Free Green Building Advice

Free Green Building Advice

Free green building advice – It comes at a good time: When the new-home construction market begins to recover in the next two to three years, sustainable, green construction could outpace conventional methods, with the value of green building construction starts reaching between $96 billion and $140 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s “2009 Green Outlook: Trends Driving Change” report.

BuildingGreen’s new is a one-stop database of green-building expertise. Nearly 1,000 construction drawings and other resources, including notes on building codes, installation videos, and products, detail ways to achieve sustainability for various home types and climates.

Tankless water heaters vs. conventional storage tank systems

This seems to be one of the hot topics we always address when working on mechanical designs.

Hot water is a hot issue for builders, architects, and remodelers these days.  Why?   Many current buyers are interested in homes that are energy efficient and economical to operate, which are factors that can be dramatically affected by a home’s hot water usage.  According to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, water heating is the third-largest expense in most homes, accounting for 14% to 25% of a home’s expenses. In some cases, that percentage may even be higher, which means energy-conserving hot water solutions also could result in big cost savings for homeowners in this difficult economy.

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Solar Hot Water Basics

For my fellow construction geeks who have already read this article in  “Home Power Magazine” this may be old news to you… but for those who haven’t, this is a great summary on a few different types of Solar Heating Systems.

While most people are captivated by the high-tech nature of solar-electric (photovoltaic; PV) systems, in most cases, a solar hot water system will harvest more energy at a substantially lower cost. In fact, compared to PVs, solar hot water (SHW) collectors are more than three times as efficient at producing energy from the sun.

Investing in an SHW system is a smart solar solution for most homeowners. This proven and reliable technology offers long-term performance with low maintenance. And with federal, state, and utility incentives available, these systems offer a quick payback-in some cases, only four to eight years.

A thoughtfully designed SHW system could provide all, or at least a significant amount, of your household hot water needs for some portion of the year. The California Energy Commission estimates that installing an SHW system in a typical household using electric water heating can shave 60 to 70 percent off water heating costs. To get the most for your money, you«ll want a properly sized system that offers the best performance in your climate.

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Wikipedia – Solar Water Heating

I am not really one to quote from a Tertiary source, but in this case Wikipedia has a great section on Solar Water Heating systems.  I have found the posted info to be quite thorough and accurate.  Read the full article and post your thoughts in the blog.

Solar water heating or solar hot water is water heated by the use of solar energy. Solar heating systems are generally composed of solar thermal collectors, a fluid system to move the heat from the collector to its point of usage. The system may use electricity for pumping the fluid, and have a reservoir or tank for heat storage and subsequent use. The systems may be used to heat water for a wide variety of uses, including home, business and industrial uses. Heating swimming pools, underfloor heating or energy input for space heating or cooling are more specific examples.

In many climates, a solar hot water system can provide up to 85% of domestic hot water energy.[1] This can include domestic non-electric concentrating solar thermal systems. In many northern European countries, combined hot water and space heating systems (solar combisystems) are used to provide 15 to 25% of home heating energy.

Residential solar thermal installations can be subdivided into two kinds of systems: passive (sometimes called “compact”) and active (sometimes called “pumped”) systems. Both typically include an auxiliary energy source (electric heating element or connection to a gas or fuel oil central heating system) that is activated when the water in the tank falls below a minimum temperature setting such as 50¡C. Hence, hot water is always available. The combination of solar water heating and using the back-up heat from a wood stove chimney to heat water[2] can enable a hot water system to work all year round in cooler climates, without the supplemental heat requirement of a solar water heating system being met with fossil fuels or electricity.

Read full article at Wikipedia

National Green Building Code

When it comes to building projects, this one’s a monster.  The construction zone is essentially the entire country. The builders are a variety of specialists, including architects, plumbers, masons, and lighting, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning experts.  Since July, they have been meeting in cities – they were in Philadelphia last month – to construct not with bricks and steel beams, but with words.  The goal: a code to guide all development of green commercial buildings in the United States.

The International Green Building Code would, as its name implies, also be available to other countries. But drafting it has been the work of U.S. construction professionals who share a desire for the built environment to incorporate more green features.

Pennsylvania is one of only two states with a government representative on the 28-member drafting body. The other is California, the only state to have a green building code.

The Sustainable Building Technology Committee is an arm of the International Code Council, a Washington association of 50,000 members that develops residential and commercial building codes and standards that states, counties, and municipalities adopt or use as a guide in creating their own.

The Green Building Code would address only commercial development. Last year, the International Code Council and the National Association of Home Builders developed green standards for municipalities and other governing bodies to use for residential construction.

Like most building projects, the green construction code is not expected to be without controversy when the first draft goes public in March for evaluation and input.

“We’ll have early adopters and early supporters, and we’ll have people who are dead set against it,” said Maureen Guttman, Pennsylvania’s representative on the committee. She is executive director of the Governor’s Green Government Council, the state’s sustainability office.

Typically, building codes cover health, safety, and welfare issues to ensure a structure’s reliability for use. A green building code – which Gov. Rendell has called for in Pennsylvania – does the same “from a more global perspective – the health, safety, and welfare of the planet,” Guttman said.

In her view, encouraging so-called higher-performing buildings – those, for instance, that use less water and electricity and more recycled materials – “is a community and ethical obligation.”

“That’s kind of a leap in thinking,” she acknowledged.

It’s the kind of thinking that California, which adopted a completely voluntary green building code in July 2008, is looking to make mandatory. The state’s Building Standards Commission is scheduled to vote Jan. 12 on several proposed mandatory provisions, its executive director, David Walls, said.

Some of the proposals call for reducing indoor water use by 20 percent over conventional construction and cutting construction waste by 50 percent.

The public-comment period on the first draft of the international code will run through next summer, concluding with a hearing in Chicago in August. A revised draft will be considered at hearings in spring 2011 in Dallas, with the code council slated to adopt a final version that year at its annual convention in Phoenix.

In the 1990s, Guttman said, construction requirements resulting from the Americans With Disabilities Act were initially seen as “an enormous challenge.” Now, they are “so ingrained with what we do, nobody talks about it.”

She foresees sustainable-building requirements following the same path, “particularly since it is so clearly shown that to build good, sustainable buildings is good business.”

** From the Philadelphia Inquirer

Contact staff writer Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466 or

Geothermal Heating

Geothermal energy has been used to heat and air condition buildings for several decades, and, during that time, these geothermal systems have been called many different things. Some of the more popular variations include geo-thermal, geoexchange, ground-water, ground-water assisted, ground-water-source, water-to-water, as well as water furnace heating and cooling.

Geothermal heat pumps use the relatively constant temperature of the ground or water several feet below the earth’s surface as source of heating and cooling. Geothermal heat pumps are appropriate for retrofit or new homes, where both heating and cooling are desired. In addition to heating and cooling, geothermal heat pumps can provide domestic hot water. They can be used for virtually any size home or lot in any region of the U.S.

The ground is able to maintain a higher rate of temperature consistency because it absorbs 47% of the suns energy (heat) as it hits the Earth’s surface. Geothermal systems are able to tap into this free energy with an earth loop. This technology is then used to provide your home or office with central heating and cooling.

A geothermal heat pump system consists of indoor heat pump equipment, a ground loop, and a flow center to connect the indoor and outdoor equipment. The heat pump equipment works like a reversible refrigerator by removing heat from one location and depositing it in another location. The ground loop, which is invisible after installation, allows the exchange of heat between the earth and the heat pump.

Geothermal heat pumps can be open- or closed-loop. Open-loop systems draw well water for use as the heat source or heat sink, and after use, return the well water to a drainage field or another well. Closed-loop or earth-coupled systems use a water and antifreeze solution, circulated in a ground loop of pipe to extract heat from the earth.

Ground loops can be installed in a vertical well or a horizontal loop. Vertical wells are usually more expensive and used where space is limited. The length of loop pipe required will vary with soil type, loop configuration, and system capacity. Loop length can range from 250 to 1,000 feet per ton of capacity

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