Green Building News

Green Building News September 2003

September 17, 2003

Boise Cascade Statement Sets New Industry Standard

Boise Cascade has become the first major U.S. forest products company to adopt a comprehensive environmental statement for its operations and the first distributor of wood and paper products to extend an environmental policy to its suppliers. The statement reflects the company's heightened commitment to environmental leadership and was developed with input from environmental groups including Rainforest Action Network, American Lands Alliance and the National Forest Protection Alliance.

The statement highlights Boise's commitment to work with environmental groups to successfully eliminate the purchase of wood products from endangered areas and give purchasing preference to suppliers who provide wood products from certified, well-managed forests whenever feasible. Among other provisions, the statement includes Boise's assurance that its purchase of logs, pulpwood and chips will strengthen efforts to thwart illegal logging.

"This statement formalizes Boise's commitment to environmental stewardship by linking the company's broad and varied environmental activities into a unified statement," said George Harad, Boise's chairman and chief executive officer.

Jennifer Krill, Old Growth Campaigns Director for Rainforest Action Network, said, "Boise has become the first American forest products company to adopt an international policy to help protect endangered forests. With such strong leadership from Boise and its customers, we expect it's only a matter of time before the rest of the industry follows suit."


PVC Industry Abandons Challenge of Green Building Rules

A PVC industry group has dropped its challenge to rules governing New York's green building tax credit program that failed to include vinyl flooring as a preferred material.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin Crotty today announced that the manufacturers of polyvinyl (PVC) plastic flooring have withdrawn their lawsuit challenging New York's first-in-the-nation "green building" tax credit program for construction materials.
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 vinyl (PVC) flooring. The state did not include vinyl flooring in the program because of serious environmental and public health concerns related to its production, use and disposal.

The lawsuit was filed by the PVC trade group Resilient Floor Covering Institute and Tarkett, Inc., a producer of PVC plastic flooring. 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 would stand.

"The Green Building Tax Credit provides a worthy incentive to encourage builders, architects and consumers to use environmentally sound building products," said New York Attorney General Elliot 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 vinyl 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 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 release low levels of toxic chemicals into the air.


Energy Department Revises Test Procedure for Dishwashers

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will publish a final rule updating the test procedure used to measure the energy consumption of dishwashers. The new rule responds to changes in dishwasher technology, and will challenge “smart” soil-sensing dishwashers with a realistic test load of soiled dishes and provide more accurate energy ratings that consumers can use to compare the energy costs of dishwasher models.

Manufacturers use the Energy Department’s test procedures for residential appliances such as dishwashers to calculate the annual energy use and energy cost of every model sold.  This energy information provides the core data for the Federal Trade Commission’s EnergyGuide labels, the basic tool that consumers use to evaluate the energy efficiency of different appliances.

Soil-sensing dishwashers use a variety of sensing technologies to determine how much food remains in the dish load and to select an appropriately long or short wash cycle.  Where DOE’s original test procedure using clean dishes did not trigger the sensing technology, the new test procedure uses three specified loads of food-soiled dishes to approximate realistic home use.  The energy rating will more accurately represent the energy consumption of a dishwasher under normal operating conditions.  Non-soil-sensing dishwashers without sensors will still be tested using a test load of clean dishes.

For the first time, the new test procedure will also require the measurement of standby energy consumption in any dishwasher model using standby power.  Manufacturers must report that energy as part of the total estimated annual operating cost.


Wanted: Naturally Ventilated Buildings

The Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory at the University of Oregon is preparing a white paper on natural ventilation. As part of this effort, they are gathering information on buildings successfully using natural ventilation for case studies. They are most interested in buildings that are well designed in terms of both architecture and energy -- natural ventilation should be one facet of the overall excellent design. If the building is selected as exemplary, full credit will be given to the design team. We are looking for buildings in the Pacific Northwest, especially offices, libraries and schools that use cross or stack ventilation alone or in concert with mechanical ventilation to:

  • provide fresh air to occupants
  • remove heat
  • cool people
  • cool mass (as in night ventilation of mass)
  • or any combination of these.

For more information, contact Emily Wright.


Software Models Natural Ventilation in Major Office Building

EnergyPlus software -- a building energy-simulation program distributed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory -- was used to the design of San Francisco's new federal office building, contributing to nearly $9 million in energy savings projected over 20 years, according to Tim Christ, project manager for the building's lead design firm, Morphosis. The new building will use natural ventilation to provide cooling without the use of fans or refrigeration. Erin McConshey of Arup, the project's engineering consultants, says, "Basically, other energy-simulation programs can't deal with the natural ventilation issues. The combination of airflow and energy modeling in a single package not only allowed us to predict energy performance, but also to calculate surface temperatures, track air change rates, and predict thermal comfort. The Berkeley Lab modeling tool provided crucial corroboration of our design work." Implementing natural ventilation required completely rethinking conventional interior office design: cellular offices and other enclosed spaces were situated along the building's spine while the open-plan space was located around the exterior. The enclosed offices have lowered false ceilings with space above to allow air driven by wind pressure to flow from one side of the building to the other.    Read the full story in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's EETD News, Winter 2003, p 1, by Robin Johnston.


Bush Administration Quietly Cuts Energy Star Programs

Even while touting the Energy Star Program as a successful collaboration with the private sector, the Bush Administration had quietly shifted its funds to other programs. According to an article published by Environment News Service, former EPA Administrator Christine Whitman shifted money to other EPA programs specifically mandated by Congress. Energy Star enjoyed no specific mandate and provided an available source of funds. A 25 percent budget shortfall caused cancellation of contracts, postponement of some projects and abandonment of others.

The funding shift occurred even as Administrator Whitman and other administration officials repeatedly praised Energy Star for saving billions of dollars in energy costs by helping businesses develop energy conservation plans and by promoting energy efficient products and building materials. The program was called a "shining example" of cooperation between business and government that created $70 in benefit for each dollar spent on the program.

Citing an anonymous source close to the agency, ENS said that budget cuts to the EPA overall forced the agency to move Energy Star funds into mandated programs. That left Energy Star with only $37.5 million, $12.5 million less than Bush requested and Congress approved. ENS reported that a EPA budget official acknowledged that money was shifted, but declined to give the amount. The White House recently directed that $7 million be restored to Energy Star, setting off a scramble to find the funds within the agency's budget.


INVISTA Donates Global Warming Credits

INVISTA, formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors, the manufacturer of Antron® carpet fiber, are retiring 2,258 pounds of global warming credits to offset emissions caused by energy use at the Symposium on Healthcare Design in Boston, Mass., on Sept. 17-20, 2003. The credits represent a reduction from the INVISTA Sabine River Plant in Orange, Tex., equivalent to 700,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

"Through our efforts, we have offset global warming emissions caused by the 2002 USGBC conference, the EnvironDesign7 conference, NeoCon® 2003, and the Symposium on Healthcare Design this year," said Vivek Bhide, Healthcare Segment manager for Antron®.

Global warming credits are awarded to companies that take action to reduce pollutant emissions. Credits can typically be sold, traded or banked for future use. Rather than trading these emission credits, INVISTA has chosen to donate the credits to Leonardo Academy, a non-profit organization dedicated to putting the competitive market to work on improving the environment. Through the organization's Cleaner and Greener(SM) program, the credits will be retired, offsetting the amount of pollution that is discharged to the atmosphere from travel, hotels, utilities, and all potential emissions connected to the Symposium on Healthcare Design 2003.


Redeveloped Strip Mall Concept Wins Design Competition

McCormick, Smith & Others in collaboration with Lloyd Russell, AIA has been selected as the winner of the National Endowment for the Arts “Innovations in Community Design and Housing Competition” sponsored by Livable Places, Inc. McCormick, Smith & Others were selected from a pool of over 90 architectural firms nationwide. The five finalists included, Brian Healy Architects, Boston, MA; Behnisch, Behnisch & Partners, Germany and Venice, CA, Blackbird Architects, Santa Barbara, CA; Central Office of Architecture, Los Angeles, CA, and Touraine & Richmond, Los Angeles, CA.

The McCormick, Smith & Others winning scheme was chosen for its innovative approach to prototypical solutions for the re-use of the low-density commercial “strip-style” corridors that predominate much of the urban landscape in Southern California. Increasing housing along these corridors in concert with the development of pedestrian oriented districts, providing community retail and local services the winning scheme will serve as an improved good neighbor to the traditionally lower-density housing in the blocks behind the commercial corridor and will help revitalize the urban transit corridor.

The 10-acre site along the eastern edge of Long Beach Boulevard is located two blocks north of the Blue Line Light Rail Station at Pacific Coast Highway. While the exploration of the 10-acre master plan area was largely theoretical, Livable Places, Inc. expects to develop Phase I consisting of 50 units of mixed income housing that will be designed by the competition winner. Construction is expected to begin in early 2005. An exhibit of the work of all five of the finalists will be held at the Los Angeles Museum of Architecture and Design in early spring 2004.

Livable Places is a non-profit organization that strives to promote more livable and sustainable communities. It seeks to produce real estate development projects based on sustainable, smart growth principles in the inner city and first-ring suburbs that have suffered from decades of disinvestments. Such projects will emphasize affordable rental and ownership housing in a mixed-use environment and will demonstrate the efficacy of land recycling, compact land use, community development, proximity to transit, and energy efficient design. Livable Places also uses these projects as opportunities to advocate policies and support research that facilitates affordable housing and environmentally sound development.


Spire Solar Introduces Clear Modules

Photovoltaic cells mounted to a clear back sheet create a module that allows sunlight to pass through, casting a dappled pattern on the surfaces behind. Spire Solar Chicago now offers a clear version of its 75-watt PV module and powder-coated frames in a variety of colors to fit architectural and design requirements. The modules recently passed environmental and safety testing by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the Arizona State University's Photovoltaic Test Laboratory. In addition to obtaining UL listing, the modules were also qualified to international stability and performance standards, successfully passing IEC 61215 testing.

"The addition of a clear module to our product line allows Spire Solar Chicago to address the special needs of architects and engineers interested in incorporating photovoltaic modules in building applications, known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics ("BIPV"). The UL listing on the modules allows designers to implement the unique characteristics safely into applications."


United Solar Teams with GenFlex for Flat-roof BIPV

A single-membrane roofing material that also generates electricity is the product of a new collaboration between GenFlex Roofing Systems and United Solar Ovonic. The new product will provide a new solution for low-slope roofing applications that avoids the need for additional structural support or roof penetration. The solution is a combination of Uni-Solar Ovonic’s unique lightweight, flexible, photovoltaic (PV) panels and GenFlex’s durable thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) membrane roofing products.

The Uni-Solar Ovonic/GenFlex solution is designed to maximize flat or low-slope commercial roofing situations without compromising the integrity of the roof or building structure. The PV panels are designed to generate energy from any existing roof space, without requiring additional structural support. Uni-Solar Ovonic and GenFlex deliver the complete PV system design and engineering support.


Organic LEDs Closer to Reality

efficient and revolutionize lighting design, while producing the same high quality white light as traditional light sources.

GE's new technology is based on Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs), which are thin sheets of plastic-like material that emit light when powered by electricity. While the technology is still five to ten years away from commercialization, the GE research team recently overcame one of the significant technical hurdles -- fault tolerance for large area devices. The latest development, which was partially funded by a research contract from the Department of Energy, is a major step forward in creating this new form of solid-state lighting.

OLEDs are a form of solid-state lighting, an alternative to traditional LEDs composed of inorganic materials. OLEDs have the potential to be made in an inexpensive, roll-to-roll manufacturing process. The vision of the GE program is to create sheets of paper-thin lighting devices that can be applied to surfaces similar to wallpapering.

"The vision of this research project is to create sheets of plastic which would be used to form thin, mechanically flexible, flat lighting panels," said Anil Duggal, manager of GE's light energy conversion program, "In only three or four years, OLEDs could be used for specialty applications, such as lights within a car, and, in about 10 years, it could compete with fluorescent lighting. A highly efficient, mechanically flexible OLED lighting product that can be wrapped around objects would save energy and could revolutionize the way that we think about lighting."

Although the incandescent light bulb has been in use for more than a century, OLED technology is only about a decade old, and, to date, most development has concentrated on flat panel displays such as LCD laptop screens, car radio displays or cell phones. However, OLED devices could potentially outperform conventional lighting technologies. Serious scientific challenges remain though, such as increasing the overall surface area, energy efficiency, flexibility of the material, developing a roll-to-roll manufacturing process, as well as extending the operative lifespan of OLED devices.


Efficiency and Renewables Could Reduce Cost of Natural Gas

As natural gas prices soar, a recent study shows how new investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation could begin lowering natural gas prices immediately and help retain manufacturing jobs. The study, prepared by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and commissioned by The Energy Foundation (EF), is called, Impacts of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on Natural Gas Markets.

"This study shows that we can quickly reduce wholesale natural gas prices 10-20 percent and save consumers over $75 billion in the next five years, " stated David Wooley, Vice President of the Energy Foundation. "The fastest, surest way to give gas and electricity consumers relief from spiking energy prices is to enact state and federal policies to expand renewable power generation and to help consumers install more efficient electric and gas appliances, heating and cooling systems."

Specific policy solutions outlined in the study include: update state and federal appliance efficiency standards; require electric utilities to use more renewable power generation; expand rebates and grants to consumers to improve equipment efficiency and install clean on-site power generation; expand federal research and development support for emerging efficiency and renewable generation technologies; and establish tax credits for efficiency and renewable energy investments.

"The study, which is based on a scientific analysis of natural gas markets, outlines the specific benefits that energy efficiency and renewables would provide to our economy by reducing the high energy costs borne by consumers and industry," explained Dr. Neal Elliott, Industry Program Director at ACEEE and co-author of the study. "Contrary to what many are saying, there is something we can do about natural gas prices right now. Increased efficiency and renewable energy can reduce natural gas prices quickly and affordably."

"Along with a robust and diverse supply of energy, increased efficiency is clearly a critically important component of our response to the natural gas crisis," said Peter Molinaro, Dow's Vice President of Government Affairs. "Affordable and available natural gas is critical to the health of American industry, our economy, and the environment. Leaders in the public and private sector need to do everything they can to spur investment in more efficient insulation, appliances, motors, heating and cooling systems, lighting and clean on-site generation."

An increasing share of the electricity generated in the U.S., particularly in the Northeast, South, and on the West Coast, comes from natural gas-fired power plants. The analysis shows that natural gas expenditures by electric power generators would decrease by $6.2 billion in 2004 and by as much as $10.4 billion by 2008. This reduction in natural gas expenditures would reduce electricity rates in these regions, an additional benefit for electric power consumers.

In the wake of the northeastern blackout in August, Wooley of the Energy Foundation said that the policies that help reduce energy prices are consistent with steps needed to avoid future electric system failures. "Energy efficiency and distributed renewable generation lower peak demand on the electric transmission system and reduce the risk of system failures. They make our electric supply more secure without increasing our dependence on fossil fuel imports."

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