When we're talking about solving big problems there is a division between those who believe new technology will hold the key and those who believe things need to change now, even if we don't have the perfect tools. That division was highlighted at yesterday's talk on energy and climate by Bill Gates.
Bill Gates, former Microsoft CEO and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke at Climate Solutions' annual breakfast May 10. Our story on his talk is here and there are
“The thing I think is the most under-invested in is basic R&D,” he said. “That's something only the government will do. Over the next couple of decades, we have to invent and pilot, and in the decades after that we have to deploy in an unbelievably fast way, these sources.”
But even during the breakfast, this division between work in the future and work now was felt. Dean Allen, CEO of McKinstry, spoke before Gates did. He said technological silver bullets are great but "it's often not best to wait for superman. It's sometimes better to figure out how to take practical and profitable real time solutions where we live.", go here.
Later, in a briefing with journalists, KC Golden, Climate Solutions' policy director, said he doesn't think all our problems will be solved by public funding. Public money isn’t a panacea, he said, but it is a critical piece of the solution for the energy sector “because the way the regulated economy works starves the energy sector of R&D money and innovation.”
If we are going to solve the energy and climate problems, what do you think we should be concentrating on - innovation or current work? Of course, the true solution would and most likely will (if we find it) include both. But which area do you think deserves more attention?
If you don't have a subscription to the DJC or don't click on our articles as they are locked, you might not know about our free special sections.
Special sections, written by people in a targeted industry for people in the industry, are free to read, meaning even you non-subscribers can access valuable information. Special sections come out about once a month and each section focuses on a different topic. This month's excellent topic is Building Green and I am thoroughly impressed with the breadth of this year's coverage.
In it, you'll find this excellent article by Michelle Rosenberger and Nancy Henderson of ArchEcology called "Watch out for 'greenwashing' by service providers." Among its interesting points, the article examines whether consultants can truly bring a LEED approach to a project without rigorous third party LEED certification. Interesting item to bring up.
There's this great article by Joel Sisolak of the Cascadia Green Building Council called "Two Seattle projects set 'net-zero' water goals," which looks at the region's water infrastructure and two living buildings (The Bertschi School's Science Wing and the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction, both covered previously in this blog) that plan to go off the water grid and their challenges in doing so.
Then there's this article by Elizabeth Powers at O'Brien & Co. on whether green parking lots can be (gasp!) green. I'll let you read the article to learn more.
The section also has articles from representatives of Skanska USA Building, Mithun, MulvannyG2, GGLO, Scott Surdyke, Sandra Mallory of the city of Seattle and CollinsWoerman on topics ranging from the city's role in evolving practices to big box stores, student housing and public housing.
So go ahead, check it out and enjoy!
At the end of 2009, the city of Seattle legalized backyard cottages on Seattle lots over 4,000 square feet. This
Those who attend the event will see all the design challenge entries, meet the designers, participate in the awards ceremony and enjoy food and drink. A jury including David Cutler of the Seattle City Planning Commission, Robert Humble of Hybrid Architecture and Colleen Groll of O'Brien & Co. will judge the entries. Andrea Petzel, Seattle City Planner, will act as advisor to the judges.
There will be five awards given out. Awards will be given for overall best design, honorable mention for best design, most innovative, most sustainable and most adoptable.
The free event will be at 7601 Greenwood Ave. N. and begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Brian Abramson at Method Homes at (206) 790.2852 or Infiniti RED at (206) 235.6925. eva@infinitiRED.com.
According to the audit, the "partnership circumvented state contracting laws, exceeded its purchasing authority and made unallowable purchases with public funds."
I just spoke with Frank Mendizabal, spokesperson for the partnership, who said the agency has made a number of changes already in response to the audit but will continue "tweaking" its operations in the future.
For more information, check out the KUOW story here.
The other day, I was talking with Pam Worner, top dog at Green Dog Enterprises (yes, that's her official title) about a new green house project. When Pam just about shocked me out of my chair with the following sentence: "We had the best year ever last year but not without a lot of anxiety." That's right; 2009 was her company's best year ever.
First, some history. Green Dog Enterprises is a consulting firm that has been around for four years. It "promotes
She has worked on a number of cool projects, many of which are listed here.
To survive this past year, Green Dog did a number of key things. First, it didn't turn down any job and expanded the kind of work it did. It did consulting, marketing, verification and worked in niches that weren't being filled. Second, it spread out geographically to areas that green building consultants don't always concentrate on. Areas like Pierce, Thurston, San Juan and Jefferson counties. Third, it cut overhead and moved into an office in Worner's house.
In other words, Green Dog worked with 50 different clients in 2009. That's up 50 percent from the year before, Worner said.
Worner said a lot of her growth came from areas outside of King County. In King County, she said, "you probably can't swing a cat without hitting some sort of green building expert." But those experts don't always go to neighboring areas where demand for green systems and projects are also growing exponentially.
Still, there was a lot of anxiety about surviving. But for every one thing that disappeared, another two things reappeared, Worner said.
Worner only works with green projects and attributes her success in the past year to that work. She said she knows of several builders who say that it is the green focus that has kept them competitive during the downturn.
Moving forward, Worner is confident she can continue her momentum. "This will be an even better year."
In addition to Mosler Lofts, this building has been a very significant feather in the green developer's cap. It represented the company's commitment to green building, and was often cited as an example of what could be done in green development.
Last June, I reported on the double LEED certification for existing buildings and interiors here. The building's improvements included daylighting 90 percent of the office space, installing daylight sensors control lighting, using rainwater barrels and a reflective roof.
In that story, Mark Schuster, founder and CEO of The Schuster Group, said, "We didn't just want to create an environmentally savvy building, we wanted to create an environmentally friendly atmosphere in which every tenant and employee has an active role in using green practices every day."
Schuster also spoke at a forum in February on how green development would be affected by the economy. At that event, he said people in the green movement are going to have to be committed to jumpstarting green building once the economy comes back in a couple of years. To read the story, see the DJC here.
Earlier today, NAIOP national released a report that looks at the levels of energy efficiency a standard office building can achieve while remaining economically feasible.
The study looked at whether commercial development could achieve reduction
targets of between 30 and 50 percent above ASHRAE 90.1-2004. It compared results on a four-story, 95,000-square-foot, Class A office building in climate zones represented in Chicago, Baltimore and Newport Beach, Calif.
"Findings show that although significant energy efficiencies can be achieved (varying by climate zone), reaching a 30 percent reduction above the ASHRAE standard is not feasible using common design approaches and would exceed a 10-year payback. The study concluded that achieving a 50 percent reduction above the standard is not currently reachable."
Here is the breakdown:
Chicago had a 23 percent increase in energy savings at a $188,523 cost increase at an 8.8 year payback.
Baltimore had a 21.5 percent increase in energy efficiency at a $165,148 cost increase at an 11 year payback.
Newport Beach had a 15.8 percent increase in energy savings at a $169,898 additional cost at a 12.2 year payback.
Ouch. Those are long paybacks for most developers. But then again, developers ARE targeting these goals and reaching them. Heck, there are net-zero buildings under development! NAIOP's goal in developing this study was to prove that a one-size fits all approach does not work in green buildings, but that almost seems to holds true in countering the study, too. Though most of the developers who really push the green envelope, both in design and energy efficiency, are long-term holders of buildings.
Is that what it all comes down to? What a developer's business model is?
The study also said elements of a holistic, integrated design approach that could create higher energy efficiencies were impractical in the study's building prototype. The example the study gives is that a geothermal system requires an additional two acres of space, at least in the Newport Beach model.
To read the entire press release, go here.
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Green building has many elephants in the room and thanks to the current state of the economy, this is a big one: will green building suffer because of the current state of the economy?
The problem with trying to answer this question is that it all comes down to
Assuming you can answer the definition question, another one immediately presents itself: how do we measure how green buildings are doing? Is there any way to realistically measure the buildings that are putting off plans, and then how green building is a factor in that?
I cannot answer these questions without doing a lot of research with time I frankly don't have. But in the end, it seems like there are two groups out there:
1. The group that thinks yes, green buildings will take a hit because they're more expensive.
Which group do you belong to? Comment on my new poll at right, or tell me more below, to let me know!
P.S. For great coverage about how the market is affecting the Puget Sound region, check out the DJC. On Oct. 13, we ran a story from local contractor's perspectives. On Oct. 14, we run a story on local architecture and engineering firm's perspectives. Don't miss them!
First off, let's be clear. I'm not fear mongering, my point isn't to scare people. But the doomsday scenario of China's taking over the U.S. housing industry the same way Asia took over the U.S. auto industry was a driving factor behind Parr Lumber's development of a building science-based efficient home product.
In case you missed it, I discussed the product (and Asian threat, real or not) in an article last Thursday here.
The product is called the Parr High Performance System. Parr takes an architect's plans, tweaks them, builds pieces of a house's frame at a climate controlled plant and assembles the building's envelope on site. It's quick, easy and they say more efficient.
Parr says it reduces energy bills, reduces job site lumber waste by 75 percent, shortens the construction schedule, and provides cleaner air and consistent room temperature.
Oh, by the way, Toyota Housing Services has already entered the housing market in San Antonio, Texas.
Apparently, Toyota has been in the housing business since the 1970s. For more information on what the Japanese modular homes look like, see below or click here.
Nate Bond, director of sales at Parr, says houses have been built the same way since the stud frame home was invented in the 1800s. He says something needs to change to keep American homes competitive and efficient. If Asia brings a great, cheap, modular house to the mass American market, he said, “They would take over the U.S. housing market without firing a shot.” What do you think? Is he right?
If he is right, could efficient easy homes be the answer?
For an overview of the housing market from a mortgage planning perspective, check out this post called Brian's Blog O-Parr-Tunity here.
For more on the Parr product, where the idea came from, how it works and building science, read my story in the DJC here.