Green Building News

Green Building News April 2003

April 3, 2003

Lumber Mill Receives Funding for CO2 Reduction

The Climate Trust of Portland, Oregon is helping The Collins Companies reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by partially funding the installation of a cogeneration facility at the Collins Lakeview facility.

The Fremont Sawmill, located in Lakeview Oregon and operated by Collins, will modify high to low pressure kilns and install a high efficiency backpressure steam turbine generator to produce low emissions electricity. "This Oregon project allows Collins to use high pressure steam to generate their own power while emitting less carbon dioxide than grid-based power," commented Mike Burnett, Executive Director of The Climate Trust.

"These changes not only reduce the negative impact on the climate and the environment, but they are very compatible with our other environmental commitments, including becoming the first privately-owned forest products company in the U. S. to be independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the first to adopt the principles of the Natural Step into our manufacturing and operation facilities," said Eric Schooler, President and CEO of The Collins Companies.

This project was chosen for funding from The Climate Trust’s 2001 solicitation for offset projects. The Climate Trust has put five other offset projects under contract with over $5 million in funding provided by new power plants owned or operated by Calpine Corporation, Avista Corporation, PacifiCorp Power Marketing, Inc., and NW Natural.


Northeast Green Building Awards Granted

Innovative, energy-efficient and resource-smart buildings from around the northeastern U.S. were honored last month in a ceremony in Boston, Massachusetts. The competition is a regular feature of the annual Building Energy Conference sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). Here are the Green Building Award winners:

  • First Prize: Places of Learning
    Clearview Elementary School
    Hanover, PA
  • First Prize (tie): Places of Work
    Phillip Merrill Environmental Center
    Chesapeake Bay Foundation
    Bay Ridge, MD
  • First Prize (tie): Places of Work
    French Wing Addition to the Conservation Center
    Concord, NH
  • Honorable Mention: Places of Work
    The Family Center
    Somrville, MA
  • First Prize: Residences
    Melrose Commons II
    Bronx, NY
  • Honorable Mention: Residences
    Old Usquepaug, RI
  • Honorable Mention: Residences
    Tennis House
    Washington, CT
  • First Prize: Solar Electric Buildings
    The MATCH School
    Boston, MA
  • First Prize: Student Projects
    McKelvy Elementary School
    Pittsburgh, PA

More information about each project is available on the Northeast Green Building Awards - 2003 Winners page, including photos, project architect and jury comments.


Enviros Keep Pressure on CCA Lumber

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in February that lumber treated with CCA (chromated copper arsenate) would no longer be sold after this year. Even so, the Environmental Working Group -- who has taken a leading role in the crusade to ban CCA -- continues to press the issue. Based on a new round of laboratory tests that found high levels of arsenic contamination even on older pressure-treated wooden structures, they asked EPA to ban the use of arsenic-treated wood in outdoor play structures and to order consumer refunds for millions of playsets nationwide.

EWG said the action was justified by recent findings from government scientists that arsenic is a more potent cancer agent, and a higher risk for children, than previously believed. EWG presented testimony at a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hearing in a commission report that concluded arsenic-treated wood in playsets poses a serious risk of cancer but did not recommend a ban or consumer refunds.

"Arsenic in existing play structures is a public health problem very similar in magnitude and certainty to lead paint. Both present significant health risks that last long after regulatory action banning their sale and use," said Jane Houlihan, EWG Vice President for Research in her testimony before the Commission.

"We recommend that CPSC immediately recall playsets on public playgrounds and require the treated wood industry to directly refund consumers who have purchased arsenic-treated wood playsets."

Previously, EWG reported that the equivalent of about one child in every grade school would be expected to develop cancer from playing on arsenic-treated wood playsets and decks.

In June 2001, EWG and the Healthy Building Network petitioned CPSC to ban arsenic-treated wood. CPSC staff studied this petition and presented their report to the three Commissioners. After the staff report, public testimony will be heard from registered participants, including EWG and almost a dozen industry representatives. The Commissioners will then decide whether to ban the structures.


Greywater Regulations in Arizona and New Mexico

In his March newsletter, greywater expert, Art Ludwig praises new regulations in Arizona and New Mexico as "rational."

In both states, you can now install a legal greywater system without applying for a permit as long as the system meets a short list of requirements. Neither the installer nor the regulators need take any further action. Ludwig says you could do 90 percent of the systems described in his book Create an Oasis with Greywater or you could install a branched drain greywater system with clear discharge outlets into mulch basins -- a system he recommends for both its simplicity and performance.

The impact of the Arizona/ New Mexico greywater regulations could be far-reaching. These create a big enough market to provide a foothold for greywater businesses and system innovation. With Texas and Louisiana interested in following a similar path, Ludwig hopes this might be the beginning of a trend.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have played a small role in this successful effort (see New Mexico greywater law expedition, November 2002 newsletter).

For more info on this and other greywater laws see the Grey water policy center.


Solar Energy Wins a Round in Arizona Court

The Arizona Court of Appeals has published an opinion in a case that will lead to greater use of solar energy in Arizona. In Garden Lakes Community Association v. Madigan/Speak, the home owners association (HOA) was seeking to force the homeowners to take down solar panels installed on the roof. The Appeals Court found that the HOA's deed restriction and architectural guidelines, combined with the HOA's conduct, violated the public policy of Arizona as expressed in Arizona Revised Statute Section 33-439.

Garden Lakes Community Association is a master planned community located in Avondale, Arizona, with over 2,000 homes. The Madigans and Speaks, retirees living in the HOA, installed solar swimming pool heaters on their properties for environmental and economic reasons. The homeowners wanted to use Arizona's abundant sunshine to heat their swimming pools so they could exercise without pain in winter months. Little did they know the solar panels would lead to five years of litigation.

The HOA filed a lawsuit against the two seeking an injunction requiring removal of the solar panels and approximately $100,000 in fines. Relying on the deed restriction and Architectural Review Guidelines, the HOA argued that the homeowners should have built a patio or screen to hide the solar panels. Madigans and Speaks countered that both options are prohibitively expensive and significantly reduce the efficiency of the systems. Madigans and Speaks won in the trial court and the HOA appealed.

The Appeals Court, in upholding the lower courts decision in favor of the homeowners, concluded the HOA's restriction on solar panels "effectively prohibited the installation and use of solar energy devices." The Association attempted to place restrictive guidelines on the residents that were contrary to the provisions of an Arizona passed in 1979 that protected individual homeowner's private property rights to use solar energy.

Many HOAs place restrictions on the installation of solar devices that add significantly to their cost or prevent them from receiving sunlight, which would render them useless. This practice is a significant barrier to widespread use of solar energy by Arizona homeowners.


Knoll Furniture Achieves FSC Certification

Global furniture manufacturer, Knoll, Inc., has received Chain-of-Custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In its FSC-certified line of products, Knoll will offer office furniture systems made from particle board, MDF, veneer, solid lumber and other wood fiber products that come from responsibly-managed forests. The certification was granted by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) for Knoll's manufacturing plants located in East Greenville, PA, Toronto, ON, and Grand Rapids, MI.

Knoll began working with SCS, an independent environmental certification company, in 1990 to source sustained timber from a well-managed forest for Knoll products. The forests identified by SCS are FSC-certified.


FSC Moves Operations to Germany

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) International Center started operations in the new office in Bonn, Germany in early February. Most of the staff and functions will deliver services from the new office. The Oaxaca office in Mexico will remain as a Regional Office for Latin America.

"This is not just a move to another country," said Heiko Liedeker, FSC Executive Director. "FSC has started a new phase to improve our services to all stakeholders, National Initiatives and certification bodies. We know that this is a key change to continue with our mission of promoting good forest management around the world."

After nine years of operation from Oaxaca, FSC says it is redesigning itself to better respond to a growing and increasingly diverse range of partners, stakeholders and clients. The organization plans to develop a flexible, decentralized and global network over the world.


Hotels Find Savings in the Bathroom

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers are studying the energy savings of a new energy-efficient lighting control system to be installed at a DoubleTree Hotel in Sacramento, under an agreement just signed by Berkeley Lab, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), DoubleTree Hotels, and The Watt Stopper, Inc.

The system was based on research performed by Berkeley Lab scientists on improving hotel room energy efficiency, in collaboration with product development engineers at Watt Stopper.

The technology demonstration contract calls for the "relighting" of the entire Sacramento facility, which has more than 400 rooms, with a new control system for bathroom lighting. The Watt Stopper is manufacturing the units, and SMUD and DoubleTree are sharing the demonstration's costs.

Several years ago, Berkeley Lab lighting researchers conducted a Department of Energy-funded study to search for ways of improving energy efficiency in the hospitality industry.

"We found that one of the largest energy-saving opportunities in hotel guestroom lighting is eliminating the unnecessary extended operation of the bathroom fixtures," says Berkeley Lab lighting researcher Michael Siminovitch. "More than 75 percent of the energy used by these fixtures occurs when they are left on for more than two hours at a time." Siminovitch and Erik Page, of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, conducted the work.

The study showed that bathroom lights are activated for the longest periods of time in occupied hotel rooms -- an average of eight hours, compared with less than five hours for bedroom lights, and two hours for desk lights.

A standard solution to lights being left on is the occupancy sensor, which automatically turn the lights out when guests leave the room. However, hotel managers were reluctant to reduce the comfort of their guests with a device that might irritate occupants by turning lights on and off when they were in the bathroom for an extended time period.

The researchers realized that they could install occupancy sensors in hotel bathrooms with long set times (one hour or more) and still get very significant energy savings, because the vast majority of energy use occurs when the fixture is left on longer than two hours when guests are gone out of the room.

As a result of this study, The Watt Stopper, Inc., which manufactures automatic lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and office power control products, entered into a partnership with Berkeley Lab, SMUD, DoubleTree, and the California Energy Commission to develop a product based on this research that the hotel industry could install in its rooms and that could capture the energy savings identified by Berkeley Lab without sacrificing lighting quality.

In fact, according to Bob Hughes, regional director of the DoubleTree, the automatic night-lighting system on this device should increase the quality of the guest experience. "We are very excited about the potential of this device to save energy in a manner that will not impact guest comfort," he says.

The sensor replaces the standard wall switch in guest bathrooms. It is set to turn off the light after one hour. An energy-efficient light-emitting diode night light provides illumination, eliminating the need to leave bathroom lights on throughout the night. This LED-based night light improves the comfort of the guest for night use of the bathroom without using a bright overhead light.

Under the technology demonstration agreement, DoubleTree Hotel will install this technology in its Sacramento hotel, and the Berkeley Lab Lighting Research Group's Siminovitch and Page will analyze it.


At Home in Harmony... Florida

Ground was broken recently for the first homes in the town of Harmony, a model for how communities around the nation can accommodate a growing population in environmentally intelligent ways.

"This is a historic time for Harmony and, we hope, for the rest of the country," said Jim Lentz, a founder of this ambitious take on a traditional neighborhood designed development, which is taking root among 11,000 acres of pristine forest, pastureland and two 500-acre natural lakes in Central Florida's Osceola County. "We're literally building a new kind of home town."

Construction has also begun on Harmony Town Square, which will be home to shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Home prices range from $140,000 to around $500,000. When completed, Harmony will be home to some 18,000 people.

Harmony's homes will represent a variety of architectural styles. While most planned communities segregate homes into enclaves based on price, Harmony's neighborhoods will be an eclectic mix of affordable, smaller homes and larger, more expensive homes.

The town will also be home to The Harmony Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes human health and well-being through interactions with nature and animals.

Harmony's stewards want to make sure its land remains a treasure. To this end, no home sites will be developed on the shores of Harmony's two sandy-bottom lakes, and gas-powered boats will be prohibited. Instead, community owned electric boats, sailboats and canoes will be available for residents' use. Additionally, reclaimed water will be available to every home for lawn maintenance; more trees have been planted on the site than removed; all public and commercial outdoor light fixtures will be aimed downward to minimize light pollution; all homes will be Energy Star rated for energy conservation; and only 30 percent of the vast property will actually be developed. The rest of the land will be preserved as parks and conservation, with footpaths, horsetrails and cart paths following the natural contours of the woods and wetlands.

Harmony's residents will have full fire and police protection, and a charter school, which is already open and functioning, will grow to include grades K-8. Construction has already begun on a new public high school on 70 acres donated by Harmony.

"Good schools that kids and parents can walk to are so vital to encouraging a real community," Lentz said. "That's why we began building the schools before we had broken ground on the first home."

A downtown commercial district with broad streets and walkways will host restaurants, shops, theaters, cultural amenities, an aquatic center, a community tavern and other facilities that will draw residents together. Architectural flourishes, no matter how subtle, have been painstakingly considered.

ENERGY-10 Version 1.6 Release

The Sustainable Buildings Industry Council recently released the new Energy-10 Version 1.6 CD ROM and installation manual. Developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with the support of the U.S.Department of Energy, Energy-10 Version 1.6 offers additional new features, as well as fixes a few bugs found in Version 1.5.

Registered users can get a Version 1.6 Upgrade from SBIC.


Fuel Cells Popping Up on Long Island

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) is moving ahead with it's effort to install distributed generation. The most recent push includes a fuel cell at a McDonald's restaurant partially powered by a Plug Power, Inc. fuel cell. In addition, LIPA will purchase an additional 45 fuel cell systems for installation across Long Island this year, for the first time installing them in homes.

Twenty-five of the 5-kW fuel cell systems will be installed at LIPA's West Babylon Fuel Cell Demonstration Site, which currently contains fuel cell systems feeding directly into the Long Island electrical grid. The remaining 20 systems will generate on-site heat and power for single or multi-family residential sites, for the first time in LIPA's service territory.

The McDonald's fuel cell was installed by LIPA as part of its alternative energy technologies research and development program, which is part of its Clean Energy Initiative (CEI). In addition to its grid-connection program for fuel cells at its West Babylon substation, LIPA has also been placing Plug Power fuel cells at various commercial locations around Long Island, including Hofstra University, and Babylon and East Hampton Town Halls.

Kessel said that he hoped that thousands of Long Island homes and businesses eventually have fuel cells to relieve LIPA of some of the resources needed to build additional on-island power plants.


DOE Plans Another Solar Decathlon

The Department of Energy will conduct its second Solar Decathlon in 2005. The Solar Decathlon is an intercollegiate design competition among student teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses. The 2005 competition will be held in Washington, D.C., and is open exclusively to colleges, universities and other post-secondary educational institutions. The first Solar Decathlon, a student competition to design and build an energy self-sufficient house on Washington's National Mall, was held in 2002.

Participants in the 2005 event will be selected through a proposal process, with as many as 18 teams chosen based on the quality of their submissions. Teams will receive $5,000 each to offset costs. Institutions interested in competing in 2005 should review the Request for Proposal. Proposals must be submitted by April 30, 2003.

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