Green Building News

Green Building News July 2006

July 12, 2006

Extreme Heat Meets Zero Energy with Demonstration Home Project

Clarum Homes, a California Zero Energy Home developer, recently hosted a special preview event of its Borrego Springs Zero Energy Demonstration Project which included a tour of four demonstration homes specially constructed for the project’s extreme desert climate. In a project developed through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Program, ConSol and Davis Energy Group, the four demonstration homes were designed with a goal of 90 percent energy reduction and built with the latest zero energy technologies; including, state-of-the-art wall systems, heating, cooling and solar electric systems. The homes will be tested for energy efficiency continuously over the next twelve months and the information will be shared with other builders, manufacturers and municipalities throughout the country.

Zero Energy Homes are constructed with sustainable building products, generate their own electricity with photovoltaic systems and reduce energy consumption by up to 90 percent with other energy efficient features such as on-demand hot water heaters, radiant roof barriers, high-efficiency furnaces and appliances, tightly sealed ducts, extra insulation and low-e windows.

“President Bush announced the Advanced Energy Initiative, a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, in his January State of the Union address. This includes the Solar America Initiative to accelerate the development of solar photovoltaic "PV" cells that convert sunlight directly to electricity so that future Zero Energy Homes produce more energy than they consume. These PV cells are the very products we are using in the demonstration homes,” stated John Suppes, founder and president of Clarum Homes.

The Borrego Springs Zero Energy Demonstration Project homes will showcase three types of advanced wall systems – Styrofoam T-MASS, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) and High Efficiency 16” o.c. Optimum Value Engineered (OVE) Wood Framing. In addition to the wall systems, the demonstration homes, which share the same floor plan, will be equipped with four different cutting-edge cooling systems: two of the homes feature Speakman OASys two-stage evaporate coolers; the third home features both a Freus water cooled condenser (that cools indoor air as well as the floor) and a NightBreeze night ventilation cooling system; and the fourth home features a Lennox 20.5 SEER air conditioner. The cooling systems were designed to accommodate both the hot-dry conditions that prevail most of the summer, as well as the hot- humid weather that accompanies the monsoon season in late summer. All of the homes use instantaneous water heaters, 3.2 kW Kyocera photovoltaic solar systems and exterior shade screens. Three of the homes are also equipped with under-floor radiant heating.

Project goals for the demonstration homes include:

  • Design and build highly energy efficient sustainable production housing for entry level buyers
  • Achieve up to 90 percent energy reduction in cooling energy use
  • Collect data on cost, construction schedule, production feasibility, lifecycles and quantified energy savings
  • Study data to determine cost effectiveness of sustainable technology applications
  • Run tests prior to occupancy and for 12 months after move-in to evaluate energy efficiency for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Publish updated evaluations and efficiency data at for builders, manufacturers and municipalities.

ConSol / Building Industry Research Alliance (BIRA), Davis Energy Group (DEG/CARB) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will work closely with Clarum to evaluate the performance of each of the homes to identify the most cost effective energy features.

New EPA WaterSense Program Saves Dollars and Makes Sense

WaterSense, a new water efficiency program launched by EPA, will educate American consumers on making smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance.

"Efficient products and informed consumers lead to smart water use. EPA's WaterSense program will provide water solutions that are a win-win for our wallets and our environment. WaterSense just makes sense," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

The WaterSense program aims to raise awareness about the importance of water efficiency, ensure the performance of water-efficient products and provide good consumer information. The WaterSense label will be easily identified on products and services that perform at least 20 percent more efficiently than their less efficient counterparts.

Easily corrected household water leaks frequently rob consumers of eight percent of their water bill. At least 30 percent of water used by household irrigation systems is lost through wind evaporation and improper design, installation or maintenance. The average household adopting water efficient products and practices can save 30,000 gallons per year – enough to supply a year of drinking water for 150 of their neighbors.

Manufacturers can certify these products meeting EPA criteria for water efficiency and performance by following testing protocols specific to each product category. In addition, products will be independently tested to ensure EPA specifications are met. These products will be available to families and businesses early next year.

Information about the WaterSense water efficiency program:

Home Energy Advantage Program Promotes Ownership of Energy Efficient New Homes

In support of National Homeownership Month in June, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced special eligibility considerations for low- and moderate-income home loan applicants who are purchasing newer, energy-efficient homes.

"Homeownership has always been a central part of the American Dream," said Johanns at the Stand Up for Rural America Conference. "I'm pleased that through this new initiative we can encourage efforts to expand access to new, affordable housing opportunities in rural America, while emphasizing energy conservation."

Under the special program, called Home Energy Advantage, the qualifying ratios used to determine an applicant's ability to repay a home loan may be exceeded by up to two percentage points if an energy-efficient home is purchased.

Eligible applicants to Rural Development Section 502 homeownership loan program will receive increased flexibility in their loan eligibility determinations if they are purchasing a newer home that is energy efficient. In some cases, applicants may be able to afford a larger loan amount due to the qualifying flexibility because lower utility costs associated with newer homes equate to more income that can be applied to mortgage and other debt payment in a given month.

USDA Rural Development's Section 502 loan programs are available to qualified low- and moderate-income families to purchase modest homes in rural areas. Loans can be made for up to 100 percent of the appraised value of the property. The cost of installing energy-saving features in a home, such as insulation, storm windows and doors, as well as energy-efficient appliances may be included in the loan amount.

All new homes that are built to meet the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) or a subsequent comparable code are considered energy efficient and eligible for the two percentage point increase in the qualifying ratios. Existing homes that meet the same standard, or are being retrofitted to meet it, are also eligible. The program is a nationwide pilot, and will operate for the next 18 months.

New homes that are built to IECC standards offer considerable energy efficiency and save homeowners money in their utility costs. After the mortgage payment, utility bills are usually the largest housing-related expense for homeowners each month. But an energy-efficient home, with such features as proper insulation, high efficiency heating and cooling systems and energy-efficient windows, can lower utility bills significantly.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's web site.

San Diego EarthWorks GreenBuilt Tour 2006 - September 16-17

San Diego EarthWorks will, for the fifth time, produce a self-guided tour of homes and businesses in San Diego County that feature sustainable building practices that are attractive, practical and affordable today. Sites on the tour will include new construction as well as rebuilds and retrofits.

The structures will feature many different “green” building and landscaping options, including:
• Ecologically sound building materials and technologies (e.g., straw bale and Perform Wall construction);
• Energy-efficient building components (e.g., “high-E” insulating windows);
• Water-efficiency features (e.g., gray water systems, native landscaping);
• Alternative energy technologies (e.g., solar electric and solar water heating);
• Healthy building materials (e.g., low-emission paints, nontoxic insulation, filtration systems);
• Recycled and/or reused materials (e.g., renewable bamboo flooring, recycled plastic carpet, composite decking);
• Xeriscaping – landscaping technique using native and drought-tolerant plants to minimize exterior water use.

For more information about attending or volunteering, visit

Gulf Coast Green 2006 - September 27-28

Held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, Gulf Coast Green 2006, hosted by AIA Houston, features both local and national speakers who will explore sustainable or "green" building in the Gulf Coast Region. Speaker tracks include Commercial, Residential, Tools and new this year, Healthcare.

Keynote speakers include Bob Berkebile with BNIM Architects, Kansas City and Robin Guenther with Guenther 5 Architects, New York.

Other events include the Green Building Expo, Tours of local green building projects, Workshops, and a Student Charrette.

Register now at

West Coast Green 2006 - September 28-30

Prompted by the tremendous groundswell of public interest in green building, West Coast Green - a premier residential tradeshow focused exclusively on green products, design and sustainability - will open its doors September 28-30 in San Francisco's Bill Graham Auditorium. This event will gather under one roof pioneering trade professionals from all over the nation, plus homeowners eager to educate themselves about the exciting developments in green and healthy building.

Keynote speakers will include Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and trade innovators Ed Mazria and Sarah Susanka. Over 120 other speakers - all top leaders in the fields of green architecture, engineering, planning, design and building supply - will address attendees on diverse topics grouped around seven well-developed educational tracks, many of which can garner attendees industry-sanctioned credits. Sessions will include panels, discussion forums, case studies, networking, Q&A and provide unparalleled insights into the latest and most revolutionary developments in the green building industry.

Over 250 exhibitors will showcase the latest innovations in resource-efficient materials along with green and healthy building products. Executive Producer Christi Graham remarks about the exhibits, "I think attendees will be delightfully surprised at the wide array of products at the show. The products range from the ingeniously simple to the incredibly sophisticated. People can explore products they've never seen before, and in some cases materials that offer benefits never imagined possible!"

Professional attendees of West Coast Green will include: Architects/Designers, Builders and Contractors, Business Owners, Green Financing Institutions, Developers, Real Estate Professionals, Interior Designers, Green Building Programs, Facility Managers, Engineers, Trade Associations, Public Agencies, Green Business Programs, Government Agencies, Building Inspectors, Educational Institutions, Environmental Non-Profits and, on Homeowner Day, Educated Homeowners.

A partial list of sponsors includes: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the City and County of San Francisco, Build it Green, the American Institute of Architects, Louisiana-Pacific, and other organizations and companies.

Individuals may register at

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