Green Building News

Green Building News March 1, 2010

A Miles-Per-Gallon Rating for Your Home? Get Ready!

The Energy Performance Score Lets Home Buyers Compare Home Energy Consumption

The last time you bought a car, especially in the current economy, you probably paid close attention to the fuel efficiency by looking at the mile-per-gallon ratings and comparing similar vehicles. Now home buyers in certain states may soon be able to do the same with homes, and it looks like the trend will go national.

Earth Advantage Institute, a leading nonprofit green building resource that has certified more than 11,000 homes, has played a key role in the conceptualization, promotion, and adoption of the Energy Performance Score (EPS), currently the only residential energy labeling system that enables buyers to directly compare home energy consumption. The tool provides homeowners with both an energy consumption score and an associated carbon emission score. The number is based on in-home measurements and diagnostics data, as well as your utility’s energy source, which are entered into online software for calculation.

The EPS has proven popular enough in the Northwest that it has been rolled out on a voluntary basis for new homes in Oregon and in a large 5,000-home pilot for existing residences in Seattle. Both Oregon and Washington state legislatures have created task forces to explore the potential of mandatory energy labeling at time of listing. Lawmakers see energy labeling as a key tool in motivating homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements. Homeowner surveys indicate the public is heavily in favor of having a rating system that can help them obtain information on energy performance, where to make improvements, and how to add to the value of their home.

“We use EPS information as a marketing tool to help sell our homes,” said Aaron Fairchild, president of G2B Ventures, a Seattle-based real estate investment firm. “The EPS is an amazingly innovative tool that will help us transform the Seattle real estate market.”

Now the federal government has turned its eyes toward energy labeling. The Department of Energy has targeted the month of October as the deadline for developing a voluntary national rating standard that may serve as a tool for banks and other institutions to provide preferred finance products for energy efficient, healthy homes.

“We pointed to energy labeling as one of the top 10 green building trends for 2010,” said Sean Penrith, executive director, Earth Advantage Institute. “The federal government has taken up the flag, and has asked for additional data on the EPS program to inform its efforts in creating a voluntary standard this year.”

Last month the Energy Performance Score won first place in the energy category at’s “Ideas for Change in America” and has now moved on to the final round of internet voting. If the idea is voted into the top ten, the Oregon-conceived EPS will be presented to key White House administration officials. You can vote for the EPS at by scrolling down to the energy category and clicking on “A Miles-Per-Gallon Rating for Your Home.”


Energy Efficiency Effort to Create Jobs and Lower Utility Bills through Innovative Technology

The Obama Administration recently announced a multi-agency initiative to spur regional economic growth while making buildings more energy efficient. Seven federal agencies today issued a combined Funding Opportunity Announcement of up to $129.7 million over five years to create a regional research center that will develop new building efficiency technologies and work with local partners to implement the technologies in area buildings.

Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions. Improvements in building efficiency will provide significant benefits – reducing energy use, lowering utility bills and decreasing carbon emissions.

The agencies are working together to leverage funding and resources to promote regional growth through an Energy Regional Innovation Cluster (E-RIC) that is centered around an Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing new technologies to improve the design of energy-efficient building systems. This Energy Innovation Hub, one of three proposed by the Administration and funded by Congress in the FY10 budget, will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers, ideally working under one roof, to conduct research and work to solve priority technology challenges that span work from basic research to engineering development to commercialization readiness.

The E-RIC will work to disseminate new technologies into the local marketplace and share best practices with the public and private sectors. It will be supported through agency investments in technology and business development, and will include support for workforce education and training. By linking researchers at the Hub with local businesses and supporting specialized workforce education and training in the area, the initiative will create an economically dynamic region focused on building efficiency technologies.

The E-RIC chosen under the funding opportunity will be based at a university, DOE national laboratory, nonprofit organization, or private firm, partnering closely with local or state government officials, and leveraging existing expertise of local architects, builders and manufacturers. With this specialization, the regional economy could support other businesses that address the full production lifecycle for building technologies and thus create more jobs. Training and education can help narrow the gap between the supply and demand for workers in these specialized fields.

This effort will leverage the collective resources and expertise of seven federal agencies.

The Department of Energy is providing up to $22 million for this project in the first year, with up to $100 million over the next four years. To encourage regional cooperation, the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Economic Development Administration will make available up to $3 million in Public Works and Economic Development funds and up to $2 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance funds for the winning Proposal. The DOC Manufacturing Extension Partnership will make available up to $500,000 for a one-year award, with the possibility of renewal for up to two additional years, to support the services of an existing DOC-funded MEP Center. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will make up to $300,000 in the first year, with three one-year options for renewal grants up to $300,000 per year, available to provide the services of an existing SBA-funded Small Business Development Center to the Regional Innovation Cluster.

Current National Science Foundation (NSF) award recipients who are also co-applicants or ERIC partners of the winning consortium will be able to apply for supplemental funding from NSF through existing programs, particularly those designed for the training of students who will be the future leaders in sustainable energy. The Department of Labor (DOL) will support linkages between E-RIC funding and existing Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and grant-funded programs to help develop the skilled workforce needed for the cluster to grow and prosper. The Department of Education will provide technical assistance as appropriate to help E-RIC partners determine how to facilitate the Consortium's objectives through the allowable use of funds under the E-RIC partners' existing formula grants or subgrants.


New Green Product Association Announces First Founding Members & Partners to Accelerate Market

Even with the economy in the tank, interest in green products is on the rise. The Greenbuild International Conference & Expo last November expected a drop in attendance, but sold out the trade show floor with a waiting list and exceeded attendee estimates by 12,000 people. With this continuing momentum and proliferation of green products on the market, it’s increasingly difficult to know what’s really green.

In 2009, NEXUS surveyed its 16,000 building industry subscribers and the majority of respondents stated that "access to unbiased product information" was the predominant issue for making informed decisions. To meet this need and build on existing programs, The Green Roundtable /NEXUS has launched a new program: the Green Product Association (GPA). The Green Product Association, an international association, is the first inclusive platform to represent the entire lifecycle of products from construction through operations. The mission of the GPA is to lead an industry-wide market transformation so that building products meet a continuously increasing level of sustainability throughout their life cycle. The vision of GPA is that all products used in the built environment will be green, and that their performance criteria and metrics will be visible to all.

The Green Product Association has established key partner relationships to fulfill its mission of market transformation. UL Environment, providing 3rd party product certification and validation, will help solve the issue troubling most designers, “How do I know it’s not ‘greenwash’?.” GPA’s Global Trade Partners, who represent different countries through World Green Building Councils and International Trade Offices, will ensure widespread promotion in a global economy. Media Partners, such as the Real Estate Journal, with more than a million online news hits, are collaborating with GPA to give recognition to its members.

Progressive companies who are committed to GPA’s mission and demonstrating leadership are joining as Founding Members. These companies include Xerox, CBC Flooring, Jandris & Sons and Bostik. Benefits for GPA Founding Members are comprehensive, aiming to accelerate the sales cycle by connecting specifiers directly with green products. Edward (Chip) Braulick shares why CBC Flooring decided to become a Founding Member. “NEXUS and the newly-established Green Product Association have helped us refine our goals and commitments to advance sustainability to ensure we’re sourcing the most environmentally friendly products available from all around the globe.” GPA Members gain access to both the NEXUS and GPA brand recognition, advertising through media partners and trade shows, and visibility through the loyal green building community of 16,000 NEXUS subscribers and 12,000 event attendees.

GPA’s program calendar kicks off March 4th with a roundtable discussion at NEXUS led by Bill Walsh from the Healthy Building Network’s Pharos Project and Barbra Batshalom of NEXUS and the Green Product Association on “Transparency & Trends in Green Building Products.” This discussion is for architects, designers, manufacturers, distributors and other professionals involved in the specification of green products.

The Green Product Association is currently accepting Founding Members through March 2010.


EPA and DOE Join States to Speed Energy Efficiency Progress in the United States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy have announced the creation of the State Energy Efficiency (SEE) Action Network. This network is meant to help states achieve maximum cost effective energy efficiency improvements in homes, offices, buildings and industry by 2020. Strengthening energy efficiency initiatives across the country helps to save money and protect the environment at the same time.

The SEE Action Network will be led by the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA. Through the Network, DOE, EPA and other member organizations will assist states with their energy efficiency initiatives, including residential efficiency programs, financing solutions and improving availability of energy usage information. It will address the full range of challenges to implementation by providing targeted technical assistance to states in order to reach ambitious national energy goals to greatly improve our nation’s economy and environment.

The SEE Action Network will drive energy efficiency by using a broad set of goals developed in the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, but will strive to reach these goals five years earlier than originally envisioned. These goals range from establishing state-of-the art billing systems that provide consumers with consistent information on their energy use and costs to developing strong state policies to ensure robust energy efficiency practices.

The new SEE Action Executive Group will meet for the first time in early March. A number of working groups will continue to meet throughout the year to deliver results on specific goals.


National Gypsum Wall Panel Featuring Phase Change Technology

Leading Energy Researchers Will Support Field Trials to Evaluate Panel’s Performance in Homes

National Gypsum recently introduced its ThermalCORE™ Panel with Micronal® PCM, the first domestically produced wall panel that incorporates phase change material from global chemical leader BASF Corporation to moderate indoor temperature fluctuations and help maintain a comfortable interior environment.

The panel was unveiled during Greenbuild 2009 in Phoenix, and will now transition into field trials to determine how it can be best utilized in residential settings. National Gypsum will rely on California’s Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council as well as the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to select and coordinate trial sites and to evaluate test data.

“We expect to see that ThermalCORE can decrease the heating and cooling energy required to keep a home comfortable during peak demand when combined with other advanced energy-efficiency technologies,” said Mundise Mortimer, manager of technical marketing for National Gypsum. “The field trials will allow us to evaluate the panel’s impact on the indoor climate and demonstrate how it can be used with other energy-saving strategies to improve indoor comfort and potentially reduce energy consumption.”

The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates buildings currently consume more than 70 percent of the electrical power generated nationwide. What’s more, the Department of Energy calculates 60 percent of a building’s energy use – including heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation – relates to its enclosure.

“A number of initiatives ranging from the Department of Energy’s Building America program to the AIA’s 2030 Challenge have established specific goals for reducing energy consumption within residential and commercial structures,” said Mortimer. “Achieving these goals will require integrating advanced building materials with new construction techniques to create more energy-efficient building solutions.”

ThermalCORE is unlike traditional gypsum board in that its core contains Micronal PCM, a microencapsulated high-purity paraffin wax phase change material from BASF. This material changes phase from solid to liquid when it reaches 73° F, absorbing thermal energy to help moderate a room’s temperature, similar to an ice cube melting and absorbing heat to keep a drink cool. Micronal PCM is unlike ice, however, in that it melts at a much higher temperature and is contained within virtually indestructible microscopic acrylic capsules that prevent the wax from leaking as it changes phase. When temperatures fall, the wax solidifies and releases heat. This alternating process of melting and solidifying allows ThermalCORE to absorb daytime temperature peaks, ideally providing a more consistent room temperature.

A new use for a proven concept

Builders and architects have long known that thermal mass contributes to improved energy performance, but to date have had to rely on concrete, brick or thick plaster walls to achieve it. ThermalCORE provides a solution using lightweight construction, making the concept of thermal mass to moderate indoor air temperature a novel design option for residential construction and remodeling projects.

Preliminary tests indicate ThermalCORE can store approximately 22 BTUs of thermal energy per square foot. The panel’s performance, value and cost will be further evaluated in the coming year. The majority of the trials will happen in California – where temperatures can vary greatly from day to night – and will target high efficiency homes. Testing will take place in cooperation with the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council, an alliance of the state’s major electric and gas companies charged with assessing and demonstrating how new technologies can reduce peak demand and energy consumption.

ThermalCORE will not be commercially available until field trials are complete. For more information or to register for periodic product updates, go to

GREENGUARD Environmental Institute Revamps Web Site

Offers New and Improved Features for Manufacturers, Architects & Designers, Consumers, and Owners & Builders

GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) unveiled a completely redesigned Web site last month, providing visitors with a wealth of updated, easy-to-find, user-specific information on indoor air quality (IAQ), children's health and GREENGUARD Certification programs.

The new site boasts a fresh new layout and improved navigability – both made possible by convenient pull-down menu tabs and pages designed specifically for each of GEI's various audiences (manufacturers, architects and designers, consumers and owners and builders). This allows users to access information that's relevant to them instantly – without having to waste time searching for it.

One of the biggest improvements to the site is the enhanced GREENGUARD Product Guide, which allows users to find GREENGUARD Certified products and materials within seconds by using a number of search criteria: keyword, product type, manufacturer, sustainable credits and/or certification type.

In addition to a new overall design, other new features on the Web site include an online "technical center" for in-depth information on testing methods and standards; a library of industry-relevant white papers; and a calendar of events outlining various conferences and trade shows in which GEI participates. Another section focused on eco-labels helps to educate consumers about dubious "green" marketing claims and how to avoid them.


Living Building Challenge Road Show - Portland - Mar. 31

This is part of a tour of in-person introductory workshops to share the tenets of the Living Building Challenge with advanced practitioners throughout the United States and Canada. Register for the Road Show to learn more about an advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.

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Salt Lake Sustainable Building Conference - Apr. 8

Held at Salt Palace Convention Center. "Building Western Sustainability" - a full day of speakers and presentations on sustainable development. Featuring Keynote Speaker Janine Benyus, author of "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature".

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Gulf Coast Green 2010 Symposium and EXPO - Apr. 15-16

Held in Huston, TX, the leading green conference in the south marks its fifth year of bringing together professionals from the gulf coast region for a two day symposium. This year's theme: "Reframing Our Built Environment".

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ACI Home Performance Conference 2010 - Apr. 19-23

Held at the Renaissance Austin Hotel in Austin, TX, the conference creates a forum to explore building science know-how and high growth career prospects. The program will address both hot and cold climate issues, with a focus on energy retrofit for “whole house” solutions.

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A technician from Earth Advantage Institute completes a duct test as part of the Energy Performance Score audit  for a new home.


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