Suppot Navajo Adults with Developmental Disabilities


 

October 5, 2009 @ 11:37 am
Future Green Innovators Descend on D.C. Mall

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Later this week (Oct. 9th, see events), the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Solar Decathlon” educational competition and exhibition opens on the National Mall in D.C. Every year, applications are solicited around the world and 20 university-based teams are given $100,000 of start-up capital to “design, build and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. I was reminded of the event by an alumni bulletin from my alma mater, Penn State.

A multidisciplinary team of 17 students and faculty from the colleges of earth and mineral sciences, engineering, and arts and architecture has spent months developing their design and preparing the structure for judging in D.C. A previous Penn State entry in 2007 won fourth place and team members from this year’s entry, “Natural Fusion,” think they can do even better this year. “We came very close to third place (in 2007),” said team member Thomas Rauch. “We were in contention until the last day of the competition. That ending left a sour taste, so we are excited to participate again, and we feel that we have a real shot at first place this year.” They’ll have to withstand strong competition from other schools in the U.S. as well as students in Germany, Spain and Canada. Here’s a time lapse video of Penn State’s construction (with high energy soundtrack accompaniment.

As the name of the competition implies, the homes must be powered exclusively by the sun and they will be judged in 10 categories:

As you can see, to be successful, the homes must be attractive to live in, environmentally sound and energy efficient while still providing all the creature comforts of modern life. This might seem like a daunting task, but it is attainable – and these are college students –who are very creative. A 2007 team was unphased when they wanted to use a geothermal heat pump but wouldn’t be able to excavate the National Mall; they just designed their house with a rooftop pond! The combination of young innovators and more solar power portends a bright future.

Good luck to my fellow Penn Staters on the “Natural Fusion” team!

September 22, 2009 @ 11:13 am
Green Power from Piezoelectric Nanotechnology and Viral Batteries

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I don’t know about you but every time I charge a cell phone or use a laptop I wonder why we don’t have better batteries. It feels like a technological conspiracy that computer processing speed has doubled every 18 months for decades but battery life fails to do the same or come even close to that. If it had, we’d be flying around in battery-powered airplanes and maybe even sailing battery-powered cruise ships. Maybe the consumable nature of batteries prevents faster advances, but our existing batteries can be pretty inefficient, wasteful and often toxic.

I don’t expect the high seas to be filled with battery-powered ships anytime soon, but some very interesting developments are being made on a much smaller scale – the nanoscale in fact. This CNN article leads with the idea that you might be able to recharge your cell phone as long as you were walking. Nanoscale materials are very small; one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter and the scientists featured in the article are using structures that are 100 nanometers and smaller. These structures can be engineered with many interesting properties and performance characteristics such as efficient energy transfer.

The act of me typing this article right now is a release of energy stored inside my body but it is effectively wasted. Sound and heat are generated but the keyboard can’t harness the kinetic energy. In the future it may be able to. Zhong Lin “Z.L.” Wang and his team at Georgia Tech are utilizing the piezoelectric effect (“…the ability of certain materials to generate an electric potential when a stress is applied to them. For instance, if you compress a crystal, it temporarily changes shape, causing the ions inside the crystal to polarize and produce a voltage drop.” The electron flow then produces an energy output.) present in environmentally friendly zinc oxide nanowires to make solar cells and nanogenerators that can utilize energy from any mechanical movement. In the walking example, the body produces 67 watts of mechanical energy that can be converted into 11 watts of electrical energy. The smaller amounts of energy produced by blood flow, breathing, etc. could be used to power medical implants such as glucose meters for diabetics.

piezoeffect Read More…

September 17, 2009 @ 11:10 am
€100K Home with Zero Bills, CO2

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Casa 100k-1

In researching a topic for this Italy-focused post, I came across a Jetson Green article about Casa 100k, the flexible Italian housing solution to achieve affordability and sustainability in a stylish package. Conceived by Mario Cucinella Architects in Bologna, the less is more aesthetic results in a thoroughly modern integration of green building methods.

The prefabricated structure minimizes costs and waste and the individual homes have small footprints and are clustered together for efficiency and low environmental impact. With only 100m² (just over 1000ft2) to heat and cool the prototypical house could operate off-grid, drawing power from solar panels and small vertical axis wind turbines. Using passive solar thermal glass curtain walls and a geothermal heat pump HVAC system for example, makes the homes so efficient that they may even produce enough excess energy to sell back to the grid. Additionally, roof gardens provide insulation, greenery and environmental benefits and contribute to the home’s stormwater management system.

Since nobody wants a home identical to their neighbor’s, many of the internal and external building components can be modified. Interior walls can slide, be removed or bent to create unique floor plans. Meanwhile, the exteriors can be fitted with a variety of interchangeable components that match the overall design while creating variety through balconies, staircases, decks, etc.

Alas, Casa 100k is only a concept for now but the architects have exhibited in Italy and the U.S. – it is only a matter of time before this project and others like it get built.

Casa 100k-2

Photo Credits: Mario Cucinella Architects – Casa 100k

September 3, 2009 @ 12:57 pm
Tax Incentives Galore for U.S. Energy Savings

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dollars

As a result of federal legislation, there a multitude of tax breaks available for residential and commercial renovation and construction projects completed this year and in some cases continuing to 2016. Below I have provided briefings on the tax credits available to homeowners, builders and the tax deductions available to commercial building owners/designers. This post focuses on federal incentives, but many states also offer incentives for renewables and energy efficiency; details can be found at http://www.dsireusa.org/.

Homeowners
There are three categories of improvements homeowners can make with different benefits and timelines: 1) Energy efficiency – replacing/installing qualified windows/doors, insulation, roofs, HVAC, water heaters and biomass stoves can result in a tax credit at 30% of the cost up to $1,500 in 2009 and 2010. 2) Renewable energy – geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar water heaters, small wind energy systems and fuel cells qualify for tax credits of 30% of the cost with upper limit on the amount through 2016. 3) Cars – $2,500-$7,500 credit for plug-in hybrids (up to 250,000 vehicles) and a tax credit amount based on an efficiency formula for hybrid gas-electric, diesel, battery-electric, alternative fuel and fuel cell vehicles (60,000 vehicle limit per manufacturer so Toyota and Honda have been phased out but it is available for Ford, GM and Nissan).

Given the limitation in category 1, homeowners should choose improvements wisely to maximize the monetary benefits. Generally speaking, adding attic and wall insulation and sealing air leaks provide the most bang for your buck (particularly in colder climates); each can generally be installed for several hundred dollars and each can provide over $200 in annual savings (again, best results in colder climates). The table below taken from the Energy Star website provides a summary of the tax credit details and requirements (I left out the “Notes” column).

Product Category

Product Type

Tax Credit Specification

Tax Credit

Insulation Insulation Meets 2009 IECC & Amendments 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Windows & Doors Exterior Windows and Skylights Before June 1, 2009:Must meet ENERGY STAR criteriaAfter June 1, 2009:U factor <= 0.30SHGC <= 0.30 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Storm Windows In combination with the exterior window over which it is installed:

  1. has a U-factor and SHGC of 0.30 or below
  2. Meets the IECC
30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Exterior Doors Before June 1, 2009:Must meet ENERGY STAR criteriaAfter June 1, 2009:U factor <= 0.30SHGC <= 0.30 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Storm Doors In combination with a wood door over which it is installed:

  1. has a U-factor and SHGC of 0.30 or below
  2. Meets the IECC
30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Roofing Metal Roofs, Asphalt Roofs All ENERGY STAR qualified metal and reflective asphalt shingles 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
HVAC Central A/C Split Systems:EER >=13SEER >= 16Package systems:EER >= 12

SEER >= 14

30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Air Source Heat Pumps Split Systems:HSPF >= 8.5EER >= 12.5SEER >= 15Package systems:

HSPF >= 8

EER >= 12

SEER >= 14

30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Natural Gas or Propane Furnace AFUE >= 95 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Oil Furnace AFUE >= 90 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Gas, Propane, or Oil Hot Water Boiler AFUE >= 90 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan No more than 2% of furnace total energy use. 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Water Heaters Gas, Oil, Propane Water Heater Energy Factor >= 0.82or a thermal efficiency of at least 90%. 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Electric Heat Pump Water Heater Same criteria as ENERGY STAR: Energy Factor >= 2.0 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Biomass Stove Biomass Stove Stove which burns biomass fuel to heat a home or heat water.Thermal efficiency rating of at least 75% as measured using a lower heating value. 30% of cost, up to $1,5001
Geo-Thermal Heat Pump Geo-Thermal Heat Pump Same criteria as ENERGY STAR:Closed Loop:EER >= 14.1COP >= 3.3Open Loop:

EER >= 16.2

COP >= 3.6

Direct Expansion:

EER >= 15

COP >= 3.5

30% of cost
Solar Energy Systems Solar Water Heating At least half of the energy generated by the “qualifying property” must come from the sun. Homeowners may only claim spending on the solar water heating system property, not the entire water heating system of the household.The credit is not available for expenses for swimming pools or hot tubs.The water must be used in the dwelling.The system must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC). 30% of cost
Photovoltaic Systems Photovoltaic systems must provide electricity for the residence, and must meet applicable fire and electrical code requirement. 30% of cost
Small Wind Energy Systems Residential Small Wind Turbines Has nameplate capacity of not more than 100 kilowatts. 30% of cost
Fuel Cells Residential Fuel Cell and microturbine system Efficiency of at least 30% and must have a capacity of at least 0.5 kW. 30% of the cost, up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity
Cars Hybrid gasoline-electric, diesel, battery-electric, alternative fuel, and fuel cell vehicles   Based on a formula determined by vehicle weight, technology, and fuel economy compared to base year models
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles   $2,500–$7,500

1Subject to a $1,500 maximum per homeowner for all improvements combined.

Home Builders
Home builders can receive a $2,000 tax credit for each new energy efficient home that achieves 50% energy savings for heating and cooling over the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and supplements. The homes must be completed and sold by December 31, 2009. For manufactured homes the credit is $1,000 to the producer and the home must achieve 30% energy savings for heating and cooling over the 2004 IECC and supplements, or the home must meet the requirements established by EPA under the ENERGY STAR program. For more details, see here.

Commercial Buildings
According to Energy Star, “A tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is available to owners or designers of new or existing commercial buildings that save at least 50% of the heating and cooling energy of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001. Partial deductions of up to $.60 per square foot can be taken for measures affecting any one of three building systems: the building envelope, lighting, or heating and cooling systems. These tax deductions are available for systems “placed in service” from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2013.” The link above provides information on calculations, IRS guidance, etc. 

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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.

solar-tower-illustration

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 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.

CH2
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.

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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.”

stimulus-cartoon

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 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…

July 31, 2009 @ 4:54 pm
Swedes Have Turning Torso and Human Heaters

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torso-zoom A few years back I was in Copenhagen over Thanksgiving weekend and took a day trip to Malmӧ, Sweden. I took the train through the Drogden Tunnel and across the Öresund Bridge which is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe (nearly 5 mi or 8 km). I set out primarily to see the Turning Torso, designed by Santiago Calatrava, one of my favorite architects. I also perused the Nordic contemporary art at Malmӧ Konstmuseum, saw the Malmöhus Castle and strolled around the beautiful Lilla Torg and other city squares and streets.

At 190 meters high (54 stories), the Turning Torso is the tallest building in Sweden, a landmark of sculptural architecture and a green building anchor of the eco-friendly Western Harbor redevelopment. This section of the city had become a dilapidated, contaminated and underutilized industrial park. City planners then commissioned Calatrava to design a statement building based on his Twisting Torso sculpture and the result is a marvel of engineering. A circular concrete shaft runs through the center of the building and houses the mechanical infrastructure. Attached to the shaft are segments of five floor plates that successively rotate to create the corkscrew effect. Meanwhile, the whole structure is supported by its artistic external steel frame. The bottom ten floors contain offices, the middle forty-two floors contain 147 apartments and the top two floors contain meeting spaces. My favorite feature is that because the top floor is a 90 degree turn from the bottom floor, the windows on the eastern side of the building actually tilt outward! You wouldn’t want to live there if you had a fear of heights…

torsoThe amazing design incorporates a number of green features. The building receives 100% of its power from locally renewable energy. The thick insulating walls and windows of the building envelope ensure efficient use of this energy. Environmentally friendly materials were used in construction and other installations enable residents to manage their environmental impact. For example, they can monitor and adjust their own heat and water consumption and use built in waste disposals to grind organic waste for composting or other uses. Additionally, the self contained community of the Western Harbor neighborhood and it’s proximity to central Malmö lessens the need for cars; a short walk away are the beach, green spaces, stores, services, restaurants, waterfront promenade and more. Continue reading for the enigmatic “human heater” portion of the post… Read More…

July 30, 2009 @ 5:04 pm
More Green Buildings Appearing in China; Grand Hyatt Dalian

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China’s recent ascension to industrialized juggernaut hasn’t been without major environmental sacrifices. I’m sure many have heard the statistic that a new coal power plant needs to go on-line weekly just to keep up with the country’s energy demands. Another alarming fact; 90% of urban surface water is too polluted to be of any use. Luckily, the 2008 Olympics put Beijing on the world stage and instigated change. The government’s 5-year plans require significant energy efficiency improvements from new construction and there are hundreds of green building projects recently completed, underway or being planned. This slideshow from Treehugger features several, including the Zero Energy Media Wall from my recent lighting post as well as one of the Olympics building complexes (the athlete’s village). dalian

Now, I’ll focus on the Grand Hyatt development in Dalian. Dalian doesn’t get as much press as Shanghai, Beijing or some other Chinese cities but it’s a very fast growing, highly industrialized port city in the Northeast (16.5% GDP growth in 2008). It is also a government designated “open-city” which enables significant foreign investment. Interestingly, I first learned of the city because it is home to one of German anatomist Gunther von Hagens’ plastination centers where many of the “Bodies…The Exhibition” subjects are prepared (very intriguing exhibit if you haven’t seen it yet).

Anyhow, Goettsch Partners was hired by Hong Kong-based developer China Resources Land Limited to design the over 1 million ft2 Grand Hyatt tower. In addition to 377 hotel rooms, there will be 84 serviced apartments, three restaurants, ballrooms and meeting facilities, a spa and fitness center, and parking for 225 cars. The tower will be situated on the Yellow Sea next to Xinghai Square. Energy efficient and structural features were designed with geographical and meteorological considerations in mind. Glass curtain walls feature high-performance glazing with integrated horizontal sunshades along all southern exposures. The unique triangular shape of the building minimizes the structural impact of high winds on the Dalian coastline and these same winds are accelerated by the tower’s rounded corners and are harnessed to propel wind rotors. The vertical-axis turbines envisioned are very quiet, bird-safe and should supply electricity to the building year-round with limited maintenance. The scheduled completion date is 2011. See this World Architecture News article for more information.

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July 29, 2009 @ 9:49 am
First 100% Renewable Energy Powered Billboard in NYC

If you read my post on the history of lighting (Part 1 and Part 2) then you know about the energy efficiency benefits of LEDs as a light source. Ricoh, the office solutions company, created the first fully renewable energy powered billboard in New York’s Times Square to commemorate their 4th consecutive year being listed as one of the 100 most sustainable corporations in the world. The sign is currently being powered by solar panels and will eventually be flanked by small wind turbines, making the sign a mini generator. The LED flood lights use 50% less electricity than standard high intensity discharge lamps, while lasting over 25 times as long (50,000 hours vs. 1000-2000 hours)! By using renewable energy, the sign emits 18 fewer tons of CO2 annually compared to traditional billboards. For more information on the project and Ricoh’s other initiatives, click here. Also, special thanks go to my friend and reader Billy, for alerting me to the billboard.

ricoh-eco
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July 19, 2009 @ 9:26 pm
Norway’s Boosts Green Building and Energy Research

Earlier this year, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy announced 8 new government funded research centres that will conduct concentrated research to solve specific energy challenges. As many of you probably know, Norway is a significant oil producer, so much like the UAE’s efforts to build green, these centres are a highly relevant green policy decision. Norway already generates 99% of its electricity from renewable hydropower, constructed the first industrial-scale carbon sequestration project (StatoilHydro’s Sleipner project) and pioneered simple green roofs hundreds of years ago – many homes in the countryside have a torvtak, literally “turf roof.”

sleipner

The 8 centres have attracted numerous academic and industrial partners and each will receive NOK 10-20 million ($1.6-3.1 million) per year for five years with an optional 3 year extension. The programs are centered on offshore wind energy, solar energy, energy efficiency, bioenergy, energy planning and design, and carbon capture and storage:

  • BIGCCS Centre – International CCS Research Centre
  • Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy
  • Bioenergy Innovation Centre
  • Norwegian Centre for Offshore Wind Energy
  • Norwegian Research Centre for Offshore Wind Technology
  • The Norwegian Research Centre for Solar Cell Technology
  • Subsurface CO2 storage – Critical Elements and Superior Strategy
  • The Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings

 The Research Council of Norway provides details here. I will focus on the Zero Emission Buildings centre (ZEB).

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July 18, 2009 @ 4:38 pm
An Algae Powered Future?

corn_vs_algae

Should pool owners everywhere forego chlorine to promote algal growth and sell the by-product? Probably not, but this is an interesting concept I’m going to tell you about. First, you should know I’ve been very skeptical of “bio-fuels” because corn-based ethanol promotion has been such a terrible policy. Let me know count the ways:

  1. Extremely inefficient source of energy – 1 acre of corn yields just 250 gallons of ethanol and it takes 1.5 gallons of ethanol to equal the energy output from 1 gallon of gasoline
  2. Resource requirements – irrigated corn requires 785 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol and production uses 1-2 more gallons of water per gallon of fuel then petroleum refining. Additionally, it takes 140 gallons of fossil fuel to plant, grow and harvest just an acre of corn
  3. Unintended impact on food price inflation – historically, corn has been one of the cheapest foods to grow; as a result it is the primary animal feed crop and a reduction in supply increases prices throughout the food chain 

The first two negative effects result from the resource intensive nature of bio-fuel production. When producing a fossil fuel substitute is so inefficient that it strains valuable resources and creates such a large carbon footprint, how are we benefiting? A 2008 paper in Science Express analyzed greenhouse gas emissions resulting from land-use changes brought about by increased corn ethanol production and found emissions were 100% higher relative to gasoline. Most proponents of ethanol only talk about the fact that tailpipe emissions are reduced by 20% when using ethanol.

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July 17, 2009 @ 9:03 am
UAE’s Supergreen City

Given the popularity of my Supergreen Building post, I thought I would direct you to my featured article on Masdar City. Begin with the excerpt below, or click here. Also, stay tuned for a new featured article later this month.

masdar_sunlight_small

Even a region that has seemingly boundless supplies of oil, the Middle East, has put shovels to the sand for the world’s largest green construction project to date. The Central Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long recognized that the oil would eventually run out and they began diversifying their economy into real estate, tourism and other sectors over two decades ago. Located in the UAE’s Abu Dhabi emirate, Masdar City is the largest and most ambitious commitment yet to green the economy and the country. But, what is it? Continue reading…

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July 14, 2009 @ 12:06 am
GreenBldgBlog.com is 130% Wind Powered

You may have noticed the Host Gator advertising banners on the site. I’m proud to display them because they’ve focused on reducing their environmental impact and I’m one of their many satisfied customers. The environmental efforts began with green renovations and more efficient servers and now all of their servers are 130% wind powered! Yes, you read that correctly. Host Gator has actually purchased renewable energy wind credits representing 130% of the electricity used to both power and cool every single one of their servers. The wind credits are generated in their home state of Texas and according to their website, the environmental benefit is equivalent to 1) Removing 444 cars from the road for a year, or 2) Powering 321 homes with clean energy for a year, or 3) Saving 5,654 barrels of oil, or 4) Protecting 551 acres of forest for a year.

hostgator_cartoon

Data centers are an incredibly energy intensive business and a significant contributor to the world’s carbon emissions.
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July 10, 2009 @ 4:18 pm
Solar Did You Knows

solar_small

Did you know that virtually any building can be a (albeit small) carbon-free solar power plant using currently available technology? By connecting to the grid, an individual home or commercial/industrial building can distribute excess energy from its solar panels. There is an enormous amount of unused solar energy hitting the Earth – maybe you’ve heard this statistic: each day, enough solar energy reaches Earth to meet U.S. energy needs for one year. The untapped potential of this energy is huge, but solar panels aren’t very efficient and were always very expensive to install until recently…
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July 8, 2009 @ 9:54 am
Wind Power Isn’t Just for Midwest…

Especially since Boone Pickens just dramatically scaled back and is revising his Texas wind farm plans. It’s true that the Midwestern states form the best corridor in the U.S. but this isn’t stopping New Yorkers like me from buying wind power. I was planning to do a carbon footprint post in the future and Con-Ed must have heard me thinking about it because they recently sent me my “wind power certificate.”

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You see, through a new subsidiary called Con-Ed Solutions, they began offering customers the chance to buy wind generated electricity. They warned that the supply component of my bill would increase by ~10% but I saw that as a fair price to pay and was thus instigated to take efficiency measures. For little cost or no cost I have done the following:
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July 6, 2009 @ 10:32 am
Rhinebeck’s Supergreen Building
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Courtesy: Omega Institute

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) was conceived by the Omega Institute in 2005 as a living machine that could replace an aging septic system in Rhinebeck, NY. Opening this month, it was designed and built from scratch at a cost of $3.2 million to meet the highest sustainable architecture standards. OCSL will receive LEED Platinum certification and is expected to become the first U.S. building to receive the Living Building designation, meaning it has no negative environmental effects.

Since Omega’s primary mission is to offer holistic educational programs focused on wellness and personal growth, the building is not only a natural wastewater treatment system (the Eco Machine™) but also contains a laboratory and indoor and outdoor classrooms for eco-lectures. The Eco Machine™ is designed to treat over 5 million gallons of wastewater annually. The treatment process involves 5 steps:
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June 21, 2009 @ 2:35 pm
Introduction

I’m pleased to welcome you all to GreenBldgBlog.com. The idea for this blog has been gestating for a few months now and I’m happy to be giving birth to it today on this Summer Solstice ’09. According to ancient religions, “Midsummer is the time when the sun reaches the peak of its power, the earth is green and holds the promise of a bountiful harvest. The Mother Goddess is viewed as heavily pregnant, and the God is at the apex of his manhood and is honored in his guise as the supreme sun.

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Copyright © 2009 Nathan Kline.

Notably, we are currently witnessing the emergence of energy and environmental tipping points that will change the landscape of industry well into the foreseeable future. A good reference is the Resource Management Revolution of CSIS’s Seven Revolutions project. A few statistics from their commentary: 
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