Category Archives: Green Building

The True Value of Green

By David Peri

Green is the leaves and needles of healthy, thriving, living forests.  Green signals best environmental efforts conserving Nature.  Green is the color of the American dollar.  Green performance wastes nothing – not energy, nature, health, materials, time or money.

The latest 5th generation German WeberHaus home construction matches your unique architectural design with high-quality aerospace CAD/CAM construction, sustainable natural materials in the hands of certified master-craftsmen to produce arguably the Greenest homes in the world.  These homes marry the best possible technology, materials and craftsmanship producing verifiably a moral home for centuries of living in harmony with Nature, adding value and saving money – not at one step, but at every step.  This Green performance is measurable – from start to finish – for a home built for generations, as aesthetically beautiful and delightful to live within as it is morally in harmony with Nature without. Here, Green is the best, fastest, strongest, healthiest, natural, moral and money saving way to build on earth.

Objective Green Advantages

Four verifiable ways measuring Green value:

  1. Empirical, scientific advantages inside and out delivering measurable savings of time, health, money, energy and materials;
  2. Subjective emotional advantages from living within aesthetically beautiful spaces flooded with natural light and materials delighting the senses – supporting greater productivity and harmony;
  3. More healthful living where natural organic materials grown and harvested sustainably provide a living environment free of those common building materials known to produce harmful gases aggravating asthma, allergies and other ills;
  4. Increased ethical living by knowingly not sacrificing the future – of your own future great grandchildren – of the earth’s resources and other living creatures – by rising above the common selfishness of the modern consumptive lifestyle.

Green isn’t an empty colorless boast.  Independent, 3rd-party verification of each and every Green performance claim is available.  These Green home advantages are measured in lifetimes – yours, your family’s, your neighbor’s, and the rest of the world outside your home.  These homes produce healthy environments – inside and out – delivering value measured to anyone willing to take the time to look and see.  This is a Return-On-Investment that saves money, time, health, energy, materials and something more valuable – the future.

Sustaining a healthy thriving earth isn’t an impossible utopian dream but a choice.  Standing on the shoulders of centuries of advancement, today a 21st Century home is available using best practices to deliver the best possible shelter for those who can’t afford anything less.

Green is a simple color, meaning the best, most valuable, without apology, waste or excuse.

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Drywall Flaws: Owners Gain Limited Relief

By ANDREW MARTIN
The New York Times Published: September 17, 2010

Linda and Randall Hunter own their dream house in Plant City, Fla., with an oversize master bedroom, granite

Linda and Randall Hunter had the drywall removed from their home in Florida. They are living in a trailer on their property.

countertops in the kitchen and a screened-in pool.

Jeff Mayfield, of Louisiana, holding silver he said was tarnished from contaminated drywall.

The problem is they cannot bear to live there. For the last several months, the Hunters have been camped out in the side yard in a trailer — uncomfortable mattresses and all — because faulty drywall left the house smelling awful.

“Living in the trailer is no easy thing,” Ms. Hunter said. “But I count my blessings that I have someplace to go.”

The Hunters are among thousands of homeowners in 38 states who have been searching for alternate housing because of worries about drywall in their homes that emits sulfur fumes and, many believe, makes them sick.

Many of the homeowners have bought or rented a second home, an expense that has pushed some to the brink. Others have had no choice but to sell at a big loss. Still others have continued living in their homes with air-conditioners running full blast to hold down the rotten-egg odor.

“My property right now has no value — it’s toxic,” said Aiasha Johnson, 30, a school teacher who lives with her husband and two children in Deerfield Beach, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale. Besides running the air-conditioning, Ms. Johnson said she painted the walls frequently to mitigate the smell.

“I can’t sell it. I can’t do anything,” she said.

Complaints about the drywall, or wallboard, which was mostly made in China, first surfaced a few years ago, and hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court to recover money to replace it. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has received 3,500 complaints about the drywall and says it believes thousands more have not reported the problem.

But so far the relief has been negligible. Most insurance companies have yet to pay a dime. Only a handful of home builders have stepped forward to replace the tainted drywall. Help offered by the government — like encouraging lenders to suspend mortgage payments and reducing property taxes on damaged homes — has not addressed the core problem of replacing the drywall. And Chinese manufacturers have argued that United States courts do not have jurisdiction over them.

“They are hiding behind the ocean,” said Arnold Levin, lead lawyer in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of Chinese drywall in federal court in New Orleans.

The contaminated drywall contains higher levels of sulfur than regular drywall, and it emits hydrogen sulfide gas that corrodes metal and wreaks havoc on air-conditioners and other electronic equipment as well as wiring, according to federal officials and homeowners. Most of it was installed in homes after 2004, when supplies of American-made products were limited by a housing boom and post-hurricane reconstruction.

Homeowners complain of health problems like difficulty breathing, runny noses and recurrent headaches. The federal government has found no definitive link between the drywall and illnesses, but has nonetheless recommended that homeowners gut their homes and replace the drywall and wiring, a process that can easily cost $100,000. The Hunters had lived in their newly built house for only three and a half years, but during that time they experienced one problem after the next, from an inexplicable chemical odor to appliances that constantly malfunctioned.

The Hunters decided to buy the trailer — it cost $18,000 — after their insurance company told them it would not cover their home for vandalism or theft if they moved. They are now gutting their house with their own money and hope to eventually recoup their expenses in court.

“The trailer is a life raft,” said Ms. Hunter, 57.

A few dozen of the cases have been linked to American-made drywall, but the vast majority of the problems are tied to Chinese drywall, federal officials said. One of the major Chinese manufacturers, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, is in negotiations to settle with homeowners.

“There’s no question that the goal of the company is to assist homeowners to get their homes fixed,” said Steven Glickstein, a lawyer for Knauf. “We just want to make sure the repair costs are reasonable and that all parties that are involved make their fair contribution.”

But as the court case in New Orleans demonstrates — roughly 5,600 homeowners are suing 1,600 or so defendants, including manufacturers, builders, installers and insurers — the wait is expected to be long, leaving most homeowners to fend for themselves. One of them, John Willis, is trying to get used to living with little or no access to credit, the result of stopping payments on his contaminated house. A lawyer, Mr. Willis, 44, said he and his wife, Lori, built their dream home in Parkland, Fla., also near Fort Lauderdale, at the end of 2006 and paid $906,000.

Besides chronic electrical problems, he said his family had experienced a variety of health woes; the older of his two sons, Brannon, had so many sinus infections that he was hospitalized. Once he discovered the defective drywall, Mr. Willis said he made arrangements to move into a rental.

Since then, Mr. Willis said his family’s health had improved and his house was sold by the bank in a short sale for $315,000. But he said his credit was now shot, and he worried that debt collectors might come after him for the roughly $500,000 that remained on his mortgage.

“We’ve never really lived without credit before,” he said. “It’s going to be an adventure.”

In Louisiana, Jeffrey Mayfield, 32, said his wife was pregnant with their second child when they discovered Chinese drywall in their home in Madisonville, a New Orleans suburb. Her doctor urged them to move, so they bought a second house. But Mr. Mayfield said paying two mortgages had become so onerous that he had considered bankruptcy, foreclosure and most recently, a short sale.

“It’s getting to the point where I’m going into credit card debt because I can’t afford to pay two mortgages and all my bills,” he said.

Nearby, the Chiappetta family has been forced out of their home for the second time in five years. Hurricane Katrina destroyed their previous home in St. Bernard Parish, and defective drywall has taken their replacement house in Madisonville.

The Chiappettas stayed in the house for nearly six months after discovering Chinese drywall, but Kevin Chiappetta said concerns about his wife’s and daughter’s health gnawed at him.

“Every day we stayed here I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ ” he said. They moved into a rental house last spring, and Mr. Chiappetta says he has become “a professional grass cutter and bill payer” maintaining two homes.

As hard as it was to regroup after the hurricane, Mr. Chiappetta, 45, said the drywall problems were worse. He got a check from the insurance company a month after Katrina and started making plans. This time, he said, there is little he can do but wait. “We just want to one day start with the rest of our lives,” he said.

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Empire State Building Goes Green, One Window at a Time

By David Roth

A fifth floor space inside the Empire State Building has been transformed into a cramped window-making workshop.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How does a Depression-era skyscraper go green? For the Empire State Building, which is in the middle of $550 million renovation that includes about $100 million in energy-efficient upgrades, all 6,514 windows must be replaced. And that’s no easy task.

As The Journal’s Anton Troianovski reports, the greening of the iconic 79-year-old tower has become a platform for Anthony Malkin, the real-estate scion who runs the building, to criticize as insufficient popular programs for assessing the environmental sustainability of buildings. If the world follows the U.S. lead on energy use, he told the audience at a real-estate panel earlier this summer, “We’re all going to die and we’ll go to war along the way.”

For the Empire State Building’s windows, Malkin brought in Serious Materials to handle a pane-by-pane upgrade. The Silicon Valley-based building materials company is transforming the old, inefficient windows into “super-insulating” units, a sort of glass sandwich that combines the existing panes with a mixture of inert gases and film. The finished product is a window anywhere from 250% to 400% more efficient than the windows they replace, according to the company.

“Dirty little secret: double-pane windows aren’t all that efficient,” says Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace.

The replacement windows, which use what Surace calls a “suspended film system,” break up the convection current between the inside and outside of a building. That means less heat sneaks in through the windows on hot days when the air-conditioning is running, and warm air from inside has a harder time leaking out when it’s cold outside.

The team of workers tasked with the window upgrade spend their days removing, cleaning and re-fabricating the building’s 12-year-old double-pane windows. The process, which began in March and is expected to run until October, is projected to reduce solar heat gain by more than half and save $400,000 each year in energy costs.

The window work is being done on site, in an office-turned-workshop on the Empire State Building’s fifth floor. Malkin estimates that keeping the process in-house saves $2,300 per window. The Serious Materials workspace buzzes between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., processing 75 windows per day in a space roughly the size of a Manhattan apartment. The room is so snug that engineers for the project had to shrink some of their equipment to fit in the space.

Keeping the workshop on site ensures the windows are out of their frames for just about 20 hours before the upgraded window is ready. The process is designed to keep waste at a minimum: just 4% of the building’s existing windows are being discarded, and only the gasket surrounding the original windows winds up in the trash.

Workers remove the windows from office spaces at night and bring them downstairs to the workshop. Once there, the windows are removed from their frames and peeled apart like Oreo cookies before being cleaned. The first cleaning is manual, using razor blades and pumices, followed by a wash with a chemical solution and finally water.

The deconstructed windows are then fitted with new steel spacers, treated with a metallized film and baked flat in an oven at 205 degrees. The windows are then sealed with a mixture of Kyrpton and Argon gas. Finally, the upgraded windows are put back — with the help of careful but firm malleting — into their original aluminum frames.

The on-site re-use and refabrication of the Empire State Building’s windows is unprecedented on a project of this size. But Paul Rode, the project executive from Johnson Controls Inc. who is overseeing the retrofit, believes it could become a popular model in the industry. “I’m never waiting for product. If a problem ever comes up, we don’t have to call someplace that’s 500 miles away,” he says. “Logistically, that’s just what you want in the construction business.”

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D.O.E. targets home energy efficiency with $ 30 million funding

 By Nuel Navarrete (www.ecoseed.org)
Thursday, 22 July 2010

  The United States Department of Energy is releasing $30 million to fund building industry partnerships that will work on energy efficiency projects for homes.

The partnerships will be made up of experts in various fields such as retrofitting, finance and energy management, among others. Their main task will be to improve energy efficiency in United States homes.

Fifteen teams will each receive between $500,000 and $2.5 million, depending on their performance. The total amount of $30 million will be distributed during the initial 18 months.

A total of up to $20 million per year will also be made available for the partnerships, with three potential one-year extensions.

The project is under an Energy Department program that forges research partnerships across the residential building industry to come up with solutions to significantly reduce the average energy use of housing while improving comfort and quality.

Existing techniques and technologies in energy efficiency retrofitting – such as air-tight ducts, windows and doors, heating and cooling systems, insulation and caulking – can reduce energy use by up to 40 percent per home and cut energy bills by $40 billion annually.

“Home energy efficiency is one of the easiest, most immediate and most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon pollution and save money on energy bills, while creating new jobs,” said Steven Chu, energy secretary.

“By developing and using tools to reduce residential energy use, we will spur economic growth here in America and help homeowners make cost-cutting improvements in their homes,” he added.

The partnerships are expected to provide technical assistance to retrofit projects; research on and deploy new technologies and demonstration projects; and provide systems engineering, quality assurance and outreach for retrofit projects throughout the country.

One of the chosen teams, the Alliance for Residential Building Innovation, will focus on resolving technical and market barriers to large scale implementation of innovative energy solutions for new and existing homes.

Team members will work towards retrofit activities, providing considerable experience in audits, home performance contracting, marketing and finance.

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EPA Kicks Off Nationwide ‘Green Capitals’ Initiative

By GreenerBuildings Staff

Published June 22, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering comprehensive technical assistance to state capitals for the design and development of more sustainable neighborhoods — ones that incorporate green building and infrastructure to foster social, economic and environmental benefits.

The program called Greening America’s Capitals is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaborative effort involving the EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Under the program, design teams provided and funded by the EPA are to work with the cities to transform neighborhoods into models of sustainability.

The program is competitive and as many as four capitals will be selected to participate each year. The EPA announced the program last week and invited letters of interest to be submitted no later than July 9. The capitals chosen for the inaugural year will be announced in the fall.

The new program is the latest example of a growing effort to make communities more sustainable. 

In April, the U.S. Green Building Council launched the LEED rating system for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) as a national benchmark for community design. USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi has described LEED-ND as the vision for “the next generation of green building thinking” and an opportunity to apply lessons learned from individual green buildings to entire neighborhoods.

The unveiling of the Greening America’s Capitals program came on the heels of the annual U.S Conference of Mayors meeting.

In their 78th annual session, the mayors approved numerous resolutions on energy and the environment, including measures supporting policy and efforts to make communities — and the buildings in them — greener. In resolutions praised by the USGBC, the mayors:

  • Signaled their support for sustainable development in cities by calling on Congress to adopt the Livable Communities Act, the Enhancing Livability for All Americans Act, or similar legislation. The group also said it backs full funding for the Sustainable Communities Partnership in the president’s budget. In a separate measure, the mayors said they will continue working with the EPA, HUD and the DOT to advance the agencies’ partnership and its principles. 
  • Called on local governments to adopt Green Building Codes and the International Green Construction Code. 
  • Recognized the benefits of energy financing districts in making commercial and residential energy efficiency retrofit possible. Called on state lawmakers to adopt legislation enabling the establishment of such districts and mechanisms that include Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bonds and Benefit Assessed Clean Energy (BACE), Clean Energy Assessment Districts (CEAD), contractual assessments, sustainable energy financing and special tax districts.
  • Called for its members to partner with local school districts to implement green initiatives. 
  • Supported green affordable housing and financing by calling for Congress to adopt the Green Act, the Energy Efficiency in Housing Act or similar legislation to modernize the U.S. housing market through energy efficient  and location efficient mortgages.

The full text of all the resolutions is available at http://www.usmayors.org/resolutions/78th_Conference/adoptedresolutionsfull.pdf

Read more: http://www.greenbiz.com/epa-kicks-off-nationwide-green-capitals-initiative#ixzz0uE7J57UP

Image of Boston buildings CC licensed by Flickr user David Paul Ohmer.

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Green Living 101 – Top Five Ways to Balance Ecology & Economy

Green living is one of the best ways to lead a life that has a good balance of both ecology and economy. Contrary to popular beliefs, living green does not have to compromise your comfort or convenience. Green living is fairly straightforward once you figure out the ins and outs of living a green life. Here are the 5 easy tips that can get you started on living a green life:

1. Laundry cleaning can be very cost-effective if the rinse is done with cold water. According to a research conducted by the office of sustainability at Tufts University, about 90% of energy used in your
laundry cleaning goes to heating the water. Rinsing with cold water will reduce your energy costs
significantly and reduce your electricity bill.

2. As per the research conducted by US Environmental Protection Agency, fixing leaky faucets and toilets can save you about 3000 gallons of water every year! Just add food dye to your toilet tank – if the color shows up in bowl within 30 minutes, it means that your faucet is leaking. Don’t flush away your money, fix your faucets and toilets and save water in doing so.

3. Get a water filter for your home instead of drinking bottled water. Doing so will reduce your use of plastic bottles which in turn will result in less waste and more savings. About 40 million plastic bottles are thrown away every day with the garbage. What makes the problem worse is the slower-than-needed rate of recycling these plastic bottles. Use of steel made water bottles for office and commuting is quickly growing as a trend.

4. Eliminating meat just for one day a week can save about 5000 gallons of water for the whole year. Cows produce 1 lb of beef of every 2500 lbs of water they consume. From a bigger perspective, meat is one of the least energy-efficient foods. Moreover, livestock produces a lot of waste. According to Natural Resources Defense Council, livestock produces 130 times the amount of waste as generated by humans. Adopting vegetarian diet just one day a week is can result in a lot of long-term benefits. Besides, contrary to popular beliefs, vegetarian diet a wallet-friendly diet. The cheapest ground beef costs about $3 a pound, whereas, dried beans and lentils cost about $1 a pound.

5. Most of the home water heaters are set to 140 degrees – this is a little too hot for household water needs. Turning down your water heater to 120 degrees will do the job just as well. It will also result in significant energy savings. Additionally, according to a study conducted by Pace Law School Energy Project, just turning down your water heater by 10 degrees will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide by 400 lbs.

Developing greener habits is not as difficult as it appear. Starting out with making small choices and simple practices adds up to a major change in long run. Every single green decision that we make helps this world become a better place.


Amy C. enjoys exploring green and healthy living options. She is an indoor fountains artist. Amy invites you to browse beautiful collection of solar fountains to create an eco-friendly and soothing garden décor.

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Green Building: LEEDing Us Where?

The New York Times

March 19, 2010, 11:30 am
Green Building: LEEDing Us Where?
By JAMES MCWILLIAMS

Photo: Andreas Kollegger

The Philip Merrill Environmental CenterThe Philip Merrill Environmental Center is a 32,000-square-foot building in Annapolis, Md. It has the distinct honor of being the first structure to earn a “platinum” rating from a program called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). When the complex was completed in 2001, it earned special accolades for its southern wall, which is shielded by slotted wood (partially made from recycled pickle barrels) to reduce the building’s interior temperature. However, as David Owen notes in his cogently argued book Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability, the wooden barrier also prevents the sun from directly hitting the building’s photovoltaic panels, thus rendering a potentially energy-efficient feature effectively useless.

This irony captures a problem endemic to modern environmentalism. Concerned consumers are flush with noble intentions, but too often these intentions succumb to external realities. A closer look at LEED—and green building in general—illustrates the nature of this conflict. Progressive cities across the U.S. offer tax incentives for builders to incorporate energy-efficient designs into their structures. A quick review of my own environmentally conscientious enclave in Austin reveals rainwater collection tanks, native landscaping (“xeriscaping”), gravel driveways, solar panels, compost heaps, massive recycling bins, cork floors, self-composting toilets, compact fluorescent bulbs, and bamboo cabinets. These features are all vivid testimonies to an enduring environmental ethic. Truth be told, my own home has a “five star” green rating from the Austin Energy Green Building Program. I’m rather proud of it.

“After all, step beyond the privileged confines of our ever-greening abodes, and you’ll discover that most American cities are, by design, ecological train wrecks.”

But a book as insightful as Owen’s forces me to wonder: do such efforts matter all that much? After all, step beyond the privileged confines of our ever-greening abodes, and you’ll discover that most American cities are, by design, ecological train wrecks. Don’t get me wrong, Austin is a wonderful place to live. But the fact remains: its overall blueprint runs counter to a truly sustainable lifestyle. Homes are large, if not steroidal, by the standards of densely packed urban centers like New York or San Francisco. Cars are a necessity. Sidewalks are maddeningly intermittent. Bicycle lanes and bus routes are haphazard. Sprawling “house farms” and strip malls ring the city. Air conditioners run full blast for seven months. Traffic snarls. We have no light rail or subway.

Of course, these are structural inefficiencies. Generally they’re beyond individual control (although Austin voted down light rail twice!). Nevertheless, they place our personal environmental decisions—such as the choice to build a LEED-certified home—in a troubling context. Take the long view. From the moment of European settlement onward, American faith in Manifest Destiny has inspired aggressive development driven by land acquisition and individual choice. Sprawl started to become ingrained in the American character over two centuries ago and, as a result, middle America has inherited cities that value expansion over intensification. To an extent, this vexed inheritance turns our cork floors and compost bins into empty expressions akin to the sun-starved solar panels adorning the Merritt Center.

“We have built our country as we have built it,” writes Owen, “and we’re obviously not going to tear it down and start over.” True enough. What we can do, though, is expand the notion of what it means to be an environmentalist. Tree huggers, organic farmers, and green builders will always play necessary roles in raising environmental awareness. But if Owen is right—if our only real hope is to live smaller, live closer, and drive less—future environmentalists will include inner city pioneers who make the urban core a more desirable place to live. Police officers, school teachers, pastry shop owners, landscape architects, urban planners, coffee freaks and policy geeks—these people will be the real heroes of twenty-first century environmentalism.

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