Green Building News

Green Building News July 2007

July 5, 2007

ACEEE “Rates the States” in the New Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released a comprehensive ranking of state-level energy efficiency policies. "The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard for 2006" graded each state and the District of Columbia on actions they have taken in the race to adopt energy efficiency policies, programs and technologies.

Past versions of the ACEEE Scorecard have ranked states on utility- sector energy efficiency spending; however, this report is a new and expanded effort to rank states on a broad array of policy initiatives, including appliance and equipment standards, building energy codes, transportation and land use policies and other policy innovations that are increasing U.S. energy security while sustaining economic prosperity and protecting the environment.

According to the report, Vermont, Connecticut and California lead the nation in energy efficiency policy, all tying for the top spot. Rounding out the top ten are Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, New York and New Jersey in spots four through eight, respectively, and Rhode Island and Minnesota tying for ninth.

“States are leading the nation in mining efficiency as the ‘first fuel’ in the race to solve America’s energy security and global warming challenges,” said ACEEE Acting Executive Director Bill Prindle, co-author of the Scorecard. “Unless we accelerate the pace of efficiency investment, no clean energy strategy will work.”

The new report was issued as Congress takes up pending federal energy legislation this month, which is viewed as “a crucial opportunity to adopt energy efficiency policies proven in these top-ranking states to help address perhaps the preeminent public policy concern of our day,” said Maggie Eldridge, ACEEE Policy Program Research Assistant who also co-authored the report.

To recognize leadership among the states and identify best practices, ACEEE developed "The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard for 2006" as a comprehensive ranking of state energy efficiency policies. “This report puts the spotlight on the best and least performing states, but it also highlights the critical need for sweeping federal action to apply best energy efficiency practices and policies nationwide,” Prindle said. “Only until federal, state and local governments join forces to put their collective arms around this enormous problem will we see uniform progress” on:

• Fuel economy standards for vehicles
• Energy efficiency resource standards for utilities
• Appliance efficiency standards
• Building energy codes
• Combined heat and power (CHP) technologies
• Smart growth and public transportation policies
• Tax incentives for efficient technologies
• Energy efficiency in public buildings and fleets

“Congress is considering provisions on all of these fronts,” Prindle pointed out. “The message that comes from the states’ patchwork approach to energy efficiency standards and practices is that the time is long overdue for the federal government and the nation to get moving to close the gaps in our nation’s energy policy through which our energy security and our efforts to curb global warming are undermined.”

“The top-ten states earn the highest scores due to their records of spending on energy efficiency programs, building codes and appliances standards and other programs that work to increase investment in energy efficiency,” commented Eldridge. “The next fifteen states that trail behind the top ten all have policies to increase efficiency in state-owned facilities and most are committing funds to energy efficiency programs plus adopting codes and standards. The bottom twenty-six states, however, seriously lag behind the rest,” Eldridge said. “We hope that highlighting the leaders in our Scorecard will encourage the laggards to catch up with the front runners as if our lives depended on it -- because it does.”


DOE Seeks Applications to Invest up to $40 Million in Housing Research

DOE is issuing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that will make available up to $40 million to fund research applications to fundamentally change the way American homes consume energy. Awards made under this FOA would support research, development and deployment of technologies that will, on average, reduce new home energy use 30-90 percent.

“The biggest source of immediately available ‘new’ energy is the energy that we waste every day – which is why we need to seize every opportunity to maximize savings,” Secretary Bodman said. “This research will help enable the next generation of energy efficient homes to produce as much energy as they consume, minimizing the energy we currently waste.”

Using a systems-engineering approach, this research seeks to: provide new energy efficient products to the market, incorporate innovations into home design, cut construction time, limit waste and improve builder productivity. Energy Efficiency Housing Partnership applicants under this FOA are expected to engage architects, engineers, building scientists, builders, equipment manufacturers, material suppliers, community planners, mortgage lenders, realtors and contractor trades. This approach brings together building professionals from a variety of sectors to pool expertise and maximize information sharing.

DOE anticipates selecting four-eight applications to research the energy efficiency of homes and develop formulae for construction of new homes on a community scale. Subject to Congressional appropriations, funding for these cost-shared projects is expected to begin in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 ($8 million requested in FY’08) and continue through FY 2012. This investment would total $50 million, with applicants expected to provide 20 percent of the overall funding ($10 million).

This research is part of DOE’s Building America project – a public-private partnership – which acts as a catalyst for change in the home-building industry. Building America develops energy solutions for new and existing homes. By 2020, the Building America project seeks to enable the production of cost-effective net Zero Energy Homes, which will annually produce as much energy as they use. Zero Energy Homes combine state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction and appliances with commercially available renewable energy systems such as solar water heating and solar electricity. The Program’s primary goal is to enable industry to adopt systems engineering approaches to the design and construction of a large portion of all new housing.


Graduate Develops “Growable” Solution to Energy Issues

Sky-rocketing oil prices, rising demand for reliance on renewable resources and an increase in environmental consciousness have placed a newfound focus on “green” solutions to global energy issues. Following his graduation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, student inventor Eben Bayer hopes to alleviate some of those growing issues — by growing.

A dual major in mechanical engineering and product design and innovation, Bayer has developed an environmentally friendly organic insulation. The patented combination of water, flour, minerals and mushroom spores could replace conventional foam insulations, which are expensive to produce and harmful to the environment.

Households use nearly one-fifth the total energy consumed in the United States every year — and of that energy, 50 to 70 percent is spent on heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To reduce this massive energy expenditure, new and existing homes must be fitted with more insulation. Conventional polystyrene and polyurethane foam blends are typically used because of their excellent capacity to insulate, but they require petroleum for production and are not biodegradable.

The son of a successful farmer in South Royalton, Vt., Bayer’s knowledge of the Earth and fungal growth lead him to develop a novel method of bonding insulating minerals using the mycelium growth stage of pleurotus ostreatus mushroom cells.

“The insulation is created by pouring a mixture of insulating particles, hydrogen peroxide, starch and water into a panel mold,” Bayer says. “Mushroom cells are then injected into the mold, where they digest the starch producing a tightly meshed network of insulating particles and mycelium. The end result is an organic composite board that has a competitive R-Value – a measurement of resistance to heat flow — and can serve as a firewall.”

The organic idea was born during a class Bayer took called Inventor’s Studio, where students were challenged to create sustainable housing. Bayer was tasked with improving the insulation of a conventional home.

“I applaud Eben for his vision and passion to use technology to create significant value for all,” said Burt Swersey, a lecturer in Rensselaer’s department of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering and Bayer’s teacher in Inventor’s Studio. “He had the creative skill to transfer information and to ‘see’ something in mushroom cultivation that was the inspiration for a wild, crazy and wonderful new idea. Organic insulation holds the promise of creating a win-win-win situation: better insulation that saves energy, at a lower cost and in harmony with the environment.”

Bayer’s process resulted in a new energy-saving, cost-effective, environmentally friendly class of insulation that could replace traditional synthetic insulators such as foam and fiberglass. This spring he began working with fellow classmate Gavin McIntyre to produce larger samples using different substrates, insulating particles and growth conditions. Together Bayer and McIntyre will be forming a company called Greensulate to commercialize the technology.

Beyond insulation applications, the duo envision modifying the growing mixture slightly to include reinforcing materials that could be used to create strong, sustainable “growable” homes. Examples of this application include inexpensive structural panels that could be grown and assembled on-site in developing nations where usable housing is scarce and generally hard to obtain, or in disaster areas where temporary housing is essential.


Real Estate Industry Quietly Embracing Green Development

Although much less public than the major media announcements of the world's largest corporations, GE and Wal-Mart, the real estate industry is quietly transforming by embracing sustainable business practices and green technologies.

In an analysis of the industry, Progressive Investor reports that 41percent of the 300 U.S. real estate investment trusts (REITs) are actively pursuing energy efficiency and green building upgrades and another 27 percent plan to do so.

Yet, it found that most social/environmental investors (SRI) aren't aware of even one investment option in the area that meets their criteria -- one of the few asset classes that remains a hole for SRI portfolios.

"That will change over the next few years," predicts Rona Fried, Progressive Investor CEO. "Industry leaders are forming a responsible property trade association, creating criteria for certification, integrating green building into the appraisal process and into broker databases," she says.

Progressive Investor identified the following drivers for the trend:

-- Developers and building owners are feeling the crunch of high energy and water costs, which, according to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), constitute 28 percent of operating costs for downtown office properties and 30.4 percent for suburban properties. They see the quick payback and cost savings energy efficiency and other green building upgrades offer.

-- Building green no longer costs more. Turner Construction's 2005 Green Building Market Barometer shows it costs a mere 0.8 percent more for basic LEED certification, easily recouped through lower operating costs.

-- Increasingly, clients and tenants show a preference for green buildings, which have been proven to increase productivity, retain employees and lower absenteeism. The combination of reduced operating costs and more satisfied occupants translates into 3.5 percent higher occupancy rates, 3 percent higher rents and a 7.5 percent increase in building value, says the McGraw-Hill 2006 SmartMarket Report.

-- Corporations with sustainable business policies are building highly visible green headquarters including Bank of America, Toyota, Goldman Sachs, Hearst, IBM, JPMorgan Chase and Herman Miller. The Freedom Tower, which replaces the World Trade Center, will be LEED-certified.

-- Green building is increasingly being mandated. Nine states and 40-plus municipalities have passed legislation mandating LEED-certified buildings.

-- Real estate firms see the writing on the wall and are nervous about holding a portfolio of obsolete, inefficient buildings.

"The benefits will make green ubiquitous over the next two years," says George Caraghiaur, vice president for energy services at Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG - News), owner of 300 shopping malls. "We're happy to have caught this trend at the beginning."

Six percent of commercial developments are LEED-certified, projected to jump to 10 percent of the market by 2010. Buildings produce 21 percent of the world's CO2 emissions (38 percent in the US), more than transportation or manufacturing. About 15 million new buildings will be added by 2015. Commercial buildings, the largest polluter, are expected to grow emissions 1.8 percent a year through 2030.

A recent United Nations study concluded that green buildings can do more to fight global warming than all curbs on greenhouse gases agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol, while saving billions of dollars.

Progressive firms are increasingly focused on urban infill buildings rather than suburban greenfields and incorporating advanced energy efficiency measures, as well as recycled building materials, gray water systems, rainwater capture and green roofs, the report says.

Progressive Investor is a monthly newsletter that guides investors and advisors toward sustainable investments. It covers all renewable energy sectors, healthy lifestyle, green building and more.


U.S. Mayors Champion the Greening of America's Schools

If mayors from across the country have their way, every child in America will be attending a green school within a generation.

In a move to better support the health and well-being of America's students, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), which represents more than 1,100 mayors, unanimously supported a green schools resolution last week at its 75th annual meeting in Los Angeles.

The resolution, introduced by Mayor T.M. Franklin Cownie of Des Moines and co-sponsored by 16 additional mayors, also urges Congress to provide funding of K-12 green school demonstration projects as well as support new research funding to better understand the environmental, economic and health benefits of green schools.

Citing the urgent need for healthier and more productive places of learning, the mayors issued the resolution on behalf of the 55 million students and 5 million faculty and staff who spend their days in school buildings.

"Studies show that children in green schools are healthier and more productive because of improved indoor air quality, lower levels of chemical emissions and a generous provision of natural day lighting," said Mayor Cownie. "The benefits of cleaner indoor air quality – a key emphasis of green schools – have been linked to lower asthma rates, fewer allergies, reduced absenteeism and increased teacher retention rates."

In addition to significant health benefits, green schools cost less to operate and greatly reduce water and energy use, which generate significant financial savings.

"We're in urgent need of action on this issue, so it's great to see mayors take the lead," said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "Green schools are healthier for students and teachers, better for the environment and cost less to operate and maintain. We owe it to our children - and ourselves - to make all our schools green."

All across the country, more and more schools are going green to save money, protect the environment and help kids learn. To date, more than 30 schools have received LEED certification and nearly 300 more are on a waiting list for certification from the USGBC, which administers the nationally recognized LEED rating system for environmentally friendly buildings and recently released its LEED rating system specifically for schools.

Greening school design is an extraordinarily cost-effective way to enhance student learning, reduce health and operational costs and ultimately increase school quality and competitiveness. In a recent study by Capital E, researchers found that a typical green school involves a modest two percent increase in cost, but would save $100,000 per year in energy costs alone - enough to hire two new teachers, buy 500 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.


SCI FI, Alliance to Save Energy, Edison Electric Institute Present Eureka $mart House Energy Efficiency Challenge

Eco-Friendly Plot Lines, Web Content Fuel Public Awareness Campaign

SCI FI’s hit series Eureka will return for season two on July 10 with a national contest that will award a home energy-efficiency makeover, sponsored by the Channel, the Alliance to Save Energy and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). For years, the government has been relocating the world’s geniuses and their families to the picturesque Pacific Northwest town of Eureka, where anything can happen and usually does. Eureka’s Smart House, where U.S. Marshal Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) and daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) reside, sets the stage for the Eureka $mart House Energy-Efficiency Challenge, a national drive for home energy efficiency. The initiative is part of SCI FI’s Visions for Tomorrow public affairs campaign to inspire pro-social action around the critical issue of energy and the environment.

Visions for Tomorrow inspires individuals to take an active part in helping shape our future,” said Dave Howe, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SCI FI Channel. “As a top ten cable channel reaching a progressive and forward-thinking audience, we're excited to be able to use one of our hit shows, Eureka, to galvanize our viewers into making simple changes to the way they live that will have a tangible and long-term impact on climate change.”

“Partnering with the SCI FI Channel allows us to empower millions of Americans to save energy and money in their homes while engaging directly in the battle against global climate change," said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan. “You don’t have to be a ‘superhero’ to have ‘Energy-$avings Super Powers.’ We will showcase smart, easy ways consumers can use energy-efficient technologies and measures to reduce utility bills and cut energy waste, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously.”

The winner of the home energy-efficiency makeover will be selected by a panel of judges from SCI FI’s Visions for Tomorrow Advisory Board, the Alliance and EEI. The partners will award the makeover to one lucky and deserving homeowner who demonstrates an interest in energy-efficiency. The announcement of the winner is planned for September, and the home energy-efficiency makeover is expected to commence during October, which is Energy Awareness Month. Additional campaign sponsors include the US Department of Energy, Whirlpool Corporation, the Consumer Electronics Association, Osram Sylvania, the American Gas Association, The Dow Chemical Company and CMC Energy Services.

Eureka further advocates for the environment with eco-friendly messaging and related web content. Upcoming episodes will incorporate environmental plot lines, which underscore critical issues ranging from global warming to solar energy and recycling. Each environmental message, dubbed a Eureka Moment, will be highlighted with in-show banners that drive viewers to where they can get information from the Alliance and other organizations on easy, actionable environmentally friendly practices that will save them money every month.


West Coast Green - Sept. 20-22

Bill Graham Auditorium, San Francisco, CA. Visit the website for more information.


10th Annual Green Building Expo - Oct. 5 & 6

At the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, AZ. Free two-day event showcasing green building and sustainable living. Visit the website for more information.

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