The growth of green building, why ESC’s should care

Even in today’s unstable housing market, demand is growing for green and eco-conscious homes. More than 97,000 homes nationwide have been built and certified by voluntary green building programs since the mid-1990s, according to the National Association of Home Builders, representing a 50 percent increase from NAHB’s 2004 survey. Further, more than half of NAHB’s 235,000 members (representing about 80 percent of homebuilders) reported that they expect to employ at least some green building practices by the end of the year. There are more than 2,000 LEED Certified Projects and 4,000 NAHB Certified projects. With new technologies like energy monitoring and management systems emerging, as well as a growing number of ENERGY STAR and eco-conscious tech solutions available, more installers are going to be faced with installing such systems in green homes. With the February 2009 passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, homeowners are receiving more tax incentives and rebates on both state and federal levels for installing energy saving or green systems in their homes. As these systems become more affordable and homeowners receive more financial incentives to install them, general contractors will look for sub-contractors who possess experience with green homes. Installing a green tech system can garner valuable LEED points for the homeowner. Of specific interest to custom integrators is that, trough the Innovation and Design (ID) category, energy monitoring and management systems can add LEED points to a home’s application.

Many of customers are thinking about the environment and their impact on it.

Today’s technology products can enhance a customer’s lifestyle; decreasing energy and water usage and increasing environmental sustainability. When integrated to function as part of a home control system operating throughout your home’s living and working spaces, product performance, as well as comfort and convenience, can be enhanced; greater gains in savings can be realized.

Home control systems can help reduce impact on our environment by providing you with local and remote access and control, as well as monitoring of major energy systems in your home, such as heating and cooling, lighting, hot water, your water use and even an entire home’s energy consumption.

Benefits include monitoring your home systems while at work or on travel; returning to a house that’s comfortably cool or warm; turning-off lights in empty rooms; and increasing hot water in anticipation of demand, while decreasing it off peak. Monitoring water use might even reveal problems; protecting a customer against a damaging water leak.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter : newscaster

Real FSC Wood Decking is Green and Good for 50 Years

accoya-wood1The wood for our FSC deck was milled this week and we started the front porch installation while Titan Woods was in town to make sure everything with the project went as smoothly as possible.

Accoya® wood by Titan Wood is a proven “new wood species” that is made only from FSC-certified sustainably sourced wood. Once the sustainable wood is harvested, it undergoes an acetylation process that alters its actual cell structure by transforming free hydroxyl groups into acetyl groups. Because this “modified” wood absorbs 80 percent less water than does conventional wood, the wood is substantially more stable, lasts much longer and requires far less maintenance. Additionally, the acetylation process makes the wood indigestible to fungi and pests, which don’t even recognize it as a food source. The use of Accoya wood will help the project gain half of a LEED-H point in the category of Materials & Resources, exterior decking and contribute to the overall percentage of FSC wood used in the home.

Locally-owned Liberty Cedar is milling the wood decking. They will be dressing this to a normal deck board profile (dressed 4 sides with eased edges) for use with tiger claws, rather than slotted for use with Eb-tys, in order for us to have a hidden fastener system, which is way better for little toes and overall style.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

New Video Up at GLSL dot com

We will be working with a local videographer for upcoming shoots at the Green Life Smart Life home for various partrners and sponsors involved in the project.  To showcase his work, the videographer did a quick promo video of the project and gave it to us free of charge.

Take a look at our video section at : 

Here’s the promo:

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Green Building Perspectives: National Lumber Company

national-lumber-logo1Green Life Smart Life is sourcing lumber, as well as exterior and interior building materials, from one of the most environmentally-conscious companies in the field, National Lumber Co. of Mansfield, Mass. You can read about National Lumber’s green initiatives here.

We spoke with Mike McDole, National Lumber’s vice president of sales, to learn what he thinks of our project, as well as green’s overall impact on his company’s business.

What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project to date? What interested National Lumber about the project?

We are very excited to be a part of it. The project has been moving along at a good pace, especially considering it is being built along the Rhode Island coast during winter.

Kudos to Bob Leonard and Mark Lubic of Merchant Construction for doing such a fine job. Credit also has to go to the homeowners, Kim and Joe. They did a tremendous amount of research and pre-planning prior to putting a shovel in the ground, which paid off once construction started. They had multiple pre-construction meetings with Tom Wickham, our Contractor Outside Salesperson covering South County (R.I.), to choose the various green building products they wanted to use in their project. As a result, the building materials were on the job site when needed, which helped keep the job flowing smoothly.

What really attracted us to this unique project, besides the fact that it is in my neighborhood, is that National Lumber is a huge supporter of green building and environmentally-friendly building practices throughout New England. We are a third-generation family-run business, and we care very much about smart building practices in all of the neighborhoods we service. In addition, Kim and Joe’s passion about building an environmentally-friendly home, and their knowledge of green products, also contributed to our extreme interest in this special project.

Where does National Lumber see green building going in the next five years?

It is estimated that green building products and services currently represent about $40 billion, a figure that is estimated to grow to $140 billion in 2013, with $90 billion of that in products alone. Several factors are contributing to this enormous growth. One, the public wants to be more environmentally-friendly. Two, an unprecedented level of government incentives are available. Three, there have been improvements in sustainable materials.

According to the EPA, buildings account for 39.4 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption, with residential structures accounting for 54.6 percent of that total. Also, building construction and demolition account for approximately 136 million tons per year, which is approximately 60 percent of all non-industrial waste generated in the U.S. Americans want to reduce their energy usage and their waste to protect the environment for not only themselves, but for many generations to come.

How is your company evolving to address green building?

National Lumber has been involved in green building practices for approximately five years now. We were the first lumber company in New England to be able to supply FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified Lumber along with the Chain-of-Custody Certificate, which assures that the lumber comes from a responsibly managed forest. Even now, in February 2009, we are one of only four lumberyards in New England with FSC Certification and Chain-of-Custody Certificate; there are currently no lumberyards in Rhode Island with these credentials.

In addition to the lumber, National Lumber partners up with building materials manufacturers who also are interested in green building.  Such manufacturers are Andersen Windows, Marvin Windows, Boise Engineered Wood Products, Huber (Advantech & Zip System), SBC White Cedar Shingles, Owens-Corning Roof Shingles, kitchen cabinet manufacturers and more.   

What challenges does National Lumber face in the evolution of green building?

The biggest challenge, I think, is “green-washing,” which is what corporations do to make themselves and their products look more environmentally-friendly than they really are. Real standards are needed that must be met before a company can call its products “green,” and right now, no real standards have been accepted by the construction industry.  However, a few strong organizations such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), US Green Building Council, and NAHB’s (National Association of Home Builders) Green Building Program are making a difference.

The second-biggest challenge is the fact that it is slightly more expensive to build green. However, I believe that the more green building there is, the cost spread will be reduced over time.

Do you think green building will ever dominate your business?

I don’t think green building will ever “dominate” our business, but I do believe it will continue to become a larger and larger percentage of our overall sales. I certainly could envision green building becoming 25 to 33 percent of our total lumber sales within the next five to seven years, which would certainly be significant.

Anything else you would like to add about the green building market or the Green Life Smart Life project?

We truly appreciate that Kim and Joe picked National Lumber Company to be their supplier of lumber, along with their exterior and interior building materials, on this unique and exciting project. We are very proud to be a part of it.

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

Day 1: Green Excavation

Today marks the end of Day 1 of the Green Life | Smart Life project ground break. It seems a little crazy that this day has been over two years of planning, designing, sketching, researching, re designing, re planning and so on.  We had a couple of snags. We lost one tree that we were hoping we were going to nurture back to health but its interference with the electrical lines, entanglement of vines and decaying branches forced us to cut it back. We’re going to use it for mulching our trees at another property to help the roots through an expected cold RI winter and some friends are taking some of the bigger pieces of wood. I had to bring my kids to the project with me today. I had to meet the landscape architect, John Carter (who just finished the landscape design for the only LEED certified house in RI) to run through the height for the top of foundation. We were just finishing up today (and again really today is the end of the first day) and John and I round one of the dirt mounds and my 5 year old daughter pops out from behind the tree to proclaim there was a really large poop on the lawn. As a mom, my quick answer was to stay away and we’d clean it up when she started apologizing that she had to go so bad and couldn’t hold it. I wanted to die. I was mortified. John quickly said he’d see me at the lot on Tuesday as I scooted my child into the car, grabbed a bag and scooped up her deposit. And all I could think was, it’s the first day, this is so NOT green!

Posted by: KDL