Green Building News

Green Building News June 2007

June 1, 2007

Green Building Initiative™ President Showcases Value of Sustainability to Senate Committee on Environment

Ward Hubbell, president of the Green Building Initiative™ (GBI), recently testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the opportunities to leverage sustainable construction principles to help curb climate change.

Hubbell joined industry representatives from the National Association of Home Builders, U.S. Green Building Council, Healthy Schools Network and others, who testified during the special hearing, titled "Green Buildings: Benefits to Health, the Environment and the Bottom Line."

As part of his testimony, Hubbell emphasized three key points for the committee to contemplate as they develop future sustainability policies:

  • Sustainable design does not by itself result in high performance buildings. It must be combined with effective building operation and maintenance to achieve the desired results.
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an essential part of the sustainable design process. Decisions about building materials and products should be based on quantifiable life cycle data, rather than prescriptive approaches (whereby materials are assumed to have environmental benefits based on rapid renewability, recycled content or other attributes).
  • Competition in green rating systems is needed to help the building sector contribute innovative solutions to climate change

"The GBI applauds the members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works for tapping a diverse pool of experts from the design and construction industry to share their views on priority issues related to sustainability," said Hubbell. "It is clear that we have a tremendous opportunity, through green building, to help address climate change. But there are no easy answers. To succeed, we must first address fundamental issues within the green building movement-such as the all-too-common gap between sustainable design and actual building performance-which is why we need the collective expertise of the entire building industry."

 


National Survey Shows Consumers Influenced by Energy Efficiency

Public awareness of EPA's ENERGY STAR® label has jumped to 68 percent of U.S. households, according to a recent nationwide survey. In many major markets where local utilities and other organizations use ENERGY STAR to promote energy efficiency to their customers, public awareness of ENERGY STAR is even greater, averaging 76 percent.

"We are thrilled that awareness of ENERGY STAR continues to grow," said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. "More than ever, Americans are making a clear choice to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The report titled "National Awareness of ENERGY STAR for 2006" presents an analysis of a survey commissioned by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, a non-profit organization that promotes the manufacture and purchase of energy-efficient products and services.

Additional results from the survey show that:

  • More than 60 percent of households reported being favorably influenced by the ENERGY STAR label
  • More than 30 percent of U.S. households knowingly purchased an ENERGY STAR qualifying product or appliance in the past year
  • More than 70 percent of these households reported they are likely to recommend ENERGY STAR products to their friends, with 29 percent of households reporting they are "extremely likely" to recommend ENERGY STAR

The survey report highlights that the government's ENERGY STAR is helping Americans make consumer choices that are energy efficient and good for the environment. The survey has been done for the past seven years.

ENERGY STAR was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Today, the ENERGY STAR label can be found on more than 50 different kinds of products as well as new homes. Products that have earned the ENERGY STAR designation prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the government. In 2006 alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved about $14 billion on their energy bills while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 25 million vehicles.

 

Energy-Efficiency Tips to Save Money, Curb Pollution

Despite seasonally higher summer electricity prices and the federal government’s prediction of a slight up-tick in summer electricity costs, consumers can exercise considerable control over their home energy bills by employing energy-efficiency technologies and being smart about their energy use, says the Alliance to Save Energy. They also will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, helping to protect our environment from the risks of global climate change and contributing to electricity reliability.

“The average U.S. household spent more than $2,000 last year on home energy costs,” noted Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “That’s a big bite out of a family’s budget, but consumers can reduce those costs by up to 30 percent – and even more in some cases – with energy efficiency. And it’s not too late to get some financial assistance from Uncle Sam,” she continued. “Homeowners who make certain energy-efficiency home improvements by December 31 can cut their 2007 federal income taxes by up to $500.”

The Alliance advises consumers to take these additional steps to curb their summer cooling and other energy costs:

Air conditioning….and otherwise "keeping your cool"

  • For central air conditioning systems, look for the ENERGY STAR®, the government’s symbol for energy efficiency, and purchase the system with the highest possible Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). When buying new equipment, it is important to get a quality installation. Make sure you get a contractor who can do the job right. Tax credits of up to $300 can help offset the cost of energy-efficient CAC systems.
  • Additional tax credits are available for insulation and sealing products and efficient windows, doors, skylights, heat pumps and hot water heaters. Details in English and Spanish at www.ase.org/taxcredits.
  • Get even more tax savings by wrapping in funds for energy-efficiency home improvements when refinancing your home mortgage. Most likely the interest you pay will be tax deductible.
  • Cooling puts the greatest stress on your summer energy bill and the power grid. EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program advises that just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. And be sure to clean or replace filters monthly or as needed.
  • Use ceiling fans with the ENERGY STAR label for additional cooling and air circulation so you can raise the thermostat and cut AC costs. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. If the room is unoccupied, turn off the ceiling fan to save energy.
  • Seal your heating and cooling ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts that move air to and from a forced-air central air conditioner or heat pump can improve the efficiency of your cooling system by as much as 20 percent – or even more – according to EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program.
  • Bigger is not always better. Poorly-sized air conditioning units can inflate your energy costs and contribute to poor indoor air quality that worsens allergies and breathing problems. Check with your contractor or local air conditioning system retailer to properly size your unit.
  • Let a programmable thermostat “remember for you” to automatically coordinate the indoor climate with your daily and weekend patterns to reduce cooling bills by up to 10 percent. Set it to crank the AC back up before you expect to return, so you come home to a comfortable house without wasting energy and creating pollution all day. EPA ENERGY STAR notes that proper use of pre-programmed settings on a programmable thermostat can yield yearly savings of about $150 in energy costs. Look for the ENERGY STAR on qualified models.
  • Install appropriate insulation for your climate, and seal air leaks to increase your comfort, make your home quieter and cleaner, reduce your cooling costs up to 20 percent – and generate a tax credit.
  • Go “window-shopping” at www.efficientwindows.org. Discover how high-performance ENERGY STAR windows can cut cooling costs by as much as 30 percent while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings.
  • Cut your air conditioning load and reduce pollution by planting leafy trees around your home and installing reflective tiles on your roof.
  • Close blinds or shades on the south- and west-facing windows during the day, or install shading devices such as trellises or awnings to avoid heat build-up.

Additional ways to cut summer electricity bills:

  • Generate light, not heat with ENERGY STAR qualified lighting. According to EPA, these energy-efficient products provide bright, warm light but use at least 2/3 less energy than standard lighting, generate 70 percent less heat and last up to 10 times longer. According to EPA, if every American home replaced five high-use light fixtures, or their bulbs, with ENERGY STAR qualified products, the yearly energy savings would be about $60 per household and about $6.5 billion for the nation at large. The avoided greenhouse gases would be equivalent to the emissions from more than 8 million cars!
  • Also look for the ENERGY STAR label to cut related energy bills for room air conditioners, major appliances, home office equipment, electronics and more – 50 types of products in all – by up to 30 percent. Find retailers near you at www.energystar.gov.
  • Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers.
  • Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
  • Curb costs of “standby power” by looking for the ENERGY STAR label on electronics – TVs, VCRs, CD players, DVD players, cordless telephones and more – that continue to use less electricity in the “off” mode to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working. ENERGY STAR products use less energy while in the “off” mode.
  • Activate “sleep” features on computers and office equipment that power down when the equipment is not in use for a while. Turn off equipment during long periods of non-use to cut costs and improve longevity.

 

Rocky Mountain Institute Names New CEO

Rocky Mountain Institute recently announced the appointment of high-tech industry veteran Michael Potts to head the noted “think and do tank.” Potts succeeds Amory B. Lovins who moves up to become RMI’s Chairman and Chief Scientist. Both changes take effect immediately, as Chairman John C. Fox also becomes Lead Trustee.

“The world is waking up to the need for efficient and restorative use of natural resources,” said Potts. “RMI’s innovative whole-systems approach has created groundbreaking solutions for 25 years. Now our time has come and demand for these solutions is stronger than ever.”

Potts, an active member of RMI’s Board of Trustees, was most recently Managing Partner of Galway Investments, a boutique investment firm. Previously, he served as CEO for American Fundware, creator of the FundWare line of software product used by more than 2,000 non-profit and government organizations and held other senior positions with fast growing high-technology companies. A Denver resident, Potts will split his time between RMI’s Boulder office and RMI headquarters in Old Snowmass, Colorado.

Amory Lovins, co-founder and a driving force behind RMI, is in great demand as a speaker and senior advisor. In his new role at RMI, freed of management responsibilities, Lovins will focus on thought leadership, strategic influence and high-impact special initiatives. Those include leading the implementation of RMI’s Pentagon-cosponsored roadmap, Winning the Oil Endgame, for getting the U.S. completely off oil by the 2040s, led by business for profit.

Yahoo! recently launched a new solutions-oriented web site, Yahoo! Green, featuring a weekly blog post by Lovins. He conveys in his inaugural post why climate solutions are "not costly, but profitable" and points Yahoo! readers to RMI's Winning the Oil Endgame.

 


Call for Entries: Sustainable Building Challenge 2008

International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE) invites all those with experience in designing, building or operating high performance buildings to take part in the Sustainable Building Challenge 2007-2008. SBC08 is a continuation of the Green Building Challenge process that began in 1996 and has since engaged more than 20 countries in project assessments, displayed at GBC'98, SB2000, SB02 and SB05.

The SBC08 process will result in the selection of a broad range of high-performance buildings from around the world to be assessed by the proponents and then presented and discussed at the World Sustainable Building Conference in Melbourne, Australia in September, 2008. The process is open to any broad-scope assessment system, including LEED.

SBC08 is a screening process, rather than a competition; the purpose is to ensure that proposed projects offer geographic diversity and replicability and that the information presented is of high quality and interest. If you are part of a U.S. team that is interested in applying, please download further details about program and the expression of interest form. Completed forms are due by June 29.

The SBC08 process include the following steps:

  • Call for Expressions of Interest closes on 29 June, 2007
  • Review of preliminary proposals and selection of projects, to 03 August, 2007
  • Notification of selected project teams, 6-10 August, 2007
  • Submission of draft information to iiSBE for verification of completeness, 30 May, 2008
  • Preparation of presentation materials by selected teams, June-September, 2008
  • Presentation at SB08 Melbourne for selected teams, 21-25 September, 2008

 

Women's Photovoltaic Design & Installation - June 18-29

Offered by Solar Energy International. Participants learn how to use PV technology to produce their own electricity from the sun through practical design and installation of PV systems. Topics covered:

  • Home Applications
  • Basics of Electricity
  • Solar Site Analysis
  • PV System Components
  • Energy Efficient Appliances
  • PV System Sizing
  • Components Specification
  • Electrical Wiring
  • Safety Procedures
  • Tours of PV Residences
  • Field Installation

The workshop fulfills one of the requirements for national photovoltaic certification. See www.nabcep.org for more information.

 

SolWest Fair - July 27, 28 & 29

The Eastern Oregon Renewable Energies Non-profit presents the SolWest Fair July 27, 28 & 29 at the Grant County Fairgrounds, John Day, OR. This three-day event offers activities for all ages and knowledge levels, including the SolWest Electrathon rally. Participants from around the western region and beyond can learn about energy efficiency, solar and wind energy, alternatively-fueled vehicles and more.

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