31 July 2008

New England home builder creates alternative energy division

Cambridge, Mass.-based S+H Construction just opened a new Renewable Energy Division. From a company press release:
S+H's Renewable Energy Division designs, integrates and installs solar electric power, solar thermal hot water, and geothermal heating and cooling systems. Their services include everything from system design and installation through maintenance of residential equipment as well as energy conservation consultations. S+H is a fully certified turnkey installer and performs all of the paperwork necessary for homeowners to qualify for and obtain the significant rebates offered in Massachusetts to those who install PV.

The company's green building Web page will undoubtedly be updated soon with more info.

Making accommodations

The planet-friendly chain of "Gaia Hotels," is expanding. The first was built in California's Napa Valley. The second opened last year in Anderson, Calif. And a third is under construction in Merced, Calif. According to a company press release, developer Wen Chang plans to create the first chain of all-green hotels in the United States -- with each one certified at the LEED Gold level. Per the release, the hotels' green features cover a wide range of areas:
  • Wood Based Materials. All lumber used for the hotel is FSC certified.
  • Coatings, Adhesives and Sealants. Low VOC paint, sealants and adhesives were used throughout the hotel.
  • Carpet. The carpets contain post-consumer recycled material in the backing, fiber and pad.
  • Water. All toilets produce 1 gallon per flush. Guestrooms are equipped with low-flow showerheads. The Koi pond uses recycled water from the site, which is then filtered and cleaned prior to entering the pond.
  • Environmental Quality. Appropriately sized and efficient HVAC units are used throughout. These units are quieter and more efficient than standard HVAC systems and use a more environmentally friendly refrigerant than is standard. Aluminum exterior grates were used in all entrances of the property to minimize dust and particulates entering the building, improving air quality.
  • Energy. All windows are efficient, low energy transmittable and reduce glare. Solatube tubular skylights are used throughout the hotel including conference rooms, lobby, and hallways. Solar panels provide 10 percent of the site's electricity. A cool reflective roof reflects heat.
  • Recycling. Recycling bins in rooms and around property. Newspapers are located in the lobby, not delivered to each room. Bulk soap and shower dispensers cut packaging waste. Only recycled paper products are used.
  • Landscaping. All of the fertilizers used for landscaping are all natural and chemical free. Native and climate-adaptive plants were planted, so less water is used for irrigating.
  • Cleaning. Environmentally friendly cleaning products are used to clean the property.

UPDATE 1 Aug 08: For more LEED-certified hotel news, check out this.

Green pro dealer launches new Web site

Longtime eco-friendly LBM dealer EarthSource Forest Products has launched a new Web site. It features product info, news, and links.

30 July 2008

Eco-friendly businesses get good press

I was trawling the Web for blog fodder, and I was struck by the number of green business profiles I found. In the order in which I found them:The take-away for retailers? Green businesses are newsworthy! There's nothing like the free press that comes from a news report about your company. Get the name of the business editor at your local paper, or the news producer at your local TV station, and give them a call. If you have a compelling green story to tell, you may find yourself in my next batch of eco-friendly news links!

29 July 2008

Radon hotline offers tips for homeowners

From the National Safety Council comes word of two hotlines (and low-cost test kits) for homeowners worried about radon gas.
Chances are your kitchen countertop is free from radon, even if it is granite – and despite the potential link between radon and granite countertops that’s been in the news. For people who have concerns or questions about radon and want to test the air quality of their homes, the National Safety Council issues a reminder that its toll-free Radon Hotline is available at (800) 767-7236. Through this automated number, callers can order a brochure that contains information on radon and ordering a low-cost short-term test kit. Or, to speak to National Safety Council radon expert, callers can dial another toll-free number, (800) 557-2366. Specialists are on hand to answer questions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern) on business days.
It's a good resource for dealers, retailers, and builders who want to answer customer questions.

28 July 2008

Research offers insights on green home buyers

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and McGraw-Hill Construction have released preliminary results of a study on attitudes towards green home construction. One million households were surveyed to find those who had purchased green homes in the last three years. Some highlights of the research:
  • The vast majority (83%) said their new homes offered lower operating costs, lower energy bills (79%), and lower water bills (68%).
  • Going green was the top reason cited by survey respondents for remodeling their home (42%).
  • 70% of buyers are either more or much more inclined to purchase a green home over a conventional home in down housing market. 
  • More than half (56%) of those surveyed who have bought green homes earn less than $75,000 per year; 29% earn less than $50,000.
  • Overall, lower income buyers say they found tax credits and government programs, indoor air quality benefits and green certifications to be the most important incentives for them to buy green homes.
Complete research results will be released in the fall.

25 July 2008

Lightship to make energy efficient panels

Lightship Group has announced that it will be making kama-EEBS building panels, which are formed of metal and non-extruded polystyrene and emit no CFCs or VOCs. According to the company, they are also non-toxic and energy efficient.

Beazer Homes uses green car to motivate sales force

Beazer Homes' Charleston-Savannah Division won this custom-detailed Smart Car as the prize in a recent internal sales contest. Salespeople in the division will get to drive it, saving gas while boosting Beazer's eSmart program to sell energy-efficient homes.

23 July 2008

Fighting germs the green way

I'm a little skeptical about the trend towards adding more and more anti-microbials to our living spaces. And so is the Centers for Disease Control! It's become a marketing point to be able to add "Fights Germs!" to the product label.

Still, Duraban seems to be trying to have its microbe-killing cake and eat it too. The company is pushing its new line of products (a Laundry Rinse, a Fabric Spray, a Surface Spray, and a Disinfectant Spray) as not only germ-unfriendly, but earth-friendly too. The product is applied to fabric or hard surfaces -- and it sticks. Megan Parker, a company spokeperson, culled these talking points from the product Web site for me:

Since the antimicrobial is permanently bound to the surfaces it protects, it does not leach from the fabric to the skin or into the environment.

DuraBan does NOT contain any heavy metals. Tin, arsenic, silver and copper are often used in other antimicrobials.

DuraBan does not volatilize, dissipate, or leach onto other surfaces or into the environment. The chemistry polymerizes where it is applied and forms a permanent bond that typically lasts for the life of the treated surface. Normal cleaning should not remove the treatment; although it can be abraded away.

If fighting germs is your top priority, maybe you can mitigate the disadvantages -- to a degree -- with a greenish product like this.

22 July 2008

New organization forms for green pro dealers

A new association has been formed by a group of pro dealers, called the "Green Suppliers' Council." I found out about it through a press release from Alexandria, Va.-based Smitty's Building Supply, a founding member, but Smitty's does not mention the organization on the company Web site. According to the Smitty's press release, the organization is "a nationwide network of building material dealers formed to promote and facilitate green building in the residential construction market."

I also found this news report about another founding member, Central Valley Builders Supply, based in St. Helena, Calif.

Dr. Google also misdirected me to a Web site for the Build It Green Suppliers Council, which, while potentially interesting to readers of this blog, is NOT related to the new "Green Suppliers' Council."

And I noted with interest that the nascent association is being organized by Greg Brooks, of the The Building Supply Channel. Small world that this $407.2 billion industry is, Greg and I used to work together on Pro Dealer magazine, a publication we split off from Home Channel News a decade or so ago and then folded back into the mother book five or so years later. That's a photo of Greg from the HCN archives. I asked Greg about his organization, and I mentioned the Build It Green Suppliers Council, and he said:

This is different from Build It Green; they're a northern California non-profit that operates just in that region. This group is composed of non-competing independent dealers from all over the United States; the objective is to share info and strategies among executives, to help our members establish a leadership position in green building in their respective markets.

I'll post a link to Greg's Green Suppliers Council as soon as I get one (I'm guessing the Web site is still under construction, maybe).

New floor glue offers no VOCs, long name

DriTac's new flooring adhesive, for wood and cork applications, is called "DriTac Eco-6200GR “Green” Pressure Sensitive Wood Flooring Adhesive." That's a mouthful, but the flip side is that it offers "zero solvents and zero VOCs," according to the company.

By the way, it is also "low in odor and offers a long open time for installations of multi-ply engineered plank, acrylic impregnated wood, plain-back parquet, foam-backed parquet and cork tile."

18 July 2008

Wal-Mart agrees to clean up its wood supply chain

From our sister publication, Retailing Today, here's a story on how Wal-Mart has partnered with the Global Forest and Trade Network to phase out illegal and unwanted wood sources from its supply chain, relying more heavily on certified chain-of-custody product. Money quote:
Within one year, Wal-Mart will complete an assessment of where its wood furniture is coming from and whether the wood is legal and well-managed. Once the assessment is completed, Wal-Mart has committed to eliminating wood from illegal and unknown sources within five years. The company will also eliminate wood from forests that are of critical importance due to their environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity or landscape values and that aren’t well-managed.

American building materials companies also partnering with the Global Forest and Trade Network include BlueLinx, Domtar, and Cryntel.

In the LEED

There are a number of flavors of LEED certification: new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, core and shell, retail, schools, health care and homes. All of these will be collectively updated in January 2009 under the LEED 2009 banner.

However, the existing building certification standard has just been updated on its own to LEED for Existing Buildings version 2.0. The new version offers more flexibility for those seeking LEED credits. Greener Buildings has a good wrap-up on what it all means.

17 July 2008

Green manufacturers recognized

SustainableBusiness.com has released its annual list of the top 20 "sustainable" public companies, that is, "public companies that are leading the way to a sustainable society." Among the companies on the list are a number of building materials makers:
  • Apogee, a leading manufacturer of efficient glass.
  • Accsys Technology, the creator of technology that gives softwood trees the durability and quality of hardwoods.
  • Interface, a maker of environmentally friendly carpet tiles.

16 July 2008

Two new Green Web sites

Here are two new Web sites focussing on topics of interest.

A creation of Electrolux Home Care Products North America, GoodCleanAir.net offers allergy tips and, as one might expect, ideas for choosing and maintaining a vacuum.

W.R. Meadows' LEED Information Page offers product info, especially on construction products made and sold by W.R. Meadows.

15 July 2008

Al Gore to keynote the West Coast Green show

Former Vice President and Nobel-prize winner Al Gore will deliver the keynote at the West Coast Green Show, a California-based event that focuses on residential green building topics. The show will take place at the San Jose Convention Center, Sept. 25 to 27.

10 July 2008

"Hyper-efficient" appliances are three to five years away

According to Thomas W. Reddoch, a director at the Electric Power Research Institute, current technology applied to major appliances can only achieve energy savings in the seven percent to eleven percent range -- not very impressive. But on the near horizon is an array of innovations that will yield savings in the 30 percent to 40 percent range.

Here are some new products to look for in the next three to five years:
  • Heat pump water heaters will draw heat from the air or the ground to warm water.
  • Combined single unit washer/driers.
  • Smart refrigerators.
Of these, look for the heat pump water heaters first, says Reddoch. These require a tank, unlike "tankless" products, but are more energy efficient because they do not require a big "surge" to heat water fast on demand.

Although many consumers will be reluctant to abandon their perfectly-serviceable-but energy-wasteful appliances, building codes will ensure that newly constructed homes have them, and as energy prices rise, the pressure on consumers to convert will increase.

Reddoch spoke at a lunch panel discussion held today.

The Electric Company loves you and loves the environment

That's the basic take-away I personally got from a lunch and panel discussion I just went to at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel today here in Manhattan. Note the equal sign rather than a hyphen in "Waldorf=Astoria" -- because it's the Waldorf=Astoria.

Officials from utility companies (including the CEO of Con Ed) were on hand to talk about energy fairs, education programs, CFL bulb give-aways, and other ways they are seeking to establish their green cred. There was discussion of increasing demand for energy, and how utilities are planning to cope with that -- in a nutshell, with more renewable energy sources, new nuclear plants, and through new "smart grid" systems that give feedback to customers and thus encourage better energy use.

The session was sponsored by the Edison Electric Institute, an association of electric companies. And in the interest of full disclosure, there was a nice lunch as well.

Laticrete specialist certified as LEED Accredited Professional

Kirby Davis, a senior architectural specialist at tile-setting-materials-maker Laticrete, has earned her certification as a LEED Accredited Professional. According to a company press release, "Professional LEED accreditation distinguishes Davis as having a thorough understanding of the LEED rating system including credit requirements, submittals and strategies. LEED AP’s are highly knowledgeable about the green built environment and are familiar with LEED resources and processes."

Grohe debuts water-conserving line of plumbing fixtures

Grohe's new WaterCare line claims to use up to 30 percent less water than traditional fixtures. There are 60 faucets (for both kitchen and bath) and low-flow shower products in the line. GROHE recently became an EPA WaterSense partner, according to the company's news release.

Green anti-flea product is non-toxic

Home Channel News research reveals that 91 of the Top 500 retailers carry pet supplies. So it is not too off topic to mention that Kathy Santo Everyday Pets is offering a new line of a green anti-flea product for dogs.

"Defeat Da Fleas" uses peppermint and lemongrass oils to make a natural flea repellent.

We've had ant problems in our kitchen from time to time, and we've used a green non-toxic mint-based spray that does work. For those with small children especially, keeping poisons out of the house can be a priority.

08 July 2008

"Zero Emissions House" gets big PR boost at G8 meet

With reports in the Wall Street Journal, NBC News, and other media outlets, the news that the Japanese government has sponsored a "Zero Emissions House" in time for the G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, is getting pretty big play on the Internets. The house showcases the latest green home products, from the wind turbine and solar panels that fuel it to the energy efficient lights and appliances inside. Did I mention the Honda Asimo robot that serves tea?

Here are a couple links for more info:

07 July 2008

House of earth

I've already mentioned that some folks build houses out of straw bales. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, here's the story of two women who built a cottage out of a mix of mud and straw called "cob." Here's more on cob and cob houses from the Wikipedia.

New building panel is LEED certified

Kerfkore just announced a new flexible building panel product, called KerfGreen. It qualifies for LEED credits and is made with no added formaldehyde.
KerfGreen is a bendable substrate material that is so versatile it allows horizontal or vertical grade laminates, metals, 2-ply, and phenolic backed veneers to be laminated flat and then cold formed into virtually any shape without stress cracks, delaminating, or telegraphing. It provides for smooth and symmetrical inside and outside radii up to 3 1/2”.

The company also has an older product with other applications called FlexGreen. The newer KerfGreen product is not yet up on the company Web site, so for more info and samples, contact Kerfkore at 2630 Sidney Lanier Drive, Brunswick, GA 31525. Phone: 800-637-3539 or 912-264-6496. Fax: 912-262-9763

8 July 08 -- See comments for a correction!