Sturm College of Law | As the “green movement” in America progresses, many devotees of architecture and preservation are envisioning tall glass buildings made of copper, stone, or other materials that will save the environment or our wallets.  However, one inevitably wonders why we are building new “green” structures when we could just use the ones we already have.  Reusing an old water bottle instead of buying a new one is a great idea.  Why not reuse the old building instead of building a new one?

That is exactly what the National Trust for Historic preservation and preservationists across the country are advocating.  America has thousands of commercial and residential structures simply lying in ruin or waiting for new use or restoration.  The catch phrase amongs preservationists is now, “the greenest building is the one already built.” Many historic structures are uniquely suited for being brought up to LEED certification.

With this in mind, the National Parks service is considering cost effective options for many of its historic sights including Ft. Sumter, which sits in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.   A preliminary project is underway to evaluate the feasibility of installing solar panels and a backup fuel cell generator.  The Fort currently runs on diesel and saps power from the local power grid.  The team is considering installing the panels on a pier or on the roof of the museum as to not disturb the historic structure.

The major challenge facing green builders is striking a balance between new green construction, refurbishing historic structures in a sustainable way, and outright traditional preservation efforts.  Many warn about confusing a building fad with the true work of preservation.

These two schools of thought clashed recently in New Orleans.  Against the wishes of the Vieux Carré Commission (a preservationist group that works to protect New Orleans’ famous French Quarter structures), the New Orleans City Council approved the first use of solar panels on a house in the French Quarter.  The Council required panels to be black and angled in a particular way to best blend in with the house’s roof.  And despite the protests of the Vieux Carré Commission, many New Orleans residents remarked that the Council’s decision is consistent with the goal of making the French Quarter a vibrant, livable community.  One remarked, “The French Quarter is not some sort of outdoor museum.”  People live and work in New Orleans and it should not be made into Williamsburg, Virginia.  Also expressed were the property rights of an owner of a historic structure

In the meantime there is still no better way to build green than using what already exists.  Building techniques can be utilized to reduce harm to the original structure while newer and more efficient technologies can be integrated into the building.  Green buildings allow their occupants to appreciate the past and utilize a sustainable structure that has its place in the modern world.

Royce DuBiner majored in History at Goucher College and is currently pursing his JD at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.  His interests are History, Preservation, and the South.




By Glenn Meyers – The annual savings resulting from improvements in home energy efficiency provide a compelling reason to launch their own energy-efficiency plan.

The logical next step is to conduct an energy efficiency audit for the home or buildings according to Energy Star, a government program dedicated to energy-efficiency.

Many believe the home energy audit represents the first step in making a person’s home more efficient. According to Energy Star, while an audit can assess how much energy a home uses and evaluate what measures to take for improving efficiency; an audit alone won’t save energy.

ENERGY STAR can provide extensive information about home improvement projects to enhance energy efficiency, lower utility bills, and increase comfort. For do-it-yourself enthusists, it is relatively easy to perform a simple energy audit. Many sites including WellHome provide simple energy surveys that can take only minutes to complete.

For others, it makes more sense to have a professional energy auditor perform a more thorough audit. A home energy auditor can provide specific recommendations for improving the efficiency of a home. WellHome provides energy audits across the US, and is the leading provider of energy retrofitting and energy-efficient installations.

Jocelyn Broyles at Care2, an energy-efficiency company in California, points out that other basics need to be considered:

“While I’m all for energy audits, I’m also all for starting by cutting back on our energy usage, and making our homes more efficient, which can be done without an audit: turn off lights when not in use. Replace all bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Weatherproof your windows and doors – this one is an amazing money and energy saver.”

Independent Energy Consultants (IEC) who is a partner in the U.S. Energy Star Program employs a number of practical means to lower energy costs in commercial and industrial facilities. IEC begins with low or no-cost initiatives to determine the best and worst performing facilities for companies and corporations.

For inefficient facilities, IEC will then progress through a series of logical steps to identify cost saving measures that provide rapid paybacks. As home owners and companies walk the pathway to energy efficiency, keep these key word in mind. Savings or paybacks, they add up to a very good end.

Source: Energy Star, Care2, Independent Energy Consultants

Source :

Photo Source: The Buzz Kukuka

By Mark Mizrahi | Are you are planning to put up a new “green” building, or retrofit an existing building with new green technology?   Make your life easier and your project greener by considering the most efficient heating and cooling technology available today: geothermal heat pumps (GHP).

For the average commercial building in the US, 50 percent or more of the energy use will be for air conditioning, heating and ventilation.  The equipment, operations and management of your HVAC systems are going to be a huge long-term cost that will significantly affect the value of the building for decades.  GHP delivers the most long-term bang for the buck that you will find anywhere.  GHP is also a tried and true technology; it’s been used in this country for more than half a century. With the new materials, technology, and construction processes available today, GHP is extremely reliable, damage resistant, efficient, and cost competitive.

The US Department of Energy estimates that GHP systems can range from 300 to 600 percent efficient.  In other words, for every unit of energy you put into the system, you will get the equivalent of three to six units of energy back.  Nothing else comes close.

That means you will use less electricity, and by extension less natural gas or coal, depending on where your electric utility gets its power.  If you are going to use GHP to make hot water, you will reduce your gas and/or electric use even further.  And if you are thinking of an HVAC system that uses an evaporative cooling system with cooling towers, you can virtually eliminate water used for cooling.

In the US our buildings are responsible for 39% of primary energy consumption and an equivalent 39% of all greenhouse gases.  You can take a serious bite out of your carbon footprint by using GHP.

We should clarify that GHPs are not the same as “Geothermal Energy,” or “Big Geo”, which uses very hot rocks deep in the earth to create steam, which runs turbines that generate electricity.  GHP simply uses the earth as a heat sink to either store or release heat when it’s needed.  By moving water through high-strength underground pipes, and connecting those pipes to a highly efficient heat pump inside your building, heat is transferred into or out of your building as you choose.

Geothermal heat pumps are ready today to effectively fight climate change, reduce air pollution and increase energy efficiency, according to both the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

GHP systems use the moderate and stable temperature of the earth from about 200 feet to 500 feet below the surface as a heat sink.  The earth is capable of storing or releasing large amounts of energy that can then be used to heat or cool a building.  Conventional HVAC systems work with the extreme temperatures of the outside air, so they have to do much more work to get the same amount of heating or cooling.

GHP systems use the moderate temperature of the water flowing through an underground heat exchanger, decreasing energy use as much as 70% compared to a traditional HVAC system. Depending on the region, the water temperature (heat transfer medium) will be in the range of 45-70˚ F.

GHP systems consist of three major components: The earth heat exchanger, the heat pump, and the air distribution system.

The earth heat exchanger is what makes these systems so efficient.  The heat exchanger is a series of bore holes between 200 and 500 feet deep, connected through a continuous pipe system made of high density polyethylene pipe that snakes in and out of the boreholes and acts much like the radiator in a car.  The heat exchanger supplies water to the heat pump.

The heat pump is located inside and takes the place of both the chiller and boiler of a traditional system.  A heat pump is very similar to a standard air conditioner except it is more efficient and can heat and cool. The air distribution system is comprised of the air ducts and vents common to all centralized HVAC systems.  Radiant floors and ceilings could also be used for distributing and collecting heat.

As you layout your green building strategy, keep in mind that GHP will work with all your active, passive and energy efficiency designs to help reduce the overall cost of wind, solar or other renewable energy options.  With the total energy demand reduction, you can dramatically shrink your investment to be put towards other parts of the project.  If you are trying to build a Net Zero building, GHP should be the foundation of your plan.

LEED Points for your project
GHP systems reduce energy use so dramatically that they increase your chances of achieving LEED® certification or becoming a Net Zero Energy building. GHPs can earn up to 19 points for the energy optimization credit in the Energy and Atmosphere category of the LEED® rating system.   They can also contribute to credits for water conservation and refrigeration management. Some Industry publications estimate GHPs can contribute over 30 points towards LEED® certification.

Utilities can find GHP a useful tool in dealing with demand side management and load reductions. GHP systems are available 24/7/365, unlike solar or wind, don’t require transmission lines and have no geographic or climate limitations.  Additionally, GHPs can significantly reduce peak demand, with less need for dirty peak power plants.

Another big advantage for GHP is that the main components of the system are either underground or inside the building, which eliminates vandalism and weathering.   The entire system has only two moving parts, the pump and compressor, which makes for easy maintenance, operation and replacement when needed.  The underground heat exchanger is made of virtually indestructible high-density polyethylene pipe, which carries a 50 year warranty, and is likely to last far longer than the building it serves.

Lifecycle Cost
It’s not unusual that a GHP system will have a slightly higher upfront cost than traditional HVAC systems, but energy savings, reduced water bills, simplified operation and low maintenance costs lead to quick cost recovery and significantly lower lifecycle costs.  Recovering the cost premium can take as little as two years and lead to decades of operating savings.  Federal, state, and local government tax incentives, as well as utility energy efficiency grants, can reduce or, in some cases, even eliminate the cost differential between GHP and conventional HVAC.

Another key advantage of GHP systems is their extreme versatility.  GHP has been used successfully in the widest extremes, from upstate New York with its frigid winters, to the scorching desert near Las Vegas, and pretty much everything in between.  There are GHP systems at the Statue of Liberty Gift Shop, Harvard Library, and the ASHRAE headquarters in Atlanta, GA.  GHPs have been most widely used at schools and military facilities.  For instance, Ball State University in Indiana is planning a GHP system that will include 8100 boreholes to heat and cool over 50 buildings on campus.

The military, government, and schools were early adopters GHP technology, but now the private sector is catching on.  Big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Ikea are now on the list of GHP supporters.

GHP is very flexible, can be used in any climate and is very cost effective; the one significant limitation is that it requires a significant amount of space to install the geothermal bore field.   High rises, with small footprints but large square footage and high energy requirements, may not have sufficient ground surface area.  However, buildings with large surface parking areas, gardens, green spaces or plaza areas usually qualify.  And it’s possible to build directly on top of the borefield, as well.

Without a doubt, GHP is the most energy efficient HVAC technology on the market today.  It cuts energy use, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions, all the while saving facility owners money through big costs savings.  As the push to develop more green buildings continues to grow, GHP will become one of the most important technologies in the market.

source: Green Building Pro

By Chris Barton | “It is not enough to design purely for life safety,” says Auckland architect Barry Copeland. “A resilient house, as well as surviving structurally through an earthquake, needs to continue its function as a family home.”

In response to the Christchurch earthquake, Copeland, working with seismic engineer Barry Davidson and wastewater systems engineer Ian Gunn has developed a concept design for a house providing a high degree of self-reliance in terms of basic essential services – water, energy, drainage.

By keeping the building shape a compact two-storey form, Copeland says he’s able to offset the increased cost of some the high tech components needed for self sufficiency.

To cope with the effects of liquefaction, the building is supported by a deep reinforced concrete raft foundation slab. The steel and timber framed superstructure is securely bolted to the foundations, braced seismically and sheathed in plywood. The result is a rigid box structure, highly resistant to ground forces.

The lightweight cladding system (such as profiled metal sheeting or timber weatherboards) incorporates a rain cavity and is fixed onto the plywood sheathing, which also acts as a rigid air barrier.

The roof, supported by light steel or timber beams is also lightweight, and designed with a minimum of joints. Davidson points out that heavy and potentially unstable materials such as bricks and clay tiles are best avoided when designing for earthquake resilience.

Rainwater is collected from the roof and used for flushing toilets and for general supply in an emergency. A backup hand-pump is installed to fill the header tank during a prolonged power failure – providing water pressure for the home’s taps.

Mains water supply will provide for general domestic use at normal times and top-up for the rainwater storage tank in dry weather.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof produce a small amount of electricity that can be connected into the national grid and sold back to the power company. But in the event of power outage, these can generate enough to operate essential lights and water pumps.

Other sustainable features are solar hot water heating panels, piped in-floor hot water heating systems, and a low-emission wood fire burner with ‘wet-back’ water-heating capability.

The fundamental wastewater component of the installation comes from Gunn’s long experience – a high performance septic tank system with an effluent outlet filter. The very low solids content of the treated effluent from this system will flow to a modified flexible sewer in the street.

In emergency if the street sewer becomes unserviceable, treated effluent can be diverted temporarily to stormwater drainage. So efficient is the system that a community sludge pump-out service to remove stabilised solids is only required every six to eight years.

Source: NZHerald


It ain’t exactly hugging a tree. But it’s pretty darn close.

While solar, wind and hybrid technology typically get most of the attention for going green, using reclaimed lumber and construction materials is one green trend that tree huggers still will appreciate.

And apparently, it’s a trend that’s growing.

Scott Gillespie, principal designer for Tahoe City-based design firm Sandbox Studios, has seen a significant uptick in the demand for reclaimed materials like lumber among his clients.

In the past two years, the percentage of the firm’s projects that use reclaimed materials jumped from about 10 percent to 15 percent to 50 percent, Gillespie said.

“A lot of people like the aesthetics of it,” he said. “They also like the fact that there’s a story behind it — we’ve used reclaimed wood from things like railroad trestles to an old water tank. Then, there’s the socially redeeming value from preserving our natural resources.”

Green growth

With the increased focus on environmentally friendly building practices, reclaimed materials are starting to get more attention.

Think of it as another form of recycling, said Colten Mellows, Montana Reclaimed Lumber’s sales representative for the Reno-Tahoe area.

The Montana-based reclaimed lumber supplier also has operations in Colorado and Arizona.

“Reclaimed lumber is a sustainable material,” Mellows said. “It cuts down on your carbon footprint and the need to chop down forests and trees. So, it’s very eco-friendly.”

It’s one reason why reclaimed materials are a good way to meet environmentally sustainable building standards set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Mellows said.

The standards — typically used to earn what’s known as LEED points — were developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The LEED system uses measures like use of sustainable materials, rainwater capture systems and renewable energy technology such as solar panels to certify a green home or building.

Others are taking the concept one step further., for example, has made a business out of getting excess building material out of the hands of do-it-yourselfers and construction companies and into the hands of other DIYers or companies looking for materials. For sellers who can’t find a buyer, the site also helps them donate the materials to groups such as Habitat for Humanity.

Matt Knox, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based, describes the site as a Craigslist for building materials.

The site, which started in just nine cities in 2009, went nationwide March 1.

“Builders typically order 10 percent more material than what they need for a project so there’s a lot left over,” Knox said. “The (Environmental Protection Agency) also estimates that 160 million tons of home improvement waste go to landfills each year. By helping people sell materials or donate them, you prevent those materials from turning to waste and just being thrown away.”

Besides the environmental benefits, history and aesthetics are other reasons for the rising popularity of reclaimed materials.

Cool factor of reclaimed material

“Sometimes, you just come across some really cool stuff,” Knox said. “Once, we were working on a project that involved selling a bunch of bricks and turns out they were taken from (Star Trek creator) Gene Roddenberry’s property.”

Mellows has seen reclaimed lumber from as far back as the 1800s. Despite being reclaimed, the materials remain sturdy enough for various building applications.

The unique look and character of things like old, massive wood beams makes the reclaimed wood popular choices for mantles or other focal points in a room, Mellows said.

“The most impressive thing I’ve seen so far is this 13-by-14 (inch) timber of hand-hewn white oak, which is extremely rare to come by,” Mellows said. “A lot of the things, particularly the old-growth woods are one-of-a-kind.”

Given the range of reclaimed materials, the price range also can vary. Old barn siding, for example, can go for $3 a square foot. Something like chestnut flooring, on the other hand, can range from $16 to $23 a square foot.

Cost was a significant factor in the slow adoption of certain types of reclaimed lumber, Gillespie said.

“Using reclaimed wood is something that has always been done but on a much smaller scale in the past,” Gillespie said. “Usually, there’s an enormous premium on the product.”

Today, the rise of reclaimed lumber suppliers, coupled with the downturn in building and construction, has made even some of the higher-end reclaimed material less cost prohibitive as they used to be. The question now is what will happen once the economy picks up again.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the market rebounds, and if pricing for reclaimed materials will jump up significantly again,” Gillespie said. “But for right now, we’re seeing quite a bit of demand for it.”

Source: RJG.Com

Green ConstructionT. CAINEGiven how much room for improvement we have in making our buildings more sustainable, we should certainly welcome the efforts of companies to release more green building components. Recently, business has been good. The slow permeation of sustainability into the culture of design and construction has brought new products to market every year for nearly every stage of the building process. For as much as we need more opportunities, however, it makes no sense to preemptively rush a product to market just for the sake of getting more green items on the shelf. On the contrary, a faulty green product could do more long term harm than a shortage of green solutions.

In my work on a local design project nearing completion here in Manhattan, the finish materials are beginning to go up. As we saw door casings, cabinetry, window sills and countertops get installed, the question of paint inevitably arose. When it comes to indoor air quality paint can play a large role. In most of our homes paint covers a high percentage of exposed surfaces making it present in just about every room. Historically, paint is also the source of chemicals that off-gas over the life of the paint—meaning that as paint cures and ages it releases chemicals into the air that we ultimately breath in. In paints and finishes the main culprit is Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s. The response to this has been the creation of Low-VOC or No-VOC paint which is now offered by most mainstream paint producers. Companies like Benjamin Moore claim to offer every color in their palette in a Low-VOC option.

In a meeting with the client and contractor I proposed the use of Low-VOC paint throughout the project. The client needed no convincing. As someone that I would say has an above-average education and awareness for issues surrounding sustainability, the client asserted her desire to avoid all possible sources of airborne chemicals in her home. I felt pretty good at this juncture because the client is often the hardest one to convince. But a look over to the contractor found him with a half smile and a shake of his head.

According to him, the painters he worked with had developed a stark aversion to Benjamin Moore’s “Aura” line—the companies first foray into the Low-VOC world.  Aura uses waterbourne colorants to create its tints and replace sources of VOCs that have been used to date for increasing strength and durability. A valiant goal, but according to the tradesmen that are responsible for applying it and assuring its quality, it doesn’t actually perform perfectly. Our contractor claimed that the workability of the paint was low. Reportedly, the paint’s composition shortened drying time which made painters speed through coats, often resulting in uneven finishes that required sanding and more coats than traditional paint options. In short, the painters would not guarantee the same level of finish with Aura paint.

This was certainly discouraging. While I deeply respect and appreciate companies like Benjamin Moore that strive to be leaders in changing the standard for how we finish space, the replacement products have to work. Otherwise, we run the risk of turning off newcomers who are trying to branch into more sustainable practices. Despite the momentum that sustainability has accumulated over the past decade it still has a ways to go before its place in building standards is secured. I would argue that sustainability has yet to reach the level of the populace that marks the transition from a new trend to a cultural norm. In the Law of Diffusion of Innovations, pushing past this forecast level of 15-18% of the population is known as “Jumping the Chasm.” Until we pass that point, sustainability is still in a fragile state in danger of being cast off by people that are lead to believing it is a marketing ploy because they received a sub-standard product.

Benjamin Moore Low VOCI then asked our contractor, “Well how about their Natura line?” Also available in every color that Benjamin Moore produces, Natura is a newer product line revolving around sustainability. Despite not knowing about it before hand, it seemed as though Natura could have been the company’s answer to the negative response of Aura paints. The contractor wasn’t familiar with the product, but after checking with his painters days later, he reported that the painters said Natura was a head-and-shoulders improvement over the Aura line and they were happy to use it on the job.

Now, everyone is bound to make a mistake or two as we collectively feel our way into new territory. Part of the way we can sort between the greenwashing companies and those truly committed to sustainable goals is whether the problem is fixed once it occurs. In Benjamin Moore’s case (a company with a great history of high quality products) they addressed the problem head on and minimized the long term damage. Companies need to continue to be diligent and patient in guiding new products to market because we cannot punish consumers for trying to buy into a sustainable lifestyle.

Image Credit:

Originally published in Intercon

By Benjamin Genocchio | Over the seven decades of his long career, Frank Lloyd Wright created some of the most innovative buildings of the 20th century. But advances in building materials and digital design technology — and his worrying, even megalomaniacal vision of architecture as a tool for social transformation — have gradually caused the field of architecture to move beyond his shadow. Wright always insisted architects should not confine themselves to merely designing pretty buildings. He believed architecture was “the mother of all arts” and could transform the world.

Herein lies the paradox of his career: he was a visionary figure whose ideas were often so radical and ambitious that they seemed impractical, even dangerous. Throughout his life writers remained suspicious of his intentions, colleagues regarded him as a crank, and clients went around the twist at his utter disregard for agreed-upon budgets and specifications. Wright always knew better; it was just a matter of time before he could convince you of your error. And yet he left a legacy of buildings second to none in American architectural history.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century” marks the centennial of Taliesin, Wright’s legendary, scandal-plagued hilltop home and summer studio in the midst of farmland about 40 miles west of Madison. It is a decent media hook for a Wright show, and the display is housed in a pleasant setting: the Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2001. There is a definite poetry to seeing a great architecture exhibition in a dazzling piece of architecture.

Such a contemporary setting is also something of a risk, as the show is expressly conceived to convince us of Wright’s enduring importance as an architect. It does not completely succeed, for reasons that I think have more to do with him than the choice of exhibits, or organizational structure. Wright hated cities, and most of his ideas about urbanism remain as impractical today as they were half a century ago. For example Broadacre City, his grand vision of suburban planning, called for every family to have at least an acre of land.

Nonetheless the show’s multiple curators — Frank Lloyd Wright Archives director Bruce Brooks Pfieffer, archives curator and registrar Margo Stipe, Milwaukee Art Museum chief curator Brady Roberts, and Phoenix Art Museum director Jim Ballinger — make the argument that Wright’s idea of organic design, in which architecture, simply put, responds to the local terrain rather than dominating it, presages today’s enthusiasm for sustainability and green architecture. The range of projects presented in the exhibition, familiar to anyone with a working knowledge of Wright’s career, suggests that Wright’s vision of an organic architecture was indeed surprisingly adaptable and sustainable.

In fact, the more challenging the terrain, the more creative and inventive Wright became. Think of “Falling Water,” built in 1936 over a waterfall and connected with nature in a profound way, or the “Raul Bailleres House,” commissioned in 1952 for a rugged clifftop location in Acapulco, Mexico, but never built. The design takes its primary cues from — and incorporates — massive circular boulders in the landscape. A steeped terrace down to the sea is also elegantly and sensitively integrated into its surroundings.

But the question remains: how much of the architect’s enthusiasm for natural local materials and sensitivity to site was a product of his old-fashioned, hardy outdoor upbringing in 19th-century rural Wisconsin — Wright was born in 1867 and raised on farmland settled by his Welsh ancestors — and how much of it was a forward-looking and visionary gesture concerned with environmental sustainability? Wright certainly revered nature throughout his life, despite the very modernist grammar of his designs.

It is not easy to approach Wright in a new way, given the volume of literature about him and his career and the abundance of past exhibitions and museum catalogues devoted to his designs. The present show covers a lot of familiar territory, which is probably inevitable, though happily includes 33 design drawings borrowed from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation that have never been publicly exhibited. (The drawings are among 100 works on paper that make up the majority of the show, about two thirds of the exhibits

I am not sure I believe Wright was a pioneer of sustainable architecture: he was never averse to using re-enforced concrete, a material that he helped to pioneer. (The Guggenheim museum, completed in 1959, is an example.) But I do believe the curators are correct in their belief that there is something valuable to be learned from Wright’s designs, something relevant to our time. And yet I can’t put my finger exactly on what that is. Perhaps it is simply attitudinal.

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