Posts Tagged "green building"

Top govt advisor attacks Big Power
by ALEXBENADY on OCTOBER 30, 2009 - 1 Comment in COMMUNITY, OFF-GRID 101
Simpson: Local hero

Simpson: Local hero

The UK is in the grips of a power cartel, says an insider from the governing UK Labour Party.

That cartel actively hinders the fight against global warming by lobbying for its own narrow commercial interests at the cost of local democracy and the future health of the planet.   It’s an argument that off-gridders and anti-capitalist campaigners will be familiar with. It’s not really what you expect to hear from an advisor to Her Majesty’s Government. Yet it is precisely the belief of Alan Simpson, who occupies a place close to the heart of political power in Britain as  energy advisor to the Secretary of Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband and Member of Parliament for Nottingham South. (more…)

Does Your City Have Green Roofs?
by KELLY MEAD on APRIL 30, 2008 - 0 Comments in EVENTS

Having a green roof is becoming the thing to do in urban environments and Green Roofs for Healthy CIties is an organization all about that. They have also a list of top ten cities with green roofs in North America. They are:

  1. Chicago, Il
  2. Wilmington, DE
  3. Baltimore, MD
  4. Brooklyn, NY
  5. Virgina Beach, VA
  6. Royersford, PA
  7. Tronto, On
  8. Calgary, AB
  9. Washington D.C.
  10. Philadelphia, PA

Last year there was a marked increase in green roofs, 30% more were installed in North America last year. Even if that is good for all of us inhabiting this earth it is more pronounced in the cities that are making going green a priority. Chicago has ranked number one conceseqitly an with 517,633 sq feet it is clear to see that it will retaining it’s place fro a while to come. The runner up, Wilmington, De, has only 37% of the square feet at 195,600, with 3rd, Baltimore, MD, only 23% at 121,550 square feet in the green. Canada starts ranking with Toronto, 83,055 sq ft, at number 7 with Calagary, 61,720 sq ft, right behind at number 8. This list has a wide range of cities and amount of square feet gone green with the top being over 500,000 sq ft while number ten squeaks in with less then 50,000 sq ft.

This shows that green rooftops in urban areas is still in it’s infancy here in North America. From Green Roofs for Healthy Cities 3rd Annual Green Roof Market Industry Survey showed a 5% increase to 25% market growth last year for its’ corporate members. This means that our rooftops in our urban areas are becoming more beautiful, using less energy for heating and cooling, plus cleaner air and greener spaces for people living there.

“We’re particularly thrilled to see Baltimore on our list for the first time as it is the host city of our fast approaching annual international green roof conference starting April 30, 2008,” says Steven W. Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. “We’re also pleased to see Washington, D.C. on the list again as the government of the District of Columbia is this year’s winner of an Awards of Excellence for Civic Leadership. Significant green roof implementation can save tens of millions of dollars from reduced energy, and greatly improve regional stormwater management and air quality.”

Their annual confrence will be held April 30 – May 2 in Baltimore, MD. They also offer courses throughout the year at various cities you can check schedueling and cities here. If you are going to be doing a green roof then making sure it’s done right is vital. As the additional weight of such a roof as well as the additional aspects of soil, plants, drainage, etc can be tricky knowing what your doing is important.

The beneifts to both the environment and your pocketbook make this option one to consider for both personal and commercial buildings. Maybe one day a trip to the park in the city can be as simple taking the stairs to the rooftop.

REGREEN when you ReModel
by KELLY MEAD on APRIL 11, 2008 - 0 Comments in LAND

Starting in March 2008 those of us who wish to remodel, rehab, or gut either part or our entire existing homes now have a program and guidelines to help us make them as green as possible. New construction has the LEED program to help guide and find products needed to make them green. Now the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation have developed the REGREEN program and guidelines.

REGREEN is a collection of resources and tools that are designed to help make your home remodeling project turn your home green. These guidelines are for residential home renovation that can be as simple as replacing an appliance, like a dishwasher, to redoing the bathroom, to remodeling your entire interior living space. The major elements of any project in remodeling are addressed. These include such things as the actual home site, water efficiency, material/resources, energy, atmosphere, and the quality of your indoor environment. These guidelines seek to integrate building systems and proven technologies into green strategies and case studies for homeowners, builders and design professionals. These guidelines are for even u do-it-yourself types. Though knowing them is also great if you are seeking professional help in either the design or building part of your project. Since this then enables you to have a reference to how what you want and to make sure it;s what is planned or done.

REGREEN has organized it’s guidelines by the 10 most common remodeling project types and are divided into three distinct areas. These areas are:

  1. remodeling projects described by scope, integrated pre-design issues, and environmental strategies for each of the home’s systems, including plumbing, HVAC and electrical workings;
  2. a library of strategies by environmental topic;
  3. case studies of successful green home renovations.

To get the guidelines or lean more you can visit REGREEN at

Make a Difference in NOLA
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 28, 2008 - 0 Comments in EVENTS

Make It Right 9 Eco Friendly Home

We are happy to announce that Make It Right9 in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) has given us our own home to promote. Once you follow the link go down the list till you see our home, we we’re second to last at the time of this post. We also welcome anyone who wishes to use the banner above to let other’s know about this wonderful opportunity.

The home is sponsored in the name all those who are dedicated to having a healthier and/or self-sufficient home of their own. Let all of us who truly believe in this way of life make a statement by helping to get some people back on their feet in a way that we believe in. Showing that not only is it important personally to us, but to everyone because of the reduce strain on our environment, reduce strain on ourselves and our families, better health, less stress, and even lower costs for running a home.

You can donate as little or as much as you are able. $5 can buy a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Bulb), $25 low VOC paint, $40 a low flow shower head, $100 for a programmable thermostat, $200 for a ceiling fan, $500 for energy efficient lighting, $1500 for a tankless water heater, $3000 for the heating and cooling system , $5000 for a rainwater harvester, or even $25,000 for rooftop solar panels. As you can see there is a wide range of donations needed. This list is just a partial what can be sponsored. When you click to donate to the home at Make it Right 9 get an interactive home that shows you where your funds will be put to use and why that product was chosen. So not only can you do a good deed but you can learn while you’re doing it.

We also encourage you to talk with friends and family about getting this project finished. They are over half way to meeting their goal of 150 homes. The count is 81 homes and almost a quarter of the next one sponsored. Showing that this a way of life not only for rural areas can have a big impact on showing the public at large that this is an attainable goal for the average Joe.

Of course they approved The Eco Friendly Home today because yesterday we did our updates. Sorry that you got two updates in a row but we thought this was important enough to post as soon as we found out about it.

Make Your Landscaping Green
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 10, 2008 - 2 Comments in LAND

Green or natural landscaping ,also known as native gardening , is when you use indigenous plants in your residential or commercial landscaped gardens. These plants can include local ones such as grasses, ground-cover, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees, as well as using boulders, rocks and locally found material to border theses plantings. Making the landscaped area and the surrounding natural environment blend seamlessly is an important aspect of green landscaping.

Before making the move to change your landscaping to a greener design, you should look into changing your current practices of your existing landscape. Look for ways to reduce your use of power tools. Use mulch, sometimes available from local landfills, to conserve you water needed for your plantings. Making a compost pile to process organic waste and reuse as fertilizer in your gardens. Use natural enemies instead of pesticides to rid your plants of insects, see the EPAs’ integrated pest management for more information.

Now before running to your local nursery or garden store for local plants to use take the time to actually asses your property and the needs you have for it. how much sun and shade does it get and where. What is your soils type(s) and where is your drainage, or do you need more/less drainage. Make a rough plot map that shows your homes’ location including doors, walkways, patios, driveways, etc. Make note of neighbor concerns such as views you wish to keep or cover, noise reduction, privacy issues, etc. Make sure buried utilities are noted, most communities have a service to help with that, as well as overhead lines. Plants that you wish to keep should also be marked and their full height, and known characteristics and needs. Don’t forget to mark your directions of , south, east, and west as well as slopes and their direction and degree.

Once your map is complete now think of what use(s) you want from your land. Do you have children and wish to incorporate a play area or pool, have dogs that need a run, want to grow some or all of your own food, need to store a boat or RV, need additional buffers for privacy, noise or wind, and any other concerns or desires you can think of.

Now you need to research your local environment. What plants are native, which plants work well together, what plants meet your needs. Going to local parks and nature centers and walking through them will give you ideas of your likes and dislikes. Local park service may even have clinics or talks to help you. Use the internet and research your zone. The EPA website has dedicated sections to each geographic zone and how to green landscape there.

Time for putting it all together on you map and then start buying your new plants. Once your plan is completed go for it. All this work will pay off in the end. As you will no longer be spending 40 or more hours a year on yard work or spending about $700 a year per acre. Think of all those Saturdays or Sundays you can now use to enjoy your lawn instead of manicuring it. Being able to walk by the fertilizers, pesticides, and other yard chemicals in the store. Not storing or using those harmful chemical where our children, pets or even ourselves can be harmed by them. Not adding to pollution of our waterways and so many other benefits can be a power incentive to change to this environmentally friendly way of landscaping.

Making Energy From Thin Air
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 4, 2008 - 0 Comments in ENERGY

Using wind turbines to generate your energy needs is like making energy appear from thin, moving, air. Especially if you are building a new home in a remote location. Wind energy systems may involve a significant initial investment but once you account for the lifetime of reduced or no utility costs it’s a steal. Though the time it takes for you to start making free energy, when your system has paid for itself through your savings that resulted, will be dependent on your system choice, wind resource at your location, electric rates, and how you have your system setup.

Small wind systems can work both on and off the grid depending on your needs, resources, and your desire. An on grid wind turbine system can help reduce your use of public utility-supplied electricity. This way your public electric utility can supply any energy need your turbine cannot supply. On the flip side when your wind turbine produces more energy then your need it can be sold to your utility (depending on state/local regulations). With the interconnections available today the switch can happen automatically. Conditions for a grid connected system are:

  • Living in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 4.5 meters per second (10 miles per hour).
  • Grid supplied electricity is expensive in your area (about 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour).
  • Local/State requirements for connecting your system to the grid are not too expensive.
  • You can legally erect a wind turbine on your property, check local building codes.
  • The long-term investment is possible for you.

Stand alone wind systems are designed for homes, farms and/or communities that are located away from utility lines and located in practical conditions. Conditions to look for are:

  • Living in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 4.0 meters per second (9 miles per hour)
  • Grid connections are not available or can only be done by expensive extension. Running a power line to a remote site from the utility grid can be prohibitive, it can range from $15,000 to more than $50,000 per mile, depending on your terrain.
  • A decided interest in gaining energy independence from the utility
  • A desire to reduce the environmental impact of electricity production
  • Understanding the intermittent nature of wind power and have a plan for using other resources to meet your power needs during down times.

U.S. Annual Wind Power Resource and Wind Power Classes  - Contiguous U.S. States6% of the contiguous U.S. land area has the potential to supply more than 1 1/2 times the current demand for electricity in the United States. The estimated wind resource is categorized into power classes of 1 to 7. Each class represents a range of wind power density at at a specific height above the ground. Class 1 is unsuitable for current and future wind technology. Class 2 is only marginally acceptable. Class 3 may be usable, above marginal, with future technology. Class 4 and above are able to use advance wind turbine already being developed today.

Advantages to using this type of alternative energy is that is is a clean, renewable fuel source. It doesn’t pollute the air like fossil fuels, nor does it produce greenhouse gases which cause acid rain.

Since the US has an abundant supply of wind it cannot be used up. For those who love solar energy this is another way to tap that energy. As wind energy is actually caused by the heating of our atmosphere by the sun along with the rotation of the earth and surface irregularities of the earth.

Wind is also the lowest-priced of the renewable energy technologies that are available today. It only cost between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, that of course depends on the particulars of your project. Good luck and who says you can’t get money from thin air!
Picture is courtesy of US Dept of Energy

Let the Earth Keep You Comfy
by KELLY MEAD on FEBRUARY 29, 2008 - 0 Comments in ENERGY

What better way to go off grid and be cozy then to let the Earth’s own geothermal work for you.

Geothermal, GeoExchange, earth-coupled, ground-source, or water-source heat pumps are all use the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. By doing that this system has a much higher efficiency (300%-600%) on cold winter nights then air-sourced heat pumps (175%-250%) on cool days

Since many areas if the US experience seasonal temperature extremes, from scorching heat in summer to sub-zero in winter, a few feet below the ground the temperature remains relatively constant. This temperature ranges from 45°F to 75°F (7°C to 21°C) depending on the latitude. Think of a cave, it’s warmer then outside in the winter, while cooler in summer. These GHP systems take advantage of that when they exchange heat with the earth through their ground heat exchanger

Geothermal and water-source heat pumps are able to cool, heat, and supply the home with hot water (if equipped). Models available of geothermal systems can include a two-speed compressors and variable fans to increase comfort and energy efficiency. Another plus is that compared to air-source heat pumps they last longer, need less maintenance, are quieter, and outside air temperature has no effect

The dual-source heat pump uses both geothermal and air-source heat pumps. By combining both systems best aspects you get a higher efficiency then the air one alone, though not as efficient as the true geothermal unit. The lower cost of the dual-source system and ability to work almost as well is a strong plus for this system.

The cost of a geothermal system is several times that of the air-forced system with the same capacity. This additional cost is recouped in your energy savings over the first 5-10 years. Since the internal components have a life is estimate of 25 years, with the ground loop at 50+ years, you will be reaping those energy savings for a long time to come. There are four distinct types of geothermal systems, three of those are closed-looped and 0ne is open looped.

closed loop horizontal

The horizontal closed-loop type of installation is generally most cost-effective for residential uses, especially in new construction where land is available. It requires trenches to be at least four feet deep. The most common layouts are either to use two pipes, one buried at six feet, and the other at four feet, or two pipes placed side-by-side at five feet in the ground in a two-foot wide trench. The Slinky™ method of looping pipe gives more pipe in a shorter trench, which cuts on the cost of installation and makes horizontal installation possible in areas where conventional horizontal applications would not fit.

vertivcal closed loop sytem

For schools and large commercial buildings vertical systems ar e often used because the land area required for horizontal loops would be a problem. Vertical loops are also used where shallow trenching isn’t possible or a disturbance to existing landscaping is called for. For a this system, holes (about 4″ in diameter) are drilled about 20 feet apart and 100–400 feet deep. Two pipes that are connected at the bottom with a U-bend to form a loop are inserted into each hole. These vertical loops are then connected with horizontal pipe and placed in trenches, which are connected to the heat pump for building.

pond The last closed loop sytem needs an adequate water body, though this may be the lowest cost option. A supply line pipe is run underground from the building to at least 8 feet under the water and then coiled into circles to prevent freezing. This can only bee done if the water source that meets minimum volume, depth, and quality criteria.

open loopThe last geothermal system is an open loop system which uses well or surface body water as the heat exchange medium that directly circulates through the GHP system. Once it has circulated through the system, the water returns to the ground through the well, a recharge well, or surface discharge. This option is only usable where there is an enough of relatively clean water, and all local codes and regulations regarding groundwater discharge are met.

There is definitely a growing interest here as there is around 40,000 geothermal heat pumps installed in the United States each year.

All pictures are courtsey of The U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Earthships – Another Recycling Frontier
by KELLY MEAD on FEBRUARY 10, 2008 - 3 Comments in LAND, PEOPLE

Earthships are earth-sheltered autonomous buildings made of tires rammed with earth, which are usually arranged in “U” or horseshoe shaped modules. Each tire is rammed full of earth manually using a sledge hammer. Windows on the sunny side admit light and heat. The open end of the “U” shaped structure faces South in the northern hemisphere, and North in the southern hemisphere, so that the house will catch maximum sunlight in the colder months. An Earthship is designed to interface with its environment wherever possible and create its own utilities.

Internal, non-load-bearing walls are often made of a “honey comb” of recycled cans separated by concrete. The walls are then usually thickly plastered, using the pull-tabs on the cans as a lath to hold the adobe and stucco. This is known as a tin can wall. The roof of an Earthship is heavily insulated.

The Earthship, as it exists today, began to take shape in the 1970s. Mike Reynolds, founder of Earthship Biotecture, a company that specializes in designing and building Earthships, wanted to create a home that would do three things. First, it would be sustainable. It would use material indigenous to the entire planet as well as reuse materials wherever possible. Second, his homes would generate their own utilities and be independent from the “grid” so they would be less susceptible to natural disasters and free from the electrical and water grids that Reynolds considered ugly. Finally, it would be available. He wanted to create a home that the average person with no specialized construction skills would be able to create.

Eventually, his vision took the form of the common U-shaped earth-rammed tire home seen today. However, as a concept, the Earthship is not limited to earth-rammed tires. Any dense material with a potential for thermal mass, such as concrete, adobe, or stone can be used to create an Earthship. However, the earth-rammed tire version of the Earthship is now the most common for several reasons, and is usually the only structure referred to as “Earthship”.

Unlike other materials, rammed-earth tires are more accessible to the average person. Scrap tires are indigenous to all parts of the world and easy to come by; there are an estimated 2 billion tires throughout the United States. According to the Scrap Tire Management Council, as many as 253 million scrap tires are generated each year in the United States and of those 253 million tires only 53% are reclaimed by the scrap tire market. In addition to the availability of scrap tires, the method by which they are produced, the ramming of the earth, is simple and affordable.

The earth rammed tires of an Earthship are usually assembled by teams of two people working together as part of a larger construction team. One member of the two person team shovels dirt, which usually comes from the building site, placing it into the tire one scoop at a time. The second member, who stands on the tire, uses a sledge hammer to pack the dirt in. The second person moves in a circle around the tire to keep the dirt even and avoid warping the tire. All tires in an Earthship are made in place because, when properly made, they weigh as much as 300 pounds and can be very difficult to relocate.

Additional benefits of the rammed earth tire are its great load-bearing capacity and its resistance to fire.

A fully rammed tire, which is about 2 feet 8 inches wide, is massive enough to surpass conventional requirements for structural load distribution to the earth. Because the tire is so dense, it does not burn when exposed to fire. In 1996 after a fire swept through many conventional homes in New Mexico, an Earthship discovered in the aftermath was relatively unharmed. Only the south-facing wall and the roof had burned away, compared to the total destruction of the conventional homes. After testing the walls of an Earthship in Ridgway, Colorado, engineer Tom Griepentrog said, “It is my opinion that the construction method is equivalent to or better than the general quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety that is required by the uniform building code.”

Currently, Earthships are in use in almost every state in the United States, as well as many countries in Europe. The use of insulation on the outside of tire walls, which was not common in early designs, is improving the viability of Earthships in every climate without compromising their durability. In the year 2000, Mike Reynolds, in partnership with Daren Howarth, launched Earthship Biotecture Europe, an organization that aims to explore and evolve the concept of the Earthship within a European context. Two more directors were appointed to Earthship Biotecture Europe in July 2006 – Kevan Trott and Kirsten Jacobsen

Potential advantages

  • Having an earth-bermed home with windows facing the sun is a good idea in any climate where heating is required.
  • Collecting rainwater that falls on the roof reduces the runoff impact of the building and may reduce water and even sewer service fees.
  • Having a combination of photovoltaic cells and wind generation is a prudent way to provide electricity in many situations.
  • Using curved modules as horizontal arches to resist earth loads is a sound structural design.
  • On-site processing of runoff water, grey water and black water using plant beds reduces the environmental impact of the building.
  • Rubber tires make a wind and puncture resistant wall. They may be safe from outgassing when plastered semi airtight.
  • Rubber tires are usually free and it may be possible to be paid to take them.

Potential disadvantages

  • The sloped glazing may be hard to keep watertight and in warm climates allows excessive solar gain in summer. In colder climates, the glazing itself, which has far poorer insulating properties than any other component, will obviously be the major conduit of heat loss in winter. New designs call for vertical windows with an overhang.
  • Uninsulated ground-coupled thermal mass presents a large potential for heat loss, especially in climates with a heating season. This varies to a degree with soil type and moisture content.
  • Rubber tire walls tend to lack structural stiffness and may require perpendicular stiffening ribs.
  • The novel design may diminish resale value or make buyers more difficult to find.
  • The intimate ground contact inherent in this approach may increase hazards due to soil gases including Radon, and those due to water intrusion.
  • Packing or ramming dirt into the inside of tires is a very labor intensive process.
  • Many Earthship builders are drawn to this system by its apparently low environmental impact. However, this is only valid if the design is highly thermally efficient. Earthship designs may require substantial thermal analysis and redesign to be adapted to non-Southwest USA climates.
  • Free or cheap tires would not be available in a society which managed its resources sustainably — they would have an economic value. The most sustainable material is presumably stone.
  • Earthships built with concrete, sand bags or adobe, and with better solar and heat control, perform better.

Article courtsey of Wikipedia

Enertia- Natural Materials, Natural Energy Homes
by KELLY MEAD on FEBRUARY 2, 2008 - 0 Comments in LAND

Anything massive, once warmed, tends to stay warm. The Earth maintains a habitatable environment in the minus 459 degree cold of space because our atmosphere allows the planet to capture, distribute, and store energy from the Sun. The atmosphere, like the glass skin of a greenhouse, contains this energy, and thermal currents – the wind, the jet streams, and ocean currents distribute it over the Earth. This system is an example of thermal inertia.

The thermal inertia of Earth is best visualized by using the analogy of the flywheel. A flywheel takes a lot of energy to get up to speed, but once moving only a small thump on a regular basis is needed to keep it going. Each day’s sunshine is the thump that keeps the thermal flywheel going. In twenty-four hour rotation, the planet takes this one-sided blast of solar energy and distributes it through thermal currents, to create our solar system’s only habitable environment.

All that natural energy gave builder Michael Sykes an idea- “What if a house could store and release energy through convection currents, just like the Earth?” So, Sykes set out to design a house which has a miniature atmosphere surrounding a massive structure that can store energyEnertia Home.

Since the late 1980’s, his company –Enertia Building Systems, INC. — has been producing homes that heat and cool by design, rather than through mechanical systems like furnaces and air conditioners. Sykes makes his Enertia homes available nationwide as pre-cut, numbered kits.

The thermal performance of solid timber homes is well known to their owners. Once heated, they stay warm- far longer than a conventional stick frame house. Once cooled, they remain cool. These thermal storage properties, along with proper southerly orientation, allow an Enertia home to heat and cool itself through its design, rather by mechanical system.

Instead of being a tight box to contain heated air- like a conventional home- an Enertia house stores energy in its massive walls. Air that has been warmed through passive solar gain is confined to the outer envelop, and is used for moving energy into the massive internal walls. The heat experienced by occupants is radiant: warm walls and floor.

The thermal current that distributes the warmth is created by both convection and geothermal cooling. Three feet below the surface of the Earth, the temperature is a steady 50 to 55 Fahrenheit, so the basement is always cooler than the heated air above it. Warm air rises in the south of the house. As the warm air reaches the attic, it travels towards the cooler air on the north side of the house (since this side of the house receives no direct sunlight). This completes the loop and distributes heat to the north side of the home.

In the summer, the air that is heated in the outer envelope rises, and is allowed to escape out the attic vents in the east and west gables. The same convection loop is used to cool the outer envelope to a comfortable usable temperature. During the day, the outer shell also provides shade. A majority of the radiation from the sun- which is now higher in the sky- is also reflected by the R50 rated roof panels before having a chance to affect temperatures in the envelope.

In short-

An Enertia house has a massive central core – the primary living space- surrounded by a dynamic envelope, which is a secondary living space. With proper orientation, a home that is built on a bermed basement needs only regular solar input to maintain a comfortable environment. This house requires no jump-start, it works the first time the sun comes up.

This information was generously given by Enertia to help better inform us on the dynamic new house they offer. Please stop by and visit their website if you are interested in more information on their home kits.

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