New England Gets a Green Star for Building Smart
While planes, trains and automobiles are indeed culprits when it comes to carbon emissions, few people realize that commercial buildings are responsible for 18 percent of our nation’s total carbon emissions.
Don't Toss It—Match It!
“One company’s by-products can be another company’s raw materials” is the tagline for WasteMatch.org, a free, material exchange service based in NYC.
The Materials Exchange matches generators of valuable commercial waste and surplus goods with organizations that can reuse them. Waste producers sell what they once paid to throw away; reusers obtain materials for free or at low prices.
Dear EarthTalk: The impacts of all the paving that is done for new roads and parking lots must be considerable. Other than Joni Mitchell’s “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” issue, what else is this activity doing that will come back to haunt us? -- Libby Morse, via e-mail
The history of paving dates back to Roman times if not earlier, but our modern society has taken the practice to the extreme. Originally conceived as a way to make dirt- and mud-covered thoroughfares passable, roads (and parking lots) now cover the majority of urban and suburban areas around the world. In the U.S. alone, pavement covers some 60,000 square miles, or about two percent of the nation’s total surface area. One out of every 10 acres of arable land is paved over.
Beyond larger issues like urban sprawl and the loss of farmland, paving itself is an environmental scourge, preventing the natural seepage of rainwater at the soil surface, and increasing the volume and speed of water run-off. The result is often severe soil erosion on adjacent unpaved areas. Also, paving reduces the total area through which the soil absorbs rainwater, forcing pollutant-laden run-off quickly to lower ground, increasing the risk of flooding accordingly.
By Bill Thomas and Jackie Jaques
You can improve your house’s energy efficiency—or reduce the health hazards lurking in your surroundings—without investing in advanced, expensive equipment. Here are eight ways to improve your home’s eco-friendliness without hiring a techie.
Fireproof, fungus-free wallboard. Highly useful and very green, the construction paneling called Dragonboard has many advantages over Sheetrock, plywood, and OSB board for sheathing, decking, and drywall. Manufactured from mineral components and water, Dragonboard is insect-free, fungus-free, waterproof, impact-resistant, and sound dampening. Its fire resistance (one to four hours) is unprecedentedly high. And it is 100 percent impervious to mold and mildew: That in itself makes it a healthful building option. (Its resistance to impact and mold make it ideal for use in areas vulnerable to hurricanes.) The cost of Dragonboard is about double that of Sheetrock, plywood, or OSB board. However, the labor costs of installing Dragonboard are lower. Photo courtesy of Dragonboard
Nontoxic paint. Almost anywhere you go, you are surrounded—practically enclosed!—by painted surfaces. Paint covers not only the walls of the rooms you’re in, but the ceiling too. Paints contain VOCs (volatile organic chemicals)—the fumes you smell when you paint, and sometimes for days afterward. Some paints release low-level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. A 2003 article by the senior editor of The Green Guide (an online publication recently acquired by the National Geographic Society—see “Getting Wise,” page 94) describes the air-pollution hazards posed by VOCs in paint (www.thegreenguide.com/doc/112/air). Click on “Paint Product Reports,” a link on that Web page, to get the details. A link on the Paint Product Reports page, “The Solutions” (last updated at the end of 2003), explains how to find low-VOC or no-VOC paints. Photo courtesy of AMF Safecoat.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes tax credits for home improvements that reduce energy consumption, including adding insulation, replacement windows and some high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment.
Remember that a tax credit reduces the amount of income tax you must pay while a tax deduction just reduces the amount of income subject to taxation. Energy Star has provided a quick and easy chart for you to assess whether the home improvements you are considering are eligible for the credit. Get it here.
The credit offers incentives for the purchase of a car, solar energy and fuel cell systems as well. You may not be ready for one of these big moves but making your home more energy efficient has an immediate pay-off in reducing your utility bills. Eligible improvements include exterior windows and skylights, storm windows, storm doors, exterior doors, roofing, insulation, and certain high-efficiency HVAC and water heaters.
Go to www.energystar.gov for a quick link to the needed IRS forms and plenty of easy-to-access consumer information to guide your decision.
In January 2008, USGBC will transfer responsibility for the ongoing administration of the LEED Professional Accreditation program to GBCI; GBCI will manage all aspects of the LEED AP program including exam development, registration and delivery. GBCI will also oversee the development of the maintenance program for LEED AP credential holders.
The GBCI Web site, www.gbci.org
, provides credential-related information for LEED Accredited Professionals and interested candidates.
Washington, DC, November 19, 2007 - A newly incorporated entity, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), has been established with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council to administer credentialing programs related to green building practice and standards. GBCI was created to develop and administer credentialing programs aimed at improving green building practice.
"Credentialing programs support the application of proven strategies for increasing and measuring the performance of buildings and communities as defined by industry systems such as the LEED Green Building Rating Systems," commented Peter Templeton, Vice President of Education & Research, U.S. Green Building Council.
GBCI will ensure that the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) program will continue to be developed in accordance with best practices for credentialing programs. To underscore this commitment, GBCI will undergo the ANSI accreditation process for personnel certification agencies complying with ISO Standard 17024. www.gbci.org
is the place to learn about LEED Professional Accreditation; register for the LEED AP Exam; find LEED Accredited Professionals in your area; access your LEED AP exam records and manage your LEED AP Directory listing
GBCI will serve as the independent administrator of the LEED Professional Accreditation program. USGBC will continue to manage the development of the LEED Green Building Rating System and to provide related resources and educational offerings. LEED Accredited Professionals will not have to do anything and their credential will not be affected with this change. Candidates for LEED Professional Accreditation will be able to access information and resources readily on the GBCI Web site. All activities related to the development and delivery of the LEED AP program will be managed by GBCI staff and volunteers. GBCI encourages LEED AP credential holders to volunteer to support the continuous improvement of the program.
Concrete has been a building block for amphitheaters, bridges, roads and a myriad of structures for centuries. New studies suggest that parts of the great pyramids of Giza may have been built with concrete, predating the Romans’ extensive use of this age-old material by 2,500 years.
The “green revolution” has prompted a resurgence of interest in this renewable resource, which is getting a second and serious look as the material of the future. Advocates proclaim it is more energy-efficient, environmentally sound, noise and fire proof, won’t rot or rust and can stand up to wind-driven debris.
Though some confuse concrete with the word cement, concrete is comprised of sand, water, aggregates, air and 7-16 percent cement. Known as “liquid stone,” the mixture is combined to form a material that stands the test of time.
Jim Langlois, executive director of the Connecticut Concrete Promotional Council (CCPC), sees interest and demand growing, as do Ed and Irene Lackman of PolySteel
Northeast, LLC, distributors of PolySteel Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts. Nationwide data shows an 80 percent increase in public awareness, with 15-17 percent of homes being concrete-built.
An unexpected turn of events prompted an environmentally conscious development company to seize a fresh new business opportunity—speculative “sustainable” office construction.
When Middletown-based Mortgage Lenders Network USA Inc. filed for bankruptcy early this year, its creditors and recent clients weren’t the only ones left holding the bag. Workstage LLC, a Michigan developer, was part way through the construction phase of a new campus for Mortgage Lenders in Wallingford when the sub-prime lender pulled the plug.
Until that point, Workstage, a seven-year-old design-build firm that has earned recognition for creating some of the world’s most sustainable buildings, had focused solely on designing and constructing flexible, people-centered, green buildings for clients—specifically, “corporations seeking to provide a better environment for their employees to work in,” says Donald M. Slaght, the company’s executive vice president. Speculative construction—erecting a building first and finding a tenant later—was not part of its game plan.
But with the mammoth campus one-third complete, the choices about how to proceed were limited. That didn’t mean there were no good options. “When Mortgage Lenders Network went out of business,” says Slaght, “it provided us with an opportunity. Our decision was to continue construction.”
Today, the 300,000-square-foot Campus at Greenhill, located just off Route 68, is nearing completion, and Workstage has engaged Hartford-based real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield to identify and sign tenants for the state-of-the-art building. The four-wing structure—which includes a central lobby constructed of glass, a cafeteria, a fitness center, a conference center, expansive outdoor decks, outdoor and covered parking and a loading dock—will be ready for occupancy in January 2008.
Source: Farmington River Watershed Association
The pejorative term “sprawl" conjures up an image of cookie-cutter subdivisions marching inexorably over gentle hills that were once farms or forests. Many of us bemoan the changes that sprawl has wrought on our neighborhoods and towns — more paved areas, more traffic, more look-alike strip malls. We rarely speak of what may be the most harmful aspect of sprawl, and that is how it affects our water supply.
What is happening isn’t hard to explain. Sprawling development is accompanied by an explosion of paved areas, which scientists call “impervious surfaces.” When rain falls or snow melts, the water runs off these impervious surfaces into storm drains and is conveyed directly into the nearest river, stream, or lake. Stormwater, as this runoff is known, carries along whatever is in its path. That too often includes pet wastes; road sand and salt; oil, gas, heavy metals and other car-related pollutants; pesticides; and fertilizers and sediment from poorly controlled construction sites. These pollutants, especially when combined with low water and warm temperatures, can spell serious trouble for the river or lake and the fish and the wildlife who depend upon it.
A few years ago, many considered Connecticut one of the least green states in the nation. But thanks to individuals, organizations, and businesses realizing the multitude of benefits to building green, that's no longer the case.
According to a post on Auctor Verno's blog, here's just a taste of commercial green building projects underway in Connecticut.
"Donald Trump got into the green game and announced the Trump Parc Stamford will be built to LEED standards and Naugutuck will get a $700 million green make-over courtesy of a public/private partnership between The Conroy Development Company of Fairfield, Connecticut and the Borough of Naugatuck and the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation.
Some other green projects recently announced are either just getting started or close to being finished include:
Metro Green, Stamford
Harbor Point, Stamford
Georgetown Land Development, Redding
Fairfield Metro Center
Campus at Greenhill, Wallingford
Wall Street Project, Norwalk
Mansfield Town Center
L.L. Bean Store, South Windsor
The Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science, West Haven"
Energy Star homes are built for maximum energy efficiency and includes things like installing insulating windows and doors, using super-insulation in walls and roofs, installing Energy Star appliances, and sealing ductwork, windows and other potential leaky areas. Luckily, there are rebates and financial incentives for building Energy Star in Connecticut. Perhaps that's why they're catching on. Want to save money, help the environment and build or remodel Energy Star?
Connecticut rated among the top 15 states for new Energy Star homes, and nearly 200,000 new homes nationwide earned the Energy Star in 2006, bringing the total number of Energy Star qualified homes across the nation to almost 750,000, according to the EPA. To date, these homes have locked in annual savings of more than $180 million for homeowners by saving over 1 billion kWh of electricity and 100 million therms of natural gas.
Energy Star homes are least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code, and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20 to 30 percent more efficient than standard homes. Build more efficiently--it just makes sense.
For people planning to build a new home, or for the builders and contractors out there, there's a nifty new, free online calculator
that measures the carbon footprint of a newly constructed building based on items like its total square footage, number of floors, type of framing material, and geographic location, etc.
The calculator estimates the embodied energy and subsequent carbon amounts released during construction. The measurements account for building materials, processes, and carbon released due to ecosystem degradation (such as soil disturbance) or sequestered through landscape installation or restoration.
Why would you want to know what your carbon footprint is? To offset it, of course! "Offsetting" means calculating your project's carbon footprint so it can be balanced by funding resources or activities like renewable energy, land protection, or reforestation projects — resources that benefit and protect the planet.
It's no small potatoes for a Connecticut school to be the site of the largest solar installation at an educational institution in Connecticut; one of the largest solar installations at an educational institution in New England; the first Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) Silver certified building in the New Haven school district; and the first school in New Haven to incorporate solar PV into its design. But the icing on the cake is the fact that thousands of students will enjoy learning within the healthy indoor environment associated with a "green" school.
Want to start a green schools initiative in your town? Visit the CTGBC and inquire about their Healthy Schools Initiative, contact Connecticut Clean Energy Fund to learn more about available funding, or start your own!