Homes Green

What's a green home If you're in the market for a new home, you should be asking for a green home, one that, at a minimum, saves at least 30 of the energy of a conventional new home, has water-conserving fixtures and uses non-toxic finishes. Increasingly, regional and national homebuilders are offering such projects. A recently completed Northern California project by Lennar, one of the ten major US homebuilders that deliver about 35 of all new single-family homes, shows this potential. The...

Water Conservation

The lament of the Ancient Mariner, Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink, is echoed in many parts of the world but fortunately not yet in this country. However, looming water shortages in certain parts of the country, such as the Southwest and West, add urgency to the design of water conservation systems for buildings and developments. In addition many are becoming aware of the link between energy use and water use in the West, considerable water use goes for the cooling needs of...

Rainwater Reclamation Reuse

One of my favorite green building technologies is rainwater harvesting the capture, treatment and use of rainwater for uses inside the building such as toilet flushing and cooling-tower makeup water (to replace water lost by evaporation and back-flushing). This is such a simple and obvious thing to do in much of the country that one wonders why it has taken so long to be considered. In addition to water conservation, rainwater harvesting can help reduce stormwater runoff from building sites. At...

Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are an entire class of carbon-based chemicals that give off vapors at normal room temperatures. Thousands of products emit VOCs, including paints and lacquers, paint strippers, ad-hesives and sealants, carpets and carpet backing, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment (copiers and printers,) graphics and craft materials, and permanent markers. When I was growing up, our family got a new car every three to five years....

Xeriscaping

Outdoor water uses, primarily for landscaping, consume an estimated eight billion gallons per day in the US, perhaps as much as one-third of all water use.168 Xeriscaping is a well-used term for water-conserving landscaping, the prefix denoting dry. Another term might be natural landscaping. The essential feature of xeriscaping is to employ regionally appropriate plants and planting techniques (such as mulching) that reduce or eliminate water use except from normal precipitation in the area. If...

Restoration of Sites

A goal of many green building projects is to leave the land a better place than it was before. Achieving this goal requires site restoration activities, such as rehabilitating natural drainage systems, replacing wide swaths of green lawns with plants that provide wildlife habitat and replanting ornamental plants with native and adapted species that need far less water and intensive maintenance. As we complete the switch from a predominantly manufacturing economy to one based primarily on...

Building Codes

A friend in Tucson, David Eisenberg, in addition to being a national expert on straw-bale housing construction technology,16 has been heavily involved with building codes and building code officials the past half-decade or more, as his way to change the environment to favor sustainable design. David says I start with this premise Building codes are based on a societal decision that it is important to protect the health and safety of people from the built environment. If, inadvertently, the...

Investing in Green Buildings

In 2006 real estate investment in green buildings grew dramatically with the announcement of a joint venture by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) to fund future commercial real estate projects by the Hines development organization. A large national real estate developer, Hines is well-known for its commitment to Energy Star and LEED certification for its buildings.80 The Hines CalPERS Green Development Fund (HCG) was capitalized with over 120 million of committed...

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is diesel-equivalent, processed fuel derived from biological sources (such as vegetable oils, even waste cooking oil from restaurants such as fast-food establishments), that can be used unmodified in diesel engines. Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic and produces significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned. A recent article reported that chicken fat could be used, prompting major chicken producers such as Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Smithfield Foods...

Green Buildings in a Global Context

Green buildings are part of a global response to increasing awareness of the role of human activity in causing global climate change. Buildings account for more than 40 of all global carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main culprits implicated in the phenomenon of global warming. While the US and Western Europe, Canada and Japan contribute the majority of greenhouse gas emissions at the present time, this situation is going to change dramatically in the near future. The projected rapid growth...

LEDs Lightemitting Diodes

LEDs are a revolutionary new lighting technology that reduce energy consumption, allow lighting to be programmed by computer and permit wide variations in lighting color. LEDs use chips, not bulbs, so emit a lot less heat than incandescent or even fluorescent lamps. Made with computer chips, they are easily dimmable and programmable. A good example is a new product from Herman Miller that's winning design awards. Shown below, the Leaf personal light offers maximum lighting options with less...

Onsite Sewage Treatment

We live in a flush without fear society, in which most of us just flush away and presume that they will take care of it somewhere downstream. Of course, for most of us, our downstream is someone else's upstream Nevertheless, for the most part, this is a reasonable presumption, since modern sewage treatment systems have been perfected over the past 100 years, and flush toilets have been around since Thomas Crapper first popularized them in London in the 19th century.104 However, a basic...

Feng Shui

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system for the harmonious placement of buildings on a site and for the placement of rooms and objects within a building or office. The goal is to allow the free movement of a subtle energy called chi that permeates the world. Most martial arts systems are based philosophically on the movement of this subtle energy. In Feng Shui, cities and homes are seen as intimately linked with both the landscape and the cosmos. According to one expert, in China, Every activity...

Design

In architecture, celebrity designers such as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava are international icons. Management guru Tom Peters began talking about the design decade several years ago he says, Design is the seat of the soul.41 In his view, every business needs to incorporate the essence of design thinking elegance with economy. With noted architect Michael Graves designing for Target and Martha Stewart for K-Mart, and stores such as Design...

Stormwater Management

A basic principle of sustainable design is that buildings should be able to supply all their water needs from the annual rainfall on the project site and from recycling the wastewater generated by a project, effectively getting several uses out of the same amount of rainwater. At the present time, it's not always possible for projects to use all of the rainfall on a site, so they need to reduce the impact of new development on downstream flows from stormwater running off a site. The problems...

Historic Preservation

Historic preservation and green buildings go together nicely. If green buildings are all about sustainability, what could exemplify this value better that reusing an older building, making it suitable for another 50 to 100 years of active use In Portland, the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center is a great example of building renovation. Under the leadership of Ecotrust, a regional nonprofit, the ioo-year-old two-story warehouse was transformed into a modern office building. A partial third story...

Return on Investment

Green buildings eventually will compete in the marketplace with standard buildings, so it's reasonable to ask that they be evaluated financially and economically on the same basis. Return on investment also expressed as internal rate of return or net present value is fundamental to evaluating economic decisions. Simply put, return on investment is how much I plan to make, either annually or totally, from an investment, with all numbers expressed in today's dollars. If I'm going to take the risk...

Vastu Shastra

Similar to Feng Shui, a design philosophy and approach known as Vastu Shastra is based on teachings of the ancient scriptures of India. Introduced into the US by the American practitioners of Transcendental Meditation TM , Vastu Shastra aims to harmonize people, buildings and land. While individual homes have been built using these ancient principles, the largest commercial expression of this approach to creating healthy work and living environments is an office building in Rockville, Maryland,...

Locally Sourced Materials

About 20 years ago in Italy, the slow food movement began, with an emphasis on the sourcing of local foods with higher nutritional content and a less rushed way to eat, certainly as a reaction to the American fast-food movement sweeping the globe. In the US, many estimates have food traveling an average of 1,200 miles from farm or fishery to table. Think about this the next time you buy Alaska Copper River salmon in Arizona or grapes from Chile in midwinter in Chicago. In the same vein of...

Lighting Design

Lighting is one of the critical components of green building design, accounting for 23 of a typical office building's energy use.96 Lighting design is also an important factor in raising the productivity level of office workers. Over the years, recommended illumination levels have gradually come down, from the brightly lit fluorescent workplaces of the 1970s, where 100 foot-candles was the recommended luminance, to today's standard green building design of 30 foot-candles at the work surface....

Lowflush Toilets

The current plumbing code requires toilets that use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. This standard was adopted in 1992 replacing the old limit of 3.5 gallons per flush and has not changed in 15 years, even as water problems in the US are escalating. Responding to the growing concern over excessive water use in buildings, many companies have begun to offer even lower-flush toilets and urinals. Two good examples are dual-flush valves for tankless toilets the kind you use in public places and a...