LEED-H Point – Waste Management

One of the points we are actively involved in, but won’t know the true result to the very end, is our waste management program for the house. We just received our first bill from Waste Management and with it our first “weight slip” from Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.
The average 2,000 sq. ft. home generates about 7,000 lbs of waste.  With the roof of the house being sheathed this week, we have sent one 15 yard bin of wood to recycling. The total weight was 2.2 tons which I was surprised at.  We would send 15,750 tons of waste to a landfill if we weren’t diverting for recycling but I am still concerned about having too much waste. We want to reduce as well as recycle. I was glad it was 100% recycled but it still seemed high considering our order overage is under 4%. 

Wood Products Only Bin

Wood Products Only Bin




There are many ways to control the volume of waste generated on a job site. Careful ordering is first and foremost, by having detailed framing documents and detailed cut lists, you can order to the precise amount of materials you need, which helps reduce waste. Pre-engineered trusses (which we did not do, our roof is stick framed due to the design) are the next best option. We’re also using wood cuts and damaged lumber for  bracing and blocking. The leftover wood cuts we are generating are ideal for fireplaces and woodstoves, so we’re letting our carpenters take home left over scrap that’s suitable for burning; we’re also encouraging friends and family to take their share since it is wintertime in the Northeast.

I simply wasn’t satisifed with these answers so I am now sourcing additional means to reuse our waste. One of the things I’ve found is ReDO, a national tax exempt, 501(c) (3) non-profit organization promoting reuse on every level. ReDO is working to create a national reuse network and infrastructure. Reuse means that you redistribute materials from one who no longer needs it to those who can still find use in the item(s). Another option I’ve found is the Northeast Recycling Council who has developed a list of companies who are looking to exchange materials in the Northeast, companies looking for goods are listed y state with icons identifying what they are looking for. We found a number of companies looking for home materials that range from non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity to just about anything goes with Olde Good Things.

I also discovered RI used to have a resource called Free Market which is no longer available. Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation  discontinued providing this service to Rhode Islanders. Feel free to call RIRRC at (401) 942-1430 or email them at info@rirrc.org to tell them to bring it back!

I’ll keep you updated as our weight slips come in, so be sure to check back with us.

KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster  

Sustainability Works: The Intuitive Designs of Carl Mahaney

“So many of the buildings we occupy are not terribly thoughtful,” laments architect Carl Mahaney. “That has always intuitively felt wrong to me.” Thankfully, Mahaney is righting those wrongs through his firm Measured Works Architecture.

With a sensitivity to craft and detail, Mahaney has designed sustainable architecture projects for more than a decade. After receiving a Bachelor of Architecture from Kent State University and working with Seattle and New York firms for the past 12 years, he started Measured Works in New York’s West Chelsea neighborhood, placing top priority on solving problems through a “sustainable lens.”

The sustainable design movement has gained prominence in the U.S. since the 1980s, led by visionaries such as William McDonough. Although no universal standards on “green” exist, and definitions differ among industries, McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle certification and LEED standards help consumers and professionals uniformly assess the environmental impacts of buying decisions.

Mahaney is encouraged by the traction that sustainable architecture is catching in New York and nationally. But what constitutes sustainable architecture? For Mahaney, it’s bringing awareness and responsibility to his design process. “It means making deliberate decisions that think through the consequences, from each line to each material. What’s the effect on the family, the home, the neighborhood, the planet?”

One trend Mahaney thinks has certain cache is the green roof movement. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there was a 45 percent increase in installed solar energy systems in 2007 over 2006. More than 3,400 companies are in the solar energy sector, and the solar work force (installers, repairpeople, manufacturers, etc.) is expected to grow to more than 110,000 jobs by 2016. Mahaney is one step ahead; his recent design for a competition incorporated a green roof as a thermal protection and water retention measure and also as an opportunity to incubate threatened and endangered native vegetation. “Many sustainable solutions often have multiple benefits like this,” he explains, “which can make them more cost-competitive and result in more interesting aesthetic solutions than conventional building methods.”

Since consumers of high-end residential architecture tend to follow cultural trends closely, many more residential clients understand and request sustainable solutions, says Mahaney. What’s more, government rebates and subsidies can advance progress by incentivizing green on a day-to-day basis. Municipalities can help create demand by implementing green building codes and drafting long-term development plans around sustainable principals. New York City’s recently revised building code and PLANYC 2030 are excellent examples of this, Mahaney says.

The Tree House was proposed for a lightly forested site in Ohio with the intention of minimizing disturbance to the immediate surroundings.

The Tree House was proposed for a lightly forested site in Ohio with the intention of minimizing disturbance to the immediate surroundings.

The conventional wisdom is that sustainable building necessitates compromise, which Mahaney suggests isn’t true. A technique integral to his practice is to study the project site and program and try to coax an essential truth from them, around which the design organizes itself. For example, a recent project, the Tree House, was proposed for a lightly forested site in Ohio with the intention of minimizing disturbance to the immediate surroundings, “much like a tree house,” he says. The green roof controls the impact of stormwater runoff; narrow structural walls, a chimney, and a stair are the only elements that touch the ground. The wood siding is reclaimed from a local barn.

In Mahaney’s Family Auto House, designed as a sustainable house for a fictional family and its hydrogen powered car, water is the main inspiration. The roof harvests rainwater, which is filtered and stored underground as the sole water source. All grey water is treated and reused in a closed loop plumbing system. Mahaney explains that because the hydrogen car exhausts water vapor, “the family is (poetically anyway) producing water for their home” by driving.

Another imaginative example, The Rural Retreat, is a small weekend home in upstate New York designed on a modest budget. The materials are high in recycled content; the block walls, for example, use insulated structural block made from 100 percent post-industrial/pre-consumer EPS (expanded polystyrene). The building is passively cooled to reduce energy consumption, with cross-ventilation and roof overhangs to mitigate solar heat gain. North clerestoy windows allow ample indirect daylight.

The Family Auto House was conceived for a competition to design a sustainable house for a fictional family and its hydrogen powered car. The roof harvests rainwater, which is filtered and stored underground as the sole water source. All grey water is treated and reused in a closed loop plumbing system.

The Family Auto House was conceived for a competition to design a sustainable house for a fictional family and its hydrogen powered car. The roof harvests rainwater, which is filtered and stored underground as the sole water source. All grey water is treated and reused in a closed loop plumbing system.

“Energy consumption is really our biggest global challenge, regardless of location,” says Mahaney. Finding sustainable products and solutions is not always easy or cost-effective, but simple things like specifying low-energy light fixtures and ENERGY STAR appliances, and maximizing day lighting and passive cooling, while less glamorous than other green trends, have an enormous impact on the global environment as well as a building’s overall quality.

“Looking at a project through a sustainable lens provides an opportunity for its organizing truths to resonate more deeply, both environmentally and culturally,” says Mahaney. “The actual practice of architecture, the nuts and bolts, is more than anything a problem-solving exercise, and approaching each challenge within a project sustainably often offers more meaningful opportunity for creativity than simply relying on conventional solutions.”

Posted by Margot Douaihy

Greener Gadgets Design Competition

At this year’s Greener Gadget Conference, taking place in NYC on February 27th, Greener Gadgets has once again partnered with Core77 to generate outstanding design innovations for greener electronics. The design competition challenges established design firms, emerging designers, and design students to come up with new and innovative solutions to address the issues of energy, carbon footprint, health and toxicity, new materials, product lifecycle, and social development. The top 50 entries will be published on the web for voting and commenting, and top finalists will be showcased live at the Greener Gadgets Conference for judging by an expert panel. Awards will be given out at the end of the conference program, and winners will be showcased on Core77.com, GreenerGadgets.com, CE.org, and Inhabitat.com.

If you live around New York City, or will be there at the end of February, I strongy suggest you take some time to head over to the Greener Gadget Conference. There, you can learn some of the latest and greatest in green gadgets and some of the most innovative advancements in green technology and living.

Posted by: Lauren

Go Go Gadget Green

I love the energy efficient turn that technology has taken. I have found so many cool gadgets that monitor energy usage or help decrease energy usage and I want all of them. I found the Home Joule on ecogeek.com. It’s the energy efficient baby of ConsumerPowerline and Ambient Devices. I will let their clever advertisement describe:


“Red means stop. Stop looking in your fridge for the temple of Gozer. Stop setting your AC to Arctic. When the Home Joule turns red, it means you should consume less electricity- either because you’re using  a lot or because energy costs are rising. Plug this little miser into any outlet and it displays a constant flow of data that includes your power usage, its price, and even current weather conditions. If you respond to requests for lower consumption, you can not only lower your utility bill but earn rewards such as movie tickets. The Home Joule is available in New York now, other cities later.”

Beverly Ng used the same concept when she developed her Solar Spark Lamp. During the day it is flipped upside down to recharge, and at night it is used as a regular lamp. When there is a flucuation in energy usage it changes color. Check it out at Inhabitat.com.

I don’t think Rhode Island residents are as obsessed with their lawns as others, but I’m still intrigued by WeatherTrak. Its a software program that hooks up to your irrigation system. Using data from over 40,000 weather stations and input about local soil and plant types the program decides whether or not the lawn needs watering. This is great for decreasing evil water runoff full of fertilizers and pesticides and can save tons of water and money in those ‘crazy lawn people’ states. Yet another ecogeek find.

There are quite a few nifty gadgets at realgreengoods.com. The Bye Bye Standby eliminates phantom energy (thanks treehugger) caused by anything thats “off” but still sucking power, (i.e. cell phone chargers, televisions, dvd players) via remote. The Energy Saving Smart Strip is great for entertainment and computer systems. It uses designated outlets to stop any phantom energy that peripherals use, (like printers, speakers, dvd players).

Posted by: Ashley Gee (Intern)

Abby’s Blog: Kids Helping the Earth 11

While opening Christmas presents Abby decided we had to keep every scrap of wrapping paper (recycled paper) because she wanted to use it for her craft projects. She turns to me and says, “I want to keep this paper to make cards because it is good for the earth, okay mom? Do you think Santa recycles his leftover paper?”

Yes honey, I do.

posted by Abby’s mom for Abby age 5 1/2

Happy Holidays!!!

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday! ~ Green Life Smart Life Team


Do Something Really Good Today, Make a Difference

The holidays are hectic, I know this and every year I get stressed. I rush through everything and then look back on Christmas night and think wow, it’s over and there are only so many left. My kids are little, 2 and 5, and their years of believing are short. I look at how the Internet has taken the mystery out of Santa and the imagination bursts so early. This is why we tryto make the holiday about more than Santa, but about building memories and sharing what we have that others may not.

As you settle into your holiday this week, whether its Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa; look at bringing Holiday to someone who needs it. A neighbor who is struggling with their heating bills or the ice in their driveway; kids who need coats and hats; or people who need food and someone to serve it to them.

Caster ran a holiday food drive the month of December, it was Ashley’s idea and it was a god one. It inspired me to do something as well. Every day all month I donated a Christmas dinner to a family. It cost me $7.95. It included their turkey and trimmings and as of right now I know I fed 25 families of four (I started on Nov 30). It’s not a lot, I didn’t save the world but my children and I did something. I explained to them that we are fortunate for everything we have and not everyone has the same opportunities in life, and it is good to help people when you are fortunate enough to be able to.

Right now there are millions of children starving; kids who won’t have gifts on Christmas Day or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa; kids who won’t have a bed to sleep in or heat to keep them warm. Look to your community to help today. Stop. Take 15 minutes and run by a local shelter and drop off a bag of food, a $20 or a coat. Bring your child and tell them we can all make a difference if we just slow down long enough to look around.

This uplifting post was brought to you by KDL. Follow my brighter commentaries on Twitter: newscaster