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Going Green
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Going Green
By: Woody
On: 10/24/2007

Hey everyone!

  This will by my section on green design.  What is green design?  It is ecologically friendly design that minimizes our negative environmental impact.  This can be acheived in many ways.  You would be suprised at how much money you can save by doing simple things like maximizing natural sunlight and caulking all the cracks in your house.  You can even go extreme and get your own personal energy source.  Feel free to ask any questions about green design whether for new construction or for remodeling.  If I don't know the answer, I'll find it for you.  For now, welcome to my Going Green Forum.

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Re: Going Green
By: Woody
On: 10/29/2007

  I've written a few blogs at another site.  Go to http://www.houseplans.info/ to check them out.  I've got an entire essay coming soon that I'll try and get permission to publish.  It's just ideas so far based on a lot of statistics from the housing crisis.  Anyone working on a green home project right now?  We love case studies.  Share with us your work and inspire others!

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Green Light
By: Woody
On: 11/6/2007

Lighting is a major source of energy consumption in a residence.  There are a few simple things that can reduce your dependency on the lightbulb. 

  • Windows in the right places.  It's best to put more windows facing south to asorb as much sunlight as possible.  Windows on the other sides of the house help as well, but not as much.  Make sure you get well insulated windows.  The more efficient, the more expensive, but only up front.
  • Light shelves on all south facing windows.  A light shelf is a reflective surface located near the top of the window that bounces the light toward your ceiling and farther into the house.  There are both exterior and interior light shelves, and it works best if you install both systems.
  • Florescent and LED lighting.  The incandescent lightbulb is inefficient.  You'll save quite a bit of money by switching to florescent, and even more with LED systems.  Again, the are more expensive up front, but pay for themselves pretty quickly. 
  • Dimmers.  Make sure you put dimmers on as many lights as possible.  Not only can you change the ambiance of any room, but you can control the amount of energy you are using.

Just a few tips on lighting.  Hope this is helpful.  If your builder doesn't know much about green design, just ask me and I'll find the answers for you.  There are also plenty of online sources out there.  Look for sources that aren't so biased.  There are manufacturers out there that exaggerate their 'greeness'.  I can help a bit with that one too.  Anybody else know much about green lighting?

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Consequences
By: Woody
On: 11/9/2007

  You know, I've been thinking a lot lately on the impact our lifestyle choice has on the rest of the world.  This is probably, or at least should be, a pretty well covered topic out there, but it's been on my mind lately.  I'm currently in an Architectural Systems class at my University and our professors was sharing some stories about building techniques and lifestyle in the 70's.  Apparently, and I know this becuase of my parents house, they didn't really worry too much about insulating homes.  Gas was so cheap, that the necessity to worry about our energy sources just wasn't there.  No wonder environmentalists were considered hippies.  Not that I want to take the hippied title away from any proud hippies out there.  But, now that we're in an energy crisis, and we've all begun to accept the green gospel, building practices and hippies are taken a lot more seriously.

   And with good reason.  Oil is used for more than just cars.  It's a major source of energy in both the construction and the maintenance of our homes.  Can you imagine the political implications of reducing and eliminating our dependency on oil.  We would visit foreign regions for humanitarian reasons, to share our knowlege of green building and conservation, instead of negotiating high stakes business.  Sustainability in green design refers directly to how long a structure or a product will last, and how well it can be reused.  Certainly sustainability as a country is no less valuable.  The fact is, green design issues cover all sorts of topics: protecting our environment, improving our economy, enhancing our personal health and wellfare, and decreasing our nations dependence on forgein product.  These are just a few.

   Oil is just the big one.  There are a thousand other resources that are being manipulated, all while damaging the environment and our economy at the same time.  The fact is, green design has a proven track record of extremely beneficial economic implications.  Green products reduce the need for energy, which is very pocket friendly.  The great thing about the green movement is that it has something for everyone.  For you business owners, you can save a whole lot of money.  I know you like money.  For you anti war folks, we can reduce the number of issues that often contribute to warfare.  For grandma's bridge club, there's cleaner air, ergonomic chairs, and 100% post consumer made playing cards (holla back).  I'll end my rambling though session with a few statistics that show our potential for advancement and change...

  • By 2030, about half of the buildings in America will have been built after 2000
  • The country will need about 427 billion square feet of space
  • About 82 billion of that [new volume] will be from replacement of existing space and 131 million will be new space
  • 50 percent of that 427 billion will have to be constructed between now and then
  • Most of the space built between 2000 and 2030 will be residential space
  • The largest component of this space will be homes
  • Over 100 billion square feet of new residential space will be needed by 2030
  • Percentage-wise, the commercial and industrial sectors will have the most new space with over 60 percent of the space in 2030 less than 30 years old 

sources: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007475.html and further http://www.citymayors.com/development/built_environment_usa.html.  thanks guys.

 

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Contemporary Thought
By: Woody
On: 11/16/2007

I just attended an interesting seminar given by Karim Rashid.  He's one of the world's leading industrial designers and a phenominal artist.  I was struck by his design process, which was quite dissimilar to many other desingers or architects.  The standard design process, taught in many schools, is to get to know your client, the demands of the project, etc.  Where Karim differs is in his inspiration.  Most pull inspiration from products they've seen from magazines or work by other designer's they admire.  He brings our current society into the equation.

He's not the only one who does this, I'm sure.  But he is one of those designers whose work reflects his idea of society more than his idea of tradition.  His work is very modernized.  When designing a digital camera, he went away from the rectangular shape because it's useless and made one designer to fit in your hand like a handle with one toggle/button.  He made it durable with a rubbery silicon covering that's easy to hold on to.  He designed it for easier use not for tradtional looks.  I thought that was great.

Design is something that we can all do.  We design our lives by our chosen attitudes and our chosen limit to knowledge.  We decorate our living and work spaces based on the same concepts.  Part of green design is pulling away from the traditional practices.  There may not be anything wrong with certain methods, but we shouldn't use them just because it's the way we've always done it.  Karim described it as loosing one ritual and gaining another.  I think of it as continual evolution, continual education, and continual innovation.  Don't be afraid of green design because some of it may seem "radical".  You might be the first builder to try it in your area, or the first house in the neighborhood.  Personally, I like the one weird house on the block....

 Here's an interesting blog about someone who did something a little radical to evaluate his current lifestyle, and redesign his practices: http://www.frogdesign.com/frogblog/author/trash-talk/

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Green Resources
By: Woody
On: 11/26/2007

I just know that there are several of you out there who will run into my humble green blog and wonder (as cliche as this approach may be) "How can I go green?" or "How can I find green products?".  The answer is kinda hard unless you know where to go.  So here are a few sources that I've found useful.

  •  Building Green: these guys are truely a neutral party.  They don't accept advertising, so they're unbiased in their reports.  Go to www.buildinggreen.com.
  • United States Green Build Council: or the USGBC.  They are the nationally accepted authority on green buildings.  They have a certification program that is the benchmark for ecologically friendly building.  Their resources are invaluable.  Go to www.usgbc.org.
  • Green and Save: an experienced architect's new project.  Charlie Szoradi has 20+ years in green architecture and shows how long different green products take to pay for themselves.  Go to www.greenandsave.com
  • NAHB: a residential authority.  This site has loads of resources regarding your green home.  Go to www.nahbrc.org/greenbuilding.  See also www.toolbase.org/ToolbaseResources/level3.aspx?BucketID=2&CategoryID=17.

These are just a few that I like.  They have a lot of technical data, and a lot of easy to read stuff.  You'll also find plenty of conferences and classes that usually come at a small cost.  Check them out.  Let me know what you think.

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The Green Roof
By: Woody
On: 11/28/2007

  Urban areas create several environmental problems.  A major problem discussed widely now is the urban heat bubble.  Ashpalt on roads, parking lots, and roofs reflect heat into the air.  This causes a heat problem.  Other issues involve water.  The asphalt and concrete that make up our urban areas do not absorb the water, so we get flash flood effects in our storm drains and sewer systems.  Another problem is air pollution.  Not only do we clear land full of oxygen producing plants, but we put carbon dioxides in the air.

   These are all issues that green roofs can help solve: 

  • reduce ambient air temperature, energy use, and utility costs;
  • help cleanse the air and water;
  • utilize local and recycled materials;
  • extend the life of the roof;
  • improve aesthetics; and
  • create greenspace for humans and wildlife while providing a psychological and physical respite from urban surroundings (Velazquez).
reduce ambient air temperature, energy use, and utility costs;
  • help cleanse the air and water;
  • utilize local and recycled materials;
  • extend the life of the roof;
  • improve aesthetics; and
  • create greenspace for humans and wildlife while providing a psychological and physical respite from urban surroundings (Velazquez).
  •   Green roofs are generally intended for flat commercial roofs.  The weight is greatly increases and the roof should be engineered accordingly.  Residential roofs can potentially support a green roof system.  I suggest looking into a modular system.  Do your homework before installing any kind of green roof system.  Plants should be selected to withstand a windy and hot climate.  Drought and cold resistance is also a good idea for most of the United States and Canada.

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    Insulation
    By: Woody
    On: 11/30/2007

    One of the most fundamental ways to green up your home and save on energy bills is properly insulating your home.  This in turn is great for the total environment, because most heat comes from fossil fuels.  Traditionally, insulation has struggled with three main obstacles: formaldehyde, low r-value, and air gaps.  Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound or a VOC that stinks.  Remember disecting the frog in highschool?  VOCs create poor indoor air quality over a long period of time and are known to cause a number of diseases.  R-Value speaks of an insulation's ability to control temperature.  Just remember, the higher the better.  Lastly, air gaps greatly reduce an products ability to perform.  Air gaps must be filled in to receive the full benefit of insulation.  Here's a quick breakdown on different options for insulating:

    • Batting (usually pink).  Though this has a dominant hold on the industry, it's not necessarily the best choice.  This product is less expensive up front and doesn't need professional installation.  That's the pro.  The cons are lower r-values and air gaps.  The specific r-value will vary from product to product, but is generally lower than other products.  Air gaps are impossible to seal with batting.  Environmentally friendly options include formaldehyde free and recycled content batting.
    • Total-Fill Insulation:  Total fill is a great product that comes at a mid price range.  The product is installed differently for a tighter blanket.  First, a thin membrane is stapled to the exposed wall studs.  Next, a fluffy insulation is blown in between the studs, held in by the membrane.  Tightly packed, the gaps between your wall studs are totally filled in, hence the name.  The pros include a higher r-value, formaldehyde free options, and filled air gaps.  Note: a filled air gap isn't necessarily a sealed air gap.  That's the con with total-fill products.  Even with a tightly packed insulation, air gaps cause problems and lower performance.
    • Spray Foam:  Air gaps can only be filled with a spray foam.  This product must be professionally installed and costs more than other alternatives.  However, spray foams have several advantages.  First, foam seals air gaps everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  Second, foam can be made of safe organic material like soy.  Third, because air gaps are completely sealed, the r-value is greatly inhanced.

    There are ways to seal air gaps and use a less expensive product.  Most hardware stores carry a spray foam product in cans that can be directly applied to air gaps before installing your insulation.  This is an inexpensive, though sometimes tedious, solution to a lower insulation budget.  Just remember, a home is an investment.  If it's not constructed properly, it can cost you much more money in the long run than green products cost up front.  Fortunately, green products are coming down in price and we can start saving our monthly income along with the environment.

     For helpful information, check out the videos at Mainstream Green.

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    Out with the old, In with the new
    By: Woody
    On: 12/6/2007

    There have been so many new products and innovations in the last several years.  It's amazing to see how fast we can develop new technology.  As a result, there is a huge push to throw away the old stuff and bring in the new.  To say there is a fine line between upgrading for good purposes and being wasteful is a massive understatement.  There are many fine lines, and they criss cross each other as often and as delicately as a spider's web.  I hear talk about demolishing iconic buildings because they're out of date and waste a lot of energy.  I hear debate over electronics and other equipment that is practically obselete within six months.  Where are the fine lines of upgrading and wasting?

    I was raised in a home without an abundance of financial means.  Our toys had to last as long as possible, no matter how obselete they had become.  When I was young, my parents gave us a used Nintendo for Chirstmas.  We had it for years.  We didn't get another video game system until the playstation came out.  Unfortunately, we went with the competitor at the time, the Sega Saturn.  Anyone remember the Sega Saturn?  Probably not.  Playstation took control of the U.S. gaming market almost immediately and the Sega Saturn basically left the country.  It was huge in Asia, but there weren't any games for it in the U.S.  Still, we kept it for years.  Infact, my parents never bought another gaming system for us again.  In contrast, I have friends who got the newest system every year.  They have at least 10 gaming systems.  Cell phones are worse.  I've had four different ones in three years.  With advances in green technology rapidly improving, are buildings going to fall victim to the same cycle?

    No is the obvious answer, because they cost too much and take too long to build.  However, everything inside the building is subject to the same system of purchase and waste.  Sustainability demands that this linear cycle stop.  How can we profess to believe in sustainability and saving the environment if we continue to consume at such a rapid rate?

     Movements against the trend culminate in the idea that a manufacturer should be responsible for its product, all the way through disposal (or preferably recycling).  Many companies have adopted this standard, but is it really that practical?  I say that currently it is not practical for every manufacturer to take back all of its products when the consumers are done with them.  We don't have the infrastructure for that to happen all of the time.  Enter the third party companies.  They have arisen to fill in the gaps and in many cases are more than willing to take certain products for recycling.  However, all of this takes energy.  We must consider the energy required in the whole process against the energy we would save by uprgrading.  When we can develop hard numbers that show why we should upgrade, then by all means, we should upgade.  Of course there are certain things that carry iconic value, that are worth saving.  I don't comment on all of these issues, only the general concept of sustainability in products and architecture.

     p.s.  This opinion is that of Woody, not the company he works for.

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    The Global Warming Deadline
    By: Woody
    On: 12/12/2007

    I just read an interesting article by Ross Gelbspan at gristmill.grist.org.  He warns that we have passed the deadline to turn our carbon emitting habits around and that dangerous climate change is now inevitable.  According to Ross, "The IPCC, which reflects the findings of more than 2,000 scientists from over 100 countries, recently stated that it is 'very unlikely' that we will avoid the coming era of 'dangerous climate change.'" He continues "As one prominent climate scientist said recently, 'We are seeing impacts today that we did not expect to see until 2085.'"  So how do we react to this hard notion?  How valid is the arguement and how frantic should we become?

     Some say that this whole thing is a hoax.  As a good friend of mine pionted out, we had a global cooling scare in the 1970's.  That didn't turn out to be such a big deal.  So why are we all boarding the global warming train?  How are things different now than they were 30 years ago?  The answer is our technology.  I'm not talking about our data collection abilities (though I'm sure that evolved impressively), but rather our engergy and architectural technologies.  They are now advanced enough to provide us with a way of becoming more independent of the weather.  We have solar and wind energy, geothermal heat exchange, high efficiency appliances, etc.  These advances, though not perfect, can cut our dependancy on foreign nations, cut individuals dependency on the grid, and help us withstand nature's climate fluctuations with greater efficiency.  And we can do all that and reduce our indisputable damages to mother earth.  So why not?

    To me, the arguement isn't whether global warming is a real threat, but rather pollution and rising energy costs, waste and social injustice.  These are the root causes of most of our nation's problems.  We should invest in the technology to create a better world.  Then we don't need to squabble over who was right and who was wrong.  We can just work towards a better future and a greater independence from all the variables out there.

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    Harness the Sun and Soil
    By: Woody
    On: 12/19/2007

      One of the best ways to impact your energy consumption is with solar water heating units.  This is often a system that consists of rooftop panels that heat a thermal fluid.  This fluid is then pumped through a coil in a "pre-heated water tank" for storage.  That tank is linked directly to your water heater.  So when you turn on the hot water, it is pulled from the pre-heated tank, into the water heater, which will heat it a bit more if needed, and then to the fixture you are using.  This can cut your water heating costs in half each year.  Here are some search results about solar water heating systems.

       What's amazing is that it works so well.  Compared to photovoltaic solar panels (the ones that generate electricity) solar water heating is much more efficient.  In fact, this is one of the best and most recommended ways to go solar.  Systems range from home-made to about $15,000.00.

      Another way to impact your heating and cooling expenses is to tap into the stable temperature of the earth.  About 10 feet down, the temperature stays (in most places) about 60 F.  Thermal heat exchange is a beautiful concept that you can put to use in your house.  It works by pumping a thermal fluid through the ground, about 10 feet down (depending on where you live).  This fluid, once warmed or cooled by the earth, then passes through your house.  The fluid passively adjusts the temperature of your house and aids the heating and cooling process.

      These two systems can dramatically reduce your energy consumption, and your utility bills.  As always, research is important.  Look to my older posts above for references that will have valuable information.

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    Greenwashing Debates are Heating Up
    By: Woody
    On: 1/7/2008

    I've heard a lot of talk about greenwashing lately.  It's been a topic of discussion for quite some time, but it's getting more attention.  Greenwashing is a term used to describe overstating a products "green-ness", or, as some have appropriately put it, a products "shade of green".  There are two main arguements.  One, that greenwashing is an evil practice used to deceive consumers and slow down the green movement.  Two, that accusing companies of greenwashing is unnecessary slander that punishes them for taking small steps in the right direction.  What do you think?

    Since it's obvious that some companies will want to overstate a products green characteristics to save money, I believe that it's important to call out those who truely and blatantly greenwash.  Those companies are either trying to get away with doing the bare minimum or are lying.  The importance of green products is largely immeasurable due to the huge and positive effect all of them collectively will have on our environment and health.  The luster of green products is that they save so much money.  So to lie about something so vastly important is undoubtedly a heinous sin.  However, every issue has two extremes.  The second being that some commentators and reporters are on a witch hunt, so to speak.  Why should we seek to destroy the reputation of a company that is making small steps in the right direction.  I doubt that those companies would lie about their shade of green.  Although if they did while still making progress, an honest reminder of their particular shade would seem more appropriate.  The worst result of the greenwashing witch hunt would be preventing a company of adopting green practices because they don't feel confident enough to go completely green.  It's like the kid who doesn't go to the pool because his toes look funny.

    I attended a seminar given by Penny Bonda, former president of the USGBC, who said she once asked Ray Anderson, chairman of carpet giant Interface, why they still use PVC backing.  She said it keeps him up at night, but they just haven't found another product that performs as well as PVC does.  That solution has yet to be found.  Meanwhile, PVC will still be mass produced, using tons of petroleum and producing tons of pollution.  Do we critisize them for it?  Ray Anderson has been a fore-runner in the green movement for over a decade now and has developed more green business practices that almost anyone else.  We have to move to a greener world, but we can only do it as fast as we are able.  Greenwashing still equals bad, but lets not make fun of ugly toes.

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    RE: Greenwashing Debates are Heating Up
    By: greenfuture
    On: 4/18/2011
    Reply to this Post
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