New and Notable

July 01, 2008
July/August 2008
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Net Zero Energy and Carbon Neutral Buildings

When it comes to global warming, there are few culprits with effects like the building industry. When it comes to cleaning up, no other industry has more solutions than green building; however, not enough is actually implemented in North America. According to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), green building accounts for only 2% of the new non-residential building market in the United States. The CEC’s recently released document, Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges presents a recommendation to leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, addressing the notion that Green Building is poised to be a major part of the solution to global warming. With an impressive list of contributors to the document, including members of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), AIA, and leaders in the fields of architecture and energy efficiency in all three countries, the document sites data and reports to suggests reasons, proven practices, and innovations to bring Green Building into common practice.

Canada’s Living Building Challenge, operated by the USGBC’s Cascadia Chapter, the US DOE’s Building America Program, and Infonavit’s Green mortgage program in Mexico are just a few of the ambitious examples cited in the report.
The CEC is an international organization created by Canada, Mexico and the United States under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The CEC was established to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and to promote the effective enforcement of environmental law. The Agreement complements the environmental provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

To download the document and learn more about the CEC, go to

Solar Neighborhoods

As a bold example of a housing development that is beautiful, sustainable, and possible, the prestigious Pinn Borthers, California’s high-end developers, have unleashed two solar-powered, LEED-certified single-family neighborhoods in San Jose California. The two neighborhoods, Orchard Heights and Falcon Place opened their gates on March 15th, 2008.
Falcon Place features 19 single-family homes at about 2,400 square feet, each with two-and-a-half baths, and 4 bedrooms. Prices will start in the upper $800,000s. Orchard Heights, with views of the Santa Clara Valley, have luxury features, northern European tailoring, 4 to 5 bedrooms and 3 to 4.5 baths. They range in size from 3,241 to 4,065 square feet.

Pinn Brothers works with OCR Solar & Roofing and will install BP Solar’s roof-integrated EnergyTile solar modules. (These replace the concrete shingles on the roof). The solar-powered homes will produce a total of 231,000 kWh per year in solar power and reduce greenhouse gases by 6.6 million pounds. In addition to solar panels, the homes have such energy saving features as low-e dual pane vinyl windows, programmable thermostats, high R-value wall and ceiling insulation, dry cycle dishwashers, quick recovery 75 gallon water heaters, full weather stripping on doors and windows, and water saving shower heads.

The two developments exceed California Title 24 standards in efficiency by up to 35%, putting them head-and-shoulders above their competition in the high profile California housing market.

For more info about OCR Solar and Roofing, go to For more about Pinn Brothers, go to

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Tierra Vista Communities, a partnership formed between the U.S. Air Force and Actus Lend Lease, is unveiling remarkable housing developments on military bases in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Los Angeles, California. The neighborhoods, boasting energy-efficient and sustainable designs, will feature photovoltaic panels on all community centers—providing 12% of the center’s electrical needs through renewable energy; tankless water heaters on all homes—saving the installation more than $200,000 annually; solid waste recycling; and water saving devices on all new homes—reducing water consumption by approximately 30%.

This $321 million project will mean employment opportunities for the Colorado Springs and Denver areas, and create 1,500 homes in the two states, with an emphasis on contracting with local sustainable businesses. The pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods will have community centers, playgrounds, and other amenities. The new homes feature spacious kitchens with islands and state-of-the-art Energy Star appliances, technology niches for home office space, covered porches for indoor/outdoor living, and roomy master bedroom suites.

For more information, go to

Reports and More Reports

Two recent studies conclude that owning a LEED-certified and/or Energy Star-certified home, is not just good for your health and that of the environment, but saves money. Energy Performance of LEED for New Construction Buildings, prepared by the New Buildings Institute, and Commercial Real Estate and the Environment, created by CoStar Group, prove marked differences—and maketable differences—between traditional and energy efficient buildings.

New Buildings Institute, a non-profit organization, strives to make buildings better for people and the environment. They prepared the report, which was funded by the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) with support from the U.S. EPA. The energy use of 121 LEED new construction buildings was studied and shows how the certified buildings perform under normal use. (While 552 LEED certified buildings were built in 2006, the one criterion for participating was to be able to show normal use statistics for one full year). The study shows substantial improvement of the LEED certified buildings over traditional buildings.

CoStar Group’s document reads like a slideshow, with graphs and charts, which show in simple terms the obvious need for improvements in building, and the obvious savings in energy expenses for the Energy Star and USGBC-certified buildings. The CoStar Group’s document and its expanded report both show that people are willing to spend more—even when renting—for an energy efficient dwelling, and that those dwellings are more likely to be occupied than their traditional counterparts. By showing that “Green buildings achieve higher rents, green buildings achieve higher occupancy, green buildings have lower operating costs, green buildings achieve higher prices per square foot, and that non-green buildings are going to become obsolete,” CoStar Group can conclude, “Developing, operating, and leasing green is the right thing to do.”

For more information on New Buildings Institute, go to For more information on CoStar Group, go to

DOE Tightens Standards to

Expand Our Wallets

For household energy savings, the light bulb and the washing machine are some of the first appliances to take (and offer) credit for energy savings. The DOE recently announced that it will tighten the requirements for the makers of both light bulbs and washing machines for achieving Energy Star status. The requirements for washing machines, which were last updated in January, 2007, are for a water factor (WF) of 7.5 gallons. (This means that each machine will use no more than 7.5 gallons per cubic foot of capacity, which is a 43% increase in efficiency from the current standard.) According to the DOE, “Based on first-year projected sales data, approximately 1.9 million Energy Star-qualified clothes washers will be sold, saving American families up to $92.4 million annually on their water and utility bills.

To comply, appliance manufacturers have until July 1, 2009 to get with it or be left behind. Energy Star-certified manufacturers who are still in the game can expect to see requirements to increase their efficiency to a WF of 6 gallons by January 1, 2011, which is a 59% increase in the efficiency of today’s machines. The 2011 criteria are expected to save consumers $120-million on annual utility bills while saving 11.2-billion gallons of water and 659-million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Energy Star’s requirements for CFLs, which were last updated in 2003, will tighten in performance as well as quality of ingredients. By December, 2008, CFLs will be required to contain less than 5 milligrams of mercury per bulb, they’ll be required to meet more stringent lamp color requirements, and high-heat testing requirements will be added for reflector products. These will be measured by a third-party testing agency. CFL products under the Energy Star label—which include new categories for CFLs that contain less mercury, new candelabra products, and more rigorous testing procedures—are expected to save Americans approximately $30 billion in utility costs over the next five years.

For more information, go to

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