New and Notable

Inconvenient Truth, Building DVD, Reflector CFL Winner, and More!

September 11, 2006
September/October 2006
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2006 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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RESNET and Inconvenient Truth

        RESNET’s Web site is referenced in Al Gore’s NewYork Times best-selling book An Inconvenient Truth. The book expands on Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
        The book refers to RESNET’s Web site in the chapter “Save Energy at Home.” RESNET is recommended to consumers who are looking for an energy audit specialist in their area.

Building DVD Delivers Solutions

        A number of years ago, I was contracted to build my first straw bale house for a client. When I began the project, few books or videos were produced about the subject of green building, and more specifically on how to build a straw bale home. The DVD Building with Awareness, by designer Ted Owens, is one resource I wish I’d had in my arsenal. It is by far one of the most detailed and comprehensive videos I have viewed on designing and building a straw bale home.
        Owens shepherds the viewer through the entire process of constructing his own straw bale hybrid home, sharing both his successes and his failures. He admits in the beginning that when he started his project, he had never built anything more complicated than a childhood fort in a neighbor’s backyard. But Owens’s shortcomings as a builder are balanced by his strong design background and by his attention to detail. The video covers straw bale walls, post-and-beam framing, adobe thermal-mass walls, passive heating and cooling, rubble trench foundations, roof framing and insulation, in-floor radiant heat, earthen plaster, PV systems, rainwater cisterns, graywater plumbing, the use of green materials, and much more. Each topic is thoughtfully presented and well documented, allowing the viewer to return for a more detailed view.
        Although the DVD focuses on a sitespecific project in northern New Mexico, the ample information and techniques shown could be applied to any building site. An eight-page booklet, which includes technical details and a basic floor plan and elevation drawing of Owens’s home, accompanies the DVD. Also included is an additional audio track with design and construction commentary covering the pros and cons of various materials, construction costs, and Owens’s take on the experience of building his own home. One could easily use the basic blueprints provided, along with the video, and have enough information and instruction to build a replica of Owens’s home.
        For anyone with an interest in designing and building his or her own green home, this is an indispensable resource. Building with Awareness has taken the green building how-to instructional video to a whole new level.

USDA Provides Loans for Energy-Efficient Homes

        Through a new program called Home Energy Advantage, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering larger loans for low- and moderateincome families who want to purchase energy-efficient homes in rural areas. These loans are offered through the Rural Development Section 502 homeownership loan program. Under the program, the qualifying ratios for home loans may be exceeded by up to two percentage points if an energy-efficient home is purchased. The program recognizes that owners of energyefficient homes spend less money on utility bills, so they can afford larger mortgage payments.
        “Homeownership has always been a central part of the American Dream,” says Mike Johanns, agricultural secretary. “I’m pleased that through this new initiative we can encourage efforts to expand access to new affordable housing opportunities in rural America, while emphasizing energy conservation.”
        USDA Rural Development’s Section 502 loan programs are available to qualified low- and moderate-income families who will purchase homes in rural areas. Loans can be made for up to 100% of the appraised value of the property.The cost of installing energy-saving features in a home, such as storm windows and doors, insulation, and energy-efficient appliances, can be included in the loan.
        This program is similar to Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs), which are offered through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA); the Department of Veterans Affairs; Fannie Mae; and Freddie Mac.

GreenHomes Acquires EnTherm

        GreenHomes America has acquired one of New York’s most successful building performance contractors, EnTherm, Incorporated (see “Strictly Shell Man Converts,” HE May/June ’04, p. 40).The joining of these companies makes GreenHomes New York’s premier provider of home performance contracting (HPC), representing one out of every three home performance projects in the entire state. “EnTherm’s exceptional expertise, reputation, and solid foothold in central New York are the perfect complement to GreenHomes’ already strong presence in the rest of the state,” says Mike Robinson, president of GreenHomes.
        Founded in 1980 in Syracuse by Richard Kornbluth and Frank LaSala, EnTherm is an award-winning building performance contracting company specializing in home performance, HVAC, windows, and more in the central New York region. Kornbluth and LaSala will join the GreenHomes executive team and help run day-to-day operations.
        Like GreenHomes, EnTherm was one of a select group of New York contractors to pioneer the wholehouse approach to building performance. In 2001, EnTherm was the first contractor in New York to receive Building Performance Institute (BPI) accreditation and participate in the Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) program, an innovative statesponsored program that promotes homeowner energy efficiency. EnTherm has also been consistently recognized by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for advances in home performance contracting, receiving three consecutive NYSERDA Outstanding Achievement in Home Performance awards.

GridPoint Connect in Solar Homes

        GridPoint, Incorporated, which produces intelligent energy management (IEM) appliances for homes, will have its GridPoint Connect product featured in the Better Home, Better Planet Initiative: Near Zero Energy House, in Paterson, New Jersey, sponsored by Baden Aniline and Soda Factory (BASF).
        “We are happy to be among the companies contributing to the BASF project, which is not only a state-ofthe- art structure but a worthy cause as well,” says Peter L. Corsell, president and CEO of GridPoint.
        GridPoint Connect is a grid-tied battery backup product that integrates renewable energy and serves three functions in the home. First, GridPoint Connect acts as an inverter, converting the DC current from PV cells into AC household current. Second, it stores electricity in batteries to provide backup power and sends surplus energy onto the utility grid, resulting in a credit on utility bills.Third, it enables users to monitor and manage their use of energy by accessing an online portal,GridPoint Central.
        GridPoint Connect has won several awards, including Green Builder magazine’s Most Innovative Product in the 2006 Best of Show awards at the National Green Building conference; finalist for Most Innovative Commercial Technology of the Year in the Platts 2005 Global Energy awards; and a featured product in Los Angeles magazine’s DesignHouse 2005:The Green Home.

SBIC Wins NAHB’s Green Advocate of the Year Award

        The Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) was named as the Green Advocate of the Year in the Group category at the 2006 National Green Building Awards Gala. The awards were presented during the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Annual National Green Building conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.SBIC was recognized for driving significant changes in energyand resource-efficient new-home construction through outreach, advocacy, and educational initiatives.
        SBIC has consistently demonstrated a commitment to the principles of green building in its residential program. In 2001, the SBIC Green Building Guidelines: Meeting the Demand for Low-Energy, Resource-Efficient Homes primer was developed in partnership with staff and members of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee.
        “This award clearly validates SBIC’s contribution as an industry leader and distinguishes us from the many other green organizations. Our relationships with NAHB will continue to be critical as we educate and advocate for ‘Greening the American Dream,’” says English.

Historic and Affordable New York

        Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan have announced details of the expansion of the mayor's New Housing Marketplace Plan, which has grown from a $3.4 billion plan to build and preserve 68,000 units by 2008 to a $7.5 billion plan to build and preserve 165,000 units by 2013.This is the largest municipal affordable housing plan in the nation's history and will provide affordable homes for 500,000 New Yorkers. The plan includes new tools to spur private investment in affordable housing, including innovative uses for city-owned land, initiatives to preserve existing affordable units, and a new program to provide affordable housing for middle-class families.
        “Building affordable housing is critical to New York's future,”says Bloomberg. As our city grows and continues to attract people from around the world, it is a challenge for working New Yorkers to find quality, affordable housing.”

DOE Announces a Third Reflector CFL Winner

        DOE has announced a third winner in its on-going efforts to encourage manufacturers to improve the quality and performance of screw-based reflector CFLs in high-heat applications. Feit model ESL15R30H joins two Philips RCFL winners announced last year in DOE’s R-Lamp Technology Innovation Competition (see “New Reflector CFLs That Can Take the Heat,”HE Mar/Apr ’05,p. 9). DOE is conducting the research because many R-CFLs have suffered performance problems (including premature failure) when used in high-temperature environments, such as recessed-can fixtures located in insulated ceilings with airtight housings (ICATs).
        The competition, which is being conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL),asked manufacturers to submit models for rigorous testing.RCFLs are evaluated for light output,beam angle, lamp length, maximum operating temperature, and compliance with Energy Star standards. Those that meet the minimum requirements are subjected to at least 6,000 hours of elevated-temperature life testing under conditions that simulate recessed-can fixtures in ICATs.The Feit R-CFL is a 15W reflector intended to replace a 65W R-30 incandescent floodlight. Like the other winners, it delivers energy savings of up to 66% compared to an incandescent bulb, and it has an expected life 3–4 times longer.The Feit R-CFL produces a pleasant warm-white light, and it can be used indoors or outdoors.As part of the competition, as few as six lamps can be purchased at volume discount pricing at participating Costco stores (look for Conserv- Energy Item #BPCE15R30H/4). The winning Philips R-CFLs can also be purchased at volume discount pricing.
        A new competition, intended to encourage the development of additional qualified models, has drawn considerable interest from manufacturers.Four manufacturers have submitted a total of 31 models for testing.Twenty-three models met minimum specifications and have moved into elevated-temperature life testing, which will conclude in October 2006. Qualified lamps will be announced in Fall 2006. More detailed information, including R-CFL testing and specifications, is available online.

Innovative Green Projects at P3

        Winners of EPA’s People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) awards included such notable projects as a biodiesel-powered bus designed by Appalachian State University students and construction materials grown by University of Michigan students.
        This national competition, which is sponsored by EPA’s Office of Research and Development, enables college students to research, develop, and design projects that promote sustainability. The P3 award includes funding of up to $75,000, which students can use to develop their designs and introduce them to the marketplace.
        “P3 releases the power of the possible to advance sustainable solutions to environmental challenges,” says EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “I am pleased that our nation’s future leaders are answering President Bush’s call to deliver environmental and economic results by expanding technology and innovation.”
        This year’s winners also included Lafayette College, which developed a simple, sustainable water system that removes inorganic arsenic from groundwater sources; Portland State University, which developed a whole-systems approach to sustainable development; Stanford University, which oversaw the design and construction of a green dorm; and the University of Massachusetts, which explored the possibility of developing drugs to treat various forms of cancer from green tea.
        This year’s P3 award competition was held at EPA’s first National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The competition was supported by over 45 partners in the federal government, industry, and scientific and professional societies.
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