Category Archives: USGBC

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 4

To start off I would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season…

Now to the list!

  1. Educational Institutions Leading the Way – Big news was released this week in New York City where Cornell University won a high-profile competition to build a new applied-science campus on Roosevelt Island. The renewable energy sources on campus will have the potential to reduce energy consumption at the school by 75%. In other  educational news, the U.S. Green Building Council released its inaugural “Best of Green Schools 2011” list.
  2. We discovered another amazing technology we are keeping an eye on in the near future. Researchers at MIT have made it possible to produce photo voltaic cells on paper or fabric, much like printing a document from your computer.
  3. A Sticky Situation – Chinese solar module manufacturers have been accused of dumping solar panels into the U.S. market. This has sparked a tough debate on the international trade of solar energy. On one side of the fence are U.S. solar module manufacturers. When Chinese solar companies “dump,” or sell their modules in the U.S. below cost, it drives other international manufacturers out of business and eliminates competition (U.S. manufacturers). On the other hand, solar prices have been cut dramatically due to this “dumping” of panels by Chinese companies. So for the end consumer and the solar energy market in general it is now more cost effective than ever to adopt solar energy. To sum it all up, U.S. manufacturing jobs are being threatened by foreign solar subsidies while U.S. solar installers and distributors are seeing their business increase. More information available here.
  4. Because 2011 is coming to an end and we love giving you the best news out there we will include another list in the middle of our list. Here are the “Top 10 Green Business Stories of 2011.”
  5. President Obama announces historic new mercury pollution standards on December 21, 2011. These new standards will better protect our people and environments from dangerous mercury and other pollution from coal fired power plants. Send a personal thank you to the president by following this link.

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Filed under Energy Efficiency, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, USGBC

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

3: Saddle Up

I just used my gasbuddy app. and I realized when I got excited about $4.09 a gallon that something was wrong. I wasn’t expecting it to be under $4.10, what a treat! Regardless, this just gave me that little extra incentive I needed to finish fixing up my single speed commuter. I had stolen a bunch of parts from it for another bike, so it was left in a corner, minus the brakes or cables, tires or front wheel. It looked pretty sad. So i’m going to spend the afternoon getting in back in riding condition.

This could take a while. But it will be worth it.

I was up in LA at a USGBC event, and listened to Eric Corey Freed deliver a rather humorous presentation about our dependencies, the environment and what we choose to do about it. It was mentioned that no matter how many solar panels we put up we will remain addicted to oil.

I need to quit being a baby about it and to stop taking my car on short trips. I love mountain biking, but it’s always hard to make bike commuting a regular part of my day. So it’s time I just get riding. I’m sure the warm spring days will help my attitude about the whole thing. It will be fun.

I just signed up at peopleforbikes.org and they spout some pretty cool info for you. A blurb caught my eye that said, “3 hours of riding per week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by %50”. What a bonus. And, “one pound of CO2 pollution cut for every one mile peddled.” Bam, that’s enough for me right there. Cutting back greenhouses and improving your personal health. Awesome. Thats a win-win-win. You win, the Earth wins, and bike shops win. I am an advocate for small business, so I’m looking for a shop around my area here in San Diego. If I’m pulling for personal health and environmental advocacy, what better business to support than a bike shop?

Back in Delaware, Ohio I was a devoted customer to Breakaway Cycling. They have a cool shop with a really helpful staff. When I work on my bike, I generally make it worse, so it’s nice to have some people around that know what they’re doing. And they don’t scowl at you because you aren’t riding the new Superfly 29er (or something like that) and are happy to facilitate any riders needs. There can be a certain stuffy stigma around biking communities. Don’t let this deter you, it’s not everywhere. There are a ton of great people out there that would love to get more people into cycling.  The right place will help you figure out the whole mess. Little did Breakaway know, they would be the facilitating my personal fitness and environmental initiatives.

Or wait, maybe they did…

I found some interesting links from breakaway’s website. A large part of the cycling movement is the beautification element. Simply put, bikes and people work in harmony. They create a clean, quiet, comfortable, healthy atmosphere in which we directly interact. It’s a pretty cool way of looking at things. Well… I’ve got a lot of work to do. Wish me luck.

-Dan Conroy

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Outdoor Adventure, Renewable Energy, Uncategorized, USGBC