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In our ever-changing hi-technology world it seems like everyone is turning to “smart” technology. From the phone and tablet you carry in your pocket to controlling your home’s heating and air conditioning while away on vacation on a tropical beach, smart technology is everywhere. If you have been trying to figure out what smart home technology is and how you can take advantage of it – here are 10 simple ways to enjoy the innovation in your home. Whether you are looking to save energy, time, and money or you just want to become more efficient in your home’s day-to-day operations, take a look at these ideas that may transform your home and lifestyle forever.
1. How smart home technology can help your home lifestyle:
Smart technology is a way of connecting your home through innovative technology to control and give homeowners an “on-demand access to various systems throughout your home. From video, data, telephone, wireless, security, climate, lighting and other home lifestyle factors that affect you and your family’s daily life. Smart home technology can help your home run more efficiently while also helping family members live in total comfort while at home or away.
2. Innovative controls in your kitchen:
Your kitchen has always been “command central” when it comes to cooking, entertaining, enjoying family discussions and more. You will be surprised how smart technology pairs with your favorite appliances, faucets, and cooktop surfaces can be controlled through smart technology. Many homes have their smart tablet or keypad built into the wall in the kitchen to have access of other parts of the home. While many homeowners prefer the on-screen directions of their refrigerator that can access the internet, can play music, or they can watch their favorite cooking television program – right on the screen of their refrigerator.
3. Saving energy and controlling safety in the kitchen:
Many homeowners think that smart technology is only for people who want to have a remote control to everything! On the contrary, many smart home technologies actually help keep your family safe while saving you water and energy in the kitchen. Induction cooktops are one of these examples that produce heat that only heats the cookware when the metal comes in contact with the induction cooktop surface. This means a safer kitchen to work in, and less heat being generated for comfort while cooking.
4. Smart home convenience wherever you are:
While the kitchen has many amenities for your smart home tastes, all homeowners should assess their lifestyle, to see what amenities would best fit their home and family. If you’d like to control music, lighting, visual entertainment throughout your home, temperature or security systems, you can hire total smart home consultants who can walk you through the benefits of different configurations. While you may think that a smart phone activated security system is overkill, you may reconsider if you have school-aged children that come home from school before you come home from work, or if you travel often. Assess what smart home functions will work best for you.
5. Controlling your faucets and bathing experience in a smart bathroom:
There aren’t too many homeowners who don’t love total comfort and relaxation in their bathrooms. Smart home technology is the perfect way to be able to not only control your bathing experience while lounging in the tub, but you can also control your shower’s temperature, spray, steam, audio, and lighting of your shower, all at the touch of a button. If you share your bathroom, why not program each users favorite settings and have your favorite music cued through sound tile speakers? That’s what smart home technology can offer in your bathing routine.
6. Water savings made easy with smart home technology:
While enjoying your bathroom is one topic, enjoying the savings on your monthly water bill is another. Instead of dreading your water usage each month, take advantage of smart water fixtures that use less water but have larger water droplets to produce a more luxurious experience? One example are Delta Brizo brand faucets that offers a H2Okinetic® shower heads that sculpt the water into a unique wave pattern, creating the feeling of more water without using more water. Other faucets can turn on and off automatically by motion and the temperature of the water can be seen by a color LED light indicator before putting your hands under the water. These smart technologies ensure a better and safer user experience and less water wasted – all at once.
7. Cooling and heating your home the smart way:
Your daily home can use a lot of energy for cooling and heating to keep your family comfortable in all seasons and climates of the world. In order to do this without costing a fortune for fluctuations of outdoor air temperatures, your home can have smart technology that helps you control and monitor your energy usage with thermostats such as the Nest learning thermostat. It “learns” your family’s lifestyle and connected to a Wi-Fi connection enables homeowners to control settings from any internet enabled smart device. Register your email and home location and you will get monthly energy usage reports sent to you directly to see how you compare with other homeowners in your city.
8. “Smart” heating and cooling through architecture and design:
Other creative ideas for helping homeowners with heating and cooling doesn’t involve innovative electronics but rather placement of windows and doors and the position of your home can help take advantage of nature’s seasons and temperature changes naturally. A passive house is designed to maximize its ability to heat itself in winter and cool itself in summer. This is designed by careful consideration of a home’s site and how the sun moves across the sky, where the trees and other vegetation are located, where the winter winds come from, etc. This “smart” technology of this Passive House is an example of using the Earth’s resources and adapting our home’s to work with nature.
9.) Smart innovation on its way into home design:
Many smart home ideas are out in the commercial world but haven’t been adapted for residential use, but the reality isn’t far into the future. Coffee tables that enable you to control your home, surf the internet, and entertain your guests are already being used in hotels, casinos and hospitality industries. Samsung has the SUR40 Microsoft PixelSense that isn’t available to consumers yet but enables guests to watch tv, control smart appliances and more. The ideas are vast for how many different areas of your home smart technology will touch in the upcoming years.
10.) Automation in every part of your home:
While smart technologies are used for saving energy, water and adding safety, there are other factors that homeowners love, automation. Similar to the science fiction movies that we all fell in love with years ago, today many of those futuristic amenities have come to life. From automating your interior shades and exterior awnings from your bedroom to controlling your pool temperature, lighting and music before your guests arrive – all at the touch of a finger is mind-blowing. In this new era, smart home technology is fast and ever changing. Try these 10 ideas in your home and see how your lifestyle changes for the better.
Freshome readers we’d love to hear what smart home technologies you’ve seen in homes today!
Earthships! If you haven’t heard of them, this will be a pleasant surprise. It all started the first time I was traveling across Canada. We were driving in a purple minivan with Collective Evolution decals on the side. We received an email from someone saying they saw us driving around Ottawa and wanted to invite us over for a chat at their earthship. I says to my travel buddy I says “What is an earthship?” He didn’t know either. Google ended up telling us that it’s a sustainable home built from tires and pounded dirt. The pictures were awesome to look at and immediately I was intrigued to find out more. We never ended up getting to go see the earthship as the timing didn’t work out and it wasn’t until a couple years later that I really began to look into what earthships were all about. (Don’t forget to browse pics below!)
“. . . the Earthship is the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building.” – Earthship Biotecture
As the creators Earthship Biotecture describe it “An earthship is a type of passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials.” They are a very unique way of creating a home that is completely off grid and self-sustainable. Imagine living in a house that collects and treats it’s own water. A house that heats and cools itself all without spending a penny on utilities! This is what earthships achieve for their owners and it is becoming a popular option for those looking to ‘live differently.’
Heating & Cooling
This is probably one of the most exciting things about earthships as they take care of some of the most expensive aspects of a home; heating and cooling. Not only does this take a load off natural resources but the way in which heating and cooling works is much more natural.
The design of the walls creates thermal mass which allows the home to collect heating during the day from the sun and store it in the walls. As night falls, the heat is released from the walls to keep things warm. Naturally with the night being colder, the walls will cool making it a naturally cooler place during the daytime. The swings in temperature are a lot more comfortable and natural than what we are used to today with heating and cooling systems.
Foundation and Walls
The basic construction of an earthship is not quite as complex as you might think. All external and load bearing walls are made of stacked tires that have been pounded with dirt. Interior walls are made of a honeycomb of recycled cans and bottles held together with concrete. It is actually quite a beautiful design as you can see. While this is the traditional design for interior walls, walls can be made using more conventional methods as well. It just won’t be as environmentally friendly as the original earthship design.
Since earthships tend to be built partially underground, windows are designed in such a way that allows maximum sun exposure. The sun comes in from the large windows and not only provides sunlight for the plants but is also the main heating source for the house in the winter and nightfall. Skylights also exist on roves to allow for air circulation and light.
Earthships collect all of their own water via the rain. Even in climates with very little rain like the dessert, an earthship can create enough water for a family to drink, wash clothes, shower, use toilets and water plants. The earthship treats all of its water systematically to clean it for safe drinking and clean showering. The earthship reuses water 4 different times through various filtering processes that happen both naturally and systematically.
While filming for CE3 earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to stay at an earthship for a night while in New Mexico. Here we were in the straight up summer heat of the desert thinking “This will be a great test for air conditioning I tell you.”
The experience staying inside an earthship was awesome. It felt like being in an extension of nature while you are inside. Inside the house itself was a garden that grew many different types of plants. I imagine if this earthship was for a family and not just rentals, much food could be grown right inside. The temperature was perfect. We were in shorts and a t-shirt and had no problems in regards to being too hot. The temperature was a great balance coming from outside and it was cool and comfortable without it being overly cold like air conditioning. Throughout the evening we enjoyed everything as we would in a regular home. We had full use of water, showers, toilets, cooking, a fridge, TV and internet.
The night was cooler outside and yet inside the temperature was warmer to compensate. I was quite fascinated with how it all played out to be honest. As the morning sun came up and things started to get warm, the earthship began releasing cool air the night lent to the walls. It was such a fascinating process to see happen.
Possibly one of the last things you would think about, yet was most noticeable being in the earthship was the fact that everything felt very calm and quiet. The very fact that there wasn’t huge surges of electricity running to the house via hydro lines made a very big difference on the overall feel of the earthship inside. The relaxation you feel in your physical body is something that cannot be ignored. You do not hear any buzzing of electricity and no fans spinning.
The best part is, these solutions can be built anywhere!
Green building practices offer an opportunity to create environmentally sound and resource-efficient buildings by using an integrated approach to design. Green buildings promote resource conservation, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation; consider environmental impacts and waste minimization; create a healthy and comfortable environment; and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
Green building involves consideration in four main areas: site development, material selection and minimization, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality.
Consider site development to reduce the impact of development on the natural environment. For example, orient the buildings to take advantage of solar access, shading and wind patterns tat will lessen heating and cooling loads.
Carefully select materials that are durable, contain recycled content, and are locally manufactured to reduce negative environmental impacts. A growing market exists of quality recycled products at affordable prices.
Incorporate energy-efficient design into buildings to create an efficient and comfortable environment. Take advantage of the natural elements and technologies to conserve resources and increase occupant comfort/productivity while lowering long-term operational costs and pollutants.
Design for high indoor air quality to promote occupant health and productivity.
Minimize the waste in construction and demolition processes by recovering materials and reusing or recycling them.
Why Build Green?
The design, construction, and maintenance of buildings have a tremendous impact on our environment and our natural resources. The building sector alone consumes two-thirds of electricity produced in the U.S., and is a significant contributor to air pollution and the pollutants that case climate change. The challenge then becomes to build smart so that buildings use a minimum of nonrenewable energy, produce minimal pollution, and use a minimum of dollars, while increasing the comfort, health, and safety of the people who work in them. Since building design has a strong impact on student learning, occupant health and occupant productivity, green building is important to incorporate at CU.
Is Green Building Cost-Effective?
Green building practices do not necessarily increase initial costs, but the certainly lower costs over the lifespan of a building. Over $42 billion annually is wasted in U.S. buildings due to energy consumption that could be avoided. When energy savings over time, increased durability, and enhanced occupant productivity is factored in, green design features and materials become easier to justify. While green technologies are usually less costly and easier to incorporate into the original designs of a building, there are many cost-effective strategies for retrofitting existing buildings. Several successful examples of green buildings have been built proving that sustainable design is cost-effective and a great environment example. Many of these designs have received awards and national recognition.
How can we build green at CU?
Current CU Master Plan goals:
All new buildings and major renovations are built to a LEED® Gold Standard plus extra attention is focused on energy and water credits (CU-Boulder’s term of LEED Gold “Plus”). This helps ensure that buildings are as energy and water conserving as possible and provide the greatest long-term payback for the investments made. Also, projects are to achieve performance at a minimum level of 45 percent better than the ASHRAE standards in place at the time of the project’s construction.
Ensure that all new and renovated facilities underway be near net-zero carbon facilities. A net-zero energy facility collects as much energy from renewable sources as the facility uses on an annual basis while maintaining an acceptable level of service and functionality. Buildings can exchange energy with the power grid as long as the net energy balance is zero on an annual basis.
Install visible energy monitoring devices on buildings and make information available to inform and help occupants track conservation behaviors.
As appropriate, plan and construct facilities that intertwine indoor space with nature to capitalize on the benefits of biophilic design—the term is derived from biophilia, coined in 1984 by a Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson, to describe what he considered the innate human attraction to nature—that incorporates real or simulated natural elements in an effort to promote well-being.
CU buildings can achieve a “Green Score” under the LEEDTM system. The LEED Green Building Rating System TM, a program of the US Green Building Council, is a self-assessing system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and residential buildings. It evaluates environmental performance from a “whole building” perspective over a building’s life cycle and provides a definitive standard for what constitutes a “green building.” Credits are earned for satisfying various criteria and different levels of green building certification are awarded based on the total credits earned. The voluntary system is designed to be comprehensive in scope, yet simple in operation.
Cyber-crime has always been a subject of much paranoia and fear in the digital age. From hacking emails to stealing entire identities to breaking into government systems, cyber-crime has become a high profile and media friendly crime. Yet, at the same time we’ve become a bit complacent to the existence of cyber-crime, perhaps putting too much faith in the devices that we use every single day to protect our information and selves.
While hacking into an account is one thing, hacking into your house is another. As this piece in the Quartz points out, just wait until cyber criminals hack into your smart house and take over your physical life. Like all possibilities of cyber-crime, it is bound to happen, and soon. As we bulk up the technology in our homes with smart lights, security systems and even thermostats, criminals are working on ways to hack into these systems to take advantage of your digital life.
While we slowly replace our everyday devices with internet connected and enabled smart technology, hackers will be looking to apply disruptive attacks on these devices. While activating an internet capable toilet to waste water (costing you money) might not seem like a threat to national security, it will literally be a pain in the ass, mostly to your wallet. This hacking into smart home devices will be the apex of petty criminals everywhere.
From being able to see when you aren’t at home (through your thermostat perhaps) to controlling your refrigerator to altering the your lights (already there are apps that can be used to access the lights and temperature in the home from afar) petty criminals have an almost endless slate of mischief to choose from. Yet, does any of this really matter? Will criminals slink so low as to enjoy altering the state of your physical environment? Yes, yes they will and they will find ways to not only exploit the environment, but to profit off it as well.
So what can you do to protect yourself? At this time, not much. The engineers behind all these smart devices were focused on the devices themselves, not realizing that they would be connected to everything through the internet. And while one could assume that your own personal WiFi security would be enough, there are enough horror stories of hacked and misused WiFi to crack that theory. Right now criminals can easily spy on you, just with the devices you are already using daily. As if the NSA collecting your data isn’t bad enough.
Green buildings are more than a fashion statement. Many architects, builders and clients agree that smart, sustainable buildings are becoming a necessity. Why? Because according to some estimates, buildings account for almost one-half of the world’s material and energy consumption, one-sixth of fresh water use, and a quarter of all wood harvested. As costs for sustainable materials and products drop, building green is really the most cost-effective kind of design and construction. More and more, you can’t afford not to build green.
1. Lower Green Building Costs
Even if you read no further, this should convince you: Green buildings save money, starting the very first day of construction. This is true for green homes as well as sustainable office buildings, factories, churches, schools and other structures.
A 2003 study by the California Sustainable Building Task Force shows that an initial green design investment of just two percent will produce savings greater than 10 times the initial investment, based on a very conservative 20-year building lifespan. For example, $40,000 in green design in a $2 million dollar project will be repaid in just two years. Over 20 years, the savings will amount to $400,000. In other words, ka-CHING!
A number of studies — and common sense — indicate that building occupants who are healthy and comfortable are more productive. A study of 31 green buildings from the City of Seattle found that absenteeism was reduced by 40 percent. Another study, sponsored in part by commercial real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield, reported 30 percent fewer sick days among one company’s employees, and discovered a 10 percent increase in net revenue per employee in another company, after each office moved to LEED-certified buildings. Companies in green offices also have an edge in attracting and retaining great employees.
3. Green Buildings Have Higher Market Value
Both residential and commercial buildings retain a high resale value if they include sustainable design components. The value to prospective buyers comes from knowing their utility and maintenance costs will be lower in green buildings that outperform non-green buildings. Occupancy levels are consistently higher, and vacancy rates lower, in sustainable office buildings.
4. Healthy Occupants in Green Buildings
Keith Brofsky/Getty Images
Sick building syndrome is a problem that has plagued homes and offices for decades, and costs U.S. businesses millions of dollars each month. Green buildings, however, avoid many of these problems with healthy ventilation systems and use of non-toxic building materials.
The EPA estimates that indoor air pollution may be 2 to 5 times worse, and sometimes more than 100 times worse, than outdoor air quality. Of 146,400 lung cancer deaths in 1995, 21,100 were related to the radon gas that’s found in many buildings. About 20 million people (and over 6 million children) suffer from asthma, which can be triggered by the indoor pollutants that are often found in non-green buildings.
5. Tax Benefits for Green Buildings
Recent federal tax incentives have been enacted to encourage the design and construction of energy-efficient green buildings, both residential and commercial. Many state and local governments have also passed tax provisions to encourage energy-efficient buildings. Ask your accountant or tax expert about the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, PL 110-185 (ESA), the Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008, PL 110-289 (HATA), the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, PL 110-343 (EESA), and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, PL 111-5 (ARRA) to see if these apply to your home or commercial real estate.
6. Improved Retail Sales
A California survey of over 100 stores (all operated by the same retailer) found that sales were 40 percent higher when stores were lighted with skylights instead of electric lighting. Retailers who can use daylight in their interiors can also lower their electric costs. All these factors are further proof that green buildings might actually make money.
7. Lower Utility Demands in Green Buildings
One indirect benefit to green buildings is often overlooked: reduced demand on electric, gas and water utilities means that these infrastructures can do more with less. This can result in lower municipal utility costs over the long run as utilities need not expand and can avoid passing those expansion costs onto utility customers. And in the case of energy- efficient net zero buildings and zero energy homes, these buildings actually feed electricity back into the utility grid, and result in no energy costs at the end of a year. Most owners of net zero buildings actually get a check back from their energy company at the end of a year.
8. Improved Quality of Life
It’s hard to put a dollar-amount value on quality of life. How much, for example, would you pay to enjoy a less-stressful day, or to avoid catching the flu? When all of the aforementioned benefits to green architecture and sustainable design are added up, the enhanced lifestyles shared by all of society makes sense, both economically and environmentally. Again, as we move into an era of smarter technology and more expensive natural resources, we can’t afford not to build green.
Green building. You’ve heard the words, but what do they mean? Green building is a trend in the architecture field to build structures that are water and energy efficient out of environmentally friendly materials. Manuel Cadrecha, a design director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention building, a structure we’ll learn more about later in this article, believes that the green building process not only benefits the community at large but will soon become the norm [source: AIA]. We picked ten sustainable buildings that stand out as inspirational examples of green building methods — buildings that just may thrust green building into the realm of standard construction methods. By striving to keep these buildings sustainable in new and creative ways, architects and designers have successfully erected structures that reflect a growing sense of stewardship for the environment. They have found solutions to problems such as water runoff, heating and cooling energy consumption, construction waste and water waste, among other issues. These buildings span different climates (in states such as California, Ohio, and Georgia) and different functions (homes, courthouses, offices), displaying just how versatile green building can be. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has distinguished many of these buildings with places in their annual top ten lists of Green Projects, and the U.S. Green Building Council has bestowed high LEED ratings on most as well. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, uses a rating point system to measure sustainability and awards silver, gold, and platinum status to a completed project. Among the other advantages of sustainable building, it turns out that going green might actually save you green — dollar bills, that is. Although green building construction can be pricey up front, the money you spend initially could come trickling back in the form of lower water and energy bills. So whether you want to reduce your ecological footprint, you are interested in architectural trends or you just want to save some cash, read on to learn about some truly inspirational sustainable projects.
10: CDC Division of Laboratory Sciences, Building 110
Even the U.S government is jumping on the green building bandwagon, evidenced by this building, used for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. It achieved LEED Gold status (and was the first high-performance government building to do so) by incorporating several green building techniques. For instance, the water conservation systems allow rainwater to collect in cisterns and seep into the ground to irrigate the landscape. Even the condensation that forms on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems collects in these cisterns.
The material used for the building includes renewable resources, like bamboo, and builders recycled over half of the waste from construction.
To save energy, lights throughout the building are equipped with sensors that detect when a room is empty or when sunlight is sufficient, in which case the sensors would trigger the lights to shut off. Architects call this technique solar harvesting.
Adequate sunlight is especially important for the lab areas, as they are frequently occupied. The architects designed the building to permit lots of sunlight (even though the position of the building made this difficult). Sixteen-foot- (4.8-meter-) high ceilings allow sunlight to extend deeper into the lab rooms. In addition, a brise-soleil system (or sun shade structure) takes in light and reflects it throughout the building, while at the same time blocking solar heat. The efforts have paid off — the building saves about $175 thousand in energy costs each year [source: AIA]
On the next page, we’ll find out how one building produced only one-tenth of the waste the typical home construction projects creates.
9: Z6 House
The Z6 House in Santa Monica, Calif., gets its name from the philosophy behind its construction. Specifically, it refers to the goal of attaining zero levels of these six factors: waste, energy, water, carbon, emissions and ignorance. This philosophy drove the owners and architects to use every green building method they could to make a sustainable and livable home. Builders succeeded in producing only a fraction (one-tenth) of the waste typically put out by home construction [source: AIA]. How did they do this? By actually building the house in pieces in a factory and then assembling these pieces on-site (which only took 13 hours). Not only is this method efficient, but it allows the owners to disassemble the house and move it to a new location should they choose. In addition, movable walls in all the bedrooms allow inhabitants to adapt the rooms to their needs.
As with many of the projects we’ll discuss, the builders of the Z6 House incorporated an array of PV panels in hopes of providing 60 percent to 70 percent of the home’s energy consumption [source: AIA]. The owners also chose energy efficient appliances. Using a solar hot water heater, which collects heat to use for the water, also reduces energy use significantly. This heater also contributes to warming the home by powering the radiant floor heating system. Special glazing on the house also allows for the winter sun to warm the house effectively. In the summer, ventilation in the structure allows breezes to cool the home. Architects also made sure balconies provided significant shading for hot days.
In their efforts to conserve water, architects incorporated several different green building methods. For example, a green roof with sedums and other plants allows a reduction in runoff. Other rainwater collects in a large water cistern, which irrigates the green roof when needed. Meanwhile, gray water irrigates the plants on the ground. In addition to these features, low flow faucets and showerheads contribute to reducing the amount of water used.
Owners made sure to select materials made with recycled products for things such as tiles and countertops, and even the steel frame. They also chose cork for the floors. Green building experts recommend cork as a practical and sustainable material because it is obtained without needing to cut down the tree from which it grows.
As with most sustainable buildings, architects expect the energy-efficient features, such as PV arrays, to save the owners enough money in energy bills to pay for themselves eventually. In this case, that payback should take eight to 10 years [source: sunenews]. To help keep the inhabitants aware of their energy use, a system allows them to monitor the home’s consumption.
On the next page, we’ll learn how a wall of plastic bottles can heat a home.
8: Factor 10 House
Like the Z6 House, Chicago‘s Factor 10 House gets its name from its philosophy — the claim that the structure consumes one-tenth of the environmental resources that the average home uses (in other words, it minimizes the ecological footprint by a “factor of 10”). In an effort to find affordable methods to green build, Chicago’s Department of Environment and Housing held a competition for designs, and Factor 10 was among the winners.
The Factor 10 house incorporates dozens of creative green building techniques, not the least of which is the solar chimney, which both warms and cools the house using fans. In addition to temperature functions, the solar chimney, which harnesses sunlight from windows for warmth, also provides light for the house, so to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and electricity.
In addition to appliances and low flow fixtures that reduce energy and water use, the house uses a green roof planted with sedum. This roof both significantly reduces water runoff and causes evaporative cooling. Architects also oriented window placement so that few windows face north and south to reduce heat loss in the winter.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the house is a wall made of water bottles. Not only is the material itself being recycled, but the wall serves as a heat sink which collects heat all day and releases it into the house during the cool night. Insulation for the house was manufactured from recycled paper, and the concrete used for foundation incorporates fly ash (a substance produced during the burning of coal.) Even the carpet consists of recycled materials — specifically, material from recycled plastic bottles.
Read on to the next page to find out how a bowling lane can be used as a longer-than-average table for students.
7: Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies
Oberlin College likes to practice what it preaches. To reflect what students learn inside, the construction of the school’s environmental studies building has focused on reducing environmental impact. Located in Oberlin, Ohio, the building, funded by private donations, implements several green building techniques to keep this large structure energy-efficient and yet comfortable.
For example, to minimize water consumption, the Lewis Center employs a water treatment system it named “The Living Machine.” As the system takes in wastewater, the machine treats and purifies the water so that it can be reused for toilets.
The photovoltaic (PV) system on the building’s roof also works to reduce environmental impact. Using the sunlight, this system provides a significant amount of the energy for the building, which reduces its reliance on coal-fired power plants. Whenever this system provides more energy than the building needs, the local power company purchases the gratuitous electricity. Sensors that detect sunlight and movement regulate lights, so to avoid unnecessary use.
As with the Factor 10 House, appropriately positioned windows help the building take significant advantage of the daylight. Geothermal wells also help to heat and cool the building.
When possible, the construction utilized scrap materials from the rest of the campus. For example, an old bowling lane is now a table in the Lewis Center.
The students and faculty also strive to use surrounding land in the most environmentally conscientious ways as well. Part of their mission included creating a nearby wetland to help reverse the effect of human elimination on wetlands in Ohio. Wetlands are swampy areas that organizations like the EPA seek to protect because they provide habitats for wildlife and can even improve water quality by grabbing the nasty ingredients out of runoff before it becomes drinking water. Also, fruit orchards on the Lewis Center land provide produce.
On the next page of this article, we’ll learn about a house that lets in so much sunlight during the day that artificial light is pointless.
6: Solar Umbrella House
The initial structure for this house in Venice, Calif., dates back to the 1920s with a renovation 10 years later. In 2005, owners decided to renovate sections of the house as well as add portions, increasing it to more than twice its original size. These changes, which focused on making the structure more sustainable, included adding a “solar umbrella” of PV panels which ended up providing 95 percent of the home’s energy [source: AIA].
In addition to providing most of the energy for the house, the PV panels shade the house, reducing any energy needed for cooling the house. In addition, the structure allows cross ventilation to provide significant cooling. Also, three solar panels contribute to heating water for the hot water supply as well as for the swimming pool. A heating system that releases heat through the concrete floors of the house heats the house very efficiently. The structure allows for significant use of daylight — so much so that artificial light is not necessary at all during a sunny day.
Construction materials used for the renovation included concrete that is 50 percent fly ash and recycled mild steel as well as other recycled materials [site: AIA]. Because they started with an existing structure, the builders were able to forego using a significant amount of new material. Not only that, but builders recycled about 85 percent of the waste that resulted from construction [site: AIA].
The amount of water runoff from the house is low as well, thanks to gravel that lets water seep into the ground. Eighty percent of the water that doesn’t enter the ground doesn’t turn into runoff either because of a water retention system that collects the water in a basin [site: AIA].
Owners chose particularly energy-efficient appliances and also implement lighting systems to reduce electricity use. After all is said and done, the home ends up consuming half of the gas that it did before, even though it is more than twice its original size.
If you really want to encourage earth-friendly behavior, don’t just build a sustainable structure but make it difficult for the people who use the structure to park cars there. Learn more about this strategy on the next page.
5: Colorado Court Affordable Housing Project
In a district of Santa Monica, Calif., where the cost of living has skyrocketed, city officials have been seeking ways to help low income people stay in the area. These efforts helped lead to the Colorado Court apartments, an environmentally conscious approach to affordable housing. With two on-site energy generation systems, this complex became the nation’s first energy neutral affordable housing project [source: AIA]. These two systems are a PV panel system and a natural-gas turbine cogeneration system. In addition, the heat generated as a byproduct of the turbine system helps contribute to the hot water supply and radiator system of space heating.
Part of what helps make this building so sustainable is that it incorporates no air conditioning systems. Architects made this possible by maximizing the use of breeze with window placement to encourage ventilation. The sides that don’t get as much of the breeze benefit from shade of solar panels. Also, lights turn off in unoccupied rooms by the use of motion sensors. Management chose appliances, such as refrigerators, in the units that are especially energy efficient.
Another system constructed for the building collects rainwater from the entire block behind the building and filters it through the ground to reduce runoff. Low flow toilets and shower heads minimize water waste.
The design of the parking facilities also strives to contribute to environmentally-friendly practices. For instance, with only one parking space for every four units, residents are encouraged to take public transportation. The facility also designates space for bike storage as well as a station for recharging electric vehicles.
During construction, builders only needed to remove one tree from the area, which they then had replanted. The concrete used consists partly of fly ash, and recycled material makes up all of the carpets. In addition, builders used recycled newsprint for insulation.
On the next page, you’ll learn about another facility that discourages driving through green parking lot design.
4: Austin Resource Center for the Homeless
When the city of Austin, Texas, required that public projects in the city qualify for LEED silver status, the architects of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless jumped on board. This public building serves the homeless population in the city in addition to offering a computer room, an art room, and offices for other public organizations. Using energy and water saving methods as well as environmentally-friendly materials, the architects succeeded in building a highly sustainable and useful building.
Various structural designs that keep the building shaded reduce the energy needed to cool the building in the summer. Special coating on the roof reflects a significant amount of heat to keep the building cool. PV panels, donated to the project, help contribute the energy consumed in the building. Also, a solar hot water system supports the hot water supply and motion sensors turn off lights in rooms that are empty or don’t need artificial light. All these factors mean the building uses 20 percent less energy [source: AIA]. Otherwise, using energy from renewable sources was a priority for the building’s designers as well.
To efficiently use water, the building collects rain water, which is in turn used for flushing toilets and irrigation of the landscape. Sensors on the faucets cut down on water waste, too.
Architects also wanted to use recycled material wherever possible as well. So, cement partially composed of fly ash was used. And, although construction always entails producing waste, more than half ended up being recycled
In an effort to encourage alternative, clean transportation, planners designed a parking lot that limits spaces for cars (to encourage carpooling) and contains more space for bikes. In addition, the site includes a station for recharging electric cars. Its proximity to several bus lines also makes public transportation convenient.
One of the biggest challenges in green design is water conservation. On the next page, we’ll learn how one building uses aerated faucets to reduce water consumption.
3: Lake View Terrace Library
The Lake View Terrace Library in Lake View Terrace, Calif., ties the community together with a structure that represents environmental sustainability and utility, as well as beauty. The efforts to attain a platinum LEED rating were successful and resulted in a highly sustainable building.
A PV array provides shade for the entrance and is the source for 15 percent of the library’s energy use [source: AIA]. The library also agreed to a contract to ensure that the building uses wind energy, rather than fossil fueled energy. To minimize the need for artificial light, the reading room in the library lies along an east-west axis, which takes full advantage of daylight. Architects designed arch structures for the library to allow ventilation to keep the building cool without reliance on air conditioning. This works well even when there isn’t a strong natural wind.
Design specifications incorporated plenty of room for landscaping, while making pavement for parking more space-efficient. With this landscaping, the library reduces the amount of its runoff by 25 percent [source: AIA]. To save water needed for irrigation of landscaping, many of the plants are drought-tolerant, and the system stops irrigation when it’s raining. Plumbing features such as aerated faucets reduce unnecessary water consumption as well. These kinds of faucets mix air with the water to maintain a strong water flow while still conserving water use.
Builders were able to use material consisting of recycled content for much of the building. That includes the insulation, carpet and steel structures. In addition, the building’s cement consists partly of fly ash. During construction, builders succeeded in recycling about 75 percent of the waste [source: AIA].
The next building you’ll learn about uses waterless urinals to cut down on water consumption. Read the next page to learn what other ways this building conserves water.
2: Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse
Like the CDC, this courthouse in Eugene, Oregon is a sustainable federal government building. This massive structure is on a site previously occupied by a cannery plant that contributed to water runoff in a climate with 51 inches (about 1 meter) of rainfall each year. Efforts to reduce runoff led to the construction of underground parking, allowing for more landscape, instead of concrete, to surround the building. Moisture sensors that regulate irrigation and plants that can sustain little irrigation also reduce water consumption for the site. Waterless urinals and low flow plumbing fixtures help as well. All in all, this structure reduces water consumption by 40 percent [source: AIA].
To conserve energy, the building’s architects designed the roof with clerestory windows which let significant light into the courtrooms, restricting the need for other lights (which have sensors that detect occupancy and other light). Glazing on the structure also insulates heat. Although buildings with such high ceilings are costly to keep warm, a heating system in the floor offers a solution for efficiency. Because heat rises, warming these rooms through the floor helps keep some heat near the floor. To keep the building cool in the winter, architects designed the structure to provide shade for certain areas of the building.
Builders also placed a high priority in using recycled content in such structures that used steel and aluminum.
The last building you’ll learn about is no building at all, but a barn. Find out how this barn could help you appreciate sustainable design.
1: The Barn at Fallingwater
This barn in western Pennsylvania lies on land adjacent to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater house — a structure acclaimed for its artistic appeal and use of the natural landscape. In keeping with Fallingwater’s brilliant integration of nature and civilization, the Western Pennsylvania Conservatory (WPC) uses the barn as a both a forum and example for visitors to learn about green building. It also holds community social events, such as barn dances, during its three-season availability. Originally built in the 19th century, the WPC had the barn renovated to become sustainable as a way to reflect their mission to connect the community to nature.
Among its numerous energy efficient methods, the barn uses a geothermal heat pump for heating and cooling needs. This device minimizes the need for fossil fuels by using the earth’s ground as a source of heat in the winter and a place to get rid of heat in the winter. Other tools include sensors that shut off lights when a room is empty and when sunlight is sufficient to light a room. To preserve water, the facility recycles gray water. It also employs low flow fixtures that allow it to use less water to perform the same tasks. Using these has resulted in reducing the consumption of potable water by as much as 71 percent [source: AIA]. Bioswales, ditches that catch water and reroute it, also allow the facility to use water runoff from parking lots. In addition, the sprayed-on polyurethane insulation materials used in the barn are HCFC-free. HCFCs, or Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, are harmful to the ozone [source: EPA]. Other parts of the barn use straw bale insulation as well.
Striving to stay environmentally conscious from the outset, the construction teams were able to recycle 81 percent of the trash that resulted from renovation [source: AIA]. In addition, the site provides shaded parking for idle buses visiting the Fallingwater house so that they use less air conditioning.
A study of the photovoltaic industries in the US and China shows that China’s dominance in solar panel manufacturing is not driven solely by cheaper labour and government support, but by larger-scale manufacturing and resulting supply-chain benefits.
But the researchers say a balance could be achieved through future innovations in crystalline solar cell technology, which have the potential to equalise prices by enhancing access to materials and expanding manufacturing scale across all regions.
The study is published today in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science.
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a bottom-up cost model to examine the underlying causes for the shift in the global manufacturing base of photovoltaics from the US and Europe to China.
To carry out their economic analysis, they adopted the perspective of a multi-national firm evaluating locations for a solar panel manufacturing facility in either the US or China. They predicted how the firm would decide by examining a factor called Minimum Sustainable Price (MSP) for monocrystalline silicon solar panels manufactured in each region. The MSP represents the minimum price at which a company can sell its products while providing an adequate return for the company.
Using industry-validated figures from the first half of 2012, they estimated an MSP of $1.19 per Watt for US solar panels, compared to $0.91 per Watt for Chinese solar panels, representing a price advantage of 23 per cent for a China-based manufacturer.
But when they examined country-specific factors for this price difference, they found that China’s historical advantage of low-cost labour was counteracted by other regional influences, and that the dominant reason behind its success is primarily the scale of solar panel manufacturing in the region, enabled by access to capital and a less restrictive business and regulatory environment.
The study shows that the density of production and the cost-benefit of using local suppliers give a China-based manufacturer access to cheaper materials and machinery. These scale and supply-chain advantages provide a China-based solar panel factory with a significant MSP advantage of $0.28 per Watt.
Al Goodrich, Senior Analyst at NREL and lead author of the study said: “These advantages, which are not indigenous to China, could be replicated by manufacturers based in other countries if comparable scale could be achieved.
“But for solar power, there’s a chicken and egg problem: consistent demand is needed to provide manufacturers with access to the capital required to achieve large scale production, but large-scale production will be necessary for solar power to compete as an energy source without subsidies.
“Future innovations in silicon solar panels – which may be most quickly and effectively realised through global collaborative effort – have the potential to reduce key investment risks for manufacturers. This would enable manufacturing on an equivalent scale across most regions, bringing the benefits of high volume production to them all.”
Professor Tonio Buonassisi, associate professor at MIT and co-author of the study added: “The ‘holy grail’ is a photovoltaic module that gives the biggest bang for its buck – with high efficiency, lower materials costs, streamlined and scalable manufacturing and unquestionable reliability. The photovoltaic modules you can buy today have a few of these attributes, but not all of them together.”
He continued: “The glass industry between the 1880s and the 1950s underwent innovations that streamlined the process to one integrated tool, where you put feedstock in one end and get one product out at the other end.
“We envisage a similar evolution for solar panel manufacturing. Practical innovations in photovoltaic technologies will accelerate the convergence of solar power and traditional energy sources in the future, terms of both price and scale.
“This common goal, for the benefit nations across the world, is an opportunity for international cooperation that leverages our complementary strengths.”
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – especially if “it” is greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, produced by building construction and operations.
Data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency shows that the built environment produces about 50 percent of the nation’s manmade carbon dioxide emissions; motor vehicles are responsible for less than 30 percent. While scientists have learned much about the carbon footprint generated by buildings over their lifecycle, this knowledge has yet to find its way into the hands of the architects, engineers, facility managers and builders who can modify that footprint.
Researchers at Colorado State University have been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop measurement and assessment tools to be integrated with existing architectural design software and building material databases to provide real-time, “on-the-fly” carbon footprint metrics.
The concept for a Carbon Footprint Metric (CFM) system for the built environment was developed as part of a Global Challenges Research Team in the interdisciplinary School of Global Environmental Sustainability, or SoGES, at CSU. Peter Means, a graduate student, first suggested the CFM effort as a cross-disciplinary activity, based on his research on modular construction conducted under the supervision of Mary Nobe in the CSU Department of Construction Management.
Several faculty members participated in the SoGES team and developed the proposal submitted to NSF, including Keith Paustian, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Chuck Anderson and Robert France, Department of Computer Science; Angela Guggemos, Department of Construction Management; Thomas Bradley, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Carol Dollard, CSU Facilities Management; Brian Dunbar, Department of Construction Management and the Institute for the Built Environment; and Alberta Carpenter and Luigi Polese of the National Renewal Energy Laboratory.
The CFM research will involve students and faculty in various departments in the CSU Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Engineering, Health and Human Sciences and Natural Sciences over the two-year life of the grant.
“When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a key element to changing behavior on the part of both building professionals and consumers is better environmental impact measurement systems,” explained Paustian, the project director. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a system that measures emissions for the entire building lifecycle, from design to decommissioning. The system will need to be readily accessible to architects and builders, easy to understand and use, and conforming to existing environmental management systems.”
From research to design tool
In the built environment, emission sources include all the steps in producing and transporting building materials; building construction; building operation and maintenance, such as HVAC systems and landscaping; and activities involved in building turnover, disposal and recycling.
The CSU research will consist of comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments from design through construction of three progressively more complex buildings: a cutting-edge modular residential building designed by Living Homes in Los Angeles; a CSU university classroom and laboratory building in Fort Collins designed by Neenan Co.; and an industrial building – the New Belgium brewery in Asheville, N.C.
“From this research, we will create a CFM system prototype,” Paustian said. “Once validated for each class of building, the CFM system will permit design and construction practitioners to evaluate and alter building designs in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the building.”
The CFM system will allow those working in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry to create an integrated design for a “net zero” greenhouse-gas built environment. The project has been endorsed by the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Green Building Council, the National Institute for Building Science, the Rocky Mountain Institute and Architecture 2030.
“Less attention has been given to buildings as a major source of greenhouse gases, partially because it requires multiple disciplines to synthesize knowledge and develop a useful tool,” said Diana Wall, director of SoGES and a CSU University Distinguished Professor. “Congratulations to this research team for addressing this challenge – we look forward to helping achieve this goal.”
And as I grasped it did I think of what it meant to the human race of Pellucidar, did there flash through my mind the thought that countless generations of my own kind yet unborn would have reason to worship me for the thing that I had accomplished for them? I did not. I thought of a beautiful oval face, gazing out of limpid eyes, through a waving mass of jet-black hair. I thought of red, red lips, God-made for kissing. And of a sudden, apropos of nothing, standing there alone in the secret chamber of the Mahars of Pellucidar, I realized that I loved Dian the Beautiful.
For an instant I stood there thinking of her, and then, with a sigh, I tucked the book in the thong that supported my loin cloth, and turned to leave the apartment. At the bottom of the corridor which leads aloft from the lower chambers I whistled in accordance with the prearranged signal which was to announce to Perry and Ghak that I had been successful. A moment later they stood beside me, and to my surprise I saw that Hooja the Sly One accompanied them. Continue Reading
If ever you find her, yes, he answered. Merely to raise her hand above her head and drop it in the presence of others is sufficient to release her; but how may you ever find her, you who are doomed to a life of slavery yourself in the buried city of Phutra? Is there no escape? I asked. Hooja the Sly One escaped and took the others with him, replied Ghak. “But there are no more dark places on the way to Phutra, and once there it is not so easy—the Mahars are very wise. Even if one escaped from Phutra there are the thipdars—they would find you, and then—” the Hairy One shuddered. “No, you will never escape the Mahars.” Continue Reading