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10 Years to Fix the Climate: Clarion Call or Armageddon?

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Apr 27, 2017 11:29:45 AM

Scientists now assert that we have 10 years to curb our carbon emissions and solve our increasingly urgent climate challenges. Sustainability advocates are bellowing. People are marching. Will Washington listen?

A recent study released by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) suggests that we have 10 years to make massive changes in sectors like energy, transportation, and agriculture—or else. 

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Bill McKibben: The Planet Can’t Stand This Presidency

Posted by Bill McKibben, Guest Columnist

Apr 27, 2017 8:59:56 AM

Trump is in charge at a critical moment for keeping climate change in check. We may never recover.

President Trump’s environmental onslaught will have immediate, dangerous effects. He has vowed to reopen coal mines and moved to keep the dirtiest power plants open for many years into the future. Dirty air, the kind you get around coal-fired power plants, kills people.

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Trudeau's Pipeline Push Makes Him a Disaster for the Climate

Posted by Bill McKibben, Guest Columnist

Apr 25, 2017 1:47:28 PM

Saying the right things about climate change is meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn.

Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it's hard to look away (especially now that he's discovered bombs). But precisely because everyone's staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don't believe me? Look one nation north, at Justin Trudeau.

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The Flex House: Multi-Faceted Adaptability

Posted by Juliet Grable

Apr 24, 2017 2:41:08 PM

Shelter Dynamics and Green Builder® Media demonstrate right-sized living with this net-zero energy modular demonstration home.

Last year, Green Builder Media and Shelter Dynamics introduced The Arc House, a small-footprint, resilient demonstration home that showcased the convergence of intelligent, connected and solar technologies. Jim Gregory, founder of Shelter Dynamics and creator of The Arc House, called his prototype “a demonstration of a direction” in sustainable housing. This year, the two partners are expanding on that direction with the debut of The Flex House.

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Introducing the Flex House: Right-Sized Living

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Apr 20, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Green Builder Media proudly introduces the next project in our esteemed and long-running VISION House demonstration project series: the Flex House. Manifesting the concept of “Right-Sized” living, the Flex House is designed to help homeowners use exactly the amount of resources they need—no more, no less.

Green Builder Media and specialty modular builder Shelter Dynamics have joined forces to create the Flex House, a model for “Right-Sized” living in a small-footprint, flexible space that is completely connected, intelligent, resilient, solar, and sustainable. 

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At the Local Level, Sustainability Rules

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 19, 2017 9:06:57 AM

Outside the D.C. bubble, politicians see green issues as common sense priorities.

I’m always excited to introduce you, our readers, to some of the best green projects of the year. And yes, once more you’re going see some real showstoppers in our annual awards lineup. But before you get there, I want to mention what happened in Orlando in January, when we held our first Sustainability Symposium.

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The Green Gap: How Men and Women Differ

Posted by Megan Wild, Guest Columnist

Apr 18, 2017 7:15:30 PM

Here's how we can get guys to buy into "green".

Going Green — Just for Girls?

Eco-friendly products have gained a reputation as being primarily feminine. A study completed in 2012 found women are more likely to take active steps toward creating a greener lifestyle. Overall, females are more environmentally conscious than their male counterparts, and that shows in the marketing techniques that have been used.

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Household E-Waste Disposal Fees Let the Real Polluters Off the Hook

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 17, 2017 10:25:24 AM

Paying up to 100 percent of the upfront cost of a product to dispose of it transfers the costs of bad product design from the maker to consumers.

toxic-trio-ewaste.jpg

I took a 5-gallon bucket full of spent electronic devices to my local waste management yard this morning.

Total cost to get rid of 20 CFL light bulbs, two smoke detectors and one cordless drill battery: $55.00. Are you kidding me? In case you're wondering, it's $1 per light bulb, $5 per battery, and $15 per smoke detector.

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Are Buildings Our Next Clean Energy Solution?

Posted by Zack Semke, Guest Columnist

Apr 13, 2017 10:20:10 AM

Transformative building design can bring climate hope.

Returning from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training, it’s clear to me that if we hope to avert catastrophic climate change we need to start viewing our buildings as clean energy power plants. It might be easier than you think.

Gore and the global experts he convened for the training emphasized three things: 1. we face a climate crisis emergency; 2. we have the means to solve the crisis; and 3. our future depends on determined local climate action, now.

With reversals in US climate policy underway and the Paris climate agreement in question, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the clean energy transition is already underway.

Because clean energy is technology, not fuel, innovation drives costs down. More demand for clean energy means more deployment of clean energy, which leads to more experience and learning – further driving costs down. This is fundamentally different from fossil fuel extraction. Each ton of coal is harder to reach than the last and drives costs up.

The clean energy sector has stunned energy analysts, with faster-than-predicted uptake and cost declines. The levelized cost of solar energy decreased by a staggering 85% over the last seven years. (Lazard) Wind energy costs went down by 66% over the same period. Lithium ion batteries dropped by 80% over the past six years. (McKinsey & Company)

The boom in renewable energy is reaching an inflection point. Non-fossil energy made up 51% of net new supply of energy in 2015 globally. Some analysts expect 100% of net new energy supply to be non-fossil fuel by 2020. “Peak fossil fuels” may be right around the corner.

That’s good news for the planet. But without a revolution in the energy consumption of our buildings, it is not enough. The building sector is the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. today. That’s a problem. But buildings can become part of the solution as a source of energy, and I’m not just talking about rooftop solar panels.

The “negawatts” we can “generate” through ultra-energy efficiency in buildings is an under-tapped energy resource. Those negawatts are especially valuable to the grid because their “production” naturally peaks during times of high demand, displacing carbon-intensive coal or gas “peaker plants.” Buildings can be a form of climate action. When we make our built environment more energy efficient, we destroy demand for fossil fuels, and price goes down. This makes the more difficult-to-extract fossil fuels too expensive to dig up for the low market price, stranding them in the ground. The more energy efficient our buildings, the more fossil fuels are left stranded in the ground. Combine this with a transition to renewable energy, storage, and demand response and you’ve got the recipe for meaningful climate action.

If our purpose in sustainable design is to help save the planet, then we need to focus on meaningful carbon-reducing building solutions that are scalable. We do that by making our buildings so high-performing and cost-effective that the approach becomes the no-brainer choice for building owners, developers, and project teams. Passive House makes this possible.

The genius of Passive House design is that it recognizes the building itself –its skeleton and skin– as a technology. Passive House innovation therefore improves both performance and cost, a la other clean energy technologies. Powered by modern building science, energy modeling, and an advanced analysis of the thermal properties of building structures, Passive House architecture sits squarely in the realm of information technology and science-based innovation. That is a potential game changer for buildings’ role in the clean energy transition.

Many Passive House projects today are approaching cost parity with conventional construction. When a significantly better product becomes available for little or no extra expense, then mass adoption becomes possible. When Passive House buildings become commonplace –as they are in Europe and as is beginning in Vancouver, BC– then the negawatts generated by this stock of ultra-efficient buildings can truly help power the grid. Future electric vehicles can be powered by these negawatts, enabling Passive House architecture to reduce emissions from both the building and the transportation sector.

Recent research by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College of London suggests that the market impact of the declining price of solar energy and electric vehicles could significantly curtail demand for fossil fuels and limit warming to between 2.4° C and 2.7° C, when combined with reasonably strong climate policy. To hit the 2° C target, the research team says that decarbonization of buildings will be vital.

The need for bold climate solutions is urgent, especially given federal intransigence. The good news is that we as designers, builders, and building owners have the means to act on the local level, building by building. Now is the time – our collective future may well depend on it.

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The Revenge of the Dinosaurs

Posted by Ron Jones

Apr 13, 2017 12:00:00 AM

Make no mistake, the all-out assault on virtually every form of regulation and government oversight by the current Administration and its lackeys in recent weeks is part of a larger ideological war that is being waged—a war on being forced to take responsibility and be subjected to accountability.

Being held responsible and accountable for waste, pollution, environmental degradation, social exploitation, and unethical business practices gets in the way of generating maximum profits, but there is even more to it. For those whose mantra has become the endless condemnation of “onerous” regulations and the call for the demise of “government overreach,” the fundamental, gut-level resentment of “being told what to do” has been festering for a long, long time, just itching for a chance to boil to the surface and erupt.

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Readers Tear Apart NAHB's 8,200-Square Foot Show House, Calling it Real Estate Porn

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 10, 2017 9:47:01 AM

Public reaction to "The New American Home," has ranged from snarky to mocking to straight up outraged—not just toward the home itself, but toward the designers and the “hapless” writer who gushed about it in The Washington Post.

The $5 million annual project promoted by the NAHB appears to have misfired badly with the general public. The latest iteration of what one of our staffers dubbed "The Next American Hoax" ignores virtually every housing trend currently in play: tiny homes, multifamily, net zero, smart plus solar, resiliency. You name it. They ignored it. The houses show just how far from the mainstream the good old boys at the shrinking national organization have strayed.

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Smart Home Evolution: Trends to Watch

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Apr 6, 2017 12:33:19 PM

Smart technology is revolutionizing the way that we interact with our homes. But today’s Smart Home 1.0 environment—which is essentially command and control—is going to feel as sophisticated as Atari when compared with the super-intelligent, autonomous, learning systems that are going to hit the market in the next 12-24 months.

 

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A Clear View: The Grid is Going Smart Plus Solar. Get Used to It.

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Apr 5, 2017 3:10:37 PM

At a solar conference in Australia, the same message came through consistently. The old energy paradigm is dead. Solar will rule the day.

As reported by , reneweconomy.com/au
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