Green Building News

Green Building News January 2006

January 23, 2006

Earth Advantage® Builder Wins Gold for National Energy Efficiency Award

Earth Advantage builder SunTerra Homes Inc., of Bend, Oregon, has been awarded one of the most prestigious awards the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) presents at their annual International Builders' Show. Sunterra's home has won the top-tier level, Gold, for the NAHB's EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA) in the custom built, cold climate category. Not only has this home achieved a high level of energy efficiency, but has added a multitude of healthier indoor air and environmentally responsible features that defines it as a truly sustainable design. 

“This is a remarkable home,” states homeowner Bruce Sullivan. “Jim Chauncey of SunTerra Homes has been building with energy-efficient practices for 30 years and we knew his company was the only one that could make our dream home a reality. Being rated ENERGY STAR® and earning a Platinum certification by Earth Advantage for our house is a testimony on the quality of craftsmanship and superb design features that has gone into the home.”

SunTerra is no stranger to awards. Having won numerous awards in the local Bend market, they also won the National Energy Award in 1986 and took home the EVHA's Silver Award in 2003. This home has been designed to conserve about 70 percent of the energy used in a conventional home. The energy savings is so significant the home has been certified ENERGY STAR and Earth Advantage Platinum (the top tier level for energy and environmental performance).

The house features a passive-solar design that captures sun during the winter months to naturally warm the home. All three levels have concrete floors that help absorb and store the solar heat gain from the south-facing windows. Water heated with a high-efficiency heat pump circulates through tubes in the floor providing a very effective and efficient way to warm the interior. The ground level slab-on-grade floor has R-10 rigid insulation. Spray-foam insulation covers the entire building shell and creates a continuous barrier to air leakage making the structure extremely tight. All appliances and lighting fixtures are ENERGY STAR rated. Solar hot water is incorporated into this home to round out the array of sustainable features.

“This is exactly the type of home we like to see” says Duane Woik, Earth Advantage green building consultant. “The Sullivans had a terrific vision of a sustainably designed and energy-efficient home that SunTerra helped mold and shape into the final product. And that product just happens to be one of the most energy efficient homes built in the country.”

This is the second EnergyValue Housing Award winner that has gone through the Earth Advantage certification process. Both of them were built by SunTerra Homes. Earth Advantage has represented three other projects that have won the NAHB's national Green Building Award as well.

EnergyValue Housing Awards Honor Builders Who Focus on Energy-Efficient Construction and Customer Satisfaction

As energy costs continue to rise, consumers are looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption. In direct response to their customers' concerns, many home builders have taken great strides to incorporate features that make homes more energy efficient, and friendly to the surrounding environment. At a dinner ceremony in conjunction with the 2006 International Builders' Show, 17 of these home builders received EnergyValue Housing Awards (EVHA).

Now in its eleventh year, the EVHA program, managed by The NAHB Research Center, honors builders who voluntarily integrate energy efficiency into the design, construction, and marketing of their new homes. It also educates the home building industry and the public about successful approaches to energy-efficient construction. EVHA award categories target home builders in the affordable, custom, factory-built, production, and multifamily categories for hot, moderate, and cold climate regions.

Also at the dinner ceremony, the 2006 EVHA Builder of the Year award was presented to AndersonSargent Custom Builder, of Waxahachie, Texas. Noted by EVHA judges as a company that has been "carrying the green torch for ages," AndersonSargent Custom Builder justly deserves the EVHA Builder of the Year recognition.

From AndersonSargent's viewpoint, energy-efficient home construction is the only responsible way to build. The company made a commitment to building homes with high energy efficiency in the mid-1980s and, for over 20 years, has constructed every home to meet those high standards. Because of the company's reputation for quality and energy efficiency, there is an approximate two-year waiting list for clientele. AndersonSargent's 2006 EVHA Gold award winning zero energy home not only features state-of-the art energy efficiency and green building technologies and practices, but also includes eight kilowatts of solar power capacity that is designed to offset the home's energy consumption.

Award-winning architect and visionary author Sarah Susanka, FAIA, keynoted the EVHA dinner ceremony, sharing insight from her "build better, not bigger" approach to residential architecture. Sarah Susanka is leading a movement that is redefining the American home and expanding perspectives on creating complementary partnerships that enhance the value of energy-efficient design. As a top advocate for the re-popularization of residential architecture, Susanka has improved the quality of home design while countering the elitist image of architects so commonly held by the public. Her Not-So-Big philosophy has been embraced by homeowners, architects, and builders across the country.

The 2006 EnergyValue Housing Award winners are:

Honorable Mention
  • AndersonSargent Custom Builder, LP
  • Aspen Homes of Colorado, Inc.
    *winner in two categories
  • Palm Harbor Homes
  • Stitt Energy Systems, Inc.
  • Sunterra Homes, Inc.
  • Applegren Construction, Inc.
  • Chisholm Creek Development, LLC
  • The Cohousing Company
  • Ferrier Builders, Inc.
  • Fireside Home Construction
  • Tierra Concrete Homes, Inc.
  • Big Horn Builders, Inc.
  • Chuck Miller Construction, Inc.
  • Ence Homes
  • Pardee Homes
  • TJ Bednar Homes
  • Skyline Homes, Inc.

"The quality and quantity of award-winning builders this year is outstanding," remarked NAHB Research Center president, Michael Luzier. "Clearly, the efficacy of the EVHA program and its partners to expand the focus on environmental consciousness and energy efficiency among builders is growing, and these innovative professionals are leading the way."

GridWise™ Energy Pricing Smart Appliances Grid Technologies

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of Richland, Wash., announces the launch of the Pacific Northwest GridWise™ Demonstration Projects, a regional initiative to test and speed adoption of new smart grid technologies that can make the power grid more resilient and efficient.

Through the GridWise Demonstration projects, PNNL researchers will gain insight into energy consumers’ behavior while testing new technologies designed to bring the electric transmission system into the information age.

About 300 volunteers on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, in Yakima and in Gresham, Ore., will test equipment that is expected to make the grid more reliable while offsetting huge investments in new transmission and distribution equipment.

A new combination of devices, software and advanced analytical tools will give homeowners more information about their energy use and cost, and researchers want to know if this will modify their behavior.

Approximately 200 homes will receive real-time price information through a broadband Internet connection and automated equipment that will adjust energy use based on price. In addition, some customers will have computer chips embedded in their dryers and water heaters that can sense when the power transmission system is under stress and automatically turn off certain functions briefly until the grid can be stabilized by power operators.

“The technologies we’re testing will turn today’s appliances, which are as dumb as stones with regard to the power grid, into full partners in grid operations.” said Rob Pratt, GridWise program manager at PNNL in Richland, Wash.

The year-long study is part of the Pacific Northwest GridWise demonstration, a project funded primarily by DOE. Northwest utilities, appliance manufacturers and technology companies also are supporting this effort to demonstrate the devices and assess the resulting consumer response.

In the pricing study, automated controls will adjust appliances and thermostats based on predetermined instructions from homeowners. The volunteers can choose to curtail or reduce energy use when prices are higher. At any point, homeowners have the ability to override even their preprogrammed preferences to achieve maximum comfort and convenience.

“We believe this project is the first to provide pricing data on a very short time scale – approximately every five minutes – and the first to include the true costs of transmission and distribution within that price,” said Pratt.

Currently, most utilities charge a flat rate per kilowatt hour to homeowners, regardless of the wholesale cost of power or the cost of transmission and distribution. Pratt and other researchers will analyze how customers react to the real cost of delivering energy to their homes through the use of simulated electric bills and pretend money in a mock account that eventually will be converted into cash they get to keep.

If homeowners choose to reduce electric consumption at times of higher prices, the pretend money they save becomes real as they are issued a check from the GridWise program each quarter. Price conscious participants are expected to earn about $150 during the year and nobody will lose money during the experiment.

The communications, computer and control technologies provided by IBM, Invensys Controls and others can help customers become an integral part of power grid operations on a daily basis – and especially in times of extreme stress on the electrical distribution system.

In the portion of the demonstration focused on the smart appliance technology, a computer chip developed by PNNL is being installed in 150 Sears Kenmore dryers produced by Whirlpool Corporation.

The Grid Friendly™ Appliance Controller chip could help prevent widespread power outages by turning off certain parts of an appliance when it senses instability in the grid – something that happens about once a day on average. Shutting down the heating element for a few minutes, while the drum continues to tumble, would likely go unnoticed by the homeowner but drastically reduces power demand within the home. Multiplied on a large scale, this instant reduction in energy load could serve as a shock absorber for the grid. It would give grid operators time to bring new power generation resources on-line to stabilize the grid – a process that usually takes several minutes.

At the end of the study, researchers will evaluate customers’ reactions to the chip and their responses to the real-time pricing information to determine their acceptance. This will help government and industry to determine whether and how to best make the technologies more widely available to consumers in the future.

An earlier PNNL study shows that creating a smarter grid through information technology could save $80 billion over 20 years nationally by offsetting costs of building new electric infrastructure – the generators, transmission lines and substations that will be required to meet estimated load growth.

Sweden Plans on Being the First Country in the World to Be Free From Oil in 2020

Minister for Sustainable Development Mona Sahlin has declared that Sweden is going to become the first country in the world to break the dependence on fossil energy. Sweden will stop using oil by 2020 and eventually the energy supply of the country will be based on renewable energy only. The goal is to gradually rid the country of gasoline-run cars and oil-heated homes.

This is going to be achieved through tax discounts, more efficiency in energy and by large-scale investments in renewable energy and in research. Already next year there will be tax incentives for single family homeowners to switch from oil to renewable energy to heat their homes. Such financial incentives are already available to libraries, aquatic facilities and hospitals that want to switch to more efficient renewable energy. The expansion of district heating continues to be an important tool in this process. The Swedish government also wants to make environmental cars more affordable. One of the ways it is doing this is by not subjecting fuel that is free of carbon dioxide to the energy tax or the carbon dioxide emission tax. Environmental cars will also not have to pay the congestion tax that will be introduced in Stockholm in January and many municipalities allow free parking for such cars.

Swedish industry and the economy as a whole are already benefiting from a lower dependency on oil in an international comparison. Since 1994 the use of oil in residences and in the service sector has dropped by 15.2 TWH. The consumption of oil in industries has remained at the same level since that year, even though industrial production has increased by 70 percent. A growing number of households make use of the advantages of district heating as well as of pellets.

Minister Sahlin's latest statement on the abolition of oil in 2020 is actually just a confirmation of a goal set a long time ago. Sweden has been a pioneer in the environmental field and has introduced many innovative measures through the years to achieve its goals.

Already in 1990 Swedes implemented a "green tax shift". Taxes on energy and on carbon dioxide emissions were raised, while other taxes, such as those on payroll were decreased by an equivalent amount.

Sweden also invested heavily in its cities and towns. Municipalities receive grants to conduct long-term climate research and make investments in environment-friendly technology. Not only has this helped cut local pollution, it has also raised the level of public awareness of environmental issues.

In 1999 a unanimous national goal was established for all the country's major environmental problems to be solved within one generation, by the year 2020. The Swedish Parliament gave unanimous approval to 15 national targets including a phasing out of all use of hazardous chemicals by 2020; ensuring that all lakes and watercourses are ecologically sustainable, their habitats and ecological and water-conserving function preserved; providing a safe and sustainable supply of drinking water and contributing to viable habitats for flora and fauna; protection of the value of forests for biological production, while biological diversity, cultural heritage and recreational assets are safeguarded, and a healthy living environment to be provided by cities and towns where buildings and amenities must be located and designed with sound environmental principles.

There are interim objectives for each target, regional and local objectives to match, and an Environmental Objectives Council to monitor progress towards the goals. Progress is charted through 70 national indicators, which track results and verify whether the country is heading in the right direction.

31st Building Energy 2006 Conference & Trade Show

The Practice of Sustainability: Proven Profitable Partnership
The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) presents unparalleled education and networking opportunities for green building and renewable energy professionals when it hosts its 31st annual Building Energy Conference and Trade Show at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center on March 7-9, 2006.

“Building Energy 2006 is a solutions-oriented conference,” says Nancy Hazard, NESEA Executive Director and organizer of the conference. “It is intentionally interdisciplinary, so as to foster systems thinking, unique networking opportunities, and solutions to the energy and climate change challenges facing us today.”

The 31st annual conference features more than 150 speakers and is expected to draw 2,000 participants for three days of activities including: workshops, sessions, lectures, networking, a free public forum, and a trade show for renewable energy and green building professionals. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Title Sponsor, recommends the event for architects, engineers, builders, city and town planners, building systems designers, developers, facility managers, investors, policy makers, real estate professionals, and other professionals interested in renewable energy and green building practices.

Building Energy 2006 kicks off on Tuesday, March 7 with full and half-day workshops designed to offer in-depth training for professionals and students entering this field, as well as experienced professionals seeking a deeper understanding of new issues and technologies. Workshops will be held on a variety of topics, including:

  • Building integrated photovoltaics
  • Solar design and implementation
  • High performance green schools
  • Interpreting and utilizing green building standards
  • Solar and radiant floor heating
  • Wind energy project development strategies
  • Powering homes with renewable energy
  • European “Passive Houses”
  • Greening existing buildings
  • Successful green project teams
  • Insulating materials

A free Public Forum titled, Energy: Crisis or Opportunity, sponsored by SmartPower and UK Trade & Investments, will be held on Tuesday evening, March 7 at 6:00 p.m. A panel of experts will be engaged to discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time including current energy challenges, the role of government and business, as well as how clean energy technologies and environmentally-responsible building practices can deliver profits in the private sector, enhance quality of life, and reduce energy costs. The public will be invited to participate in this timely discussion.

Wednesday and Thursday at Building Energy 2006 features more than 60 sessions on topics such as:

  • Utility scale clean renewable energy
  • HVAC systems
  • Photovoltaics
  • Green roofs and water quality
  • Community planning
  • Transportation and the built environment
  • Biofuels
  • Policy
  • Aesthetics
  • Economic and environmental issues
  • Urban design
  • Fundamentals of financing
  • Building science
  • Marketing
  • Industrial design
  • Community relations
  • Outstanding green buildings and green products

Another highlight of the event during these two days is the Building Energy Trade Show. This year’s Trade Show, sponsored by Alternate Energy, will be the event’s largest and most comprehensive renewable energy and green building technology trade show ever. It features over 120 exhibitors, displaying products and services that support environmentally sustainable practices. Trade show attendees will see cutting-edge technologies from exhibitors sharing the practical knowledge their businesses have gained through real-world applications. Attendees will also find a Trade Show Reception, Poster Displays, Networking Villages, and NESEA Night with Live and Silent Auctions--an annual NESEA celebration of community.

“With so much public attention focused on energy concerns and ways to cut costs, Building Energy 2006 will be a perfect setting for concerned citizens, as well as energy and building professionals, to learn and network. Building Energy 2006 will feature great workshops and discussions addressing critical energy issues facing our region and the world," noted Warren Leon, Deputy Director of the MTC-administered Renewable Energy Trust.

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