Anyone in the process of designing a new custom home should consider making their home a green building. A green building design can go a long way in reducing your environmental footprint and as your energy bills.

Trilogy Partners Green Building

Source: Trilogy Partners

Roughly 72 percent of all of the country’s energy consumption originated from buildings back in 2006. This number will continue to rise to 75 percent by 2025. That’s a lot of energy being used! In fact, the average household spends around $2,000 every year just on energy bills, 50 percent of which goes towards heating and cooling costs. A green building design can help make the home more efficient in heating and cooling, thereby helping to reduce your energy use.

Building occupants use 13 percent of the water consumed by the country on a yearly basis, with homeowners making up 75 percent of that figure. Green home design can help to reduce the use of water by a significant amount and allow you to save on your water bills.

If everyone were to invest in a green building, it wouldn’t be surprising to see yearly water and energy consumption drop significantly. Contact us at Trilogy Builds for more information about green building.

home energy savingsMany home improvement companies will recommend a whole host of energy efficient options that should be performed on your home, and usually their advice coincides beautifully with the services that they offer.

No one wants to cast aspersions, but many of these companies only inspect the features that they can improve and do not really look at the big picture. For this reason, a savvy homeowner should get an independent energy audit to determine the best course of action. In particular, energy audits will inspect the following three main areas:

  • Windows and Doors – Testing will determine if the house is properly sealed.
  • HVAC System – A cost/benefit analysis will be conducted between the current system and a newer, high efficiency one.
  • Insulation – A whole house survey can determine if insulation is lacking in the walls, attic or subfloor crawlspaces.

With a thorough energy audit in hand, homeowners can now choose the most cost effective way to resolve their home’s problem areas. For more information on energy audits in particular or green home design in general, contact us at Trilogy Partners. We can be found online at or you can call us directly at 970-453-2230.

Image: Shutterstock

Much has said about the city of London leading up to Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. As athletes, the media and attendees descend on the city, we want to take a look at London’s part in making this the greenest games in the history of the Olympics. Our friends at Inhabitat take a look at three of the main venues to see if London has lived up to the hype.

First, lets start with Olympic Stadium, the site for the opening and closing ceremonies.

London 2012 Olympic Stadium

This venue  is the lightest Olympic Stadium ever built, using just a tenth of the steel required to build Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest”. Although it’s aesthetic has been brought into question, it’s sustainability is considered head and shoulders above the competition.

The Velodrome, known affectionately as “The Pringle”, is the one of the greenest Olympic venues. According to Smart Planet, “The structure was designed with simple, affordable materials in mind, and the building has met or exceeded the Olympic Delivery Authority’s sustainability targets. Only 100 tons of steel were used, a tiny sum compared to the 3,000 used in the Aquatics Center that is roughly the same size.”

Photo via Inhabitat

All eyes will be on the Aquatics Center this year for the Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte match-up. Inhabitat states that “The 866,000 ceramic tiles used for the changing rooms, pools and the poolside were delivered by train straight to the Olympic Park reducing transport emissions further – the organizers want to ensure that at least 50% of all construction materials are transported by water or rail.”

Photo via Inhabitat

Did London live up to the hype? Do you think it did it’s part in making these Olympic games the greenest we’ve seen?

A "green" White House?

Agencies face many mandates to become more environmentally friendly: Reduce gasoline consumption in cars and trucks, lower water use and greenhouse gas emissions, and adopt more renewable energy sources, among others.

But the mandate that agencies struggle with most is one to convert their existing buildings to meet green standards. That means decreasing energy use at hospitals and health clinics and reducing waste at laboratories. Agencies will also have to work to bring historic buildings, and even prisons, into compliance.

Those steps take money, and that’s what agencies are increasingly short on.

Of 20 agencies graded by the Office of Management and Budget on their compliance with green mandates, only seven met the 2010 mandate to have at least 5 percent of their buildings meet energy-efficient and sustainable standards.

Dan Tangherlini, chief financial and performance officer at the Treasury Department, said tighter budgets are certain to make this an even tougher challenge going forward.

But, he said, tighter budgets “shouldn’t be an excuse for us not to continue to find efficiencies and try to create new sustainable practices.”

Treasury used a strategy of “1 percent solutions,” such as installing low-flow fixtures, instituting recycling programs and making small improvements to help make their mandates more achievable, Tangherlini said. In that way, it exceeded the 2010 mandate by making 8 percent of its buildings sustainable.

To be considered green, a newly constructed building must use 30 percent less energy than a typical building of the same size. Renovated buildings must use 20 percent less energy. Also, they must meet specific standards for water efficiency, recycling, indoor air quality and low-emission paints and sealants, among other things.

Agencies need to have 15 percent of their buildings meet these green guidelines by 2015.

OMB’s scorecards grade agencies on how they comply with mandates for reducing energy use in federal facilities, reducing gas use in fleets, and other sustainability goals. Agencies were given green lights for meeting or exceeding the goals, yellow for partial completion and red for failing to meet the mandates.

Agencies scored worst on the green buildings mandate.

“Conquering the green buildings beast will be difficult,” said John Selman, energy and environment program director for LMI, a nonprofit organization that helped develop greenhouse gas reporting protocols.

He said agencies need to think of new strategies and innovative ways to bring their building portfolios into compliance while keeping costs down.

Still, agencies will need extra funding and time to achieve these sustainability goals, he said. And making a business case for these projects will be hard in the current budget environment.

“These projects, they are not donated. Someone has to pay for these things, and that’s the greatest challenge,” Selman said.

Olga Dominguez, senior sustainability officer at NASA, said the space agency is looking at more innovative ways to achieve sustainability goals. NASA missed the 5 percent mark, with 4 percent of its buildings meeting the guidelines.

NASA has used energy savings performance contracts, in which a private company makes efficiency upgrades to an agency facility in exchange for long-term payments from the energy savings generated by the upgrades.

Willie Taylor, director of the Interior Department’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, said the green building mandate was Interior’s most challenging. Less than 1 percent of its buildings meet the green goal.

Interior does not construct many new buildings, and its building portfolio contains many historic structures that cannot be renovated to comply with the goals. But Interior will be tackling the goals in increments over the next few years.

According to a June sustainability report, the department plans to have 6 percent of its buildings meet the guidelines in 2014 and 15 percent in 2015.

At the Health and Human Services Department, less than 1 percent of buildings meet the green goal. Ned Holland, the department’s chief sustainability officer, said HHS is working to upgrade its buildings as it secures funding for the projects.

The department’s many laboratories, hospitals and American Indian health clinics require more resources and funding, and making those buildings more sustainable is fully consistent with its core mission.

But HHS has made progress by upgrading laboratory space, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Laboratory Sciences Building 110, which follows the guidelines and blends the use of natural daylight, sustainable design and energy-efficient lighting.

Stephen Leeds, senior counsel to the administrator at the General Services Administration, said tighter budgets will present additional challenges in finding ways to further reduce the use of energy and other resources.

Leeds pointed to an effort at GSA to develop sustainable technologies that aim to yield savings.

“It means that we have to tighten our belts, and we are going to find new ways to accomplish the goals laid out for us,” he said.


In one of Seattle’s most urban neighborhoods, a small elementary school is trying to wean itself off the city’s water grid.
The toilet composts and treats waste on site rather than flushing it into city sewer pipes. Water washed down sinks doesn’t flow into storm drains but recirculates to a 14-foot-high wall filled with plants, which will eventually soak it all up. For now, excess flows through the wall.

Plenty of “green” buildings strive to generate as much energy as they use, but Bertschi School’s new science building is one of dozens nationwide taking it a step further. The school is attempting to unplug from the municipal water and sewer system to collect, recycle and reuse water and wastewater on site, a concept often referred to as “net zero water.”

The U.S. Army has a goal for several installations to reach zero water, energy and waste use, and last month it designated Fort Riley in Kansas, Camp Rilea in Oregon and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, among others, to be net zero water. It also named other installations to strive for net zero use for energy and waste.

In April, the University of Miami broke ground on a college dormitory that will reuse all water from showers, toilets and laundry for everything except drinking and cooking. With a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers are developing an on-site system to convert wastewater into potable water while treating for pharmaceuticals and other contaminants.

“Water is a looming issue after energy,” said James Englehardt, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Miami who is spearheading the project. “Energy and water are intimately linked. We have plenty of water, but it takes a lot of energy to purify it.”

Despite Seattle’s image as the land of plenty of rain, water conservation is a concern here because summer months can typically be dry.

Proponents say the Seattle school project and others like it recognize water as a precious resource. Treating waste and runoff on-site also means reducing the land, infrastructure, energy and chemicals needed to convey water to faucets and later to treat what flows down toilets and bathtubs.

“People are recognizing the limitation of the planet and what’s available,” said Eden Brukman, vice president of the International Living Building Institute, which runs the “Living Building Challenge,” considered the most rigorous green-building performance standards. In the U.S., two projects in Eureka, Mo., and Rhinebeck, N.Y., have been certified as living buildings.

In Washington state, Seattle and Clark County have pilot programs to promote buildings that meet those standards.

The Bertschi School, which opened in February – as well as a midrise building being built in Seattle by the Bullitt Foundation – are aiming for living building status.

Designed to be self-sustaining in the energy, water and waste use, the school’s new science building collects rainwater in cisterns. A plant-covered roof slows storm water runoff, which can carry contaminants into rivers and streams. The building is set up to treat gray water to drinking standards, but it is still drawing water from the city water supply because of public health regulations.

“The state gets really nervous about treating drinking water on-site,” said Joel Sisolak, Washington advocacy and outreach director for the Cascadia Green Building Council. “Public water supplies and treatment water systems have done a lot of good in promoting public health. The question is, is it still the best model?”

The composting toilet in the new classroom functions much like a vacuum toilet found on airplanes, and it doesn’t smell bad.

Stan Richardson, a school representative, said composting waste may not work for everyone, but it’s a good tool to teach students that there are different ways of doing things.

“For us to do that in the city when you have a perfectly good sewer system, I can’t imagine everybody in the city connecting to the composting toilet,” he said. “We are doing it as a demonstration. It can be done.”

The classroom was designed and built by a team of professionals in the Northwest who formed the Restorative Design Collective. The team donated $500,000 in time and building materials to the project.

The goal is to design buildings that have little to no impact on the Earth, said Stacy Smedley of KMD Architects, one of the project architects.

“Yes, it’s extreme,” said Chris Hellstern, also of KMD Architects. “It’s about getting people comfortable with the different aspects. Once people see it in action, they’re more likely to understand it.”


Here in the Colorado High Country, it’s been a long, cold winter. It’s mid May and it snowed the last two days. Which is why today, with the sun out and temperatures rising, I’m reminded of just how important the sun is. And it’s not just about passive heating, I’m talking about how sun warms the soul and illuminates the mind. I can’t tell you just how important the relationship between house and sun can be. Whenever we first consult with a client on the design of their home, the first two things I think about are access and solar orientation. And when orientating the house, I always favor the sun over the view when a compromise is necessary.

There are some general rules when it comes to solar orientation. There are times when the sun beating down on us brings welcome relief from the cold. And when that beating leaves us gasping and heat exhausted. In temperate (two or more season climates) ideally the axis of a home is parallel to the sun’s arc. Windows and roof overhangs combine to provide both sun and shade. For instance, in the summer when the sun is high and the days are warmest, roof overhangs should shade the house and particularly the windows when the sun is at it’s zenith. In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, those same overhangs allow the sun to reach the walls and windows of the house. The term for this is passive solar design, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s just common sense.

Obviously, the best lots allow for the ideal orientation. Choose a lot with views that include solar exposure. Otherwise, the view and exposure will compete, and you’ll need to make a choice between sun and scenery. It’s always best to choose a lot that won’t require such a difficult compromise. Choose the view over the sun, and you’re likely to be staring at window coverings all winter as you struggle to keep your house warm.

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