Green Building News

Green Building News July 2005

July 18, 2005

Big Savings from Small Houses

Small houses require less construction material than larger ones, and less energy to operate. While that logic is self evident, there have been some who claim that the increase in materials is not linear. In other words, there might be some economy of scale in which a larger house encloses more floor area per material unit than a smaller one. This economy-of-scale notion has been undercut in a recent article published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. Quoting Gopal Ahluwalia, the director of research at the National Association of Home Builders, the authors point out that larger houses often have taller ceilings and more features resulting in a higher material use per square foot of floor area. Ahluwalia believes a 5,000 s.f. house would consume three times as much material as a 2,082 s.f. house while the floor area is only 2.4 times larger.

While the econony-of-scale issue makes an interesting aside, the bulk of the article quantifies the undeniable fact that American houses are getting bigger, and bigger houses use substantially more material and energy. According to census figures, the number of people per household has declined from 3.67 in 1940 to 2.62 in 2002. Despite fewer occupants, houses have grown from about 1,100 s.f. to 2,340 s.f. during the same period. To use a television metaphor, Beaver Cleaver squeezed into only 290 s.f., while Rory Gilmore enjoys 893 s.f.

Smaller, simpler houses use measurably less energy. Citing a 1999 study by Andrew Shapiro, the authors describe a 1,500 s.f. house built to mediocre energy standards that uses 25 percent less operating energy than a 3,000 s.f. house built to substantially higher energy standards.

The article "Small is Beautiful" includes an informative appendix with dozens of design ideas for creating small houses that work. It was written by Alex Wilson and Jessica Boehland. (Articles in this special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology are available free online.)


Seattle Buildings Fall Short of Goals

Seattle has a well-deserved reputation for promoting sustainable design and construction. Even leaders can stumble. Recent articles in the Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer reported problems with buildings designed to be green.

Seattle's City Hall and Justice Center buildings have defects ranging from merely annoying to dangerous. The natural ventilation system isn't working, neither are daylighting devices called light shelves. The green roof turned brown. Some bathrooms lack hot water. HVAC controls aren't keeping certain portions of the building comfortable. Boilers have exploded.

The new City Hall uses 15 to 50 percent more energy than it's predecessor, even though it's smaller and houses far fewer people. It's bid to achieve Silver certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has little bearing on the situation, because the program considers only the design and doesn't audit actual performance.

Some problems can't be blamed on environmental features. For example, pigeons have taken a liking to the south and west facades leaving their mark on the areas below.

Other environmental measures are clearly positive. The building uses far less water and generates far less garbage that the old City Hall.

It's common for buildings to experience a "shakedown" period of up to two years, during which mechanical systems are tuned. A commissioning process should find ways to bring down the energy use. Brenda Bauer, director of the city's Fleets and Facilities Department, expects all the problems to be worked out. It's all part of leading the way.


New Low-slope Roofing Rules Looming in California

Once again California defines "cool", but this time it's the definition of roofing products. Starting in October low-slope roof system installations on new and most re-roofing projects will have to meet the Cool Roof Rating Council's (CRRC) energy ratings. The change is required by updates to Title 24, California’s building energy code, which will place a new emphasis on “cool” roofing for low-slope roofing installations on new commercial buildings, as well as most major commercial re-roofing projects. In order to meet the definition of "cool" under the new Title 24 requirements, low-slope commercial roofs must have an initial reflectance of 0.70 and an emittance of at least 0.75, as rated by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC).”

“Cool roofs are typically expected to reduce utility bills by 3 - 10 percent, through lower cooling loads,” the CRRC website goes on to note. “In order to receive full compliance credit under the new code, the developer or owner will be required to provide reflectance and emittance data as rated by the CRRC.”

The council is urging low-slope roofing distributors and contractors to embrace CRRC rated products. It will be driven by customers (building owners) who will naturally turn to CRRC-rated roofing products to gain code compliance along with the energy saving benefits. The CRRC is urging professionals involved with specifying roofing materials to reassess product options and design strategies to meet the new California energy code.

Yet as roofing contractors look for CRRC rated products, they may be surprised to see a large number of modified bitumen products listed. Initially, the first such product to be listed was the innovative Polyglass PolyKool self-adhesive roofing membrane. This revolutionary modified bitumen cool roofing product was added to the list in 2004. Now, more conventionally designed (factory coated) modified bitumen membranes are listed from a variety of roofing manufacturers including Certainteed, Firestone, GAF, Garland, Performance Roof Systems plus additional products from Polyglass.

The CRRC Product Rating Program is the core element of the CRRC. Launched in September 2002, the purpose was to report initial and three-year aged values for solar reflectance and thermal emittance. Now one hundred ninety seven (197) roofing products are currently listed in the CRRC Rated Products Directory, a resource that has proven to be extremely valuable to roofing purchasers and specifiers. Established in 1998, the CRRC is a non-profit association focused on implementing a fair, accurate, and credible radiative energy performance rating system for roof surfaces and disseminating the information to all interested parties.

Yet even with a fair share of the listed companies producing modified bitumen, many still discount it in the cool roofing arena. That is changing with products like PolyKool. After setting the stage for modified bitumen CRRC listings, Polyglass PolyKool continues to combine self adhesive technology, modified bitumen dependability and the key to a cool roof -- a reflective white surface. The environmental combination of self-adhesive technology and reflective surfacing is a perfect fit for the “cool roofing world” and Title 24 compliance. It also meets initial solar reflectivity requirements of the ENERGY STAR program for roofing products as well as meets ENERGY CODE requirements of Federal and Local governments for roofing membranes.

Iris Communications Building Wins Green Award

The world headquarters of Iris Communications, Inc., publisher of, was recognized as one of the "greenest" homes in the Central Oregon Home Builders Association (COBA) 2005 Tour of Homes. The Green Building Award, a recent addition to the COBA tour, recognizes efforts by mainstream builders to add more earth-friendly features to their homes. Sixty-four homes participated in this years tour, supported by a booming housing market in this high-desert region.

Sunterra Homes designed and built the 1786 s.f. home, which includes 200 s.f. for Iris Communications' business operations. The passive solar home uses a unique hybrid insulation system that combines sprayed-in-place urethane foam with batt insulation -- in this case, recycled cotton. Blower door testing showed the air leakage rate to be 0.09 ACH (natural). Mechanical heating and cooling are provided by a unique air-to-water heat pump using in-floor distribution. Nearly all the dimensional lumber for framing was FSC certified. Low-voc paint was used inside and out. The home received the highest level of certification from the Earth Advantage Program and is also Energy Star® qualified.


EnergyValue Housing Awards Applications Accepted

The NAHB Research Center will accept applications for the 2006 EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA) program until August 8, 2005. The award program honors builders who voluntarily integrate energy efficiency into the design, construction and marketing of new homes, and educate the home building industry and the public about successful approaches to energy-efficient construction. Consumer appeal for this type of energy-conscious home building is demonstrated by the more than 25,000 homes sold by EVHA winners over the program's ten year history.

In addition to the marketing benefits associated with becoming one of the "energy efficient elite," EVHA winners gain a number of other perks from participating in the awards program. One of the most beneficial is access to the expertise of the distinguished panel of energy-efficiency experts who judge the program each year.

This year's EVHA Awards will be presented at the 2006 International Builders' Show (IBS) in Orlando. Awards are presented in 5 categories (affordable, custom/demonstration, factory-built, production and multifamily) for 3 climate regions (hot, moderate and cold). A panel of energy-efficiency experts representing the engineering, construction, design, and marketing fields will serve as judges and will evaluate applicants based on their homes' energy value; design; construction methods and processes; marketing and customer relations efforts; and participation in voluntary energy programs.

All applicants receive a detailed evaluation of their entries, complimentary passes to the EVHA Dinner Ceremony at the 2006 IBS, and a free copy of the "EVHA Guide: How to Build and Profit with Energy Efficiency in New Home Construction." Winners are featured on the NAHB Research Center website, and can market themselves as EVHA-winning builders through advertisements and press releases. Winners may be featured in trade and mainstream publications, and offered the opportunity to share their success stories at workshops, educational programs, or conferences. In addition, each year, an EVHA Builder of the Year is selected from the gold award winning companies, which provides additional marketing opportunities for that company.

All professional U.S. home builders whose primary occupation is constructing homes and/or developing real estate are eligible for participation. Though previous winning projects are ineligible, previous winners may submit new or different homes for consideration. Homes offered for consideration must have been completed after January 2003 and before application submittal.

To enter, eligible builders must respond to the official EVHA application criteria. Entries must be postmarked by August 8, 2005. A discounted application fee is available to companies who submit their application to the NAHB Research Center by July 11, 2005. Companies may submit only one application per category, for a maximum of up to five applications. There are 15 categories overall. A home entered under more than one category will be considered as separate entries. Judging will begin in early September 2005, and applicants will be notified of their status by the end of October 2005.

The EVHA is coordinated by the NAHB Research Center in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Applications are available at the NAHBRC Web site.

PA Award Applications Accepted

Architecture Magazine's world-renowned P/A (Progressive Architecture) Awards program will accept applications until August 26, 2005. Application materials are available at Architecture Magazine's Web site. Then, click on the P/A Awards button to download your entry form.

Good Wood Competition

The Forest Stewardship Council-US (FSC-US) and Forest Products Solutions are accepting submissions for the first annual Designing & Building with FSC Award.  Launched in conjunction with FSC’s new professional training guide, Designing & Building with FSC, this annual award will recognize building projects that have promoted responsible forest management through their purchase of FSC-certified wood products.  The winning project will be announced at the GreenBuild ’05 Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA, November 9-11, 2005.

This award is open to owners, architects, interior designers, general contractors, builders, consultants or other professionals. Projects can be any building type, including commercial, institutional, mixed-use, or residential.  To submit a project, it must have used a significant amount (at least 50 percent of the new wood by cost) of FSC-certified wood and been completed during or since 2002. 


Magical Veg-E Tour

Zach Carson has embarked on an environmental education road trip. He plans to cross the U.S. in a 24-foot bus powered by used cooking oil. Along the way he will stop frequently to share what he's learned about the problems associated with burning fossil fuels, dangers of US dependency on foreign oil, and the many benefits of clean energy. Zach recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Environmental Studies. As a part of his studies, he created an educational curriculum with posters, a Powerpoint presentation and handouts explaining all of these subjects. But he's not stopping there. In order to implement the curriculum, he has formed the Fossil Free Way Organization. The bus is his classroom.

The bus has been outfitted with living quarters, including shelving, beds, couch, sink, stove and storage for 150 gallons of used oil, all made from recycled materials. A solar panel supplies electricity on the bus. Organic waste is composted using worms (one pound of worms eats one-half pound of organic waste every day). The Fossil Free Way Web site is a resource for information on alternative energies, green technologies, and sustainable living practices. It also describes the project, will track their route, and provides a network for people who are interested in changing their way of life to live more in tune with the natural systems of our planet.

If you would like to have the Veg-E-Bus come through your town or to your organizations, please get in touch with Zach through the Web site.


Quad-Lock Introduces Deck System, Expands Eastward

Quad-Deck is a new joist and deck forming system for floors and roofs that can be used for both commercial and residential construction. Quad-Deck combines the strength, security and reliability of concrete with the energy efficiency, design flexibility and comfort of insulating concrete forms (ICF).

“Quad-Deck is an integral component in our ability to offer our customers a complete building solution. We have developed a system to seamlessly integrate Quad-Lock walls with Quad- Deck floors” says Hubert Max Kustermann, CEO of Quad-Lock Building Systems Ltd. “Because of the modular design, units are replicated very quickly. Also, it’s much easier on the forming crews since they’re only hauling foam around the jobsite.”

Each of the 2-foot wide expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels are supported and reinforced with two integral steel beams molded into the product from end to end. Between the panels, concrete beams are formed two feet on center. In addition, integrated access chases are premolded in the panels. The result is a self-supporting joist and deck forming system that provides the strength of a reinforced concrete deck with a minimum of materials and labor. Trained crews can install Quad-Deck panels, ready for placing rebar and pouring concrete, in an average of one minute per square foot.

Quad-Deck can also be used in tilt-up applications. The integrated joist design means thinner bearing walls, lighter panels and an easier, faster tilt. When used in commercial building projects, each project is pre-engineered and panels are delivered on-site labeled for efficient placement and assembly. As with any concrete floor or wall, every Quad-Deck project has to be approved by a certified engineer.

Quad-Deck provides superior insulating qualities that reduce noise level from the roof and between floors, as well as from the exterior of the structure. Quad-Deck offers an R-Value range of R-10 to R-25. Insulation is assured by the unique tongue and groove connection between the Quad-Deck panels. Quad-Deck comes in different thicknesses to form concrete beams from 5 to 10.5 inches thick for free spans up to 34 feet. Panels are factory cut to the exact length needed on the jobsite.

Eastern builders who use Quad-Lock Building Systems' insulating concrete forms will have better access to the products now that the company has arranged to have its products manufactured in Pennsylvania. Huntington Foam Products of Brockway began shipping forms and accessories on July 1st. Quad-Lock will continue to manufacture product out of its head office in Surrey, British Columbia. All Quad-Lock’s EPS manufacturing operations are ISO 9001-2000 certified. Huntington is also an ISO 9001-2000 certified company, so customers can expect consistent quality. Huntington also has several other manufacturing locations: Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania.; Greenville, Michigan.; Anderson, South Carolina; Ft. Smith, Arkansas and beginning in July, Monterrey, Mexico.

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