New & Notable

July 01, 2007
July/August 2007
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2007 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Mainstream GreenHome

Cherokee Investment Partners, which has previously worked in brownfield restoration, is expanding into the field of green home building.

The company currently has a demonstration house, called the Mainstream GreenHome, under construction near Raleigh, North Carolina. The home features green building designs that the company claims can be duplicated in residential developments.

Cherokee estimates that the 1,000 ft2 Mainstream GreenHome will cut both fossil fuel use and water use by 50%, as compared with a conventional home. The house features Energy Star-certified windows and appliances, ground source heat pumps, solar hot water, and PV systems, and it will minimize use of volatile organic compounds. The model house is pursuing U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes certification.

For more information, go to www.mainstreamgreenhome.com.


Konrade Moves to FEMP

Joe Konrade, who has worked with state energy offices and weatherization agencies under the State Energy Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program, has moved to a new position with the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP).

Konrade has worked as the State Energy Program regional manager in the Philadelphia regional office and Kansas program manager for the State Energy Program. He was also involved with the Weatherization Assistance Program as a statewide monitor, and he was a volunteer coordinator and housing inspector for the State of Kansas, and for the Shawnee County Community Action Association. Altogether, he has more than 25 years’ experience in the Weatherization Assistance and State Energy programs.

To learn how your state can work with FEMP, contact Konrade at (202)586-8039.


Experts Plan Ultraefficient  Buildings

The Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project, an initiative of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), strives to create buildings that use zero net energy. Recently, the project has formed the EEB Assurance Group, which will oversee the project’s research.

The group’s chairman will be Klaus Töpfer, former United Nations undersecretary general and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The other members of the group are environmental experts who have been working in business, government, and education all over the world. 

The three-year project will focus on developing ways to change market practices in the building industry. The project includes residential and commercial buildings and focuses on   practices in Brazil, China, Europe, Japan, India, and the United States.

“Climate change is one of the most important issues facing us today, and business, government, and NGOs must join forces to achieve solutions for this very serious problem,” says Töpfer. “I have accepted the chairmanship of the EEB Assurance Group because I support the project’s vision to achieve energy-efficient and sustainable buildings worldwide and strongly believe that I can help this group of companies make this happen.”

For more information, go to www.wbcsd.org.


Australia Just Says No to Bulbs

Australia plans to ban incandescent lightbulbs, replacing them with CFLs. According to Malcolm Turnbull, federal minister for environment and water resources, this change may cut greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012.
While this change has been proposed by the state of California and the province of Ontario, Australia is the first country to begin banning the incandescent lightbulb.

“If the whole world switches to these bulbs today, we would reduce our consumption of electricity by an amount equal to 5 times Australia’s annual consumption of electricity,” says Turnbull.

According to the Australia plan, incandescent bulbs will be completely phased out by 2010 and replaced with CFLs, which use only about  20%  as much  electricity as incandescents.
   
For more information, go to www.environment.gov.au/minister/env/2007/pubs/mr20feb07.pdf.


Top Ten Building Technologies

The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) has announced ten residential building innovations for 2007.

“The updated 2007 top ten technologies hold the most promise for improving the quality of our homes,” says Assistant Secretary Darlene F. Williams of HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research. “These technologies are ready now,  and they can perform in the houses that we build tomorrow.”

The top ten technologies are as follows:

Mold-resistant gypsum. Treated gypsum wallboard products resist mold because they won’t absorb moisture as easily as typical gypsum board.

Solar water heating.  Solar water heaters have been commercially available since the 1800s, but new technologies make them an even more environmentally sound way to reduce energy bills.

Recycled concrete substitutes and aggregates. Recycled materials such as granulated coal ash, blast furnace slag, and various solid wastes like fiberglass and granulated plastics, can substitute for sand, gravel, and stones.

Combined heat and power (CHP). Using fuel such as natural gas to produce heat and electricity simultaneously, a CHP system can act as a built-in emergency generator when the grid goes down. Home-sized units range in capacity from about 1 kW to 6 kW and are about the size of a major appliance.

Horizontal-axis  washer/dryer. The two-in-one washer/dryer runs automatically from wash to dry. The compact size makes it perfect for apartments and condominiums, and it costs less than two separate units. It runs quietly and requires no venting, so it can be installed almost anywhere. The high-efficiency horizontal-axis washer reduces water and energy consumption, and the high-RPM spin cycle means the dryer uses less energy to dry the clothes.

Hydrophilic, impact-resistant windows. A hydrophilic coating causes water to run off the glass surfaces like quicksilver, preventing permanent water spots and making the windows easier to clean. And glass laminated with composites provides enough strength to allow windows to withstand high winds, projectiles, or, in some cases, even bullets.

Supersized (vertical) insulated concrete forms (ICF). Vertical ICFs have all the energy efficiency, strength, and building speed benefits of conventional ICF walls, plus a bonus: They go up faster and easier, because fewer pieces are assembled on-site. Composed of two polystyrene panels held
together by plastic or steel I-beams and filled with concrete, vertical ICF panels form straight, sturdy, energy-efficient walls.

Induction cooktops. Induction offers flexible, safe, and energy-efficient cooking. The cooktop doesn’t actually heat up or radiate heat from its surface. Instead, the heating elements under the ceramic-glass surface use electricity to produce a magnetic field that heats only the cooking container. Food heats much faster, which saves energy while pleasing hungry mobs. Induction cooking is about 90% energy efficient, while gas and electric are about 50% and 60% efficient, respectively.

GPS for land development. New satellite-controlled software simplifies site grading, dramatically reducing labor and material costs. The software helps excavation machines to cut and fill grade more accurately and efficiently,  reducing the potential for soil erosion.

Permeable pavers and pavement. Rainwater seeps through permeable  pavement systems, filtering naturally through the soil on its way to groundwater aquifers and surface waters. And since engineered curb-and-gutter storm drainage systems are costly to design and build, permeable pavement systems can mean lower construction costs for developers or municipalities.

Technologies profiled by PATH are selected for their strengths in the areas of quality and durability; affordability; energy efficiency; environmental performance; safety; and disaster mitigation.

For more information, go to www.PathNet.org.


EPA Launches Green Building Design Challenge

EPA and its partners are challenging architects, builders, and designers to submit designs for a green building competition.

The Lifecycle Building Challenge, cosponsored by the American Institute of Architects, the Building Materials Reuse Association, and West Coast Green, is open to both students and professionals. Individuals are asked to submit designs and ideas that support cost-effective disassembly and anticipate the future use of building materials.

The challenge is split into three different categories. These are buildings, from foundation to roof; components, including a single building assembly, system, or connector; and service, such as a method or a tool.

All winners will be recognized at the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco in September.

For more information, visit www.LifecycleBuilding.org.


Life Cycles and LEED

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Life Cycle Assessment working group has developed initial recommendations for incorporating Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of building materials into the LEED Green Building rating system.  LCA evaluates the environmental impact of a product—from its raw materials through processing, manufacture, installation, use, and disposal or recycling. When used in buildings, LCA can compare the environmental benefits or detriments of options available to the design team.

Any LCA-based LEED credit must show that the LCA for proposed LEED credits must use a consistent methodology applied across all products and at all stages of their production, transport, use, and disposal or recycling at end of life. In addition, any LCA tools or methods used for LCA-based LEED credits must be very practical for designers, specifiers, and facilities managers to use at appropriate stages in the life cycle of buildings. The LCA working group recommended that LEED next integrate the LCA of a building’s structure and envelope.

For more information, go to www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=222&.


Next-Generation LEDs

U.S. government scientists are experimenting with polymers and organic molecules in projects designed to create more efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Researchers at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in collaboration with the University of Tennessee, believe the polymers will improve the next generation of LED devices.

At ORNL, researchers are developing electrodes composed of carbon nanotubes and magnetic nanowires to enhance the light emission from polymer-based organic LEDs—those made from carbon-based molecules and not semiconductors.
In early tests, carbon nanotubes improved the electroluminescence efficiency of polymer LEDs by a factor of four and reduced the energy required to operate them. Magnetic nanowires and dots have been shown to help control the spin of electrons injected into the LEDs to further improve efficiency and reliability.

The researchers hope to create a technology that consumes less than half the power of today’s LEDs and opens the door for their practical use in household lighting. Currently, LEDs are used mostly in traffic signals, vehicle taillights, cell phone displays,  and other small-screen devices.


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