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Nanosolar: Power to the people

| Monday November 12th, 2007 | 1 Comment

nanosolar.jpgNanosolar coatings are as thin as a layer of paint and can tranfer sunlight into power quite efficiently. Imagine the possibilities, from solar coated shingles to solar lined windows to solar powered cell phones and ipods. Solar powered buildings and homes might just become standard in the future thanks to this innovative technology by Nanosolar Inc. The almighty dollar will launch these thin-film solar cells into worldwide applications thanks to the fact that it’s actually cheaper than burning coal. The underlying technology for these solar cells is nothing new, having been around for decades, but Nanosolar has created the actual technology to manufacture and mass produce the solar sheets. The solar cells are produced by a solar printing press of sorts rolling out these aptly named PowerSheets rapidly and cheaply. The machines apply a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil reducing production costs to a mere tenth of current solar panels and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. The first commercial cells for consumer use are scheduled to be released this year.
Cost has always been the burdening factor weighing down the mass application of solar technology at nearly $3 per watt. In order to compete with the energy produced from coal solar has been in need of finding a way to shrink its costs down to $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use absolutely no silicon as is the standard for current solar production and the efficiency of the PowerSheet cells are competitive with the traditional systems as well. The golden kicker, the cost to produce these solar coatings is a mere 30 cents per watt!!

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TiO2 paint: At war with pollution

| Friday November 9th, 2007 | 4 Comments

Commercial and urban buildings have a large variety of different exterior applications available, also known as it’s “skin.” Some buildings are painted in order to preserve and protect the surface exposed to the elements. The problem with painting applications is that it degrades over time and releases harmful toxins into the environment.
With the endless array of environmental products and innovations that are prevalent in today’s world, it’s no wonder there is a new paint on the cusp of bucking the damaging trend of its predecessor. Imagine a paint that can make a positive contribution to the environment and urban ecology in particular. How? By cleaning up the pollutants that are transported in the air, more specifically, by reducing the levels of nitrogen oxides in the surrounding atmosphere.
Millenium Inorganic Chemicals, a British R&D firm has developed what they intended to appropriately name “Ecopaint.” This paint utilizes the same photo catalytic process of the anti-smog cement developed and under going testing in Italy. However, it has the advantage of being applicable to many different surface applications.

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IBM: Silicon Waste To Solar Power

| Wednesday November 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday, International Business Machines reported that it had developed a process to recycle discarded computer-chip wafers into solar panels. The good news, IBM can now recycle a percentage of the some three million silicon wafers used to build computer chips that have been discarded annually in the past. The major benefit from recycling this waste product is that 13.5 megawatts of power can now be generated from the solar panels or enough power to supply roughly 6,000 homes! The use of silicon in the semiconductor industry is in the form of imprinted patterns on silicon wafers in order to build the chips used in our electronic devices. The scrap wafers that have been etched with patterns that companies consider intellectual property are most often crushed and discarded in landfills.
The newly developed recycling process uses the existing wafer-polishing equipment to erase the patterns, said Thom Jagielski, the environmental manager at IBM that developed the technique. He said that this allows the wafers to be reused internally for equipment testing purposes and then can alternatively be sold to solar panel manufacturers. “It’s a simple process but it really returns benefits on so many different levels,” Jagielski said. “Not only do we reduce our overall use of silicon, but then to be able to create a raw material for the solar panel industry is kind of a good story all the way around.”

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Desiccant Systems: A new way to cool

| Wednesday November 7th, 2007 | 2 Comments

There is a new form of cooling and heating on the horizon that is hoping to replace the inefficiency of the current systems that dominate the market. Desiccant systems, also known as thermally driven air conditioning, what? Desiccants remove moisture to reduce humidity, improve air quality, and energy efficiency. Desiccant materials are those that attract moisture due to differences in vapor pressure. Desiccant materials can be dried, or regenerated, by adding heat supplied by natural gas, waste heat, or the sun. How does it work? A wheel that contains a desiccant turns slowly to pick up humidity from incoming air and discharge that humidity to the outdoors. A desiccant system can be combined with a conventional air conditioning system in which the desiccant removes humidity and the air conditioner lowers air temperature.
One promising desiccant cooling system is being developed in conjunction with energy recovery ventilators (ERV). An ERV is designed to recover energy in a mechanical ventilation system during the heating season, more specifically, recover heat and humidity from indoor air to preheat and humidify incoming fresh air. The combination of desiccants and ERV’s provide year-round energy recovery for buildings with mechanical ventilation increasing energy efficiency of the heating and cooling process.

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Green Mortgage FYI

| Monday November 5th, 2007 | 1 Comment

a%20green%20mort.jpgWill going green save the real estate market and help lenders recover from the sub-prime credit crunch? In the wake of the sub-prime mess, and the decline in real estate sales there is a silver lining…or better yet…a ‘green’ lining. From Green homes to green mortgages, going green will change the world and the way we live in it. Going Green, just like having a .com, is here to stay.
“Saving the planet” and being ‘environmentally aware’ used to be for the extremists, tree huggers, or environmental groups, but not any more. Energy bills are becoming a large part of the expense of a home. Lenders have taken notice. Financing that provides incentives for buyers, builders and lenders to practice green building and developing is the next step in the green building arena.
Mortgages are pooled together and sold to Wallstreet through Mortgage Backed Securities, both residential (MBS) and commercial (CMBS) These securities or bonds are separated or ‘tranched’ in to several different risk types determined by the rating agencies like Duff & Phelps, Fitch, Moody and Standard and Poor’s. This process is a large part of what makes the real estate market so lucrative.

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What I want in a new home

| Sunday November 4th, 2007 | 2 Comments

1house.jpgIf I’m going to sign my life away on a mortgage for freshly built house to live in; I want a house that is more than just a roof over my head, more than just a slapped together stick frame with some extras like granite counter tops a solid wood front door, and one tree with 50 square feet of grass as part of my up-grade package! How come these homes cost so much anyway?
I want a house that gives back, not just in terms of equity, but in terms of energy and healthy living. I want a house that I can leave the lights on all night without sweating over my next $200 power bill, or rest assured that the air inside my house is actually cleaner than the air outside of my house.
I think it’s about time people start demanding more ‘value’ for their money. If you buy a green home that is well insulated (not just to code) but really well insulated and designed with utility bill saving features like passive solar heating, solar power, tankless hot water heaters and/or solar hot water heaters, Autoclaved Aerated Concrete and/or ICF’s walls and low-e windows with energy and water conserving appliances, LED and fluorescent lights, and a water-wise landscape design with ‘sub-surface’ and/or drip irrigation system. I believe the value will not only increase exponentially over the next few years, but your utility bills are manageable, your life is less stressful and you can actually feel great about spending your hard earned money on a house you’re proud to call home.

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Home Energy Weak Spots

| Wednesday October 31st, 2007 | 0 Comments

money%20wondow.jpgAccording to a recent study commissioned by JELD-WEN, a manufacturer of windows and doors, nearly 26 percent of homeowners say what they dislike most about their existing windows and doors is that they are drafty and inefficient. As the temperature outside drops, it’s hard not to notice that these inefficiencies quickly turn into rising utility bills.
As much as half of the energy used in a home goes toward heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Homeowners who replace single-pane glass windows with ENERGY STAR qualified products can save $125 to $450 on energy costs annually, according to ENERGY STAR.
To maximize a home’s energy efficiency, consider the following tips:

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Pliable Cork Creativity

| Monday October 29th, 2007 | 0 Comments

cork%20chair.jpg Home decor has climbed aboard the green movement by directing its focus on eco-friendly furnishings and sustainable materials.This revolution by design is attempting to establish a cohesive relationship with the green lifestyle and attitude. From wall coverings to case goods, from flooring to upholstery, furnishings of sustainably harvested materials have taken hold.
A fine example of green furniture comes from Branch, where designer Daniel Michalik conceives contemporary designs in cork. Take a unique design, coupled with a renewable product and you get the Cortica Chaise Lounge. This lightweight, waterproof lounge chair has a clean modern look and better still, it was born with a green thumb. Thanks to these trend setters you might not have to look too far for many eco-friendly and creative designs in the furnishing industry in the years to come.

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World Series Going Solar

| Thursday October 25th, 2007 | 0 Comments

The 103rd World Series is here, the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies both swinging at a shot to become the next world champs. So what does this have to do with green business?
It has to do with Coors Field, home to the Rockies, which happens to be the first stadium to harness the Sun’s energy through its solar power system dedicated to the scoreboard. While the Rockies are making steps toward going green the solar installer is capitalizing on the publicity that the World Series has to offer. Independent Power Systems is offering a free solar system to any player that hits the scoreboards solar panels during the series. The details:
The 9.89-kilowatt solar array will produce over 14,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to power the Rockpile LED board entirely. In the tunnel below the system, a flat-panel monitor will display the real time energy consumption of the scoreboard as well as the real time energy production from the solar unit. An educational display at the park will also highlight this system and how it works providing much needed public awareness for the benefits and value of going solar. So hats off to the Rockies with this fine addition to the green industry and to their stadium!!

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Bamboo: A Smart Flooring Alternative

| Wednesday October 24th, 2007 | 6 Comments

Bamboo is inexpensive, available in a variety of styles and is a renewable resource. Bamboo flooring is similar in appearance to hardwood but is even more durable in terms of scuffing, wear and expansion. Bamboo is harvested in plantations that take only 3-6 years to reach maturity. Although still not widely used, it is perhaps the most efficient material for flooring.
How do bamboo floors compare with other hardwood floors?
There are three common types of bamboo floors. Horizontal & vertical bamboo flooring is harder than Oak hardwood. Strand Woven bamboo flooring is harder than the most expensive Brazilian Walnut. An added bonus is bamboo flooring is actually less expensive than hardwood! A common problem with bamboo is expansion due to high humidity; this problem can be avoided if the flooring is allowed to acclimate for no less than 72 hours.
How is it made? Fresh & mature bamboo clums are split and flattened lengthwise into strips of equal dimensions. These are processed & kiln dried before being pressed against each other and glued under high pressure to form raw planks. From here it is finished in a variety of ways.
Is bamboo environmentally friendly?
In most cases bamboo is specially cultivated and harvested, without damaging the ecological system of renewal. Every year the parent bamboo plant develops new stems, so the stems can be harvested after a few years in a mature plantation without decreasing the size of the forest. Not all bamboo is environmentally friendly however, in some cases toxic glues and surfacing compounds are used so be certain that the product was manufactured in accordance with the E1 safety and emission standards.

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Clay: Old World Look in the New Age

| Monday October 22nd, 2007 | 0 Comments

american%20clay.jpgThis past weekend a new all natural earth plaster was unveiled at the Traditional Building Exhibition & Conference in New Orleans. American Clay Enterprises is the company behind the all-natural plaster. The wall plaster is nothing entirely new however; it is the descendant of an ancient wall surface which happens to be an advantageous product for interior finishes. So what is this clay and what are the benefits? It is mold resistant, temperature moderating, humidity controlling, sound attenuating, no VOC’s, flexible and repairable.
The product is popular for the old world finished look bringing with it the new-aged “green” qualities. American Clay Earth Plaster products combine a variety of unique clays, aggregates and natural pigments that offers the building industry a natural and elegant option. If you have an itch to see this product look for it to be highlighted on upcoming television episodes such as E! “Green That House” and on HGTV’s “Living with Ed.” If you have to get your hands on it there is an American Clay “Try-It Kit” containing three bags of sample product, 6″x6″ pre-primed sample boards, instructions, and a mini practice trowel that can be ordered online pr at one of their select retailers.

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Water Cops: USA Today article highlighted

| Thursday October 18th, 2007 | 2 Comments

Wednesday’s (10.17.07) USA Today featured a story titled: Sprinkling the lawn? Look out for H20 cops
“Drought-Stricken areas serious about water limits” The article is about the fines that are being slapped on homeowners for watering their lawns in Georgia during water restrictions resulting from a drought.
I felt this article fell inline nicely with my Netafim article on subsurface irrigation. Over watering in high-density suburbs where water shortages can strike at any time could be easily avoided through water wise irrigation methods. The source of the problem begins well before the unconscious consumer who waters their lawn unefficiently and wastefully. In my opinion it begins with the city planning departments who allow developers to build unrestricted in their use of water. Proper CCNR’s would effectively control the home owner from installing wasteful irrigation systems and water leaching plants. At the current rate of population growth world-wide and the simple fact that our fresh water supplies are finite is it not painfully clear that water flow should be wisely managed?

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Water wise: Sub-surface irrigation, what’s that?

| Tuesday October 16th, 2007 | 2 Comments

netafim%20pic.gifProper watering methods are seldom practiced by most gardeners who either under or over water when irrigating. For us who have no water sense there is a product out there that makes watering efficient and more importantly, easy!! The product is Netafim dripperline and its duties lie under the soil not above. In short, Netafim is the king of sub-surface irrigation which sounds more complex than it really is. The flow rates through the tubing vary from 0.6-0.9 GPH (gallons per hour) released through one-way drippers spaced 12″ apart and buried 4-6″ deep beneath the ground’s surface. Netafim drip/micro products support sensible water use by using virtually every drop of water. This translates to Netafim products receiving an exemption when other forms of outdoor watering are being restricted or banned. I have personally used Netafim with raving success, you never even know when it’s watering and the results are truly rewarding.
1- A “green” yet water-saving landscape via smart water delivery.
2- Netafim Dripperline delivers a slow, steady application of water.
3- Water is directly delivered to the plant’s roots eliminating water-waste.
4- Netafim dripperline is pressure compensating; water is supplied uniformly.
5- Prevent water-waste through puddling, wind, evaporation or overspray.
6- Another remarkable “green” product for the water wise among us.

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Watch out wood, make way for AAC!!

| Sunday October 14th, 2007 | 3 Comments

aircrete.jpgA unique product called Autoclaved Aerated Concrete or better remembered as AAC is coming to the Wild West. A fan of this intriguing product described AAC as concrete that thinks its wood. It differs from standard concrete mainly by the millions of tiny air cells which give AAC it’s amazing insulating properties. Although the advantages over wood seem to be many this funky building material is rarely used and few developers have even heard of it. Availability and education are to blame, but that will all change rather quickly as the word spreads and as the industry brings the superior product to the masses. The West’s first plant will be opening in Kingston, AZ in 2009.
Some highlighted features follow:
Energy-Efficient- low in embodied and operational energy, thermal advantages
Fire Resistant- can withstand direct flames up to 1900 degrees F
Sound Absorbent- thanks to a pore content of approximately 80%
Weather Resistant- wind tough, water and moisture resistant
Long-Lasting- durable as concrete
Environmentally Sound- recyclable, non-toxic, high raw material-product ratio
Pest Resistant- say goodbye to termites
Easy to Use- workable as wood, comes in pre-cut panels or in blocks
Versatile- easy to work with and can be cut and shaped with hand tools
Lightweight- a dry density of 550kg/m3, weighing in at one-fifth normal concrete

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Green Home Building Pioneers

| Friday October 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

In the quaint city of Saratoga Springs Utah, I found a developer bold enough to tackle the traditional building system and step out of what he calls the “wooden box” for his residential housing project. Dave Christenson, Co-owner of Coyote Creek Estates is planning to build 24 luxury Green homes with a firm resolution to have the most eco-friendly homes in Utah. When asked why, Mr. Christenson said, “I simply cannot wrap my head around doing things the old-fashioned way.” The project is designed around a country modern platform to blend in with the native surroundings and an equestrian center already under operation. The big news, a Coyote Creek home will reduce total energy consumption by more than 70%. If you think that is a bold undertaking think twice, because Dave says, “it’s doable.” Ok, so it is possible to build extremely energy efficient homes but is it profitable as well?
Further prodding into the question of profitability I discovered that statistically a green home is more likely to appraise at higher values and sell accordingly. With regards to Coyote Creek Estates this statistic rings true. Mr Christenson has already reserved half the lots on his estate for anxious buyers of his green homes. But are these homes affordable for the less than affluent consumer? When asked directly, Dave C. said that his homes will cost upwards of 10% more than the energy sucking equivalent. All the homes in the development are competitivley priced between $500,000 and $700,000. To this end, I propose this question, if going green is not as difficult or costly as one might consider then why are we not seeing truly green homes becoming the standard?

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