Archive for the ‘Materials’ Category

Northstar’s New Zephyr Lodge Shoots For LEED

Monday, December 26th, 2011

zephyr ski lodgeIt’s been a dry winter in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and that must mean that Mother Nature must be telling us something. She’s telling us to go sustainable or no more snow. Maybe that’s an exaggeration but some resorts have begun to get the message. Some resorts (like Northstar) have built new projects with LEED certification standards.

We got a chance to check out Northstar’s newly opened Zephyr Lodge. The warmly designed building is shooting for LEED certification which takes a snowshoe step in the right direction.

We couldn’t help but notice the wood paneled interior and exterior which not only gives the lodge a cozy feeling but it does so in a sustainable way using reclaimed barn wood and tin from Montana.

The interior receives a notable amount of natural light from the large window wall that faces the mountains. To us, that design is a no brainer with a great view and tons of natural light.

Speaking of light, the lodge also offers high tech programming in the building so that lights only turn on when a lack of ambient light exists.

The bathrooms offer the ubiquitous low flow toilets and we love the high powered hand dryers. We just have to question why they have paper towel dispensers next to the hand dryers.

We sampled some of the tasty cuisine which supposedly offers a significant amount of either organic or locally sourced ingredients. We haven’t verified the menu ingredients yet. Stick around as we post more about the sustainable slopes in the Lake Tahoe region.

First LEED Platinum Hotel in California

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

olive oil press sculptureWhile most people venture to Napa valley looking for the ultimate Zin or even the latest trendy eatery, others (like those who arrive in Teslas) like to plug in at the region’s Greenest spots. Although dubbed by many as the in new in, chic, trendy inn, the sustainably designed Bardessono (named for environmentally conscious Italian family who still own the land) might be better described as a way for travelers to get their eco-solace on.

The first and currently only LEED-Platinum hotel in California, the Bardessono will give overnight guests the opportunity to truly appreciate the reuse and repurposing of almost every substance rather than just the Green classification acronym. That reuse extends not only to creative use of building and structural materials but also the creative aesthetic touches like the reused Corona bottle glass that outlines the bathroom mirrors.

Although Green and minimalist, the Bardessono offers nods to its Italian roots and well as Zen like touches. Thoughtfully placed within view of several rooms, the olive oil press sculpture offers meditation inducing water (reused) flow to represent olive oil. Not only does the piece offer a pleasing sight and sounds but the fact that the entire piece comes via salvaged items like the stone that used to be part of an 100 year old olive oil press makes it even more attractive.

The fact that Bardessono considers water such an important aspect not only with the various Zen like pieces but the fact that they value the H2O as a precious resource. In addition to the ubiquitous low flow water fixtures and toilets for the indoors, the outdoors contains landscaping designed with native and drought tolerant plants as well as a drip irrigation system. Even the grey and black water gets a second life as irrigation by the town of Yountville.

For us super Greenies who felt somewhat guilty about relaxing in the indoor whirlpool bath or the rooftop based outdoor hot tub and pool, we felt somewhat better knowing that the both solar and geothermal wells go toward heating both the hot tubs and pool. Even the room tubs contain a self-sanitizing feature so chemicals don’t have to be used to clean to fight mildew.

Although many hipsters consider this boutique hotel a new, hip, minimalist trendy overnight option, many guests don’t realize how much sustainable creativity went towards the design. Although some eco-travelers do make a special trip to the Bardessono (like the many electric car owners who know that they can recharge their car or we who arrived in a Prius) many don’t fully appreciate the full environmental thought and how hotels like this one will raise not only the Green building bar but also everyone’s consciousness.

Those Green values and education will help anyone get good night sleep.

Spirited Solar Talk and Tour at West Coast Green 10

Friday, October 1st, 2010
Lot's of good natural light in the solar house

Lot's of good natural light in the solar house

On the first day of West Coast Green 10, only a handful of bloggers (like Zem Joaquin of Ecofabulous) showed up for an informal solar talk presented by SunPower and Luminalt but as they say, we respect the quality more than the quantity. We quality people brought about a spirited talk mentioning the progress of solar and how solar fits just a small green option in the big picture. We raised the question of considering that if someone who has only $50,000 in their pocket would they be better off installing a PV system or maybe a water catchment system, hydronics, some new eco-star appliances.

To be fair, Luminalt made a good case for just making a sales pitch. They work with GoSolarSF, which combines environmental justice and social justice for lower income neighborhoods like the Bayview here in SF. They made a point, which we have seen before, that be having a solar system that reduces their PG & E bill to sometimes nothing can transform the life of someone.

Now part of the discussion ended up being a show and tell of one of the local installation. Of course we would have preferred to see one of the homes in the Bayview but we settled for a posh house in Presidio Terrace. Honestly, the people who opened their house to us do live a mansion and the PG & E bill to them will hardly make a difference but they continue to make a conscious green effort. Besides the 3 7.5 KW solar system they repurposed much of their old furnishings to Building Resources (instead of the dump), they installed eco star appliances, used low VOC paint and drive hybrids. The couple mentioned that they will be purchasing fully electric cars soon.

Although not militantly green they do make an effort. We hope soon that we can say the same for everyone else.

Inman Winery – Pinot, Green and an Old Barn

Friday, September 10th, 2010
Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

When someone puts more emphasis on their practices and product rather than their marketing then that might cause one to ponder. Such was the case when we almost passed by Inman Family Wines on our sustainable wine journey. They basically have no signage and they certainly don’t have a big banner (like some other businesses) stating “We’re Green.” Instead owner Kathleen Inman speaks softly and carries a big green stick. In other words – Green deeds not words.

Although Kathleen’s Inman has been selling wine and receiving accolades for over 10 years, she only recently opened her tasting room in July. But like the rest of her operation she thinks about the big picture, as she took the effort to repurpose an old redwood barn into the tasting room and production facility. Although it would certainly qualify for LEED (maybe Gold) status she wisely decided to use the $60,000 or so that it would cost to get LEED certified on things that actually make a difference.

The tasting room utilizes wood from the barn as doors and panels, Nearly all of the steel used to make the primary frame of the building came from post consumer and post industrial recycled materials (old cars), the countertops are either made from Terrazzo (repurposed wine bottles), and the remaining countertops (not quite completed) will be from a composite concrete with high percentage of fly ash. The roof boasts a full array of solar panels (enough to power 98% of the winery), and we wondered around back to check out the water reclamation biomass system, which costs a few hundred grand and will save over 54,600 gallons of water per year with the ability to save even more.

We even liked the story of a local contractor who offered to pave a black tarmac over her decomposed granite parking lot but she told him that they prefer to minimize the heat-island effect. She didn’t really say that to him but we just embellished the story a bit.

Lot’s of people talk big when it comes to Green this and sustainable that but she puts her philosophy (and her bank account) in action. Her farming practices come as close to organic and biodynamic (although she has not received certification yet) and probably exceed most of the standards. We nibbled on the grapes right off the vine (don’t try that at a conventional farm) before even sampling her well respected 2008 Pinot Gris , 2008 Endless Crush Rose, and three Pinot Noirs all 2007 – the Thorn Ridge Ranch, the OGV Estate (Olivet Grange Vineyard, which is the organically farmed vineyard surrounding the winery) and the Russian River.

Most winemakers have wine running through their veins but Katherine Inman has big carafe of Green mixed in as well. She believes in making great wine but doing it the right way. We clink glasses to that philosophy. Cheers.

Controversy About Huge Green Tiburon House

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

tiburon_gallery_09Across the Bay in Marin in Tiburon to be exact, a lot of rumblings continue to occur about a soon to be built Green House. A large, soon to be built Green house. 15,240 square feet of large to be exact making it one of the biggest in the county.

It brings up the question that we have debated before. Is it better to build a small “dirty” house or a large Green house? Seeing that Anders Swahn who wants to build this home runs a solar energy startup, we would think that he would get the whole idea of sustainability.

He plans to build the structure as carbon neutral with solar panels, geothermal heating and greywater recycling. It would be built to last for 200 years and, of course, would measure up to Marin County’s green building standards.

The problem that many neighbors have remains the size. Since when is a 15,000 square foot house sustainable. Unless 10 people live there. A lot of materials will be used to build it. No matter how much FSC certified lumber he uses it still would need copious amounts. We’re not even talking about the trees that will removed on the wooded bluff location in order to build the house (not to mention the 2000 sq ft guesthouse).

A more sustainable idea would be to buy another large home like the one for sale just down from the proposed site, a 10,944-square-foot estate, with 11 bedrooms and 10 baths that sits on the market for $37 million. He could add his Green bells and whistles to that estate and be more sustainable without sacrificing his need to live in a ginormous casa.

The Green Side of Paperless Technology at Real Estate Connect 2010

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Exhibit Hall Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2010

Exhibit Hall Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2010

While wondering the exhibit hall of Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2010 style at the Pre-Conference Day, amongst all of the technology we figured that no one would go out of there way to promote Green but then we spied some of the “go paperless” inspired companies. In the race to go paperless, a few innovative companies have stepped up to create a paperless universe (at least in terms of contracts).

In the real estate world, agents often use ridiculous amounts of paper in which to disclose, offer and negotiate which in old school terms means that many trees get the saw for that counter offer.  We passed the DocuSign booth and discussed with the folks the Green benefits of using their technology, which allows people to sign contracts with an electronic signature. No more printing contracts. Just sign on-line. We can see the sustainable value in an item that eliminates paper use and general waste. But we discussed how much energy it takes to run the servers that run the DocuSign program. It would take a third party study to determine the paper, ink, transport carbon footprint savings versus the energy used to run something like DocuSign.

We brought this conundrum to another paperless company that not surprisingly goes by the name Go Paperless. Similar to DocuSign this technology allows people to sign and mark up documents using a stylus and tablet PC. Again, saving paper versus using more energy.

We all know that the cost of people runs high in terms of its impact with deforestation, transportation, recycling, shredding, printing, etc. so even at the cost of added energy use, companies that reduce (one of the three Rs) paper consumption can only improve things. We just hope that these companies use this Green philosophy inside their corporate offices as well.

Maker Faire Draws Sustainable, Inspiring Inventors and Artists

Monday, May 24th, 2010
Mousetrap at Makers Faire

Mousetrap at Maker Faire

Unbelievable but true but this past weekend marked the first time that we attended the Maker Faire. True, in terms of numbers, we only stand a few behind those Makers who’ve made it there since its inception. Our Green posse scurried from the ingenious to downright crazy exhibits. For us Maker virgins, Donna our unofficial group leader for the day, mentioned that people might place this fair somewhere between Burning Man and Exploritorium. That description nailed it.

Why do we love this event and can’t believe that we hadn’t attended before? Not only did we encounter mad scientists of a sort but because almost every artist, scientist, inventor at the fair reuses, repurposes, and recycles other object to create art, cleaning robots, giant mousetraps, and transportation (mostly creatively built bikes).

Even the entertainment had a sustainable element with a solar stage but we caught the band Fossil Fuel at the Human Powered Stage where the bands powered their instruments and amps from bicycle powered generators. That way, we earned our music. Maybe people should try this with their TV so they would have some incentive to exercise.

Now, we can’t be sure about how sustainable it is to jolt 1,000,000 volts of electricity from two five foot Tesla Coils into a guy wearing a grounded metallic suit but the sheer spectacle of watching the long electrical arcs made us think how the electro guy might be able to creatively energize a small town.

Seeing all of the innovations like Algaelab which creates a personal algae photo-bioreactor and the not so practical but highly amusing inventions like the giant mousetrap made us believe that humans can still create mind-boggling inventions and art while not using up precious resources.

West Coast Green 2009 Comes Back to San Francisco

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It’s good to have West Coast Green back in SF. Not that San Jose didn’t play a fine host to last years bigger conference but the show lacked something last year, call it a vibe, or energy but something didn’t gel. So, this year’s scaled down but energetic and education West Coast Green found itself a new home at the Fort Mason. Maybe the ocean air and bay views added a green spark to the conference.

The economy definitely had an impact on this year’s West Coast Green with less venders but with less money that mean that people just had to get more creative with less moola such as the floating island, show gardens and even the sustainability built Jewish Sukkoth. The usual green rock stars like Eric Corey Freed and Michelle Kaufman made their presences felt with their energetic personalities. (more…)

Green and Greenwashing at PCBC 2009

Friday, June 19th, 2009

It wasn’t exactly a quite hush that settled over the San Francisco’s Moscone Center for the 50th PCBC convention but the crowds and exhibitors for this annual builders convention came in about one-half of last year. Nonetheless, in this era of minimalism and slimming down the show offered an array of notable speakers and some innovative products. Now of course, with the slogan “The New Age of Innovation” we hoped for more progressive Green products and not just in a marketing sense.

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David Brower Center – Green to the Bones

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Even in a Greencentric city like Berkeley, locals and Bay Area visitors would be Green with envy when they see the just opened David Brower Center. It feels healthy just to walk through the Green down-to-the-bones building which combines advanced technology along with simple recycled materials.

When entering for their housewarming party we had a difficult time not noticing the soaring concrete walls which made us think more dot com than gallery. The fact that in creating a building with an oh- so-feathery carbon footprint (when compared to most structures) Principal Architect, Daniel Solomon included up to 70 percent slag in those walls.

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