Green Building News

Green Building News December 2001

December 5, 2001

Oregon Offers Financial Incentives for Green Building

Keeping costs down is always an issue for construction projects, but in Oregon there's a new wrinkle for commercial construction projects: how to qualify for the most green building incentives. In October, the State of Oregon included sustainable buildings under an long-standing Business Energy Tax Credit Program that can reduce business income taxes by as much as 35 percent. Among the criteria to qualify for the sustainable building credit, the building must achieve at least the Silver rating under the LEED Rating System with an emphasis on energy-related points. Details are spelled out in the Oregon Administrative Rules. In addition to the statewide tax credit, buildings within the City of Portland qualify for additional incentives through the Office of Sustainable Development.


Citizens Support Efficiency and Renewables

A new Gallup poll shows widespread support for investment in the nation’s energy infrastructure, including the construction of new power generation plants and development of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

The poll shows continued, near-universal support for development of alternative energy sources, including solar, wind, and fuel cell technology. Nine out of 10 Americans (91%) expressed their favor for investments in alternative power sources in both polls this year. Other results:

  • 42 percent support increased use of nuclear power -- compared to 48 percent in a May Gallup poll.
  • 77 percent expressed support for mandated energy-efficient automobiles, down from 85 percent.
  • 51 percent now oppose oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, down from 57 percent earlier.


New Jersey Builder Goes 100 Percent Energy Star

K. Hovnanian Companies, who claims to be New Jersey’s largest builder, said all future homes built in that state would meet Energy Star standards that cut natural gas and electricity use by at least one-third.

The Edison-based company will work with Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) to ensure that construction techniques, building materials and appliances meet NJ Energy Star Homes program criteria.

"Working with PSE&G and our trade partners, we modified our construction techniques, increasing energy savings potential while maintaining the quality, flexibility and efficiency that always have been part of our home-building process," said Joe Riggs, regional president of K. Hovnanian. "Because of our economies of scale, we’re able to extend the program to communities that now are being planned without adding to the price of our homes."

K. Hovnanian offers a special mortgage program that features no document preparation fees, stretched qualifying ratios of up to 5 percent and special rate locks for some programs.


Tree Canada Foundation Names Award Recipient

Tree Canada Foundation presented the prestigious Eterne Award jointly to the C.P. Loewen Family Foundation and Loewen Windows in recognition of the highly successful Stand Tall Schoolground Forestation and Educational program.

In 2001, Stand Tall involved over 20 schools in southeast Manitoba, providing leadership through professional instruction, landscape planning tools, Tree Canada curricula and roughly 400 3-meter tall trees for schoolground forestation. The program was embraced by educators and became a favorite with hundreds of young students.

The presentation of the Eterne Award is an acknowledgement by Tree Canada of "the Loewen Foundation's environmental leadership and commitment to taking action on global climate change through the planting of trees in Canada."

"Eterne" is a poetic word for eternal. The Eterne Award, which is physically constructed from a piece of preserved 4,200 year-old white spruce, symbolizes a timeless, never-ending life cycle -- trees live and die, but forests live forever. By contributing to the urban forest, it is possible to make a contribution to the well being of the environment, now and for eternity.


North Charleston Begins Huge Sustainable Redevelopment Project

The City of North Charleston announced plans for the largest urban redevelopment project in the United States, encompassing over 2,800 acres of the historic City Center and the old Naval Base Complex. The initial goals of the project include master replanning of the area, with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. Newly named as "Noisette" after Noisette Creek, the project will open the Cooper River waterfront area to the residents of North Charleston by creating a three-quarter mile waterfront park at the old Naval Base, which will connect to a new 200+acre urban park surrounding Noisette Creek. The planning team anticipates 7,000 new housing units, 3,000 rehabilitated housing units, and 6-8 million square feet of commercial and retail space. Plans also call for the reestablishment of Noisette Creek as a healthy, functioning ecosystem and watershed.

For Noisette Company CEO John L. Knott, Jr., The Noisette project is a dream come true, as it enables him to utilize a lifetime of training and experience.

"As a third generation builder/developer, the art of renovation and restoration was part of my upbringing. As a result, I spent the first 20 years of my career deeply immersed in the study and practice of those disciplines." said Knott. "For the past decade, I've been with Dewees Island, practicing environmental preservation and sustainable development. Noisette will draw on all of my experiences - from community building to eco-system enhancement, and will yield what I believe will be a Dewees In The City."

As with any project of this scope, gentrification is an issue that must be addressed. The Noisette team plans to eliminate the issue by working a "zero tolerance" gentrification policy into the master planning process. In addition,the conceptual master plan calls for a vast increase in home ownership within Noisette.

"Gentrification often occurs not only because of profits, but because it's the path of least resistance," said Knott. "With additional effort, however, a redevelopment team can work to increase low-income home ownership, instead of displacing those residents. That is our pledge to Mayor Summey, City Council, the RDA, and the residents of the area."

"Urban sprawl,smart growth, and gentrification have been hot topics in recent years, both locally and nationally," said Summey." We intend to develop a model for addressing those issues,and establishing North Charleston as a leader in sustainability. We will leave a legacy, and a better city, for our children to enjoy."


Radiant Cooling System Demonstrates Savings and Health Benefits

Reducing the volume of outdoor air introduced into building HVAC systems has long been a key energy saving recommendation. However, the potential negative impacts to occupant health have dogged this energy conservation measure from the beginning. A new approach recently installed at the Penn State University-University Park campus intends to demostrate how ventilation can be separated from space cooling to meet both energy-saving and occupant-health goals. The proof-of-concept system -- installed in studio space for architecture and landscape architecture students -- was described in a recent article by Stanley Mumma in Engineered Systems magazine.

Most conventional HVAC systems bring outside air into the system, mix it with air from inside the building and recirculate the mixture removing heat as necessary. This new system uses 100 percent outside air for ventilation. Because all the air comes from outside the total amount of circulated air is slashed to about 20 percent of that required for recirculating systems. Chiller size was reduced by 25 to 80 percent compared to a conventional system. Moisture (humdity) is removed from the outdoor air before it is delivered. Cooling is supplied directly to the occupied space through chilled ceiling panels, in other words hydronic radiant cooling. Because the latent load (moisture) is removed from the incoming air, problems with condensation have not appeared.

Radiant cooling offers considerable energy savings. Pumping water requires less energy than moving air, especially since the chilled water must only remove sensible loads. Occupant comfort can be maintained at a higher temperature (78°F) because of the way people perceive the cooler radiant surface.


EPA Launches Energy Star for Hospitals

The Environmental Protection Agency officially launched the newest Energy Star™ energy performance rating tool -- this one for hospitals. With the expansion of the Energy Star program, hospitals will for the first time be able to benchmark their energy performance against others on a nationwide scale of 1-to-100. The first hospitals to earn the Energy Star label are St. Joseph's Medical Center in Yonkers, N.Y., Naval Medical Center of San Diego, Calif. and Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Ill.

Hospitals use more than twice as much energy per square foot as office buildings. In total, hospitals consume almost 50 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and spend close to $3 billion each year on electricity alone. If hospitals improved their energy efficiency by an average of 30 percent, the annual electricity bill savings would be nearly $1 billion and 11 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted--equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road. Whitman noted that those dollar savings can be re-invested into patient care and new technologies.

Using EPA's Energy Star website, hospitals will be able to analyze the energy performance of their buildings, set goals for improvement, and track their progress online using EPA's portfolio manager. Top performers will be able to display the Energy Star label.


LED Holiday Lights Save Big

The Capitol Christmas Tree in Salem, Oregon will dazzle viewers with energy-saving LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights. The lights use about 99 percent less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. The LED holiday lights will be strung on the tree located in the rotunda of Oregon’s Capitol building and featured in the state’s tree lighting ceremony. Portland General Electric is donating the lights to the state. The Oregon Office of Energy has assisted with the effort.

“If one out of every five households in Oregon changed five of their 50-bulb strings of traditional lights for LED lighting this holiday season, Oregonians would save about $2.5 million dollars in energy costs,” said Margaret Gardner, Executive Director of Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

The LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost a consumer $18.90 while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19. Finally, unlike many other holiday bulbs if one bulb of the LED lights burns out the whole strand will stay lit. The new lights are available in many regular retail outlets along side the traditional incandescent lights.

LED lights are manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Fiber Optic Design and sold under the brand name Forever Bright. They can be purchased at selected Albertsons, Rite Aid and Ace Hardware. The LED holiday lights run from $8 to $10 for a 100-bulb string.

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance is a non-profit group of electric utilities, including Portland General Electric, state governments, public interest groups and industry representatives working to bring affordable, energy-efficient products and services to the marketplace.

A review of LED holiday lights was recently published by the Energy Ideas Clearinghouse. Background information on holiday energy use, including lights, can be seen at How Much Energy Does it Take to Have a Happy Holiday? published by the Florida Solar Energy Center.


New Device Converts Heat into Electricity

An MIT scientist and a colleague have invented a semiconductor technology that could allow efficient, affordable production of electricity from a variety of energy sources without a turbine or similar generator.

Many researchers have worked to convert heat to electricity directly without the moving parts of a generator. Among other advantages, such a device would be virtually silent, vibration-free, and low in maintenance costs. Until now, however, low efficiency of such devices has been a problem. The new device is two times more efficient than its closest commercial competitor.

"That such good results were obtained in the first generation of the new device technology ... indicates that the general approach has great promise for improved performance in more mature implementations," write Associate Professor Peter L. Hagelstein of MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Dr. Yan Kucherov of ENECO, Inc., in a new paper.

The new technology could have major implications for the recovery of waste heat from power plants and automobiles. For example, the heat lost through engine exhausts might be captured by the technology and converted into electricity to augment or replace a vehicle’s electrical and air conditioning systems. It could also be important in the primary generation of electrical power.

The technology is based on thermionics, which originated nearly a century ago with the basic vacuum tube, a device that consisted of two parallel conductive plates (cathode and anode) separated by a vacuum gap. In this high temperature tube, electrons boiled off the cathode, traversed the gap and then were absorbed into the colder anode. The conversion of heat to electricity "occurs as the electrons transport 'uphill' against an electric field in the gap region," said Hagelstein, who is also affiliated with MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics.

These early "vacuum gap" designs had prohibitive manufacturing costs and high operating temperatures -- above 1,000° Celsius (about 2,000° Fahrenheit) -- which has limited the technology to nuclear-powered converters in space probes, satellites and special military systems.

The new technology essentially replaces the traditional vacuum gap with a multi-layer semiconductor structure. By careful selection of materials, scientists are creating highly efficient, solid state conversion devices, called "thermal diodes" that will operate from 200° to 450° Celsius -- typical temperatures for waste heat and for concentrated solar radiation.

"Solid state thermal to electric energy conversion converts energy due to how electrons transport in the conductor, a process that generates no pollution," Hagelstein said. He noted, however, that some of the materials used in the present generation of devices are toxic, which will affect the eventual disposal of the devices.


Interface Presents Sustainability Web Site

Interface Research Corporation released an on-line sustainability report presenting the stories, metrics and product innovations that best exemplify Interface's progress in creating a more restorative model for industry, by promoting sustainable business practices within its own facilities and throughout the global marketplace.

The site features broad-based definitions and explanations of the key elements of sustainability (economic, social, and environmental) with stories and illustrations showing how these items influence the 'triple bottom line.' is designed to enable users of all skill levels to find and use the information and tools that are most helpful to them, whether they are customers, vendors, or interested parties who share the company's vision for sustainability.

Highlights of the site include detailed step-by-step tours of Interface's 'Seven Front' approach to sustainability as well as Interface's 'Prototypical Company of the 21st Century.'

Additionally, the site features success stories from Interface facilities around the globe, illustrating how the company's products and services benefit building projects in various market sectors.

The site also provides a one-stop section for architects, designers and construction specifiers. Those seeking certification in the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Green Building Rating System will find it easy to collect the information they need for their documentation processes. Specifiers and design teams will be able to quickly identify and document those Interface products and services that best meet certain credits within the LEED criteria.  Plans are also underway to integrate interactive tools for similar rating systems in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

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