Green Building News

Green Building News February 2004

February 25, 2004

Emissions of Building Materials Subject of Study

Certain recycled materials generate no more indoor pollution than conventional materials according to a study recently conducted by the California Department of Health Services. Seventy-seven materials were tested, including acoustical ceiling panels, carpet, fiberboard, gypsum board, paint, particleboard, plastic laminates, resilient flooring, tackable wall panels, thermal insulation and wall base. Thirty-four of these products were identified as "standard" materials, while 43 were labeled "alternative" (most had high percentages of recycled content). The tests were conducted according to California's Section 01350 specification with loading and ventilation rates consistent with a classroom and an office. In general, the indoor air emissions from alternative products were no different than from standard products. Interesting results from the study:

  • Both linoleum products generated levels of acetaldehyde that were four times the 3150 standard. Acetaldehyde irritates the respiratory tract and may be carcinogenic.
  • Two brands of fiberglass insulation exceeded the 3150 threshold for formaldehyde -- including one that was advertised as formaldehyde free.
  • Emissions from one carpet sample bearing the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) “Green Label” exceeded CRI’s published 24-hr emissions criteria for the label and another sample was just below these criteria. This is noteworthy since the test results reported here were obtained after a 10-day conditioning period followed by a 4-day test period. CRI’s tests are 24-hr-based with no prior conditioning.
  • In general, the recycled-content products exceeded the emissions standard as much as standard products. Neither group did better than the other.
  • In the fiberboard, particleboard and gypsum board categories, the standard products exceeded the concentration limits, while the alternative products did not.
  • Naphthalene, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde were the chemicals most frequently exceeding the standard.

The full report -- Building Material Emissions Study -- is available from the California Waste Management Board Web site.

Report Quantifies Costs and Benefits of Green Building

A new economic analysis conducted for California's Sustainable Building Task Force -- the most comprehensive green building cost benefit analysis completed to date -- sustainable design features can be included with little or no increase in construction costs. The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings: A Report to California's Sustainable Building Task Force , "finds that an upfront investment of less than two percent of construction costs yields life cycle savings of over ten times the initial investment."

Integrating “sustainable” or “green” building practices into the construction of state buildings is a solid financial investment. A minimal upfront investment of about two percent of construction costs typically yields life cycle savings of over ten times the initial investment. For example, an initial upfront investment of up to $100,000 to incorporate green building features into a $5 million project would result in a savings of at least $1 million over the life of the building, assumed conservatively to be 20 years.

The financial benefits of green buildings include lower energy, waste disposal, and water costs, lower environmental and emissions costs, lower operations and maintenance costs, and savings from increased productivity and health. Some savings, such as energy cost reductions which can be measured and monitored, are predictable within a reasonable margin of error. Other gains, such as worker productivity and health improvements, are not precisely understood and more difficult to predict.

Nevertheless, the overall return on the sustainable design features exceeds the costs. In fact, energy savings alone exceed the average increased cost associated with building green.


Model Green Home Building Guidelines Initiative Launched

Over the last 15 years, at least a dozen local and regional green building programs have been launched around the U.S. Recently, the Leadership in Energy& Environmental Design (LEED) certification program announced an effort to create a residential program to complement its well-regarded program for commercial buildings. Last month, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the NAHB Research Center announced plans to create yet another green builder effort called Model Green Home Building Guidelines. While most regional programs helped establish niches for green building, this new effort aims to bring green building to the mainstream market across the nation.

A new set of green building guidelines intends to set a nationally-recognized baseline for determining minimum thresholds for resource-efficient, cost-effective home building that are practical for the entire industry. The new guidelines will be developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the NAHB Research Center to address the mainstream housing market.

"The Model Green Home Building Guidelines will take ‘green’ to the mainstream," said Ray Tonjes, NAHB Green Building Subcommittee chair and home builder. "We will ensure that all home builders, not just a few niche builders, better understand green building techniques and technologies. The home building community around the country can use them for their own specific, regionally distinct green home building efforts."

By Fall 2004, a "stakeholder group" will develop guidelines that address land development, site planning, resource efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, operations maintenance and home owner education. NAHB and the NAHB Research Center will provide the technical expertise in the guideline development process as well as a forum for builders to exchange green building ideas, initiatives and opportunities for potential collaboration.


PATH Unveils "Top 10" Building Technologies

The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) has created a "Top 10" list of building technologies based on their strengths in one or more of the following areas: quality and durability; energy efficiency; environmental performance; safety and disaster mitigation; and affordability. In addition, the "Top 10" are all proven, practical, easy-to-use, and quickly gaining acceptance with builders. The 10 technologies on this list are:

Frost Protected Shallow Foundations
Home Run Plumbing Systems
Engineered Panelized Systems
HVAC Optimization
Tankless Water Heaters
Shared (Community) Waste Water treatment
Air Admittance Vents
Low Impact Development
Integrated Steel/Wood Combination Framing
Pre-cast Concrete Panels (Walls & Foundation)

Visit the PATH Web site for additional information the Top 10 Technologies.


Bonded Logic Plans New LEED-Certified Factory

Bonded Logic, Inc., manufacturer of UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation, plans to make its new manufacturing plant meet Leadership in Energy& Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The 108,000 sq. ft. facility to be built this year in Chandler, AZ, is being constructed to meet the growing demand for Bonded Logic’s natural fiber insulation products.

Green building consultant, Charlie Popeck of Green Ideas, a LEED accredited professional and host of the PBS green building television series “Build It Green,” will oversee the LEED aspect of the building process in conjunction with Bonded Logic.

“We are very excited to become one of the few LEED Certified manufacturing facilities that also makes a product that may contribute to credits within the LEED ratings system,” said Scott Tonkinson, Marketing/Advertising Manager of Bonded Logic. “The standards that we set for ourselves here at Bonded Logic coincide well with the LEED Ratings Program so it seemed logical to take the next step and achieve a LEED Certified rating for our new facility. We are members of the USGBC as well as founding sponsors of our local Arizona USGBC chapter. We look forward to experiencing the LEED Ratings Program from both perspectives, as a supplier of insulation that may assist in earning LEED credits and now as a building owner trying to achieve LEED certification.”

Bonded Logic currently manufactures UltraTouch, a LEED eligible, environmentally safe, non-itch insulation made from natural fibers. It offers acoustic and thermal performance without using fiberglass, formaldehyde or chemical irritants.


Village Begins Global Commerce in Certified Wood Products

Pueblo Nuevo of Durango has become the first community in Mexico to sell its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber to a major international furniture company. In December, they delivered a container of furniture parts to SitWell, a company that manufactures sofas for the international IKEA company.

“This achievement ensures employment for qualified local labor, increased added value for the wood, a direct deal without unnecessary intermediaries and greater direct economic benefits for the community of Pueblo Nuevo, said Juan de Dios Bermúdez, Coordinator of the Market Relations and Forestry Production Program of the Rainforest Alliance in the state of Durango.

A total of 208,863 acres (84,560 hectares) of forests owned by the Pueblo Nuevo community are certified by SmartWood/FSC.

“IKEA is fulfilling its commitment to buy products from soundly managed forests, and the Pueblo Nuevo community is demonstrating its capacity to capture part of the international market's growing demand for certified wood,” explains Abraham Guillén, Head of Market Development for the Rainforest Alliance's TREES Program (Training, Research, Extension, Education and Systems of Certification). “The fact that the Pueblo Nuevo community has caught IKEA's attention to begin a mutually beneficial commercial relationship is proof that community forestry operations in Mexico can be competitive globally, as long as the demand for certified products matches their sustainable supply capacities and available resources.” 

As part of this initiative, Durango's community forestry operations have received support from a number of organizations working with the Rainforest Alliance, including the International Program of the US Forest Service and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which have stimulated the development of forestry management capacities, product quality and marketing in Mexico.


Group Sets Site on Energy Independence, Job Growth

An unusual alliance of labor, environmental, civil rights, business and political leaders today laid out a vision for a "New Apollo Project" to create 3.3 million new jobs and achieve energy independence in ten years. Named after President Kennedy's moon program, which inspired a major national commitment to the aerospace industry, the Apollo Alliance aims to unify the country behind a ten-year program of strategic investment for clean energy technology and new infrastructure.

The Alliance also announced that it has received support from 17 of America's largest labor unions, including the United Auto Workers, the Steelworkers and Machinists, as well as a broad cross section of the environmental movement, including the Sierra Club, the NRDC, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace.

Dr. Ray Perryman, a corporate economist from Texas who prepared a detailed economic analysis of the proposal for a New Apollo Project said, "If economists agree on anything it's that inventing new technologies and creating whole new industries is what America does best. We are a creative economy, not a commodity economy. The New Apollo Project would keep us on the cutting edge of manufacturing emerging technologies and secure our long-term prosperity."

Perryman concluded that the proposed tax credits and investments would create 3.3 million new, high-wage jobs for manufacturing, construction, transportation, high-tech, and public sector workers, while reducing dependence on imported oil and cleaning the air. Perryman's analysis shows that a New Apollo Project would also position the U.S. to take the lead in fast-growing markets, dramatically reduce the trade deficit and more than pay for itself in energy savings and returns to the U.S. Treasury. Perryman's study was based on an input-output analysis of impacts on key industry sectors, using a highly regarded economic model and extensive survey data.


Zero-Energy Home Appears at Builders' Show

Homebuilders attending the 2004 International Builders' Show saw a new kind of home -- a highly energy-efficient Zero Energy Home that produces as much electricity as it uses over the course of a year.

A Zero Energy Home combines renewable energy technologies with advanced energy-efficient construction. Like almost all homes, a Zero Energy Home is connected to the utility grid. Because the home produces about as much energy as it consumes during a year, it is considered to achieve "net zero" energy consumption.

Called the Ultimate Family Home, the whopping 5,300-square-foot custom home was built by Pardee Homes and designed by Bassenian/Lagoni Architects. The National Association of Home Builders selected it to serve as a show home for the annual builders' convention and show in partnership with Builder Magazine and Home Magazine.

"The Ultimate Family Home shows that energy efficiency and solar energy can be incorporated into attractive homes that come with all of the features homebuyers are looking for," said Tim Merrigan, Zero Energy Homes program manager at NREL.

The location of the 2004 show -- Las Vegas -- is ideal for building a home powered by the southwestern sun. Photovoltaic panels on the rooftop provide electricity, and a solar water heating system provides hot water. A highly efficient air conditioning system combined with good insulation, air sealing and advanced windows keeps the home comfortable. The home will use 90 percent less energy than a similar home built strictly to code.

Pardee already constructs all of its homes to exceed Energy Star® standards through the ComfortWiseSM program developed by ConSol.

DOE started the Zero Energy Homes initiative to bring the latest research out of its national laboratories and into homes. NREL scientists and engineers are working with four teams to introduce the Zero Energy Homes concept into the single-family, new-home construction industry. In addition to ConSol (Stockton, Calif.), the teams include Davis Energy Group (Davis, Calif.), NAHB Research Center (Upper Marlboro, Md.), and Steven Winter Associates (Norwalk, Conn.).

Other Zero Energy Homes projects in the region include Clarum Homes' Vista Montana community in Watsonville, Calif., Morrison Homes' Lakeside community in Elk Grove, Calif., and the Armory Park del Sol neighborhood, built by John Wesley Miller Companies in Tucson, Ariz.


New Construction Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities

Around the clock operation, infection control requirements, intensive energy and water requirements and a strict regulatory environment make healthcare facilities especially challenging when designers attempt to apply sustainable design principles. Designers, owners and operators will soon have a self-certifying metric tool to benchmark their progress toward creating healing environments that are also sustainable. The tool is called Green Guidelines for Healthcare Construction™ (GGHC™) and is being developed with the support of the Merck Family Fund. Building on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 2.1 structure, these new guidelines respond to many issues unique to healthcare facilities and address operations and maintenance as well as construction. The current draft of GGHC identifies 106 total points compared to 69 in LEED 2.1. Public comments on the draft are being accepted until February 29th. More information and the comment form can be found on the GGHC Web site.


EPA Announces Sustainability Competition

To respond to the scientific and technical needs of the developed and developing world in moving toward sustainability, EPA Assistant Administrator for Research and Development Paul Gilman and President of the National Academy of Engineering William Wulf have launched the P3 Award. This national student design competition will enable college students to research, develop and design sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. Support for the competition includes more than 27 partners in the federal government, industry, and scientific and professional societies.

Up to 50 awards will be made for a maximum of $10,000 per team in the autumn of 2004. The money will be used for research and development of the team’s sustainable design during the academic year. In spring 2005, all teams will be invited to bring their designs to Washington, D.C. to compete for the P3 Award. The National Academy of Engineering will convene a panel of judges for the competition.

P3 highlights three components of sustainability: People, prosperity and the planet. Fundamental to the success of any sustainable design are relevant social, economic and environmental considerations that are key for this award.

The P3 competition is scheduled to open in January for students attending colleges, universities and other post-secondary educational institutions. Interdisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged, including representatives from multiple engineering departments and/or departments of chemistry, architecture, industrial design, economics, policy, social sciences, business, etc.

The closing date for applications is March 25, 2004. More information about the competition can be found on the Internet at the P3 Award Web site.


Housing Design Competition, Norwalk Connecticut

In response to the need for below-market-rate housing in the City of Norwalk, Connecticut, the Housing Authority of the City of Norwalk (NHA) is sponsoring a housing design competition for exemplary site and unit plans for first-time homebuyers, entry- and mid-level professionals, and fixed-income seniors.

The site for the design competition is an existing 7.6-acre parcel of land located north of West Cedar Street in Norwalk. It is currently an open plot of land bordered by housing developments that, for the most part, are buffered from the site by heavy vegetation. The site currently contains an active community center shared by the residents of the neighboring development. The competition program calls for the design of a new community center, which will also serve the residents of the adjacent community. All units will be designed for home ownership in a townhouse- or garden-apartment-style.


EPA Accepting Proposals for Contractor Certification Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting proposals to develop a national certification program for contractors who can deliver whole house energy efficiency improvements in existing homes. The certification -- linked to the ENERGY STAR® Program for existing homes -- shall address all major energy related systems in homes and improvements that can lead to reduced air pollution and energy savings for consumers. Proposals shall also address quality assurance mechanisms, national delivery of the program and the impact that certified whole house contractors can have on reducing energy consumption/carbon emissions and enhancing state and local energy efficiency programs. EPA has allotted up to $1,000,000 for this grant. More information is available on the Grants and Funding page of the EPA Web site under the heading “Office of Atmospheric Programs” The solicitation number is RFA# OAR-CPPD-04-02."


$ 1M Prize Promotes Sustainability Around the World

The Alcan Prize for Sustainability is a US $1 million Prize to be awarded each year to any not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, based anywhere in the world, for their contributions to economic, environmental or social sustainability. The Prize recognizes past performance and helps winning organizations continue to contribute to sustainability through their ongoing activities. The closing date for entries is March 31, 2004. 

The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) is managing the program on behalf of Alcan Inc.  An international panel of distinguished judges, Chaired by José-Maria Figueres, Co-CEO of the World Economic Forum and former president of Costa Rica, will review the accomplishments and intentions of applicants and select an annual winner.

The judging panel will also determine which applicants merit Alcan Bursaries.  Alcan Bursaries are redeemable for a suitably qualified senior member of staff to attend the University of Cambridge Program for Industry in England and earn a Post Graduate Certificate in Cross Sector Partnership.


Kresge Foundation Announces Green Building Grants

The Kresge Foundation in known for its philanthropic support of capital projects for non-profit organizations. In 2004, they are adding design assistance specifically for green building through a limited number of planning and bonus grants, educational materials and green building workshops. A fact sheet describing the planning grant requests is available from the Kresge Foundation Web site.

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