GreenStreet Inc http://www.greenstreetinc.com GreenStreet High Performance Building Wed, 23 Sep 2015 01:01:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Compromise and Cost: Building Green http://www.greenstreetinc.com/compromise-cost-building-green/ Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:22:02 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=591 No dilemma more clearly demonstrates the compromises that cannot be avoided when trying to think about building green than the decisions involved in choosing insulation. A quick assessment shows the trade-off may lie between materials that require huge amounts of energy to produce as opposed to the energy they save in their lifetimes. Examples are...

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Insulation

No dilemma more clearly demonstrates the compromises that cannot be avoided when trying to think about building green than the decisions involved in choosing insulation. A quick assessment shows the trade-off may lie between materials that require huge amounts of energy to produce as opposed to the energy they save in their lifetimes.

Examples are found in rockwool and fiberglass—each requires a great degree of heat to produce, even though they may become inert and environmentally safe. However, is the tiny amount of risky chemicals in polyiso and its petrochemical source more than offset by the highest R-value of any material? What is the return on investment (for the user and for the planet) if we use more costly materials, such as Thermablok and recycled denim?

One way to examine these difficult questions is to look at the history and manufacture of insulation itself along several strata, beginning with raw-material acquisition for insulation, which involves wide variance in benefits and costs, ranging, from say, sand in fiberglass to petrochemicals in foam plastic and newspapers in cellulose. The depletion of limited resources and pollution resulting from mining are problematic here, whereas the recycled content of many materials is a boon.

With specific reference to foam plastic, as component parts, including Polystyrene, benzene, Polyisocyanurate and polyurethane ultimately are sourced from in fossil fuels (petroleum), the resource is, as we know, finite. So, too, with the boron used in fiberglass insulation (often used as a fire retardant), which has roughly a five-decade supply in this country. This is problematic in the long run.

The impact from raw-material acquisition in an environmental sense is also palpable. Air and water pollution and erosion often present many-faceted problems (tailings waste from mining, with its attendant runoff of high levels of suspended solids, ultimately the cause of deoxygenation of the water, potentially killing fish). Then there is pollution from oil spills and leaks during extraction/transporting the fossil fuels to make plastic foam, which is not insignificant.

However, buildings employing recycled content require less natural resources, use less energy in manufacturing and actually divert materials from the solid waste stream. Each has its merits:

  • cellulose—usually 80% post-consumer recycled newspaper (and the remainder fire retardant chemicals and/or acrylic binders). New technologies take this process further and to greener effect.
  • mineral wool—formerly the most common insulation type, slag wool and rock wool account for roughly 80%/20% split of the mineral wool industry, with 75% post-industrial recycled content.
  • fiberglass—each major manufacturer of fiberglass uses at least 20% recycled glass cullet in their insulation products to comply with the EPA recycled-content; the potential, it is said, is for 90% recycled glass cullet, which is being produced in one overseas plant.
  • polystrene—recycled plastic resin is used in some polystyrene, as in Amoco Foam Products (50% recycled resin), though expanded polystyrene (EPS) can also be made out of recycled polystyrene—but because of fire retardants, non-building applications are limited.
  • polyisocyanurate—according to the industry associations, all products today meet the EPA procurement guidelines for federally funded buildings (a minimum 9% recycled content). In addition to the raw chemicals having recycled content, the foil facings used on polyiso are typically 70-80% recycled aluminum.
  • radiant Barriers—aluminum used in radiant barriers is also mostly recycled. At least one radiant barrier insulation material also uses recycled plastic in the foam core (its recycled content is certified by SCS)
  • cotton Insulation—fire safety with cotton insulation is an issue, but Greenwood Cotton insulation, the present product, is approximately 95% post-industrial recycled fiber, with 25% polyester fiber. The polyester improves tear strength and recoil characteristics.

Of the above, the proposed choices for Viridian Future is the lightweight, easily cut Johns Manville AP polyiso. It is a preferred product to provide a major part of all our insulation needs, as it can be left exposed for up to 60 days and has no HFRs or noxious chemicals. Its only downside is that, if it burns, it produces thick black smoke. As it is always encased it in fire resistant drywall in a building with full sprinklers, however, this issue isn’t a full concern.

Cellulose will be our blown-in insulation (Rockwool has chemicals that don’t meet Red List standards), and both it and fiberglass use large amounts of energy in their production. This means that the cellulose must be protected from moisture, but everything should be protected from moisture in either case. For installation, ease of installation is better with cellulose, and air flow is better prevented as well. In terms of the cold, cellulose performs better for our purposes and uses less embodied energy.

Our SIPs have EPS in them, which also must be buffered from fire, which we also do. Thermoblok will be deployed as a high-R value insulation—used in thin strips where needed, along with Foamglas where a structural insulating material is required. Foamglas becomes a more cost-effective insulation when you factor across levels: greater durability and the reduced thickness of other elements.

Recommendations

The complexion of the insulation debate is multi-tiered and difficult to understand at times. At base, potential courses of action involve the following:

  1. Adequate insulation levels—the reduction of energy use in a building is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the building’s overall environmental impact. Substituting a “green” insulation material for a non-green material, if the change severely impairs energy performance, is not workable.
  2. With lower R-value materials, insulation thickness is crucial—if using a green insulation material as opposed to a higher-R-value less green insulation material, building design requires greater insulation thickness to make up for any loss in energy performance.
  3. Do not use HCFC-foamed insulation materials—HCFC cause damage, and substitutions (as above) are available.
  4. Avoid thermal bridging—provided you install a layer of insulating sheathing, minimizing the cavity-fill insulation allows your budget to employ insulative sheathing over the framing.
  5. High-recycled-content insulation—cellulose and mineral wool, instead of fiberglass, are preferable. If not use Schuller International’s (with the highest post-consumer recycled content; or Amofoam, with recycled content).
  6. In built-up roofing, install a layer of sheathing between insulation and roofing surface (allowing for reroofing without destroying insulation).
  7. Consider boardstock insulation (as it is self-supporting—cavityfill fiber insulation materials call for a framed cavity). Even though the fiber insulation material might be environmentally superior, when you factor in additional framing resource required, the advantages may not be as great.
  8. Install a continuous air barrier between insulation and living space to keep fibers out of the indoors.
  9. Specify a non-offgassing insulation material, such as Miraflex, or Air Krete. Down the road, consider Icynene and Greenwood Cotton as well, provided testing holds out.
  10. Your insulation contractor should recycle scrap insulation—Batt insulation scraps and Icynene trimmings can be chopped into loose-fill insulation with a Big Green Machine.

Sources:

http://www.doi.gov/greening/buildings/upload/iEnvironmental-Considerations-of-Building-Insulation-National-Park-Service-insulation.pdf

http://www.foamglas.com/

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/guest-blogs/fiberglass-versus-cellulose

 

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Greening Manhattan: A Dialogue http://www.greenstreetinc.com/building-green-relationships/ http://www.greenstreetinc.com/building-green-relationships/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:47:25 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=581 GreenStreet Inc. isn’t your ordinary General Contractor. Our team of LEED APs, LEED Green Associates and Certified Sustainable Building Advisors, brings a level of sophistication needed to complete green building projects successfully. Acting as general contractor, we manage a team of subcontractors, ensuring that green building standards are met. Sounds foolproof, right? Not exactly. Although...

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GreenStreet Inc. isn’t your ordinary General Contractor. Our team of LEED APs, LEED Green Associates and Certified Sustainable Building Advisors, brings a level of sophistication needed to complete green building projects successfully. Acting as general contractor, we manage a team of subcontractors, ensuring that green building standards are met.

Sounds foolproof, right? Not exactly.

Although green projects bring a level of high-performance building​, the relationship between a contractor and client remains no less essential. What follows is a breakdown, into particular elements, of a dialogue regarding Client and Contractor with Abel B’Hahn, Co-Owner of Viridian Future, and Robert Politzer, President & CEO of GreenStreet, Inc., and the challenges/successes they have faced while working toward meeting LEED Platinum, Passive House and Living Building Challenge standards, all while following a design-build model.

The Costs of Construction (And Their Solution)

Abel(client): There is an inevitable tension between Client and Contractor, I think—even when, as with Robert and myself, we respect and like each other. Even though I want Robert to make a profit on my job, I want to ensure I don’t pay any more than I have to. Even if he wants me to be pleased with our work together so I provide him with more work, he must aim to make as much profit as he can.

Robert: Yes, perhaps there is always tension between the Owner and Contractor around pricing. One of the many reasons we recommended a Design/Build project Delivery Method was so that the client would be provided with ballpark pricing as the design was being created, and that they would not experience sticker shock when the pricing and bid was finalized.

On Design Strengths and Parameters

Abel(client): As the client, I have my ideas of what I want, and feel strongly about getting what I want. But—what I want may not be practical or suitable, and my contractor has some areas of strength and some weaknesses. So he must maximize his strengths, and maybe even try to guide me away from his weak areas, whilst at the same time, advising me (and the architect) about the viability of the design.

Robert: This project attempted to push the envelope on Green Building to its very limits, and to do so on a townhouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan—and with a tight budget. GreenStreet had previously worked on nine LEED Projects, but none that attempted to include LEED, Living Building Challenge and Passive House Certification, which are crucial goals. In itself, that presented a significant series of challenges, and our work represents an accompanying series of achievements, I believe.

Reciprocity and Trust in Green Construction

Abel(client): The usual relationship between Client and Contractor involves the architect, and a three-way relationship is always dangerous. I think it is important, even when there is an architect present, that the Client and Contractor develop a strong relationship of trust, as the Client is the one who triggers the whole project, and the Contractor is the one who actually delivers the constructed building.

Robert: Indeed, mutual trust between the Client and Contractor is very important.  While we all hear of horror stories of fraudulent contractors, we don’t typically hear about the underhanded Clients who effectively steal from Contractors by not paying in full for services rendered. In fact, there is not a single experienced contractor who has not experienced such theft. So mutual trust is what is needed for a project to run smoothly.

Flexibility In Terms Of Project Goals

Abel(client): Our particular project is very passion-driven, and the reason for us working together is that we are both passionate about the same thing. That is great, but I must be reliable about payments, and specific with my expectations, and Robert must deliver construction of quality and ensure things such as safety and legality. We learned with our previous architect that passion does not trump competence. The same applies to Robert and me.

Robert: We fell in love with this project, and with the clients from the very start of the process. And we still feel quite strongly in a very positive way, but there have been a number of significant challenges and delays, most notably from the architect who was eventually fired from this project. Delays cost our company dearly, and we have donated many pounds of flesh on this project to date due to such delays and design changes.

Accountability

Abel(client): In some ways I am not the ideal client. Having realized too late that the former architect provided a spec that was way below our expectations, I have been trying to change and upgrade the spec even after we started work. This is tough for the contractor. Not only did the former architect look through LEED blinkers when designing the envelope, which has been a problem for all of us, but I have myself been on a very steep learning curve, which has led to me introducing things as we go along. This is not what the contractor wants.

Robert: Outside of the terrible delays in the design process caused by the previous architect, the numerous design changes once we started construction have also been problematic. What a Contractor wants is a clear set of plans and specifications so that he knows exactly what to build. Every design change that happens during construction has a negative impact on the pace of construction. Again, delays for a Contractor mean costs not accounted for.

Assessing, and Moving on to The Next Phase

Abel(client): Whilst I have experienced GreenStreet as being flexible, accommodating, and supportive, I think their flexibility in the job site has been hampered by not having any of their own workmen. And I do think flexibility on the part of client and contractor is important. For my part, I think there is a trade-off between flexibility and determination. Maybe my determination leads to me being less flexible?!

Robert: To date, we have conducted Demolition, Asbestos Abatement, Concrete and steel work, and installation of the SIPS panels. These are trades that we subcontract, since they are highly technical and require specialized insurance. There have been additional small-scope items that we had not yet priced and that we got pricing for from our existing subcontractors. Some of that pricing was found to be objectionable by Abel. We have explained that since we are waiting on finalized Plans and Specs for the next phase of the project, we are having to piecemeal these small changes while working with our existing subcontractors.  This piecemeal approach is, in our opinion, the problem, rather than any sort of lack of flexibility on our part. Clients need and deserve to get competitive pricing for all work done.  However, there has to be a clear Scope of Work for multiple subcontractor bidders to provide pricing for to avoid escalated pricing, or the perception of such overpricing.

Regardless of such difficulties and the challenges that attend construction in general (and perhaps green building in particular), GreenStreet and its partnering with Viridian Future display the healthy interplay and relationship between Client and Contractor.

 

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Biomimicry and Solar Ivy http://www.greenstreetinc.com/biomimicry-solar-ivy/ Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:19:00 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=568 An approach toward achieving sustainable, fully realized solutions to human challenges by mirroring natural methods, Biomimicry is a crucial philosophy ensuring that we live better lives. As a practical methodology, it seeks to develop products, processes and policies that yield new ways of conducting ourselves in the world itself. What this accomplishes, in the long...

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An approach toward achieving sustainable, fully realized solutions to human challenges by mirroring natural methods, Biomimicry is a crucial philosophy ensuring that we live better lives. As a practical methodology, it seeks to develop products, processes and policies that yield new ways of conducting ourselves in the world itself. What this accomplishes, in the long run, is a life cycle more finely in tune with the biology of the earth.

In the most basic constructive sense, biomimicry looks to the environment for building solutions (the fossil record provides us with examples of failures). That which is alive and growing in the renewable life cycle is testament to how to succeed. In areas that run the gamut from energy to architecture, human construction is taking cues from the natural world. The most accessible example is the Eastgate Building in Harare, Zimbabwe, which has an air conditioning system modeled on the self-cooling mounds of termites. The termites maintain the temperature inside their nests to within a single degree, day and night, as outside temps range from 40°-3°C. Such a model is one that serves as a dual-purpose example to us.

The integration of biomimicry into building through products is the first step. Each “mimic” lengthens our lives as it ensures a better built environment by being greener and more sustainable. Glass is a crucial construction element to high-rises, for example, but bird-collisions into the glass sides of buildings occur millions of times per annum in the U.S. Birds either don’t see the transparent sheet they’re about to fly into, or reflections in the panel cause them to try to fly through it. Ornilux is an insulated glass sheeting designed to reduce the causes of bird collisions by employing a special ultraviolet (UV)-reflective coating that appears almost transparent to humans, but is visible to bird’s visible spectrum.

With regard to glass, Solar Ivy is a more crucial mimic made by a Brooklyn-based firm, Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology (SMIT). SMIT is a design company founded on a new approach to developing sustainable technology. Mimicking the look and function of the crawling green plant, Solar Ivy features wind- and solar-power-generating photovoltaic leaves that can be affixed to the façades of buildings as a kind of power-producing skin. Engineered as a response to meet the energy needs of individuals, businesses and communities, Solar Ivy was created in adherence with the values of sustainable environmental design and conservation.

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The technology is local—and it offers a creative solution to building problems. By combining photovoltaic technology and piezoelectrics, Solar Ivy’s patent-pending system continues innovation in the realm of biomimicry, and it is a further challenge to our notions of the potential limits of solar power. How they work is in through the use of small, flexible solar cells, which mimic leaves. These are attached to a stainless-steel mesh that, on the “front,” works to have PVs capture sunlight and generate electricity. On the back side, piezoelectric generators produce power when the wind cause the leaves to move.

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The output is pretty impressive: 28-square-feet of Solar Ivy can produce 85 watts of solar power through an easily mounted interface (on a vertical wall, the light build allows for easy mount). It allows solar power to go in different positions, too, as the counterintuitive vertical climb—solar panels aren’t typically used on the sides of buildings, due to their perpendicular capture of sunlight—is managed via Solar Ivy’s foliage shape, which picks up oblique light. The leaves are not static, either: They move, catching the sun omnidirectionally. And due to the each panel’s organic shape, they seem to be natural leaves, offering a pleasing aesthetic element similar to climbing ivy. Solar Ivy also will integrate an energy monitoring system (WATTg) to allow users to visualize energy consumption and generation. A new generation (GROW) will be similar to Solar Ivy, except that it will transform the kinetic energy from its fluttering in the wind into electricity, yielding even more power.

Made of 100-percent recyclable polyethylene, the leaves come in an array of colors and opacities. SMIT’s Solar Ivy is meant to be an architectural mimic of plants—as the ivy riffles in the wind, solar energy becomes electricity. This offers an invitation, as well, to uncover further uses for the most abundant resources we have: the sun. As Solar Ivy and SMIT use recycled, reclaimed and renewable items along with a critical life-cycle analysis to ensure that the system and its component parts can be recycled, the benefit here is also dual-purpose.

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Greenstreet hopes to be able to use this technology in one of our building projects, as it is exactly the kind of local product that employs the natural world to bring about a better built environment in which we can live and work. As biomimicry is about the success in the continuing natural cycle, so our buildings must learn from and imitate the natural environment as part of that cycle.

– Alessia Pilloni

Resources/Photos:

Solar Ivy

Solaripedia

 

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LEEDing Product Transparency and Market Change http://www.greenstreetinc.com/leeding-product-transparency-market-change/ Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:50:06 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=562 The Living Building Challenge, Materials Petal, calls for Red List-compliant materials, which we detailed in a previous entry. However, as a refresher: Red List guides sustainable building teams in choosing the right products for healthy buildings, taking both inhabitants and environmental protection into consideration. Each material purchased for a job-site contains a material safety data...

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The Living Building Challenge, Materials Petal, calls for Red List-compliant materials, which we detailed in a previous entry. However, as a refresher: Red List guides sustainable building teams in choosing the right products for healthy buildings, taking both inhabitants and environmental protection into consideration. Each material purchased for a job-site contains a material safety data sheet (MSDS), and, on the MSDS, we find the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) numbers associated with each chemical contained in that specific product. Our team has been diligent in making sure all products chosen do not contain any Red List chemicals.

At times, this can prove a daunting challenge, but it leads to a greater good in the end—product transparency and market change. Part of our due diligence, per the LBC, is to write to different manufacturers who do contain Red List chemicals without offering an alternative. The LBC hopes that, with enough transparency, the field will see a great change in the array of products on offer. The LBC’s guidelines to design/construction teams have made it the only green-building standard that holds a stringent set of compliance rules—that is, until now.

During GreenBuild International Conference and Expo in New Orleans, the U.S. Green Building Council announced that it will focus on a new LEED c4 credit that encourages and rewards project teams for selecting sustainable and environmentally conscious products. In order to implement this new credit, the Supply Chain Optimization Working Group was formed, approved by the USGBC’s LEED Steering Committee, and launched with the support of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). With building product manufacturers, chemical suppliers, raw materials producers as well as design teams, academics and government agencies on the USGBC staff, momentum is building, as others seek to join (VI—the Vinyl Institute—is the most recent to partner, announcing last week that it will work with the group). The upshot? These changes will help manufacturers in reformulating their products for the construction and design of green buildings.

Crucially, the Materials and Resources (MRc) section lets project teams seek new credits, aiming for greater transparency by reporting on product content. This information, in relation to Credit 115 “allows for a project to be awarded up to two points if conforming products are used.” The first point is obtained provided that 20 products employed on a project come from manufacturers who have produced chemical inventories for those said products. Products from various programs manufacturers already in existence may be used to meet this requirement, the most famous being Health Product Declaration (HPD).

Additionally, the group seeks to advance the LEED v4 Materials and Resources (MR) credit, which encourages using products and materials with provision for life-cycle information (those with environmentally, economically and socially preferred life-cycle impact). Manufacturers of these types of products also will be rewarded, as the group focuses, as well, on methods of developing options within the credit down the line.

HPDs are simple are straightforward in conception, and the steps are simple:

  • Manufacturers go online and provide information about their products
  • An online tool outputs and inventories the products in question
  • In accordance to the HPD Open Standard chemical ingredient information with known hazards, a cross-reference is performed

A secondary point may be obtained through this credit with regard to 1.) The use of a certain percentage of products with ingredients inventoried via HPD (with certain “safe” levels of various third-party certification programs), or 2.) Through the use of products from manufacturers with third-party verification of their supply chains, addressing safe-ingredient handling and reporting procedures.

However, though this is straightforward, HPDs make many uneasy for a few (understandable) reasons. Information overload is a fear, as architects feel it is not in their purview to inspect and then scrutinize the minutiae of each chemical ingredient. Also, pure chemical-ingredient reporting can mislead: Most notably, a harmless compound may contain some chemicals within it that are not permissible. Beyond that, there are concerns over the future maintenance and dispensation of this information in future. Most pertinently, who will regulate, amend and keep tabs on its currency?

The size of a company is also at issue. Manufactures can pursue HPD products for free, but the submission of this information requires expertise that many companies, smaller in scope, may not have. So many third-party groups, already, are being hired by manufacturers to complete HPDs, which often means that this includes the option to certify them. Ultimately, manufacturers may be pressured into third-party certification. There is a cost associated with ingredient-verification: ensuring that ingredients are within the safe levels identified by the programs outlined under this LEED MR Credit creates worries that demand will grow beyond the free, one-point reporting option. Projects may begin seeking products with verified safe-ingredient lists that seek to earn the second point as well. Lastly, company management is a problem: What is involved in the identification procedures at these third-parties? What is the science underpinning the procedures, and further, where is the transparency (a primary concern at the outset)?

So, where does that leave us? The subject itself is still abstruse, and requires some digestion. Product industries are still in the information-gathering phase, learning about the proper requirements as determined by LEED, and what the transparencies entail. One industry applies the LEED provisions faithfully, but many manufacturers now pursue HPDs on an independent track. It is certain that, in the coming days, product-ingredient transparency will merely become a more crucial goal to meet, and a more difficult demand for some to satisfy.

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Retrofits Using EnerPHit http://www.greenstreetinc.com/retrofits-using-enerphit/ Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:18:44 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=530 Passive House goals can be achieved for retrofits under the EnerPHit certification. Meeting Passive levels may become trickier when retrofitting, but the retrofit standard is ambitious and achievable. Passive House Institute Founder, Dr Wolfgang Feis launched the EnerPHit standard at the Passive House Conference, and pointed out that the energy consumption of old buildings can’t...

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Passive House goals can be achieved for retrofits under the EnerPHit certification. Meeting Passive levels may become trickier when retrofitting, but the retrofit standard is ambitious and achievable.

Passive House Institute Founder, Dr Wolfgang Feis launched the EnerPHit standard at the Passive House Conference, and pointed out that the energy consumption of old buildings can’t usually be brought to the level of new build Passive House standard, precisely because of those unavoidable thermal bridges.

“But,” he notes: “The same components as for new Passive House buildings can be used, and the building substance can thus be protected and sustainability can be improved significantly. In numerous projects, a reduction of 90% in the heating demand could be achieved.”

Thus, there is a realization that retrofitters face many challenges, and, as a result, the Institute has in-built an important level of flexibility into the EnerPHit standard. The thresholds are looser, and there are fewer to meet. Moreover, certification is achievable even if these minimums are not met.

EnerPHit—“Quality-Approved Energy Retrofit with Passive House Components” Certificate—for certified energy retrofits include an opaque building envelope, windows, external doors, and ventilation. Now, installing a continuous insulated envelope is much more difficult on retrofit, as cavity walls or block walls descending all the way to the foundations, thermal bridges cannot be designed out as they can on a passive new build.

What happens with the passage of thermal current? Heat moves from the warmed space to the outside, following the path of least resistance. Thermal bridges are localized areas of building envelopes in which that flow of warmth is different—probably heightened—compared to contiguous spaces (in terms of a differential internal and external temperatures). Thermal bridges result in altered or decreased surface temperatures, which at worst can yield moisture penetration in building components and the spread of mould. There is often heat loss.

Passive Houses avoid such bridging because the interior surface temperatures are so high ubiquitously that moisture levels can not occur—yielding additionally unimportant heat loss. If the losses are smaller than a limit value [at .01 W/(mK)], then the “thermal bridge-free design” criteria are satisfied.

Should these criteria be met everywhere, planners, builders and construction managers no longer need concern themselves with cold/damp spots. Subsequent to this, less effort will be made calculating the heat-energy balance, which means appreciably improved elements, just as the construction’s sturdiness and durability are increased while saving heating energy is conserved.

To put it bluntly, measurable energy savings—between 75%-90%—can be achieved in existing buildings, following these guidelines:

  • Better thermal insulation (“if it has to be done, do it right”)
  • Improved airtightness (adumbrated with regard to thermal bridging, above)
  • Effective use of high-quality windows(should be SOP with Passive House standard)
  • Ventilation with high-efficiency heat recovery(again, Passive-House-suitable)
  • Efficient generation of heat, as noted
  • Utilization of renewable energy sources

These are proven measures—they work in new construction. A number of examples demonstrating the application of high-efficiency technology in existing buildings have become available already. The Passive House Institute has advised on the implementation of several projects and carries out measurements in modernized buildings.

The materials that can fit the standards are also important to note for Passive House retrofits. The first is the Intello Air Barrier Membrane, a smart vapor retarder furnishing a first-class air barrier for thermal insulation in roofs, walls and floors. This gives structural systems a previously unachievable degree of protection from structural damage (condensation, later mould) even under extreme climatic conditions, due to the retardant properties. The benefits:
• High diffusion tightness in winter (0.17 Perm, protection against condensation)
• Maximum diffusion openness in summer (13.20 Perm, facilitates rapid drying to the interior)
• Particularly suitability for structures with lower permeability on the exterior that prove difficult to protect from condensation (flat or grass roofs; metal siding/sheathing)
• Compatibility with a wide range of insulation elements, such as fiberglass, BIBS, mineral wool and many others
• Translucent properties allowing dense packed blown-in cellulose insulation to be inspected after installation
• Lightweight, easy installation—especially compared to OSB/Plywood, and fully recyclable, with air permeance per ASTM E2178 0.00005cfm/ft2
• Class A material per ASTM E84 test (0 FS, 35 SDI)
• Roll width: 59-1/16” (1.50m); Roll length: 164’-1/2” (50m); Roll area: 807 SF (75 m2)

Additionally there are Pro Clima Tapes. These air-seal without losing critical efficiency over time. Comprised of solid acrylic in a patented formulation, Pro Clima also have a proven track record from the past three decades in automobile and aircraft construction: A long lasting seal in conditions markedly more challenging than typical building construction.

They are based on a solid acrylic, whereas other tape manufacturers use acrylic glue with emulsifying agents and water solution, and therefore may be adversely affected if put in contact with moisture. Consequently, Pro Clima boast a higher resistance to moisture on-site—they can be applied in very humid conditions, and will even maintain a reliable seal when exposed to water. They can, in addition, be properly applied in temperatures as low as 15°F. They are also rapid-age tested, a method independently verified by the Center for Sustainable Construction (Zentrum fuer Umweltbewusstes Bauen; ZUB).

Yet another construction material, STO-Gold Air Barrier, StoGuard with Gold Coat, is a code recognized, vapor-permeable fluid-applied membrane designed for application under EIFS.

As a substrate treatment part of the StoGuard air barrier and moisture barrier assembly, it combines the Sto Gold Coat sheathing treatment with StoGuard joint/rough opening treatments. Roller- or spray-applied through standard airless appliqués, it ensures continuous air and moisture barriers that prevent air infiltration and fluid ingress within the building, protecting moisture-sensitive components, and providing a solid, secure base for an energy-efficient wall assembly. It may be used on gypsum and wood-based sheathings, or CMU.

Further sealant can be found in Dense Packed Cellulose, which prevents air infiltration while offering superb sound insulation. The dense pack provides an effective air barrier, slowing down and (often) stopping the overall movement of air through the buildings envelope. Up to 33% of a building’s air leakage, as measured with the blower door, can be eliminated using dense pack cellulose, according to extant studies.

And, as a carbon-conscious material, cellulose insulation is created from recycled newspaper and reconstituted wood pulp. Treated with Borate, a naturally occurring mineral compound, the cellulose then has the added advantage of greatly increased fire-, moisture-, mould- and vermin-resistance. When installed properly, cellulose insulation’s thermal barrier is far superior to traditional fiberglass or other insulations.

Dense pack installation cellulose comparative facts are important to consider: It has 38% stronger sealing properties, as compared to fiberglass; offers 24% reduction in air infiltration; yields 22-55% greater fire resistance; provides superior moisture, vermin and mold resistance; and greater soundproofing and vibration-dampening potential.

Roxul Mineral Wool is also a crucial insulation element. Roxul makes mineral wool insulation for cavity walls and sheathing board—it is noncombustible, water-repellent, fire-resistant, sound-absorbent, and has a thermal resistance of about R-4/in. The R-value can range from 4.0 to 4.2 per inch. These products are produced with a urea-extended phenol formaldehyde binder, though heat processing during production drives off most of the formaldehyde, resulting in extremely low emissions.

The advantages of ROXUL are manifold, as ROXUL insulation goes beyond what most conventional insulations offer. The main ingredient is stone. Thus, the above advantages are that it delays the spread of fire, providing time, in the event of fire. It won’t burn, or release toxic gases or smoke when exposed to high heat (as it may withstand temperatures of up to 2,150˚F or 1177˚C—well above levels of typical house fires). As it is water-repellant, after exposure to moisture, the wool won’t slump in the wall cavity, as many conventional batt insulation products—and the R-value will not be affected.

Importantly, it is an inert substance that does not support mould or fungal growth, which means a safer indoor environment for the home, as it is made from stone. Created from a unique combination of stone and recycled slag—a by-product of steel production that would otherwise go to landfill—the nondirectional fiber structure and higher density offers better dimensional stability and an efficient barrier against noise.

Finally, Aerogel Thermablok, a flexible, nanoporous aerogel blanket insulation that reduces energy loss as it conserves interior space in building applications, features unique, extremely attractive/useful properties. Its extremely low thermal conductivity, superior flexibility, compression resistance, hydrophobicity, and ease of use combine to make it a worthwhile choice for those seeking the utmost in thermal protection.

Patented nanotechnology combines a silica aerogel with reinforcing fibers to deliver industry-leading thermal performance in an easy-to-handle and environmentally safe product. As a proven, effective insulator, Thermablok affords the highest R-value of any insulation material for maximum energy efficiency in walls, floors, roofs, framing and windows.

If retrofitting buildings poses difficulties according to Passive House standards, the EnerPHit certification is not an unreachable goal, due to available materials and their use. They will reduce the heating and cooling load while making the refurbishment environmentally sound—reducing the carbon footprint in the long run, which is what Passive House’s measures are designed, in the first place, to achieve.

– Alessia Pilloni

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Building WELL http://www.greenstreetinc.com/building-well-cost/ Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:45:32 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=518 Greenstreet, along with everyone in the environmentally conscious design community, strives to create a better-built environment. So, in principle, we welcome the International Well Building Institute’s recent announcement of the WELL Building Standard as a way of providing additional guidelines. IWBI was launched by Delos in 2013, following a Clinton Global Initiative commitment by Delos...

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Greenstreet, along with everyone in the environmentally conscious design community, strives to create a better-built environment. So, in principle, we welcome the International Well Building Institute’s recent announcement of the WELL Building Standard as a way of providing additional guidelines. IWBI was launched by Delos in 2013, following a Clinton Global Initiative commitment by Delos Founder Paul Scialla, to improve the way people live by developing spaces that enhance occupant health and quality of life by sharing the WELL Building Standard globally. However, the forthcoming WELL Accredited Professional Program seems to offer more a paid-for endorsement from a for-profit than an efficient, nonprofit certification. So we have decided to look more closely at the pros and cons, and see where the green really lies in this green-building scenario.

First, IWBI states that the WELL standard offers a third-party certification in collaboration with the GBCI, ensuring that it works with LEED, and by extension, adds something to the mix of the

Living Building Challenge. Its putative focus is on people within buildings, marrying best design and construction practices with evidence-based health and wellness interventions. How? By harnessing the built environment as a means to support human well-being, comfort and health. A public benefit corporation (B-Corp), IWBI launches professional education, supporting publications and the WELL Accredited Professional Program, early next year.

Now, both LEED and the LBC offer superb improvements in terms of building cost-efficiency, human health and the promotion of green practices; overlap occurs when considering WELL, as it superimposes a few criteria upon both of these, while having more in common with LEED qualitatively (as it is another certification). We must remember the difference between LEED, WELL and the LCB: LEED and WELL are a series of measures to meet to receive a particular accreditation; the LBC is a philosophy, an approach, and future-focused vision. LEED is hard to achieve, and so is WELL, but the Living Building Challenge is comprehensively a more difficult, and healthful, standard. So for comparative purposes, it is best to look at it first.

The stringency of LBC requirements—the seven “Petals”—raise the bar very high for construction. In term of energy use, LBC requires meter data from a year of operation so that the project is confirmed to have a net-zero energy use: that it has generated as much as it used. In terms of water use, projects may use only water arriving naturally to the site, that it be treated on-site and returned to nature (again, net-zero use). LBC requires that the landscape be a source of local, organic food production; buildings also may not use materials from the Red List. There is no “wiggle room,” in terms of the imperatives, with LBC: A building has to achieve every single one, as there are no optional imperatives.

Greenstreet’s Viridian Future encountered issues meeting the requirements of the LBC’s Red List. As our primary focus was on the “Materials” Petal, a problem arose in locating plywood within a specific radius. In our case, as we wrote, Plywood was located at a farther distance, in a sustainable forest in Michigan, but at quadruple the cost, and it needed to be trucked to the site. This would have necessitated a greater carbon footprint. In the end, we came to a compromise: plywood finally used came from a sustainable forest in Brazil, shipped by boat: A better option in terms of our carbon footprint goal.

In terms of LEED certification, Viridian Future is striving to met the highest level of standards. Summarizing LEED’s standards, indeed, shows how tough the LBC is, however. A LEED certified building, in contrast to the LBC’s zero-net energy/water use goals, must achieve simply a marginal improvement over standard energy/water, and gets points for higher energy-efficiency plumbing fixtures. In addition, LEED offers points for irrigation-free landscaping, and allows the use of any sort of material in the construction of a building. Optional points in a various categories are on offer (whereas the LBC offers no options).

The WELL Building Standard operates along seven “Concepts” of building—attributes, reminiscent of the LBC’s seven Petals. It overlaps with LEED, as we will see, but adds two concepts. As WELL is a very recent announcement, let’s look at these standards, point-by-point:

  • Air: An attempt to optimize indoor air quality through the removal of “airborne contaminants” via “prevention and purification” strategies
  • Water: Optimization of water for “each particular use” through filtration/treatment to “remove contaminants”
  • Nourishment: A “design, technology, and knowledge building” strategy component to promote better eating via design elements “behavioral cues, healthy options, and knowledge”
  • Light: The design of “specific illumination levels and quality” that “enhance the occupant’s daily schedule and visual acuity” and “improve sleep, energy, mood” along illuminative design
  • Fitness: Optimized access to “opportunities for aerobic, strength, and flexibility training” for occupants to incorporate fitness routines into their daily schedules
  • Comfort: Creating a “distraction-free, productive and soothing environment”
  • Mind: Providing “the occupant with regular feedback and knowledge about their personal and occupational environment” and relaxation spaces, and state-of-the art technologies

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.38.38 AMPhoto provided by: IWBI

So far, this is all WELL and good, but the difficulties are evident when you ask a basic question: “At what cost?” The answer is that WELL costs more—considerably more, in fact. Becoming peer-certified in IWBI’s forthcoming schema involves thousands of dollars, and you must re-certify triannually. The IWBI’s green thumbs-up, paid for every three years—accrediting you within their seven categories—is, thus, counterintuitive (particularly considering that there is already LEED in place). The certification makes building green more expensive, even prohibitively so, over time. In the long run, such cost will push people away from building green homes because they don’t actually address another, more basic question WELL purports to, which is: “Why do we build green?”

Greenstreet knows that we build green because a better-built environment improves the health of the people who dwell within it. It costs less to do so in the human (and economic) sense by maximizing people’s comfort. That said, the purpose of certification systems is to improve the way we build, which mandates greater cost-efficiency, obviously. That bottom line is not addressed or met by WELL because the certification, apart from its incorporation of certain fitness and nutritive elements, essentially reiterates those of LEED and the LBC while adding one burdensome element: A price tag.

Greenstreet’s stand in this issue is upon a middle (greener) ground. We have, currently, effective enough certifications, such as LEED, and goals, such as the Living Building Challenge, to design and construct buildings that will improve the health and happiness of those living within them. Using these principles as guiding tools, we can build in ways that will better harness the environment, without harming it, AND we can do so more cost-effectively to make building green common practice. In the end, the proliferation of a better-built environment is our shared goal.

So instead of turning certifications systems into paid-for shingles to hang upon the doors of our buildings, Greenstreet sees a different course. Pooling our knowledge using educational resources, and sharing our ideas without a price tag, will lower the cost of building safer, more healthful in the future. In turn, this will not only be less expensive for those choosing to build green now, but will make future design more environmentally sound. Instead of WELL-certification, a different kind of accreditation, the best kind of endorsement, in fact, will come from an impartial source: the happiness of those living within our buildings.

– Alessia Pilloni

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The Benefits of Deconstruction http://www.greenstreetinc.com/benefits-deconstruction/ Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:27:39 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=507 “Deconstruction”: the word itself succinctly distinguishes the process from “demolition” by containing the word “construction.” With demolition, unwanted, hazardous materials are removed, the building is knocked down, and subsequently, crunched into useless landfill. Deconstruction, by contrast, is “unbuilding”: a building is taken apart, often in reverse order of its construction, to preserve the greatest amount...

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deconstruct

“Deconstruction”: the word itself succinctly distinguishes the process from “demolition” by containing the word “construction.” With demolition, unwanted, hazardous materials are removed, the building is knocked down, and subsequently, crunched into useless landfill.

Deconstruction, by contrast, is “unbuilding”: a building is taken apart, often in reverse order of its construction, to preserve the greatest amount of materials for re-purposing. Less energy is used, creating less pollution and engendering greater recycling potential at each step.

Another building is sure to take shape—meaning future construction, recovery and rebirth, as much as green disassembly. Through deconstruction, Viridian Future will engage in this recovery, diverting at least 90 percent of our construction unbuild away from the landfill.

Whole-house deconstruction, business-wise, also has huge economic benefits:

  • Nonprofit involvement—As many deconstruction operations are run by not-for-profit groups, tax-deductions are available for the client, resulting in a great boon.
  • An environmental/economic win-win—Deconstruction’s greater reuse and recycling mean cleaner, cleared lots, and less disposal stimulates the local economy, while extending the life of landfills, as the process requires more labor, meaning more jobs, and the availability of lower-cost building materials.

Deconstruction, however, is a process that requires several steps. These are observed in order to ensure safety and compliance—environmental, health and legal. They involve contracts and specifications, historic preservation, permits/utilities, engineering surveys, organizational and site/security plans, along with management and deconstruction process guides. Within each of these elements, the process must be pre-planned.

Safety requires competence, and knowledge of building construction and tools used during construction. Asbestos abatement is a crucial early step; as are knowledge of environmental working conditions—rain, heat, for example—and tools, supervision and training of all involved.

The site must be clean, which means clearing salvage and debris as work is done. Vertically, all the way from the weather down to the wearing of gloves and hard hats, the site’s requirements must be observed in order to ensure proper reclamation and recycling during the unbuild.

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Some of the materials Viridian Future has recycled include: Metals, wood, bricks, stairs, windows and steel doors. Our salvage material is in the process of donation/selling—this includes old appliances, furniture, bathroom fixtures and architectural features to ReUse Network.

Crucially, our donation recipients span a wide field. They include the Freecycle Network, comprised of more than 5,000 groups, with some seven million members globally. Grassroots and entirely nonprofit, the movement gives (and gets) things for free in their towns, keeping good material out of landfills.

In addition, GreenStreet Inc. contributes to New York City’s Build It Green, the city’s only nonprofit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials. They accept everything from panel doors to high-end refrigerators, window shutters and reclaimed lumber, and kitchen cabinet sets and salvaged flooring. BIG!NYC seeks to keep these materials out of landfills, while offering deep discounts on resale. They, also, work toward reducing the amount of unnecessary clogging of our landfills, as these contribute to pollution, GHG emissions, climate change and global warming—another reason underlining why GreenStreet opts for deconstruction, not demolition, and donates to the group.

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In Greenwich, CT, Green Demolitions—established in 2005—originally began as a luxury donation program, but became Renovation Angel, giving back to the charity of the donor’s choice on qualified kitchens. And Habitat for Humanity, whose houses offer simple, decent and affordable living to low-income families around the world, builds sustainable, energy-efficient and healthy housing.

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With all of these benefits, the reasons behind deconstruction (instead of demolition) are clear. It isn’t, essentially, a choice: Deconstruction most efficiently, and responsibly, recovers the quality and quantity of reusable and recyclable materials. In turn, the materials are repurposed, keeping debris out of landfills and giving back to the local community, which is at the very core of GreenStreet’s mission to build green.

– Alessia Pilloni

Sources:

Deconstruction Institute 

Green Building Advisor 

 

 

 

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Platinum Performance, Green Building http://www.greenstreetinc.com/platinum-performance-green-building/ Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:56:07 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=498 The LEED 2009 Green Building Rating System, which provides performance standards to certify the built environment—whether commercial, institutional and high-rise residential buildings, public and private—seeks to insure healthy, affordable, and eco-friendly structures. Viridian Future is working to meet these criteria by building a uniquely livable, beautiful, green home. LEED outlines seven topics in its prerequisites...

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The LEED 2009 Green Building Rating System, which provides performance standards to certify the built environment—whether commercial, institutional and high-rise residential buildings, public and private—seeks to insure healthy, affordable, and eco-friendly structures. Viridian Future is working to meet these criteria by building a uniquely livable, beautiful, green home.

LEED outlines seven topics in its prerequisites and credits for new construction and major renovations:

  • Sustainable Sites (SS)
  • Water Efficiency (WE)
  • Energy and Atmosphere (EA)
  • Materials and Resources (MR)
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
  • Innovation in Design (ID)
  • Regional Priority (RP)

With certifications awarded according to a scaled credit system (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum), Viridian Future is happy to announce its major renovation of a Townhouse into a LEED Platinum Townhouse. Our building strategies receive credits within each of the above topics, with the potential to meet the maximum possible points in SS, EA, IEQ and ID categories. Water Efficiency and Regional Priority already reach the maximum credits on the projected building score.

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The strategies that meet these construction criteria stretch from the house’s top to bottom—literally. Two water storage tanks for collected rainwater make efficient use of water on the roof, as solar collectors, providing daylight to the building’s interior via fiberoptic cables, literally bring the sun inside. One-hundred-mm (four-inch) cellulose insulation aids argon-filled, triple-glazed, high-performance M2M windows in retaining heat in winter and cooling the rooms in summer, as LED cascades throughout the rooms from uniquely designed wall sconces. The interior also is replete with many open spaces whose walls are perfect for hanging artwork (making use of directional lighting).

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 2.15.43 PM(drawings by Abel B’Hahn – Viridian Future)

Unity of purpose is a central theme within our Platinum space: A fully integrated digital home-control system covering entertainment, security, lighting, and environment manages room ambience in each of the interior areas. Access to the varied spaces is simple and easy, as well. Those not wishing to take the circular glass elevator have the added option of using an open, central steel winding staircase.

The elevator and the staircase bring guests to the top of the structure, into 360-degree sunlight and French doors leading onto the garden, with a timber deck ready for a hot tub and garden chairs, sitting under an overhanging roof. Within, the conveyances can transport visitors to a varied array of spaces: a family bedroom, with en suite shower, and a guest bedroom, with en suite bath. Other areas are functional—a utility room with laundry and a toilet—as well as a landing, a media room and dining room. Pride of place, however, is found in the master suite, featuring a luxury bathroom, walk-thru closet and study area.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 2.15.49 PM(drawings by Abel B’Hahn – Viridian Future)

Function rules below in a services room beneath the front stoop, which could be used for commercial purposes (charitable, medical or charitable functions are all possible). This abuts an enclosed area under glass for potted plants below a sun deck with patio slabs (a water retaining green roof). The new stoop will match local style, leading into an outer hall for receiving visitors, and segueing into an inner hall.

In this house, no space is wasted, and little energy is lost, in a totally realized, elegant design both state-of-the-art and inviting to owner and guest alike. It is a tribute to the building’s design that these functions also meet LEED criteria without detracting from the house’s aesthetic beauty.

A sustainable dwelling making superb use of space, water, innovation in design technology, Viridian Future’s Platinum home insures a green future, affordably and durably, right now.

– Alessia Pilloni

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Viridian Future Tackles The Living Building Challenge http://www.greenstreetinc.com/viridian-future-tackles-living-building-challenge/ Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:20:21 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=485 “Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?” —Rachel Carson, Silent Spring The Living Building Challenge, put forth by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), is one of the most important green building strategies yet proposed. The ILFI’s ambitious, global challenge encompasses seven performance areas, or “petals”: Place Water Energy...

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fsc plywood

“Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?” —Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

The Living Building Challenge, put forth by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), is one of the most important green building strategies yet proposed.

The ILFI’s ambitious, global challenge encompasses seven performance areas, or “petals”:

  • Place
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Health and Happiness
  • Materials
  • Equity
  • Beauty

Viridian Future’s primary focus remains the “Materials” petal of the LBC, which requires the proper vetting of each piece of material being used in our projects. This includes small-scale items such as adhesives, to larger building elements such as timber, furniture and more.

To this effect, our team has come together in order to garner product data from manufacturers and check it against the Living Building Challenge Red List. Our main goals are for finding LBC-products are to use Red-List compliant materials while remaining conscious of our embodied carbon footprint (the integrity of our sourcing).

The Red List’s intent is to eliminate the use of worst-in-class elements with the most pernicious impact upon human and ecosystemic health. The challenge (but also, benefit) of projects that are Red-List compliant is that they may not contain the following, for example:

  • PVCs, PVDCs, PCBs, PFCs, CFCs, HCFCs, CPVCs or BPA
  • Alkylphenols, Asbestos, Cadmium, Chromium IV
  • Lead (added), Mercury, Phthalates, Formaldehyde (Added)

These, among others chemicals singled out by Red List, present some of the worst threats to ecological and human health, embodying far more than, in Carson’s famous words, “a diet of weak poisons.” The most immediate difficulty in overcoming such threats in, as Carson went on, “the insipid surroundings” in which we often find ourselves forced to live, is clear and simple: Representative and manufacturers often are uncertain of what is in their products, and where they are sourced from.

Additionally, Red List-compliant products present further challenges because they are harder to locate and can come at a significantly higher price.

For example, one of our biggest push-backs has been sourcing FSC-certified, urea formaldehyde-free plywood within Zone 1 of the LBC requirements.

Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, causes respiratory problems and allergic reactions in even low airborne concentrations, among other immediate maladies. It was, however, challenging to find FSC-certified wood within the first and second zones of this project (an aggregate radius of 622 miles), in which 20-30% of the material had to be sourced.

 

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(Photo provided by Living Building Challenge, Manual)

Plywood was located at a farther distance, in a sustainable forest in Michigan, but at quadruple the cost, and it needed to be trucked to the site: meaning a greater carbon footprint. In the end, the plywood finally used came from a sustainable forest in Brazil, shipped by boat, which we feel is a better option in terms of our carbon footprint goal. Such issues may present a challenge in the future, wishing to achieve the standards of the Living Building Challenge.

The future goal is, however, to move beyond homes that are “just not quite fatal” to healthful living spaces. For the present, considering the sourcing challenges Viridian Future faces, we may not reach the LBC materials petal—but we are diligent in our search to find Red List-compliant products. We also plan on incorporating fully vetted materials in all of our future building projects. And then, each building will be a petal flowering into a refreshing, healthy indoor environment for all live and work within.

– Alessia Pilloni

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SunDrum’s Solar Boost; A Better Solar Panel http://www.greenstreetinc.com/sundrums-solar-boost-better-solar-panel/ Wed, 17 Sep 2014 18:26:52 +0000 http://www.greenstreetinc.com/?p=472 PV SunDrum Solar, the world leader in today’s hybrid solar systems, provides a unique thermal collector that is thin and flat. Its lightweight design, attaching to the underside of a standard PV, creates a hybrid module that Viridian Future proudly looks forward to utilizing as a means to discharge excess heat in its project home....

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PV SunDrum Solar, the world leader in today’s hybrid solar systems, provides a unique thermal collector that is thin and flat. Its lightweight design, attaching to the underside of a standard PV, creates a hybrid module that Viridian Future proudly looks forward to utilizing as a means to discharge excess heat in its project home.

The conventional solar panel is inefficient in converting solar energy to electricity, with a yield of approximately 18%— 20%, typically 195 watts of total power—with the remainder heat gains escaping into the atmosphere. However, by contrast, SunDrum increases efficiency without creating a larger carbon footprint.

Thus, SunDrum Hybrid PV Panel’s gains are obvious. As the Sundrum collector is fitted directly underneath the PV panel, it absorbs the PV panels’ waste heat. Thus, heat is extracted, and changed to a thermal transfer fluid that passes through the thermal collector. The resulting benefits are as follows:

  • Total approximate thermal power of 435 watts (threefold improvement)
  • The PV panel is cooled (with additional electricity yield)
  • Total yield of 645 watts of power
  • Increases in electrical power offer access to functional thermal power

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SunDrum collectors can, in essence, improve the PV thermal array performance by 4-10%. The company has been doing residential installations since 2008, in states from Vermont to Hawaii; and commercial installations since 2011, including buildings such as assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and notably, Brown University Aquatics in Rhode Island. In May 2013, SunDrum marked a milestone during the peak heating hour (2-3 p.m.), collecting roughly 91% of the sun’s power on the panel, and achieving a world record of 86% solar efficiency delivered to the home (after transfer losses).

 

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In terms of the bottom line, the system is able to collect energy 24 hours a day, even in low-light or no-light conditions, which improves solar economics in a dramatic fashion. Tapping into the latent energy stored in the atmosphere from the sun—which most panels can not do—SunDrum takes advantage of efficiency and time in delivering the maximum amount of energy per square foot.

By layering a SunDrum panel underneath a placed solar panel, the thermal fluid channeling the lost heat—hot water—lowers, in turn, the PV panel’s temperature where the solar energy is received. The solar panel remains, roughly, at a steady 80°F (where formerly a bare panel would climb to temperatures of 125°F and/or higher). This increased power, excess operable thermal heat and trebled increase of thermal load makes opting for SunDrum an academic choice to boost existing yields on placed panels (without overheating the panels themselves).

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In addition, “passive solar energy” is collected from the air yielded by the sun. At night, the panels actually are colder than the ambient outdoor temperature, which means that heat dissipates even more efficiently. This points the way for a much brighter future, in terms of air conditioning development, which will make for even more efficient home and commercial construction.

We will be using this technology in the Viridian Future project as a hybrid with our PV panels to provide electricity, as well as hot water, for use throughout the home. In the summer, there will be a great deal of excess heat, and our client is considering putting in a hot-tub to help discharge the excess, while adding a luxury, ecofriendly feature.

*all photos are provided by SunDrum Solar 

– Alessia Pilloni

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