Green Building News

Green Building News April 1, 2010

New Compact Fluorescent Lamp Study Finds Lights Safer Than Perceived

On March 24, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) unveiled results from its compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) safety study that found consumers may be able to use CFLs more broadly and safely than previously believed or understood. UL's CFL Safety Study found no fire or shock hazards in CFLs when used in light fixtures, lighting controllers and switches traditionally used with incandescent light bulbs.

Fluorescent and LED lighting have been used commercially for decades and continue to gain popularity with homeowners due to their increased interest in energy efficiency. CFLs are installed in about 11 percent of available sockets in homes. Findings from the study give consumers several reasons to use these energy efficient light bulbs in even more applications. Study findings revealed the following:

  • CFLs perform well and safely in a variety of lighting applications
  • Temperatures of CFLs are generally lower than those of incandescents when used in a wide range of lighting applications
  • CFLs' lifespans may be reduced when used in fixtures where switches are turned on and off repeatedly, but will not pose any safety hazards when used according to manufacturer's specifications
  • Advancements in CFL technology improve performance and eliminate end-of-life issues that had previously raised safety concerns, like popping sounds or smoke

"Consumers are highly receptive to CFLs and LEDs because they use less energy, produce less heat and can dramatically cut down on energy bills," said John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety at UL. "We conducted the study because we were seeing an increase in public concern over the safety of CFLs. Our research will provide a foundation for public education on the safety and use of CFLs."

UL's CFL Safety Study examined the following: substitution of CFLs into a variety of light fixtures, compatibility of CFLs with light controls and safety hazards related to switches. Additionally, it studied end-of-life behaviors of CFLs, which is where most consumer concerns lie.

The light fixture substitution analysis tested for potential temperature hazards of using CFLs in common household lamps and open fixtures. Tests found that not only were there no safety hazards, but even the hottest CFL emitted less heat than a 40 watt incandescent light bulb. Additionally, this test did not find any end-of-life safety issues.

UL also investigated CFLs when used with controls such as switches, motion-detecting switches, wireless controls and dimmers designed for incandescent lamps. While no safety problems were uncovered, the study did find performance issues such as flashing, flickering, poor light output and reduced product life that could impact consumer satisfaction of CFLs when CFLs were used with these controls.


Governor Signs Landmark Bill Into Law: Creating No-Charge, Mercury-Containing Light Recycling Program

In March, Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law landmark legislation making Washington state the second state in the nation to require producers of mercury-containing lighting products to fund their recycling. The law provides a no-cost, statewide recycling program for residents.

"We know providing convenient, free-of-charge recycling locations will result in more mercury bulbs and tubes being recycled," said Lisa Sepanski, Co-chair of the Northwest Product Stewardship Council.

Mercury lighting products including compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and linear fluorescent tubes save energy but contain toxic mercury which can harm people and our environment. Spent bulbs and tubes are often stockpiled in basements and garages or tossed out with the trash posing a risk to families and solid waste workers.

Beginning in 2013, residents will be able to bring fluorescent bulbs and tubes to recycling sites, which may be run by local retailers, recycling centers, governments and others. There will be no fee for dropping off these lights.

In the new system, manufacturers will pay for the recycling of the lighting products that their industry creates. This approach, already used in Maine, Canada and by many countries in Europe and Asia, is similar to the Electronics Product Recycling Law which created the successful "E-Cycle Washington" program for TVs, computers and monitors. E-Cycle collected 38 million pounds of TVs, computers and monitors across the state in its first year of operation in 2009.

Mercury harms the brain, liver and kidneys and causes developmental disorders in children. It persists in the environment and bio-accumulates in the food web. If thrown in the trash, fluorescent lights can break and expose people and the environment to harmful mercury vapor.

"This is the second producer responsibility bill for lighting products in the U.S.," said Margaret Shield, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County. The program will be budget-neutral to the state and won't saddle local governments with an unfunded mandate to collect mercury lighting as industry will provide the financing.


Greener Resume Can Give College Graduates Edge in Job Market

Green-collar jobs grew by more than 9 percent, twice the growth rate for traditional jobs, from 1998 to 2007. Even during a recession, a greener resume can be the answer to getting hired, says Wake Forest Director of Sustainability Dedee DeLongpre Johnston. "Sustainability is a competitive advantage in the marketplace," she says. "College graduates entering the job market this year will definitely have an edge if they have developed sustainability-related skill sets."

Getting a green job doesn't mean looking for jobs with "sustainability" or "environment" in the title any more. Green jobs are also not limited to installing solar panels or weatherizing houses. From marketing to publishing to accounting to finance, viewing the world through the lens of sustainability and having practical experience in that area can make a difference when applying for jobs.

As banks look at making loans for green buildings, law firms develop new kinds of contracts for carbon credits, and companies target consumers who value greener products, students who understand what sustainability looks like in various industries or organizations and have experience solving real-world problems will fare well. And, if students understand sustainability principles, any job can become a green job.

"Sustainability is a way of thinking," DeLongpre Johnston says. "And, that way of thinking has value across the job market. Experience and knowledge tied to sustainability will make this year's job hunters stronger candidates."

Internships focused on sustainability are invaluable for students who are job hunting because they help students demonstrate to employers that they can solve problems, says DeLongpre Johnston, who has business majors, anthropology majors and students from other academic departments interning in her office and helps students find off-campus internships.

Integrating sustainability into a career also helps students who are passionate about a greener world align their passions and talents with their work.

"Eventually, sustainability will be woven seamlessly into the fabric of society," she says. Just as proficiency using word processing, the Web, and other technology is now expected in the workplace, understanding sustainability principles and how to apply them will become a basic expectation of employers in the future, she says.

Sustainability also offers the biggest entrepreneurial opportunities out there, DeLongpre Johnston says. The green economy has created new outlets for innovation.


New Green Construction Code Unveiled

The International Code Council recently announced the release of Public Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) to regulate construction of new and existing commercial buildings.

"We talked to communities who indicate that their voluntary green building programs reach only, but an important, 30 percent of the built environment," Code Council CEO Richard P. Weiland said. "This means that there is a clear need for a regulatory tool to establish a baseline to help jurisdictions meet their sustainability goals."

The IGCC aims to significantly reduce energy usage and greenhouse gasses. It addresses site development and land use, including preservation of natural and material resources. Enforcement of the code will improve indoor air quality and support the use of energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, water resource conservation, rainwater collection and distribution systems and the recovery of used water (graywater).

The IGCC emphasizes building performance and building owner education to ensure the best energy-efficient practices. A key feature of the new code is a section devoted to "jurisdictional electives" that will allow customization of the code beyond its baseline provisions to address local priorities and conditions.

The IGCC initiative was launched in 2009 with Cooperating Sponsors the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and ASTM International. The support of the AIA underscores its long-time leadership in the sustainability movement, including its 2030 Carbon Neutrality challenge, and its emphasis on the critical role of architects and designers in the life cycle of sustainable construction.

The engagement of ASTM ensures the IGCC will make use of certain voluntary consensus standards recognized by industry, code officials and other stakeholders for their high-degree of technical quality, relevance and their suitability to contribute to more sustainable and environmentally improved buildings.

The green code initiative is now joined with a Standard developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Illuminating Engineers Society (IES), ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, as an alternative jurisdictional compliance option within the IGCC.

The IGCC also addresses residential construction by referencing the ICC 700-2008 National Green Building Standard developed by the National Association of Home Builders and the Code Council.


Living Future - May 5 - 7

This Unconference for Deep Green Professionals, held in Seattle, aims to revisit the deep values that bind us together and provide rich soil for nurturing our neighborhoods into living communities.

More information

Sustainable Manufacturing Summit - May 11-12

Held in Chicago, the Summit is a forum for manufacturers to meet and discuss the challenges and opportunities of moving to low-carbon, sustainable practices. This year’s event will showcase the companies leading the transition to sustainable and profitable manufacturing and offer the latest innovations in green products.

More information


2010 NAHB National Green Building Conference - May 16-18

Held in Raleigh, NC, this year's theme is: "Diverse Perspectives. Shared Progress." Explores many different approaches to green building--in site design and development, in sourcing materials and in methods for energy and water efficiency.

More information

2011 EVHA New Home Application Available - Deadline June 30

The EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA) recognizes builders who successfully integrate energy efficiency into all aspects of new home production, as exemplified by a specific home. Application Deadline: Postmarked by Tuesday, June 30, 2010.

More information


Eco-Structure 2010 Evergreen Awards - Call for Entries - Deadline - July 1

Eco-Structure recognizes excellence in building design and environmental performance.
All winning entries will be featured in the November issue. Architects, developers, contractors, and other building professionals practicing in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico may submit projects.

More information