Green Life Smart Life Founder On Panel At Greener Gadgets Conference

Kimberly Lancaster, Founder of the Green Life Smart Life (GLSL) project, will be a speaker at this year’s Greener Gadget’s Conference on Feb. 25th in New York City.  Speaking on the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel, she and four other industry experts will discuss sustainable design strategies and tips for creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

The GLSL project was designed to demonstrate the implementation of green building techniques and smart home technologies to achieve LEED® for Homes certification. Not only did the project achieve LEED® for Homes certification, but was rated by the US Green Building Council as Gold certified. The Narragansett, RI 4529 sq/ft home scored 92.5 out of 136 points and is the first LEED-H Gold home in RI and only the second completed LEED-H project in the entire state.

“Every day we make choices about what we are going to reuse, recharge and recycle in our home. By being aware of the impact of the choices you make, whether it is the amount of energy a device consumes or where it ends up at end of life, we can all minimize our environmental footprint,” stated Lancaster.

Lancaster is also the founder of Caster Communications, a full service public relations firm specializing in consumer electronics, clean technology and sustainable design. Caster Communications was the development and marketing team for the Green Life Smart Life project.

The Greener Gadgets Conference, sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) will cover issues on energy efficiency and sustainable design, along with innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will emphasize ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

Abby’s Blog: Moving in and new furniture

We moved into our new house yesterday – I was so excited to play in my new room and use my new desk from Circle Furniture.  My brother Max got bunk beds for his room, they are red and he loves them.  Mommy and Daddy are still busy unpacking and cleaning but we are all super happy to be in our new home. 

Posted by: Abby, Age 6


Come tour our green building project on Dec. 12th

The road to getting this house build has no doubt been a long, bumpy one, but it has been a trip nevertheless. We are officially in the final stages of our LEED-H certification process. This week our final binder with our application and every piece of documentation possible went out to the fine people at Conservation Services Group (here is an apology in advance for whoever has to carry that massive box!). On the 20th we will have our final inspection, and we will be announcing our certification at our open house events in early December.

If you have some time, be sure to check out our Galleries and see the whole process take shape.

So – you’ve been following us for the past year and we want to thank each and every one of you out there. If you live in the area, we are hosting an Open House on Saturday, December 12th starting at 10am. At the open house, you will be able to take a tour through the house and see firsthand how everything came together to create this green home. More details to come, but leave us a comment if you are interested in coming!

Electrical wiring considerations in a LEED project

If you’re building a green home, there’s one subcontractor that is going to have a harder time adopting green building methods than the others, and that is your electrician.

Why you may ask?

These guys are generally old school, the young guys who work for them, they learned the old school way. That means wires everywhere, overrun everything just in case and to cover the electrical code and challenging inspectors. They’re also used to homeowners (wives in particular, not that I am ackowledging my issues) who change their mind on the locations of fixtures.

But having just gone through this process, and working with an old school electrician guided by my young, eco consciuos electrical systems contractor (ESC), I’ve learned you must always work with subs who share your vision because if you don’t your project will never quite come out the way you intended.

For electricians who find themselves working on a green building project there are a number of areas we’re they can approach jobs from different perspective:

  1. Layout: Establish your pathways as far ahead of actual construction as you can. In a green home, chances are your client will be thinking about these things further out, since every amount and type of material used in the home can positively or negatively impact its LEED® for Homes (or competitive equivalent) rating. Planning for everything from lighting to appliance to equipment ahead of time can shorten wire runs, material usage, and time on a job.
  2. Materials: Wire for present day code and wiring needs, but run conduit for future proofing especially in homes or projects that are getting spray foam insulation.  Plan your wire runs so you aren’t left with extra wire that will be wasted in a back room, just to be tossed becaase wire is one of the least most recylable materials on a job.
  3. Lighting specs: get up to date on today’s lighting – from dimmable LEDs to new ballasted CFLs, there are lighting products that can save your customers energy and money, and may even increase you profit line on materials.
  4. Lighting Control: Be at the forefront of a hot industry. Lighting control systems require an electrician for installation and wiring, get certified, companies like Lutron and Control4 have certification programs that can bring lighting control into your business – again an opportunity for profit for you and energy savings for your customers.

Last tips, be clean. Electricians are notoriusly messy on jobs and leave behind the plethora of carboard, wire cuts, shredded peels and anchor nails wherever they may fall. Getting these scraps into the proper recycling containers means your contributing to the waste management program on the project.

The way I see it, this isn’t just about electricians opening their eyes to whole new practices but evolving, as the rest of have, into an era of responsibility and competition.

Time to step up.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter : newscaster

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

Reducing and Centralizing Wiring for a LEED Home

When Kimberly and Joe Hageman approached me to work on their Green Life Smart Life project, they told me their goal was to show how green lifestyles and digital lifestyles could happily coexist. Immediately, my mind focused on lighting control and HVAC control, which together account for around 90 percent of the energy consumption in an average home.

Leviton structured wiring boxes

Leviton structured wiring boxes

Traditionally, custom integrators have focused on the ease-of-use and convenience that lighting and HVAC control systems can provide. My thoughts turned to shifting the focus of these subsystems towards enabling energy-efficient operation of lights and climate control.

Kim and Joe agreed, but they wanted to go further: They wanted a green infrastructure, too.

Now here was something I’d never encountered. But it made me realize for the first time that installing a system in a green home isn’t started by making “green” product choices. It starts with the home systems’ design. It requires careful planning and coordination with the homeowner, the architect, the interior designer, and the other trades before a single wire is run.

With full knowledge that a possibly arduous path lay before us, the Hagemans and I set out to devise a green wiring solution.

These were new criteria that I hadn’t worked with before. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the custom business, it’s that you need to be versatile, able to make changes on the fly and, most importantly, be willing to accommodate each project and its unique requirements. This was just another in a long line of curveballs I’d encountered throughout my career, and it’s always rewarding to put the barrel on the ball.

We examined our traditional solution approach, and determined the environmental impacts. This was a highly useful exercise in and of itself, because going forward now I’ll know what impact my most commonly used products and materials would have in a green installation.

We investigated “green” cabling, which uses halogen-free plastic jackets that are still not terribly earth-friendly, but a bit less hostile to the earth all the same. Turns out, the Europeans like it, but you can’t get it in America. Believe me, we looked, and no warehouse we could find carries it.

So our attention turned to another requirement: using as little cable as possible. That meant both fewer cables and the shortest possible runs.

“Fewer cables”, of course, runs counter to the time-honored custom integration strategy of installing more wire than is necessary in order to ostensibly future-proof a system (and to cover your bases in case an unexpected change in the installation arises after the cabling has already been installed). I was lucky in this instance; unlike many clients, Kim and Joe, not only no strangers to tech but also passionate about it, knew pretty well before construction started what they wanted in each room and location. We just ran whatever the expected hardware in each location would require, and nothing more.

Centralized wire runs

Centralized wire runs

We also had another trick up our sleeve: conduit. We ran Carlon® Resi-Gard® to our critical locations and just enough cable through the conduit as we thought we needed. And if we needed to run more cable later, we wouldn’t need to tear open the walls. We could just snake it through the conduit. Essentially, the conduit makes the system inherently future-proof and cuts down on unnecessary use of cable. Additionally, you’re not going to be in a position where you need to cut into drywall later to add wiring. An empty (or semi-empty) pipe is as good as it gets.

Which brings me to my next point about green wiring (and, in fact, any wiring job): Establish your cabling pathways as far ahead of actual construction as you can. In a green home, chances are your client will be thinking about these things further out, since every amount and type of material used in the home can positively or negatively impact its LEED® for Homes (or competitive equivalent) rating. The other tradespeople will appreciate it as well, and you can build more solid relationships and channels of communication with them.

This was especially key in the Green Life Smart Life house in terms of assuring the shortest possible cable runs. Because we were involved so early in the process, we got preferential treatment for locating the head-end of the system. After evaluating the placement of the entertainment systems, we figured out a spot in the basement that would be the shortest distance from all points. As a result, our racks are located directly below the main entertainment area, which is directly below the master bedroom and adjacent to the main utility room where all of the electrical boxes and lighting control system would be housed. Everything shares a common wall.

Usually, we’re the last ones in, we run our cables after all the other trades’ wiring, venting and pipes are installed, and we have to take what we can get in terms of placing our gear. In this case, however: paradise. Because we are professionals and try to be as courteous to the other trades as possible, we made sure our impact was manageable for the other trades.

Another happy circumstance from both a green and an interior design perspective is that we don’t have any local entertainment equipment aside from displays. We centralized content and control in our head-end equipment room. This cuts down on the cabling required and eliminates excess heat generated from typical AV equipment into a finished room (which has dual benefits since we are directing the heat into the generally cool, unfinished utility space and the living spaces do not have to compensate with cooling for the equipment heat).

Lutron lighting control panels, centralized to hub

Lutron lighting control panels, centralized to hub

I was intrigued to find that the most significant impact we were able to make on this project in its course toward a more sustainable guide, was in the planning.  I was truly amazed that when we tallied the completed wire runs, and compared it to both similarly sized homes and similarly sized projects with home control and entertainment systems, we reduced the amount of wire installed on the project by 52%. By thinking about how we could take the most conservative approach, the application of a well thought plan was the most powerful thing we could do.  I was inspired to learn more about the principles of “green” design.  The project itself exposed me to the application process for LEED® accreditation, and through it, the instrumentation and measurement of the gains realized by good design.  Myself, I’ve taken an interest in the process, and l am beginning to appreciate the value that could be held as a building and energy analyst. 

My involvement in the Green Life Smart Life project was a terrific experience because it allowed me to reexamine the way in which we make decisions and re-value the criteria on which our projects and process are based. It’s certainly affected our typical project. Going forward, what I learned on this project will inform all of my future installations—and not just the green ones. This was a highly rewarding exercise and I’m happy to share what I learned with the custom integration community. Our last step, we are going to submit this plan for a LEED-H Innovation and Design point. This has no precedent so it has to be evaluated, but we will let you know the findings.

By Jeff Mitchell, Robert Saglio Audio Video and Lead Integrator for Green Life Smart Life. Jeff is a CEDIA certified installer and a member of the CEA TechHome. He has been with Robert Saglio AV for more than ten years.  Follow Jeff on Twitter : @audiojeff


Smart Technology? How about an email alert from your door lock when the kids get home from school.

We selected Kwikset SmartCode with Home Connect Technology keyless entry electronic locks for our most traversed entry doors to the home. Since the locks have  interoperability with our Control4 home automation and DSC security systems, they can communicate wirelessly with other devices in our home to deliver a variety of access and control options.

 The lock offers true remote locking and unlocking features due to its motorized deadbolt allowing homeowners to monitor and control their locks using either a Web-enabled device or their home automation system. The lock will allow us to check door lock status, automatically arm and disarm the security system, and initiate customized scenes upon entrance and exit when integrated with Control4. We can even program the locks to send out email alerts that notify us when the kids get home from school (when they get older of course) or more appropriate, notify my if my three year old opens a door he is not supposed to, such as the wine cellar.  

Using a customizable code, we can arm our home security system when the door is locked and disarm the system when the door is unlocked. Installation is simple as the lock simply replaces any existing deadbolt and operates on four AA batteries, thus eliminating the need for hardwiring. The lock even has the ability to accept automatic software updates, and all wireless communication between devices remains secure by utilizing 128 bit encryption.

 We even were able to get the locks in the antique bronze color to keep in style with the house.

I love technology.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter : newscaster