New and Notable

43 Water (Costs) Rising; Universal Design, Managing Renewables, and More!

January 01, 2006
January/February 2006
A version of this article appears in the January/February 2006 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Green Roofs for the Rest of Us

        Green roofs have historically been associated with images of quaint, Scandinavian homes, Icelandic farmhouses, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. However, now that they can be seen topping such major buildings as the Gap headquarters in San Bruno, California, or the Ford Motor Company's Rouge River plant in Dearborn, Michigan, the image of green roofs is undergoing a transformation.Their increased visibility proves that green roofs are becoming one of the fastest-growing trends in green building.Now a new resource has emerged to help both the recreational gardener and the green building professional to understand—and implement— this new trend.
         Written by Nigel Dunnet, senior lecturer in the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield, and Noël Kingsbury, author of The New Perennial Garden, Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls is a comprehensive manual that encompasses the latest roofand wall-greening techniques. Dunnet and Kingsbury make the case that green roofs reduce the urban heat island effect; reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions; retain storm water; reduce energy costs; absorb noise pollution; and provide possible recreational space, wildlife habitat, and urban food production. The first half of the book provides a practical guide to constructing green roofs; it covers structural considerations, roof slope, substrates, roofing materials, drainage, and planting.
        The second half of the book is dedicated to living walls and green facades. The authors explain structural support systems, climate considerations, and plant selection. However, the book's most valuable resource is the plant directory guide, which lists the possible applications and maintenance requirements of over 100 species.Well laid out and thoughtfully designed, this book answers most of the questions that any architect, contractor, or builder might have on how to incorporate green roofs and living walls into future design and building projects.
        Dunnet, Nigel, and Noël Kingsbury. Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2004.

Going Green with Existing Houses

        The average house will undergo many renovations in its lifetime. Until recently, most houses have been remodeled without regard for the environment, or for the health of those who live in them. But with the increase in homeowner awareness, and an ever-expanding array of green building materials, green remodeling is becoming a real option for the homeowner. For those willing to choose to reduce resource depletion, improve indoor air quality,become more energy efficient, and ultimately improve their quality of life, green remodeling is the right step to take—for the health of homes and their inhabitants.
        Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time is the first book of its kind to tackle many of the issues surrounding green renovation. Authors David Johnston and Kim Master prove themselves to be knowledgeable guides who lead the reader through the perils and profits of remodeling with a green emphasis. Their comprehensive book covers everything from the energy, health, and cost advantages of green remodeling to the down and dirty know-how of renovating a home. It opens with a play-by-play account of Johnston’s own green remodeling project, described from start to finish, with illuminating personal anecdotes. Knowing that every remodeling project needs to start off on the right foot, Johnston gives advice and tips on financing, design, and finding the right professionals to tackle your green remodeling project. The final chapters of the book provide an outline for each stage of green renovation, from foundations to final painting. These chapters discuss renovation solutions, and possible appropriate materials for the job, and they include a final checklist for your project.
        This book recently won the Nautilus Book Award in the category of Ecology and Environment. Given the authors’ expert advice—and their inclusion of extensive resource lists—Green Remodeling is an outstanding resource for any homeowner, architect, contractor, or builder interested in green renovation.
        Johnston, David, and Kim Master. Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time. Gabriola Islands, B.C.:New Society Publishers, 2004.

Water (Costs) Rising

        According to the annual water survey recently conducted by NUS Consulting Group, the average price of water in the United States rose by 3.5% for the period of July 1, 2004 to July 1, 2005. The highest water costs were observed in Huntington, West Virginia, at $5.49/1,000 gallons (Mgal), while residents in Greenville, Mississippi, benefited from the lowest price for water at $0.80 /MGal. The average cost of water in the United States was $2.34 /MGal.The survey also found that the national average rose to $5.78/MGal when sewer costs were included.This is an increase of 5.3% for the period studied.
        The largest increases in water and sewer prices were seen in San Francisco, California (+14.8%);Denver, Colorado (+13.7%); Hartford, Connecticut (+12.7%); Greensboro, North Carolina (+12.7%); and Newport, New Hampshire (+10%). Maintenance and construction costs are responsible for most of the increases, as these cities are working to upgrade and maintain aging water and sewer infrastructures.
        “While the increase in water prices may seem insignificant in comparison to the recent rise in other energy costs, it should be pointed out that increased water and related sewer costs occur, without fail,year after year,” says Richard Soultanian, copresident of NUS Consulting Group. “Aging water systems coupled with ever- stricter government regulations will have consumers paying more, which in turn could have a negative impact on many business operations.”
        The survey conducted by NUS Consulting Group included 51 water systems located throughout the country. NUS is an international leader in energy and telecommunications consulting services, providing innovative and costeffective expertise for its clients.

Simple, Efficient Cell Phone Chargers

        A new family of integrated circuits (ICs), designed for use in ultra-low-cost battery chargers, has recently been introduced by Power Integrations, a company that produces high-voltage analog ICs for power conversion.The new LinkSwitch-LP family offers the simplest energy-efficient replacement for unregulated line frequency transformers with up to 3 watts of output power.These chargers are used with personal electronic devices such as cell phones, cordless phones, portable audio players, and shavers, among others. The LinkSwitch-LP chargers comply with all current and proposed worldwide energy standards.
        “Chargers using LinkSwitch-LP are vastly simpler than discrete designs, which typically contain dozens of components,” says Doug Bailey, vice president of marketing for Power Integrations. “LinkSwitch-LP also offers integrated energy efficiency and safety features that are either unavailable in discrete designs or, at best, require additional components and design effort.”
        Only 14 components are used in the LinkSwitch-LP chargers, which is the lowest component count for energy-efficient switched-mode chargers.

Universal Design in the San Francisco Bay Area

        The first inclusive, affordable, universally designed residential units in the nation, University Neighborhood Apartments (UNA), has been opened in Berkeley, California. This was a collaborative project between Hearth Homes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of accessible and integrated housing that utilizes principles of universal design, and Affordable Housing Associates, which has been building affordable homes in the Bay Area since 1993. While some facilities separate people with disabilities from the community, UNA creates an integrated community for people of all abilities through “design for all” facilities.
        Universal design makes homes more accessible to the majority of the population— regardless of age, ability, or situation— without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Common universaldesign features include accommodating people who use wheelchairs through one-story living,wide doorways and hallways, extra floor space to allow for a large turning radius, push/pull lever faucets for those with limited hand strength, and roll-in showers.
        “We are strengthening families through universal design,” says Susan Friedland, executive director of Affordable Housing Associates. “Now those with physical and developmental disabilities, or people living with HIV/AIDS, can make one home with their loved ones.”
        UNA consists of 27 residential units, most of which are two- and three-bedroom apartments, with commercial space on the ground floor. All of the apartments are reserved for lowincome families. Fourteen of the apartments are dedicated to people with disabilities and their families.
       The California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) has established a $1 million grant to establish the world’s foremost university center on energy efficiency.The grant will go to a Northern California university that demonstrates the vision, resources, and leadership to set the pace in developing and bringing to market energy-efficient technology.The center’s duties will include hiring staff, planning how to prioritize results over several years, and raising more money.The grant will award the university $500,000 upon the creation of the center and $500,000 12 months later upon achievement of agreed-upon milestones.
        “Increasing energy efficiency is the single most important step California can take to minimize the long-term cost of reliable energy services,” says Michael R. Peevey, chairman of CalCEF and president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “Establishing a university center on energy efficiency is a natural way to meet the state’s goals by tapping into a wealth of academic expertise in developing and bringing innovative technologies to market.”
        By creating a university-based center for energy efficiency, CalCEF will partner its board of directors with leading venture capital firms and academic leaders from a variety of disciplines to advance innovation and accelerate the commercialization of energy-efficient products, services, and practices. The center will also reinforce California’s standing as a national and international leader in energy efficiency, while encouraging the use of new products and services that will give the state a cleaner environment and provide economic benefits.
        According to the California Energy Action Plan, energy efficiency is the state’s highest-priority resource. “Given the clear relationship between energy use and climate change, it is imperative for California’s policymakers, academics, and business leaders to make energy efficiency a top priority,” says Arthur Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission who sits on the CalCEF Board.

Easy Energy Evaluation Tool Available

        The Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Project Analysis Model has recently been released. It provides an easy way to evaluate the energy production, life cycle costs, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction for CHP projects, and may be downloaded free of charge from the RETScreen Web site. It is available in 21 languages and is applicable worldwide. The model also accounts for emerging rules under the Kyoto Protocol.
        The CHP model can be used to evaluate many different applications, including power, heating, cooling, single or multiple buildings, industrial processes, communities, district heating, and district cooling.Analysis is compatible with a wide range of renewable and nonrenewable fuels that can be used in parallel, including landfill gas, biomass, bagasse, biodiesel, hydrogen, natural gas, oil/diesel, coal, and municipal waste.These fuels can be evaluated using various types of power, heating equipment, and/or cooling equipment, all working under various operating conditions, including baseload, intermediate load, and/or peak load.
        The product database integrated into the CHP model includes data for 5,880 combinations of power, heating, and cooling systems manufactured worldwide. The weather database integrated into the model provides access to meteorological data covering the entire surface of the planet, including 4,720 groundmonitoring stations and NASA satellite data. The model also includes an online manual, a metric unit switch, more than 12 computational tools (such as a landfill gas calculator), and a new sensitivity risk analysis worksheet.
        Over 60,000 users in 207 countries have discovered the CHP model through the RETScreen Web site, with usership growing at a rate of 375 new users every week.

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