Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Scrap House.... You should take a LOOK

Description: ScrapHouse-is an awesome reality of reuse methods. Built entirely of recycled materials, the ScrapHouse was designed and built as the centerpiece of World Environment Day 2005. Visit

Monday, July 16, 2007

Less Water..Less Energy Sidwell School

Sidwell School: 70% Less Water, 60% Less Energy
by Justin Thomas, Virginia on 07. 9.07
Design & Architecture

I braved the midday heat of Washington DC yesterday, to circumnavigate and photograph the Sidwell Friends School, a private middle school. This building was awarded the coveted Platinum LEED by the Green Building Council, and it was one of the American Institute of Architect's Top Ten Green Project for 2007. Impressively, this school uses 70% less water and 60% less energy that a comparable building. I noted the use of many green roof elements, and many greywater recycling ponds. Inside, daylight use is extensive. Photosensors automatically dim or shut off the electric lights when daylight is sufficient, and occupancy sensors ensure that lights are shut off when rooms are unoccupied. More details and photos over the fold...

The design optimizes daylight and minimizes solar glare on each building exposure. On the south façade, horizontal solar light shelves both screen out the sun and welcome daylight. On the east and west façades, vertical solar shading screens are angled appropriately against the east and west glare.

A courtyard wetland with a closed-loop cycle allows for water reuse. The wetland takes the form of terraced rice paddies along the site’s natural topography. Rainwater is held and filtered through a vegetated roof on the new wing and channeled down the courtyard side into a collection stream that runs under the building’s entry bridge and drains into a biology pond. The pond supports native habitat and micro-organisms that will decompose wastewater as it moves through the functional wetland.

Virtually every material in the building is either reclaimed or recycled. The cladding of the building is 100-year-old western red cedar reclaimed from wine barrels. Material for the walkways, inside lobby, and decks is green lumber pilings reclaimed from the Baltimore Harbor. There is extensive use of linoleum, cork, and reclaimed stone.

Actively, photovoltaic roof panels provide much of the building’s electricity. Passively, two solar chimneys on the new wing offer natural ventilation. “The solar chimneys and the shafts interconnect to the lower levels, which is made apparent by little port holes in the shafts.

A vegetable-garden rooftop on the new wing serves as an insulator and is part of the water recycling system. The green roof is also a food garden, managed by the students and teachers.

see the article at TreeHugger

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Solar Home at Shoreline Comunity College

Student-made home gets biggest boost from the sun
House is designed to produce energy

Mike Nelson stood in his new office, where walls of corrugated metal clash just a tad with silky-smooth floors and walls of sustainably harvested eucalyptus.

"Very soon, the old ways are going," Nelson, director of the Northwest Solar Center, told visitors this week. "The old ways are dying."

Paul Joseph Brown / P-I
Mike Nelson, director of the Northwest Solar Center, and Mat Taylor, professor of architecture and construction management at Washington State University, carry a solar panel Thursday to the Zero Energy House at Shoreline Community College.
Nelson's office is the solar-powered Zero Energy House at Shoreline Community College, which is intended to produce as much energy as it uses.

The tale behind the house stretches to Eastern Washington and all the way back to Washington, D.C.

It all started in 2002 when Mat Taylor's students at Washington State University in Pullman started talking about building a solar-powered home to enter in the U.S. Energy Department's Solar Decathlon.

Students from the WSU schools of architecture, civil engineering, interior design and construction management transformed a hand-sized sketch into the Zero Energy House. They disassembled it and transported it to the National Mall in Washington for the 2005 competition.

"It's 100 percent student-built," Taylor, an architecture professor, told visitors at a dedication ceremony this week. "That's what I'm most proud of."

The house will serve as a laboratory for what Taylor and like-minded folks hope will be a wave of students yearning to experiment with new energy-saving ideas.

Developers, Nelson said, "can't afford to try to sell the clients experiments. And so you really do need as many living laboratories as possible."

"What we're into is high-performance housing," Nelson said.

Nelson, a WSU employee, said the state will be key in spurring demand for solar products.

"If our state Legislature provides the right incentives, it will drive this forward and provide jobs, " he said.

The home itself looks unconventional, not just because of a "butterfly" roof intended to maximize solar uptake, but also because it was built around a discarded shipping container -- the kind you see stacked on cargo ships crossing Elliott Bay.

The container and its corrugated metal walls house the home's plumbing fixtures, solar batteries, inverters and other systems needed to run the house. Wrapped around the container is a living room and kitchen area connected by a hallway to a bedroom, laundry and bathroom, all rolled into one, which will serve as Nelson's office.

Total square footage: 650.

It's not just the size that makes the house work, though. It's also the students' painstaking attention to dozens of details, including installing special insulation and ventilation, and energy-efficient appliances.

However, visitors are advised to just ignore the wires hanging out of the walls. It's an experiment, for Pete's sake!

Nelson is thinking about replacing the refrigerator -- a three-compartment model designed to minimize cold loss when being opened -- with a brand any consumer could find in the store. The home has an energy-saving, front-loading washer and dryer as well -- though they're not hooked up right now.

Robert Shields, a computer sciences instructor at the community college, notes that in some respects it is actually more roomy than his apartment when he lived in Japan.

"I remember reading about this stuff when I was in college in the '70s," he said. "The whole idea of an entire house off the grid is great."

Actually, Taylor said, nowadays solar advocates aren't going off the grid. They're counting on generating solar power in the daytime -- when they're away at work -- and selling that to utilities. That buys them energy credits they can claim when the days grow short and dark.

That's the kind of thing it's going to take to plug a 200- to 500-megawatt hole expected in the Northwest's energy supply by 2015, Nelson said. By comparison, the Bonneville Power Administration, which sells power from federally owned dams, generates an average of about 7,000 megawatts.

Taylor said the state should try to make it financially more palatable for people to go solar. And people need an attitude change, too, he said, about the big upfront costs.

"You're buying your utility bill up front for the rest of the your life," he said. "That's what people don't get yet."


Consumers interested in using solar energy in their homes may contact the Northwest Solar Center at 206-396-8446.

A Washington consumer's guide is on the center's Web site at:

Or see the frequently asked questions at

10 Greenest Cities in America

The 10 Greenest Cities in America

By Jacob Gordon of for MSN City Guides

American cities aren’t just starting to blossom in the green arena, they’re fighting to see which can bloom the brightest. The following list is a quick hybrid cab ride through 10 cities doing the most to realize a sustainable metropolis. To learn more, visit the rest of our series, and see which cities need the most help—and which cities are greener than you think.

The politics in Austin, Texas, home base of Whole Foods Market and Lance Armstrong (at least part of the year), have earned it the title of “the blueberry in the bowl of tomato soup.” But the city’s energy portfolio could make it known as the ray of sunshine in the field of oil pumps. If you want to sign up for green power from Austin Energy, possibly the greenest power grid in the country, you can get in line—this year’s demand was unpredictably high, and they’re fresh out. Austin’s growing list of proactive energy maneuvers is, to say the least, striking. Not only does Austin lead the country in wind power and biodiesel production, but it has built advanced plug-in hybrid vehicles into its energy strategy.

As part of the recently announced Austin Climate Protection Plan, all facilities, fleets and operations will be carbon-neutral by 2020, and 100 percent of city facilities will be powered by renewable energy by 2012. There will also be CO2 caps and reduction plans for all utility emissions, something the federal government hasn’t dared do. According to Roger Duncan, Austin Energy’s deputy general manager, the city is ramping up to make both residential and commercial building codes the most energy-efficient in the nation, starting by making all new single-family homes “zero net-energy capable”—meaning they could produce as much energy as they use—by 2015, and increasing energy efficiency by 75 percent in all other new construction. The Clean Energy Incubator, sparked by the National Renewable Energy Lab and managed by the University of Texas at Austin, works closely with the power utility and serves as a test bed for budding startup companies to develop green technologies ranging from solar, biofuels and wind to Internet-controlled irrigation systems.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Noah Israel and the Lake Armstrong Project have asked for our support. They are forming their own sewer and water district. The formation of their own district will allow them to choose sustainable practices for site water management. Please come.

When: Wednesday June 27, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.

Where: 3000 Rockefeller Street, Administration East Building, 8th Floor, Council Chambers - Jackson Room

Thanks in advance for your support of this sustainable project!