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Archive for February, 2016

Green Homes 101

Published on 22 Dec 2015Written by Heather Benjamin Posted in Community

According to the National Association of Home Builders, single-family green residential construction has grown dramatically, from 2 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2013. Green home building—or retrofitting—is clearly a booming industry. But it may be intimidating to think about making your home green and what that involves. Start at the beginning, and educate yourself to ensure that your efforts are as effective as possible.

What is a green home? 

Simply put, a green home uses less energy, water and natural resources compared to a standard home. It is more efficient, and so creates less waste. In addition, a green home can be a much healthier habitat for the people living inside.

You can build a sustainable home, or you can make changes later to make it more green. A “green makeover” can happen all at once, or it can be a gradual process.

Why make your home green?

Benefits to living in a green home include greater durability, lower energy costs and increased health for those dwelling inside the building.

Saving your breath 

  • Green homes use nontoxic building materials to help combat indoor air pollution. Unhealthy air inside a dwelling can pose serious health risks for residents.
  • Natural ventilation in green homes, as well as mechanical ventilation systems that filter fresh air from outside, keep residents breathing easy.

Saving money 

  • The typical household spends about $2,150 a year on residential energy bills. LEED-certified homes can save 30-60 percent on those bills.
  • If initial green construction costs seem high, it is often because many architects, homebuilders, and other industry professionals don’t have the knowledge and experience to cost-effectively plan, design and build a green home. Make sure you find a professional familiar with green building techniques.
  • An increasing number of insurance companies offer discounts on policies covering green homes. Similarly, several mortgage companies offer discounted loan rates for homebuyers.
  • A green home often uses higher-quality building materials and construction processes than a standard home—and better materials mean fewer repairs.
  • The resale value of a green home is often higher than that of a comparable standard home, and the market demand continues to rise. The same cachet is often attached to rental units.
  • Local, state and federal governments are increasingly offering tax breaks and other incentives for building LEED homes or adding green features to your home.

Saving the environment 

  • Residential cooling and heating alone make up 20 percent of annual energy use in the United States. When you add in lights, appliances and other electronics, homes use a huge amount of energy. Most of this comes from greenhouse gas producers such as oil and coal, in turn contributing to global climate change. Green homes use 40 percent less energy.
  • Some green homes further reduce our dependence on conventional energy by using alternative sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.
  • Efficient plumbing and bath fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and water-conserving irrigation systems help green homes use less water.
  • Many green building materials have significant recycled content, from carpets and floor tiles made from recycled tires to structural materials salvaged from demolished buildings. They also use materials made from rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo, hemp, agrifibers and soy-based products. And if you use wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, you are helping to promote socially and environmentally beneficial forestry practices.
  • Building a standard 2,500-square-foot home creates approximately 2 tons of construction waste that ends up in landfills. Construction of a green home, however, can generate far less waste.

By deciding to make your home more green, you are also making a commitment to be part of a more sustainable world.

Heather Benjamin

Content Marketing Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

 

Tips for living green, part 1: Reduce, reuse, recycle

Published on 5 Jan 2016 Written by Heather Benjamin Posted in Community

There are so many ways that your actions, both large and small, can help make your community and the world at large a healthier place.

Are you using the amount of resources that you need? Are you disposing of the products you use in a way that doesn’t harm the environment? Here are some tips on reducing your consumption, repurposing useful items and recycling others.

Reduce

  • Use less.Think about how much you consume on a daily basis. Can you start by just using less? Watch “The Story of Stuff” with Annie Leonard to learn more about simplifying your life.
  • Drink from refillable bottles.Disposable plastic bottles use up a lot of resources. Buy a reusable plastic or metal container from which to drink water, and while you’re at it, get your daily Starbucks fix poured directly into an insulated coffee tumbler.

Reuse

  • Many items you use can be creatively reused. Are you into DIY or crafting? Make some nifty decorative or storage items out of materials such as bottles, boxes or old magazines.
  • You might not want that coat anymore, but chances are someone else will. You can donate used clothing, books, kitchen items or furniture in good condition to Goodwill or Salvation Army. They will even pick things up from your home.

Recycle

  • Put out the bin.In most urban areas, recycling has been made easy for us. If you have a blue bin in your driveway, you probably set out your recycling every week with the trash. If not, check with your local trash-collection company or search online to find out what services are available.
  • Give at the office. Does your place of employment provide recycling bins for those cans of soda left over from lunch meetings or those papers that got jammed in the printer? If not, see if they can provide recycling containersand disposal for everyone.
  • Dispose of electronics safely.Many computers, phones, batteries and other devices include toxic materials that can contaminate soil and water if sent to landfills. Take your old gadgets to a retailer such as Best Buy for safe recycling.
  • Do a bit of Googling.Not sure if something can be recycled? Many things you wouldn’t expect can be, from shoes to mattresses to hearing aids.

 

Heather Benjamin

Content Marketing SpecialistU.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

 

9 Ways to make your home greener

Published on 6 Jan 2016Written by Christina HuynhPosted in Education

Lowering our overall impact on the environment is a team effort, and like a ripple effect, a little from each of us can go a long way when it comes to helping out. The place where we can start making change is the one we know best—our homes.

Here are nine ways you can pitch in to make your residence more eco-friendly, while also saving money over time in energy and water bills.

  1. Install programmable thermostats. 

    The idea is a logical one: turn off the AC/heat when no one’s home, or lower the temperature whenever people are sleeping. But it can be easy to let those little actions slip away when you’ve got other things on your mind.

    Enter the programmable thermostat. It’s a device that regulates your home’s temperature according to settings you create for certain times of the day. The bonus of installing a programmable thermostat is that it’s friendly to your wallet; with it, you’ll save on heating and cooling costs.

  1. Replace your light bulbs.

    Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) help save energy and have a much longer life span than traditional bulbs. Light a path to decreasing your electricity bills over time by replacing your bulbs with CFLs or LEDs.

  1. Prevent air leaks.

    Shave some dollars off your utility bills during the winter and summer months by plugging air leaks with weather stripping around your doors and caulk around windows. Preventing cold and warm air from escaping your home helps keep your HVAC system from having to constantly work to maintain a desirable indoor temperature.

  2. Pick energy-efficient appliances.

    When it’s time to swap out that old refrigerator, washer or other appliance with a new one, look to see if it’s certified by Energy Star, which denotes products that meet a high level of energy efficiency. Also, check with your electricity provider to see if it offers incentives for replacing old appliances with more efficient ones.

  3. Reduce water use.

    Install aerators on your faucets and change to low-flow shower heads. Outside your home, choose native vegetation for your landscaping, since they generally require less water, fertilizer and pesticides. Additionally, consider washing your clothes in cold water and then air-drying them to help save energy and money.

  4. Switch to green power.

    Green power is an optional utility service that helps support and expand the production and distribution of renewable energy technologies. Choosing green power doesn’t mean you have to change your electricity provider. Instead, you simply opt to pay a premium on your electricity bill to cover the extra cost of purchasing clean, sustainable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has more information.

  5. Explore solar energy.

    Photovoltaic devices and materials, which can convert sunlight into electricity, are becoming increasingly available for residential use. Solar power can be harnessed to create electricity for your home, to heat water and to improve indoor lighting. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy can help you find the right solar solutions for you.

  6. Use no- to low-VOC products.

    Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can cause headaches; nausea; and irritation to the respiratory system, skin and eyes, among other ailments. Aim to use no- to low-VOC paints and cleaning products in your home—more and more of these options are becoming available at your local store.

  7. Choose composting. 

    Food waste in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas. Cut your carbon footprint by composting food scraps, except meat, in a backyard composting bin or even a worm bin.

 Christina Huynh

Web Content Associate

USGBC staff

 

Tips for living green,Transportation

 

Published on 20 Jan 2016Written by Heather Benjamin Posted in Community

There are so many ways that your actions, both large and small, can help make your community and the world at large a healthier place. In this series, we’ll touch on a few ways you can make changes to “live green.”  

One of the big ways to make a difference in fighting global warming is to reduce our use of fossil fuels by driving less or by taking alternate transportation. If you live in an urban area, you have a lot of options: 

  • Ride the train.Traveling by commuter rail is a great option if you live some distance from your job site. In addition, many major cities have subway or elevated trains that can take you from home to work as well as to restaurants, nightlife and cultural attractions in the city.
  • Ride a bike.Bicycling wherever you need to go is the new thing. You can find a bike that suits your needs forcommuting or even rent a bike to tour a new city when you’re traveling. Plus, pedaling through the park is a great activity for families on the weekends.
  • You don’t need new gear or a timetable for this one. Walk a few blocks to the nearest grocery store rather than hopping in your car, or make it a half-hour sneaker commute to your workplace. Bonus: you get in a workout without half trying.
  • Carpool or take the slug line. In many places, you can queue up in a slug lineto share transportation with anyone going into or out of downtown. You can also set up a carpool with coworkers who live in your same area.
  • Buy a greener car.Still need to drive? Buy an electric or hybrid or just a more fuel-efficient car. Check the U.S. Department of Energy’s list of most fuel-efficient cars to find the one that’s right for you.

Heather Benjamin

Content Marketing Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

 

Tips for living green

Published on 12 Jan 2016Written by Heather Benjamin Posted in Community

There are so many ways that your actions, both large and small, can help make your community and the world at large a healthier place.

We all spend a fair amount of time cleaning, shopping and taking care of the home or apartment in which we live. Here are some ideas for making your home and garden techniques more sustainable:

Cleaning

  • Use biodegradable cleaning products.Laundry detergent, cleansers, furniture polishes and other household products may be found in environmentally friendly formulations at any natural grocery store, and even in many mainstream stores. Check labels for nontoxic ingredients, and browse lists of tested green products. Better yet, try making your own.
  • Reduce your laundry footprint.Use cool instead of warm water in your wash cycle, and consider buying an Energy Star-certified unit that uses less energy overall.

Shopping

  • Buy local.Shop for food at your local farmers market, and find holiday gifts at craft fairs with local artisans. Buying local reduces the amount of fossil fuels required to transport products across long distances, and it cuts down on wasteful packaging.
  • Take a reusable tote.Instead of using grocery stores’ disposable plastic or paper bags, bring your own reusable tote bags, which are available at many grocers. Not only are the bags less wasteful, they are sturdier, making your trip home easier and keeping your groceries intact! If you must use disposable bags, ask your bagger to avoid double-bagging.

Gardening

  • Use green gardening techniques.Many gardeners improperly apply pesticides, putting themselves, their families and their pets at increased health risk. (Also, make sure any pesticides are stored out of the reach of children.)
  • Keep your lawn care and landscaping sustainable.Learn how to use an appropriate amount of water for your plants, avoid too much pruning and cut your grass with a mulching mower.
  • Set up a composting station.Composting is essentially creating soil with a bed of plant matter, leftovers and other biodegradable materials. Whether you live in an apartment or on a farm, you can create a compost pile within the constraints of your space.

Heather Benjamin

Content Marketing Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

GBCI and India Smart Grid Forum Collaborate

Published on 15 Jan 2016Written by Leticia McCadden Posted in Media

New Delhi, India (15 January 2016)—Today, GBCI and India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) announced a collaboration on sustainable power systems in India and Southeast Asia designed to accelerate market transformation of smart grid technologies and sustainable power systems in the region through GBCI’s PEER (Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal) program.

PEER is designed to measure and improve sustainable power system performance. Through PEER certification, power grids have an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by differentiating their performance, documenting the value produced and demonstrating meaningful outcomes to accelerate transformation of the electricity sector in the marketplace.

“It is critical that we address the reliability and efficiency of our energy systems so that we can continue to grow in a way that is sustainable and resilient,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, COO, USGBC and president, GBCI. “The partnership with ISGF helps us do just that—by building on ISGF’s mission to deploy smart grid technologies in an efficient, cost-effective, innovative and scalable manner and GBCI’s speed to market transformation in the energy sector through PEER.”

GBCI is the premier organization for independently recognizing excellence in sustainability performance and practice globally. Through rigorous certification and credentialing standards, GBCI drives adoption of green business practices, which fosters global competitiveness and enhances environmental performance and human health benefits.

The Indian government set up ISGF to deploy smart grid technologies; to create a platform for global and regional knowledge exchange; to engage with experts on policy creation; and to conduct research and to make recommendations to the government of India and other relevant decision makers.

“PEER is poised to transform the market by stimulating innovation and continually raising the bar on what we can expect from our energy systems—and by extension, strengthening our planet and its people,” added Ramanujam.

Leticia McCadden

Media Relations Manager

USGBC staff

 

Leckie Elementary School, gets a green makeover

Published on 19 Jan 2016Written by Eric Westerduin, Co-Founder of Suite Plants Posted in Community

Students, teachers, staff and volunteers came together on a chilly December morning at the M.V. Leckie Elementary School in Washington, D.C., for a community building project. USGBC’s Center for Green Schools arranged for Suite Plants to donate eight of their Live Fence living green walls to Leckie Elementary School, and volunteers constructed custom rolling wooden planter boxes for the green walls.

The Suite Plants ivy plant walls had been used a few weeks earlier as decoration in an education room at USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. Instead of shipping the Live Fence walls back to the company’s greenhouse, and thereby increasing the carbon footprint, a more green solution was to find a local home.

As Leckie Elementary School Principal Atasha James explains, “Installing the living walls brought life and better air into our school.” Living walls act as a natural air purification system by filtering out airborne contaminants, pumping out oxygen to revitalize the air and even regulating humidity levels, which has been shown to reduce the effects of the flu. Numerous studies have demonstrated that living walls have an overwhelmingly positive effect on building occupants by increasing productivity, improving air quality, reducing stress levels, improving cognitive function and even increasing creativity.

We are happy that Suite Plants had the opportunity to install these living walls and incorporate a biophilic design concept—that humans crave a connection to nature and perform better when surrounded by natural elements that mimic the outdoor environment—at Leckie Elementary. Everyone should experience and benefit from nature, no matter the setting.

Eric Westerduin, Co-Founder of Suite Plants

Daylighting enhances Hub Group’s LEED Gold headquarters

Published on 10 Dec 2015Written by Amanda Sawit Posted in Industry

When the Hub Group, one of the leading freight transportation companies in the United States, started building its new headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, they knew they wanted to achieve LEED certification.

Completed in December 2013, the 141,000-square-foot, four-story building is LEED Gold—designed to harmonize human health and performance with the environment.

Built to echo the company’s corporate culture, brand and commitment to sustainability, the building’s design needed to balance occupant well-being with efficiency. In keeping with these objectives, architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz sought to optimize daylighting, or the controlled admission of natural light into a space.

Enter Hunter Douglas’ RB 500 motorized roller shades, which, along with intelligent motor controls, helped shape the look of the new headquarters. The RB 500 roller shade system creates a visually dynamic environment while managing daylight and reducing glare and solar heat gain within the space—ensuring occupant comfort throughout the day while reducing total building energy costs.

Daylit environments are proven to increase occupant productivity and comfort, providing the mental and visual stimulation necessary to regulate human circadian rhythms. From an energy use standpoint, natural light can replace electric lighting for up to 80 percent of daylight hours, representing lower energy costs and, by extension, reduced pollution from fossil fuel-based power plants.

The RB 500 roller shades were deemed the optimal solution based on their architectural design, ease of operation, durability and versatile Cradle to Cradle Certified™ fabrics. The intelligent programming system, installed by Indecor, Inc., supports custom applications, including large and angular windows, and is outfitted with an advanced weather station that enables shades to position themselves appropriately based on angles of sunlight.

As Hunter Douglas continues to push the envelope in developing and delivering solutions to address green design challenges, clients like the Hub Group are willing to embrace unconventional or new technology because it positively affects the triple bottom line.

Amanda Sawit

Content Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

 

LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.