28 April 2008

Edutainment for the home channel

If you want to kill time at work watching videos, listening to music, and playing with an interactive cartoon -- while picking up some product knowledge about compact florescent lightbulbs and LED bulbs, then have I got a Web site for you!

Using green at home to put green back in your wallet

Barbara Williams has a good post up at Garden Stepping Stones on Energy Efficient Home Improvements. As she says, "Energy efficient home improvements will immediately lower your monthly energy bills, and the interest on home equity loans and home mortgages is usually tax deductible."

25 April 2008

Fast Money looks at green retailing

Fast Money, a CNBC finance show, is doing a "Captain Planet" series on green investing. The April 23 episode dealt with green retailing and mentioned Wal-Mart, Costco, and JC Penney -- nothing home improvement related, more's the pity. To me, the point is that Wall Street types are starting to take this stuff (somewhat) seriously.

24 April 2008

NAHB continues to push green agenda

A National Association of Home Builders representative told me today that the association's new National Green Building Standard is very close to achieving ANSI approval, and should be available soon.

That will give the association something to talk about at its National Green Building Conference, celebrating its 10th anniversary in New Orleans on May 11 to 13.

In related news, speaking before Congress today for the NAHB, energy consultant Michael Hodgson urged the passage of a temporary home buyer tax credit, a net operating loss deduction carryback expansion for hard-hit businesses, and expansion of the mortgage revenue bond program.

23 April 2008

Home Depot Canada to stop selling pesticides

According to this report in Home Channel News (free registration required), Home Depot Canada will phase out all pesticides and herbicides it currently sells by the end of 2008. About 60 products will be discontinued. The company will offer environmentally preferred replacement products.

Green retailer to open Manhattan flagship

Green Depot, a Brooklyn-based retailer selling green building materials and home products -- and sister company to Marjam Supply -- just announced it will open its biggest store to date in Manhattan. The location, Green Depot's sixth, will be located at 222 Bowery between Prince and Spring streets and will cover 3,000 square feet. The company will start work at the site May 1, with completion due in November.

"Green Depot Manhattan marks a significant expansion for our company as well as a fundamental recognition of the growing effort among customers to make healthier and more eco-friendly living choices," said Green Depot founder and CEO Sarah Beatty in a press release.

Update (28 Aug 08) I'm told by the company that while the same family owns both Marjam and Green Depot, they are separate corporate entities.

22 April 2008

Retailers offer Earth Day promotions

Home Depot, Lowe's, True Value, and Ace dealers offered a range of promotions in celebration of Earth Day yesterday. Home Channel News has the whole story (free registration required).

State and local governments ponder legislating efficiency

Whether you are for or against government regulation, the tide seems to be turning toward legislation that will enforce or encourage energy efficiency. Consider laws now being debated in Ohio, New England, and Michigan.

These proposals focus primarily on sticks and carrots to get utilities to decrease output, plus incentives (including subsidized prices) for energy efficient products, like CFLs. Energy bills to homeowners should see only very small increases.

21 April 2008

Homeowners don't put green issues first when hiring contractors

Kimberly-Clark Professional, the home improvement and auto division of Kimberly-Clark, commissioned a recent study on homeowners and contractors. Part of the study covered green issues, with interesting results:

Green considerations do not seem to play a major role in the decision to hire a contractor. In fact, 39 percent of respondents said they don’t think about environmental concerns at all when hiring a contractor. Of the environmental factors that might influence contractor choice:

· Eighteen percent of respondents said they would lean toward a contractor who recycles jobsite trash.

· Fifteen percent would favor contractors who used products with recycled content for cleanup tasks, while the same percentage said they would choose contractors who used products that reduced chemical emissions and fumes.

· Six percent would select a contractor who didn’t waste electricity by blasting the radio or leaving all the lights on.

The Web page with the announcement is here, and here's the entire press release as a PDF.


Later Edit: A Kimberly-Clark person asked me to mention that "Kimberly-Clark Professional is an indispensable business partner, delivering leading-edge health, hygiene and productivity solutions that provide tangible value every day, everywhere. Known for innovative, quality solutions for away-from-home washrooms, “clean” and “industrial” manufacturing environments, and DIY settings, the global brands of Kimberly-Clark Professional include Kleenex, Scott, Kimcare, WypAll, KleenGuard, and Kimtech."

Personally, I can't vouch for the "indispensable," "leading-edge," "tangible," "every day, everywhere," and "innovative," parts, but I do actually use Scott and Kleenex products, and I'll certainly agree with the "quality" part. :-)

Eco-friendly art is just a bit cheesy

It certainly is a bio-friendly medium -- that is, cheese sculpture! Beautiful and tasty, too!

Hat tips: Ecofriend and Trend Hunter.

50 top eco-blogs

The Times of London has compiled a list of its top 50 eco-blogs. Alas, my own blog must have come in 51st, since none of the 50 seem specifically focussed on home improvement or building materials, much less retailing. There is some related stuff on Off-Grid, and a lot of good reading in the other 49 as well.

18 April 2008

Columnist: 'Make decks with certified or composite wood'

A columnist in the Vancouver Sun, amusingly named Kelly Deck, is counseling homeowners seeking green options to make their decks from FSC-certified or composite lumber. Also urged: avoid unnecessary travel and plant vegetable gardens.

17 April 2008

Green residential remodeling guidelines released

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have put together a set of guidelines for residential remodeling. Called ReGreen, the guidelines -- a 12MB PDF download organized by the 10 most common remodeling project types -- include a checklist of green product questions, such as these:
  • Does the product do the job well?
  • How much energy does it use?
  • Does the product release VOCs? At what rate?
  • How is the product packaged and transported?
  • How is the product installed and maintained?
  • Does it have a color or texture that can lead to reduced lighting energy or an expanded range of thermal
    comfort conditions?
  • Can the product be maintained in a benign manner?
Hat tip: GreenSage.

Non-PVC line of retail store fixtures announced

Boston Retail, a company that makes fixtures, displays, wall protectors, and other products for retail stores, has announced a new ecoSeries line of PVC-free products. This is evidently a green version of the company's "Boston Bumper" product.

16 April 2008

What "winning" retailers want in green practices

Retail Systems Research, a research company focusing on retail issues, will release a report April 24 -- Earth Day -- called "What Can Green Do for You?: Gaining Strategic Advantage in Retail via Environmentally Sound Practice."

The researchers divided retailers into two groups: "winners" who outperform their peers, and "laggards." According to a preview of the research, 72 percent of "winners" said that ethical concerns were "important or higher" motivators for stocking environmentally responsible products. Only 28 percent of "laggards" said it was important.

As for cost reduction, 52 percent of "winners" though it was important, compared with 77 percent of "laggards."

The report summary concludes:

From this, one of the most basic fundamental differences can be drawn out between retail segments. When pertaining to environmental issues, all segments agree that the customer will be the driver, and whether errant or not, that her time has not yet fully arrived.

Yet underperforming retailers continuously ask how much green initiatives will cost, and feel no accountability to the environment in which they live. Retailers that outperform their peers are actually investing now, giving less thought to cost-reduction, and viewing the brandbuilding done today as smart business for when customer demand invariably heightens. In addition, winning retailers recognize that their actions have greater impact than that of just financials.

15 April 2008

Green TV channel to launch June 4

Last week, the Discovery Channel announced that it is launching a new 24/7 cable channel specializing in green lifestyle issues on June 4. The network will feature shows grouped around several themes: "home+garden, food+health, fashion+beauty, work+community, travel+outdoor, transport+tech." The home improvement shows will include:
  • WA$TED!, featuring household tips, starring Annabelle Gurwitch, former host of TBS's Dinner and a Movie.
  • The Green Life, featuring a remodeled house in California that will show ways to live a greener lifestyle, starring Adrian Grenier, lead actor of HBO's Entourage.
  • Wrecklamation, which the network says will be "recycling on steroids."
  • Greenovate, which will showcase ways to reduce energy bills and increase home value.

14 April 2008

LACN meetings to focus on green issues

The Lumber Association of California and Nevada will host two meetings, on May 1 and May 13, of its "Forest and Wood Certification Truth Squad." The May 1 meeting will be held in Brea, Calif., and the May 13 meeting will be held in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The meetings will address common questions, including ...
What forest certification is all about, what it means to California and to the business of providing wood. What are the real differences? How much wood is available? Can certification meet the true definition of sustainability? Who is calling the shots?
The cost is $50 to menbers and $95 to non-members. Follow the links to get to the registration form, or call (800) 266-4344.

11 April 2008

"LEED is not the Only Way"

This interesting blog post points to other certification methods apart from LEED -- a point that pro-dealers-turned-lobbyists-for-a-day made in Washington last week.

Green tips for remodelers

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry sent me a long list of green tips for remodeling your home. I can't link to the list because they are still working on their green Web site, but NARI's Nikki Golden was happy to let me offer a selection from the press release:
Add Efficient Heating & Cooling
  • New insulation technologies, such as spray-in cellulose insulation, is made from 80 percent post-consumer recycled newspaper and will effectively seal homes from harsh heat and cold.
  • Although solar water heaters can be expensive ($1,000-$4,000), they can show paybacks of four to eight years.
Reduce Water Consumption
  • About 8,000 gallons of water per household each year are lost while waiting for hot water to come from the tap. Put a home’s water heater as close as possible to the points of use for hot water to minimize waste.
Select Sustainable Materials
  • Choose flooring and countertop materials made from local or regional sources
  • Or pick those made of recycled materials or produced in an eco-friendly way, such as reclaimed hardwood, bamboo flooring and recycled glass.
Recycle Construction Waste
  • Eco-conscious remodelers recycle as much project waste as possible during a home renovation project. For example, CG &S Design-Build will bring four waste containers to a project site -- for paper, metal, wood and concrete -- to recycle more efficiently.

10 April 2008

Dallas mandates green building codes

The Dallas City Council has voted to make green building standards required by law. Starting October 2009, residential and commercial buildings covering less than 15,000 square feet will have to use 15 percent less energy and 20 percent less water. Larger structures face somewhat less restrictive requirements. More rules for home remodeling are expected to be added later.

09 April 2008

Grass that's less thirsty

Pennington Seed's new SmartSeed product requires up to 30 percent less water than traditional grasses. The company is not saying you won't have to water your lawn, though -- you'll just have to water it less. So this is still not a final answer when communities ban all lawn-watering during extended droughts.

Green multi-family housing

Israeli architects have designed a green apartment building that includes a hydroponics garden for each apartment. The multi-family home, to be built in China, combines the apartment tower and the vertical greenhouse. Maybe the arcology -- long a sci-fi staple -- is not quite so fictional any more.

08 April 2008

A green too far?

I can't help wondering, when I see something like this, if the green movement -- of which I am obviously a fan -- can't be taken just a bit too far. I just found out that there is a Green Travel Hub, where you can buy vacations that let you "Stay in a Green Hotel, Rent a Hybrid Car or Offset your Carbon Footprint!" (caps and exclamation point in the original) You can even enter the Dream Green Vacation contest.

Well, if you want to travel guilt free as your jet to Baja California spews greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, here's an option for you. :-)

Packaging a top priority for eco-overhauls

The body of this report is not related to the home, but I liked this quote:

Retailers and their partners believe that “packaging and materials costs” are most in need of an environmentally friendly overhaul. As a matter of fact, more than 60% of our early respondents indicate that this is a top priority, compared to less than 50% for such things are energy costs in the stores or the supply chain. Packaging is indeed something that needs addressing; one has only to attempt to open a box of Lightning McQueen action toys to wonder where all that plastic will go, and perhaps think a little about the Texas-sized mass of photo-degraded plastic material now floating around in the Pacific Ocean.

Home builder plans 1,487 solar-powered homes

Home Channel News reports that California continues to push forward on the green home building front (registration required).

AAMA in Translation

After I posted the AAMA's response to the proposed Department of Energy's Energy Star window standards, I had second thoughts about regurgitating the association's very dense and tech-heavy points without really explaining them. So I called the organization and spoke with AAMA technical director John Lewis. Here's what he said about each of the AAMA's points (original suggestions are in italics).

A two-stage phase-in with Stage One implemented one year after the program parameters are finalized (mid-2009); and Stage Two implemented in 2014.

The DoE's Energy Star proposal seeks a 2009, 2012, 2015 rollout. But a more realistic timetable may keep participants in the program who might otherwise drop out if the proposed, more onerous schedule is adopted.

U-factor and SHGC values be brought in line with aggressive goals as predicted by industry experts as attainable within six or seven years.

U-factor is heat flow (like R-values in insulation). SHGC is solar heat gain. Low SHGC means reflecting off energy and using less energy for air conditioning -- important in the South. High SHGC values are better in the North, where you want to absorb heat from the sun. Anyway, the Department of Energy is pushing standards so high that they would require a "triple glazing" approach. That would mean product redesigns for thicker windows. The AAMA wants to delay the adoption of those higher standards so that "compliance can be gained in a way that does not require a dramatic redesign of products" -- and to let the technology improve. In a few years, researchers may well find a way to hit the same efficiency values with a "double glazing" approach.

Alternate compliance paths coupled with realistic program parameters that maintain a consistent and clear message to the consumer via the Energy Star label.

This is a suggestion to recognize that window performance is more than just a specific particular combination of particular U-factor and SHGC values, and that other equally efficient products could have other values, such as a lower SHGC to compensate for a higher U-factor. 

Careful cost-benefit or payback analysis that evaluates decreasing demand for more expensive products, while accounting for price elasticity.

Some AAMA members say that the new requirements will raise the cost to make products. Will that make consumers less likely to buy? What's the consequence of decreasing the amount of Energy Star product in the market if the price goes out of reach?

Closer alignment of the five Energy Star zones with those provided in the IECC climate zone map, and redefinition of the Northern Zone parameters.

Best way to explain this is with maps. First, here is the proposed Energy Star climate zone map:

Next, here is the IECC's climate zone map of the United States:

Note the area circled by the AAMA in red -- the association suggests another look at parts of Idaho and eastern Oregon and Washington. 

Well, I hope that gives a better picture of the factors in play with these proposed Energy Star window ratings. Many thanks to the AAMA's John Lewis for the clarifications.

07 April 2008

California green building show shifts venues

The West Coast Green Show, a California-based event that focuses on residential green building topics, has moved its venue from San Francisco to the San Jose Convention Center. The event is still scheduled for Sept. 25 to 27.

PermaShine pushes polished concrete in LEED applications

L&M Construction Chemicals (aka FGS/PermaShine) has updated its white paper for architects and builders on using the company's polished concrete floor system in LEED construction. The press release says:
The document now contains an addendum with several valuable tools for incorporating polished concrete surfaces in LEED, including a Regional Materials map, new photo illustrations, and a Life Cycle Cost Comparison of flooring systems. A LEED matrix also provides a quick-glance reference for understanding the role of FGS/PermaShine Polished Concrete Floors in LEED projects.

Which seems to mean that the company is doing a better job explaining the product but has not actually changed or improved it. 

Here's why the company thinks its product is a good option in LEED construction: (a) its thermal mass saves energy, (b) the installation limits VOCs and particulates, (c) you can use recycled fly ash to make it, and (d) the company's " 'dry-grind' installation method ... conserves water and eliminates messy slurry disposal at landfills."

AAMA responds to new Energy Star window ratings proposal

The government's Energy Star program includes a component that rates windows, and that program is undergoing revision. I got a press release from Heather West at the American Architectural Manufacturers Association touting the AAMA's feedback to the proposed revision. The AAMA has the following goals, according to the press release:
  • A two-stage phase-in with Stage One implemented one year after the program parameters are finalized (mid-2009); and Stage Two implemented in 2014;
  • U-factor and SHGC values be brought in line with aggressive goals as predicted by industry experts as attainable within six or seven years;
  • Alternate compliance paths coupled with realistic program parameters that maintain a consistent and clear message to the consumer via the Energy Star label;
  • Careful cost-benefit or payback analysis that evaluates decreasing demand for more expensive products, while accounting for price elasticity;
  • Closer alignment of the five Energy Star zones with those provided in the IECC climate zone map, and redefinition of the Northern Zone parameters.
Note: I updated this post here.