Posts Tagged ‘photovoltaic_panels’

New Microsite Makes It Easier To Find Green Home Products

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

LEED logoSeveral years ago before the real estate market imploded, the trend in the real estate and building industry looked Green. True, not ever building or homeowner slapped on solar panel or installed a tankless water heater but many did move in direction of sustainably built homes.

Then with the real estate industry tanking, Green building went out the dual paned window. Maybe things in the real estate will again turn that Green corner

Homeowners and contractors can now find Green building products through the LEED Home Depot. This microsite within the main Home Depot site lists over 2500 products, many of which qualify for LEED points.

We’ve said before that we’re not all about LEED points. People often get caught up in the points and forget about the aspect of Green building itself.

Green building offers homeowners opportunities to reduce energy and resource consumption. However Green building offers more than just lower utility bills, as the often overlooked aspect of heath and superior air quality remain paramount in the overall Green picture.

Last year, Green building comprised 17% of new residential construction, tripling since 2008, and expected to increase to 29%-38% of the market by 2016, according to a McGraw-Hill Construction report.

Here’s to a Green real estate recovery.

True Sustainable Eco Lodge At Hix Island House In Vieques

Friday, January 13th, 2012
Casa Solaris

Casa Solaris

The tourism department for Puerto Rico claims that the ex-military base for the US turned tourist destination Vieques offers visitors a eco-island experience. They may claim eco-island status as a whole however we had to search pretty diligently to find anything authentically eco friendly. Our diligence paid off with a visit to the muy verde Hix Island House

Our timing couldn’t have been better as the hillside eco resort recently opened a new additional called Casa Solaris. We see many lodges called “eco lodges” but Hix Island House offers a true and tranquil eco-villa experience.  Firstly, the architect John Hix created his new Casa Solaris building completely off the grid. The completely self contained wing offers six minimalist designed rooms powered by both a photovoltaic system and solar hot water. The pool also gets its heat from the nearby solar panels and contains a locally used a low chemical cleaning system significantly less toxic than the typical chlorine based products.

Speaking of water, in addition to dual flush toilets, the building contains a greywater system that transports used sink and shower water to the nearby field to irrigate the soon to be planted bananas trees and other indigenous fruits.

Lest we forget abut the materials used to create the building. Originally John Hix wanted to use wood however he discovered that wood doesn’t hold up well through hurricanes so he opted for concrete. The use of concrete in the overall design includes the floor, walls, countertops and showers. The al fresco shower may be the best experience with the cement floor and walls, the views of the rain forest and ocean, as well as the fact that the heated water comes via the sun.

We also enjoyed the fresh baked bread and the local fruit (Mango). One of our few disappointments comes from the fact that locals don’t grow more local tropical fruit (Corazon, passion fruit) which they grow on the main island. The Hix Island House staff already planted various fruit trees to rectify that issue.

Besides letting guests know about the sustainable design of this villa, they continue to educate the locals so that Viequenses will use the sustainable knowledge to create sustainable homes and lodges of their own.

The education, design and sustainability make the Hix Island House one of the true eco-resorts not only in Puerto Rico but in todo el mundo.

Solar Powered Laundromat

Monday, February 21st, 2011

solar laundromatWe’ve passed this tucked away laundromat in Duboce Triangle a few times and we’ve seen the soar panels up top (not sure how big a system it is) but we finally decided to give this place a post. Doing laundry remains one of those necessities in life and the best way to do it (with a low carbon footprint) remains the old fashioned way by hand and then line dry. That’s real solar!

However in this modern age and big city life, using eco-star washers and dryers and powering the dryers with solar (the carbon footprint is much higher for drying than washing) can be considered a good option. We’ve even seen one laundromat in Bernal Heights who installed a tankless hot water heater which not only cut the wasted hot water but boy did the laundromat owner’s energy bill drop.

Inside we spied four new eco star commercial washers.  Although the other washers and dryers were the standard (non eco-star) machines, we and most people would say use the machines that exists until they can’t be repaired. We don’t need more washers and dryers filling up the landfills. Either way, it would be a good idea if all laundromat owners took the initiative to make their business more sustainable (and more profitable to boot).

A Green Look at the Grand Canyon

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Miwak lodge

Maswik lodge

From Costa Rica to Alaska and many places in between, travelers like us often see eco-lodges proudly displaying advertising claiming how “eco friendlily” or “green” the lodge is. Oftentimes, the “eco-lodge” claim has more to do with the location in a rain forest, in or near a state park. Some places might be better tagged Greenwashing lodge. That doesn’t mean that lodges located in national park areas can’t be considered eco-friendly or even (gasp) sustainable minded.

Take some of the lodges that sit right on the ledge (or close to it) of the Grand Canyon. Anyone would be hard pressed to find any excess PR expressing how Green the Maswik or Bright Angel lodges are. The Xanterra lodges have been on the Green bandwagon for about 10 years (and that includes the Grand Canyon Railway that during certain dates runs on cooking grease from their own used cooking oil.)

Good thing they act proactively with their resources because Arizona seems be in drought denial. Eventually, the state will run out of fresh water and if the hotels (especially the ones in Phoenix) don’t do something about it then the state will be something like dust in the wind.

Water, more than any other resource, remains a top concern for the Grand Canyon hotels.
At the Maswik and Bright Angel lodges, the guest and public bathrooms offer numerous water savings features like low flow showerheads, low flow and hooray waterless toilets. Get over the waterless urinals guys.

In the Canyon, people don’t realize that 40% of the park’s energy use comes as a result of moving water. Not drinking it, just moving it.

Beyond the H2O, one of the big challenges comes about because the historical buildings have certain limitations and restrictions so it isn’t like they can just place a water catchment system (or even solar panels) on the lodges.

They focus on small creative things with significant environmental impact but low visibility impact. The Bright Angle lodge recently installed recycled carpet in their dining room, which counts as only a small aspect to their attempt for LEED Gold certification. Even those small shampoo bottles, normally taboo in an eco lodge, come in Plastarch bottles, made from a corn based, biodegradable material.

For those who don’t get enough environmental reading, feel free to check out a copy of the company sustainability report that resides in each room. It contains successes and failures but at least they continue to be transparent.

Next week – we go down the trails and into Phantom Ranch.

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.

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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Energetic Sustainable Symposium in San Francisco

Friday, February 13th, 2009

What do get when you mix four of the Bay Area’s top green stars, a LEED certified location, lunch and corporate sponsor wanting to spread its green wings? The spirited Sustainable Symposium sponsored by Ace here in glorious San Francisco. The symposium, in short, brought some energetic and often useful ideas from the knowledgeable and spry panel (not to mention moderator and Chicago Ace Hardware store owner Lou Manfredini) and created solid dialogue in what could have been one of another “How to green this and that discussion.”

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