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Encouraging New Construction News
An article in the July 2013 MPLS/St. Paul Business Journal includes positive news about the real estate market, new construction especially. Read on:
Wednesday, 04 December 2013
Cheap Tips with Big Savings
by Erin Mathe, Xcel Energy
Heating and cooling account for almost 50% of the energy use in a typical American home according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It's the largest single energy expense for most homes. Whether you rent or own, you can take steps to weatherize your home for little or no expense.
"Fall is a great time to take stock of your home's efficiency," Says Rebecca Olson, Home Energy Program Director at the Neighborhood Energy Connection. NEC helps homeowners figure out ways to save energy and money. "Once you get the checklist, you can start planning your energy efficiency projects before the winter hits." Here's how you can get started:
Steps that won't cost you a thing
Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting.
Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Water heating is the 2nd largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 18% of your utility bill. There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a new, more efficient model.
Open the shades on south-facing windows to let warm sunlight in. Consider closing window coverings in rooms that receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close window coverings to retain heat. Up to 15% of your heat can escape through unprotected windows, but the solar heat gain from the sun during the day can conserve valuable energy.
Use cold water to wash clothes. According to ENERGY STAR, washing clothes in cold water will save you about $40 a year with an electric water heater and about $30 a year with a gas water heater.
Taken from Parade of Homes www.Paradefhomes.org, Written by Erin Mathe, Xcel Energy, September 7-29th, 2013
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, says architect Michael Green, and build it out of … wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it's not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it's necessary.
Michael Green wants to solve architecture’s biggest challenge -- meeting worldwide housing demand without increasing carbon emissions -- by building with carbon-sequestering wood instead of concrete and steel.
Monday, 16 July 2012
Composting toilets are dry toilets that use little or no water to process wast. The waste is instead mixed with substances such as peat moss or sawdust to absorb liquids, promote aerobic digestion and reduce odor. There are currently 3 composting toilets on the market:
Ecovita Separett Villa was voted one of the top 10 green building products of 2009 by Sustainable Industries Magazine. Suitable for nearly all applications, year round or summer use, it is made from recyclable high-gloss polyethylene. It is designed so the user feels as if they are using a modern, water flush toilet, but it uses just electrity or a battery for a ventilation fan--no water. The urine is diverted through a water water pip. When the solid waste container is full, the user can attach a lid and dispose of the waste and replace with a new container. The urine diverting system ensure that liquids and solids are never mixed, which means there is no latrine-type odor.
Envirolet FlushSmart Vacuum Flush is the first vacuum flush and composting toilet system comb that allows the toilet to flush waste up to 70 feet away, which eliminates theneed for gravity & prevents installation problems. It uses less water than conventional toilets by using as little as 0.2 liters per flush. The toilet can be installed anywhere composting toilets cannot, such as basements and cottages on rock.
Sun-Mar Excel offers a variety of composting toilets: self-contained, central flush, and central dry systems. The self-contained system is the best-selling and the first to be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, according to the Excel website. The toilet can be used in residential and light commercial applications.
Wednesday, 02 May 2012
Environmentally Friendly Deck Building Materials
Spring is upon us, which can mean time to build that deck, or maybe replace the existing deck, or patio. But what type of materials should you use? Pressure treated wood can be a popular choice for its resistance to rot and termites, but it cannot be recycled or burned. Obviously, most people want a deck that will withstand the environment and elements and time. There are better options for materials that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Tropical Hardwoods: Tropical hardwoods like ipe and tigerwood are more resistant to decay and termites than some redwoods and cedars. These woods are incredibly dense and durable. The downside is that these materials typically travel further to reach the U.S. and concern over rainforest deforestation is a real issue, making it even more important to purchase tropical hardwoods that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Redwood and Western Red Cedar: Redwood and cedar are naturally resistant to insects and rot, making it a great option for outdoor decks. Unlike tropical hardwoods, these species are often harvested in North America, reducing transportation costs (look for options that are FSC-certified).
Reclaimed Wood: Reclaimed wood is typically recycled from old barn structures, railroad trestles and "sinker" logs from the days of river-based log drives. Not only does it prevent deforestation, but reclaimed wood is usually from old growth trees, making it stronger and more stable than new wood.
Composite Decking: This type of decking is often made from a combination of wood and plastic and depending on the manufacturer can include everything from recycled wood fibers, bamboo, rice hulls, HDPE and PVC. The appeal of composite decking is its durability and low-maintenance, but while it is usually made from recycled content, composite products cannot be further recycled and ultimately end up in the landfill.
When looking for earth-friendly products, do your homework. Shop around.
Now that the deck is built, let's talk about the outdoor furniture:
If you REALLY use your backyard often, you need furniture that is comfortable, attractive and strong enough to withstand the climate. If that furniture is made of wood, it should measure up in other ways, too. Will it give off toxic fumes? Is it FSC certifed?
Before you buy new, ask yourself if you can repair or recycle in some how your existing furniture?Protect and defend the natural look. Wood furniture needs protection from rain and sun. If possible, bring the furniture inside during winter to protect it. To shield softwoods from the elements, use a low-toxicity antifungal (and anti-termite) borate salt such as disodium octaborate tetrahydrate. Maybe a fresh coat of low-fume paint will bring a new life to old furniture.
If you want to buy new, look for:
Products with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label come from forestry operations that meet strong environmental, social, and economic performance standards.
Recycled plastic is now being made into attractive, durable outdoor furniture. You can even find a reasonable facsimile of that old favorite, the Adirondack chair.
f you choose furniture made from environmentally sound wood, you help slow down global warming by maintaining the healthy forests that soak up carbon dioxide.
One-fourth of the world’s global-warming greenhouse gases are emitted because of reckless slashing and burning of tropical forests. Wood from well-managed forests in the Tropics, however, provides income for loggers while protecting forests.Ppreserve enough of the forest environment to enable forest creatures to thrive. Sound forestry practices even require healthy growth of lichens, fungi, and insects, which are a vital part of the food chain in a forest.
Prevent erosion and floods by leaving enough trees to absorb water and hold the soil in place.
Friday, 27 April 2012
My Own Book Club
I like to read to gain knowledge and insite into topics such as the environment, changes in real estate, design, new gadgets and technology, green living, and Feng Shui. I thought I'd share with you the books I've enjoyed recently and highly recommend.
Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change by Frances Beinecke with Bob Deans. Quoted from the Foreward by Robert Redford, "There are people of good will who hear claims on both sides of the climate change debate and aren't sure what to believe. If that feels familiar, this book is for you. There are those who want what's best for future generations, for our environment, and for our country, yet worry that our politicians might not get this right. If you're nodding your head, this book is for you. And there are people who care deeply about our common future and just don't see climate change as a priority. If that resonates, this book is for you too. Perhaps especially for you."
A Buddhist Response to The Climate Emergency edited by John Stanley, David R. Loy and Gyurme Dorje. A collective response to a matter of utmost urgency.
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore The book brings together the most effective solutions that are available now and will solve the climate crisis, depoliticizing the issue as much as possible and inspiring readers to take action--as individuals and as a collective whole.
Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution-and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman. This book deals with America's problem of having lost its way, partly because of 9/11 and partly due to bad habits built up over the last 30 years. Combined with the world's problem of global warming & rapid population, the planet is becoming dangerously unstable.
It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth Friendly Living by Crissy Trask. We rely on this book heavily here in our office. This book offers tips on energy conservation, water consumption, advice for greener buying habits, earth-friendly products, and cultivation a sustainable environment.
Green Living and Construction
Compact Houses by Cristina del Valle. This book boasts gorgeous pictures of architecture that is small in size and responsible, maximizing use of the smallest possible footprint in order to protect the environment.
The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. Published in 1998, this ground-breaking book sends a simple message: quality before quantity, empasizing comfort, beauty, and a high level of details, but without sacrificing the environment and resources.
Creating the Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. Sarah also wrote the best-selling The Not So Big House which changed the way people think about the American Home. This new book focuses on dey design strategies, taking an up-close look at 25 houses from all over North America from a variety styles, from New York apartments to farms to adobes. These homes, both remodeled and newly constructed, provide inspiration to create your own Not So Big House.
Good Green Homes: Creating Better Homes for a Healthier Planet by Jennifer Roberts. This book offers a guid to creating better homes that are healthier to live in, easier on the environment, more valuable over the long-term, and more delightful to come home to.
The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture by Alanna Stang & Christopher Hawthorne. The authors focus on a new emergence of architechure-one that is aesthetically compelling as it is environmentally friendly. The book features more than 25 residences that provide amazing spaces to live from around the world.
Landscape as Spirit: Creating a Contemplative Garden by Martin Hakubai Mosko, Asla and Alxe Noden. This book is a resource for those who want to create a contemplative garden or to better understand what it is to follow a contemplative path. Landscape architects, designers, garden lovers, and anyone interested in East & West cultural gardens will gain inspiration to create anything from a small courtyard to a country estate, in any environment.
Feng Shui: Dos & Taboos by Angi Ma Wong. This small book packs a big punch with more than 400 tips for improving your career, relationships, health and prosperity. Using Feng Shui design can create harmony and peace in your home or garden.
Feng Shui: Harmony by Design. How to Create a Beautiful and Harmonious Home by Nancy SantoPietro. This book offers a source for understanding Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of interior design and object placement, promoting health, wealth, opportunities and prosperity.
Monday, 06 February 2012
Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association's
Easy Ways to Save on Your Winter Electric Bills
1: Install a programmable thermostat. This will reduce the temperature in your home while you are away and while you are sleeping. Its an easy way to reduce your energy use. And once it is set, you don't even have to think about it! For each degree you lower your thermostat, you can reduce your energy use by 3 percent.
2: Open south-facing window coverings during the day and close them at night. Let the sun in during the day and let it naturally heat your home. By pulling the shades down at night you help keep the heat from escaping.
3: Get your furnace inspected and tuned by a professional every year. Change your furnace filters every 30 days. A well functioning furnace is an efficient furnace, which reduces your energy use.
4: Replace incadescent light bulbs with compact flourescent light bulbs. You'll save about $40 over the seven years of the life of the bulb, despite the higher purchase price initially.
5: Have a fireplace? Close the damper! This prevents cold air from coming down the chimney into the house.
6: Seal up the leaks in your home. Caulk cracks around windows and doors.
7: Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. Normal is 120 degrees. This saves you about 7-11% on water heating costs.
8: Use your appliances efficiently. Only run your washing machine, dryer and dishwasher when you have full loads.
9: Shut off the lights and electronics when not in use. You'll be surprised how much you'll save.
10: Watch for ENERGY STAR labels when buying new appliances and electronics.
Monday, 16 January 2012
"It has become an urgent necessity to ethically re-examine what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations. We ourselves are the pivotal human generation." - the Dalai Lama
In a book written by Daniel Goleman, "Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything", Goleman details efforts to understand the impact of "stuff". Goleman tracks his journey from being "clueless" to realizing a green social vision based on informed consumer choice. Shopping can be compassion in action, a path to social liberation from our destructive environmental habits.
But studies show that consumers do not necessarily act rationally or take advantage of information to guide their choices. Awareness does not necessarily translate into behavior change. Business pressures to meet cost and performance goals often outrank social and environmental considerations.
Whether learning and awareness will generate behavior change is up to us. The state of life on earth may ultimately depend on our capacity to act with true ecological intelligence.
Stephanie Kaza "Green Dharma." Shambhala Sun September 2009: Page 83, 85, 86.
Monday, 26 December 2011
Set your thermostat no higher than 68 degrees in winter. This is a very comfortable temperature if you are dressed properly.
Take extra steps to maximize heating efficiency when the weather turns cold.
1> Close shades and curtains during the day to reduce heat loss as as soon as the sun goes down.
2> Open all shades and curtains during the day, except those on north-facing windows, to take advantage of solar heat gain.
3> Close doors and vents to rooms that are not being used.
Taken from: It's Easy Being Green. A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Crissy Trask
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