- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- Finally, we leave you with this cool video about a windmill farmer.
Category Archives: NAHB
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…
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!
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- Solar Roadways – An awesome documentary clip explaining the research and development of solar roadways. I encourage you all to watch!
- And finally, in light of the recent success of The Muppets…
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.”
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.
- 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.”
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.
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.
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.