29 May 2008

Green, greener, greenest

Sure, there are the greenest ways to generate power -- wind and geothermal, say. But green also means making current operations greener. For example, using fossil fuels more efficiently. One way is through combined heat and power (CHP), or cogeneration. That's the idea behind this 79-page PDF document from Energy Business Reports, specifically,
CHP or a bottoming cycle captures the by-product heat for domestic or industrial heating purposes, either very close to the plant, or for distribution through pipes to heat local housing.

In Europe, the use of CHP presents a substantial potential for increased energy efficiency and reduced environmental impacts. It is considered to be a priority area for many Member States. The efficient use of fuel, in simultaneous production of heat and power, can offer energy savings and avoid CO2 emissions compared with separate production of heat and power. In addition, development in the use of fuels used in CHP applications show a trend toward cleaner fuels.

Seems a bit pricey at $297, though, I think.

27 May 2008

Bed of greens

JC Penney will soon be offering a line of eco-friendly beds made by Simmins. The mattresses feature "natural, biodegradable and renewable components such as natural rubber tree based latex and a layer of base foam enhanced with soy."

Reminds me of the night I dreamed I ate a 10-pound block of tofu ... and when I woke up, my pillow was gone!

Natural high

The Eco Everest Expedition 2008, an ascent on the Earth's highest peak intended to attract attention to environmental issues, achieved its goal with a successful climb to the summit yesterday.

23 May 2008

Saving energy on hot water

GE has announced a new line of tankless hot water heaters. These heat water on demand, so that you don't waste energy keeping water hot and unused. According to GE, these devices can save you 25 percent on your water heating bills.

22 May 2008

Taxing carbon

Seems that some San Francisco businesses will be grappling with a new carbon tax.

The promise of LED lights

Everyone knows that the days of the incandescent bulb are numbered. But the most common replacement, the CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb, has its own disadvantages, especially that of disposal, since it contains mercury. The LED (solid state light emitting diode) bulb promises to beat both the CFL and the incandescent -- thanks to a combination of energy efficiency and lack of waste. That's what Renaissance Lighting, a maker of LED lights, is saying.

But LEDs have their limitations too. For now, at least, they are directional. That means they are useful only for lights you point at things, such as recessed lights (point down), floodlights and flashlights (point out), and task lighting (points at your task). So LEDs are also not the perfect answer, though the technology is improving.

Renaissance, for example, has announced a new 4-inch LED light. The light is smaller than the company had heretofore offered, and may be a good fit for a wider range of applications.

21 May 2008

Ace Hardware, Home Depot, now carry composting toilet

Biolet, a Swedish manufacturer, just announced that Ace and Home Depot are now stocking its composting toilet. The eco-friendly system uses no water and needs to be emptied every two months under normal daily usage. According to the maker, the toilet can be self-installed in two hours and does not require access to a septic tank or sewer system.

Home Depot is selling the toilets online from $1,399 (for a nonelectric model, shown in this post) to $1,999 (electric).

20 May 2008

Hi-rise condo wins top LEED honors

According to this report on Greenloop, the first high-rise condo complex in the United States has earned a "platinum" LEED rating. The 16-story condo tower is located in the Pearl District of Portland, Ore. The tower received 55 LEED credits -- and only 52 are needed for Platinum certification. The building, named The Casey, features solar panels and an "ecoroof" for storm-water management.

Report on green retail from Housewares Show

Here's an interesting report on green retailing from a blogger who went to the International Home & Housewares Association Show in Chicago.
We have created through supply and demand, the experience of walking into a store and expecting to see new seasonal products. We anticipate seasonal colors, products, and innovation. This experience has resulted in a lot of new products developed in haste and without much regard for environmental responsibility. The question is, how can retailers maintain the “new” experience while being a sustainability leader.

International Council of Shopping Centers to hold first RetailGreen Conference

The ICSC's event will focus on issues of sustainability in retail settings, on reuse and reduction of environmental footprint, and on indoor environmental quality. It will be held Sept. 15-16, 2008, in Dallas, at the InterContinental Dallas Hotel, Addison.

16 May 2008

Canadian painter opens eco-exclusive store

Here's an interesting profile of a husband -- he's still runs a commercial painting business -- and wife who opened a store that sells a wide array of environmentally friendly products. The store, called ShopEco Environmental Products, is located in Tecumseh, Ontario, close to Detroit, and opened last fall. Graham and Eleni Hughes carry AFM Safecoat paint in their store, as well as many other eco-friendly products, from apparel to cosmetics to cleaners.

15 May 2008

New bags from old

Mettler Packaging's new "everlasting bag" is a plastic bag that can be recycled to make more plastic bags. The idea is that retailers sell the bags for a small fee, and then replace them for free when customers bring in old ones. The bags are made of EcoLoop recycled plastic, and they can be themselves recycled back into EcoLoop.

14 May 2008

Web site pushes eco-friendly bird control

Bird-X has launched a new version of its Web site -- bird-x.com -- to offer info on bird control and to sell its eco-friendly bird control products. The site offers links to articles and humane bird control solutions.

House of straw

There are some interesting possibilities on the alternative edge of the green building movement, including the use of non-traditional materials, like bamboo. Or even a return to very old traditional materials, like straw. Yes, there are people out there today who build houses out of straw. According to enthusiasts, the advantages of straw bale construction include insulation, use of natural materials, and sturdiness -- these structures are very resistant to fire, earthquake, and even the huffing and the puffing of the big bad wolf.

Here are a few links for those who want to learn more.

13 May 2008

On the scene at the Green Building Conference

[Here's a first-person report from HCN's Kate Fazzini.]

Wow, I am really busy. Sorry for the late blog entry. I thought this was supposed to be the "big easy"?!

I'm down in New Orleans for the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Conference, the 10th year for the show. It's hot, the weather's great and I'm learning a lot -– a LOT -– about green building. The highlight of my day yesterday was a tour of several storm-damaged areas, some that saw homes marinating in more than eight feet of water for days after Hurricane Katrina. Toni Wendel, owner of Olde World Builders in New Orleans, served as my spitfire guide. Wendel is in the process of rebuilding two homes under recently adopted Crescent City Green guidelines. I'll be writing about her and several others in the next issue of Home Channel News.

But for now, some of the most striking images from our trip around the city yesterday were the homes in need of repair. To say houses are in "various states" of rebuilding is a vast understatement. Homes, shiny and new and remodeled, sit next to homes in the middle of complete demolition and rebuilding. And those both sit next to homes that look as though they haven't been visited since the storm, except by vandals –- and some haven't been.

There is definitely a deep rebuilding movement here, and a long way to go. The main thing, though, is the builders here love their city and are working overtime to make the rebuilding effort happen. I've included some photos of our trip and hope to have more up here before the end of the conference.

News from the Green Building Conference

The NAHB's Green Building Conference is going on in New Orleans, and HCN has a reporter at the event. Associate editor Kate Fazzini's report (free registration required) covered an educational session on how remodelers can best “sell green” to consumers who might be overwhelmed with information. She also reported on a tour of a number of green homes recently built or remodeled in the New Orleans area.

We'll hear more from Kate once we get some technical problems cleared up.

Elsewhere on the Web, check out blog posts by Smart HomeOwner magazine's Tony Napolitano, who is also at the show. He writes about the large amount of work still needed to restore New Orleans, and he has some interesting thoughts on how building professionals have to do a better job of making themselves sources of green info for customers.

Also at the show, the National Association of Home Builders gave Mountain Ranch LLC its "Mixed Use Development of the Year" award in recognition of the green aspects of its new Del Sur community in San Diego, Calif.

12 May 2008

Castle tilts toward windmills

A riverside hotel just north of New York City, Castle on the Hudson, has announced that it will be getting 100 percent of its energy from wind power. The hotel is being supplied with electricity by Juice Energy, which is touting the deal as a way to "deliver electricity at a lower cost with more predictability," that is, without "wild market swings," according to a statement by Juice. As oil prices continue to rise, will more businesses look for solutions like this one?

New green cleaner has no VOCs

For Life Products released its new Rejuvenate Refresher cleaner at last week's National Hardware Show. The company's environmentally friendly floor cleaner is water based and has no volatile organic compounds.

09 May 2008

Tim-Br Mart names green buyer

Canadian LBM co-op Tim-Br Mart has named its regional buyer for building materials, Phil Temple, as its new "green buyer." According to a company press release, Temple will start by looking at energy efficient products and those with low VOCs. He will also serve as a resource specialist on LEED issues.

Temple will augment the company's current green product line-up. The Calgary, Alberta-based buying group launched its "EnerGrade" initiative last year.

08 May 2008

Green gypsum board maker opening plant in New York

Serious Materials, maker of EcoRock gypsum board, plans to open a plant in Lysander, N.Y., a town near Syracuse. The plant will cover 240,000 square feet and employ over 100 people. EcoRock requires no heat to dry, saving a lot of energy in its use.

07 May 2008

Green home renovation in New Orleans

An L.A. Times blogger at the NAHB's National Green Building Conference profiles a renovated home that was almost unsalvageable after the flooding there.

Eco Options profiled

Sustainable Industries has posted a long feature on Home Depot's Eco Options program.

06 May 2008

New eco-friendly air conditioner debuts

Haier America today announced its new Paragon air conditioner. It's so new, the company has not yet had a chance to update its new site. According to the company:
Haier’s new Paragon has the highest energy efficiency rating (EER) of any room air conditioner available on the market, with 12 EER. Unlike typical air conditioners, the Paragon contains an advanced coolant with zero ozone depletion potential, making it an earth friendly appliance all around. With an Ultraviolet Light Air Purifier, the Paragon also treats the air before you breathe it, removing impurities and allergens so you can breathe easier while enjoying its cooling comfort. The Ultraviolet Light Air Purifier is great for the entire family, but will be especially appreciated by those with asthma or allergies.

New "woven bamboo" for flooring announced

EcoTimber of San Rafael, Calif., has just announced a new "Woven-Bamboo" product for flooring. According to the company,
This new flooring product is significantly harder and more stable than most tropical hardwoods and can be used in residential and commercial applications. This is the newest form of bamboo flooring from sustainably-harvested, rapidly-renewable, timber bamboo. Grown without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, this woven bamboo can be sanded and refinished just like hardwood.

Wall Street: No large public home builder is "fully green"

Investment firm Calvert just released a report ranking the leading top home builders on the extent to which they have “fully embraced the emerging market of sustainable building design and construction.” Here's the ranking, from most green to least:

1. K.B. Home, Los Angeles
2. D.R. Horton, Fort Worth, Texas (tied for second)
2. Pulte, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (tied for second)
4. Centex, Dallas
5. Lennar, Miami
6. Ryland, Calabasas, Calif.
7. Beazer, Atlanta
8. Meritage, Scottsdale, Ariz.
9. Toll Brothers, Horsham, Pa.
10. K. Hovnanian, Red Bank, N.J.
11. MDC Holdings, Denver
12. Standard Pacific, Irvine, Calif.
13. NVR Inc., Reston, Va.

The report's fairly pessimistic conclusion ...
“Our survey of the 13 largest publicly traded U.S. homebuilders finds that, while every major homebuilder has incorporated some environmental and efficiency programs and products into some of their new homes, none has fully embraced the emerging market of sustainable building design and construction.”

Ecobuild America offers green building event May 19-22

Ecobuild America hosts two events annually for architecture, engineering, and construction professionals. The upcoming event in Anaheim, Calif., runs May 19 to 22, and covers these topics:
  • Building Performance & Engineering
  • Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy
  • Facilities Management and Intelligent Buildings
  • Government - Federal, State & Municipal
  • Green Construction and Homebuilding
  • Green Globes, LEED and Other Ratings Systems
  • Green Mechanical/Electrical Systems and Operations
  • Information Technology, BIM and Interoperability
  • Infrastructure, Civil/Site/Land Development
  • Power, Process, Plant and Utilities
  • Practice Management, Business Development and Marketing
  • Project Management and Cost Control (Estimating/Scheduling/Budgeting)
  • Specifications and Contract Documents
  • Sustainable Design
Thanks to Emlen Media for the details above, from a press release I got recently.

05 May 2008

Northwestern Lumber Association launches green Web pages

The Northwestern Lumber Association has launched a new green section of its Web site on Sustainable Building. As of today, it features:Lots of good reading here -- check it out!

04 May 2008

How to fit a camel through a needle's eye

One ongoing green real estate development in Montana is designed for the extremely wealthy. The development is called Ameya, and it features a zero-carbon footprint (with carbon offsets bought with replantings), electricity from wind and geothermal sources, green construction, and amenities like a nature center and a children's farm.

Ameya was recently the subject of a critical article in Salon, an online magazine (you may have to watch an ad before reading the article). Seems some people in the nearby community question how eco-friendly it is to buy a huge house as your third or fourth home that you use a private jet to get to. Not to mention that the development is buying two big tracts of public land that might be better left wild.

So is Ameya a way for the upper class to do their part for the environment? Or is it all just a big "greenwash"?

01 May 2008

New LED bulb to be unveiled

Renaissance Lighting is debuting a new LED-based "downlight" at LightFair International 2008 in Las Vegas at the end of May. The product, for use in recessed lighting applications, will not only save energy but also reduce carbon dioxode emissions and mercury, according to the company.

MTV puts Real World show into green environment

This season's Real World, the grandaddy of all reality shows, puts this year's young cute things into an eco-friendly house, and offers environmentally friendly advice along the way. The computer is bike-powered, for example, and the light fixtures are recycled. You can create an avatar and get green tips as you explore the house virtually. And you can also watch video walkthroughs of the actual real world location.

Using sun and wind in green house design

Danny Forster, a TV show host and architect, has a video walkthrough of his first solo design -- a green house. Interestingly, it lacks a traditional HVAC system.

Use germs to clean stained concrete

For Life Products has introduced a new eco-friendly concrete cleaner that uses microbes and enzymes to clean oil and other stains from garages, driveways, and so on. The company's low-VOC Rejuvenate Stain Stealer is good for cleaning up environmentally hazardous materials and spiffying up stained floors.

Sprinkler system uses water "intelligently"

Cyber-Rain's eponymous sprinkler control system has just gotten certified under SWAT -- that is, Smart Water Application Technologies, a standard issued by the Center for Irrigation Technology.

This means that in many communities, you can get a rebate if you install the system -- a rebate which may even pay for the product and installation, according to the company.

The Cyber-Rain system lets you tailor your water use based on weather and seasonal conditions. It works wirelessly through your personal computer, using information from the Internet.