Omni Block in an Insulated Concrete Block

I noticed in Dwell‘s Prefab edition that one prefab was partially built with an innovative concrete masonry unit (CMU) by Nevada-based Omni Block.  Omni Block is a structural CMU filled with Expanded Polystyrene inserts.  Walls with Omni Block can be finished or, in the case of the Simpatico project (see below), left exposed for a modern interior or exterior.  The manufacturer says the material is fire resistant, durable, and thermally efficient, and the blocks come in colors or with special aggregates.

[+] Watch some video of a mason installing an Omni Block wall.

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See original here: Omni Block in an Insulated Concrete Block

Solar Electric Bonsai Tree for the Home

Here’s an update to an old article about a tree-shaped charger powered by solar energy. Vivien Muller’s Electree+ is on Kickstarter seeking to raise $200,000 to mass-produce these little home/office gadgets here in the USA. The new prototype will be made with an 14,000 mAh internal battery, 27 amorphous silicon solar cells (each about 3.7 inches), and an easy-to-assemble tree structure that can be customized. In case you’re interested, the early bird gets in at the ground level for ~$199.00.

[+] More about the solar bonsai tree called electree+.

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Terralite is a Light New Insulative Cement

Portland-based Terra Bona Materials launched Terralite Cement at Greenbuild this year hoping to deliver a product that meets the energy-efficiency demands of the greater building science community.  Terralite is a “lightweight” product made with cement and an aggregate that includes expanded polystyrene.  Marketing materials claim the product is 20% of the weight of traditional concrete and, according to company president Terry Cotton, insulative with an R-value of 1.8 per inch.

The standard wall system is 10 inches thick, said Cotton.  And Terra Bona claims the new product is suitable for roofs, floors, and walls with “increased strength over cellular concrete, predictable mechanical behavior, significant sound control, and is fire resistant.

Terralite Cement can be purchased from selected distributors and also directly from Terra Bona Materials.  Distribution is currently being established in the Northeast USA, Midwest, and certain markets in Southwest and California, said Cotton in an email to Jetson Green.

[+] More about Terralite Cement by Terra Bona Materials.

Did you see this at Greenbuild?  What do you think?

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Windows with Energy Efficiency in Mind

This is another installment in our series called Energy-Efficient Windows 101 made possible by Marvin Windows and Doors. In our first article of the series, I discussed some window basics and how to read a home window label.  Now I want to discuss more product options available for your energy-efficient windows.  When you buy Marvin windows, you’ll have the opportunity to decide how many panes you need and which glazing and gas options can contribute towards your home performance goals and well as maximize your comfort.

Dual- or Triple-Pane Windows

Marvin has window products with two or three panes of glass.  Triple-pane, or tripane, windows are usually thicker, heavier, and have a lower U-factor and are attractive for northern climates. That said, dual-pane windows are the most common and perform well. Your local dealer can help you select the right coatings for your climate; for example, some coatings are more ideal for the north while others for southern climate zones.

Insulating Glass Glazing Options

Marvin can cover glass panes with a thin layer of metallic material to improve the energy performance of the window.  Specifically, low-emissivity, also LoE or Low-E, coatings on the glass surface and gaps between each pane can be used to block heat transfer through a window.  The following coatings are available, depending on window and door needs:

LoĒ-180® – a single metallic coating blocks heat loss to the outside and reflects heat back inside a home.  This coating is used when a high SGHC is needed, such as in northern climates.

LoĒ2-272® – a double metallic coating on the inside glass surface reflects heat into a room and rejects the warmth in the summer.  This coating is better at reducing heat loss than the LoĒ-180 and may be suitable in all climates except the Southern zone of Energy Star.

LoĒ3-366® – a triple metallic coating of silver which provides a lower U-factor and lower SHGC than the other two coatings.  This option is recommended in areas with intense sun and high cooling costs.

Insulating Gases Between Panes

In addition, Marvin can inject gases between panes to improve window performance.  Standard windows have argon to increase energy efficiency, while a blend of krypton, argon, and air is available in tripane products for enhanced performance in northern climates.

Wood/Aluminum Frame Options

Marvin offers wood interior or exterior, as well as durable extruded aluminum exterior option.

Additional Window Options

A couple of other options merit a quick mention as well. Marvin offers glass from Cardinal, whose designs prevent heat loss around the window perimeter. Marvin also offers an Energy Panel, which is a removable exterior glass panel with glazing that can be used to improve the performance of single-glazing wood windows.

Marvin has a fall energy efficiency program with the Smart Performance Promotion giving one lucky homeowner $5,000 toward the purchase of new Marvin windows and doors. In connection with the promotion, Marvin has a collection of energy efficiency and other home improvement tips from Lou Manfredini, a homebuilder, contributor to the Today Show, and host of HouseSmarts TV.

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The Year in Prefab [Dwell Magazine]

You’re probably interested in modern prefab if you’re reading this site.  So make sure to grab a copy of the December/January 2013 publication of Dwell.  Entitled “Prefab Comes Home,” the magazine includes about 60 pages of prefab coverage for the enthusiast. The cover features a “ready-made home” designed by Jens Risom in the late 1960s on Block Island, Rhode Island.  I enjoyed seeing the finished prototype by Simpatico Homes.

[+] Or grab a Dwell subscription through Amazon – $19.95.

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CalStar Publishes EPD for Fly Ash Brick

CalStar Products makes brick with a proprietary manufacturing process and a binder of fly ash.  By using fly ash, the company diverts waste from the landfill (37% recycled content) and eliminates energy-intensive firing — these bricks are cured overnight at temperatures below 200° F, according to CalStar.  To give the market comfort with their sustainability claims, CalStar obtained a lifecycle analysis (LCA) from Perkins + Will and published the results in an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

It turns out cradle-to-gate (raw material extraction/transportation and manufacturing) CO2 emissions for a single CalStar brick is 0.13 pounds, compared to 0.81 for a single clay brick.  Cradle-to-gate embodied energy is 1,203 BTU of energy for the CalStar brick versus 6,251 BTU of energy for a traditional clay-fired brick.

In other words, that’s 81% less manufacturing energy and an 84% smaller carbon footprint delivered with the CalStar fly ash brick.  The CalStar brick is available in modular and utility sizing and a palette of earth tones.

Perkins + Will finished the LCA using data sets from GaBi 5.0 software, while the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability verified the EPD under the SMaRT Certified rating system, according to a CalStar press release.

[+] More about the LCA and EPD for CalStar bricks.

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FSC Wood Interwoven Eco Panels by ASI

These are Interwoven Eco-Panels by New York-based Architectural Systems, Inc.  The company has tons of green materials for retail, hospitality, and entertainment projects, etc, but these interlocking panels would work as a focal point in a multifamily- or single-family project, too.  They come in walnut, maple, and American oak with no VOCs and FSC-certified wood, upon request.  Interwoven panels may contribute toward LEED credits for low-emitting materials and certified wood, according to ASI.

[+] More about Interwoven Eco-Panels by Architectural Systems.

Credits: Architectural Systems, Inc.

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Natural Gas Myth, Container Condos, Thanksgiving Conservation, + Boosting Solar

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Paradigm Sustainable Prefab at Greenbuild

This is a prototype prefab — Paradigm — recently on display at Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco, California.  The modular home was designed by Bogue Trondowski Architects and built by Seattle-based Method Homes.  The stunning little home of just under 700 square feet is eligible for 6 of 7 petals of Living Building Challenge and will also be certified LEED Platinum, according to Method Homes.

Paradigm has Insulfoam R-28 recyclable foam insulation, Thermafiber R-45 ceiling batt and wall insulation, Siga VOC- and formaldehyde-free tapes and membranes, local FSC-certified Western Red Cedar cladding and siding, a window wall by Western Window Systems, and Cascadia triple-glazed windows and doors, according to Method Homes.

The solar PV system is a 4 kW array by LG on Sun Modo’s solar racking rest with no roof penetrations, which is installed by American Solar.

Inside, Paradigm has WarmDim LED lighting by Juno Lighting Group, LG Hausys appliances (dishwasher, washer/dryer, 3-door french refrigerator, induction cooktop, and HVAC system), the Haiku ceiling fan by Big Ass fans, an ERV, a Panasonic WhisperGreen exhaust fan, and FSC non-formaldehyde cabinets by Urbanata.

The home can capture and recycle all of its own water with a Corgal galvanized steel water retention tank (5,000 gallons), Flotender’s greywater system, Infinity Drain, Axor bathroom and kitchen fixtures, and an EcoDry urine diverting toilet for composting systems.  The water supports a vegetable garden with Sunnyside Organic seedlings.

The prototype on display at Greenbuild is currently offered for sale at $249,000.*  But if you don’t get the prototype, Bogue Trondowski and Method are collaborating on a Paradigm Series of homes.

The Paradigm Series currently includes three designs with one-, two-, or three-bedroom layouts of between 656 and 1,868 square feet.  Pricing is yet to be determined but more detail will be forthcoming after Thanksgiving 2012.

*For more information about purchasing the Paradigm prototype contact Eva Otto at Infiniti Real Estate by phone 206-235-6925 or email

Credits: Method Homes / Bogue Trondowski Architects.

[+] More about the Paradigm Series of prefab from Method Homes.

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Top-10 Products from BuildingGreen [2013]

For the eleventh year, BuildingGreen has announced their list of Top-10 Green Building Products. BuildingGreen picks the products from additions to the GreenSpec Directory, coverage in Environmental Building News, and blogs on BuildingGreen. Make sure to keep this selection of residential-related winners on your radar:

Amorim Expanded Cork Rigid Insulation
Website // energy efficiency, avoids hazardous ingredients, sustainably harvested

Viridian Reclaimed Wood
Website // salvaged wood, certified wood

GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater by GE
Website // American-made, energy-conserving fixture

Haiku Fan by Big Ass Fans
Website // Energy-conserving product, quiet

Atlas CMU Block w- Carbon Cure
Website // reduces operational pollution; pre-consumer recycled content

Cyber Rain Smart Irrigation Control
Website // conserves water, cloud-based system

[+] See all Top-10 BuildingGreen Green Products.

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