Green Building News

Green Building News November 2004

November 15, 2004

Survey Shows Buyers Want Green Materials

Builders and material suppliers can tap the growing and potentially profitable market for green home features, if they market more aggressively, according to an article in Nation's Building News. The article cites a consumer study that echoes a series of similar research results over past decades. Consumer research has repeatedly found a disconnect between what buyers say they want and what builders think buyers are willing to pay for.

The survey was conducted among those who plan to buy a new home or spend more than $10,000 fixing up their current home. Of the consumers questioned, 46 percent said they were eager to include green products in their projects, especially if they saved money. But builders dropped the ball. Only 14 percent of respondents said builders gave them information on the options. Most of those who had not planned green features said it was because they weren't aware of the options.

Eighty-three percent said they chose materials to improve a home's durability, followed by 76 percent who said they wanted to lower operating costs.

Consumers are willing to pay extra, too. Sixty-four percent expressed a willingness to spend up to $1,000 and nearly 20 percent were willing to invest up to $5,000.

Most consumers expect the builder to offer a range of insulation options, including cost and expected savings.

An energy guarantee would encourage 55 percent of the respondents to invest in energy-saving features, such as improved insulation.

The study was performed by the NAHB Research Center for Icynene, maker of environmentally-friendly sprayed-in-place insulation.


Effort Aims to Make Homes Green and Affordable

Two non-profit groups recently made a commitment to create 8,500 affordable homes that are also green. The Green Communities will offer financing, grants and technical assistance to developers to build affordable housing that promotes health, conserves energy and natural resources and provides easy access to jobs, schools and services.

The Green Communities Initiative is a partnership of The Enterprise Foundation/Enterprise Social Investment Corporation (ESIC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and top corporate, financial and philanthropic organizations. Over time, the initiative hopes to transform the way Americans think about, locate, design and build affordable homes.

"Too many Americans live in unhealthy, inefficient and poorly sited housing that hinders them from reaching their full potential," said Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation and chairman of ESIC. "Enterprise and NRDC have forged an unprecedented alliance of housing, health and environmental organizations -- supported by visionary corporate institutions and foundations -- to ensure smarter, healthier homes are available to Americans with limited incomes."

The initiative will provide expert training and technical assistance to help housing developers "go green." For example, it will provide or help arrange technical assistance and training with experienced consultants, as well as fund planning activities for green projects -- such as feasibility analyses and market studies -- and initial architectural, engineering and environmental reviews.

In addition, the Green Communities Initiative will encourage government agencies at the local, state and federal level to "green" their affordable housing programs. For example, Enterprise, NRDC and other partners will work with state agencies to dedicate a significant portion of their federal housing tax credits to healthy, energy-efficient affordable housing sited near public transportation or vital services.

One of green housing's major selling points is that it means healthier homes. "For many families, asthma, injuries and lead poisoning are just symptoms of the underlying problem," said Dr. Megan Sandel, a nationally recognized expert on housing's impact on children's health at the Boston University School of Medicine. "Inadequate housing is the real disease. Safe, decent affordable housing is the best preventive medicine low-income families can get. This initiative will ensure that thousands of homes and the children that reside in them are safer and healthier."


NowHouse Opens

The NowHouse has been built in the parking lot of SBC ballpark in San Francisco and is open for visitors daily from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. through December 20th. The high-tech kit home was designed as a panelized structure and assembled with the help of a robot. It incorporates several technologies that improve energy efficiency, durability and affordability. Examples include:
• home run plumbing
• tankless water heater
• low-flow plumbing fixtures
• greywater reuse
• air admittance vents
• PV roofing
• solar water heaters
• radiant barriers
• HVAC optimization
• mini-duct air distribution system
• high efficiency air conditioners without HCFC
• low impact development techniques
• ENERGY STAR windows, doors, appliances and insulation levels
• bamboo flooring, and
• low- or no-VOC paints
The home incorporates a number of technologies promoted by the Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology (PATH), such as moveable walls. All technologies featured in the NowHouse are available today, and the home can be rapidly constructed.


Dilbert Designs Green Home

People in the construction industry often wonder just how significant the "green building" movement really is. While detailed statistics on market penetration, consumer spending and material sales can be difficult to find, there is one important indicator that green building is on the verge of becoming mainstream. Dilbert has a green home, in a manner of speaking. It's called "Dilbert's Ultimate House" (DUH).
DUH is a virtual web-based home that the famous icon of the workplace Dilbert, his fans, tech geeks, the environmentally conscious, and those who just plain love the comfort of a good sofa, will covet.

"Dilbert is single and needs all the help he can get," said Adams. "He'd design his house to be wife bait. We wanted him to have a house so impressive that some woman would overlook his personality just to live in it."

Packed with energy and water saving elements, easy to maintain, with no wasted "museum rooms", Dilbert's Ultimate House is a sanctuary for both the environmentally concerned and the convenience fanatic alike.

"Dilbert's house turned out so well that I find myself envying an imaginary person," remarked Adams. "I thought I already had every character flaw that existed, and then this came along. It's unsettling, really."

In an attempt to create an "open source" project, Adams called upon his many fans to design an ultimate house. After receiving over 3,000 responses, ranging from the innovative to the absurd, Adams took the most forward thinking, out-of-the box, thoroughly useful house solutions to the engineers and architects of Heartwood Studios. In addition, he enlisted the consultation of PG&E, the primary west-coast gas and electrical company, to receive top energy-efficiency tips.


WATERLESS Introduces Ceramic No-flush Urinals

WATERLESS' new Sierra™ model offers a full ceramic glazed interior 2-inch drain line. No O-rings or housing to accept the trap cartridge are needed. The Sierra™ accepts the company’s standard vertical EcoTrap™ insert, has a standard 2-inch waste outlet and installs to a standard 2-inch drain line via a standard flanged connection. The fixture weighs approximately 43 lbs. and can be individually shipped.

Engineered to out perform one-gallon or even one-half-gallon per flush urinals, WATERLESS No-Flush™ urinals do not require any water or any mechanical parts for flushing. They are more hygienic than conventional urinals precisely because they do not use any water, and are less costly to operate than flushed urinals. Waterless' fixtures are extensively used in high traffic facilities such as schools, factories, offices, restaurants and fairgrounds due to their high maintenance reduction. A WATERLESS urinal saves up to 45,000 gallons and more per year of potable water.

There are no mechanical or electrical parts to be repaired or replaced. All water, sewer, maintenance and installation savings go towards quick repayment of the initial investment. The fixtures are LEED® applicable.


Therma-Stor Announces Two New Indoor Air Quality Products

The Santa Fe HC, a free-standing dehumidifier from Therma-stor is designed to control humidity and filter particulates through a whole house. At the heart of the Santa Fe HC is a high capacity, energy efficient dehumidifier capable of removing over 17 gallons of water per day -- 10 times that of retail store, appliance grade dehumidifiers. The Santa Fe HC maintains indoor humidity levels below 50 percent, the level widely recognized as critical for controlling mold, mildew and dust mite populations.

The Ultra-Aire UA-135H Air Purifying Dehumidifier is a ventilating dehumidifier delivers fresh air ventilation, particulate filtration and humidity control. The energy efficient dehumidifier can remove more than 17 gallons of water per day, maintaining indoor humidity levels below 50 percent.

Both units feature a compact, horizontal enclosure design, ideal for attics and crawl space installations in residential and light commercial buildings, and are capable of conditioning areas up to 3500 square feet. They operate independently or together with an existing forced air system through an optional duct kit.

The UA-135H offers a ventilation mode to mix indoor air with fresh outdoor air. It mixes, filters, and dehumidifies the air prior to introducing into the ductwork system for distribution. The UA-135H features the industry’s only FOCUS Filtration system. The FOCUS Filtration system is designed for direct-couple to the unit itself or remote mounting to facilitate ease of homeowner or contractor filter replacement.


Construction Waste Resource Available

Construction Waste Management Database to assist the building industry in reducing construction and demolition waste. Recyclers of construction and demolition waste may advertise their services free on this site.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each year 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste are generated in the United States. GSA’s Construction Waste Management program promotes the responsible disposal of this waste, including concrete, asphalt, masonry, wood, and other materials, much of which can be recycled or processed for reuse if handled properly.

The database is a free online service for those seeking information on companies that haul, collect and process debris from construction projects. To assist end-users, the database has also been improved to allow searches by state and zip code and by over 15 commonly-recycled construction waste materials. 

The database is currently housed on the Whole Building Design Guide, a web-based portal providing government and industry practitioners with one-stop access to information on a wide range of building-related guidance, criteria and technology. Visit the Whole Building Design Guide at  to learn more.

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