Suppot Navajo Adults with Developmental Disabilities


August 30, 2009 @ 12:43 pm
Conserving Water with the Flick of a Switch

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This week I received a clever, water saving product from one of my readers for review and testing purposes. The UZLOW valve is a simple attachment that can be added to any standard pipe/shower head to conserve water and save energy. It allows you to limit water flow when you don’t need it, thus reducing water usage and water heating needs.


If you think about it, much of the water dispensed during a shower is wasted because we stay out of the water when lathering, shampooing and shaving, etc. That is the principle behind UZLOW; it allows you to reduce the water flow without impacting the water temperature. When pushed back, the switch/handle is in low flow mode and when flipped forward the water flow returns to normal. Installing the valve was a breeze – my shower was fully operational in about 5 minutes. The valve arrives in 3 parts and you need just a wrench and some pipe tape to complete the installation. Easy to follow instructions (including pictures) walk you through the process step-by-step. Essentially you unscrew your showerhead, wrap the pipe threads in tape, screw on the valve body, insert the flow regulator, attach the switch, put some tape on the valve threads and screw on your showerhead.


I’ve taken a couple showers with the product now and it works as well as advertised. In my quick test to verify the 70% water flow reduction, I found that in regular flow position my shower head dispensed approximately 2 gallons of water per minute. Using the low flow setting, this volume was reduced to about 2/3 of a gallon per minute. This equates to a 67% flow reduction which is right in line with the claim (my test involved a simple bucket, no fancy scientific instruments). I would estimate that half your time in the shower could be in low flow mode so during a ten minute shower you could save almost 7 gallons of water per shower. Multiply that by the number of showers taken in your household and the water and $$$ savings add up quickly. Costing only $19.95 per valve or $15.95 per valve for 2 or more, the UZLOW pays for itself.


  • Easy, quick installation – 3 parts, a wrench, some pipe tape and 5 minutes
  • Significant water flow reduction = significant water and energy savings
  • Easy operation


  • Plastic switch/handle is somewhat flimsy so you have to be careful not to torque it during installation
  • Children and/or short adults could have difficulty reaching the switch/handle

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August 27, 2009 @ 10:35 am
Eco-friendly Honeymoon in the Hay?

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When I read about these “hay hotels” yesterday I couldn’t resist blogging about them – especially since some of the quotes made me laugh out loud (don’t worry I will include them). In recent years I’m sure we have all noticed those little hotel cards asking if you want your towels and/or bedding laundered and replaced. Guests can energy and water by reusing these items (and in a big hotel the total savings can be quite large). It’s not a sacrifice to sleep on the same sheets a few nights – you don’t change them and launder them daily at home do you?

Heuhotels (‘heu’ is German for hay) have taken the concept one step further. There are no sheets to wash. In a romantic nod to the middle ages, villages in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been converting barns and other old buildings into cheap (as little as €8/$11), green alternatives to traditional hotels. The beds are made of fresh hay and proprietors recommend you bring your own sleeping bags and blankets unless you really want to rough it. Some provide hostel like communal accommodations while others offer more “luxurious” touches. The Zum Alten Marstall is located next to an 11th century castle so staff members wear cloaks and male guests are referred to as “Knights.”


Without new construction, minimal laundry and less energy consumption the hotels provide sustainable tourism in a back to nature sort of way. They’re generally in historic, scenic areas with access to outdoor activities such as horseback riding, canoeing and even archery. If you’re not sold yet, one of the managers said “Think back to when you were a child – this would be heaven! What’s changed since then?” She also touted her heuhotel as a great group retreat. “We have many important people from the city coming to stay here, all types that you wouldn’t expect…what better way for a team to bond than by eating together around a camp fire and then rolling around in the hay?” No comment…


The author of the full article (from CNN) also claimed the hay beds are becoming very popular for honeymooners. He’s backed up by a comment by Heinz Laing who runs one of the hotels outside Hamburg, Germany; “For lovers, there’s nothing more exciting than a night on the hay.” I guess the only way to know is try it for yourself…

Photos Courtesy: Zum Alten Marstall website

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August 25, 2009 @ 11:22 am
Otherwordly Solar Towers Promise Continuous Clean Energy

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As many people know, inherent inefficiency has been holding back solar from reaching its full potential for years. In recent years, major strides have been made to improve traditional solar and this is reflected by the hundreds of start-ups and public companies engaged in building solar panels or supporting other areas of the supply chain. However, at least one of those companies, EnviroMission, has taken a completely novel approach. Their solar tower design (the world’s first of this nature) promises massive amounts of reliable, efficient renewable power (50%+ capacity factor vs. only around 20% for traditional solar).

Based in Australia, the company’s first development was originally slated for Buronga in the southwest corner of New South Wales, but now they are concentrating on bringing the technology to market in America at two 5,500 acre sites in Arizona where land use applications were filed last month. According to the current designs and based on the results of a small solar chimney test plant that was built and operated in the 1980s in Spain, each of EnviroMission’s plants will generate 200MW (about 1/5 as much as a large coal plant). This amount of electricity can power about 200,000 households while annually preventing 900,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

But how does it work? Simple physics and brilliant engineering collaborate on the ingenious design. We all know that hot rises and as you can see in the graphic below (from EnviroMission’s website), the plant’s design maximizes this effect. It uses solar collectors (spread over several kilometers/a couple miles of diameter) to further heat the ambient air pulled into the system and the resulting continuous air flow is forced into and up the chimney past 32 pressure staged turbines that can each generate 6.25MW of electricity. The particular turbines for this application are most similar to the “Kaplan Turbines” used in hydro-electric power plants.


To hit you with more physics, the greater the velocity of the tower, the higher the column of air is and the stronger the updraft. So, the highest capacity plants of nature require the highest possible towers. EnviroMission’s original design utilized a tower over 3,000 feet tall (1000 meters). Also, since radiant heat from the sun is the energy source, the technology can easily produce energy on cloudy days, much like greenhouses are always hotter than the outdoor ambient air despite the weather conditions. Continue reading for timing and development plans and a fascinating video clip. Read More…

August 23, 2009 @ 3:20 pm
Mexico City Adds Itself to the Bag Ban List

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One thing I haven’t talked about much in the green building context is waste. There are benefits to be had from using recycled materials, using new materials more efficiently, converting waste to heat, composting, etc. Obviously, the article implies something much simpler, but beneficial – eliminating the scourge of plastic bags. It takes more than 1,000 years for the bags to decompose and they contaminate soil and water in the process. Any retailer who wants to be greener can easily contribute in this regard. Or can they?

Plastic bags require less energy and water to manufacture, ship and recycle than paper bags (4 times less for production, 85 times less for recycling) and take up less space in a landfill (about 90% of plastic bags aren’t recycled). However, if it takes 2 or 3 bags to do the equivalent work of one bag, the advantage lessens. Both types can be reused, but it’s hard to say which is or can be reused the most number of times. Then you have canvas or similar reusable bags. I would think that the long life of these bags would make them win out economically and environmentally even if their initial cost and carbon footprint is greater. According to a study cited by the Wall Street Journal, “A reusable bag is better for the environment regardless of what it is made from, as long as it is used at least four times (a 2004 study by the French retailer Carrefour).” Biodegradable, oil-free plastics will likely have a place in the market as well.


Along with many other countries and metropolitan areas, Mexico City has now made it illegal for businesses to distribute non-biodegradable plastic bags (with 1 year grace period for compliance). For years, Mexico City has been known for choking air pollution and crowded living conditions, but the city has been pursuing more environmental improvement policies in recent years. According to the UN, plastic bags are the 2nd most common litter (after cigarette butts) on land and largest form in the oceans (endangering and/or killing thousands of sea animals). With a population of almost 20 million consumers, Mexico City’s bag ban should eliminate billions of bags and save millions of barrels of oil.

In the U.S., we have been the second largest (behind China) consumer of plastic bags – somewhere between 87.5 billion (2003 International Trade Commission report) and 380 billion (according to this article and others). If you’re laughing at the disparity in figures, don’t worry, so was I. The anti-plastic bag and pro-plastic bag supporters and lobbies are absolutely maniacal, greatly obscuring the facts in the process. I wanted to come up with an accurate barrel of oil comparison to see how much less we could import by eliminating plastic bag production. Alas, I couldn’t get believe anyone. The most neutral statistic seems to be about 12 million barrels per 100 billion bags. With the U.S. consuming about 20 million barrels a day that is less than 1% savings. From my research and experience acquiring a chemical/plastics company I gather many plastics are now derived from natural gas and other feedstocks rather than so much oil. Which makes sense because oil is a high value commodity and plastic bags are a low value product. At the other extreme, is an unsourced study that found 1.6 billion gallons used (over 38 million barrels at 42 gallons per barrel) based on the 380 billion bag number.

In any event, there is significant momentum against plastic bags. San Francisco was the first city to impose a ban in the Western Hemisphere (in 2007) and D.C. instituted a tax. Continue reading for many other global locations with plastic bag statutes. Read More…

August 21, 2009 @ 12:50 pm
Cleantech Networking in NYC

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I went to my first NYC Israel Cleantech Alliance (Alliance) meet up last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I met a number of great people who are involved in all manner of interesting green endeavors. Thanks go out to Itai Karelic (founder of the group), Yinnon Dolev (keynote speaker from GE) and the sponsors; Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP and the Israeli Economic Mission. The Alliance officially launched in June, had its second event last night and is planning its next event for the fall. Please visit the group’s webpage or contact Itai for more information. If you want to network with an engaging group of cleantech professionals and investors in the New York area, I highly recommended the Alliance. For those in Israel and Boston, the group is affiliated with CleanIsrael (funded by Israeli Cleantech Ventures) and the Boston Israel Cleantech Alliance.

So, what did we talk about last night? Ironically, I was well prepared for the topic; the water market. Regular readers of my blog may remember my recent featured post on the world’s water dilemma. For those who haven’t read it, check it out here. Yinnon gave a great summary of the global water market, talked about trends in the marketplace, gave some technical insights on desalination, discussed the Israeli water technology sector and described GE’s participation in the water market and other “Ecomagination” businesses.

Yinnon noted some familiar statistics: $1 trillion of spending is needed for water infrastructure over the next 20 years and 2 billion people will have absolute water shortages by 2025. The map below illustrates the most over utilized resources (the darker the color, the more desperate the situation).  

water-scarcity-map Read More…

August 20, 2009 @ 1:39 pm
Japan’s Hanging Gardens

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hanginggardensFukuoka City, Japan has experienced impressive growth over the years but failed to conserve green space in its city center. According to various articles I have read, the ACROS Fukuoka building was to intrude on the last remaining strip of greenery in the city center. Fortunately for Fukuoka’s residents, the developers hired architects Emilio Ambasz & Associates to design a symphony hall, office and retail complex that actually added green space to the city. Built in the 1990’s, the ACROS (“Asian Crossroads Over the Sea” – Fukuoka lies across the water from South Korea) was and still is a very innovative structure. Perhaps taking a cue from one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (rendered by artist Mario Larrinaga at right), the park facing side of the building is an enormous terraced garden/green roof with thousands of plants and walking paths to enjoy them. Furthering this design aesthetic are reflecting pools connected by upwardly spraying water jets that create a ladder-like climbing waterfall and serve the functional purpose of dimming the ambient noise of the city.

The staircases and seating areas are perched among the greenery and the higher you climb the better the views. This sky park contains 100,000 ft2 spread across 15 stepped one-story terraces. At the apex, you can enjoy 360 degree views of the city, harbor, mountains and river. THe gray wedge at the foot of the building has many purposes; it’s a dramatic entrance, provides ventilation exhaust for the underground floors and serves as an elevated stage that turns the terraces into a massive outdoor ampitheater. At the same time, this recreational area provides a refuge for birds and insects and allows people to escape the endless, bustling streets of the city to “smell the roses.” More structures like this in our densely populated cities around the world would be beneficial to everyone. The energy savings from the insulating properties of green roofs/”hanging gardens” and capturing of rainwater runoff are particularly beneficial in hot and humid climates like that of southern Japan.


greenroof-bookFor 40 inspirational case studies and beautiful photos of large-scale green roof projects around the world, check out this book: Green Roofs: Ecological Design And Construction. It would look great on your coffee table and as you can see at left, the ACROS building is featured on the cover

August 19, 2009 @ 1:37 pm
Dueling 6 Star Green Buildings in Melbourne

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The Council House 2 building (CH2) in Melbourne was anointed the greenest building in Australia when it became the first to receive 6 stars (in 2005) from Green Building Council Australia’s (GBCA) Green Star rating system. By my count, there are now 18 6 Star buildings in Australia. Impressively, 11% of Australia’s central business district commercial office buildings are Green Star certified which I would imagine compares very favorably to other countries – I’ll have to research it to find out for sure.

The scale has three rating levels; 4 Star, 5 Star and 6 Star, and points are obtained from 9 categories: Management, Indoor Environment Quality, Energy, Transport, Water, Materials, Land Use & Ecology, Emissions and Innovation. According to GBCA the 6 Star rating signifies “world leadership in environmental sustainability.” In meeting this standard, CH2 and Melbourne’s latest 6 Star entrant, the Melbourne Convention Centre (MCC) have some very impressive features.

ch2A 10-story city government office building opened in 2006, CH2 features photovoltaic cells, chilled ceilings, a co-generation plant and blackwater sewage recycling systems amongst other things. The whole project cost a shade over A$51 million, A$11.3 million of which went to sustainability features that are expected to have a 6 year payback from energy and resource cost savings.

  • Solar cells provide 60% of the building’s hot water supply
  • The chilled ceilings are part of an innovative cooling system that is much more efficient and more comfortable for building occupants than traditional airflow systems
  • The gas-fired co-gen plant will provide 40% of building’s electricity with much lower relative carbon emissions

Maybe the two most interesting features from my perspective are the “shower towers” that mimic ant-holes for cooling purposes while sprinkling water on passersby and the beautiful recycled timber shades pictured above that provide passive cooling to the sunny westside of the building while still letting in light if need be. Significantly more details about all of CH2’s innovations can be found here. Click “read more” and continue reading about the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Read More…

August 18, 2009 @ 12:29 pm
Follow Up to Green “Stimulus”

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Ironically, the overall stimulus package was the subject of a front page article on USA Today yesterday…Great timing on my part, but I didn’t see the article/poll numbers until last night. According to the USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,010 adults from Aug 6-9 (+/- 4 percentage points margin of error), the public has a general distaste for the package so far:

  • 78% are very worried (46%) or somewhat worried (32%) “that money from the economic stimulus plan is being wasted”
  • 57% think the stimulus plan has had no effect (33%) on the economy or made it worse (24%)
  • 60% think that over the long term the stimulus plan will have no effect (22%) on the economy or make it worse (38%)
  • 81% think that in the short term the plan has had no effect (68%) on their financial situation or made it worse (13%)
  • 70% think that in the long term the plan will have no effect (36%) on their financial situation or make it worse (34%)

The article can be found here.

August 17, 2009 @ 2:56 pm
So Much for Green “Stimulus”

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I’m sure you’ve noticed the burgeoning government spending of late. I know I have, and I’m not looking forward to the future tax implications. What’s most interesting to me about the alphabet soup of acronym spending and lending programs; TARP, TALF, CARS, the list goes on and on – is that the U.S. government has committed to spending so much of our money that it is actually having trouble spending it fast enough to have an impact on the economy. Case in point, the “Stimulus” Act. As job losses have continued piling up, I have continued to read about the lack of funds being spent and the dubious projects that funds are being spent on.

In over 6 months, less than 10% has been spent by the various bureaucracies entrusted with funding. Does this mean they will ultimately curtail the programs? Doubtful. As I remember, the stimulus was supposed to be implemented swiftly to fund “shovel-ready” projects and invest in our crumbling infrastructure. Apparently a $3.4 million tunnel in Florida designed to provide a safe crossing for turtles was a priority. No word yet on which turtle language will be chosen for the signage. Maybe even more absurd, $18 million was spent to redesign the website that tracks stimulus spending. Obama should have called me, I would have done the work for not a penny over $5 million. Even less if he let me outsource the coding (Source for project figures: CNN Op-Ed).

How about that infrastructure? According to an AP analysis, “Of the 2,476 bridges scheduled to receive stimulus money so far, nearly half have passed inspections with high marks, according to federal data. Those 1,123 sound bridges received such high inspection ratings that they normally would not qualify for federal bridge money, yet they will share in more than $1.2 billion in stimulus money. In all, 1,286 deficient or obsolete bridges are expected to share $2.2 billion in stimulus money for repairs…But that’s less than 1 percent of the more than 150,000 bridges nationwide that engineers have labeled deficient or obsolete.”


Clearly, the results thus far have been less than stellar, which leads me to the equally poor showing of the green components to the stimulus. Millions of green jobs have not arrived and they are not immediately on the way either because less than half of 1% of the green “stimulus” has been spent. Prospective programs were included in the allocations of $111 billion for infrastructure (including mass transit) and $8 billion for energy. According to Green Building Law, “…a total of $33.2 million has been paid out for green stimulus programs, and an additional $307 million in public transit dollars, of the allocated $119 BILLION.  That is .28% of the total allocation…” In maybe the most dramatic example, the General Services Administration (GSA) was awarded a budget of $4,500,000,000, yes $4.5 BILLION for “High Performance Green Buildings” and so far they have spent a shade over $230,000. Hey guys and gals at the GSA, take a look at my products page and give me a call would you?

The big lesson in all of this: incentives for private investment are more efficient than than public spending. Take note, health care debaters…

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August 15, 2009 @ 1:35 pm
Geothermal Heat Pumps Save Energy and Suction Taxes

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Geothermal heat pumps (aka GeoExchange, earth-coupled, ground-source or water-source heat pumps) are a remarkable, yet simple green technology that has been around for about 60 years. Anyone that’s visited a cave to see stalactites/stalagmites or do some rugged camping will remember the constant temperature that is cooler in summer and warmer in winter than at the surface. The ground is an efficient insulator, and depending on latitude, underground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C) year-round despite seasonal extremes at the surface. Heat pumps are able to take advantage of these temperature gradients for heating and cooling purposes, but how?

There is a detailed explanation here, I will summarize. Traditional heat pumps transfer heat utilizing a refrigerant that is acted on by an exchange medium (air in a standard A/C unit or liquid in a geothermal heat pump). The refrigerant absorbs heat and is compressed into a high temperature, high pressure liquid for heating purposes or allowed to expand into a low temperature, low pressure gas for cooling purposes. In winter, heat pumps pull heat from the air to be circulated in the home and during summer they take heat from inside and push it into the air. Significant amounts of electricity are used in this process because temperature extremes need to be overcome and air is an inefficient heat transfer medium. On the other hand, the liquid water or antifreeze solution of geothermal heat pumps is 30% more efficient than air. In summer, heat is pulled from the building and deposited in the much cooler earth very efficiently. In winter, the constant, relatively warm temperature of the earth provides much more than heat than the air so much less compression (and therefore less energy consumption) is needed vs. a conventional system. 


In fact, according to U.S. Department of Energy studies, geothermal provides system efficiencies of 300-600% on the coldest winter nights while air-source systems can reach only 175-250%. Integrated systems can handle all of your heating, cooling and hot water needs year-round. The result is significant energy savings over your current costs of electricity, heating oil, etc. While installation of geothermal systems costs more upfront, these energy savings cover the additional costs over 5-10 years. 50,000 units are now installed annually in the U.S. alone. The benefits outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are listed below: Read More…

August 13, 2009 @ 9:07 am
Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund (S3IDF)

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With visitors from 41 countries/territories I realized I better add another internationally-focused post to my ongoing series. I have covered 8 countries (in addition to the USA) so far and for number 9 I’ll discuss this innovative development organization doing work in India. S3IDF was registereddelucia1 in Massachusetts in 2001 and staffed in India in 2002. Having traveled throughout India in 2005 (Delhi, Bombay and Agra), I can tell you that it is simultaneously one of the craziest, most chaotic, yet amazing places in the world. The people are very friendly and very smart and while the country has its challenges related to poverty, infrastructure and resource management, strong economic growth has created many opportunities for the ambitious, industrious population. Yet, large segments of the population have been left behind.

To provide the poorer, rural and urban dwellers with a lift, S3IDF has stepped in to provide an environmentally-friendly economic push. According to the website, the organization, considers itself “a ‘social merchant bank’ that helps small enterprises to provide modern energy and other infrastructural services to poor people in developing countries in ways that are financially sustainable and environmentally responsible. It covers the provision of services in electricity, water, sanitation, transport and telecommunications that are necessary for poverty alleviation.” In 2007, Russell de Lucia (CEO & Chairman) and the organization won the Clean Energy Award in the “NGOs and Initiatives” category for their provision of efficient lighting services to poor households, communities and small/medium enterprises (SMEs) in southern India. Over 30 projects were implemented and powered with clean energy. About 6,000 beneficiaries now have improved health and safety as well as increased income earning opportunities through extended work hours. The electricity is provided by photovoltaics that charge batteries, biogas or other renewable generation methods. Keep reading for information about there other projects.

Read More…

August 12, 2009 @ 10:23 am
New Most Popular Post

RewardAugust’s “Got Water? Wait Until 2025…” post has been quickly riding up the ranks and just became my 3rd most popular post this week, surpassing my July post on Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw. You can link to my most popular posts at left; at its current pace, the water post may well reach 1st place. The water post permalink is here. You can also read it on my featured tab along with my first feature article on Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (or click “UAE’s Supergreen City” permalink here).

August 11, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
It Pays to Install Green Roofs (Part 2)

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Yesterday in part 1, I talked about the tax incentive provided for green roof construction in NYC. Today I will touch on a variety of other existing and proposed programs around the U.S.A. This is likely not an exhaustive list so feel free to comment and provide links to additional information. I discussed Toronto’s program in this previous post.

Existing Programs 

Chicago: Developments with green roofs receive fast track permitting and the city provides a number of favorable financing options. A grant program offers up to 50% of the cost or $100,000, whichever is greater and the green roof must cover 50% of the net roof area of the building.


Los Angeles: Beginning on July 1, 2002, all City of Los Angeles building projects 7,500 ft2 (700 m2) or larger were required to meet LEED “Certified” standards. Green roofs can contribute several LEED points.  

Minneapolis: They charge stormwater usage fees to commercial and residential property owners based the amount of impervious surface area on the building. However, buildings that improve stormwater management, such as by installing a green roof, receive a 50% credit against these fees.

Philadelphia: Provides “a credit against the Business Privilege Tax of 25% of all costs actually incurred to construct the Green Roof, provided that the total credit shall not exceed $100,000.” The green roof must cover 50% of the rooftop or 75% of eligible rooftop space. Read More…

August 10, 2009 @ 10:58 am
It Pays to Install Green Roofs (Part 1)

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I’m not even talking about the energy savings, cost savings and environmental benefits though. I’ve talked about these advantages on my products page but now I’m going to focus on tax credits. A number of places have mandated green roofs under certain circumstances; Toronto, Tokyo and Switzerland to name a few. Another approach that’s often more agreeable to building owners and developers is the voluntary opportunity to receive tax credits.

The program I’m most familiar with and closest to home is the New York State incentive passed by the state legislature last year. It offers building owners in New York state cities with a population of one-million plus (i.e. New York City only) a tax credit equal to $4.50 per ft2 when they install a green roof. Generally, this would cover about 25% of the costs (materials, labor, installation and design) associated with building a green roof. The one-year property tax credit is capped at $100,000 and the green roof must have at least two inches of growing media and cover at least 50 per cent of available rooftop space.

According to comments from Storm Water Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) in this article, “the environmental benefits of the legislation are measurable. Each 10,000 square foot green roof, for instance, can capture between 6,000 and 12,000 gallons of water in each storm event, the evaporation of which will produce the equivalent of between a thousand and two thousand tons of air conditioning — enough heat removal to noticeably cool 10 acres of the city.”

Just think what it would be like if all rooftops supplemented the green space in New York or your city. Despite its massive size and positioning as the heart and lungs of New York City, Central Park only covers 843 acres or 1.32 mi2 (3.4 km2). Meanwhile, Manhattan contains over 950,000 buildings spread over the island’s 22.96 mi2 (59.5 km2). Certainly streets, parks and other non-roof structures take up some space but all those roofs could create a network of green space that is multiples of Central Park’s size.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight other green roof incentive plans.

Photo: 416style via Flickr

August 7, 2009 @ 10:37 am
Malaysia Focus Part 2: GTower – First Internationally Recognized Green Building

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Now leasing, GTower on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) is the first Malaysian building to receive an international green certification. Singapore’s Building & Construction Authority has given it provisional status as a Green Mark Gold rated building. The building is a 30-story twin tower owned by Goldis Berhad (Goldis) and was built at an estimated cost of RM470 million ($134 million). It is a mixed-use development containing a 180-room 5-star hotel, 100,000 ft2 of general office space, another ~400,000 ft2 spread amongst 112 CEO duplex suites and numerous meeting rooms. Additionally, there is a private club, lobby bar/café, rooftop bar, other food & beverage outlets and a wellness floor with gym, yoga, spa and pool facilities.

The building is designed to maximize energy and water efficiency. According to Colin Ng, Head of Corporate Investment at Goldis, energy efficient building systems will cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60% (Source: The Green Channel). The IT infrastructure alone is expected to produce 30% energy savings. They installed 3Com’s Intelligent Building Solutions (3CiBS) products which combine state of the art hardware and software that optimize network capacity while reducing power consumption and carbon emissions.

After construction began, Goldis brought on a consultant to implement green features. This Architecture Malaysia article provides more details. Five areas were addressed with a multitude of technologies and installations: Read More…

August 6, 2009 @ 11:50 am
Malaysia Focus Part 1: New Green Building Index

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Malaysia is an engaging juxtaposition of the old and new. The Kuala Lumpur skyline is dotted with old mosques and mud brick buildings alongside a high tech monorail and newer skyscrapers like the Petronas Towers (briefly the tallest building in the world). Anyone who has walked around the city though, could tell you that Malaysia hasn’t been at the forefront of environmental policy. I say this because the streets are filled with motorcycles and scooters whose two-stroke engines belch noxious, polluting smoke (two-stroke engines are cheap but use fuel very inefficiently and require oil – the source of the black smoke – to be mixed in with the gasoline to lubricate the crankshaft).

A 2008 study however, showed the architectural/construction industry was more than ready to adopt green building practices on their own but they lacked information, knowledge and experience. To address these issues the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) and the Association for Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM) collaborated to develop Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI) leveraging Singapore’s Green Mark as an example. Much like US LEED or other certification systems, GBI uses rating criteria to award point-scores that translate into Platinum, Gold, Silver and Certified ratings. The scores are developed during the design stage and buildings can be certified one year after occupied and every 3 years they must be reassessed. The criteria are Energy Efficiency (EE), Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), Sustainable Site Planning & Management (SSPM), Material & Resources (MR), Water Efficiency (WE) and Innovation (I).

Points Allocation

The GBI was just introduced in January and Malaysian leadership has been very supportive. In May, Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor said that future government buildings would incorporate the green building guidelines. It was announced in this article that at the end of July the government would be establishing a green technology council for high-level coordination among ministries, agencies and the private sector and key stakeholders for effective implementation of green technology policies. Keep reading about the government’s plans

The Pusat Tenaga Malaysia building houses the government’s Green Energy Office and is the first GBI rated building in Malaysia.



Read More…

August 4, 2009 @ 5:13 pm
Green Living for Fashionistas

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fashion-modelDid you ever oversleep only to realize that it’s pouring rain outside and you’ll never be able to get a cab crosstown to make your pre-fashion show fitting on time? Eh…neither have I, but a new rental building endeavors to solve that problem with green features in a traditional luxury apartment package. I’ve been doing some contract sales work at an office in New York’s Garment District for several months and recently noticed a large apartment building nearing completion on W. 38th Street. Upon further research, I discovered it is Emerald Green, the latest rental development by Glenwood, a New York real estate firm. More importantly, as the name suggests, the building is LEED Certified.  

I’m guessing the units won’t come cheap – I couldn’t get any pricing on them – the leasing office opens later this month. However, residents will save money on energy costs and feel good about their lower carbon footprint homes. As an added benefit, the fashionistas won’t have to go far to score big savings at all of the underground sample sales held by up and coming designers in the area.

Personally, I’m hoping this upscale addition to the neighborhood becomes a green, gentrifying anchor. Despite the density of fashion businesses, the neighborhood is quite dirty and unappealing. At street level, it is littered with numerous downscale merchants, vendors and eateries and crowded by fume spewing delivery trucks. One of the interesting characters passing through today decided to punch a payphone booth for no apparent reason…There are some diamonds in the rough though, such as Houndstooth Pub and Chef Yu. With nice, green homes, more are sure to follow.

Photo: José Miguel Serrano via Flickr
Model: María Cecilia Domínguez

August 1, 2009 @ 4:14 pm
Got Water? Wait Until 2025…

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We know that water is a requirement for life, but despite this fact we don’t treat it with the reverence one would expect. The reason lies in economics and even Adam Smith was confused. Smith, of course, is known as the father of modern economics but he puzzled over the “Diamond-Water Paradox.” Why was it, that diamonds with limited practical use (and no survival value) command much higher prices than water, a prerequisite for life? He suggested that the value was derived from labor. Finding, mining and processing a diamond was hard, time-consuming work and obtaining a drink of water was a relative cinch. While this was literally correct, the true answer can be explained using an economic concept called marginal utility.

In essence, it’s not the total inputs or usefulness of a good that determine its value. Rather, it is the satisfaction (“utility”) obtained by each additional quantity. Said differently, you may love pizza or beer but if you consume too much they can make you sick. The graph below illustrates this. Early on, each additional slice of pizza makes you much more satisfied (the steep part of the curve on the left side of the graph).


The degree of “diminishing marginal utility” for water is quite high because water is perceived to be always available so we assign an artificially low price to it. Once you quench your thirst with a glass or two of water it becomes less desirable. Thus, water’s marginal utility can be illustrated by the following curve.
Most wouldn’t realize that water is the 3rd largest business in the world behind oil & gas production and electricity generation – we just take it for granted because we assume clean, freshwater is abundant – it’s not. Planet Water: Investing in the World’s Most Valuable Resource cites the following statistics:

  • 1.1  billion people have no improved water
  • 2.6 billion have no proper means of sanitation
  • Half of all hospital beds are occupied by sufferers of waterborne and water-related diseases
  • 10 million person years are annually spent by women and children carrying water from a distance

Finally, freshwater accounts for only 2.5% of the world’s water resources. Of that amount, 79% is locked in icecaps/glaciers, 20% is underground and only 1% is accessible surface water. We have a limited and fixed supply of freshwater, yet demand is surging (sixfold in the past century) and per capita increases at the current rate would result in 90% utilization all freshwater globally by 2025…

Per capita consumption of water and the temporal and spatial constraints on water resources mean overutilization of freshwater supplies is virtually inevitable, particularly in developing countries. For instance, China is home to 22% of the world’s population but only 8% of its freshwater. Already, rapid industrialization has rendered 90% of China’s urban surface water too polluted for productive use. Similar water quality and quantity issues are manifesting themselves all over the world as we speak. India has only 1,600 m3 of freshwater vs. USA with 10,000 m3. Poor quality and insufficient quantities of water result in poverty, food shortages and disease while restricting economic development and ultimately leading to geopolitical conflict. 

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