Green Building News

Green Building News December 2007

December 3, 2007

New Furnace Efficiency Standards

The U.S. Department of Energy increased efficiency standards for residential furnaces on November 17th, updating a 15-year-old rule. The new rule requires gas furnace efficiency to improve from 78 percent to 80 percent by 2015.

Critics point out that this will have little effect on consumers or push more efficient equipment into the marketplace. Almost all combustion heating equipment on the market already meet the new standard with 30 percent of all gas furnaces achieving 90 percent efficiency. Currently, oil furnaces must be 78 percent efficient. The new standard goes up to 82 percent by 2015.

Efficiency ratings reflect the amount of heat delivered compared to the energy value of the fuel burned. The best gas furnaces on the market are 96 percent efficient.

Consumer and environmental advocates called the new standards “extraordinarily weak”. They had encouraged DOE to set the standard at 90 percent or set regional standards with higher requirements for colder areas. Four states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Maryland have already set their own furnace and boiler standards. Other states such as New Hampshire and New Jersey are considering following suit. Oregon is expected to boost it’s building code requirement for furnace efficiency to 90 percent starting in 2008.


REGREEN—Green Residential Remodeling Guidelines

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have partnered to create the first nationwide green residential remodeling guidelines for existing homes. The guidelines, comprised of best practices using a “whole-house” approach, will be supplemented by learning programs and print and electronic resources for building professionals and homeowners as part of the REGREEN program. A first draft of the guidelines was released at USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo earlier this month in Chicago.

A draft of the guidelines is available for public comment. USGBC and ASID urge green design professionals in the industry to review the document before the comment period closes on December 10, 2007. The final guidelines will be released at INTERIORS 08: The ASID Conference on Design next March in New Orleans.


SMUD and D.R. Horton Sign Solar Homes Deal

Another 187 solar-powered, super energy-efficient SolarSmart homes will be built in the Sacramento area in an agreement between SMUD and homebuilder D.R. Horton. In the agreement, SMUD provides funding to buy down the cost of solar and energy efficiency equipment in all the homes.

Groundbreaking has begun and models are being constructed in the Provence neighborhood in Natomas. Residents of these SolarSmart homes may save as much as 60 percent annually on their electric bills through the energy-efficient features and the solar roof tiles that generate electricity. The homes are also rated Silver by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®). LEED standards were developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and provide independent, third-party verification that a building meets the highest performance standards and is proof that a building is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live or work.

In addition to the built-in solar panels, SolarSmart homes also boast many energy efficiency measures to help customers reduce their bills year-round. The energy efficiency measures include efficient HVAC systems, radiant barriers in attics, added insulation, duct sealing and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lighting.

The community benefits as well with solar home developments. Less electricity will be needed to serve the homes, especially at peak demand times, like hot summer days, when power is most expensive. The 183 homes are expected to shave nearly 276 kilowatts off the peak and help keep power costs low for all customers.

The homes also have a smaller “carbon footprint” than conventional new homes. Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced. Cumulatively, the 187 SolarSmart homes could reduce carbon emissions that are equivalent to taking 90 cars off the road or planting 143 acres of trees.

The deal with D.R. Horton is the fifth SMUD has signed with builders in 2007 to construct SolarSmart homes. In August, SMUD signed deals with Homes by Towne to construct 355 SolarSmart homes and with Centex homes to build 107. In May, SMUD and homebuilder Tim Lewis Communities signed a deal to build 183 solar-powered homes in three communities. In March, SMUD announced a partnership with Lennar Homes to build more than 1,200 solar homes, which represents the largest solar new homes partnership in the United States. Photovoltaic systems will be built into 1,254 new homes in 11 communities.

As a partner, SMUD provides incentives to buy down the cost of the solar electric systems and provide rebates for energy efficiency upgrades. These rebates and incentives, along with attractive tax credits, make solar electric systems a more affordable option for more homebuyers.


All Tapped Out

With the firestorm that swept through Southern California now under control, state officials are turning their attention to an even more serious, long-term problem that will most likely affect not only California but several states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, as well as Florida and Georgia. 

The concern: water. Several states are facing severe water shortages and experts now say the problem is not the result of just a “dry year.” Instead, it is the result of several occurrences that simply can no longer be ignored. These situations include:

  • California and other western states are experiencing one of the driest years in history.  As of October 2007, San Diego, CA has received less than 40 percent of its normal precipitation. 
  • Some experts believe we are entering an extended period of drought, similar to the 1930’s “Dust Bowl,” which lasted for almost a decade.
  • The Sierra snow pack, which provides water for many California reservoirs, is the lowest its been in more than 20 years.
  • The capacity of the two largest reservoirs filled by the Colorado River is only at 51 percent.
  • Populations in these dry states are rapidly growing yet their water infrastructure has failed to keep up with population growth. In California, for example, there have been no significant improvements in more than 30 years.

“Although the entire country is taking Green and environmental issues more seriously today than ever before, water conservation does not appear to be one of them,” says Klaus Reichardt, managing partner of Waterless Co., LLC.

For instance, as much as 60 percent of U.S. water is used just for outdoor landscaping, amounting to more than 19 trillion gallons of water annually. “Much of this water is used in states that have dry, desert climates,” Reichardt says. 

As much as 20 percent of the remaining water used in the U.S. is just for flushing toilets and urinals. Fortunately, new developments in water conserving technologies are helping to reduce this demand.

A bill is now being considered in California that could affect the industry world-wide and would reduce the amount of water used to flush toilets from the current 1.6 gallons to 1.3 gallons per flush. And other states, such as Arizona, now require waterless urinals installed in all state buildings, which can save thousands of gallons of water annually.

“What we need now is greater realization that water must be used wisely and carefully, with people voluntarily cutting back on water use,” says Reichardt. “This, along with employing new water reducing technologies will help us deal with the coming water challenges confronting us.”


Graduate to Green

The U.S. Green Building Council-Greater Houston Area Chapter has announced its endorsement of the Houston Independent School District $805 million bond package because it provides for high-performance buildings that will provide cleaner and healthier classroom environments for students.

The bond package contains plans to build high-performance, green schools that will be measured by the non-profit organization’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification program. LEED is a nationwide certification program recognizing buildings that have an integrated eco-friendly and energy-efficient design. USGBC administers the program.

“We believe HISD’s continuing commitment to build LEED schools is a powerful testament to the district’s intention to build for future generations,” said Tim Murray, chairman of the USGBC-Greater Houston Area Chapter. “Not only are LEED buildings sustainable, they are healthier. Studies have shown that students learn better when their classrooms have LEED features. Students perform better when they have good daylight to read by, cleaner air to breathe and more opportunities to incorporate their environment into the lessons teachers give them.”

The LEED for Schools design is meant to create a building that does more than house children for an average of six hours per day so they can be taught. The building itself is designed to be used as a teaching tool.

“Through LEED for Schools, we have the opportunity to see that children learn from the building,” Murray said. “We hope HISD will encourage students to use math skills and the features of LEED to track way the school is saving money in energy efficiency. By using the school site for gardens, students will learn about natural conservancy. We want teachers to see the schools as an additional teaching resource in math, science and related subjects. Nothing would please us more than for teachers to understand that a LEED school is designed to support them in their teaching curricula.”


PERMALIGHT® Photoluminescent Energy Efficient Lighting

American PERMALIGHT® Inc, manufacturer of photoluminescent EXIT signs and exit path markings recently introduced the new MAIN Catalog with NEW PERMALIGHT® photoluminescent glow-in-the-dark safety products including easy-to-use spray paint, durable floor decals, glowing warning chain, alerting warning tapes and energy-efficient EXIT signs that are non-electrical, non-radioactive, non-toxic and offer a 25-year life expectancy.   

The catalog highlights PERMALIGHT®'s power 150/22 product line that illuminates with 35 hours of measurable luminance in the dark, compared to ASTM Standard-compliant markings with only 8 hours. Brighter luminance and increased visibility help speed up the evacuation in emergency situations where seconds count!  And PERMALIGHT® Photoluminescent Exit Signs are a highly sustainable product that can directly contribute toward securing points in the following Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Credits:

  • EA Credit #1 – Energy and Atmosphere: Optimizing Energy Performance.
  • MR Credit #4 – Materials and Resources: Recycled Content.
  • ID Credit #1.1 – Innovation in Design: Exceptional Performance


Honda Introduces Experimental Home Energy Station IV
Appliance-like device may help solve problem of hydrogen supply for fuel cell vehicles

Honda has announced that it has begun using the Home Energy Station IV at its Honda R&D Americas, Inc. facility in Torrance, California. This fourth-generation experimental unit is designed to provide fuel for a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, as well as heat and electricity for a home. The new system is more compact and efficient, with a lower operating cost than previous models. The announcement coincides with the world debut of the all-new FCX Clarity hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Honda's Home Energy Station technology is designed to facilitate the broader adoption of zero-emissions fuel cell vehicles, like the FCX Clarity, by developing a home refueling solution that makes efficient use of a home's existing natural gas supply for production of hydrogen, while providing heat and electricity to an average-size home.

The Home Energy Station IV can reduce both cost and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the consumer. Compared to the average U.S. consumer's home with grid-supplied electricity and a gasoline-powered car, a home using Home Energy Station IV to help produce heat and electricity and also to refuel an FCX Clarity can reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 30 percent and energy costs by an estimated 50 percent.

Working with technology partner, Plug Power, Inc., Honda began operation of a Home Energy Station in October, 2003. Home Energy Station IV represents the latest evolution of the technology with a 70 percent reduction in size compared to the first unit, making it even more suitable for household installation. By combining gas purification and power generation components, overall size reduction and efficiency gains are achieved, while enabling it to switch from hydrogen refining to power generation when needed.


Five Green Globes for UBC Okanagan’s Fipke Centre

A wind tower for air exchange, a groundwater energy system for winter heating and summer cooling, and other innovations have earned an unprecedented five Green Globes for UBC Okanagan’s newest building, the Fipke Centre for Innovative Research.
“The Fipke Centre is an outstanding example of the highly sustainable and innovative designs we have pursued for new buildings at UBC Okanagan,” says UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice Chancellor Doug Owram. "We are becoming a model for anyone in the world looking for best practices in these types of projects. Five Green Globes is a remarkable achievement, and we’re very proud of this building and the people involved in its design and construction.”

The 6,500 sq. m. (68,000 sq. ft.) building was designed by Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd., and is being built by UBC Properties Trust on University Way at UBC Okanagan. Construction on the $30.5-million facility began in October 2006 and completion is expected in May 2008.

“One of the great innovations in this building is the geo-exchange technology,” says David Roche, Development Manager for UBC Properties Trust. He credits Aidan Kiernan, UBC Okanagan’s Assoc. Vice President of Operations, as instrumental in developing a campus-wide geo-exchange system which pumps groundwater from beneath the campus, uses the water to heat or cool buildings, and then returns the water to the ground.

“That system played a major role in the Green Globes designation,” says Roche. UBC Okanagan will use this technology in all new buildings, and over the next few years, every existing building will also be converted to use the groundwater heating and cooling system. “Not only is the building naturally heated and cooled, it’s also a naturally ventilated building,” says architect André Kroeger of Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd. “There’s a wind tower on the building so people will have 100 per cent fresh air all the time, and a number of other innovations of this type.”

The designation of five Green Globes is reserved for designs serving as national or world leaders in energy and environmental performance, and follows an extensive audit of the building’s design. Through the Green Globes audit of the Fipke Centre project, outstanding performance was shown in the areas of project management, energy, resources, emissions and indoor environment.

Green Globes is one of two national green building rating systems used in Canada, along with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Its module for existing buildings also forms the basis of Go Green Plus, which is the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada’s national environmental recognition and certification program for existing commercial buildings. Go Green Plus was recently adopted by the Canadian federal government for its entire portfolio of existing buildings.

“We feel the Green Globes system is one of the most accurate ways to assess buildings and their environmental performance,” says Roche. “The five Green Globes rating that the Fipke Centre has achieved is the equivalent of LEED Platinum. As far as we know, no other lab building in Canada has achieved a rating of either LEED Platinum or five Green Globes.”

DEFG Launches EcoAlign With First EcoPinion Survey Report Available

The Distributed Energy Financial Group (DEFG) LLC recently launched EcoAlign, a strategic marketing agency focused on energy and the environment. EcoAlign’s mission is to align consumer behavior with energy and environmental needs for products, services and programs.

“EcoAlign was created to close the gap between customers’ stated intentions, e.g., reducing their carbon footprint, and their actual purchasing behavior,” stated Andrea Fabbri, COO and Chief Marketing Officer. “We see this as a marketing and communications challenge. Our motto: Making value visible.”

To mark the launch, EcoAlign released the first EcoPinion Survey Report, a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted the first week of November, on communications and language commonly used by companies and stakeholders in the energy and environment space. The EcoPinion Survey confirms a green gap exists around terms such as energy efficiency, energy conservation, demand response, smart energy and clean energy and customers’ understanding, acceptance and perceptions of value around those terms.

The green gap in communications is contributing to a growing misalignment between customers’ stated intentions, e.g., their desire to be more green or frugal with energy consumption, and their actual behavior.

Findings from the EcoPinion Survey Report include:

  1. Most consumers can’t articulate the difference between the phrases “energy conservation” and “energy efficiency,” while only 13% of respondents think energy efficiency has to do with saving money or cutting down on fuel costs.
  2. To conserve energy, a quarter of consumers try to buy energy efficient products and 19 percent lower their thermostats, with women more likely to take actions around conserving energy.
  3. Only about one third, 30 percent, of Americans understand the term “smart energy” and about the same amount, 32 percent, say they are not doing enough in terms of “smart energy.”
  4. One third of respondents do not know what “clean energy” signifies.
  5. 41 percent of consumers polled don’t know what “demand response” is, but nonetheless find it unpopular (44 percent), annoying (42 percent) and unhelpful (40 percent). Looking for 10 Green Stories - Dec. 31

AuctorVerno, LLC and have announced they are looking for ten Connecticut green stories of this year for inclusion in the 2007 CTGreen10. Stories can be about a building, development project, business strategy/operation or anything that can be placed into the category of embracing and promoting sustainability in Connecticut. 

Nominations are due by December 31, 2007 at midnight. Last year, nine green stories were selected by an independent committee for inclusion in the 2006 CTGreen9. Companies, NGOs and state and local government institutions received recognition for their green initiatives that made Connecticut a more sustainable place to live, work and play.

Stories should be no more than 300 words in length and should detail why the person, place or thing should be considered to be included in the 2007 CTGreen10.

Submissions should be emailed to  They should include:

  • name of nominator and contact info,
  • name of person, place of thing that is being nominated with contact info,
  • 300 word story, and
  • back-up material (optional)

The 2007 CTGreen10 will receive recognition at a reception in February, 2008 and will also receive exposure on

3rd Annual Good Earth Home, Garden & Living Show - Jan. 25-27

This third annual Sustainable Home and Garden Show will be held at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Oregon. This three-day event is Oregon’s green design, build and remodel marketplace. Shop and source in seven pavilions presenting over 250 exhibits ranging from manufacturers, trades people and contractors to the UO Architecture Ecological Design Center.

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