Green Building News

Green Building News December 2008

December 1, 2008

New SMUD Web Tool Shows Energy Saved By Planting Shade Trees

Tree Benefits Estimator goes national, features most tree species in every climate in U.S.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has developed an online tool to help customers determine the amount of energy saved by shade trees. Customers now are able to determine the best tree and best location for the greatest savings on their electric bills. The Tree Benefits Estimator was developed by SMUD staff for the American Public Power Association (APPA) for all climates in the United States.

The estimator is based on SMUD’s experience with its free Sacramento Shade tree-planting program and it’s easy to use. SMUD residential customers input information including the type of tree, age of tree or tree diameter, orientation (east, south or west of the home) and distance from the home.

The estimator provides a guideline on the amount of energy saved each year and the approximate savings on the customer’s annual electric bill. The tool is also a good gauge of the environmental benefits of trees in customers’ yards as it can estimate carbon and CO2 sequestration resulting from mature trees planted individually in urban and suburban settings. CO2 sequestration is an estimate of the separation of carbon from carbon dioxide and storage of carbon by the trees. Oxygen is then released into the atmosphere, contributing to cleaner air.

The tool benefits SMUD customers who can use it to determine the best location and type of tree for the most energy savings. Customers should contact SMUD to determine if these trees qualify for the free tree program. The tool also benefits anyone in the United States seeking to plant trees and experience the same money-saving and environment-saving benefits.

All you need is the name of the species, its orientation, distance from tree to building and age of the tree or tree diameter. Enter the part of the country and the estimator calculates savings based on the local climate. SMUD expects other utilities and environmental Web sites to use the SMUD Tree Benefits Estimator link to promote urban tree-planting efforts as a way to save energy, money and the environment.


Three Pilot Projects Selected to Test the Earth Advantage® Sustainable Community Standard

Earth Advantage, Inc. recently announced the selection of three residential development projects as Earth Advantage Sustainable Community pilots. Energy Trust of Oregon has endorsed the development of the pilot community standard and will offer promotional support to these three projects. The selected projects include a Clackamas Community Land Trust development in Oregon City, Pamelia Lane in Newberg and Verde Village in Ashland.

The three pilot projects will be among the first to utilize the new Earth Advantage Sustainable Community (EASC) standard. As such, the projects will need to certify that they meet conditions in four program categories by demonstrating that they will: 

  • Protect and enhance Natural Systems
  • Respect environmental and community needs in its Built Systems 
  • Provide for complete Connecting & Mobility Systems
  • Establish Community Systems to provide on-going community interaction and stewardship. 

“The development of the EASC standard and the implementation of these pilot projects would not be possible without the strong support of Energy Trust of Oregon,” said Ann Griffin, the Sustainable Community Program Manager. “With Energy Trust’s help, we have been able to develop a standard that provides a comprehensive and flexible approach to planning, constructing and verifying sustainable communities.” Energy Trust of Oregon and Earth Advantage will work with each of the pilot project teams in the coming year as they move to begin construction.

“Energy Trust’s focus is on the efficient energy performance of newly constructed homes,” said Kendall Youngblood, Residential Sector Manager for Energy Trust. “But we’ve supported Earth Advantage on this endeavor because an efficient home is even better if it is located in a sustainable community.”

Clackamas Community Land Trust (CCLT) plans to build twelve duplex style homes along Morton Road in Oregon City. The homes will be priced to serve residents whose incomes are at the 30 percent to 80 percent median family income level. The project is currently registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and CCLT will build the homes within the project to the LEED for Homes standard.

The Newberg development is being managed by Larry Anderson, an engineer and resident of Newberg. Anderson currently resides on the Pamelia Lane site and is driven to build a sustainable community project. Pamelia Lane will include open space areas for birds and other wildlife and enhancements for the Springbrook Creek stream corridor.   

Verde Village in Ashland will be developed under the management of Greg and Valerie Williams. Like Anderson, the Williams have long-standing connections to the project community. Verde Village will restore the area where the Rogue River crosses the site and will include a public bicycle path that is part of a larger Rogue Valley Greenway path. The homes will be powered in part with solar and geothermal resources.

All of the homes within the three projects will be built to either the Earth Advantage Silver or LEED for Homes standard. These standards require high performance attributes such as energy efficient heating and cooling systems, windows and insulation. Required measures are designed to protect the environment, including a stormwater management plan, a grading and erosion plan and transportation circulation system that responds to the needs of the specific project location, among others. 

“EASC projects will promote on-going opportunities for residents to learn about the sustainable features of where they live,” said Griffin. “They will also be structured so that sustainable qualities are maintained over time.” 

Earth Advantage, Inc. will also move forward in working with other development projects interested in adopting the EASC standard.

BuildingGreen Announces 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products

BuildingGreen, LLC, publisher of the GreenSpec® Directory and Environmental Building News™, today announced the 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products. This seventh annual award, announced at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Conference in Boston, recognizes the most exciting products drawn from additions to the GreenSpec Directory and coverage in Environmental Building News.

“Our selections of the Top-10 Green Building Products represent a wide range of product types in many different application areas,” noted BuildingGreen president Alex Wilson. There are a particularly large number of interior products in this year’s group of winners: the first FSC-certified and formaldehyde-free bamboo flooring; doors made with wheat-straw particleboard; a line of zero-VOC paint; a transparent finish produced from a byproduct of cheese making; and a line of organic fabrics.

Three of the products this year save energy, including a low-cost, solar water-heating system; a combination heating, water heating and heat-recovery ventilation system; and a system for monitoring real-time energy (and water) use in buildings. Water saving products are represented by a line of rainwater storage tanks—the first rainwater storage equipment ever recognized in our Top-10 lists.

Fully half of the products this year are green in part because they are made from natural, rapidly renewable, or agricultural waste materials; natural materials often require significantly less energy to manufacture. A new compressed-earth masonry block is particularly noteworthy in this regard. “Most of the Top-10 products this year have multiple environmental attributes,” said Wilson.

The 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products are listed below. More complete descriptions and contact information is provided on the attached pages:

New Residential Green Building Web Site

BuildingGreen, LLC, announces a new online information resource on residential green building and remodeling., which will be officially launched at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas January 20, 2009, is an online suite of expert advice, proven construction details and real-world tools for residential architects, builders, remodelers and highly engaged homeowners.

"GBA builds on the decades of experience and depth of the two partner companies that came together to create this resource: BuildingGreen, publisher of Environmental Building News and The Taunton Press, publisher of Fine Homebuilding," says BuildingGreen director of residential services Peter Yost. "In the works since the two companies joined forces in early 2008, will be the most comprehensive, useful and easy-to-use online resource serving the residential green building community," noted Yost., which was previewed at the Greenbuild Conference in Boston, will include seven primary components:

Green building encyclopedia. is an encyclopedic resource on green building and remodeling, providing a wealth of information. For recent entrants into the green building field, introductory information makes it easy to get up to speed quickly.

Green product guide. BuildingGreen has produced the leading national directory of green building products, GreenSpec, since 1997. GreenSpec products relevant to residential construction are all available through, along with links to other articles and discussions.

Construction details. The site includes more than 1,000 highly sophisticated yet clear and thoroughly vetted green building construction details. Illustrations build on the well-known visual presentation and technical detail of Fine Homebuilding magazine, and are supported by the know-how of top building science experts. Users can paste the more technical CAD drawings directly into architectural drawings or print them out for subcontractors.

Green building strategy generator. Users can enter information about a building project and will generate tailored green strategies. In-depth advice. is a forum for the exchange of information through blogs, forums and Q&A­, drawing heavily from the 15 experts serving as Green Building Advisors. The web site also links to detailed background information from Fine Homebuilding and Environmental Building News.

Code issues. serves as a clearinghouse for information and advice on building codes as they relate to green building — providing clear, concise advice on streamlining the approval process.

Real-world examples. provides a place to see how green building practices are being successfully used in hundreds of homes nationwide­including both new construction and remodeling. is a fee-based information service. Members will pay an annual or monthly fee for access, with annual access priced at $149.99.

"Our primary goal is to serve the people who need and will use this information — builders, remodelers, architects and designers," said vice president and publisher Bill Tine. "By offering subscriptions we ensure that our information is objective. BuildingGreen has proven this model for years as a way to provide high-value information that will help the industry advance." In addition to fee-based information, includes extensive free content, including the product listings, case studies, news, blogs, a community forum and more.

At the heart of this new resource are the "Green Building Advisors" — 15 of the nation's leading experts on green building, green remodeling, energy efficiency and building science. This team includes builder John Abrams of South Mountain Company on Martha's Vineyard; mechanical engineer Joe Lstiburek, P.E., of Building Science Corp. of Westford, MA; remodeling contractor Eric Doub of Boulder, CO, who specializes in carbon-neutral houses and renewable energy; architect and green building materials expert Ann Edminster of Pacifica, CA; architect and used building materials expert Jennifer Corson of Halifax, Nova Scotia; green remodeling consultant Carl Seville of Decatur, GA; building inspector Lynn Underwood of Norfolk, VA; developer Vernon McKown of Ideal Homes in Norman, OK; and natural building expert and structural engineer Bruce King, P.E., of San Rafael, CA. The full list of Advisors can be found at once the site is launched January 20th.

In addition to online delivery, a monthly print newsletter will be provided to members. Members will be able to receive the print newsletter in the mail or download and print it themselves. Also on the editorial team for are Martin Holladay, until recently the editor of Energy Design Update, and Rob Wotzak, a former remodeler specializing in historic preservation.


2009 International Builders' Show - Jan. 20-23

Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. More info.


AHR Expo - Jan. 26-28

International Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Exposition held at McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois. Over 1,850 Exhibits and 72 Educational Sessions covering Equipment, Systems, Components and Technology for the air-conditioning, heating, refrigeration and ventilation industry.

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