Category Archives: NAHB

In Case You Missed It: Volume 7

    1. Perhaps the biggest news of the week came from the office of the President. The Obama administration rejected the current proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline which would carry over 500,000 barrels of oil a day across key aquifers that supply drinking and irrigation water to much of the Great Plains. The pipeline is not gone forever as TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, can submit another proposal suggesting a different route. Read more about the fight.
    2. The second biggest story came from our office. We are successfully packed and ready to take on the International Builders Show in 3 weeks. The trade show booth crate was packed in record time with minimal hang-ups. Anywhere Solar will be showing off our newest solar module!
    3. In other news, the Department of Energy released a report“showing that waves and tidal currents off the nation’s coasts could contribute significantly to the United States’ total annual electricity production, further diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, and provide clean, renewable energy to coastal cities and communities.” Go Ocean!

      A map that shows mean current speeds of tidal streams. Source - Georgia Institue of Technology

    4. Finally, we leave you with this cool video about a windmill farmer.

The Windmill Farmer from Joaquin Baldwin on Vimeo.

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Filed under Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, NAHB, Renewable Energy, Solar

Beautifully Built BIPV (Building Integrated Photo Voltaics)

Here is an example of a solar installation that proves solar does not necessarily need to be installed on the roof. This customer determined that the roof was facing the incorrect direction for solar to work so they designed a practical solar walkway that provides protection in the winter and shading in the summer. It also serves as a design feature for the backyard. This “dramatic” solar installation in Saratoga Springs produces up to 17 kW of electricity.

Moving from that unique solar installation to a different type of solar installation, this great blog summarizes types of Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV). Examples include solar glass walls, solar shingles that look almost identical to your existing shingles and the very cool solar ink that, one day, we will be able to print on nearly any surface in order to collect energy.

In support of that I just recently read an interesting article (found here) that states “the installed capacity for building integrated photovoltaics technology will surpass 1 gigawatt by 2016.” This shows that BIPV will be a new trend in new construction and new remodels. This is going to be driven by the push for newly built and renovated buildings to adhere to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and net-zero standards; both of which require on-site energy production.

Solar is not just for the roof anymore; expect to see it installed on windows, siding, fences, decks, walls, and more in the near future…

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Filed under Green Technology, NAHB, Solar, Sustainable Design

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 1

Each and every day we come across some very interesting goodies on the World Wide Web. Each week we will compile our favorites right here so you can share in some of that goodness. Here is Volume 1 for your viewing pleasure!

  1. Terracycle – we did a spotlight (found here) on this wonderful company recently and love what they are doing. They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again. They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material). For example here is a large tote bag made entirely from used Capri Sun drink pouches and here is a short video with the founder and CEO of Terracycle, Tom Szaky.
  2. PlanetSolar– The logbook of the crew with the goal to be the “first to circumnavigate the globe in a “solar” boat, i.e. one driven by a silent, pollution-free electrical engine powered exclusively by solar energy.”

    PlanetSolar team navigating near Monaco

  3. Solar Power is not just for your roof anymore. Within the next five years expect to see it popping up in your siding, windows, walls, and more. Installed building integrated photovoltaic technology is predicted to exceed 1 gigawatt by 2016.
  4. Solar Roadways – An awesome documentary clip explaining the research and development of solar roadways. I encourage you all to watch!
  5. And finally, in light of the recent success of The Muppets…

    Kermit the Frog reminds us all to "be green" and recycle!

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Cell Phone, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar, Upcycle

The Big “Green” Apple

My recent trip to the Big Apple led to some very unexpected discoveries along the way. Having never visited New York I had no idea what to expect and frankly, I was not expecting good things in the realm of sustainability. I immediately think of mass consumption, millions of cars, old inefficient buildings, and a mindset of profit over the good of the surroundings.
Just to let you know, I was not seeking out the so-called “green” places in the city nor did I do any research prior to my visit. I also know and have learned that New York and the Northeast is leading the way when it comes to sustainability. I was just a plain old tourist checking out the city. Here are some things I found that impressed me along the way.
First off, the public transportation system is in a class of its own. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “MTA subways, buses, and railroads provide 2.6 billion trips each year to New Yorkers.” You can get wherever you want in the city without ever needing a car.
Another thing I noticed was the importance of public green space and the unique way some people have created a beautiful landscape out of a so-called concrete jungle. Everyone knows about Central Park but we discovered a relatively new creation called the High Line.

High Line water feature

It’s a stunningly designed piece of art/urban park. Basically, it is an old elevated rain line that has been inoperable since 1980. In 2009, Friends of the High Line in a partnership with the City of New York opened the elevated public park. They have preserved the sense of the old rail line by keeping much of the old track and designing the landscape around it. “It features an integrated landscape, designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings. Fixed and movable seating, lighting, and
special features are also included in the park.”

High Line

I also ran across a few businesses that seem to be leading their peers by making their surrounding environment a priority. We stopped in the  Brooklyn Brewery for some tastings and a tour. They recently expanded their brewing operations and were operating a very impressive business in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. We tried a few different beers and even though I am turned off by odd flavors in beer I was very happy with the Pumpkin Ale. During our tasting I noticed that they advertised these cool compostable cups. This lead me to do some more research and I also found out that “the company’s brewery and headquarters in Brooklyn are 100% powered by Newwind Energy.”

Cool Cups at the Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery New Expansion

Finally, we went to a very cool burger joint called Shake Shack. I had a burger and shake and they were excellent but what really stood out was a wall explaining their history and dedication to “going green.” They purchase wind power credits to offset 100% of their electricity and they also practice on-site composting and they recycle used cooking oil. In the construction of the building they used a plethora of sustainable building materials: walls made of fiberboard, wheat board tabletops and trash cans, ceiling tiles made from renewable wood, LED low voltage light fixtures, and they “introduced a green wall(recyclable modular unit and pre-grown living system) that will remain in bloom year round.”
Overall, I was very impressed with the dedication to sustainability shown by the people of New York – keep up the good work!

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Filed under Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Gardening, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Outdoor Adventure, Parks, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, Uncategorized, USGBC, Water conservation

Small Scale Homebuilding

My interest in modular eco-friendly homes grew when I ran across some modular home companies at West Coast Green last year in San Francisco. That interest was pushed to the back of my mind until I ran across this story of a 16 year old building a self-contained “tiny green home” in his parents backyard because he, like most teenagers, “wanted to move out.”

That is not his only reason however. In this short video showcasing his house, the young man sites all sorts of economical and environmental reasons behind starting his project. 

He was happy about owning a home but not worrying about paying a mortgage. The small size also limits the amount of electricity and other utilities, saving money in the process. He was able to greatly reduce the amount of waste produced during construction due to the small scale of construction(he only had two trash cans of waste from one year of construction). Almost all of the materials used in construction have been reclaimed from salvage yards or donated from friends, the framing lumber was the only material purchased new as it was needed for the structure of the house. He estimates the total project costing $12,000.

This led me to asking the question: who is doing this on a larger scale? I rummaged through the internet and discovered many cool companies involved in the modular home business, and nearly all of them are focused on making their homes as efficient and eco-friendly as possible while keeping the associated costs for the consumer down(sections of the home are built in factories and loaded on a truck then assembled in a few days at the site – this allows the builder to reduce the cost of construction). Keywords and phrases that keep popping up when I search modular homes include: smart design, passive solar, simplify, healthy, water conservation, cheaper, solar, wind, thermal, easier, and flexible just to name a few. All of these terms are related to conservation and efficiency; Everyday we are told to be conservative with our resources in order to be more sustainable so why not become more conservative, economical, and efficient while building our homes. Here are some of the companies I discovered that are doing just that:

  • Alchemy Architects have designed the Weehouse using an ultra modern modular home that can be constructed fast and easy. They just developed a “net-zero” WeeHouse in Moab, Utah that will produce as much energy as it uses.
  • The modular homes featured at tinygreencabins.comcan be built on a trailer bed so that if you would like to take your home with you, you could hitch up the trailer and be on your way. They also offer non-toxic options, organic certified material, locally harvested lumber, steel framing, and recycled products. The cabins can also be customized with solar panels and solar hot water heaters.

    Wildfire Tiny House

  • Green Pod Development builds compact custom modular homes built for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and sustainability. The SoloPod “features innovative designs and artful furnishings.”
  • And finally, Bluhomes, they claim that their “highly efficient, innovative steel-framed homes cost on average 50-70 percent less to operate on a monthly basis than conventional homes.”

    My personal favorite - The Glidehouse Bluhome

-T

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Filed under Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, Uncategorized, USGBC, Water conservation, Weatherization, Window Coverings

Catching up: Salt Lake City

We fell off the blog map for a little bit there, but we are jumping back on track.

I was trying to think of where we left off, and I believe it was somewhere around Utah. We spent a few days in early May in Salt Lake City Utah at the National Green Building Conference and Expo. I personally like going to all of these events because they are a perfect way to see what’s happening in the green building market in each region and to experience the city first hand.

Excited to be in Utah

I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Salt Lake, or even researched much of their green building market. When I got there I immediately knew I wanted to spend some time exploring the city. I was excited to see what it had to offer. There were 2 things that were immediately striking. The crisp mountain air, and the Rockies. The mountains towering over downtown were stunning. It was a welcome reminder that our society remains immersed within nature, not the other way around.

With all of the building and green initiatives centered in Salt Lake, I would have expected to see a higher turnout at the show.

We learned that the area had experienced a period of growth that The Downtown SLC Alliance describes  as the “downtown boom” from 1990 through 2002. I spent some time talking to locals of the area and they all remarked on the dramatic change the city has experienced. Out of all the development that has occurred, the rail system really caught my attention.

Trax: from Utah.edu

In order to manage the visitors of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city installed the public rail system that travels throughout the downtown area. There have been so many public transportation projects that have been shut down since the economy has been struggling, when it seems that these are the types of projects that can benefit business within the city and state along with the citizens and our planet.

I want to keep chatting but I need to wrap up. Salt lake: a great city. I went for a run every day. I wanted to soak in the crisp mountain air and see as much of the city as possible.

Another highlight was that we were able to bring along the newest member of our team, Tom Ramus. (He is in the picture on the far left) He spent some time with us in San Diego to learn the intricacies of the PV Solar Shutter. Before he headed back to Chicago to get to work he was able to help us out at the show.

The show turned out to be a quality over quantity situation for us. We had a great time at the show, and met some great people.

My personal highlight:  Salt Lake showed me that the ‘retro fit’ for the rail line within a city is not only feasible but can be extremely successful.

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Weatherization, Window Coverings