industry select “cost-effective” green building products. The program is published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

To be included, manufacturers must complete comprehensive questionnaire about their building products and submit payment for product data development by Dec. 31, 2001. BEES, an acronym for Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability, measures life-cycle environmental and economic performance for 65 generic building products. The next version, BEES 3.0, is scheduled for release in spring 2002 and will add performance measures for specific brands.

NIST’s “BEES Please” program encourages manufacturers to submit their building products for inclusion in future BEES releases. For each submission, a questionnaire is required to provide detailed information about the product’s manufacture, including material and energy use, waste and environmental releases and other issues. Fees for submitted products depend on the extent of the requested BEES analysis. BEES Please offers either an analysis covering six environmental impacts (global warming, acidification, eutrophication, resource depletion, indoor air quality and solid wastes) or an analysis covering 10 environmental impacts (adding ozone depletion, smog, human toxicity and ecological toxicity).

PricewaterhouseCoopers/Ecobalance will validate all submitted data, complete the data set and contact manufacturers if questions arise. Collaborating companies also will have the opportunity to confidentially review BEES environmental and economic performance scores for their products. NIST and the submitters must resolve any differences before BEES 3.0 is published. At any time before publication, a manufacturer is free to withdraw its product data from the software. For more information, go to the BEES Web site.

 

Solar Housing Tract Invades North

The first Northern California housing project to incorporate an array of the latest energy-saving features is springing up in Watsonville, a coastal town in Santa Cruz County.

Built by Clarum Homes of Palo Alto, the 31 Cherry Blossom houses harness the sun's energy to produce electricity with photovoltaic systems from BP Solar. The system's utility meter measures how much power is produced. When the system produces more than the house is using, the excess goes into the PG&E grid, causing the meter to run backward. At night or on cloudy days, the house gets its electricity from PG&E, causing the meter to run forward. PG&E bills the homeowner for the net amount used.

The Cherry Blossom houses are equipped with PV systems of varying capacities ranging from 1 to 2 kilowatts. Clarum Homes estimates they will produce 1,500 to 3,200 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, depending on the system's size and orientation toward the sun. Clarum says that's about 25 to 50 percent of the electricity used by the average California home, cutting the PG&E bill by about $30 to $55 a month.

The houses incorporate other energy-efficient features such as fluorescent lighting, heavy-duty insulation, low-emissivity windows and radiant roof barriers that reflect 97 percent of the sun's heat away from the house, keeping it cooler. Clarum also uses environmentally friendly building materials like fiber-cement siding, engineered wood products and recycled plastic decking material.

All this comes with a price tag of $370,800 to $384,500 for a 1,611-square- foot, two-story house with three bedrooms and a loft or four bedrooms plus 2.5 bathrooms and a two-car garage. The Craftsman-style houses have front porches that open to an entry hall with windows along one side, a staircase on the other side and a half-bath tucked under the stairs. Some houses in the development back up to a green belt and have decks overlooking it. A small community park also is part of the project.

 

Collins Companies Vow to Cut CO2

Nationally recognized for leadership in sustainable forest development, The Collins Companies now become business leaders in undertaking actions that mitigate global warming. Their efforts involve locations in California, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Under the Climate Savers agreement, The Collins Companies become the first forest products company to commit to absolute CO2 reduction targets and the sixth business to join Climate Savers.

"The Collins Companies demonstrated visionary leadership in sustainable forest development and now we're leading the way for U.S. industry to mitigate global warming," said Wade Mosby, senior vice president of The Collins Companies. "Businesses across multiple sectors can take practical steps now to reduce CO2 emissions, save energy, and improve the bottom line."

In the Climate Savers program, World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions work with companies like Collins, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Polaroid, Nike, and Lafarge to develop practical, cost-effective strategies that reduce emissions of CO2 and achieve energy efficiency goals. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blanket the world and trap in heat, causing global warming. This man-made climate change threatens the survival of many plants and animals as well as the well-being of people around the world.

"The Collins Companies have been in the forefront of corporate conservation leadership for many years," said John C. Oliver, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). "DCNR and others have learned from them on such important issues as forest certification. We applaud their willingness to work with WWF and the Center for Climate & Energy Solutions to reduce their CO2 emissions, thereby saving energy and cutting costs. Once again, they are leading by example."

Working with World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions, The Collins Companies will reduce their CO2 emissions 15 percent below its 1999 emissions levels by 2009. This target represents an approximate reduction of 150,000 tons of CO2 by 2009. Innovative use of the waste heat discharged from electricity production plants will be one method used to achieve reductions in CO2 emissions for The Collins Companies. By capturing and using this thermal energy to generate additional electricity the efficiency of electricity production is significantly enhanced and carbon dioxide emissions may be reduced by as much as 60 percent in comparison with conventional power generation.

As part of its work towards the Climate Savers target, The Collins Companies will minimize the transportation of woodchips and thereby reduce their use of diesel. The combustion of fossil fuels such as diesel, gasoline, coal and natural gas accounts for almost 98 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions.

Increased energy efficiency of facilities also will reduce CO2 emissions for The Collins Companies and result in new cost savings for the company. Under the Climate Savers agreement, all new and existing buildings of The Collins Companies will utilize environmentally friendly and energy efficient materials. This includes the expansion of the company's facility in Chester, California. In the first year of implementing similar measures on a limited scale, The Collins Companies saved over $100,000. These new actions under Climate Savers are projected to save $5,000,000 for The Collins Companies.

Efforts at California, Oregon and Pennsylvania locations are detailed below.

  • Chester, California - Collins is seeing reductions in fuel use as a result of the paving and other improvements in the log yard of the Chester, California plant as well as improvements in fuel handling in the power plant operation. With these initial projects alone the company has eliminated burning over 27,000 gallons of diesel/ year.
  • Lakeview, Oregon - In the Lakeview, Oregon facility, redesigning the kilns and using the full capacity of the boilers will allow the company to install a backpressure turbine-generator that can generate more than 1,000 kW power. This power will come from harnessing the energy that results from dropping the steam pressure going into the kilns from 275 psig to 25 psig. The electric power produced by these turbines will utilize high-pressure steam that is already being produced for industrial processes, and will displace more carbon-intensive, less efficient electricity that would otherwise be purchased from the local grid. Furthermore, additional carbon dioxide emissions savings result from using less diesel fuel to transport wood waste to another site, as more wood chips will be used as fuel for the company's on-site boiler system.
  • Klamath Falls, Oregon - Adding a preheating section to dryers at the Colllins' Klamath Falls, Oregon facility allows the company to lower steam pressure from 300 psig to 50 psig and remove sections of the dryers that will no longer be needed. Preliminary estimates show that these modifications will provide 29,000 lbs/hr of pressure reduction potential, which will drive a backpressure steam turbine to generate approximately 462 kW of electricity.
  • Kane, Pennsylvania -In the Kane, Pennsylvania facility, redesigning the kilns to be more energy efficient and using the boiler to greater capacity will allow the company to install a backpressure turbine-generator that can generate more than 200 kW power when dropping the kiln inlet steam pressure from 175 psig to 40 psig. The electric power produced by these turbines will utilize high-pressure steam that is already being produced for industrial processes, and will displace more carbon-intensive electricity that would otherwise be purchased from the local grid.

 

Fiberock Underlayment Earns Green Cross

USG Corporation’s Fiberock® Brand Underlayment – Aqua-Tough™ has earned the “Green Cross” certificate from Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a national testing company that evaluates manufacturers making environmental claims. Fiberock Brand Underlayment is made from 95 percent recycled material, using a proprietary gypsum/cellulose manufacturing process that ensures integral moisture resistance. The material is intended to compete with wood-based underlayment panels. To evaluate the product, SCS gathered data on the raw materials used to produce the Fiberock Brand Underlayment and observed the manufacturing process firsthand, according to USG technical staff member Karyl Doran. SCS verified that 95 percent of the raw materials used in the Fiberock panels are recycled. The company also confirmed that 85 percent of the panels’ content is made of post-industrial recycled gypsum, a byproduct of flue gas desulphurization (FGD). FGD removes sulfur dioxide, a pollutant from the emissions of fossil-fuel burning power plants. In addition, the panels contain 10 percent post-consumer recycled paper fiber from scraps from cardboard box manufacturing. In all, this process produces an “environmentally friendly” alternative to lauan and other wood-based underlayments and sheathings.

 

Energy Star Awards Deadline

Each year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognize Energy Star partners that excel in energy efficiency performance and promotion by awarding them the crystal Energy Star. If your organization wants to be recognized, you need to file your application with EPA by December 17, 2001. You can learn more at the Energy Star Web site or fill out an online application.

The prestigious Energy Star award not only honors the individual recipients. It also provides opportunities for winning organizations to gain the national spotlight and share their experiences with others around the country. Press releases, case studies, and endorsements from the EPA Administrator herself are only a few of the communications perks available to award recipients.

Award winners will be notified January 17, 2002, and the ceremony will be held in Washington, DC on March 26, 2002. If you would like more information on Energy Star or what your organization can do, please contact Melissa Payne at payne.Melissa@epa.gov.

 

Progress Lighting Recalls Fluorescent Fixtures

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Progress Lighting, of Spartanburg, S.C., is voluntarily recalling about 10,600 fluorescent lights. The lights are improperly wired, posing a fire hazard. Progress Lighting has received two reports of these fluorescent lights smoking and smoldering. No injuries have been reported.

The recalled fluorescent ceiling and bathroom lights were sold in various shapes and sizes including domes, cylinders and rectangles. The white Underwriters Laboratories label on the light contains the manufacture's name, "PROGRESS LIGHTING;" the manufacture date, between March 1998 and March 1999; and catalog number. The label is located on the fixture's housing under the white plastic lens covering the bulbs. Consumers should turn off the power before removing the lens to examine the lights. The CPSC news release provides more information, including catalog numbers for the recalled lights.




November 1, 2001

Electrical Workers Install PV System on New Union Hall

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 332, the largest IBEW local in northern California, has completed their new headquarters featuring the largest commercial solar power installation west of the Mississippi.

Designated an official Green Building model by the city of San Jose, the union hall's photovoltaic (PV) solar power system generates 55 kilowatts of power, enough to provide for 70 to 80 percent of the building's total electrical needs. The use of solar photovoltaics cuts the facility's utility bill in half - and allows IBEW Local No. 332 to send power back to the utility grid.

The independent power system also insulates the building against loss of power from the utility grid in the event of a blackout, as well as from fluctuations in the price of electricity. IBEW said having a source of reliable power is important in California, with its unpredictable supply of electricity.

"The future for solar power is very strong, and the electrical workers have a philosophical and environmental commitment to using solar energy," said Terry Tanner, business manager of IBEW Local 332. "We installed this system ourselves because it points the way to the future of electrical generation for the businesses and communities in Silicon Valley. Plus, it lessens the impact to the environment and lowers our energy costs."

IBEW Local 332's commitment to the use of solar energy is a reflection of the national policy of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

"There is a growing consensus that distributed PV systems that provide electricity at the point of use will be the first to reach widespread commercialization," said Mark Ayers, national IBEW director of construction and maintenance.

The building's solar powered PV system, built into the structure's rooftop and south side awning, help supply heating, cooling and lighting to the IBEW's 400 seat meeting hall, conference rooms, dispatch and administrative offices. The PV solar system also operates the building's computers, telephones, fire alarm and security systems.

On weekends, electricity produced by the solar array is sent out to the utility grid, and earns credit for the building during the midday hours when the grid needs power the most. IBEW Local 332 spent $400,000 on the installation of the system. Forty percent of the installation cost will be rebated by the state of California, which rebates $4.50 per watt up to 50 percent of the total cost of an installation.

 

EPA Blasts DOE for Standard Rollback

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has condemned an action of sister agency, The US Department of Energy over the issue of energy efficiency standards for air conditioners. The standards were released in the final days of the Clinton Administration, but Bush's new energy staffers dramatically reduced the new energy use target, reducing the increase in energy efficiency from 30 percent to 20 percent. According to an Associated Press story, the EPA is accusing the Energy Department of understating potential energy savings while exaggerating the impact on industry. The new DOE argument says that the steeper increase would create too great a financial burden on manufacturers, produce only marginal additional energy savings and harm poor people because of the higher equipment cost. AP reports that EPA sent a sharply worded letter and comments opposing the change saying the DOE analysis is replete with "misinformation" about the impact on the industry, potential energy savings and the higher standard's impact on the poor. 

 

Air Cleaner Kills Anthrax

An indoor air cleaning system originally developed to zap dust mites and mold spores also destroys airborne anthrax and other pathogenic microbes, says the University of Florida engineering professor who pioneered the technology.

The system has been successfully tested against a close cousin of the anthrax bacteria and could be installed relatively inexpensively and quickly in office and home heating and air conditioning systems, says Yogi Goswami, a UF professor of mechanical engineering and director of UF’s Solar Energy and Energy Conversion Laboratory.

“There are other technologies for air cleaning, but for air disinfection, there is no more effective system,” Goswami said.

The photocatalytic air cleaning system relies on the interaction between light and titanium dioxide, a simple and widely available chemical. When light is absorbed into the titanium dioxide, it acts as a catalyst to produce an oxidizing agent. The agent, called a hydroxyl radical, “is like a bullet for the bacteria,” Goswami said, destroying dust mites, mold spores and pathogens by disrupting or disintegrating their DNA.

Goswami came up with the system in the mid 1990s as a cure for so-called “sick building syndrome,” when poor ventilation and a build-up of mold or mildew cause illnesses for people who work inside. Initial research proved that the system kills the mold spore, aspergillus niger, considered to be one of nature’s hardiest spores, he said.

More recent research has shown that the system also destroys bacillus subtilis, a spore that causes food spoilage and is a cousin of the anthrax spore, bacillus anthracis.

“In the laboratory, we normally test with nonpathogenic bacteria that are closely related to pathogenic bacteria, so there’s no risk to people,” Goswami said. “As we expected, our tests showed the system was effective against bacillus subtilis.”

The technology is an improvement over traditional filter-based systems in part because there is no opportunity for bacteria to collect and multiply on the filters that clear it from the air, he said. “Filters can actually increase the danger because they concentrate the bacteria,” he said. The system is also an improvement over systems that use ultraviolet light, which do not consistently kill all the bacteria, he said.

Goswami said the technology could be installed in central ventilation systems to decontaminate buildings or homes or used in specific locations where contamination is feared. Given the incidents of anthrax contamination within the U.S. Postal Service, one application would be to install it in mail sorting or collection areas, he said.

“This is affordable for people. A central system for a single-family house would probably be in the range of $1,000 to $1,500,” he said.

As part of UF’s technology transfer mission, the technology was patented and licensed to Universal Air Technologies, which sells a variety of portable and central air purification systems based on the technology.

 

More Playgrounds Tainted with Arsenic from Treated Lumber

Testing conducted at local playgrounds in Rochester, New York reveals unsafe levels of arsenic, says the group Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (RAMP). Arsenic in playgrounds also caused a stir recently in St. Petersburg, Florida.

RAMP conducted soil testing at both public park and public school sites that have playground equipment built of pressure treated lumber. Results reveal high levels of arsenic.

"Arsenic can cause neurological damage, birth defects, reproductive toxicity, impair the immune system and is known to cause cancer," said Pamela Hadad Hurst, executive director of the New York Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NYCAP). "It is frightening to learn that our children are rolling around in this stuff at levels that are 24 times higher than the States threshold for soil contamination."

Children often put their hands and other objects into their mouths, adding to their risk from contaminated soil and treated lumber. Wooden playground equipment is often treated with chromated copper arsenicals (CCA), a wood preservative that contains arsenic.

"Children face an unreasonable risk of cancer every time they play on or near CCA treated wood playground equipment," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Field studies and laboratory tests have shown that hazardous amounts of arsenic in CCA can leach out of pressure treated lumber. The arsenic then may be ingested or absorbed by humans or animals and may contaminate water sources and soil below the wood.

CCA has been banned in several countries. Alternatives to CCA include ACQ, a wood preservative that does not include arsenic.

RAMP has asked the Center for Environmental Health of the New York State Health Department to test all pressure treated wood playgrounds for arsenic on public property in New York State before the ground freezes. RAMP is also calling for the closing of all playgrounds in the Monroe County area which have tested positive for arsenic.

 

New Study Shows Trees Save Portland Region Millions

A new study released by American Forests shows how the tree canopy of the Willamette/Lower Columbia Region provides hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental and economic benefits such as reducing stormwater runoff, energy usage and air pollution. The report also shows the area’s tree cover declined by 22 percent over the past 28 years, costing communities billions of dollars in lost benefits.

In the report, called the Regional Ecosystem Analysis (REA) for the Willamette/Lower Columbia Region of Northwestern Oregon and Southwestern Washington State, American Forests analysts used satellite imagery to document changes in the study area’s tree canopy (a 7-million acre area) between 1972 and 2000. “Our analysts found the total average tree cover for the region is 24 percent --- down from 46 percent in 1972,” said Gary Moll of American Forests, the nation’s oldest nonprofit conservation organization. “Despite good faith efforts to manage development, tree-canopy loss is a trend that is occurring in areas across the United States. As populations grow, so do the pressures on natural resources and the number of benefits that are lost.”

American Forests recommends that most regions maintain a 40 percent average tree cover. If the Portland region met that recommendation, trees would provide about $1.03 billion worth in pollution removal and 146 million tons of carbon would be stored a year.

American Forests analyzed 63 specific sites, representing a cross-section of land uses such as residential and commercial/industrial by using aerial photography and computer software developed by American Forests, CITYgreen®. CITYgreen allows users to calculate the benefits trees provide in dollar values. Analysts found the region’s trees are removing 178 million pounds of pollutants annually, a savings valued at $419 million. Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter are among the pollutants trees absorb.

This same tree cover is saving communities an estimated $20.2 billion in stormwater management costs (the amount it would cost to build a facility to handle that same quantity of stormwater runoff). Besides reducing the need for stormwater facilities, trees act as filters that help purify water. Water quality is of particular importance in the Pacific Northwest because many communities are under federal mandate to improve aquatic habitats for threatened and endangered salmon species.

Trees (or green infrastructure) help shade and cool residential homes during hot summer months, thereby reducing the amount of electricity needed to run air conditioners. American Forests’ REA finds trees provide an estimated $1.86 million in annual energy savings for communities in the area. Reducing energy use also reduces the amount of carbon emissions by utility companies. Direct tree shading prevents approximately 140,000 tons of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere annually.

One of the most interesting findings of the report is that the Portland region is, for the most part, either densely forested (21 percent) or open/agriculture land (75 percent). There are few areas with moderate tree cover (4 percent). Areas with heavy tree cover declined by 56 percent, whereas areas with light tree canopy grew by 51 percent during the study period.

Losing tree cover reduces environmental quality and the overall health of a community. If the tree canopy of 1972 had been retained, an estimated 58 million tons of carbon would not have entered the atmosphere. The lost tree cover increased stormwater runoff that costs an estimated $2.4 billion to manage and would have removed 138 million pounds of pollutants annually, valued at $322 million per year.

Lastly, the Regional Ecosystem Analysis recommends specific actions that local decision makers can take to increase the tree canopy of the Willamette/Lower Columbia Region. They include: utilizing CITYgreen and other tools in this study to incorporate a “green layer” in land development decision-making; encouraging the use of increased tree cover as one strategy for meeting air pollution and stormwater management needs; and continuing to work towards increasing and conserving tree canopy in metropolitan areas.

Development is causing many of our cities to become cities of sidewalks, roads, and buildings (gray infrastructure) by removing trees (green infrastructure). This tree-loss trend has adverse environmental and financial effects and degrades the overall health and quality of urban, suburban, and rural environments. By conducting Regional Ecosystem Analyses in cities across the United States, American Forests estimates 634 million trees are needed to bring America’s urban areas up to 40 percent average tree canopy. In recent weeks the organization unveiled a new national campaign called “Gray to Green: Reversing the National Urban Tree Deficit” that encourages people everywhere to plant trees to help improve the quality of our cities. American Forests has the ability to conduct a Regional Ecosystem Analysis for any city or region in the continental United States.

The study was conducted with support from the USDA Forest Service, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and officials from the nine cities included in the study as well as Clark County, WA. The following cities in Oregon participated in the study: Albany; Beaverton; Corvallis; Eugene; Portland; Salem; Tualatin; Wilsonville; and Vancouver, Washington.

 

Study Compares Competing Forest Certification Programs

The Meridian Institute released a study of the two major competing systems for certifying forest management -- and found that they differ in almost all areas.

The study compared the "Sustainable Forestry Initiative" (SFI) of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the wood products industry's principal trade association, with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the leading independent, third party forest certification system. The differences found by the study include SFI's lack of many of the FSC's forest management and conservation standards, and continued heavy influence over SFI by the AF&PA and the wood products industry.

By contrast, the FSC is an independent, nonprofit organization governed by a balanced membership of economic, environmental and social interests, the Institute said.

"Green labeling can be very confusing," said Randi Spivak, director of the environmental group American Lands. "The Meridian study clearly shows that the Forest Stewardship Council and the AF&PA SFI are fundamentally different. The SFI fails to meet very basic criteria that consumers should expect from certified wood such as protecting old growth, not harming endangered species and minimizing use of toxic chemicals. The FSC meets those criteria. I think consumers will want to know this."

The study by Meridian, an independent, DC based think tank, notes that the AF&PA SFI often assumes that environmental and social concerns are addressed by existing laws. But forest conservationists charge that most states' forestry rules fail to protect imperiled species, old growth, water quality and other values.

The Meridian study also notes that the AF&PA SFI lacks a consistent chain of custody system to ensure that labeled products come from certified forests. The system also has multiple logos, making it difficult for consumers to know what they are purchasing.

"There's a reason why many environmental groups support the FSC, but not SFI," said Bill Barclay of Greenpeace. "SFI just represents the 'Same-old Forest Industry.' Virtually any timber company could meet SFI's weak standards."

The Meridian study was sponsored by Home Depot, the FSC, and the AF&PA SFI. The study examined the two competing systems' documentation and official requirements, and Meridian notes that comparisons of the systems' on the ground results still need to be conducted. The full report -- Comparative Analysis of the Forest Stewardship Council© and Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Certification Programs -- is available at the Meridian Web site.

 

Parking Lot Becomes Power Station

The City of Riverside, California, has a new shaded parking area that also generates power. The 113 kW photovoltaic (PV) system was designed, supplied and installed by Schott Applied Power Corporation (SAPC). Construction of the project was completed ahead of schedule within 60 days of the ground breaking. The graceful and functional carport generates electricity and provides shade for 152 parking spaces at the Utilities Operations Center. SAPC's unique cantilever design provides maximum unobstructed space for vehicles.

The PV system will help reduce afternoon peaking demand and reduce the City's dependence on outside electricity sources. "We were looking for a project to provide clean power and additional benefit in terms of shade," commented David Wright, Deputy Utility Director for the City of Riverside. "Schott APC's design met our requirements perfectly, and their staff were excellent to work with."

"The Riverside Carport is an excellent example of using solar technology to provide significant distributed generation capacity in a parking lot," said Marianne Walpert, Director of Projects for SAPC. "The structure not only allows existing space to be used, it brings a very welcome secondary benefit of shade as well."

Schott Applied Power supplied all the major components for the project, including the 150 kW nameplate array of Siemens modules and a Xantrex grid-tied inverter. The system is rated to provide 113 kW AC output under sunny conditions, approximately enough electricity to power 100 California homes.

 

Shell and Akzo Nobel Collaborate on Low-cost PV Panels

Akzo Nobel and Shell Renewables have signed a joint development agreement to pilot a low-cost process of mass-producing flexible solar cell panels.

If this pilot project proves successful, it could help to overcome one of the main hurdles to widespread application of photovoltaics (PV): its cost.

Currently solar panels have to be manufactured from expensive materials, such as pure silicon, glass and metals, and using labor-intensive processes. The new process to be tested by Shell and Akzo Nobel in Arnhem, Netherlands, takes mass-production methods to apply a special 'solar cell coating', 20 times thinner than a human hair, to rolls of flexible foil substrates on a virtually continuous basis.

"We believe that solar power is going to be one of the fastest growing primary sources of energy," said Philippe de Renzy Martin, Shell Solar's Chief Operating Officer. "The market for solar power is forecast to grow at 16-25 percent per year. Faster and cheaper production methods, coupled with flexible solar panels could help to stimulate broader market introduction by allowing cost effective integration into existing solar products, roofing and wall materials as well as opening up new applications."

 

Grid-connected Fuel Cell Power Plant Goes Online

Under a $7 million first-of-its-kind program to show how fuel cell technology can generate electricity for Long Island consumers, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) has completed installation of 55 fuel cells -- manufactured by Plug Power -- at its West Babylon substation. The fuel cell project is part of LIPA’s Clean Energy Initiative (CEI), first proposed by Governor George E. Pataki as a way to promote new energy technologies and energy conservation projects. A total of 75 fuel cells will be installed at the substation. Presently, 18 of the 55 fuel cells are fully installed and generating electricity for LIPA’s grid.

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.

The fuel cells could produce as much as one million-kilowatt hours of electricity over the duration of the program, which is enough electricity to power about 100 average-sized homes. By connecting the fuel cells directly to the transmission grid via the West Babylon substation, the electricity created by the fuel cells will be distributed to customers through LIPA's electric transmission and distribution system.

 

Change a Light, Change the World

EPA's Energy Star program is launching a "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign across America to demonstrate to consumers how simply changing a light bulb or fixture at home can save energy, money, and the environment. Throughout October and November, Energy Star officials will work in unprecedented cooperation with retailers, manufacturers, and electric power generators to encourage every U.S. household to make their next light an ENERGY STAR .

"'Change a Light, Change the World' is not just a slogan. It embodies EPA's commitment to building voluntary partnerships and working to make a difference for the environment," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "If every U.S. household looked for the Energy Star label on the next light bulb they purchased, the nation could save up to $800 million annually in energy bills, keep one trillion pounds of global warming gases out of the atmosphere, and get air pollution reduction equivalent to removing 1.2 million cars from American roads every year."

Lighting accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the average household's energy bill, yet ninety percent of the energy generated by the traditional incandescent bulbs found in most homes is wasted in the form of heat. However, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), are typically up to 75 percent more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. While CFLs may initially be more expensive, they will save more than $25 in energy costs over the bulb's lifetime; also, if used no more than four hours a day, the bulb need not be changed for about five years.

During the "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign, participating partners will promote Energy Star qualified lighting products, such as special energy-efficient lighting fixtures and CFLs . These promotions, to vary from region to region, will include rebates, sales, and other special events.

 

Fuel Cell Manufacturing Plant Sited in Pittsburgh

Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation has selected the Pittsburgh area for the expansion of its Stationary Fuel Cells business. Siemens Westinghouse selected a 22-acre site for its 430,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in The Waterfront development located in the borough of Munhall within Allegheny County.

Construction of the new facility will begin almost immediately. The first phase of the program will have a 180,000-square-foot-facility built by 2002 and which will be fully operational by spring of 2003. Initial employment at the facility will be approximately 150 people and expand as the business grows to 450-500 people by 2006. Selection criteria for the site included an analysis of business costs, state and local incentives, work force, availability of and proximity to intermodal transportation, demographics, operating environment, universities, and quality of life.

 

DuPont Plant Recycles More Carpet After Upgrade

DuPont has completed an upgrade and expansion of its nylon carpet reclamation center in Calhoun, Ga. In addition to receiving, sorting, baling and packaging used carpet, DuPont has added equipment to recover nylon at the facility.

In August, the facility reached its full operational potential of producing 1,000 pounds of recovered nylon per hour. The process involves recovering a clean nylon 6,6 resin from used nylon carpet recovered in the DuPont Carpet Reclamation® Program. The facility is capable of sorting up to 50,000,000 pounds of used carpet per year.

"Combining both the sorting and recycling processes in one location vastly reduces the energy, time and costs it takes to complete the recycling process," said Dave Bouton, business director, DuPont Commercial Fiber. "This expansion demonstrates the commitment by DuPont to implement successful environmental initiatives. Before any alterations are made to our programs and processes, DuPont considers the total impact of those changes on the environment without affecting the performance of its fiber."

Since 1991, the DuPont Carpet Reclamation® Program has reclaimed more than 60 million pounds of carpet. DuPont continues to lead the industry with the first and only viable carpet reclamation program that reclaims and recycles all types of used commercial carpet. Recycled content is used to manufacture carpet fiber, resilient flooring tiles, carpet cushion, sod reinforcement and automobile parts.

 

Index Ranks the Well Being of Nations

Sweden strikes the best balance between economic growth and environmental protection, according to a study called The Wellbeing of Nations. Other countries topping the well being index are: Finland, Norway, Iceland, Austria. Further down in the rankings were Germany at 13th, Japan at 24th, and the United States at 27th.

The author of this analysis on sustainability, Canadian Robert Prescott-Allen, takes a sharp look at how nations deal with both human and environmental health. “No country knows how to be green without going into the red,” he explains. “Nations with a high standard of living impose excessive strains on the environment, and the ones with low demands on the ecosystem are trapped in poverty.” Mr. Prescott-Allen is Principal of PADATA, a consultancy firm based in Victoria.

The Wellbeing of Nations surveys 180 countries using the Wellbeing Assessment, a unique method of measuring human and ecosystem wellbeing developed with the support of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Switzerland-based World Conservation Union (IUCN). The new tool gives equal weight to people and the environment. It covers a wider range of human and ecological concerns than other yardsticks such as the Gross Domestic Product, the Human Development Index, or the Environmental Sustainability Index. It includes health, knowledge, freedom, equity, and security, as well as land, air, water, and the diversity of plants, animals, and habitats.

This new analysis was supported by IDRC because it is a significant contribution to the debate on how to measure progress towards sustainability. This tool makes it easier for communities to conduct their own evaluation of their population and environment and to improve conditions without further destruction of the ecosystem.

According to Prescott-Allen, who has been a specialist in sustainability for twenty years, Canada should build on its strengths  -- health, education, and land -- and improve its Ecosystem Wellbeing Index by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption, protecting wild plant species, and boosting agricultural diversity. Canada should also better its Human Wellbeing Index by closing the gap between rich and poor and improving the equality of women.

As Robert Prescott-Allen points out, “attaining a high quality of life for a low environmental price is difficult to do, but possible. The key conditions for combining high human wellbeing and low ecosystem stress are freedom, good governance and education. The opportunity and capacity to make sound decisions about goals and how to achieve them is crucial.”

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