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Fracking Can Help, Harm Real Estate Values:The Appraisal Journal

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Mar 30, 2017 7:04:40 PM

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could make land more valuable due to mineral interests, but environmental concerns could negatively affect land values, according to an article published this week in The Appraisal Journal.

The Appraisal Journal is the quarterly technical and academic publication of the Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers. The materials presented in the publication represent the opinions and views of the authors and not necessarily those of the Appraisal Institute.

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One Planet: A Universe Apart

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Mar 30, 2017 11:11:28 AM

President Trump just signed an executive order to repeal several vital climate change commitments, exemplifying the deep divide between those who believe in climate change and those who don’t.

I must admit, despite all of his campaign bluster, President Trump’s signing this week of an executive order to repeal many of our nation’s crucial climate action policies was still a stinging shock. 

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Study: Battery Storage of Solar Energy May Reduce Overall Environmental Benefits

Posted by Megan Wild, Guest Columnist

Mar 30, 2017 9:53:00 AM

Data shows, not surprisingly, that grid-tied PV is more efficient and less polluting than residential battery storage, at least for now.

The energy industry has ramped up its focus on energy storage technologies in recent years. Researchers have been working on improvements to current solutions and innovating new ones. Investments in this area are on the rise. Some suggest it could make renewable energy more economically viable and reduce pressure on the grid during times when energy demand is high.

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Construction Textiles, both Synthetic and Bio-Based, are Part of Europe's Efforts to Extend Durability

Posted by Chiara Cecchi, Guest Columnist

Mar 28, 2017 12:00:00 AM

The construction industry is chasing breakthrough solutions to insulate buildings and keep living areas free from damp and mold.

Today, one of the new product solutions for the construction industry in Europe is the use of textiles, spurred on by materials from the clothing and footwear industries. Gore-Tex-like membranes, which are usually found in weather-proof jackets and trekking shoes, are now being studied to build breathable, water-resistant walls. DuPont Tyvek is an example of one such synthetic textile familiar to U.S. builders, that is being used as a “raincoat” for our homes.

Camping tents, which have been used for ages to protect against wind, ultra-violet rays and rain, have also inspired the modern construction industry, or “buildtech sector”. This new field of research focuses on the different fibres (animal-based such as wool or silk, plant-based such as linen and cotton and synthetic such as polyester and rayon) as a way to improve the quality of construction, especially for buildings, dams, bridges, tunnels and roads. This is due to the fibres’ mechanical properties, such as lightness, strength, and also resistance to many factors like creep, deterioration by chemicals and pollutants in the air or rain.

“Textiles play an important role in the modernisation of infrastructure and in sustainable buildings”, explains Andrea Bassi, professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (DICA), Politecnico of Milan, “Nylon and fiberglass are mixed with traditional fibres to control thermal and acoustic insulation in walls, façades and roofs. Technological innovation in materials, which includes nanotechnologies combined with traditional textiles used in clothes, enables buildings and other constructions to be designed using textiles containing steel, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). This gives the materials new antibacterial, antifungal and antimycotic properties in addition to being antistatic, sound-absorbing and water-resistant”. 

Rooflys is another example. In this case, coated black woven textiles are placed under the roof to protect roof insulation from mould. These building textiles have also been tested for fire resistance, nail sealability, water and vapour impermeability, wind and UV resistance.

In Spain three researchers from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) have developed a new panel made with textile waste. They claim that it can significantly enhance both the thermal and acoustic conditions of buildings, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the energy impact associated with the development of construction materials.

Besides textiles, innovative natural fibre composite materials are a parallel field of the research on insulators that can preserve indoor air quality. These bio-based materials, such as straw and hemp, “can reduce the incidence of mold growth because they breathe. The breathability of materials refers to their ability to absorb and desorb moisture naturally”, says expert Finlay White from Modcell, who contributed to the construction of what they claim are the world’s first commercially available straw houses, “For example, highly insulated buildings with poor ventilation can build-up high levels of moisture in the air. If the moisture meets a cool surface it will condensate and producing mould, unless it is managed. Bio-based materials have the means to absorb moisture so that the risk of condensation is reduced, preventing the potential for mould growth”.

The Bristol-based green technology firm is collaborating with the European Isobio project, which is testing bio-based insulators which perform 20% better than conventional materials. “This would lead to a 5% total energy reduction over the lifecycle of a building”, explains Martin Ansell, from BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials (BRE CICM), University of Bath, UK, another partner of the project.

“Costs would also be reduced. We are evaluating the thermal and hygroscopic properties of a range of plant-derived by-products including hemp, jute, rape and straw fibres plus corn cob residues. Advanced sol-gel coatings are being deposited on these fibres to optimise these properties in order to produce highly insulating and breathable construction materials”, Ansell concludes.

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Green Builder Congratulates our Home of the Year Winners!

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Mar 23, 2017 11:43:21 AM

Each year, Green Builder Media selects the most innovative, sustainable projects as our Green Home of the Year Award Winners. This year’s victors delight and inspire.

Green Builder Media’s Home of the Year Awards certainly feature the best of sustainable design and construction.  Year after year, the winning projects showcase creative applications of pioneering green products, advanced technologies, renewable energy solutions, building science best practices, and forward-thinking design strategies. 

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UK Firm Suggests That Bio-Based Homes Could Store More Carbon Than Is Embodied in Their Construction

Posted by Luigi Serenelli, Guest Columnist

Mar 16, 2017 9:51:00 AM

Houses built with bio-based materials can act as CO2 banks, even when you take into account the eco-footprint of construction.

Domestic efforts play an important role in curbing global warming. Besides producing and using renewables, homes can also act as banks that store CO2. This innovative building model exploits bio-based materials, such as timber, straw and hemp, which act as “carbon sequestrators.”

Carbon is banked through photosynthesis made by plants during their lifetime. “Photosynthesis is the means with which plants absorb atmospheric CO2 molecules, and split them into their component atoms. The carbon atom is retained making complex organic sugars that are the building blocks of the cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin found in plant cell walls. The oxygen atoms are released back into atmosphere as a by-product. Therefore, photosynthesis converts atmospheric CO2 into carbon-based materials that we can use to build and insulate our houses”, says Finlay White, expert in low energy “passive” buildings.

When plants die, the ground absorbs the stored carbon dioxide, which then finds its way back into the environment. However, if we use bio-based materials in construction, the CO2 remains “imprisoned” in the buildings made.

But how much carbon dioxide can be stored in a carbon sequestration house? White explains that “depending on the extent of the renewable materials used, the gross amount of CO2 equivalent stored could be as much as 55 tonnes for a typical 80m2 house. Such dwellings would typically use timber framing for the superstructure and for the internal walls and floor, straw bale insulation in the roof, timber for the cladding and finishes, and other bio-based materials for use elsewhere.”

“The gross amount is the actual CO2 absorbed by the bio-based materials used in the building. The net amount will need to take account of the energy used and subsequent CO2 emissions associated with dealing with the forests and crops, and turning the materials into useful building products and delivering them to site. This is known as embodied carbon”, he adds.

“Therefore the calculation for a bio-based house will be the gross CO2 captured minus the CO2 emissions embodied in making the house. A typical 80m2 bio-based house with a gross CO2 capture of 55 tonnes might well mean a net amount of 33.6 tonnes.”

White works for the Bristol-based green technology firm Modcell, which contributed to the construction of what they claim to be the world’s first commercially available houses built using straw (more info in this BBC report).

They are also collaborating with the European project Isobio, which is developing “new products that include compressed straw board that can replace plasterboard, cereal fibres combined with bio polymers to make components for door cores etc.”, says White, “Once a designer becomes aware of the use of bio-based materials, the potential for their use expands rapidly.”
Carbon sequestration houses still remain a niche market in Europe.

Callum Hill, senior visiting research fellow at the University of Bath, another Isobio expert in the field, points out that “the building industry tends to be very conservative in its approach and prefers to use what it is familiar with. Bio-derived materials are often perceived as being perishable, flammable and short-lived. These perceptions are not supported by facts”. Compressed straw bales used for building envelopes, for example, are not flammable because they contain less oxygen.

Hill thinks that governments should recognize this alternative storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide and “provide a financial benefit for custodians of it. “It is a way of storing atmospheric carbon dioxide that can be readily achieved and without financial penalty (unlike carbon capture and storage)”, he says, “This is something that can be done to the benefit of society and the environment. Anthropogenic carbon emissions are undoubtedly changing the climate and these will have huge financial implications”.

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Chaos at the EPA

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Mar 16, 2017 9:32:10 AM

Scott Pruitt, newly anointed head of the EPA, stunned the world last week with his admission that he doesn’t believe that carbon emissions contribute to climate change. Is he fit to lead the government agency?

If you look at his professional career, in which former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt has sued the EPA 14 times, it would appear that he harbors a deep seeded resentment for the agency, which is ironic given that he has recently become its Administrator. 

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New Smart Cities Initiative Aims to Solve Big City Challenges

Posted by Martin O'Malley, Guest Columnist

Mar 9, 2017 9:36:33 AM

Green Builder Media warmly welcomes Governor Martin O'Malley as our newest columnist.  As Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland, O'Malley has lead widespread sustainability initiatives, from massive cleanup efforts in the Chesapeake Bay to strong advocacy for a 100% national renewable energy mandate by 2030.

There is profound shift taking place where cities are concerned and it's not just about technology; it's about people and its about our planet.

Over the last year I have been working with a new smart cities initiative called the MetroLab Network -- a network of 40 leading cities and their university partners. The network came together to speed up the research, development, and deployment of smart city solutions to big city challenges. 

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Brisk Renewables Growth Across Europe

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Mar 8, 2017 11:29:05 AM

Wind and solar are finally stepping up to challenge hydropower.

28 February 2017, Oslo – “The demand for renewable electricity in Europe, documented with Guarantees of Origin (GOs), has grown briskly in 2016 – up 5% from 2015 and reaching nearly 370 TWh,” says Tom Lindberg, Managing Director in ECOHZ, based on statistics from the Association of Issuing Bodies (AIB). “Behind this growth are thousands of businesses and millions of households in numerous European countries purchasing renewable electricity documented with Guarantees of Origin.”

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Europe's Public Buildings Get Smart

Posted by Clara Attene, Guest Contributor

Mar 6, 2017 12:03:00 AM

From thermally activated technologies to personalised microclimates, researchers look for ways to save energy and increase comfort in public buildings.

Energy-eating buildings are a global issue. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every year buildings in the country account for 36% of domestic energy demand and 65% of electricity demand.

The MIT SENSEable City Laboratory is studying a “customised climate” in buildings. An infrared heating system, called Local Warming, tracks the presence of people in a space and generates a collimated infrared energy beam, which follows the steps of users. The system allows energy savings of up to 90%. A further development will allow each person to customise his/her ‘climate area’ in the building.

“European and US buildings have different problems in terms of dimensions and efficiency,” explains Carlo Ratti, director of the Laboratory. “In Europe, older buildings are smaller and sometimes less efficient, while the USA still suffers from the big McMansion wave. But in both cases a staggering amount of energy is wasted on heating or cooling empty offices or partially occupied buildings.” The McMansion architectural style, born in the 1980s, is characterised by oversized homes and an attempt to produce a luxury effect.

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Have Your Say: 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Mar 2, 2017 2:38:21 PM

Every year, Green Builder Media asks our readers to share information about your favorite brands and current perceptions about the green building market. We invite you to participate in our 2017 Readers’ Choice Survey so that we can keep our finger on the pulse of the greenest companies, latest trends, and your preferences.

Green Builder Media is proud to be the nation’s leading media company focused on green building and sustainable living.  Our mission is to constantly improve ourselves, our editorial, and our offerings by aligning with our readers’ preferences and important market trends. 

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Survey: Net-Zero Builders, What Resources Do You Need?

Posted by Shilpa Sankaran, Guest Contributor

Feb 24, 2017 9:16:00 AM

Coalition aims to make net-zero building easier with an online infomation hub.

Whether you’re building homes, offering products to the homebuilder market, or involved in policy, finance, or builder education, you’re hearing more and more about the shift to zero energy – and maybe wondering how it’s going to affect you. Or perhaps you’re already involved in the rapidly growing zero-energy field, but face some challenges: identifying the ideal HVAC solutions; creating effective products, tools, or programs to ease the transition; or understanding more about zero-energy market trends.

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NASCAR vs. Leilani Münter: Who will Win?

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Feb 22, 2017 4:53:06 PM

If you’ve never heard of Leilani Münter, the beautiful and talented environmentalist race car driver, you’re missing out. Münter, the only carbon neutral NASCAR driver, uses her sport in the most unlikely way to promote climate action. Her mission is to completely revolutionize the racing industry, and given her powers of persuasion, I have no doubt that she’ll win.

Leilani Münter likens herself to a bumble bee, which for all practical (and physics-based) purposes, should never be able to fly.  Like the bumble bee, a young, female, biologist is an improbable race car driver, but, again like the bumble bee, Münter excels in her sport and in her advocacy through sheer persistence.  “No” is simply not in her lexicon.

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