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Frontlines of Climate Change: Mass Extinction

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Oct 22, 2014 3:50:10 PM

To quote American nature writer Kenneth Brower, “A living planet is a rare thing, perhaps the rarest thing in the universe, and a very tenuous experiment at best.” A living planet is comprised of complex ecosystems that nourish myriad species, each one interdependent, relying on the others to play their role to such perfection that only exists in nature.

When ecosystems fall out of balance, chaos ensues. The cycle of life is interrupted, and species perish. Without sustainable natural systems, there is no provision for communities, no sustenance for societies, no nourishment for economies.

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Horton Hears a Gurgling Sound

Posted by Matt Power

Oct 8, 2014 3:37:00 PM

AS I BEGAN WRITING this month’s chapter on water conservation, I wondered if I’d have much to say. In the world of green building, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Toilets, faucets, dishwashers, clothes washers—virtually every point-of-use gadget now uses a fraction of the water it did in years past. Even irrigation, the elephant in the front yard (and the farmer’s field) is finally getting the attention it deserves. Drip systems, rain sensors and other technologies have begun to whittle away at that oft-ignored source of water waste.
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Double Zero: Net Zero Energy with an Eye Toward Water Conservation

Posted by Hilary Daninhirsch

Sep 26, 2014 12:24:00 PM

KB HOME RECENTLY constructed a home in Lancaster, California (in Los Angeles County), which earned the company RESNET’s award for Lowest HERS Index Score for a Production Builder. Dubbed the Double ZeroHouse 2.0, it’s not only net-zero energy, it also requires no freshwater for irrigation. Even without the SunPower solar PV system, this home achieves an impressive HERS score of 42.

Jacob Atalla, vice president of Sustainability, says that KB Home was the first homebuilder to sign up with RESNET as a RESNET Energy Smart Builder. The company has its own Energy Performance Guide, incorporating HERS principles, which allows homeowners to calculate the dollars they can expect to spend and save.

Atalla reported that KB Home obtained a HERS rating for all 7,000 of their new homes in 2013, and achieved its goal of increasing their energy efficiency by 3 percent. The average HERS score for homes built in 2013 was 65.

“On average, homeowners currently save $1,000 per year on energy bills compared to a typical resale home,” he says. “It’s a big value, and customers are looking for it.”

In fact, the HERS Index score is being added to many MLS listings; a home that has a very good (low) score gains an advantage over one that doesn’t, even if the homes share many other characteristics.

KB Home builds in communities across the country, from California to Florida to Maryland. The company chose to build the Double ZeroHouse 2.0 in Lancaster because the city strongly supports renewable energy. The high desert, drought-prone location also allowed KB Home to showcase their water conservation mechanism -  a new graywater recycling system from Nexus eWater. The system can treat up to 40,000 gallons of water a year for use as landscaping irrigation.

“We also used brand new technology—new to us—that contributed to lowering the HERS score in that house,” says Atalla. The Power-Pipe by RenewABILITY is a wastewater heat recovery device that takes wastewater from the shower drains, extracts the heat, then uses it to heat the new freshwater going into the tankless water heater. Atalla estimates the Power-Pipe saves approximately 10 percent of the energy spent on water heating.

As with all of their homes, KB Home focused on the building’s envelope and mechanics. The team insulated the attic at the roof deck, upgraded insulation in the walls, tightened air sealing of the house, upgraded windows to argon-filled units and installed a tankless water heater. Another “extra” was a smart garage with an electric vehicle charging station.

Atalla says that RESNET-certified HERS raters are usually on site twice—once during the framing and installation of insulation and then again at the end of construction. But because they were aiming for “double zero,” the rater partnered with KB Home early in the design process, helping to identify elements that could make the home more efficient and meet the net-zero-energy target, and visited the site more frequently, as well.


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Frontline of Climate Change: Drought

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Sep 19, 2014 10:55:36 AM

Water: it is a common agenda for all of us, for every walk of life. It’s our planet’s most valuable resource. Nations are powered by it. Life depends on it. And soon, we’ll be fighting over it.

We think of water as infinite and inexhaustible, but the hard truth is that we’re depleting, polluting, and wasting water from aquifers and other fresh water sources in such vast quantities that we’re not allowing these sources to renew themselves, resulting in drastic drought conditions across the globe.

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Is It Time for Arizonans to Panic About Water? Maybe.

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Sep 16, 2014 8:14:06 AM

Is it time to panic in Arizona over the drought? AZCentral the Gannett-owned Web site for the Arizona Republic and Channel 12 News Phoenix featured an article entitled 5 Reasons to Panic About Arizona’s Water and 5 Reasons Not To.

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