Green Building News

Green Building News December 2005

December 7, 2005

Green Built Home™ Program Releases Affordable Housing Report

Green Built Home, a program of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative, recently published a report that details how environmentally friendly building choices can result in cost reducing benefits. The program aims to introduce green building concepts into low-cost projects and make environmentally-sound practices integral to affordable housing planning and implementation.

The report comes as the culmination of a year-long research effort involving interviews with Wisconsin housing builders, architects, affordable housing developers and providers, market-rate housing developers, city and state government representatives, professional associations, and affordable housing lenders/funding organizations.

Three overarching goals came out of this effort:

  1. Increase education about green building and its affordability;
  2. Increase funding opportunities for green affordable home projects; and
  3. Address regulatory impacts for green affordable home projects.

These goals include roles for state and municipal policymakers, Green Built Home, and other organizations and businesses. Most of the recommendations involve collaboration and partnerships between organizations. The report includes case studies implemented in Wisconsin as well as other parts of the country that showcase successful examples of housing that is both affordable and environmentally friendly.

As the cost of housing becomes increasingly expensive, the price of renting or owning a home is becoming much less affordable for large segments of this country’s population. In fact, according to The State of the Nation’s Housing 2004 from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, between 1990 and 2003, the median price of an existing single family home increased by 27 percent across the nation and 36 percent in the Midwest alone. Rent prices experienced a similar increase. Facing these increases, many municipalities and non-profit organizations intend to incorporate more affordable housing units within new development projects.

The Green Built Way to Affordable Housing demonstrates the practicality and feasibility of incorporating green techniques into standard affordable housing practices, as well as the efficacy of utilizing green building to ease strain on municipal infrastructure. It is both a guide to the future and a celebration of green affordable housing that is already being created in Wisconsin and across the nation.

Green Builder® Media Launches Magazine

Green Builder Media has announced the launch of Green Builder Magazine, a new publication that focuses exclusively on green building and environmentally appropriate development. The magazine will debut in January 2006, with 90,000 copies mailed to builders, contractors, and remodelers, and 20,000 more copies distributed at the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Orlando.

According to Green Builder Media, Green Builder Magazine will launch as the third-largest magazine in the home building industry. Ten issues planned for 2006 are targeted to mainstream builders with the aim of providing practical, illustrated content about green products and practices. Green Builder Media has assembled a well-known team of awardwinning staff and contributing editors for the magazine.

Green Builder Media has entered into a multi-year agreement with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) that allows Green Builder Media to distribute Green Builder Magazine to NAHB members who are interested in sustainable practices and products. The NAHB will also contribute monthly editorial content to the magazine. It will be the only publication dedicated to educating NAHB members about green building and sustainable development.

Home Hydrogen Refueling Technology

Further advancing its vision of a gasoline- and emissions-free transportation future, Honda R&D Americas, Inc., in conjunction with technology partner Plug Power Inc., today introduced the Home Energy Station III, which provides heat and electricity for the home as well as fuel for a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle. This third generation unit, located at the company's North American headquarters in Torrance, California, is more compact and efficient than previous Home Energy Station models.

Following Honda's strategy to develop intermediate as well as longer-term alternatives to traditional energy sources like gasoline, the Home Energy Station III uses natural gas as its base energy source. In keeping with the path established by early generation systems, Home Energy Station I and Home Energy Station II, the Home Energy Station III is designed to work in a home-based refueling environment and is able to supply a sufficient amount of hydrogen to power a fuel cell vehicle, such as the Honda FCX, for daily operation while providing electricity for an average-sized household. A goal of this energy station is to provide high overall energy efficiency and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the more effective use of natural gas.

Home Energy Station III is roughly 30 percent smaller than its predecessor with an approximate 25-percent increase in electrical power output. Overall performance increases with more energy-efficient operation, increased hydrogen storage and production capacities, and a faster start-up time of about one minute.

Additionally, hydrogen storage and production capacity are both improved by about 50 percent with the use of a new, high-performance, natural gas reformer. The Home Energy Station III is also able to function as a backup power generation system during power outages by using the hydrogen in the storage tank to power the internal fuel cell, providing as much as 5 kilowatts of electrical power to the home in normal and emergency conditions.

New Federal Tax Credits For Energy-Efficiency Home Improvements, Hybrid Vehicles

New information from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Alliance to Save Energy will help consumers reduce their federal income taxes in 2006 and 2007 by making their homes more energy-efficient and purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles. The information reflects provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and is provided as part of the DOE/Alliance Powerful $avings campaign to help consumers reduce their energy bills and the nation lower its overall energy use.

The Internal Revenue Service has not yet issued specific guidance for consumers on how to claim the income tax credits, but in the meantime the web pages offer comprehensive information, based on the new energy law, to help consumers save money on their energy bills and their federal income taxes. The web pages will be updated on a continuing basis as the IRS makes new details available.

Under the new energy law, consumers can save up to $500 in taxes in 2006 and 2007 for specific energy-efficiency upgrades to existing homes. In addition, consumers – and businesses – can save up to $3,400 on energy-efficient hybrid-electric or diesel vehicles purchased.

The Powerful $avings campaign provides tips for lowering energy bills at home and on the road. Consumers also can find a wealth of energy- and money-saving tips in DOE’s free Energy Savers booklet, which is available in both English and Spanish versions.

Tax Incentive Coalition Launches Website

The newly launched Tax Incentives Assistance Project provides information on valuable new federal income tax incentives in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct).

“With today’s spiraling energy costs and predictions of a colder than normal winter in certain parts of the country, we urgently need to reach out to consumers and businesses alike and inform them about the new tax credits and about saving money with energy efficiency,” said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan. “The only way to bring down energy prices in the next few years is to reduce demand – a prescription that energy efficiency can fill.”

“We hope consumers and businesses will log onto the TIAP website to get the information they need to lower both their energy bills and their federal income tax liability,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “Another advantage of this new federal policy is to grow the marketplace for energy-efficient technologies, so that product availability can increase and product prices decline, providing long-term benefits even after the tax incentives expire.”

Under the new law, consumers and businesses can receive tax incentives for specific energy-efficiency upgrades to homes and commercial buildings such as upgrades to home insulation and windows and commercial building lighting improvements. In addition, the law includes tax credits for energy-saving technologies such as hybrid vehicles, appliances, heating and cooling systems, solar energy systems, and high-efficiency new home and commercial building construction.

TIAP is a coalition of public interest nonprofit organizations, including the Alliance and ACEEE, as well as government agencies and other leaders in the energy-efficiency field. Its mission is to help consumers and businesses benefit from EPAct’s federal income tax incentives and credits. A full list of TIAP supporters can be found at

TIAP will update the web site regularly as the IRS makes new information available. TIAP partners also will work with government agencies to ensure that they issue and implement guidelines and rules in a timely and appropriate manner.

LEED Platinum Elementary School

The Charlottesville Waldorf Foundation has commissioned the design of a new facility for the Charlottesville Waldorf School that will be the first LEED Platinum elementary school in the country. The building, was designed by Ted Jones Architect, a firm specializing in sustainable design, and, whose principal architect is a Charlottesville Waldorf School parent. The 18,000-square-foot facility will be located in a prime location in greater Charlottesville.

Ted Jones, Architect, and Lucia Phinney, professor of Architecture at UVA explained the evolution from a green project to a LEED Platinum building:

“The conversation starts with the question: how, through the process of designing a building, are we challenged to speak to such issues as air quality, water conservation, land revitalization, resource management, sun/wind/water?” This question and it's answer is then taken one step further: "A LEED Platinum design takes a green building project and expands it into a national debate through the question of how does a building challenge us all to analyze the connections between resource management and industrial manufacturing, weather, transportation of materials and air quality, recycling of waste product and the life cycle of resources or manufactured products.”

This project at the site level takes into account the various elements of nature.

  • The land: transforming it from a brown field into a green meadow.
  • It considered water not only as a resource to water garden's and roofs, but as a managing frontier, challenging the County to forgo LID restrictions in favor of curb and gutter and replacing them with cisterns, water shed fields, plantings.
  • It included wind and sun trajectories to maximize light and airflow, heating and cooling, as well as lighting and shadowing as it pertains to learning.

Then it addressed the building itself, from the materials used, their proximity to the site, time and method of transportation. And then, a level deeper, discussing how the materials are manufactured, harvested, sustained, and implemented into the building.

The building, roughly 18,000 sq.ft., is to include straw bale walls, cob walls, agriculturally recycled paneling, glass gallery, green roof, valence heating and cooling systems, and several energy saving technologies, which include:

  • Passive Solar Design
  • Active Solar Strategies
    • Solar hot water heating for space heating and domestic hot water
    • Photovoltaic power generation
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps for Heating and Cooling
  • The use of an absorption chiller
  • Straw Bale Construction (high insulating value)
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation
  • Natural Ventilation
  • Hydronic Heating and Cooling
  • Radiant Heat
  • A Vegetative Roof
  • High Efficiency Lighting Design
  • Use of Day-Lighting Strategies

Water saving strategies integrated into the design includes:

  • High Efficiency Fixtures
  • Waterless Urinals
  • Rain-water collection and storage for irrigation
  • Permeable paving
  • Ecologically sensitive storm water management

Environmentally preferable materials include:

  • Recycled lumber from local building projects
  • Low or no toxicity paints and adhesives
  • Straw bale construction
  • Use of salvaged lumber milled from trees taken down on site

Finally, measures that are being taken in the design to preserve the site include:

  • Topographically sensitive orientation of the building.
  • Topographically sensitive orientation of roads
  • Preservation of second-growth indigenous Virginia forest, open meadow and riverbank on the site

While the building was designed to take into account the trajectory of the sun, the wind, and yearly rainfall; it was designed primarily to be a model of affordability in green design. “LEED on a Shoestring,” has been a guiding principle.

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