Green Building News

Green Building News June 2005

June 14, 2005

PVC Task Group Seeks Input

The LEED TSAC PVC Task Group is completing its report, taking into account the extensive input in response to the first draft. As part of this process, the group is inviting stakeholders to an online Information Outreach Forum. The Task Group is using this interactive website as a way to reach out to the full stakeholder community with very focused information requests. Each information request resides on its own web page, accessible via links from the Forum home page. Each forum topic page contains the information request written by a PVC Task Group member, and an interactive response forum. The forum topics currently posted are:

  • Disposal practices
  • Structural fires
  • Stabilizers
  • Service life
  • Tumor registry 

Anyone who registers and then logs into this website will be able to post concise information offerings to the information request, by typing them directly into the response forum. Information offerings will be readable by all visitors to the web page. While all information offerings from stakeholders will be automatically posted immediately on the web page for that topic, registered users can also subscribe to any one or more of the forum topics, by clicking on "subscribe" at the bottom of the relevant page.  When a new offering is added in a forum to which you have subscribed, you will receive an email containing the information offering. You can unsubscribe from a forum topic at any time. 

The forum is currently scheduled to remain open for input through June 24. The PVC Task Group members hope that this information outreach forum will, like the stakeholder input which has already been received on the first draft of the report, help to improve the quality and value of the final report. 


Hydronic Cooling Can Cut Costs by Two-thirds

In South Korea, virtually all homes (single-family, multi-family and high-rise) have hydronic radiant heat floor heating, according to Radiant Panel Report. Cooling is becoming important, prompting university professor Dr. Seung-Bok Leigh to conduct sophisticated research on cooling with hydronic floors. Dr. Leigh's recent American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) report "A Study for Evaluating Performance of Radiant Floor Cooling Integrated with Controlled Ventilation" details his research. His research shows that "radiant floor cooling with dehumidification can provide cooling with only one-third of the energy required by a conventional air conditioner." Radiant cooling also showed much faster response time.

Dr. Leigh's research used a combination of laboratory test cubicles and computer simulations. The laboratory apparatus included 8 ft. x 8 ft. x 8 ft. cubicles designed specifically for analyzing radiant floor cooling and comparing it to conventional air conditioning. A fan coil provided dehumidification and supplemental cooling with fresh air ventilation set to provide one air change per hour.

Results of the laboratory tests were applied to a computer simulation of identical 1,400 s.f. houses. Conventional cooling used 1,400 kWh of energy, while the radiant cooling system consumed only 501 kWh.

With results like these, radiant cooling with dehumidifcation offers a viable alternative to conventional air-conditioning. Radiant Panel Report is published by the Radiant Panel Association.


DOE Offers Free Guide to Building Energy Efficient Homes in the American Southwest

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a free guide to the construction of energy-efficient homes specifically in the hot, dry climate of the American Southwest. Builders and Buyers Handbook for Improving New Home Efficiency, Comfort, and Durability in the Hot-Dry and Mixed-Dry Climates addresses the challenge of maximizing energy efficiency while preserving the comfort of homes in hot-dry and mixed-dry climates. Equipped with this guide, builders and home owners will be able to build high-quality, energy-efficient homes that can save 30 percent in space conditioning and water heating each year in hot-dry and mixed-dry climates.

The guide is organized by a person's role in the construction project, providing pertinent information and tailoring it to the specific role: homeowners, managers, marketers, site planners, designers, site supervisors and trades. For example, the homeowners section shows how energy-efficient homes package value, comfort, economy, durability, and performance. There is also a handy checklist. The section for the trades offers step-by-step instructions.

One topic included here, but often omitted from building guides is site planning. This vital step in the design process can offer substantial benefits for little or no cost through building orientation, landscape design and shading.

DOE’s regional building guides offer tips to families and contractors on how to build energy-saving homes in different climates across the country.


Solid-State Lighting Sources Getting More Energy Efficient

"Smart" solid-state light sources now being developed not only have the potential to provide significant energy savings, but also offer new opportunities for applications that go well beyond the lighting provided by conventional incandescent and fluorescent sources, according to E. Fred Schubert and Jong Kyu Kim of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In an article published May 27, 2005 in the journal Science, the authors describe research currently under way to transform lighting into "smart" lighting, with benefits expected in such diverse fields as medicine, transportation, communications, imaging, and agriculture. The ability to control basic light properties -- including spectral power distribution, polarization, and color temperature -- will allow "smart" light sources to adjust to specific environments and requirements and to undertake entirely new functions that are not possible with incandescent or fluorescent lightning.

For example, "smart" solid-state light sources have the potential to adjust human circadian rhythms to match changing work schedules, to allow an automobile to imperceptibly communicate with the car behind it, or to economically grow out-of-season strawberries in northern climates, according to Professors Schubert and Kim. Solid-state lighting sources such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) already offer energy savings and environmental benefits compared to traditional incandescent or fluorescent lamps, say Schubert, the Wellfleet Senior Constellation Professor of the Future Chips Constellation at Rensselaer, and Kim, a post-doctoral fellow.

Fundamental principles of physics place far greater limits on the efficiency of incandescent and fluorescent lights than on solid-state lights. In theory, solid-state devices with perfect materials and designs would require only 3 watts to generate the light obtained from a 60-watt incandescent bulb. Solid-state sources potentially could cut in half the 22 percent of electricity now consumed by lighting. Traffic lights using LEDs, for example, use only one-tenth the power of signals using incandescent lamps. Further development of solid-state sources to replace traditional lighting will reduce energy consumption and dependency on oil and decrease emissions of greenhouse gases, acid-rain-causing sulphur dioxide, and mercury. However, it is the possibility of controlling such basic properties of solid-state lighting as spectral content, emission pattern, polarization, color temperature, and intensity that gives these light sources the ability to provide entirely new functions.


What's really making you sick? Science Behind Sick Building Syndrome

Science-based identification of mold and other causes of Sick Building Syndrome may improve its management, say plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society (APS). Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) refers to a situation in which building occupants experience health problems while inside a particular building. Human health issues typically associated with SBS range from allergy attacks and asthma to more complex medical problems involving exposure to toxins. Mold is a common cause of SBS, said Mani Skaria, Ph.D, plant pathology professor and interim chair of the Department of Agronomy and Resource Sciences, Texas A&M University, Kingsville, TX.

"Mold has been known to humans since ancient times and it is impossible to eliminate mold from our lives," Skaria said. "However, we now have the technological ability to detect mold growth in its infancy to control it." Apart from mold, dust and other antigens also cause SBS. This makes SBS a complex problem and requires objective inspections for possible causes to detect and manage SBS. Skaria cites a need for more plant pathologists and mycologists to study building-related mold growth and development and SBS syndrome in real-world conditions.

More on this topic will be presented during the Identification of Fungi Involved in Sick Building Syndrome workshop at the APS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX, July 30 - August 3, 2005. The workshop will offer the latest information on building inspections, assessing mold in a building, sampling techniques, mold growth areas, common misconceptions, new building construction, industry standards, legal issues, and possible solutions as well as discuss strategies to be taken during house construction in order to control mold, insect, and mite-related allergens. The workshop will be held Saturday, July 30 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center.


Keep Your Cool and Save Money Too

Save money and keep your cool this summer by saving energy. Here are some easy, energy-saving tips that are also available in a free guide for consumers produced by the U.S. Department of Energy. By following a few easy, common sense guidelines, properly maintaining or upgrading your air conditioner, adding insulation and taking other easy energy-saving measures, you can cut your energy bills by 10 to 50 percent.

Your individual savings will depend on how energy-efficient your home is now, the type of home you have, and the area of the country where you live.

Use Air Conditioning and Fans Wisely

  • Open windows and use portable or ceiling fans instead of operating your air conditioner.
  • Use a fan with your window air conditioner to spread the cool air through your home.
  • Use a programmable thermostat with your air conditioner to adjust the setting warmer at night or when no one is home.
  • Don't place lamps or TVs near your air conditioning thermostat. The heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label. If your air conditioner is old, the new energy efficient models can save you up to 50 percent on your cooling bills.
  • Consider installing a whole house fan or evaporative cooler if appropriate for your climate.
Low Cost Tips to Save Energy
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.
  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying cycle
  • Use a microwave oven instead of a conventional electric range or oven.
  • Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
  • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and VCRs, into power strips and turn power strips off when equipment is not in use.
  • Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater. 115 degrees is comfortable for most uses.
  • Take showers instead of baths to reduce hot water use.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Use cold water to wash your clothes.

Landscape for Energy Efficiency

  • Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but do not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity.
  • Grown on trellises, vines such as ivy or grapevines can shade windows or the whole side of a house.
  • Avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement or asphalt on the south or west sides -- it increases the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the house after the sun has set.
  • Trees whose leaves fall off in the winter, planted on the south and west sides, will keep your house cool in the summer and let the sun warm your home in the winter.
  • Just three trees, properly placed around a house, can save between $100 and $250 annually in cooling and heating costs. Daytime air temperatures can be 3 to 6 degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods.

Shade Your Windows

  • Sunny windows can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder.
  • Install white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  • Close curtains on south- and west- facing windows during the day.
  • Install awnings on south-facing windows. Because of the angle of the sun, trees, a trellis or a fence will best shade west-facing windows.
  • Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows.
  • If you want to replace your windows, consider the new double-pane windows with spectrally selective coatings.
  • When buying windows or appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR® label.


  • Air leaks can waste energy dollars year-round.
  • Caulking and weatherstripping will keep cool air in during the summer.
  • Add insulation around air conditioning ducts when they are located in un-air conditioned spaces such as attics, crawl spaces and garages.
  • If you see holes or separated joints in your ducts, hire a professional to repair them.
  • Check to see that your fireplace damper is tightly closed.
  • Invest in insulation. Visit the DOE Zip-Code Insulation Program for R-values specific to your home.

The booklet Energy Savers - Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home is available in English and Spanish, with a wealth of energy- and dollar-saving information for the home.


Oikos Bookstore Redesigned

If you're looking for a good book, video or computer program to help you with the nuts and bolts of green building, the Oikos Bookstore is a good place to start. Since it's origins in 1991 as the Iris Catalog, titles have been carefully selected to be relevant and targeted for building professionals and "engaged" consumers.

Recently moved to a new software and hardware platform, the online shop sports a number of new features. You will now see a list of bestselling titles, along with selected specials and new items on the main bookstore page. Customers benefit from Iris' discounted FedEx rates for express shipping. You are informed via email when an order is shipped and given online access to the package tracking information for USPS and FedEx. You can also see a history of previous orders.

One thing that hasn't changed are the great prices. Most titles are discounted five to ten percent off the retail price.

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