Green development rising

Being an EcoBroker, I have a real vested interest in the adoption of green technologies in the housing industry. As someone who plans to live here for a good while, I have a vested interest as well. Avoiding positive green news is becoming harder and harder. Locally in the Charlottesville area, more properties are being marketed as “green,” builders are seeing the value of building better, more sustainable housing …

Green is Good

Green Business Trend Taking Hold

Treehugger Roundup

A voice in the wind debate:

… wind turbines are much more than technology for generating electricity: they’re symbols that represent ideas ranging from sustainability and respect for natural limits to intrusions by faceless corporations and far-off populations bent on feeding their own greed and overindulgence …

Hot on the heels BP’s purchase of local wind developers, Greenlight Energy

Wind power picks up

I will be following this series at Treehugger documenting the construction of a straw bale-insulated house.

I’ve said it many times before. Green will not gain prominence and widespread adoption until and unless it is a profit-making entity. We are close.

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  1. TrvlnMn August 29, 2006 at 16:21

    “Green Houses” are basically a rich liberal’s (or enviromentally conscious person’s) status symbol. Until “Green” is used as something other than a way to market ‘upscale’ housing I really have difficulty investing any of my energy in caring.

    I guess that makes me a bad person.

  2. Jim Duncan August 29, 2006 at 21:12

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but the adoption rate is soaring. More builders are realizing the value of building well rather than simply fast.

    A couple of factors are going to contribute to green’s acceptance –

    – the rise (and stabilization at a high rate) of fuel prices
    – interests will not stay at these historically low rates forever
    – people are going to stay in houses longer than they have in this recent cycle – perhaps more along the lines of five years rather than two. This will allow them to consider reasonable upgrades such as a higher- efficiency HVAC system; after a couple of years they will be able to recoup those costs.

    But yeah, for now, green is a premium.

  3. Ray Hyde August 30, 2006 at 02:08

    I have graduate level studies in energy management and environmental economics, I’m an environmental chemist by training, a farm owner, a down to earth practical handyman and a flinty Yankee.

    I’m far from being an expert, but I find so much wrong with this post I don’t know where to start.

    Grit from the geothermal wells clogging the AC units? Who was the idiot that installed that, and who wrote the permit? My geothermal wells are a closed loop system encased in long life, non degrading, heavy duty plasic pipe. Yes, petroleum based plastic. In turn, that is encased in nearly impervious clay slurry, and the system is charged with biodegradable, nontoxic antifreeze, in case there is ever a failure. It has worked flawlessly for 15 years, so what is new about green technology?

    The biggest benefit from my system is not the considerable energy savings. The thing is whisper quiet. I can sit on the deck and listen to the birds instead of the evaporator fans.

    As for hand dryers, my favorite was a sign on one in the senate office building, “For a message from your Senator, push button.”

    I live in an antique house (my geothermal wells are in another house.) It is an energy disaster with low pressure steam heat, high ceilings, little or no insulation, other than positively massive construction, which would be considered environmentalyy unfriendly itself, today and dozens of old and leaky windows.

    The steam heat is a real luxury, with massive radiators, self humidification, and almost no temperaturte fluctuation that isn’t self induced. It is very comfortable, but the price and the ghosts clanging the pipes are sometimes a nuisance.

    One time, the oil man showed up at the wrong house with istructions to fill the tank. He put 2500 gallons in the tank, which I discovered when he came to the door and said he had to go back to the depot to get more oil!

    As bad as that sounds, my wife tells me she can remember when there was a full-time servant, whose job it was to keep the seven wood stoves filled.

    Fortunatly, we don’t acutally burn that much oil, and I negotiated a three year payment plan with the vendor. That experience set off major warning signals considering the age of that incipient buried oil spill, and its location with respect to my well. In winter we heat mainly one small room, and cuddle with the dogs. The rest of the time, we are outdoors anyway.

    There are seven sets of bay windows, 44 in all, glazed with antique, wavy, float glass. (Wavy float glass got that way because it was made by pouring molten glass on a vat of molten lead. The environmental damage those windows caused a hundred years ago is probably still floating around the planet.

    Even if I had the $20,000 it would take to replace them with tilt-in, easy to clean, Argon filled, low-e glass windows, my greenie self would have a titanic battle over my conservationist self over what to do aboput the historic, original glass. The energy savings form that investment would probably be lost through my uninsulated walls, anyway, and my Yankee self would have a cash flow coniption.

    Every window is a different size and shape, none of them are square and one is round. Some of them are covered with the remains of perfectly terrible triple-track storm windows. These are illegal in Scandinavia becuse the aluminum is a perfect heat conductor.

    If there is wind, the curtains stand at a thirty degree angle because the windows leak. What to do?

    I spent $120 dollars on special shaper bits, fired up the sawmill and cut up a thousand feet of sash stock (from already downed trees) and set about manufacturing historically accurate storm windows and shutters, custom made to fit.

    They are not as good as the Argon ones, but they are all natural, use glass recycled from the aluminum ones, and they are dirt cheap, even including my labor. It beats watching TV. They are made out of locust, which will probably never rot.

    I sure hope someone enjoys them a hundred years from now, and they don’t mix up which window they fit. Unlike traditional storms, these are split top and bottom, and fitted so they can be removed from inside, and the bottom half will be fitted with screens in summer. We mostly use trees for air conditioning, and the trench geothermal units to be used here are years away, I’m afraid. I’d like to have a solar pond for heat, but I figure the likliehood of getting a permit is zilch, if geothermal heat pumps are suspect.

    The roof is painted black, to absorb heat in the winter. We can get away with this only because of the gigantic trees. I had to cut one down because it was dangerous. Five feet in diameter, 120 feet high, and rotten through and through.

    I’ve made some progress in insulating the walls, depending on what falls apart first. (The ceiling or attic floor is insulated, actually, but it appears to consist mostly of partially shredded snake skins.)

    I draw the line at sod roofs. It is bad enough to have to repair a leak, without having to excavate first. I rationalize this by telling myself that with 170 acres, the runoff from the proerty is more or less the same, no matter what I do to the house.

    There is an exceedingly deep foundation on the property, which I assume was once the ice house. It has since made an effective midden as well as a bear and deer trap. My plan for that is to re-excavate it, and turn it itnto a sistern fitted with a fire pump, and build a garden shed over it to prevent further untoward activites/accidents.

    Then there is the 1830’s log barn to restore, and the original 1800, squatters cabin, later used as the summer kitchen and servant’s quarters. I’ve got Photographs of the barn dated 1905, and it was old and falling apart then.

    And this is the “new’ house. It still has some stuff and books rescued from the first two houses, which burned down. That fate is likely to be repeated if I don;t get the chimneys up to modern codes. Unlike most Southern houses, the bulders were smart enough to make the chimneys internal, as in New England houses, for better heating efficiency. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to tear half the house apart to restore them.

    Still, this is sort of modern to me. The house I grew up in in New England was built in 1712.
    The farm equipment here is as old as I am, and some of it is much older. I sometimes have parts manufactured from scratch, rather than scrap machinery in favor of new equipment I can’t afford anyway. I’m not above using chemicals on the farm if I absolutely must.

    Everything I do here boils down to a cost and benefit analysis. Sometimes the benefits are a little ephemeral, or may even benefit others when I’m gone.

    I’m not Amish, Mennonite, Survivalist, or green freakish, but when i look around and see what passes for green technology, and how it is marketed, I just want to throw up.

    Every thing is a trade off of present resources against future needs. What is efficient some day, isn’t necessarily cost effective today, even if the capital is available. What we think is cost effective or environmentally friendly, isn’t a sure thing. I know that some of what I do isn’t the best that is possible, but it is the best I can do, with what I have.

    I’m not willing to put up with any criticism from anyone about my speculative or marketing habits: they are part and parcel of my green habits, and they may be partly mutally contradictory. It is still the best I know how to do, absent outside help.

    This much I know. Green isn’t a premium now, it is always a premium, it is always a luxury, and it is always a perquisite of the wealthy. This seems contradictory, but the best thing we can do to promote green, is to also promote wealth. Wealth without waste, maybe, but we must never lose sight of the fact that conservation is not free: it costs a lot of money. We cannot steal conservation, and we can’t force feed it.

    Meanwhile, if anyone is seriously interested in conserving a money pit and energy sink of epic proportions and historical significance, I’m open to constructive suggestions.

  4. Ray Hyde August 30, 2006 at 02:29

    Jim is 100% correct. “Green will not gain prominence and widespread adoption until and unless it is a profit-making entity.”

    I’m not as sure as he that we are as close to doing that as Jim suggests. Just as Charles Komanoff suggests, we are going to have to abandon the rhetoric against profits, if green is to succeed.

  5. Anthony Floriani August 30, 2006 at 17:27

    I wrote a post about this same topic a couple of weeks ago, and while I\’m not exactly an expert on the subject, I did try to read up on it as best I could. In my travels, I learned that at least one authority, the U.S. Green Building Council, is suggesting that there have been examples of \”green,\” or at least \”greener\” building projects that cost the same or less than conventional counterparts. again, not being an environmental engineer, I can\’t say how authentic these claims are, but it is food for thought.

  6. Jim Duncan August 31, 2006 at 06:47

    Regarding Anthony’s post above : I tried to edit it to enter a link, but for some reason the link and the text have become irreparably messed up. for the record, here is the link to the post to which he was referring.

  7. Ray Hyde August 31, 2006 at 12:42

    That’s right. There are examples of green structures that cost no more than a conventional structure might have, but every one is an individual case. Retrofitting is a perticular nightmare.

    I can see evidence developing that green engineering may be mandated into building or permitting codes. That will be a huge mistake. This is an area in particular, where everything is a trade off.

    The best way to get the best trade offs is to let the market decide.