17 July 2009

Silver linings in green pools

After a long cool damp June (at least here in the northeastern United States), at last we're getting some hot summery weather. Time for ball games, picnics, and swimming pools! And you can enjoy the beautiful blue water in your green pool, too.

The big problems with pools, eco-wise, are water loss, electricity used to run pumps, and chemicals. But each has a solution. Pool covers stop evaporation and are a good safety feature. Energy efficient pumps are now on the market. And there are alternatives to traditional chemical treatments as well. For a good round-up, check out these two articles. And here are five more eco-friendly solutions.

And for those seeking a recycled above-ground option, check out these swimming pools made from big recycled garbage dumpsters! That's them in the photo above.

15 July 2009

The art of recycling at retail

The paradox of making beautiful things from trash existed long before the green movement gained the momentum it has today. But as appreciation of the environment has grown, recycled art has become mainstream. So much so, in fact, that retailers are taking advantage of the trend in several ways.

Some retailers are selling recycled art. Home Depot offers a swing sculpted of used tires. Look at these lovely drawer and cabinet pulls made of recycled glass and pottery. Here's a directory with many recycled art product links.

Canadian home center Rona recycled an Apple iPod billboard to cleverly promote its paint recycling program (photo above).

And retailers are using recycled art in window displays. A Whole Foods in Hawaii offers a sea and surf theme. An English coffee shop window has a bug theme. And this blogger has two examples in Seattle.

For retailers seeking to wear their green cred on their sleeves, consider using art to make the case.

14 July 2009

Using software to manage LEED projects

Houston Neal sent me a link to a blog post he put together on software for tracking LEED certification of projects. He makes a good case for the utility of tech in keeping track of projects, and I like how he mentions two different software solutions.

13 July 2009

The lease you can do

Here's a detailed blog post on green leases in commercial real estate. I especially like how this essay combines practical info with a realistic mindset -- for example, giving examples of green tech gone wrong and stressing the importance of keeping on schedule and in budget -- while also pushing the most strict levels of certification, based on LEED standards and the 2008 BOMA Guide.
Green building is generally more costly and timely than the standard construction process. Landlords and tenants must realize this when determining the tenant improvement allowances detailed in the lease. Although having a green space is obviously an important issue, having a finished space ready in the necessary time period is generally a far more important issue. It is thus important for both parties to discuss these potential timing and cost issues with construction and design professionals that have green building experience that can provide advice in regard to both of these concerns.

10 July 2009

New association lobbies for greener building codes

A new alliance among home builders, manufacturers, and energy companies has formed the Building Energy Efficient Codes Network. The association is so new it does not seem to have a Web site, but here is an article about the new organization, and here are two other articles on BEECN and its agenda.
From the latter:
Basically, BEECN is lobbying for national legislation that would require a series of energy-efficiency improvements over 2006 International Energy Conservation Code: a 30% increase in energy efficiency for all new residential and commercial buildings starting in 2010, a 50% increase by 2014, and a net-zero-energy standard by 2030.

09 July 2009

Natural lighting boosts retail sales -- at least it did in 1999!

I was browsing the Web, following interesting links, and I came to a company -- Entech Solar -- that makes skylights for commercial businesses. And that led me to a link at the bottom of that page, on Skylighting and Retail Stores. (If you want to read the report, you have to go there and click on the link yourself, since I was unable to embed it.)

That research report, in PDF format, had some interesting results, including these:
Skylights were found to be positively and significantly correlated to higher sales. All other things being equal, an average non-skylit store in the chain would likely have 40% higher sales with the addition of skylights, with a probable range between 31% and 49%. This was found with 99% statistical certainty. After the number of hours open per week, the presence of skylights was the best predictor of the sales per store of all the variables that we considered.

and also
Informal interviews with shoppers repeatedly confirmed that the vast majority of shoppers were not aware of the skylights. The questioner, looking just like any other shopper, would approach a shopper and ask: “May I ask you a question?” The response was universally affirmative. We then asked, “What do you think of the skylights in this store?” The typical response was to look up, look puzzled, and then say, “That’s funny. I never noticed them before.” Out of 42 interviews in 10 skylit stores, only three shoppers could be found who were already aware of the skylights. Two of those volunteered that they had only noticed the skylights because their small child had pointed them out on an earlier trip, while looking up at a balloon or other bright object.

and also
A store with skylights is observed to have a sales index higher than an equivalent store without skylights. This is clearly the largest effect of any of the variables considered, (at B=+1.55). It is possible that there may be other reasons that the skylit stores are performing so well as a group. In our site visits, we made every effort to try to identify other characteristics of the skylit stores that might contribute to higher sales, but we did not find any obvious candidates. However, that possibility should always be kept in mind when examining these results.

and this
These results show that adding skylighting to the average non-skylit store within the chain would be likely to improve its performance by 40%, with a probable range somewhere between 31% and 49%. Thus, if this non-skylit store were averaging sales of $2/SF, then its sales might be expected to increase to between $2.61 and $2.98 with the addition of a skylighting system.

But here's the biggest caveat -- the study was conducted in 1999! Ugh. I have a call in to the research company, and I'll post any updates I hear about. The research was sponsored by the utility company PG&E, which encourages me, since a utility company would not, I think, preferentially seek out research that suggests decreasing electricity use. Food for thought.

08 July 2009

Reviewing eco-friendly bug repellents

Wenona Napolitano of Eco Childs Play reviews a range of green products designed to fend off the buggies. Interesting.

07 July 2009

Sustainability in the home

Mainstream attitudes toward sustainability -- especially in everyday living -- are getting greener and greener. Take this essay on Sustainability in the home. And as consumers look for eco-friendly solutions, retailers should not dismiss the opportunity of offering shoppers the products and services that let them do so economically and easily.

Incandescents: Reports of death greatly exaggerated

The New York Times has a very interesting article on new technology designed to make traditional incandescent bulbs more energy efficient -- enough so that they will likely meet government mandates on efficiency that otherwise would require switching to CFLs.
Normally, only a small portion of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is converted into light, while the rest is emitted as heat. Deposition Sciences applies special reflective coatings to gas-filled capsules that surround the bulb’s filament. The coatings act as a sort of heat mirror that bounces heat back to the filament, where it is transformed to light.

Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.

Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers is a line of bulbs now on the market that uses this technology. These are available now at Amazon and Home Depot, according to the Times, but evidently not yet on the Home Depot Web site.

Does vinyl flooring cause autism and defects in kids?

Darned if I know! But if you sell or make vinyl flooring, you should know that reports, like this one, reported in Treehugger, are linking product to genital deformities and autism.