Green Building News

Green Building News September 2006

September 18, 2006

Editors of Sustainable Industries Journal Select Top Green Building Products of 2006

The top ten green building products of 2006 have been selected and profiled in a new print and online supplement produced by the editors of Sustainable Industries Journal. The top ten products were judged by a panel of green building experts and include innovative advances in lighting, coatings, plywood, paint, concrete and alternative energy. The 2006 Top Green Building Products supplement was mailed to all subscribers of the monthly business magazine Sustainable Industries Journal and is available for free online at

"Thanks to the wildly successful growth of green building certification over the past decade, we've entered an era where new, innovative building materials are increasingly crucial to design practice. Developers everywhere are realizing the economic advantages of green building in a market where mindless energy consumption and excessive waste are major liabilities," wrote Brian Back, Founding Editor of Sustainable Industries Journal in the Top Green Building Products 2006 supplement.

The top ten winners profiled in Top Green Building Products 2006 are:

Sustainable Industries Journal is the leading source of sustainable business news on the West Coast and beyond and is published by Portland, Ore.-based Celilo Group Media.

USGBC LEED for Homes Pilot Program Awards First-Ever Platinum Rating in Residential Sustainable Design

LivingHomes®, a leading developer of modern prefab homes designed by world-class architects, has received the highest rating possible from the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) new pilot, LEED® for Homes rating system, making it the first residential project in the country to attain a Platinum rating and setting a new national standard in sustainable construction. The LivingHomes model home is a Zero Energy, Zero Water, Zero Waste, Zero Carbon, Zero Emissions residence, proving that less is indeed more.

“While the residential market is a new area for LEED and USGBC, the LEED for Homes pilot program moves us closer towards our ultimate goal of transforming the built environment on all levels," said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC President, CEO & Founding Chair. “The LivingHomes’ model home is expected to demonstrate that incorporating sustainable design into the construction process will help to lower operating costs, increase home value, reduce maintenance issues and improve indoor environmental quality in the long-term. With fewer than 20 LEED Platinum-certified commercial buildings nationwide, achieving Platinum certification is by no means a simple endeavor. LivingHomes demonstrates an unwavering commitment to sustainable design and will be pivotal in building awareness for the program.”

Since the LEED program’s inception in 2000, 550 buildings have been certified and only 20 have achieved Platinum. In Los Angeles County, three projects have achieved a Platinum rating, including the NRDC Robert Redford Building in Santa Monica, the Lakeview Terrace Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Audobon Center in Northeast Los Angeles. No residences have received a Platinum rating to date, making LivingHomes the first homebuilder in the United States to reach such a level of environmental achievement. Through careful design, rigorous testing, and thorough integration of comprehensive environmental systems, LivingHomes has set the benchmark high for sustainable residential design.

LivingHomes is the first company to make LEED certified, prefab homes available to consumers nationwide. The first line of homes, designed by Ray Kappe, is available for purchase right now. The second line of homes, designed by David Hertz, is currently under development. “We are honored to achieve LEED Platinum certification,” said LivingHomes Founder and CEO Steve Glenn. “As a company, we’re committed to building some of the healthiest, most ecologically considered production homes available and we will use LEED for Homes both to clarify what we’re doing and why – and to help our customers understand what’s different and important vis-à-vis other production homes. The LEED Platinum certification is an appropriate, and much-appreciated acknowledgement, of our efforts.”

The USGBC, a non-profit organization, developed the LEED green building rating system as a set of voluntary, consensus-based national standards for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED for Homes, which is scheduled for a full public launch early in 2007, is a voluntary initiative that promotes the transformation of the mainstream home building industry towards more sustainable practices and rewards the top green home builders who are the first to move in that direction. The program is meant to provide national consistency in defining the features of a green home and to enable builders anywhere in the country to obtain a ‘green’ rating on their homes. Builders of LEED certified homes will be able to differentiate their homes as the best homes in their markets, using a recognized national brand. Launched in 2005, the pilot program to date includes 125 builders and 725 units, with the numbers growing weekly.

Similar to the LEED program for new commercial construction, the LEED for Homes pilot is based on a four-tiered rating system (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum) that awards points to projects based on their efficient use of energy resources, water resources, building construction resources, land resources, and consideration of enhanced indoor environmental quality. The LivingHomes model home, designed by iconic Southern California architect Ray Kappe, FAIA, was awarded a total of 91 points out of 108, establishing the prefab developer as a leader in sustainable design.

Location + Linkages (LL)
Sustainable Sites (SS)
Water Efficiency (WE)
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
Materials + Resources (MR)
Energy + Atmosphere (EA)
Homeowner Awareness (HA)
Innovation + Design Process (ID)

Certified = 30-49 points / Silver = 50-69 points / Gold = 70-89 points / Platinum = 90-109 points
* Awarded bonus points

To meet the high standards set by the USGBC and to respond to the market’s appetite for healthy, sustainable living, each LivingHome is designed to attain at least a Silver LEED rating. The model home incorporates a unique blend of materials and innovative environmental systems, earning the Platinum designation. The home’s anticipated energy use is 80 percent more efficient than a conventional residence of similar size, which qualifies the home as an Energy Star® home. The majority of the home’s energy will be produced by on-site photovoltaics. Water for irrigation will be reclaimed. Most of the materials in the home are re-used or sustainably created. The home was produced with 75 percent less construction waste compared to traditional home construction. Sustainable features include: a photovoltaic system from Permacity/Gridpoint to produce the home’s energy; solar water heating and radiant floors from ACME Environmental and Creative Climate; a native landscape and rooftop garden designed by Richard Grigsby of The Great Outdoors to divert stormwater and alleviate the heat island effect of conventional black roofs; super resource efficient Energy Star appliances from Bosch; LED lights that use a fraction of the power of conventional lights from Permlight; an integrated stormwater management which includes sub-surface irrigation, a 3500-gallon cistern and grey water recycling system designed by Bill Wilson Environmental Planning to divert sink and shower water for irrigation; special fans from Panasonic that exhaust moisture from the bathrooms; and a whole-house fan from Tamarack that automatically vents hot- air. A 175 CFM fan from Tamarack in the garage tied into the garage door automatically exhausts carbon monoxide from the garage. LivingHomes also uses low-e Solarban60 glazing on the Fleetwood doors and windows and Polygal polycarbonate glazing that has greater thermal properties than regular glass, allowing the model home to preserve both the aesthetic and the practical.

In addition to the environmental systems, we have taken a number of other steps to reduce our home’s ecological footprint. Most home owners complete major renovations of their homes every few years, a process which is disruptive, time-consuming, expensive and incredibly wasteful of resources. LivingHomes, therefore, include movable walls, modular millwork and a structural system that allows for the easy addition and reconfiguration of space. For projects on land with existing homes, LivingHomes works with The Reuse People to deconstruct the structures and donate the materials to Habitat for Humanity. This means materials that would normally be demolished and sent to landfills are reused and repurposed (landfills are typically comprised of about 40% construction waste). In order to make the homes carbon- neutral, LivingHomes pays for a carbon off-set for each home it sells as well as first year operation. Finally, to make it “cradle-to-cradle” compatible, the home has been constructed with materials and processes that will make it easier to disassemble and reuse in the future.

Acknowledging that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health and that recent studies show that the levels of many airborne pollutants may be 25 to 100 times higher indoors than outdoors, LivingHomes is one of the first home developers to take such proactive design measures to minimize the home’s environmental impact, both inside and out. The home features low-emitting finish materials, low-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints and stains from AFM Safecoat, and a steel structure that does not support mold growth. A radiant heating system embedded in the floor of the home warms the space more effectively and healthfully, rather than forcing air laden with contaminants through the home. LivingHomes also provides customers with optional indoor gardens as a way to produce and cleanse indoor air. The model home features an indoor garden filled with plants that filter indoor pollutants and are prolific oxygen creators.

To reduce the adverse environmental impacts of conventional materials, the home features Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC) wood for the millwork, ceiling, siding and framing, along with a variety of recycled materials including 100% post-consumer recycled paper based countertops from Paperstone; recycled glass tiles from Oceanside Glasstile, recycled porcelain tiles from Coverings Etc; and Green Fiber 100% recycled denim insulation. Also, through key partnerships with companies that are equally committed to sustainable design, the model home will showcase organic bedding and linen from Matteo; water- efficient fixtures by Kohler; FSC certified cedar from Eco-Lumber Co-op; special roofing by Carlisle - Syntec; interior design by Heidi Toll Design; an energy-efficient spa by Jacuzzi; and furnishings by Design Within Reach, Herman Miller and Henry Hall Design.

Go to to view a time-lapse video of the installation and photos of the completed house.

"Empowering America Act" Would Increase Solar Consumers' Rights, Lower Installation Costs

As more US consumers turn to solar power during the current energy crisis, US Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) has introduced legislation that would affirm the right of consumers to install solar systems on their roofs, while making it cheaper for prospective buyers to go solar.

The "Empowering America Act of 2006" would extend federal solar investment tax credits for homeowners and business through 2015, and make modifications similar to those contained in S. 2677 and H.R. 5206, the "Securing America's Energy Independence Act." The popular solar tax credits are currently set to expire next year. The SAEI Act was introduced earlier this summer and has gained a total of 75 House and 15 Senate cosponsors to date.

"I have introduced this bill and installed solar panels on my own home because I believe alternative energy sources such as solar are absolutely critical for the future of our economy and national security," said Rep. Cardoza. "These incentives would help make solar energy more affordable for millions of Americans. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, the growing solar technology industry holds great promise for contributing to economic growth."

The Solar Energy Industries Association praised Rep. Cardoza for introducing a bill that addresses the solar industry's top legislative priority - the extension of the federal investment tax credits.

"This is the most comprehensive solar legislation introduced in a decade," said Rhone Resch, SEIA President. "It will galvanize solar manufacturing in this country, create 45,000 new solar industry jobs and provide more US taxpayers with relief from high energy bills."

Another key component of the Cardoza bill would protect solar consumers from restrictive covenants that block the siting of solar systems on a roof - similar to the current legislative treatment of satellite dishes. The bill would also help shield prospective system buyers from exorbitant permitting and licensing fees.

The bill is expected to contain the following provisions:

Residential Solar Tax Credit: Extends a 30-percent tax credit, created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, for the purchase of residential solar water heating, photovoltaic equipment and fuel cell property. Allows the ITC to be taken against the alternative minimum tax. Changes the maximum credit to $4,000 for each kilowatt of capacity for solar equipment and $1,000 for each kilowatt of capacity for fuel cells. Expires after December 31, 2015.

Business Solar Tax Credit and Fuel Cell Tax Credit: Extends a 30-percent business credit, established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, for the purchase of fuel cell power plants, solar energy property and fiber-optic property used to illuminate the inside of a structure. Allows the ITC to be taken against the alternative minimum tax. Expires after December 31, 2015.

Solar Siting Rights: Instructs the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to issue regulations within 180 days of the law's enactment that 1) prohibit any private covenant, contract provision, lease provision, homeowners' association rule or bylaw, or similar restriction that impairs homeowners' ability to install and use a solar energy system and 2) expedite the approval, where such approval is required, of applications to install systems.

Cap on Permitting and Licensing Fees: Requires that recipients of community development block grants limit permitting and licensing fee costs to $500 or less for residential installations, and 1 percent of total cost for commercial installations.

ASES 2006 National Solar Tour - October 7

The American Solar Energy Society's National Solar Tour events are scheduled in almost every state this year and are (in most locations) the first Saturday of National Energy Awareness Month—October 7th this year.

Visit a tour and learn energy efficiency strategies and methods, speak with homeowners and experts and learn how the technology works, what it costs and why it makes sense.

Toronto Regional Green Building Festival 2006 - October 31-November 1

Conference and Trade Show for developers, architects, building owners and operators, consulting engineers, designers and planners, energy utilization and renewable energy experts, environmental consultants and policy makers from all levels of government. Registration information at:

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo 2006 - November 15-17

Greenbuild is held in Denver, Colorado this year and features three days of educational programs, workshops, tours and speakers alongside an expansive exhibit hall and sponsors. Organized by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Registration information at:

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