Green Building News

Green Building News April 2008

April 1, 2008

Three Insurers Offer Green Building Coverage Enhancements:

Travelers Commercial Property
In support of the growing trend toward more efficient and environmentally friendly building practices, Travelers Commercial Property Division recently launched its Green Building Coverage Enhancements for mid-sized businesses. An endorsement to the standard Deluxe Property Coverage, this new product highlights Travelers' ability to keep pace with evolving sustainable building practices.

Travelers' Green Building Coverage Enhancements for mid-sized businesses promote the use of environmentally friendly building materials as replacement components following a covered cause or type of loss. Travelers' Deluxe Property forms are amended to provide the following additional coverages:

  • Green Building Alternatives - Increased Cost
  • Green Buildings Reengineering and Recertification Expense
  • Vegetative Roofs
  • Green Building Alternatives - Increased Period of Restoration

"Travelers believes that commercial property owners who embrace 'green' technologies are likely to be more risk management-minded, practicing greater care in building maintenance and operation," said Michael Klein, president of commercial accounts. "We are excited to introduce this new product, supporting our middle market customers who implement environmentally friendly initiatives."

ACE USA, the U.S.-based retail operating division of the ACE Group of Companies, announced that it has introduced an endorsement and stand-alone policy to assist customers who want to repair or rebuild damaged, covered real property to an environmentally-friendly standard for its Global Property Commercial Risk and National Accounts product offerings. Called “ACE Green Building Restoration,” the stand-alone green policy is part of ACE Group’s growing portfolio of green products. ACE Green Building Restoration can be added to a customer’s existing traditional property program and applied to a wide range of industries, including, but not limited to: financial institutions, manufacturing, higher education and retailers and wholesalers.

Kurt Husar, Senior Vice President, ACE USA Global Property, said, “We’re pleased to blend our traditional property products and services with an insured’s desire to rebuild their properties after an insured loss to a more environmentally-friendly standard. As an example, an office complex property manager who would like to address indoor air quality issues by replacing carpets damaged in an insured event with those consisting of natural fiber can now achieve this by recovering part of the higher expense through the ACE Green Building Restoration coverage. Other examples would include energy efficient glass, air-handling, heating and air conditioning, roofing materials and building insulation.”

Lexington Insurance Company
Lexington Insurance Company, an American International Group company, recently announced Upgrade to Green(SM) Commercial insurance that allows commercial property policyholders to rebuild the insured building and replace personal property with products that embrace sustainability principles and reduce the overall impact of the building on the environment. Upgrade to Green Commercial, available as an endorsement to Lexington Insurance Company’s commercial property insurance policies, is the latest addition to Lexington’s suite of EcoSurance(SM) products developed to promote environmentally friendly practices and to respond to changing market needs.

Upgrade to Green Commercial coverage responds to covered partial and total losses for both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certified and non-LEED certified buildings. In the event of a total loss, LEED certified insureds will be allowed to upgrade their building to the next level of LEED certification upon reconstruction. Non-LEED certified insureds can use the coverage to rebuild to a LEED silver standard.

In addition to covering rebuilding costs, Upgrade to Green Commercial covers expenses for recycling during reconstruction and at the time of loss. To further enhance indoor air quality after reconstruction has been completed, the coverage allows insureds to conduct a period of indoor air testing and increased outdoor air ventilation of the reconstructed space using new filtration media to remove construction contaminants in accordance with LEED protocols.


CEC Report Promotes Green Buildings for Biggest, Easiest Cuts in North American CO2 Emissions

Promoting the green design, construction, renovation and operation of buildings could cut North American greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change more deeply, quickly and cheaply than any other available measure, according to a new report issued by the trinational Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

North America’s buildings cause the annual release of more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent’s total. The report says rapid market uptake of currently available and emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could result in over 1,700 fewer megatons of CO2 emissions in 2030, compared to projected emissions that year following a business-as-usual approach. A cut of that size would nearly equal the CO2 emitted by the entire US transportation sector in 2000.

It is common now for more advanced green buildings to routinely reduce energy usage by 30, 40, or even 50 percent over conventional buildings, with the most efficient buildings now performing more than 70 percent better than conventional properties, according to the report.

Despite proven environmental, economic and health benefits, however, green building today accounts for a only small fraction of new home and commercial building construction—just two percent of the new non-residential building market, less than half of one percent of the residential market in the United States and Canada, and less than that in Mexico.

The report, Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges, is the result of a two-year study by the CEC Secretariat. It was prepared with advice from an international advisory group of prominent developers and architects, sustainability and energy experts, real estate appraisers and brokers, together with local and national government representatives.

“Improving our built environment is probably the single greatest opportunity to protect and enhance the natural environment. This report is a blueprint for dramatic environmental progress throughout North America—mostly using the tools and technology we have on hand today,” says CEC Executive Director Adrián Vázquez. “Green building represents some of the ripest ‘low-hanging fruit’ for achieving significant reductions in climate change emissions.”

Even with rapid growth projected in the green building market across all three countries, the report says public and private sectors must embrace substantial changes to the planning, development and financing of commercial and residential buildings to overcome what it says are significant barriers to the widespread adoption of high-performance buildings throughout North America.

Jonathan Westeinde, managing partner of The Windmill Development Group in Ottawa and the CEC’s advisory group chair, states “As a developer, I rely on the fact that green building is a proven concept—with construction costs and market benefits that are rapidly improving. This report shows what is needed to scale up and put green building at the heart of a healthy, energy-secure North America.”

The report highlights the importance of green building in urban development. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, whose city hosted a CEC symposium on green building in May 2007, states, “Green building is a cornerstone for creating strong, sustainable communities. In Seattle, we are convinced that cities that make the commitment and investment in green development now will have a significant advantage in the long run.”

Report authors describe a number of disincentives to green building to be overcome. For example, how to encourage developers to incur the marginal cost of green building features when the long-term energy-saving benefits will be passed on to the new owners or tenants.

They recommend ways to accelerate the market uptake of green building and make it the standard practice for all new construction and renovation of existing buildings in North America. Among its recommendations, the report calls upon North American government, industry and nongovernmental leaders to:

  • Create national, multi-stakeholder task forces charged with achieving a vision for green building in North America
  • Support the creation of a North American set of principles and planning tools for green building
  • Set clear targets to achieve the most rapid possible adoption of green building in North America, including aggressive targets for carbon-neutral or net zero-energy buildings, together with performance monitoring to track progress towards these targets
  • Enhance ongoing or new support for green building, including efforts to promote private sector investment and proper valuation methods
  • Increase knowledge of green building through research and development, capacity building, and the use of labels and disclosures on green building performance

The recommendations complement ongoing efforts by federal, state/provincial and local governments as well as industry and trade associations and nongovernmental organizations.

The CEC study notes several government and industry initiatives that promote aggressive energy performance improvements in the building sector. One study completed for the report signals the potential of green building to yield tremendous energy improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the building sector by 2030, and suggests a path toward zero net-energy and carbon-neutral buildings.


BuildClean(TM) Studies Radon Levels in Natural Stone Countertops

Organization conducting free in-home radon tests in the Greater Houston area

BuildClean(TM), a not-for-profit organization seeking to educate consumers and the building industry about the health, safety and environmental risks and benefits of indoor building products, recently announced it is offering free in-home radon tests in the Greater Houston area to determine whether using natural stone products, such as granite, in indoor applications may emit harmful levels of radon over time. A licensed, bonded technician who specializes in radon measurement is conducting the home tests.

Radon (Rn) is an inert gas that results from the decay of uranium in natural stone. Both the Surgeon General of the United States and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have identified radon as the chief cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

“It has long been known that granite, an igneous rock, emits radon,” says Sara Speer Selber, president of BuildClean(TM). “And as a consequence of that, it is widely accepted practice in many parts of the country to test basements and other indoors areas if a home has been constructed on a rock formation known to contain radon.”

“What we don’t have adequate data on is whether the popular consumer colors of commercial/residential granite being used for indoor applications, such as countertops, wall covering and floors, may emit levels of radon that can be harmful to health,” she added. “With the cost of natural stone products such as granite coming down and their popularity increasing among builders, designers and consumers, it is critical that we ascertain whether these products are safe and healthy.”

Speer Selber added that obtaining this knowledge will require investment in both scientific-based testing of natural stone products by independent, respected laboratories and in-home testing of natural stone surfaces to see how factors such as room size and air circulation effect radon levels.

“Bottom line - every home is different, and the only way for homeowners to ensure their house is safe and healthy is to conduct a radon test,” said Speer Selber. “They are inexpensive and easy to administer, so there is no reason that each and every homeowner shouldn’t test.”

Houstonians interested in participating in the pilot study should visit to apply.

U.S. Department of Energy Implements More Stringent Criteria for ENERGY STAR® Clothes Washers, Expands CFL Program

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced more stringent criteria for clothes washers and expanded the categories of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) under the ENERGY STAR® label. Based on first-year projected sales data, approximately 1.9 million ENERGY STAR®-qualified clothes washers will be sold, saving American families up to $92.4 million annually on their water and utility bills. CFL products under the ENERGY STAR® label — which include new categories for CFLs that contain less mercury, new candelabra products and more rigorous testing procedures — are expected to save Americans approximately $30 billion in utility costs over the next five years. More stringent criteria, combined with a greater diversity of energy-saving product options, will allow Americans to more efficiently use energy in their homes.

The more stringent requirements for clothes washers carrying the ENERGY STAR® label will take effect in two phases. In order to qualify, clothes washers must be a minimum of 43 percent more efficient than current federal energy efficiency standards with a maximum Water Factor (WF) of 7.5, as of July 1, 2009. As of January 1, 2011, clothes washers must be a minimum of 59 percent more efficient with a maximum WF of 6.0. WF measures the water efficiency and is calculated as gallons of water used per cubic foot of capacity – the lower the WF, the more efficient the clothes washer.

Following the 2011 criteria change for clothes washers, consumers are expected to save $120 million on utility bills annually, 11.2 billion gallons of water and 659 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Current ENERGY STAR-qualified clothes washers use 75 percent less energy than clothes washer models manufactured in 1980. The ENERGY STAR® criteria for clothes washers, last modified in January 2007, were drafted with input from stakeholders and public review and comment.

In addition to the expansion of eligible product categories for CFLs, the new criteria limits, for the first time, the amount of mercury that CFLs can contain to less than 5 milligrams for most bulbs, expands the program to include candelabra-based CFLs, incorporates a third-party testing program for all bulbs effective in November of 2008, tightens lamp color requirements and adds high-heat testing requirements for reflector products. Revised ENERGY STAR® criteria for CFLs takes effect December 2, 2008 - 270 days from issuance of criteria. The criteria for CFLs were last updated in 2003.


Lynden Door Opens New Green Doors

Lynden Door sells doors of many descriptions and colors, but the doors in their new office lease in Abbotsford, British Columbia are decidedly "green".

"Lynden Door manufactures wood interior doors in our plant in Lynden, WA," commented VP Sales Dave Hiebert. "Increasingly, we see demand for and are actively adding to our selection of environmentally intelligent choices. Our new Canadian sales office location in Abbotsford was a chance to practice what we preach."

The Abbotsford location is equipped with Lyptus doors and agfiber cores. The walls are painted with low emission paint and the carpets do not off-gas formaldehydes. The factory finish on the Lynden doors is likewise designed with human health in mind and emits no VOCs. The facility is equipped with a shower to encourage bicycle commuting or noon-hour work-outs. Bike stands are provided and an Energy Star approved HVAC system supplies heating and cooling.

"Lyptus is a fast-growing, naturally occurring hybrid of the Eucalyptus tree. It is grown in carefully managed plantations establishing on agricultural land. No native forestland was cut down to create these plantations and 139,000 hectares (343,476 acres) of standing forests remain in place as buffer zones and to maintain the natural rainforest of the region (Brazil). Agfiber cores represent a renewable resource (wheat and rice straw) that reduces the consumption of wood fiber. There are no added urea-formaldehydes in these door cores,” explains Hiebert. The Lyptus/Agfiber core doors are part of the GreenDor Series from Lynden Door.

The Lynden Door plant is Chain of Custody certified by both the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. In business since 1978, Lynden Door residential and architectural/commercial wood doors are sold in Canada and the United States.


Ecocity World Summit - Apr. 22-26

The Ecocity World Summit (7th International Ecocity Conference) will be convening in San Francisco, California, forming an international community of inspired change-makers—courageous individuals who are addressing problems of the world's environment with thoughtful long-range solutions that are sustainable, ecologically healthy and socially just.

  • People: population, health, equity and access
  • Nature: protecting and restoring the planet’s living systems and agricultural lands
  • Sustainable Development: land use, transportation, architecture and infrastructure
  • Economies & Technologies: building the supporting markets, businesses and technologies
  • Incentives & Support Structures: role of government, organizations, institutions and individual

AltBuild 2008 - Apr. 25-26

The 5th Annual Alternative Building Materials & Design Expo (AltBuild) returns this year as the largest and most cohesive green-building Expo in Southern California. AltBuild will take place on April 25-26, 2008 at its new location, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Presented by the City of Santa Monica, the show continues to offer FREE admission, while featuring top speakers and noted exhibitors within the “green” community. The Expo is a much-anticipated event that brings together the general public and members of the building community, including architects, designers, contractors, retail buyers, government representatives – all with the uniform motivation to learn about and promote green building, alternative energy and sustainability technologies and practices.

Sixth Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards and Trade Show - Apr. 30-May 2

The three-day conference will consist of plenary and specialized sessions focused on four main topic areas:

  1. Policies and Programs to Support Green Roofs
  2. Green Roof Design and Implementation
  3. Research and Technical Papers on Green Roof Performance
  4. Networking & Information Forums on Current Green Roof Topics

This conference is designed for architects, landscape architects, roofing professionals, green roof researchers, horticulturists, urban planners, facility managers and developers, policy makers and anyone with an interest in green roofs and green buildings.

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