Green Building News

Green Building News June 15, 2010

ENERGY STAR® Program to Increase Water Heater Criteria This Fall

Gas Storage Models to Provide Homeowners Even Greater Efficiency

This fall, the ENERGY STAR® program will increase the minimum Energy Factor (EF) for gas storage water heaters from 0.62 to 0.67. The increase in criteria, which will go into effect on September 1, 2010, will bring additional 0.67 EF models to the marketplace, offering homeowners even greater water heating efficiency.

“ENERGY STAR seeks to keep its product criteria relevant by keeping pace with changing technologies in the marketplace,” said Steve Ryan, with the ENERGY STAR program at the Environmental Protection Agency. “In a recent poll, 77 percent of people are aware of the ENERGY STAR label and see the value in it. We work to keep the brand meaningful by making sure it continues to indicate cost effective savings with no loss of amenity. Storage water heaters are becoming more efficient, and this change recognizes that fact.”

Water heaters that meet the increased criteria offer homeowners significant savings in gas consumption even when compared to today’s 0.62 EF models, providing up to 14 percent greater savings than a conventional gas model. According to ENERGY STAR calculations, 0.67 EF models only consume 224 therms per year. Gas storage heaters with a 0.62 EF consume 242 therms annually, saving up to 7.3 percent more than a conventional model.

Several gas storage heaters with a 0.67 EF are currently available, including many new products recently developed in preparation for the upcoming change. There are also a number of other water heater models that carry the ENERGY STAR label, including electric heat pump, solar thermal and tankless units. Sponsors of the Coalition for ENERGY STAR Water Heaters (CEE)—A. O. Smith, Bradford White, Rheem and Rinnai—offer many of these models.

Plumbers can check with their distributors and local utilities on the availability of new 0.67 EF gas storage models and rebate offers in their area. Visit the Coalition online for more information on local utility rebates and other water heating efficiency news.


Homebuyer Demand Spurs Increase in Solar Communities

Homebuilder, PulteGroup, is expanding its offering of solar power in its new home communities in response to consumer interest and demand.

The company has introduced solar primarily in Pulte Homes, from first-time Centex neighborhoods; to homes for move-up Pulte Homes buyers; to those in 55+ active adult Del Webb communities in the Southwest. PutleGroup is looking for opportunities to increase the number of communities offering solar electric technology.

“Solar makes sense for many homebuyers,” said Walter Cuculic, the company’s Director of Sustainability. “With solar more affordable than ever before, tax credits available for purchasing solar options and the ability to roll the cost into a home mortgage, solar is a great investment for new homebuyers looking to hedge against rising energy costs.”

The company has 10 actively-selling communities that offer solar as standard or as an option, with the majority based in Arizona, California and Nevada. Four of those communities started offering solar within the last five months.

PulteGroup sees states such as Florida, South Carolina, Colorado and New Jersey as examples of markets where local utilities and governments are considering or implementing solar rebates and incentives for consumers and homebuilders. In addition, the 30 percent federal solar tax credit (often combined with additional state tax credits) is a significant incentive to all homebuyers.

This month, the company will begin its first solar community east of the Mississippi. Del Webb’s River Pointe community in New Jersey includes a 2.25 kW solar electric system, with the option to upgrade to larger sized systems. The roof-integrated SunPower SunTile® and SmartMount® solar systems Pulte offers are part of a relationship the company has formed at various communities with SunPower Corporation, a manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells and panels.

Woodbridge by Del Webb in Northern California began offering the company’s first solar power option in a 55+ community more than a year ago. In its first months of offering the option, about 30 percent of the active adult buyers were choosing to add a solar system to their home.

“Typically, an option that has a higher price tag does not perform this well,” said Paul Renker, Vice President of Sales for PulteGroup’s Bay Area Division. “But in this case, homebuyers are telling us they like the fact that solar allows them to take control of their energy costs, reduce their reliance on utilities and contribute to a healthier environment.”

According to Matt Brost, General Manager of New Homes Division for SunPower Corp., solar options typically range in price from about $14,000 to $25,000, before local incentives, rebates and tax credits. The cost varies based on the type solar system selected and size of the home, however, a typical homeowner can save $35 to $60 a month on their utility bills with a solar option, while at the same time qualifying for tax credits.

Meanwhile, Brost said the cost of solar in new homes is about 20 percent less than retrofitting solar in an existing home. In California for example, rebates for solar systems on new homes are at least 125 percent higher than rebates for retrofitting a system.

Pulte is also able to drive down costs through volume purchase agreements and integrating the system into the home while it is being built. They also look at each community, the price point and the people buying there to determine if solar makes sense. For example, a community for first-time homebuyers may not see a high demand for solar simply due to the added cost of the home.


GREENGUARD Certifies First-Ever Residential Kitchen and Bath Wood Cabinetry

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) recently announced that Executive Cabinetry, LLC has become the first residential kitchen and bath cabinet manufacturer to earn GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification and GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certification—the highest level of indoor air quality certification—for its wood cabinetry.

These residential wood cabinets are the first products of their kind to pass the rigorous chemical emissions tests required to earn GREENGUARD Certification. This means that the cabinets meet some of the world's most stringent requisites for low chemical emissions and contribute to a healthier, more sustainable residential indoor environment.

The following products from Executive Cabinetry, LLC have earned GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certification:

  • Wood Stains
  • Paints (except Sagamore Collection)
  • Foil
  • Glazes
  • EcoFriendlyTM (except bamboo)
  • Bellini Foil
  • Bellini Vogue Veneers
  • Impact Wood
  • Impact Paint

EcoFriendlyTM cabinetry helps green building and design professionals qualify for points in the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED® Building Rating System and the National Association of Homebuilders' National Green Building Standard.

To account for the cabinetry's use in a home environment, a residential model and air change rate (as described in the GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Standard for Buildings Materials, Finishes, and Furnishings) was used in the testing of the product's chemical emissions.


Green Mountain College Residence Hall Achieves Gold LEED Certification

Green Mountain College has announced that one of its residence halls has been designated as a LEED® gold certified building by the U.S. Green Building Council. SAGE Hall, which stands for "Students for Academic and Green Engagement," is the seventh major gold certified building in Vermont and the first in Rutland County. The College's honors residence hall with space for 26 students, was renovated to strict environmental standards last summer. It is the first renovated college residence hall in Vermont to receive gold certification.

"We're especially proud of the achievement because the project was completed through extensive renovation of an existing building, instead of new construction," said College president Paul J. Fonteyn.

Building features at SAGE include ENERGY STAR® windows, high efficiency lighting fixtures, low flow-bathroom fixtures and individual heating controls, Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products, high R-value spray foam insulation and low VOC (volatile organic compounds) flooring and furniture. Local materials, like the slate flooring in the solarium, were used whenever possible. The total cost for the renovation was $1.3 million.

"The greenest building is the building that's already standing," said assistant professor of environmental studies Lucas Brown, who served as an advisor on the project. "When we talk about energy use in buildings, the conversation often turns to operating energy: how much energy will be used for heating and lighting. But it takes a lot of energy and resources to construct a new building. In this renovation, 95 percent of SAGE's interior and exterior walls were retained."

When accounting for embodied energy—energy that's used to build a structure—renovation of existing buildings generally has a smaller environmental impact than building new structures. Studies show the energy required to manufacture a building is equivalent to the energy needed to heat or cool it for anywhere from 25 to 50 years.

HP Cummings, a construction firm in Woodsville, N.H., managed construction of the project. The architect is Smith-Alvarez-Sienkiewycz of Burlington.


Two New Earthship Projects Now Launching

Santa Fe, New Mexico: 2 Weeks in July
British Columbia, Canada: 2 Weeks in August

Learn how to start an Earthship alongside Michael Reynolds and the Earthship Crew.

Earthship is starting two new projects and has volunteer/learning positions for several people for a week or two. Exact dates but will be available soon.

There is a small scheduling fee. Positions available on a first come, first served basis.
Volunteers are responsible for their own food, transportation and lodging.

More information