Greener Product – a green building resource

One of the most challenging things about working on a LEED or other green building project can be sourcing materials and specifying products that will not only gain points in a certification program but also represent the level of sustainability desired.  If there are limited LEED experts in a given area, that challenge only grows for builders, architects, homeowners and contractors.  That’s why when I first stumbled across Greener Product, I thought it was a perfect solution for these resource problems.   Greener Product’s online provides architects, builders and the public a quick and easy online platform for searching and evaluating “green” products according to the Internationally recognized United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The database can search by location and determine if the product meets the 500 miles radius requirement that LEED often provides for products used in a project. It will also give the user a checklist of the products in each search, letting them know if the product has recycled content, low VOCs, certified wood and if it’s rapidly renewable.  Maybe one of the most useful features, Greener Product shows the number of points that can be achieved by using a product.

From the Greener Product website:

Greener Product, LLC identified this problem and over the past year has developed a “game changing” web based platform designed specifically for LEED AP’s, architects and builders to identify green building products. This free service platform allows for the building specifiers to quickly search for green building products and then once identified evaluate those product against the LEED standards.

The online service is a platform for manufacturers to “tell their green story” directly to the largest group of American building specifiers. The products are registered on the Greener Product, LLC web site and presented to the LEED community for final consideration. Then the products are evaluated (against the LEED standards) and  the information is prepared in a report supported by copies of independent 3rd party certificates (FSC, CARB, Greenguard, Blue Angel, etc), laboratory testing reports, product environmental attributes, LEED credit and inserted into a comprehensive report ready for submission into the architects project file.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

RIGBC to host First Annual Meeting

The U.S. Green Building Council – Rhode Island Chapter (Chapter) will celebrate the success of its inaugural year at its First Annual Members’ Meeting on February 9th starting at 5PM at the new FM Global headquarters in Johnston, RI.

In a year epitomized by rapid response to an escalating demand for educational seminars, professional workshops, green building tours, and advocacy efforts with the RI legislature and the Governor, the Chapter, led by Founder Connie McGreavy, looks to 2010 as a solidifying year for the organization.

The First Annual Meeting will be both a look back at 2009 and a look forward to 2010. The event will showcase a gallery of some of the best, green building projects completed in Rhode Island, designed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s high performance LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard. Members and others will also be treated to a multimedia presentation of FM GLobal’s LEED Gold facility.

 “One of the Chapter’s main initiatives in 2010 will be the launch of its  virtual Green Marketplace, a website to guide people in their selection of verifiable green building products as well as profile LEED projects that feature multiple building types and local green service providers in standardized formats,” said McGreavy. Attendees will get a sneak peek of the new website design.

 William Sisson of United Technologies Corporation will keynote the Annual Meeting and address the topic “Transforming the Market for Energy Efficiency in Buildings – A Global Perspective”.  Sisson, who is presently the Director, Sustainability for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Buildings Program, will offer strategic insight on how Rhode Island can develop a road map for a green and healthy economy. UTC is a research facility and manufacturer of heating/cooling equipment, fuel cells and building systems.

McGreavy noted, “The RI Green Building Council must accelerate its work to advance the state’s awareness and opportunities for education regarding green building. This past year has been a tremendous success but we are looking to increase our presence in the form of membership, volunteers and sponsors in order to keep up with demand for information and services. Our Annual Meeting will be a great opportunity to meet with peers, network and gain insight into the future of Rhode Island’s green building economy.”

For more information or to register for the event, visit the Chapter’s website at www.usgbcri.org.

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | Twitter

LEED for Homes Point by Point: Innovation & Design

Innovation & Design :: 9 points achieved out of 11 points available ::

We achieved 9 out of the 11 available points in this category. ID 1.3 Professional Credentialed with respect to LEED for Homes is apparently not available yet although we are using one (I believe this is in effect for applications made since mid-2009).  We also missed ID 1.5 which is building orientation for solar design because of the number of east facing windows (it faces Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge) – I make no excuses for our choice.

One of the most important aspects of ID is the quality management and durability planning. From the very beginning of our project, we created a Durability Checklist; we then used that as a working document to assign Scope of Works and as a checklist to make sure things were getting done as planned. Incorporated into our building contract, the checklist did evolve as the house was built taking into account any in field changes, additions or deletions.

The third portion is ID 3 which are Innovative Design – four points that are based on truly innovative or regional practices implemented on our project. We’ve been working on 3 of these points from the very beginning. The first point is Energy Management and involves the installation of a system that provides us as the homeowner’s automated control over various loads in the house. Having installed Control4 for home automation and Lutron for lighting control, our system is comprehensive, managing both individual loads and grouped system loads. The Control4 system controls the five-zone Geothermal HVAC system. We can access, control and manage any of the five zones from any of the access points in the house. Control4 includes pre programmed set scenes, timed programming, shutdown, individual temperature control and management of every zone.

The Control4 user interface has multiple options which includes ten touch screens located in each of the following rooms (front entry, kitchen (plus on wall tablet), guest room, children’s rooms (2), master bedroom, unfinished bonus room); remote controls in the living room, master and guest room, side table tablets in the master bedroom and on any PC in the house which includes the office. The interface displays information by the top eight monitored loads broken down to primary categories including: (1) lighting control system, (2) HVAC system, (3) entertainment system rack, (4) televisions, (5) kitchen refrigerator (6) pantry refrigerator (7) entertainment system rack, and (8) charging station. The energy management point takes into account al of the access and control from above and then measures how well the information is supplied to the homeowner. In our case, Control4 aggregates energy usage hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month. Information can be reported in graphs by time or by load. The system can also recognize and communicate areas of consumption that can be lowered to conserve energy and save money. These two points we won’t officially know the decision of the USGBC technical review committee for approximately another 90 days.

The third point we applied for was our “Wiring for a Green Home” plan, which saved us 52% of the materials used on a comparable project of size, scope and system requirements as determined by our electrical systems contractor. When we were told we’d have to wait 90 days to hear about the here open ID points, we said, well go ahead and submit anyway but what else can we do and we applied for 1.5 points for exemplary performance in MR 2.2 which was our use of environmentally preferred products.

The fourth ID point we applied for was for our high performance washing machine which required both an Energy Star rating and a water factor of 3.5 . Our Whirlpool Duet washing machine helped us achieve 1.5 points for reducing water usage by 74% and energy usage by 80% over washing machines manufactured before 2004. We also received one point for exemplary performance in Sustainable Sites (SS2.5) for attaining the full six points for our conservation and our irrigation system.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Show Wrap-Up: GreenBuild 2009

Having finally landed in one piece (mostly) on the East Coast after a whirlwind week of traveling to Opportunity Green in Los Angeles and GreenBuild 2009 in Phoenix, I am just now gathering my thoughts and notes from the shows.  I have to say, GreenBuild proved not only to be the best green event I’ve been to all year, but the best overall trade show I attended in 2009.  Most of the sessions were informative and interesting and despite some of the greenwashing from some of the manufacturers on the floor, I met a decent amount of folks with innovative, unique products and services for the green building industry.

The US Green Building Council reported a total of 28,000 attendees showing up for the 4-day long event which is impressive for a green event, even more impressive given the current economic climate.  I can say that the Phoenix Convention Center did seem packed although the separate exhibit halls (an inside source told me they weren’t allowed to call them the “main hall” and the “upper level hall” because exhibitors in the smaller hall were getting upset) weren’t too crowded.

Highlights:

Opening Plenary Celebration

The USGBC proved they know how to throw a good party.  The show opened with a night long celebration at Chase Field complete with catered food, drinks and special guest speaker Al Gore followed by a killer concert given by Sheryl Crow.  The bar even featured organic beer and wine, including Bonterra Chardonnay, one of my favorites.  Kudos on good taste!  The opening speech was given by USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi who was inspirational and clearly excited.  “Welcome to all 28,000 of you who didn’t get the memo that we’re in the worst economic recession of all since the 1930s,” Fedrizzi said to loud applause. “Good for you, you’re not buying into it.

Al Gore impressed as always, interjecting self-deprecating humor into a very informative and touching talk about our choices towards survival or devastation.  Gore pointed out that right now, in 2009, we have all the tools we need to solve the climate crisis.  So the question isn’t how but when and who.  I spent most of the speech wondering where this vibrant, inspirational man was during the 2000 election.  But anyway.

(Side note: There were a few protesters outside the opening plenary event with signs directed at Mr. Gore.  One of them said “GLOBAL WARMING IS A MYTH TO MAKE MONEY.”  Really?  REALLY?  Someone needs to get you a computer and access to The Google.  You’re missing some information, kiddo.)

Offsets in the Form of Foot in Mouth

I like to play the critic at green shows, mostly because I work in communications and tend to scrutinize a bit closer than most what message it is you are trying to get across – and of course how accurate it may be.  However, I went maybe a bit too far when I stepped into the Renewable Choice Energy booth and declared, I don’t believe in carbon offsets!  Turns out (heh), the fine folks at Renewable Energy Choice sell carbon offsets to companies looking to reduce their footprint.  Oops.  Well, I still stand by that statement but I certainly felt a little bad about stating it so fervently in front of them.  They were great, though, very nice guys and proceeded to explain that they don’t simply sell the offsets, they work with companies to find ways to reduce their output altogether and then help mitigate things they cannot avoid with offsets.

Well, ok. That I can buy into, a bit.  One of the guys pretty much disagreed with me entirely when I said it was more about encouraging bad behavior and less about saving the environment.  Yes, but who cares where and how the good comes from?  If they don’t really want to save the world but we can convince them to do so anyway, without really thinking they are, then who cares? Not a bad point.  I could still launch into a whole theory on systemic behavior and how it never changes if you just make it less reprehensible, that people literally have to be guilted into change, but NEVERMIND.  I am sure they are GREAT at their jobs (honestly) and I am even going to write a blog post about their wind offsets for every cell phone in the US.  Look for it soon.

Pretty, oh so pretty products

I don’t own a home.  Yet.  This is the key word.  It has become a front of mind purchase for me these days and while I watch my best friend and her husband complete their dream home, I cannot help but daydream about the day I can design mine.  (Or rather, have her do it for me and drink wine on the couch.  Either way).  But there were many products at the show that were not only sustainable and eco-friendly but just downright gorgeous.  IceStone, a favorite of mine since the minute I saw it, is simply beautiful.  Durable surfaces made from 100% recycled glass and cement, IceStone looks a bit like granite but in my opinion, is brighter and sleeker.

The other product that I thought was stunning was Alumillenium, a company that creates distinctive and luxurious metal tiles from 100% recycled metal.  I not only thought their tiles were gorgeous but they have very cool branding which for a marketing communications geek is a total bonus.

I have a whole section for “un-highlights” if you will, so stay tuned for GreenBuild: Some Things That Were a Total Fail soon.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Breaking Down LEED-H – Points vs. Price vs. Purpose

 We are knee-deep in applying for LEED®-H (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification through the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). LEED-H has proven to have a stronger program, better guidelines and more resources (although I still love the NAHB’s online tool). LEED’s third-party certification program is undoubtedly the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green homes and this is what we are striving for. We’re going to undergo a lot of learning during this process and we’re going to share what we learn.  

 

I’ve been working on my LEED-H application since our full team meeting with Rob Sherwood of Conservation Services Group on Wednesday; my goal is it is done by EOD today, Sunday12/7/08.

 

But in doing this I’ve started to break down the topic areas of LEED-H into how I understand it both in terms of what I want to accomplish for my family and how to get points. I’ve tried to understand where to get easy points (landscaping), what are the hard points (IAQ), and how to find the cheap points (walk off mats) and the expensive points (geo thermal and solar energy) and then there is the cost and points of the third party verification.

 

Here’s the LEED-H Point chart as of November 2008 (note: applications that come in after January 2009 will have a whole new system (good times).

Certification Level

LEED for Homes Certification Levels

Number of LEED for Homes Points Required

Certified

45 – 59

Silver

60 – 74

Gold

75 – 89

Platinum

90 – 136

Total Available Points

136

 

Full details can be found in the 114-page LEED for Homes Rating System document.

LEED-H points cover eight topic areas where a home can attain points towards the four performance levels of Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum.

One of the first things you have to do in the LEED-H application process is the checklist and select the points that you are in fact going for and your certification level. As you do this, you will have to determine the threshold level specific to your home, you need to calculate a “Home Size Adjustment” based on your home’s size. According to LEED-H, this compensates for the overarching effect of home size on resource consumption by adjusting the award level point threshold based on home size under the theory that bigger homes host more people, and every additional person means an increase in a home’s resource consumption. The adjustment is based on the square footage of the house and the number of bedrooms.  At 4360 square feet and 4 bedrooms, our calculation added 13.5 points to all of the certification thresholds, which means to achieve Gold we have to attain 88.5 points minimum. Platinum for GLSL means 103.5 points, which in a 136-point rating system with some points that simply are not achievable (see my post on the delusional Compact Development points) will be very hard unless we put in a geo-thermal system.

In order to achieve LEED-H points, we have to provide both the prescriptive pathway of how we’re achieving the point and document the actual process, materials, specifications, etc. for every point in every category. This can be overwhelming, but is also incredibly educational, thought-provoking and inspirational. I can honestly say that despite

 

I’ve also decided to create our own list of where we can get innovative points but I iwll share that at a later date. 

 

Here’s an overview of what we’re trying to accomplish.

 

Innovation in Design :: 0 point minimum/ 11 point maximum ::  Use a LEED Accredited Professional, greatly exceed the requirements of a credit, incorporate innovative environmental features not covered in other areas. Target your preliminary rating. We’re looking at exploring Greening Your Entertainment and Home Automation for Energy Savings as two innovative ways to go greener. We’re also putting in some fun stuff for the kids about how to take of the earth and wondering if that might get a smile or two.

Location and Linkages ::  0 point minimum / 10 point maximum ::  All about the urban infrastructure/density, favors urban areas (so not fair) and green space. Though not a requirement, big loss of points here for the project house because it is in a very small, beach community.

Sustainable Sites ::  5 point minimum / 22 point maximum ::  Site stewardship, drought-tolerant landscaping,  surface water management, pest control and compact development (an item of which I am not a fan at all). If you don’t know what these mean, we’ll explain as we get to each point in the process, so check back.

 

Water Efficiency :: 3 point minimum / 15 point maximum ::  Water reuse and reduction, irrigation and indoor water use (fixtures and fittings).

 

Energy and Atmosphere ::  0 point minimum / 38 point maximum ::  There are perquisites which require you to meet the performance of ENERGY STAR for Homes and be inspected by third party but you get no points for this. The overall goal of this area (which is also where you can rack up the most points) is to reduce building energy consumption, use renewable energy, eliminate ozone-depleting chemicals, commission building systems. You’ve got to acheive a lows HERS score for any hope of solid points here. You’ve also got to explore solar, PV and geo thermal. The latter gives you teh most points because of reduction of fossil fuels (it can also help in your water area).

 

Materials and Resources ::  2 point minimum / 16 point maximum :: Minimize construction waste, implement best green building practices, use renewable construction materials, and design and build more durable buildings. The second part addresses environmentally preferable products (worth ½ of a point each, homeowners can earn 8 out of a possible 11 points here) and includes recycled and salvaged materials and all the cool green products you can use to build inside and out.

 

Indoor Environmental Quality ::  6 point minimum / 21 point maximum :: Explores the ENERGY STAR with Indoor Air Package (worth up to a whopping 13 points but I’ve been told they are very, very, very hard to get) including moisture control, outdoor air ventilation, distribution heating and cooling, use of low emitting materials, air filtering and contaminant control during construction.

 

Awareness and Education :: minimum 0 points / maximum 3 points :: Education of the homeowner including operations training and public awareness (there’s one point).

 

We’re going to keep you updated on where we do well on LEED-H points and where we fail. We’re going for Gold but our goal remains the same, show today’s families that they can afford to go green and that it is an investment in “THEIR” environment.

 

This is and will continue to be challenging. But I am up for it.

 

KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Why to go Green and How to go Green

According to Builder magazine, the USGBC 2009 message is not about LEED but about why homeowners should go green and how to go green.  Their first step should be simplification. If you Google “green building”  you get 20,300,000 results. I’ve spent the last year making my list of vendors, materials and products for this Green Life |Smart Life project and I am confident in what I have learned. I know why I want to go green but understanding how has been  a massive undertaking. I worry that everyday families will be intimidated and lost in the maze of available and often conflicting information. I hope the knowledge I continue to gain during the building process will help more people understand how they too can go green.
Posted by: KDL/Newscaster