Green Building News

Green Building News March 2002

March 25, 2002

Scientific Certification Systems Announces New Forest Certification

One of North America's only certifiers of sustainably managed forests will soon launch it's own program. Scientific Certification System's new program is expected to be called "Cross and Globe", according to an article on The company will continue to offer certification under the Forest Stewardship Council in tandem with the new program.

Many small forests and mills have yet to see the "green premium" that was supposed to improve business and more than offset the costs of independent certification. These smaller producers are letting their FSC certification lapse. The new SCS is designed to occupy the middle ground between forest industry greenwashing and the red-tape laden non-profit approach.


Foam-Tech Finds Savings in Reused Containers

Foam-Tech is a Vermont-based supplier and installer of an environmentally-friendly insulation called SUPERGREEN foam. In 1998, the company received a $10,000 grant from The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to significantly reduce the use of 55-gallon steel drums used to ship raw materials from manufacturers to Foam-Tech’s facility in North Thetford.

Foam-Tech has made arrangements with the foam manufacturers to ship pressurized cylinders that can be loaded directly on to their trucks for field application and then returned to the factory and refilled. The grant money enabled them to purchase a fleet of durable, reusable containers for this purpose.

Prior to this program, Foam-Tech faced the problem of accumulating 55-gallon steel drums, which could not be easily reused or discarded. Foam-Tech investigated recycling as an option and learned that recycling companies would not pick up the barrels due to the low cost of steel. The company continued to research other options, but could not find an economical way to reduce the amount of wasted steel or the solvents required to clean residue from the used drums.

In the last 3 years Foam-Tech has:

  • Eliminated 184 55-gallon drums (9,216 pounds of steel) from the waste stream.
  • Eliminated 922 pounds of polyurethane residue from the waste stream.
  • Eliminated the use and disposal of solvents necessary to clean 55 gallon drums.
  • Saved one hour each working day handling and cleaning of 55 gallon barrels for disposal.

There were a few additional expenses too. Foam-Tech had to purchase the cylinders used to transport the foam chemicals. The cylinders also caused a slight increase in shipping cost. But, the savings in other areas like labor and disposal costs have off set the additional expense.


Sears Survey Shows Homebuyers Want Energy-Efficient Choices

Prospective home buyers have spoken loud and clear: They demand a choice of energy-efficient appliances, according to a new survey of consumer preferences reported by the country's top 100 residential homebuilders.

The question is: Are homebuilders listening? Although the nation's top homebuilders say that 70 percent of prospective home buyers want energy-efficient appliances, only half of the builders offer home buyers energy-efficient appliance options, according to the survey results. The fax and telephone survey of the largest residential homebuilders was conducted by Sears in January 2002. In all, 54 percent of the homebuilders responded to the survey.

As more home buyers seek energy-efficient appliances, more homebuilders are beginning to heed the trend. Although only half of builders currently offer energy-efficient appliances, almost 61 percent of builders will provide consumers with an energy-efficient option by next year, according to the survey results.

"Consumers have demonstrated a strong desire for more energy-efficient housing," said Jim Lesinski, Vice President, Marketing for Pulte Homes the nation's largest residential builder. "Pulte Homes is responding in a variety of ways from offering energy-efficient appliances to innovative house design packages where we can guarantee the homeowner's heating and cooling costs."

Energy-efficiency is just one criterion prospective home buyers look for when selecting an appliance. New home buyers are also pushing homebuilders to offer an array of features that they want in new homes -- including a wider selection of appliances. The survey found that up to 25 percent of home buyers want to select from multiple appliance brands. At present, only 26 percent of homebuilders offer more than one brand in each appliance category.

"A cardinal rule of selling is giving customers what they want. Homebuilders know this," said Bill Collins, vice president and general manager of Sears Contract Sales. "That's why they are starting to focus their attention on finding ways to offer energy-efficient appliances and appliance selections. By doing so, they are helping consumers save money and protect the environment for future generations. The problem that many homebuilders might be facing is that they are accustomed to doing business with a small number of appliance vendors. Now, they have to find an easy, cost-efficient way to offer home buyers a selection of energy-efficient appliances. That could be why some homebuilders haven't yet jumped on the bandwagon," Collins added.

Working with an appliance supplier that offers many brand choices is one way that homebuilders can meet home buyers' needs. Instead of contracting with multiple appliance vendors, for example, builders can offer their customers the choice of the nation's top six appliance brands through Sears Appliance Select showrooms.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. was named the 2000 Energy Star® Retail Partner of the Year. The Retail Partner of the year Award recognizes the Energy Star partner that best demonstrates its commitment to educating consumers about the benefits of energy-efficiency products.

Sears sold 1.1 million energy-efficient products in 2000. The Sears Energy Star program is conducted in more than 860 full-line stores and 750 independently owned dealer stores in all 50 states. Sears supports the Energy Star program by displaying and selling Energy Star-labeled appliances, electronics and office equipment in all Sears stores.


Fifteen Home Builders Earn EnergyValue Awards

Tierra Concrete Homes was the Gold Award winner in the 2002 Energy Value Housing Awards.
Fifteen builders received this year's EnergyValue Housing Awards (EVHA) on March 25 at the National Green Building Conference in Seattle, Washington. The EVHA honors builders who voluntarily integrate energy and resource efficiency into the design, construction and marketing of their new homes. Special features offered by this year's winners include: high-efficiency, low-e, gas-filled windows; insulated basement walls; solar water heating; geothermal heat pumps and tubular skylights.

The 2002 EVHA winners are:

* Tierra Concrete Homes, Pueblo, CO
* Colorado Dream Homes, Pagosa Springs, CO
* Emerald Homes, The Woodlands, TX
* Fleetwood Homes, Woodburn, OR
* McNaughton Homes, Harrisburg, PA
* Pulte Homes - Tucson Division, Tucson, AZ
* Able Homebuilders, Sioux City, IA
* Artistic Homes, Albuquerque, NM
* Chuck Miller Construction, Hidden Springs ID
* Enviro Custom Homes, Carrollton, TX
* Fallman Design & Construction, Clermont, FL
* Holdridge Homes, Perrysburg, OH
* Pruett Builder, Sarasota, FL
* Pulte Homes - Phoenix Division, Phoenix, AZ
* Valley Manufactured Housing, Yakima, WA

The awards are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Association of Home Builders Research Center and Professional Builder Magazine.


Energy Star Awards Go to 729 Buildings

Across America, 729 office and school buildings have earned the Energy Star® and use about 40 percent less energy than average buildings, with no compromise in comfort. Since 1999, these buildings have saved $134 million in energy costs and emitted 1.9 billion fewer pounds of carbon dioxide, the chief global warming gas, than average buildings.

Buildings qualify for Energy Star by earning a score of 75 or higher on a 100-point national energy performance rating scale, which compares buildings with others of similar characteristics. These buildings must also meet industry standards for comfort and indoor air quality, as verified by a professional engineer.

The 729 awards went to many different types of buildings, representing many sectors of the economy. These buildings can be found in over 40 states, with California, Texas and Colorado each having over 50 Energy Star labeled buildings. Among the top performing buildings are 122 owned and occupied by large commercial institutions, from telecommunications firms to healthcare institutions and supermarkets; 204 of them are properties owned by commercial real estate organizations and leased to commercial tenants; 287 are public schools; and 116 are federal government facilities.

Energy Star partners have made the commitment to join the program by improving the energy and financial performance of their buildings, labeling their energy efficient homes and raising customer awareness of Energy Star. Many of these partners have buildings found among the top 729.


Verizon Plans World's Largest Fuel Cell Project

Verizon plans to install fuel cells as the primary electrical power source at a major call-routing center on Long Island, New York, to study the technology and its effectiveness in a large telecommunications switching environment. The project will be the largest fuel cell deployment project in the world.

After obtaining local permit approvals later this year, Verizon plans to start installation of seven fuel cells manufactured by UTC Fuel Cells, a unit of United Technologies Corp. The new system, which is expected to be fully operational in 2004, will operate alongside four new natural-gas-powered generators, marking the first time such a fuel-cell power-generating system is used.

"We expect this fuel cell project will show us that the technology can deliver for us in terms of reliability, reducing energy costs and protecting the environment," said Paul Lacouture, Verizon's network president. "This is part of a comprehensive and company-wide program to look for ways to provide a stable, reliable power supply and control energy costs while preserving the environment."

This effort also supports Verizon's commitment as a co-signer of the North American Communications Environmental Excellence Initiative Charter signed at the United Nations.

Once the Verizon project is operational, the fuel cells and natural gas generators will produce more than four megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power over 4,000 homes. In addition, the fuel-cell system has the potential to eliminate from the atmosphere up to 12 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually that would have resulted from commercial power generation.

"Verizon's decision to use fuel cells for such a critical installation demonstrates its commitment to employing the best technology to meet its customers' needs for reliability while protecting the environment," said UTC Fuel Cells President William Miller.

Verizon's 332,000-square-foot Garden City facility delivers local phone service to some 40,000 Verizon customers. More than 1,000 employees also work there, handling various functions, including answering customer calls. The fuel cells will provide the electricity they require.

While the new energy source will become the primary electrical power for the computerized call-switching system in Garden City, commercial electrical power and Verizon's turbine generators and batteries will remain as backups.

Verizon expects that it will be able to recover the initial project cost within five to six years and to generate significant cost savings in the process. The company is receiving some technical and financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of New York.

In addition to installing fuel cells in Garden City, Verizon already has installed smaller fuel-cell units at small field equipment sites in a Boston suburb and on Long Island. The company plans to evaluate another fuel cell technology at a medium-size facility in upstate New York.


New Energy Codes Take Effect in Seattle

New building energy codes for commercial buildings recently took effect in Seattle, Washington. The new codes exceed national energy efficiency standards by nearly 20 percent and focus largely on heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment. This recent update affects only commercial buildings, but new standards for residential buildings will take effect on July 1, 2002. The residential codes big changes will be in window heat loss and insulation levels. More information is available at the City of Seattle web site.


California Announces Toughest Air Conditioning Standards in the Nation

The California Energy Commission has adopted the nation's toughest energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners -- a move that could further diminish electricity demand during hot summers. The new regulations require a 30 percent improvement over the current standard and are 10 percent better than the proposed federal standard - requiring a waiver from Washington to become law.

Stressing that home and commercial cooling accounts for nearly 30 percent of the total energy use by the state during hot summer afternoons, Pernell, Chair of the Energy Commission's Efficiency Committee said:

"The new air conditioner standards reflect the drier climate in California, and, along with the full set of standards, can reduce our peak electricity demand by 134 megawatts - the equivalent of a medium-sized power plant costing about $80 million."

The air conditioning standards were among several new ones approved, including those covering commercial refrigerators, beverage vending machines, exit signs, traffic signals, torchiere lighting fixtures, coin-operated clothes washers, and electricity transformers.

The new rules, part of the energy conservation goals of Assembly Bill 970 signed by Governor Gray Davis in September 2000, were negotiated after numerous workshops and input from consumers, manufacturers, electric and water utilities, environmental groups, and other stakeholders in the appliance industry.

John M Mandyck, Vice President of the Carrier Corporation, a leading manufacturer of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment said:

"The California Energy Commission has worked hard to craft new appliance standards to best serve the energy conservation needs of California, and we are pleased the regulations call attention to the growing number of air conditioning and refrigeration products that have begun to use environmentally sound, non-ozone depleting refrigerants."

Some of the new standards will slightly increase the purchase cost of new appliances. But consumers will make up the initial cost through savings in energy bills. With the new standards, the Energy Commission estimates that Californians will save almost $3.4 billion over a 10-year period.


Free Software Evaluates Long-Term Costs of Energy Savings

Everyone wants to conserve energy, but it's reasonable to select projects that yield a reasonable return on the investment. The economics behind conservation can be tricky, so you want to have a good tool to help you. NIST’s Office of Applied Economics offers the latest version of its Building Life-Cycle Cost software program, BLCC5.

The BLCC5 software is especially useful for evaluating the long-term costs and benefits of energy and water conservation and renewable energy projects. It supports the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), which promotes such efforts in more than 500,000 federal buildings.

BLCC5 is targeted to federal facility managers. It allows comparison of the life-cycle cost of two or more alternative designs to determine which is the least expensive and, therefore, more economical one in the long run. BLCC5 looks at comparative economic data for the alternative designs, including net savings, savings-to-investment ratio, adjusted internal rate of return, and years to payback.

BLCC5 can evaluate new and existing federal, state and local government projects, as well as non-profit and for-profit projects in the private sector. While BLCC5 is oriented toward building-related decisions, it can be used to evaluate alternative designs for almost any project in which higher capital investment costs result in lower future operating costs.

BLCC5 runs on any personal computer with approximately 640 K of random access memory. In addition to its traditional life-cycle costing features, the program contains a specially designated module for evaluating “Energy Savings Performance Contracts.” These contracts -- where private-sector energy service companies or utilities finance and implement the conservation project, and the contracting agency repays the debt from the cost savings achieved -- are widely used in federal, state and local governments.

BLCC5 may be downloaded, free of charge, from the Department of Energy’s FEMP site.

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