Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Currently winding its way through the legislative hoops of Capitol Hill is HOME STAR, a highly touted piece of legislation by President Obama. The program is perhaps the most important piece of legislation, outside of the Recovery Act and will provide for direct energy efficiency incentives for homeowners.
HOME STAR’S potential benefit to homeowners is simple: money. There are two proposed tracks: Silver and Gold. Under the Silver Star track ($3,000 cap/homeowner), homeowners will be eligible for rebates from individual energy efficiency measures such as replacing air conditioning units, water heaters or adding insulation. (more…)
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
What a difference the pond makes.
The E.U. passed strict energy efficiency regulations last week, requiring all new buildings constructed in Europe after 2020 to be virtually carbon-neutral. The goal, according to Reuters, is to reduce the 36% of GHG emissions attributable to Europe’s building stock:
“With buildings accounting for 36 percent of the EU’s greenhouse gases, improving their energy efficiency is also crucial for meeting the EU’s climate change goals,” said Turmes.
Contrast this approach to a recent veto by Wisconsin’s governor of a bill aimed at making a percentage of public buildings green. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported:
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
“Gavin and I both really wanted to be entrepreneurs. We felt like that was a great way to make an impact in the world. Making the jump was a little scary though. Gavin and I both had jobs lined up. He went to the National Laboratory designing super colliders and I was working on humanitarian de-mining vehicles. I actually quit my job on the first day when I got there to start work on this. Gavin did the same a few weeks later!” -– Eben Bayer, CEO, Ecovative Design
KissMyCountry interviewed Eben Bayer, CEO of Ecovative Design. A green building company that is developing alternatives to synthetic materials. Eben talks about starting the company with his co-founder and Chief Scientist, Gavin McIntyre, goals for the future, and their most recent media hit — a mention on “CSI New York.”
KissMyCountry: Eben, Ecovative Design is coming out with some exciting products. First, tell us about EcoCradle natural packaging – what it is, how it saves the planet and why it’s a breakthrough product.
Monday, May 24th, 2010
Another Bad Week, Or a Really Good One? Good news grows as slow as a tree, but bad news spills as fast as a broken oil main. That seems to be the lesson from this week as BP, the U.S. government and an armada of ships and volunteers tried but mostly failed to contain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Though BP had some success at slowing the spigot, oil is pooling in the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta and resides at unmeasured quantities in the deeps. There it has joined the Loop Current with a probable next stop in Florida.
Meanwhile, 1,500 miles north, an equally momentous event drew little attention: an agreement to curtail or end logging on 72 million acres of Canada’s boreal forest, an area roughly the size of France. An unlikely consortium of logging companies and Greenpeace agreed to halt the chainsaws altogether for three years in an area as big as Montana, and to develop a sustainable-forestry program for the remainder. The accord might be the forerunner to permanent protection for an area that encompasses two-thirds of Canada’s logging concessions. (more…)
Friday, May 21st, 2010
The practice of “commissioning,” in which an engineer monitors the efficiency of a building from its design through its initial operation, just may be the most effective strategy for reducing long-term energy usage, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. So why is it so seldom used?
In a different world, it could be a reality television show — “Buildings On Trial,” with a street-savvy engineer going into skyscrapers, factories, offices and other commercial buildings to find the dumb mistakes that make them waste energy and produce a disproportionate share of the nation’s global warming emissions.
And in almost every case, even new buildings proudly displaying a LEED “green building” plaque by the front door, the engineer would come back out with a list of energy hog culprits: Here’s the ventilation system fan installed backwards, so it blows full force into another fan blowing in the right direction. Here’s the control system set up so heating and cooling systems both work at once, like driving with your feet on the brakes and the accelerator at the same time. Here are the stuck dampers that prevent the building from drawing on outside air when the temperature is right.
Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
With more than 16,000 retail locations around the world, Starbucks continues to innovate and evolve the customer experience with a new store design approach inspired by Starbucks Shared Planet, their commitment to ethical sourcing, environmental stewardship and community involvement. With each new or renovated store, Starbucks strives to reflect the character of the surrounding neighborhood, allowing customers to feel at home when visiting “their” store and giving them opportunities for discovery at our other locations around the world.
For the last 15 years, the Starbucks coffeehouse at 72 Spring Street in New York City has been a gathering place for local patrons and international visitors alike. The renovated location draws upon the area’s commercial and retail history as well as its vibrant arts and cultural renaissance over the past several decades. The Spring Street store blends the aesthetics of a turn-of-the-century dry goods warehouse with the original iconic mercantile-inspired Starbucks location at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. (more…)
Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
The next wave of California legislation aimed at reducing the state’s energy consumption and meeting mandates for reduced greenhouse gas emissions is set to wash ashore in January 2011 when Assembly Bill 1103 goes into effect. Its approach has commercial building owners, facility managers and real estate brokers throughout the state scrambling to understand the new law and begin collecting the data necessary to get a high-performance energy rating and keep their properties competitive.
Unlike California’s stringent Title 24 building energy efficiency codes that regulate standards for commercial construction and renovations, AB 1103 comes into play when a building is sold, leased in whole or refinanced. Along with the usual financial and transaction disclosures, it requires that building owners provide 12 months of energy-use information, or energy benchmarking, using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager.
AB 1103 is one of the ways the state legislature is working to help achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions mandated by the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32. Commercial buildings account for more than 35 percent of electricity consumption in California and are significant contributors to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. (more…)
Monday, May 17th, 2010
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Secretary of HUD Shaun Donovan and Denver Mayor Hickenlooper, Benedict Park Place housing development in Denver.
I believe that when you set out to look for a home, you aren’t just looking for a house, but you are also looking for a community. You are thinking about access to quality schools and safe streets for your children. You are thinking about transportation to work and school. It’s important for you to have access to good jobs, grocery stores and transportation. When you choose a home, you choose a community and all that is has to offer. As a father, I understand how important it is to spend less time commuting and more time with family.
Through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, we are working with the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency to create those sustainable communities. Guided by six “livability principles,” our Interagency Partnership is working to break down silos that traditionally exist in the federal government and help local communities across the country improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs, while protecting our environment. It will help communities build more livable, walkable, environmentally sustainable regions by connecting housing to jobs, fostering and encouraging local innovation, and by building a clean energy economy. (more…)
Monday, May 17th, 2010
Solar energy has been around for decades, but its popularity has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. Solar power is popping up in more and more conversations, in news articles and on the Web. The popularity of renewable energy is reminiscent of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.
The major difference between the dot-com and renewable energy booms is that there’s a lot more value spread across the renewable energy field. There are fewer “flash in the pan” operators, if you will. That doesn’t mean that the solar sector doesn’t have its share of flakes, but it just doesn’t have as many.
What strategies for picking a solar energy installer will help you weed through the pretenders and find the right one? First, there are many installers out there who are starting out. They may not have a huge body of work, but they are very well educated on the science and design of solar. These installers are not to be discounted. (more…)
Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Clean energy is the “in” thing. You’re cool, literally and figuratively, if you can help save the earth by being a little more efficient in your energy use. You’re even “cooler” when you’re able to harness natural, renewable resources for your daily energy needs. Solar power is one such energy resource that meets these criteria, as it is both 100 percent natural and infinitely renewable.
Most of the energy on earth comes from the sun one way or another, including wind, oil, gas, coal, biomass, and biofuels. However, many of these indirect byproducts of solar energy, especially the fossil fuels, are non-renewable. Once used, they cannot be replaced. More important, energy sources like oil, gas, and coal also release huge amounts of heat and carbon into the atmosphere. If you can harness the power of the sun through more direct means, then you minimize this pollution without depleting precious resources.
Solar Energy on the Rise Globally
For many, solar power still seems like an alien concept. The idea of receiving boundless energy from the sun somehow doesn’t jibe with our understanding of how “free lunches” are often in short supply. However, in countries such as Canada, solar power production is becoming increasingly popular among governments, businesses, and homeowners. Ontario’s aggressive Green Energy Act has helped make sustainability and solar power central to the province’s economic recovery program. While solar energy is still an unfamiliar concept for some, it is gaining traction as people around the world begin paying greater attention to green technologies and sustainable growth.
Here are four things about solar energy that you probably didn’t know, and that may prompt you to become more involved. (more…)