Green Building News

Green Building News May 14, 2010

Homebuilder to Pre-Wire Homes for Electric Vehicles

KB Home is offering an option to pre-wire its new Built to Order™ homes to accommodate charging stations for homeowners’ electric vehicles. This new earth-friendly option is designed to ease the future installation of a station to charge an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle conveniently at home. The pre-wire option is now available to KB Home homebuyers nationwide.

The Rocky Mountain Institute recently launched Project Get Ready, a program that aims to help communities prepare for and support plug-in vehicles.

“It is critical for the mass adoption of electric vehicles to have companies like KB Home leading the industry by offering this pre-wire option, as the majority of electric vehicle charging will be done at home overnight,” said Matt Mattila, Project Manager for Project Get Ready. “Not only is it convenient, but when managed correctly, charging overnight, at home, will put less strain on the grid than opportunity day-time charging at public charging stations.”

KB Home builds all new home communities to strict ENERGY STAR® guidelines and their Built to Order approach also makes it possible for homebuyers to incorporate even more earth-friendly products into their new homes. The Company is working to educate buyers about ways they can further lower their energy bills and reduce their consumption of natural resources.


Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

Quickly find out how your household contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and discover some of the ways you can improve your carbon footprint using the Oregon Carbon Calculator. It calculates all direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from your transportation, household energy use and consumption of food, goods and services. Compare your household's carbon footprint to households of similar size and income.

The calculator was made possible through Oregon DEQ's support of the CoolClimate Network, a program of the University of California, Berkeley and through financial support by the California Air Resources Board and the partnership. Oregon DEQ selected this calculator for its approach and depth in calculating human impacts to climate change.


Survey: Energy Savings is Number One Reason for Building Green

The Fourth Annual Green Building Survey by Allen Matkins, Constructive Technologies Group (CTG) and the Green Building Insider is now available for download. The survey, completed by more than 1,600 design and construction professionals from across the nation, addressed current attitudes toward green building, its risks, costs, certification processes and trends.

The survey showed a large majority of respondents continue to strongly endorse green building despite the recession, although support for LEED1 certification slipped over the past two years. While the recession challenged the volume of green construction, it pushed projects to look for financial advantage: Saving energy and other operating expenses was the number one reason for building green projects.

Survey highlights:

  • Green building is perceived to have greater construction risks than non-green construction. According to the survey, the top strategies to reduce the risks of green building are: retaining green consultants (such as LEED-AP consultants), measurement and re-commissioning, periodic testing and contractual risk shifting.
  • More than half of all respondents indicated that a LEED Gold rating increased project costs by 4 percent or more, while nearly 30 percent of respondents reported the costs of LEED Gold rating at significantly lower than 4 percent. Possible explanations for the difference in reported cost premiums include: the variety of local codes and professional experience in certain regions that raise the minimum standards close to LEED Gold standards, and the varying degree of difficulty in achieving a LEED Gold rating on different building types, such as hotels vs. office buildings.
  • The purchase of carbon offsets, hovered near 7 percent. "We do not expect a significant change in carbon offsets unless mandatory carbon mitigation programs are adopted at the state or federal level," said Bryan Jackson, chair of Allen Matkins’ Green and Sustainable Construction Practice Group, Adjunct Professor at USC teaching Green and Sustainable Construction, and editor of the Green Building Update.


Changes Announced to Bolster ENERGY STAR® Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have jointly announced changes to the ENERGY STAR® product certification process to ensure that only products meeting the ENERGY STAR® requirements can receive an ENERGY STAR® label. These changes accelerate steps DOE and EPA have initiated over the past several months to bolster the verification, testing and enforcement aspects of the ENERGY STAR® program.

Effective immediately, manufacturers wishing to qualify their products as ENERGY STAR® must submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval by EPA prior to labeling. Following a thorough review of the ENERGY STAR® qualification approval process, EPA has strengthened its approval systems and is no longer relying on an automated approval process. All new qualification applications will be reviewed and approved individually by EPA.

Additionally, companies applying to be ENERGY STAR® partners will not be able to access the ENERGY STAR® certification mark until EPA has approved a specific ENERGY STAR®-qualified product submitted by the company.

EPA and DOE are further strengthening the certification process with a requirement effective at the end of the year that all manufacturers must submit test results from an approved, accredited lab for any product seeking the ENERGY STAR® label. Testing in an accredited lab is currently required for certain product categories – including windows, doors, skylights and compact fluorescent lighting. The new process will extend the requirement to each of the more than 60 eligible product categories under the ENERGY STAR® program.

These efforts are in addition to enforcement and testing procedures already in place to ensure compliance with ENERGY STAR® specifications. The Department of Energy is conducting off-the-shelf product testing for some of the most common household appliances and a recent Inspector General audit found that 98 percent of products tested fully complied with ENERGY STAR® requirements.

The EPA and DOE are committed to continually strengthening and improving the ENERGY STAR® program, which provides information to consumers to help identify the most energy efficient products on the market that will save them money and reduce carbon pollution.


GREENGUARD Environmental Institute Achieves ISO-Guide 65 Accreditation

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) recently announced its achievement of ISO/IEC Guide 65:1996 accreditation–the world's most prestigious endorsement of a product certification program as developed by the International Organization for Standardization.

ISO-Guide 65 specifies requirements for bodies that operate third-party certifications of products to ensure that those bodies conduct their certification processes in an impartial, reliable and consistent manner. Conformity to these standards provides assurance that a certification program is of high quality, integrity and competency, and that it is free of any conflicts of interest, such as financial, commercial, or social influences.

"The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute has always stressed the importance of third-party certification as a means of validating the credibility of a product, service, or organization," says Henning Bloech, executive director of GEI. "We find it so important, in fact, that we voluntarily subjected ourselves to rigorous third-party inspection to ensure not only that we're performing up to the highest quality standards, but also that we've evaluated every potential conflict of interest. Achieving ISO Guide 65 accreditation confirms that GEI operates fairly and objectively."

In addition, as part of its commitment to transparency, fairness and objectivity, GEI will go above and beyond the requirements of ISO Guide 65 by submitting all procedural documentation for every new certification to The Epsten Group, Inc., a strategic consulting firm, for independent review and analysis. This provides an extra level of checks-and-balances to ensure that GEI's certification processes are carried out appropriately.

GEI's ISO Guide 65 accreditation is especially important at a time when multiple 'green' labels and certifications are flooding the marketplace. To maintain the accreditation, GEI will be required to pass regular surveillance assessments.


EPA Announces Plans to Regulate Coal Ash

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants.

Coal combustion residuals, commonly known as coal ash or fly ash, are byproducts of the combustion of coal at power plants and are disposed of in liquid form at large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills. The residuals contain contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which are associated with cancer and various other serious health effects. EPA’s risk assessment and damage cases demonstrate that, without proper protections, these contaminants can leach into groundwater and can migrate to drinking water sources, posing significant public health concerns.

The rules will ensure for the first time that protective controls, such as liners and groundwater monitoring, are in place at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health. Existing surface impoundments will also require liners, with strong incentives to close the impoundments and transition to safer landfills, which store coal ash in dry form. The proposed regulations will ensure stronger oversight of the structural integrity of impoundments in order to prevent accidents like the one at Kingston, Tennessee. The proposed actions also will promote environmentally safe and desirable forms of recycling coal ash, known as beneficial uses.

The agency would leave in place the Bevill exemption for beneficial uses of coal ash in which coal combustion residuals (fly ash) are recycled as components of products instead of placed in impoundments or landfills. Large quantities of coal ash are used today in concrete, cement, wallboard and other contained applications that should not involve any exposure by the public to unsafe contaminants. These uses would not be impacted by the proposal.

“EPA supports the legitimate beneficial use of coal combustion residuals,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, the agency office that will be responsible for implementing the proposals. “Environmentally sound beneficial uses of ash conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the need for waste disposal units and provide significant domestic economic benefits. This proposal will clearly differentiate these uses from coal ash disposal and assure that safe beneficial uses are not restricted and in fact are encouraged.”


GreenTrends 2010- June 2-4

The Florida Green Building Coalition hosts its seventh annual GreenTrends Conference and Tradeshow at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront in St. Petersburg, FL. Attendees and exhibitors will enjoy presentations delivered by some of the industry's most knowledgeable practitioners, designed for all levels of experience - from fundamental to intermediate to advanced.

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BuildingsNY - June 16-17

BuildingsNY 2010 provides the New York metro building owner, manager, architect, contractor and engineer with the products, services and knowledge to stay competitive in today’s challenging times. Explore more than 500 exhibiting companies showcasing the industry’s broadest array of what’s new in building maintenance, retrofit, renovation and restoration. From roofing, flooring and plumbing to HVAC, green solutions and energy conservation.

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