This Week in Energy News – February 22, 2013

This week in Jetson Green Energy News, New York City is preparing for the next big storm and a California land rush could result in alternative energy providing the state with 100% of its power needs.

New York City East River Blueway Plan

Proposed: Four Miles of Manhattan’s East River to be Redeveloped with Storm Barrier

WXY Architecture + Urban Design, working with local officials and community groups, has developed the East River Blueway Plan to redevelop a stretch of Manhattan’s waterways to combat storm water surge, calling “for the creation of wetlands, parks, bicycle and pedestrian pathways and bridges, and the redevelopment of a disused beach under the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Toyota Sponsors 4,500 Trees for New York Restoration Project MillionTreesNYC

Founded in 1995 by Bette Midler, the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) has launched the MillionTreesNYC effort, a collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and other local organizations that has plans to plant one million trees in New York City by 2017. Toyota has already agreed to sponsor the planting of 4,500 trees towards this year’s annual goal of 15,000.

Renewable Energy Projects in California Could Meet 100% of the State’s Power Needs

A land rush on California’s farming region to plant solar farms adds up to 227 proposed solar projects that, combined with wind and other renewable energy sources, “generate enough electricity to meet 100% of California’s power needs on an average summer day,” the California Independent System Operator says.

Net-Zero Certification Program Launched by EarthCraft Virginia

Currently in a pilot stage, a two-art certification program being designed by EarthCraft Virginia will provide projects and homeowners with “Net-Zero Ready” and “Net-Zero Certified” status for energy-neutral and energy-positive residential buildings. The program is targeted to new construction in the southeastern United States.

National Research Council Report Advises Department of Defense to Continue LEED Efforts

A new report that has been compiled by the United States National Research Council, as requested by Congress, on “the use of energy-efficiency and sustainability standards for military construction,” has reviewed previous efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to achieve LEED Silver or equivalent ratings in new construction and major renovations and gave them the “thumbs up.”

Renewable Energy Breakthrough Uses Geometry to Trap Solar Power

Researchers at Illinois’ Northwestern University have found a way to triple the period of time that light can be trapped within thin-film photovoltaic cells by “manipulating the arrangement of a polymer layer on an organic solar cell.”

Emerging Technologies Could Affect Building Industry Sustainability Efforts

A list of the most promising technology breakthroughs, released by the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Emerging Technologies, which are expected to enable humans to deal with problems related to tackle population growth, resource demands, and other sustainability issues, included organic electronics, three-dimensional printing, self-heating materials, and remote sensing.

Public Demonstration of Tiny Houses in Washington D.C. Aims to Change Minds and Regulations

Boneyard Studios, founded by Brian Levy and Lee Pera, has created a community of tiny, movable houses as public demonstration of the trend in residential downsizing, hoping to “encourage changes in local laws to permit smaller, more affordable living options here and on vacant land across the city.”

Changing Business Models to Embrace Sustainability Equates to Increased Profitability

A study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group has revealed that “companies reporting profits from sustainability rose 23 percent in 2012, to 37 percent of the total” and that “that companies in developing countries change their business models as a result of sustainability at a far higher rate than those based in North America, which has the lowest rate of business-model innovation and the fewest business-model innovators.”

Visit link: This Week in Energy News – February 22, 2013

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This Week in Energy News – February 22, 2013

This week in Jetson Green Energy News, New York City is preparing for the next big storm and a California land rush could result in alternative energy providing the state with 100% of its power needs.

New York City East River Blueway Plan

Proposed: Four Miles of Manhattan’s East River to be Redeveloped with Storm Barrier

WXY Architecture + Urban Design, working with local officials and community groups, has developed the East River Blueway Plan to redevelop a stretch of Manhattan’s waterways to combat storm water surge, calling “for the creation of wetlands, parks, bicycle and pedestrian pathways and bridges, and the redevelopment of a disused beach under the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Toyota Sponsors 4,500 Trees for New York Restoration Project MillionTreesNYC

Founded in 1995 by Bette Midler, the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) has launched the MillionTreesNYC effort, a collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and other local organizations that has plans to plant one million trees in New York City by 2017. Toyota has already agreed to sponsor the planting of 4,500 trees towards this year’s annual goal of 15,000.

Renewable Energy Projects in California Could Meet 100% of the State’s Power Needs

A land rush on California’s farming region to plant solar farms adds up to 227 proposed solar projects that, combined with wind and other renewable energy sources, “generate enough electricity to meet 100% of California’s power needs on an average summer day,” the California Independent System Operator says.

Net-Zero Certification Program Launched by EarthCraft Virginia

Currently in a pilot stage, a two-art certification program being designed by EarthCraft Virginia will provide projects and homeowners with “Net-Zero Ready” and “Net-Zero Certified” status for energy-neutral and energy-positive residential buildings. The program is targeted to new construction in the southeastern United States.

National Research Council Report Advises Department of Defense to Continue LEED Efforts

A new report that has been compiled by the United States National Research Council, as requested by Congress, on “the use of energy-efficiency and sustainability standards for military construction,” has reviewed previous efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to achieve LEED Silver or equivalent ratings in new construction and major renovations and gave them the “thumbs up.”

Renewable Energy Breakthrough Uses Geometry to Trap Solar Power

Researchers at Illinois’ Northwestern University have found a way to triple the period of time that light can be trapped within thin-film photovoltaic cells by “manipulating the arrangement of a polymer layer on an organic solar cell.”

Emerging Technologies Could Affect Building Industry Sustainability Efforts

A list of the most promising technology breakthroughs, released by the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Emerging Technologies, which are expected to enable humans to deal with problems related to tackle population growth, resource demands, and other sustainability issues, included organic electronics, three-dimensional printing, self-heating materials, and remote sensing.

Public Demonstration of Tiny Houses in Washington D.C. Aims to Change Minds and Regulations

Boneyard Studios, founded by Brian Levy and Lee Pera, has created a community of tiny, movable houses as public demonstration of the trend in residential downsizing, hoping to “encourage changes in local laws to permit smaller, more affordable living options here and on vacant land across the city.”

Changing Business Models to Embrace Sustainability Equates to Increased Profitability

A study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group has revealed that “companies reporting profits from sustainability rose 23 percent in 2012, to 37 percent of the total” and that “that companies in developing countries change their business models as a result of sustainability at a far higher rate than those based in North America, which has the lowest rate of business-model innovation and the fewest business-model innovators.”

Read more: This Week in Energy News – February 22, 2013

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Design to Embed Value in a Home [Interview]

I caught up with Brian Phillips, principal of Interface Studio Architects, in Miami recently while he was down as a visiting critic at the University of Miami School of Architecture.  Based in Philadelphia, ISA is a prominent architecture and research firm on the leading edge of green building and pre-fab construction with notable projects such as the 100k House and The Modules, featured on Jetson Green a few years ago.  Here is our discussion on the work of ISA and direction of the green building industry.

Q. What is ISA’s design philosophy?

Innovating the everyday.  We look hard at all the parameters of a project, even the mundane details and most challenging constraints, as engines for creative and innovative solutions.  By beginning without stylistic tendencies, asking different questions at the outset, details such as budget or programmatic relationship can become important design elements which are in turn amplified to something interesting.

Q. Why is sustainability important for the firm’s work?

We believe that energy efficiency is implicit to making good architecture.  Sustainability on the other hand, is more complex than strictly saving energy. We consider the social, economic, and urban contexts of projects to create resilient, intelligent systems within which buildings participate.

Q. The 100k house is one of your most notable projects, how did the idea come about?

A young developer (postgreen) was looking at the typical townhome development pattern and asked why develop projects my friends can’t afford?  So we began looking at what the starter home for a 30-something, Gen Y target would be.  For these sophisticated and green-minded consumers on a budget, the 100k house fills that market perfectly.

Q. What was the key to affordability?

1,000 SF at $100/SF, while achieving LEED Platinum standards, was the formula we used to inspire design possibilities.  Conceiving of a project that meets those metrics was our design challenge and it asked us to work more like industrial designers rather than architects.  If we didn’t have to do it, we didn’t.  We stuck to a simple, elemental, urban approach that resulted in exposed concrete floors and surface mounted CFL light bulbs, for instance.  The green building approach emphasized the quality of the envelope including insulation, windows, and air sealing.

Q. Have you tracked the performance of the home?

We’ve received feedback from the owner that their utility bills are roughly $1,000 a year, which is significantly lower than the comparable home in the area.  The HERS score was near 50 on the original homes, but we have since lowered that to near 20 on more recent iterations.  On future projects our goal is to incorporate more feedback channels for the occupant to allow them to take charge or their water and energy consumption in a real time scenario.

Q. What were some of the lessons learned?

Keep it simple and focus on the envelope.  The envelope is the best way to embed long-term value in a house and isn’t subject to mechanical failure or user choices. This allows the mechanical systems to be simplified and be more affordable.

Q. How have your designs evolved since the 100k house and been able to inform your current work?

The 100k house sits in the middle of the timeline for our firm, but serves as the clearest thesis statement.  We received a 2011 Pew Fellowship in the Arts allowing us to focus more on experimentation, research, and design competitions.  We are beginning to expand geographically while also scaling up the ‘100k thesis’ on bigger projects in Philly.  Recent assignments include Net Zero housing in Boston (through the Mayor’s E+ Housing initiative) and a theoretical project for what a 100k house might be for Detroit.

Q. What are the top three priorities a team should focus on with a green building project?

1) Saving energy and money for the user is always number one.  This means providing a high performance envelope.

2) Every project is different in its requirements and therefore requires a unique approach to sustainability.  Maybe a project is net zero water instead of energy, because of site location or other factors. Fully exploiting available opportunities and thinking about the bigger context of a project is important. It can be unsustainable to insist that every project, regardless of location, program, or budget, achieve net zero energy, for example.

3) Affordability.

Q. Do you prefer to work with LEED or Passivhaus standards?

It all depends on the building.  For residential, Passivhaus is a great philosophy; save energy, save money, focus on the envelope.  It allows the project to stay very true to its core mission.  In a commercial setting, where projects are more complicated, something like LEED is more applicable because it allows for a more balanced and diverse approach.  I think that zoning codes could begin to play more of a role in the process.  How can we find more synergies which promote sustainability within urbanism?  For instance, could mixed use development be an energy strategy?

Q. Where do you see green building going in next 5-10 years?

I believe green building and high performance construction will continue to be ramped up through local regulations and building codes. The question that will remain is what does sustainability mean? Is it jobs, walkable neighborhoods, quality of life, healthy lifestyle?  The conversation will get less technical and lean more toward aesthetic, economic, and social issues.

Photos courtesy: Interface Studio Architects.

Related Articles on JetsonGreen.com:

  1. Interview with a Passive House Builder
  2. Interview with a Passive House Owner
  3. Charting New Territory for LEED Design

Original post: Design to Embed Value in a Home [Interview]

San Francisco Green Architect Gives Tips on Increasing Sustainability through Design

San Francisco, CA (Vocus/PRWEB) April 19, 2011

As the cost of a major remodel or completely new house is cost-prohibitive for most people, San Francisco green architect Matt Hollis describes simple measures to optimize an existing building or apartment. Through basic modifications to a building’s infrastructure, owners can lead occupants to be frugal with their energy and water consumption. An upgrade strategy may range from individual components to renovating an entire structure. Benefits will be quantified by lower utility bills, enhanced user comfort, and the satisfaction of helping to save the planet.

“When improving the heating infrastructure of any dwelling,” Hollis explains, “the first question to answer is whether to modify and adapt individual components or to make a more substantial investment and embark on an extensive renovation.” Qualifiers include budget, schedule, and whether or not the residence is occupied during construction.

“I always tell clients that the most influential move that they can make is to adopt a sustainable lifestyle through fundamental adjustments in water and energy use,” Hollis continues. “When renovating bathrooms and kitchens, owners should dispense with nostalgia for antique plumbing fixtures and purchase new models.” Low-flow toilets, shower and hand faucets minimize water usage. In some cases, on-demand water heaters help conserve by shortening the wait time for hot water and eliminating the need for constantly heating a water tank. If purchasing new fixtures is cost-prohibitive, regular maintenance will at least detect and correct the presence of continuous drips and leaks.

When shopping for new appliances, homeowners should always look for the Energy Star seal. A program run jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, Energy Star encourages appliance manufacturers to design new high quality energy efficient products. In addition to substantial savings on utility bills, consumers enjoy tax credits by upgrading water heaters, furnaces, washers, dryers, and all kitchen appliances.

A building walk-through with a qualified architect or mechanical engineer will generate a discussion on ways to optimize the heating and ventilation of an existing building. A comprehensive strategy will include replacing old windows with low-E dual-pane, installing R19 wall insulation and R30 roof insulation, and upgrading old forced-air furnaces with more efficient modern units as part of a new multi-zone control system. Less expensive and more readily applicable measures include weather stripping doors, caulking loose window frames, and providing fabric curtains as interior window coverings. “Reduction of unwanted airflow is key,” Hollis maintains.

The California Building Code already requires new construction to include at least half of the wattage for new kitchen lighting to be generated by high-efficiency or fluorescent lighting. Use of dimmers, task lighting (as opposed to ambient), and LED fixtures can further enhance efficiency in residential lighting.

Aside from energy and water conservation, choice of new building materials contributes to the relative sustainability of a renovation. Whenever possible, a contractor is well advised to purchase materials and products that can be sourced locally. In addition to shorter lead times and lessened shipping costs, the associated carbon footprint is reduced.

Recycled and reused products divert previously discarded material from the waste stream. Floor tiles crafted with bald automobile tires and countertops formed from crushed glass reveal inspirational stories of rebirth. Clever appropriation of old doors, flooring, and cabinetry similarly divert waste from landfill.

When buying new materials, discerning purchases often require research and comparison. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification provides assurances that a wood product was grown and harvested in a sustainable manner. Low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and construction adhesives suggest that inevitable off-gassing will not be harmful to occupants or the atmosphere. Green-Label Plus carpets are sourced in a sustainable manner and similarly low in VOCs.

“I’m heartened to hear my clients consistently request ideas on how to lower their utility bills and make their planned remodel more green,” beams Hollis.

For more information about MH Architects San Francisco and their design services, call the office at (415) 659-8307, view the MH Architects portfolio on the web at http://www.matthollis.com, or visit the MH Architects Facebook page.

About MH Architects

As a multifaceted architecture firm, MH Architects San Francisco brings 21st century sustainability and design to a range of projects including residential homes and apartments, wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties, hotels, offices and institutional projects. In addition to their projects in California, MH Architects has provided architectural services in Japan, China, and Hawaii.

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