Green Building News

Green Building News June 2003

June 12, 2003

Oil, Money and Security Connections Revealed in New Report

Americans spent $285 billion on transportation fuel in the year 2000-about as much as on national defense-according to a new report issued today by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The report, "U.S. Energy Security Facts," makes clear that the U.S. can alleviate the vulnerabilities and costs of its oil supply by using oil in efficient, money-saving ways.
The report's author, physicist Amory B. Lovins, said: "The Iraq war, the economic downturn and the ongoing Congressional energy policy debate make this a ripe time to refocus attention on reducing America's energy vulnerability by increasing her energy efficiency. Efficiency doesn't require sacrifice, it makes money, it makes sense and it's the fastest, most powerful way we know to shift to energy sources that can't be cut off."

The report documents energy's diverse threats and costs and highlights the potential for achieving large and rapid gains in U.S. oil efficiency. Almost unnoticed, since 1975 the U.S. has doubled the economic activity wrung from each barrel of oil. Overall energy savings, worth about $365 billion in 2000 alone, are effectively the nation's biggest and fastest-growing energy "source," providing two-fifths of all energy services-equivalent to 1.65 times the total amount of oil use or 12 times the amount imported from the Persian Gulf. Without gains in energy productivity since 1975, energy consumption in the United States would have grown by 253 percent more than it did.

Rather than further developing this enormous and largely unexploited "efficiency resource," federal energy policy continues to focus on subsidizing and expanding the least competitive options-supplying more fossil and nuclear energy. The oil industry has dwindling reserves, falling output and rising costs (including military), while the efficiency industry has expanding reserves, rising output and falling costs.

The report finds that during 1977-85, GDP rose 27 percent, oil use fell 17 percent, net oil imports fell 42 percent and imports from the Persian Gulf fell 87 percent. If the country had repeated that 5.2 percent annual gain in oil productivity starting in 1/2000, Persian Gulf imports could have been eliminated by 5/2002.

In 1991, the Gulf War cost the U.S. $61 billion, of which allies reimbursed $54 billion. If the nation had invested just the remaining $7 billion in the cheapest available oil savings, the country could have displaced all of the oil it now imports from the Gulf.

The budget for the Iraq war through June 2003 exceeds $80 billion. Since 1975, oil imports have cost Americans over $2 trillion.

To download a free copy of U.S. "Energy Security Facts," visit the RMI Library.


AIA Names Top Ten Sustainable Projects

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) have selected 10 examples of architectural and "green" design solutions that protect and enhance the environment. The selected projects address significant environmental challenges with designs that integrate architecture, technology and natural systems. The top ten projects make a positive contribution to their community, improve comfort for building occupants and reduce environmental impacts through strategies such as: reuse of existing structures, connection to transit systems, low-impact site development, energy and water conservation, use of "green" construction materials and design that improves indoor air quality.

The AIA's Committee on the Environment represents more than 5300 AIA members committed to making sustainable design integral to the practice of architecture. The sixth annual AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects initiative was developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Building News magazine.

The Jury selected projects that cover a broad spectrum of project types. Facilities include both new construction and renovation of office, retail, residential, academic and institutional facilities. The panel of jurors included: Peter Bohlin, FAIA, of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson; Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, of Ross Barney + Jankowsky; Drury Crawley, AIA, U.S. Department of Energy; Jacqueline Rose, AIA, Environmental Protection Agency; and Douglas Kelbaugh, FAIA, University of Michigan.

The jury was impressed by the range of building types and sizes among the applicants. "The variety we saw was encouraging. The profession is clearly beginning to address sustainability in increasingly sophisticated and effective design solutions. Whether reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, peak energy loads to lessen demand on the power grid, using stormwater on site to eliminate run-off, conserving building water, or preserving wetlands, these buildings also promise to enhance the level of comfort and amenity for the people who inhabit them. In future years, the jury recommends broadening the competition scope to include an additional open category of submissions such as research, best practices, urban design and land use studies and educational resources."

The Top Ten are shown below with links to a detailed case study on the Dept of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site. Similar information is also available at the AIA Web site.

Argonne Child Development Center
450 Architects
San Francisco, CA
Notable Features: no mechanical cooling, minimal supplemental heating, strong daylighting, site design
Chicago Center for Green Technology
Farr Associates Architecture and Urban Design
Chicago, Ill.
Notable Features: redevelopment of blighted site, LEED Platinum, strong energy efficiency, recycled materials, storm water management, building integrated PV
Colorado Court
Pugh Scarpa Kodama
Santa Monica, Calif.
Notable Features: combined heat and power system, building-integrated PV, storm water management
Cusano Environmental Education Center
Susan Maxman & Partners, Ltd
Philadelphia, Penn.
Notable Features: on-site wastewater treatment, energy efficiency, recycled materials, site restoration
Fisher Pavilion
Miller|Hull Partnership, LLP
Seattle, Wash.
Notable Features: LEED Silver, earth sheltered, site integration
Herman Miller Marketplace
Integrated Architecture
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Notable Features: LEED Gold, energy efficiency, daylighting, recycled carpet, agricultural fiber board, storm water management
Hidden Villa Hostel & Summer Camp
Arkin Tilt Architects
Albany, Calif.
Notable Features: passive solar, rammed earth, ground-source heat pump with radiant floor heat
San Mateo County Sheriff's Forensic Laboratory and Coroner's Office
Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum
San Francisco, Calif.
Notable Features: energy efficiency, daylighting, roof-mounted PV
Steinhude Sea Recreation Facility
Randall Stout Architects
Los Angeles, Calif.
Notable Features: energy self sufficient, PV, seed oil fueled combined heat and power system, solar water heating, passive solar, daylighting, graywater
Wine Creek Road Residence
Siegel & Strain Architects
Emeryville, Calif.
Notable Features: zero mechanical cooling, natural ventilation,


Green Roof Awards Announced

Six projects were awarded the first set of "Green Roof Awards of Excellence" at the first green roof conference in North America recently held in Chicago. Of the six winners five were in the U.S: Baltimore, Maryland; San Bruno, California; Shorewood, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Canadian winner was a project in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The term "green roof" applies to a multi-layered system that includes a waterproof membrane, a drainage plane, soil and living plants. The systems are generally installed on commercial buildings in larger cities where their ability to store storm water and their cooling benefits are most valuable.

See the awards on the "Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities" Web site.


Vinyl Industry Withdraws Legal Challenge to Green Tax Credit

Upset that its products were not eligible for the State of New York's green building tax credit, Resilient Floor Covering Institute and Tarkett, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the State claiming that flooring products made of polyvinyl chloride were indeed "green." However, they withdrew their suit after the State produced a large stack of affidavits from experts disputing the claim. Another factor may have also played a part in the choice to end costly litigation. To receive a tax credit, only 50 percent of the floor area need be covered with an approved product. Presumably, the other half could be vinyl.

A state law passed in 2000 provides tax credits to owners and tenants of buildings constructed to meet environmentally-beneficial and energy-efficient standards. The PVC industry sued the state in October 2002 for not giving green building tax credits to PVC plastic flooring. The state did not include PVC plastic flooring in the program because of serious environmental and public health concerns related to its production, use and disposal.

In mid-May 2003, the Attorney General's Office filed detailed legal papers defending the merits of the tax credit program. Oral arguments in the case were scheduled for June 6th. However, the makers of PVC flooring withdrew their lawsuit on May 29, ensuring that the green building tax credit program will stand.

"The Green Building Tax Credit provides a worthy incentive to encourage builders, architects and consumers to use environmentally sound building products," said Attorney General Spitzer. "It is distressing that the makers of PVC plastic flooring attempted to gut this pioneering program. I commend them for withdrawing their lawsuit and allowing this important initiative to remain in place."

The state regulations provide tax credits for environmentally sound products including flooring materials such as linoleum, cork and bamboo, but not PVC plastic flooring.

Vinyl chloride, the building block of PVC plastic, is a known human carcinogen and it may pose health risks to workers who manufacture the material. Also, PVC plastic can produce hazardous chemicals when burned in garbage incinerators and backyard burn barrels. PVC poses serious risks of chemical exposure to firefighters battling blazes in buildings that have PVC building products. Even under normal conditions, PVC plastics release low levels of toxic chemicals into the air.


New Studies on Indoor Material Emissions Released

California agencies recently released two draft reports on building material emissions and indoor air quality in schools.

Materials Emissions Testing Study
This research adopted the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) Section 01350 indoor air quality guideline as the testing protocol to test emissions of products common to classrooms and State construction in comparison to the emissions of alternative materials such as recycled-content and environmentally preferable products. The full Materials Emission Testing Study report and an executive summary are available from the California Integrated Waste Management Board's Web Site. An errata document (MS Word) provided by Hal Levin shows that additional products exceeded the emission limits.

California Portable Classrooms Study
The Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Department of Health Services (DHS) are jointly conducting the California Portable Classrooms Study, with the main research field effort conducted by Research Triangle Institute. Based on the research study results and other available information, the ARB and the DHS staff have developed a draft report that includes recommendations for preventing or reducing unhealthful environmental conditions in California classrooms.


Maryland Governor Ehrlich Plans To Veto Energy-Saving Bill

Governor Robert Ehrlich's office announced last month the Governor's intention to veto the Maryland Energy Efficiency Standards Act. This bill, which passed General Assembly with an overwhelming majority in April, sets energy efficiency standards for nine categories of new products and equipment sold in Maryland beginning in 2005.

Members of the Maryland environmental, consumer, and business communities, including Constellation Energy, support the bill. With most of the products covered by the bill consisting of commercial equipment, Maryland businesses would reap the majority of the bill's energy savings.

If allowed to become law, the bill would reduce peak summer electric use in Maryland by over 200 megawatts in 2010 and by over 400 megawatts in 2020. The electricity saved in 2010 alone would be enough to meet the needs of some 75,000 typical Maryland households that year. By 2020, these energy savings would reduce the emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides by over 2 million pounds per year, while making significant reductions in emissions of gasses that contribute to global warming.

The nine specific products are (1) torchiere lighting fixtures; (2) ceiling fans; (3) low-voltage dry-type distribution transformers; (4) commercial refrigerators and freezers; (5) traffic signal modules; (6) illuminated exit signs; (7) large packaged air-conditioning equipment; (8) unit heaters; and (9) commercial clothes washers. The energy consumption of television set-top boxes is to be studied further by the Maryland Energy Administration.


SCS Releases Pilot Standard for Carpet

Scientific Certification Systems released its pilot standard for Environmentally Preferable Carpet. The standard, titled "Standard Specification for the Evaluation and Certification of Environmentally Preferable Carpet," was developed by SCS as part of its ongoing efforts to improve the environmental performance of building and construction products. Products such as these play a significant role with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The public comment period closes on July 21, 2003. An initial draft of the standard was previously circulated to key stakeholder groups for review and comment. The SCS carpet standard applies to all broadloom and tile carpet products used in residential, commercial, and institutional applications.

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