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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For Sydney family, the fight against global warming begins at home
16 June 2007

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - From the street, Alicia Campbell's house looks no different from the others in her suburban cul-de-sac. But it has a secret: It's green -- very green.

The four-bedroom home she shares with husband Jason Young and their two sons sucks no water from Australia's drought-stricken reservoirs, recycles everything from food scraps to sewage, and even pumps electricity back into Sydney's power grid.

As the world debates how best to respond to climate change, families such as Campbell's, like others in the U.S. and Europe, are taking the challenge personally.

"It was a moral decision for me," said Campbell, 38, an intensive-care nurse who describes herself as "not hippie, just normal."

When she and Young began building in 2005, they decided that persistent drought made water the first priority. Like thousands of Australians whose homes are too remote to access urban water supplies, they decided to use rainwater for drinking, washing and flushing the toilet.

Under the driveway lies a 25,000 liter (6,600-gallon) concrete tank with a steel lid. Each time it rains, a network of pipes feeds water from the roof through a flush system and into the tank. The first few gallons are diverted into the garden to eliminate any heavy metals, leaves and bird droppings.

Despite its sunny climate, coal-rich Australia doesn't use much solar power, and its 21 million people are the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters per capita.

So in February, Campbell installed 18 solar panels on her roof that power the house by day. Excess power is fed back into the city's electricity grid, earning the family a small rebate.

At night, the house switches into the grid rather than store the solar power in high-maintenance batteries. Campbell has yet to receive her first bill from the state energy supplier, but estimates the house has produced more energy than it has used.

A computer monitor shows the panels have produced 1.3 megawatt hours of electricity since they were installed, the equivalent of 1.2 tons of carbon dioxide on the coal-fired system.

At that rate, the family will save around five tons of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere over 12 months.

In the yard, the family is experimenting with growing fruit and vegetables. Their chickens, Itchy and Scratchy, pick at vegetable scraps near a big compost heap.

The Australian Conservation Foundation estimates the average household produces 980 kilograms (2,160 pounds) of garbage a year, about 40 percent of it perishable food, garden or wood matter. Since they started composting, Campbell says her family sends around two garbage cans to the landfill each month, compared to four before.

Even their sewage is treated on site.

After wrangling with local officials worried about odors and leaks, Campbell received permission to install a commercially available waste treatment system in the back yard.

Three 5,000 liter (1,320 gallon) tanks filled with sand, gravel and bacteria dissolve and purify the waste underground. An ultraviolet filter -- similar to those used by Sydney's water authority -- then irradiates the water, making it safe for use on the garden.

Similar systems have been used in rural Australia for years, but city officials have been reluctant to approve them because of health risks in higher density areas.

"In an urban environment, there tends to be greater caution," said Simon Hayman, a Sydney University architecture professor who specializes in eco-friendly design. "As soon as you place responsibility for maintenance of water quality on a homeowner, you are then relying on them looking after themselves which, of course, may or may not happen."

But Hayman said there was no doubt greenhouse gas emissions would fall if more families took steps to reduce overall energy and water consumption.

For Campbell, the project hasn't been cheap.

Power- and water-saving devices, plus time spent wrangling with the municipality over the sewage system, have added about US$65,000 (euro49,000) to the US$300,000 (euro224,100) it cost to build the house, Campbell estimates.

"It is my philosophy that every roof should be making rainwater and every roof should be making electricity," she said. "Financially, it's really hard going, but I feel incredibly satisfied."

The neighbors were mostly supportive, Campbell says, though one has complained about glare from the white roof, designed to deflect the sun and eliminate the need for air conditioning.

Campbell said her husband, also a nurse, initially worried the measures would cut the home's resale value, but is now a convert to eco-living.

"He is so excited. When it rains, he sits out on the verandah to watch it pour down," Campbell said.

No figures exist on how many such homes have been built here, though experts agree the numbers are rising.

The biggest obstacle, says Michael Mobbs, a consultant on eco-friendly buildings, is governments -- hesitant to approve self-contained sewage systems and providing no major incentives for developers to install energy-saving devices in new homes.

"We need to fast-track sustainable projects," said Mobbs, who made his own three-bedroom Sydney house self-sufficient 11 years ago. "Cost is where the solution lies, and the cost comes from red tape."

Another consultant, Bruce Taper, said governments should offer cash incentives to developers who build homes that use less energy and water.

"I think they should be putting in good regulation that provides stimulus to the market, that's far better than leaving it up to the individual," he said.

147,658 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've heard of people installing solar panels on their roofs to power their homes but some were complaining they couldn't sell the excess electricity back to the grid.

147,658 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Builder was green before it was cool
Clarum's Enviro-Homes built on energy efficiency

14 January 2008
USA Today

The entrepreneurial spirit and a love of architecture run deep in the blood of John Suppes, 47-year-old founder of Clarum Homes and a leading figure in the energy-saving "green building" movement that has suddenly become fashionable.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Clarum Homes and Suppes are riding the rising popularity of energy-saving "green" houses. No longer just a fad, green building is steadily gaining favor, as concern grows about global warming.

"I love construction and building," says Suppes, his office shelves stuffed with architectural design books, from Tuscany Interiors to Living With Zen. "I love getting out there and getting dirty, the rush of seeing a great product get built that people can live in and enjoy."

As a kid, Suppes relished family tales of his great-grandfather and grandfather, who were adventuresome ranchers and wildcat oilmen in Tulsa a century ago.

In his teens, he religiously read The Wall Street Journal and shadowed his father, Patrick Suppes, a Stanford philosophy professor emeritus and founder of a thriving computer educational firm called Computer Curriculum.

"He was always asking how the company was organized, how it made a profit," says Patrick Suppes, who later sold his company.

John Suppes also learned from his late mother, Joanne, who studied architecture at Harvard University in the 1950s under Walter Gropius, founder of the influential Bauhaus design movement.

Joanne Suppes often drove her children around the San Francisco Bay Area, explaining how buildings could have been designed more attractively, to catch more light, to blend into the natural surroundings. She would be pleased to see her son's work today.

In the past decade, Clarum and its subsidiary, Byldan Construction, have developed and built more than 30 subdivisions, apartment complexes and affordable housing in Northern California.

Clarum specializes in the "Enviro-Home," a model eco-friendly house with solar power, high-efficiency furnaces, on-demand water heaters, non-toxic paint, landscaping that conserves water and other state-of-the-art features.

Sunny market climate

Environmentally friendly homes will grow from 2% of all homes built in 2005 to about 10%, or $38 billion, of the new-home market by 2010, according to the National Association of Home Builders and McGraw-Hill Construction.

"We've seen a tremendous degree of acceptance of green building techniques in construction," says Alexandra von Meier, the director of Sonoma State University's Environmental Technology Center.

During a recent interview in his wood-lined office near the Stanford campus, John Suppes leaps from subject to subject. An avid cyclist, surfer and snowboarder, the slim developer boasts megawatts of energy.

Suppes believed in green building long before it became trendy. As a young construction worker, he wondered which building materials and techniques would best help the environment and create high- quality homes.

One simple step: designing homes with sunny southern exposures, to power solar electricity systems. Many architects and developers didn't take this basic step when laying out subdivisions.

Suppes also explored using adobe and straw bales for home building, but found that the most reliable material is timber harvested in an ecologically sound manner.

"I still think the wood frame is the best way to build a house," Suppes says.

Suppes founded Clarum in 1994. It was slow going at first. Home buyers perceived "green housing as big, ugly, geodesic domes," Suppes says. They also placed their highest priorities on location, prices and schools.

But in recent years, green homes have been sought by high-tech professionals, including young families. For these home buyers, energy-saving features are a big plus in choosing a house.

A green home costs $15,000 to $20,000 more to build than a typical house, Suppes says. The higher price tag pays for itself over several years through energy savings -- lower electricity, heating and water costs -- as high as 90%.

Clarum's homes have been showcased by Western lifestyle magazine Sunset, and the developer has won awards and praise for its designs from the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Costs and benefits

One happy home buyer: John Hemingway, a retired small businessman. He and his wife, Kelly, bought a new Clarum home in East Palo Alto for $600,000 in 2003.

Sitting near the water in a gentrified part of town, their two- story, four-bedroom, 2,200-square-feet house is steadily rising in value. The house's solar heating, insulation and energy-saving appliances have saved the Hemingways $10,000.

"These are stunning homes, and we've grown to love ours," Hemingway says. "Energy-efficient houses are the future."

Clarum executives credit part of the firm's success to a strong, team-oriented philosophy that encourages real collaboration, says Stuart Welte, executive vice president at EID, an architectural design subsidiary of Clarum.

Suppes is a demanding but open-minded taskmaster who often gives freedom to his architects, contractors and marketing people to make major decisions.

"I've been with many companies where the owner runs it like a king and leads with an iron fist," Welte says. "Not John. He sets the goals, hires high-level people, then trusts us to think beyond the box."

Suppes also practices what he preaches. His four-bedroom, Mediterranean-style home in the Los Altos Hills, near Stanford, uses solar heating and on-demand hot water. He tests new products, such as an energy-saving air cooling unit, and gets feedback from his family.

Now that Suppes and others have raised the popularity of green building, what's next for energy-saving homes?

Mass manufacturing should lower costs, Von Meier and Suppes say. Governments may pass more environmental standards for builders, just as the auto industry was required to meet emission standards. Tax credits could encourage solar electricity and other sound energy practices.

A generation from now, Suppes hopes to see all homes in the country "built to the highest standards of energy efficiency."

But green builders must weather the two-year-long housing slump. Clarum, which enjoyed $75 million in annual revenue during the housing boom of the mid-2000s, saw revenue slashed in half last year, Suppes says.

While some developers and contractors have cut jobs, Clarum has held onto its 40 employees by keeping business costs down and by focusing on apartment rentals, which typically do better than home sales during housing slumps.

Clarum also competes with larger builders such as KB Home and Pardee Homes, which also sell new green homes.

To grow Clarum, Suppes may one day join forces with a big home builder in a partnership. But he has no plans to sell his company or to retire early. His sense of mission -- green housing for all -- hasn't waned after two decades.

"This is something I plan on doing for the rest of my life," Suppes says. "I just enjoy it too much."

About John Suppes

Founder of Clarum Homes in Palo Alto, Calif.

*Birthplace: Stanford Medical Center, Stanford, Calif.

*Education: Western State College in Colorado.

*Family: Wife, Dee Ann Suppes, a psychotherapist; 22-year-old son, Patrick; 2-year-old daughter, Natasha; 1-year-old son, John.

*Favorite activities: Cycling, backpacking, surfing, scuba diving, snowboarding, yoga, meditation, reading.

*Favorite book: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

*Favorite films: An Inconvenient Truth and Blade Runner.

*Favorite cuisine: Japanese.

*Favorite vacation spot: North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii.

*Volunteer work: In-patient rehabilitation program at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Menlo Park, Calif.

Home high points

Clarum Homes advertises that its Enviro-Home can save up to 90% in energy

consumption. Some of its features:

*Solar power system. Instantly converts into electricity, uses no fuel and requires little maintenance.

*Energy-efficient windows. Keep home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

*Tankless water heater. Heats water only when you use it, without hot water sitting 24 hours a day in large tanks.

*Non-toxic paint. Has no solvents and is odorless.

*Landscaping irrigation products. Satellite-linked irrigation controller regulates water when needed, and recycling system uses old bath, shower and laundry water to irrigate landscape.

*Air vacuum system. Reduces dust and keeps air clean through entire home.

*Engineered wood. Man-made wood -- made of lumber, wood particles and other waste materials -- that lasts longer than regular timber.

*Radiant roof sheathing. Reflects sun rays and cools attic by 30 degrees.

147,658 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
European green could be the next big thing
30 January 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - As the building industry searches for the next big thing, the likelihood increases that builders, developers, architects and engineers will continue pushing the boundaries of what constitutes sustainable design -- and they may look to Europeans for leadership.

That is the view of Jerry Yudelson, a sustainability expert and engineer with Yudelson Associates. Yudelson, who worked on several high-profile sustainable building projects in Oregon and Washington for Interface Engineering, said increased demand for sustainable buildings will "drive design and construction toward European approaches and toward integrated design."

In recent years, sustainable projects approved by the U.S. Green Building Council have fetched higher rents, demonstrated greater occupancy and had higher values than competitors. That economic reality should drive the rapid adoption of such buildings throughout the American and Canadian commercial sectors, said Yudelson, whose firm is based in Tucson, Ariz.

Having studied both American and European approaches to building, Yudelson said that there are "an increasing number of projects that are demonstrating high levels of energy savings on conventional budgets, and this will increase demand for engineers and contractors to achieve the same results."

Brian Pearce, the general manager of Unico Properties' Portland portfolio, said the introduction of new sustainable designs offers developers and builders a competitive advantage.

"It would be foolish (now) to build a building that is not LEED certified," he said.

Milos Jovanovic, co-owner of Root Design Build of Portland, said many of the sustainable construction techniques and mechanical systems are easily exportable from countries such as Germany.

"Because of the energy prices (in Europe), they are building tighter envelopes," said Jovanovic. "Better insulation has always been on the forefront of European thinking."

As high energy prices and increased awareness of global warming create a sense of urgency needed for sustainable design, Jovanovic said commercial and residential construction could take their cues from European models. Already, Germans and Scandinavians are adopting methods of insulating commercial and residential buildings that exceed LEED platinum energy savings. The newest techniques, he said, emphasize energy recovery over energy production.

One system, invented in Germany, called "passive house," focuses on super-insulating interior spaces, using high-performance windows, passive solar and circulating air with an energy recovery ventilator. The system calls for creating an airtight interior that acts like a thermos bottle, Jovanovic said. The additional costs for the system are from 5 to 10 percent of the total construction cost. Pearce said that developers would be interested in adopting such a system if they can get it to pencil out.

"The more (insulating) mass you have, the better it performs," Jovanovic said. In addition to the extra insulation, unsealed gaps must be covered.

The passive house standard requires that a building consume no more than 15 kilowatt hours per square meter in heating energy per year. Jovanovic, who grew up in Serbia and whose father was in the construction industry for several decades before coming to the United States in 1992, said the airtight concept had been tossed around in Europe since the 1970s but that the energy recovery ventilator is what makes the new system work.

The ventilator exchanges heat from exhaust air and passes it to fresh air from the outside. The system transfers heat to fresh air without mixing the air streams.

Jovanovic recently completed building Portland's first LEED platinum house, with local engineer Zac Blodget acting as the developer and designer. If a heat recovery ventilator replaced the furnace in that home, Jovanovic said no auxiliary heat would be required during winter -- only the heat given off from its occupants and electrical appliances such as a refrigerator.

Yudelson said an enthalpy wheel is another type of energy recovery ventilator. It's a rotating cylinder filled with a material that is air-permeable and which can absorb heat. The material transfers heat to a cooler ventilation stream.

The wheel can be effective for both heating and cooling, Yudelson said. Both systems solve the issue of ventilating indoor air pollution while keeping spaces warm in winter and cool in summer.

Yudelson said European countries tend to lead the U.S. in sustainable building practices because Europeans "don't like to waste resources. You go to a country like Sweden and find they're on the pathway to get off imported oil by 2020 and Germans want to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050," he said. "When you have those ambitious goals, you have to go to work seriously on these issues."


On the Net:

Interface Engineering:
U.S. Green Building Council:
Unico Properties:
Root Design Build:

147,658 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
A Housing Project That Embraces A City and Nature
7 July 2010
The New York Times

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- Rare are the homeowners who welcome a sewage treatment plant in their backyards. But at Dockside Green, a 15-acre mixed-use development being built just north of this city's downtown harbor, neighborhood utilities are less a cause for alarm than part of the amenity package.

''These are our best-selling units,'' said Joe Van Belleghem, a local developer who won a city-sponsored competition in 2004 to develop Dockside Green. On a recent Friday afternoon, Mr. Van Belleghem was on site, pointing to ground-floor condominiums with decks jutting over a network of ponds and waterways containing native plants, otters and ducks.

The artificial creek circulates wastewater from an adjacent underground sewage treatment plant. That water is also used to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape -- a closed system that helps reduce water bills for residents, provides a refuge for wildlife and ''improves the marketability of the space,'' Mr. Van Belleghem said.

''So it's all integrated: the economic, the environmental, the social,'' he added.

The holistic design is the hallmark of Dockside Green, which will eventually encompass 1.3 million square feet, including 26 buildings and 2,500 residents. The project's first neighborhood, Dockside Wharf, was completed last year and has 266 market-rate apartments, 253 of which have sold; 26 ''affordable'' units; 32,600 square feet of office space; and 5,881 square feet of retail. Prices range from 411,900 Canadian dollars (about $390,000) for a one-bedroom to 529,900 for two bedrooms and up to 1,233,900 for penthouses.

The development also includes an 8 million Canadian dollar heating plant that converts locally sourced wood waste into a clean-burning gas that produces all the community's heat and hot water. The system, which eliminates the need to use fossil fuels as a heat source, illustrates Dockside's neighborhood-based approach to environmentally friendly design, said Robert Drew, a project architect and an associate principal with Busby Perkins & Will.

Dockside also reflects Victoria's interest in maintaining the industrial character of the city as it redevelops waterfront land, said Deborah Day, the city's director of planning. ''There is an effort to incorporate residential mixed use in balance with preserving a working harbor, which is very much a part of Victoria's tradition and economic engine,'' she said.

At the southern end of Vancouver Island overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Victoria, population 330,000, is the capital of British Columbia. A former logging and shipbuilding outpost, the city is known for its large population of retirees and for tourist attractions like the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Royal BC Museum.

Less well known is Victoria's ''commitment to quality of life,'' Ms. Day said, adding that Victoria was often overshadowed by its provincial cousin Vancouver when it came to a reputation for innovative urban design.

In that regard, Dockside has been ''a bit of a morale boost,'' Ms. Day said. Last year, the Clinton Climate Initiative selected Dockside Green as one of the founding ''Climate Positive Developments'' around the world. The program showcases urban developments that aim for negative carbon emissions. The Canadian Home Builders' Association also awarded Dockside Green a top honor last year as one of the most innovative projects in Canada.

The story begins in 1989, when the city bought the site, which was contaminated by oil and heavy metals, from the province for a dollar, then outlined a social, economic and environmentally responsible development framework.

Dockside was originally a partnership between the Windmill Development Group, headed by Mr. Van Belleghem, and Vancity, one of Canada's largest credit unions. Mr. Van Belleghem sold his share to Vancity last winter.

Vancity has invested about 70 million Canadian dollars in Dockside Green, according to Tamara Vrooman, Vancity's chief executive. The project is expected to cost about 500 million Canadian dollars when it is finished.

Among the signs of Dockside's environmental sensibility are rooftop wind turbines and awnings that double as solar panels. There are also windows that showcase the hustle and bustle outside: kayaks in the harbor, the Point Hope Shipyard and mountains of rock courtesy of the local asphalt plant.

The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission leases 14,000 square feet in one of the commercial buildings. In addition to the project's green features, the commission's staff welcomes Dockside's proximity to downtown and amenities like the more than 30-mile Galloping Goose cycling and pedestrian trail that runs by the development, said Alex Ferguson, the commission's chief executive. He noted that the provincial government required any building it leased to meet LEED gold standards, and that reducing fossil fuel use would also save money.

In February, Scott Wilson, a technical analyst for B. C. Ferries, and Shirley Ronco, a nurse's aide, bought a 1,000-square-foot apartment for 430,000 Canadian dollars. Mr. Wilson said the couple's combined heating and hot water bill for the month of May was 12.66 Canadian dollars. ''I thought they made a mistake and left out a zero,'' he said.

He uses the Galloping Goose trail to walk to work and said he already knew all his neighbors after just a few months.

A passive solar design, fresh air ventilation and efficient appliances help reduce energy use in Dockside Green buildings about 50 percent compared with conventional buildings, Mr. Drew said. Units have sensors that allow residents to monitor daily energy and water use.

Because wood waste is considered a zero emission fuel, Dockside Green residents are not charged a carbon tax for heat and hot water. The provincial tax, among the first of its kind in North America, is about 20 Canadian dollars per ton of carbon dioxide emissions and is set to rise to 30 Canadian dollars per ton by 2012. (The tax typically shows up at the gasoline pump and in utility bills.)

In June, Dockside Green Energy, the utility that operates the thermal plant, began selling excess heating capacity to a nearby hotel, the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort Hotel and Spa. The deal allows the hotel to idle its natural gas-powered boilers, and Mr. Drew said that was the reason Dockside was considered a carbon positive project.

Several other large projects are in progress in downtown Victoria, including the Atrium, a 200,000-square-foot office building; a homeless shelter; and the Hudson, a mixed-use renovation of a former department store. Over the last 20 years, about 2,000 housing units have also been built on onetime industrial lands, Ms. Day said. Of those revitalization initiatives, Dockside Green comes closest to recreating, in 21st-century form, the city's century-old land-use pattern, she said.

''The history in Victoria has always been that kind of industrial-residential-commercial because we were a port,'' Ms. Day said. ''We evolved away from it, and now we evolved back.''
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