[Originally posted at Jetson Green. This is pretty impressive looking at least at first glance. I haven't seen a distribution photometric, but it's supposed to be a pretty broad angle of lighting, unlike some of the early LED bulbs. This is only a 20-watt equivalent, but it won't be long before there's a 60-watt equivalent being sold in 4-packs at the big box.]

What can you do if you’d like to use an energy efficient light bulb, but you think that they look funky? How about a LED bulb that looks and functions almost exactly like an incandescent filament bulb?

Panasonic has introduced a clear bulb with a standard base that looks almost identical to an incandescent. It has a warm 2700K light color, similar to an incandescent. It has the lifespan (40,000+ hours) you would expect from an LED. And it only uses 4.4 watts of power, but produces 210 lumens, the light equivalent to a 20-watt incandescent.

This bulb also has a color rendering index (CRI) of 80, which is similar to other LEDs and good CFL bulbs. And, as with other LED bulbs, the bulb contains no mercury.

Read the whole article at Jetson Green.

[Originally posted at JetsonGreen. I really like the attitude of appropriate regionalism this shows; using the available resource. And Preston found a better image (included here) than what I was able to get for the article.]

Colorado has millions of acres of pines throughout its forests that have been killed by an infestation of beetles. New Town Builders, a residential homebuilder in Denver, Colorado, has begun using salvaged wood from these trees for the structural framing of homes it is constructing. The company was approached about building a single demonstration home using wood from lodgepole pine trees which had been killed by themountain pine beetle. New Town found that the wood was discolored but structurally sound and has now begun using the “blue wood” for all of their framing.

[Read the whole article at JetsonGreen.]

I recently wrote an article for Jetson Green about the ecobee programmable thermostat (which Matt Grocoff (Greenovation TV) first brought to my attention after he saw it at this year’s Greenbuild. It’s a nice programmable thermostat with wireless connectivity and a number of other good features.

But then, earlier this week, I saw a bunch of posts (including one at Jetson Green that I didn’t write) about another programmable thermostat called Nest that learns about the house over time. It’s also a nice thermostat with a more user-friendly appearance and a number of appealing features.

Of the two, I’m more intrigued by the Nest thermostat. The ecobee sort of struck me as a basic programmable thermostat with some nice features tacked on to it (WiFi connection, color display), but not much to really justify the $300-$400 price. The Nest doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot more, but the adaptive learning that it does perform is certainly intriguing, and the suggested price of $250 is lower than that of ecobee.

I’m less certain that the little green leaf displayed by Leaf is as useful as it is touted. The product literature says the leaf lights up “when you are saving energy,” but does that just mean it’s lit up when the furnace (or AC) is cycled off? Does that really help?

I’m interested in finding out more about how both of these perform in real-world applications, so I will be looking for real users stories about these. Of course, as I said in my article about the ecobee, “…many programmable thermostats are, in fact, never programmed and consequently, the benefits and savings that could come from having it aren’t realized. A smart appliance like this will only save energy (and money) for you if you use it intelligently.”

Links: Nestecobee

Edit to add: After writing about these here, I adapted this and posted another piece for EcoGeek about these thermostats.

I posted an article for Jetson Green on Creatherm: A Simple, Flexible Radiant Slab. I think this is a pretty interesting product. I really admire the flexibility it offers for unusual tubing layout when you want to do something that isn’t strictly on a 6 x 6 wire mesh grid, which typical in-slab installation requires.

It should also be a lot faster to install, since it locks the tubing into place instead of needing to be tied on at regular intervals. I think I’d be less likely to use it on an upper floor instead of a slab, but I would certainly still consider it. But I see a definite advantage to having a single material that provides both under-slab insulation and tubing layout in a single material.

The only downside I see with this is that the tubing is buried further down in the slab, which makes it less responsive and takes longer for the heat to propagate through the slab.

I’m still trying to find out pricing information about it.

Radiant flooring is a popular method for heating a space. Typically, installing a radiant slab on grade has required the time- and labor-intensive process of laying down wire mesh and then tying the tubing to the grid of the mesh to provide an even layout. But using the Creatherm radiant floor panel makes it faster and easier to install radiant tubing, as well as providing an insulation layer beneath the floor.

[Read the whole article at JetsonGreen.]

[Originally posted on JetsonGreen. I've been interested in alternatives to pressure-treated wood for quite a while. I talked about some of these in my Penguicon presentation, and I've been enamored of Kebony for some time.

Accoya is another wood that is processed to make it more stable and decay resistant, without using toxic materials (Accoya uses acetic acid, essentially vinegar, to transform the wood without adding anything to the wood that isn't already naturally found there).

I'm very interested in doing some testing of my own with the two, to see how they both perform, but unfortunately it's pricey stuff. But both should last for decades, so it's an investment, as is the case with many other durable materials.]

If you want to use wood in an exterior application, your options are wider than ever. While durable tropical hardwoods have been decimated by unsustainable logging, there are several methods of preserving wood that produce even more durable and sustainable products. These are not woods infused with toxic chemicals or metal compounds that can leach out. Rather these woods are transformed to be more durable and decay resistant.

Read full article with further images.

[I thought this was going to be a minor little article in between the interesting things I write about for Jetson Green. I only wrote it because it was somewhat timely for spring, although I missed Arbor Day (which would have been the ideal time to post something like this, if I was an obsessive problogger).

So I was more than a little surprised when I got a message that this article got picked up and reblogged by 'Remodeling' magazine's blog. I've seen a number of shares and reTweets about it, too.

It's still interesting to me to see what resonates with other people and what doesn't. I'm glad that this was something that people are finding useful and interesting. It was as much a reminder to myself as it was to the people who read it that simple measures can sometimes be the best answer (or at least a part of the solution) instead of always looking for a product to solve a particular issue.]

While green homes often sport all manner of technical solutions to keep them optimized and efficient, the landscaping can have a significant effect on the building and its energy use. Site orientation and landscape can also be powerful tools to control the energy needs of a building. While it’s not practical to reorient most homes, in many cases you can still make improvements by planting trees.

[Read full article...]

Had a new article at JetsonGreen about a “pop-up restaurant” that was only in place for a few weeks before it was taken down again. The main building was built with strawbales, but more as an infill than as loadbearing structure (at least that’s how it looks from the images I’ve been able to find.

The creators of the restaurant, and of the building system used to build it, didn’t respond to a couple email questions, so I had to go by guesswork and what I could deduce. I also had to rely on a very kind blogger and artist named Melissa Mai who took a few pictures of the building in Sydney and who allowed us to use them for the JetsonGreen article. If she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had an article. Since I didn’t also ask for permission from her to use the images on my own blog, I will instead point you to the JetsonGreen article or to her own review of the restaurant.

I wouldn’t want to use the Productive Building system for a strawbale building in this region. It might work in some places, but the greatest benefit of a strawbale is the heavy insulation value it provides. Short-circuiting that every couple of feet along the length of the building doesn’t seem an especially good idea, and that’s what would happen with the metal framing channels.

And I think I have a fundamental bias against short-term constructions, too, even if everything is reused or recycled. There may be cases where short term structures are needed, but in general, I think that examples like this over-emphasize the materials and under-emphasize labor and transportation and energy. Recycling isn’t energy independent, either; it’s a second best solution.

But let’s not venture into ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’ territory. While I can pick on some things with this, it’s still an interesting system and it seems to have made a perfectly wonderful though short-lived restaurant in Sydney.

A quick note to mention a couple things that have happened recently.

At the most recent board meeting of the AIA Huron Valley Chapter, I was elected to the board. There has been a vacancy in the Associate Director position (which was meant to be the representative for associate members, mostly non-licensed architects* and people in allied businesses). I’m now a full member, myself, but having been an associate until recently, I thought I could participate, at least on an interim basis.

Instead of making it interim, though, they are planning to revise the position to be an Emerging Professionals Director, which will include both unlicensed and recently-licensed architects. So, once the by-laws are amended to change the position, I’ll be the Emerging Professionals Director for AIA Huron Valley.

Opening it up in this way also lets someone take the position before they are licensed, and then stay through their term. I think the average length of time someone is an associate is going to get shorter now, since the state of Michigan recently revised their rules to allow graduates begin taking the licensing exams while they are going through their internship, instead of having to wait until it has been completed, as I had to do.

I have also been in touch with Preston Koerner, the editor of Jetson Green, about resuming doing some writing for them. I had stopped writing for Jetson Green when I started writing for Inhabitat. But then, after some difference of opinion over Inhabitat’s proposed writers’ contract, I haven’t heard anything from them for several months, so it seems safe to assume that my tenure with them is over.

Lastly, I’ve been talking with the organizers of Penguicon and I’m going to be a Nifty Guest for the Eco Track at their convention at the end of April. I am planning a presentation tentatively (and badly) titled “Science Fiction Materials for Your Home” where I plan to talk about some of the high tech materials I’ve been following. I want to try to keep it to things that are in actual production, not merely theoretical, although they may not necessarily be aimed at the residential market.

(* It’s always been questionable what to call someone working in the field who is not yet a licensed architect; best left as a rant for another day.)

[Originally posted on Jetson Green. Notice how I used the opportunity to sneak Randolph Croxton into the article, too. I still don't think he gets enough credit for some of the groundbreaking work he has done.]

Last week, the formation of the new International Green Construction Code was announced through the partnership of several organizations already deeply connected with green building efforts. The preliminary version of the model code is now available for public review and comment.

The introduction of this additional green building standard will take some time to sort out. But it should not be viewed as competition to LEED or other rating systems so much as it is a complement to them. (USGBC’s active participation [PDF] in the new standard should make that point obvious.) Instead, there is a greater variety of standards available as tools to help all members of a building team produce better buildings.

IGCC is supported by a collaboration of the ICC (International Code Council), ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), and IES (Illuminating Engineering Society).

This also combines ICC with the other organizations that were responsible for developing the ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

ASHRAE 189.1 has been criticized by some groups for not being as tough a set of requirements as it could be, but this misses the broader intent for its application.  While LEED has always targeted the most progressive and forward-looking projects for certification, the new green building code from IGCC should offer a more basic, though less stringent option, that is still more effective than a building that only meets code minimum.

Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO, and Founding Chairman of the USGBC, noted that this new standard helps “establish a higher floor” for green building, which allows USGBC to “raise the ceiling” for the highest performing buildings, according to a statement.

The IGCC follows a number of development concepts which are explained on the website:

  • Will use the “model” code approach;
  • Will work as an overlay to the ICC Family of Codes;
  • Will provide performance, prescriptive, and pre-engineered solutions;
  • Minimum and advanced levels of performance (green & high performance buildings);
  • Written in mandatory language that provides a new regulatory framework;
  • Will account for local conditions;
  • Reflects the AIA 2030 Challenge;
  • Works in tandem with leading green rating systems; and
  • Designed with local, state, and federal law in mind.

As with the model building codes, the IGCC will follow a regular cycle of review and improvement to increase requirements and push the industry further.

I saw Randolph Croxton — principal of Croxton Collaborative Architects and one of the earliest proponents for what has become green building design — speak in the mid ’90s, and he talked about codes and the need to build better buildings: “If you build a building and you say it meets all code requirements, all that means is that if you had done just one thing less, it would be an illegal building.

We should aspire to do more than the minimum, and the arrival of a new standard helps to push matters in that direction.

It should not be lamented that a milder standard is available.  Most of the buildings that will be built to this standard likely would not have obtained LEED certification.  But this will allow more building teams to create buildings with some clear guidelines that will help them build buildings that are better than just code-minimum.

[PDF] Download a preliminary version of IGCC.

As you may know, I’ve been writing for EcoGeek since 2006.  Since then, I’ve delved into writing for other blogs from time to time.  I’ve been a semi-regular contributor for JetsonGreen for a couple of years, and have been looking for some additional opportunities to do additional writing, now that I’m working for myself.  A couple of new things are nowcoming into the mix, as well.

I’ve been talking with Matt Grocoff about his project, GreenovationTV for the past few months, particularly since we are both working from the Workantile coworking space.  I’m starting to contribute articles for the Greenovation blog, with the first one being posted earlier this week.

I also responded to a call for writers for Inhabitat, and got an email from them last week saying I was one of their top applicants and asking me to provide a couple of sample articles.  So I’ve had one article on Inhabitat so far, and another one I’ve turned in that should be posted later this week.

All in all, the writing leg of the work I’m trying to do now seems to be pretty well set.  Getting the photography and the architectural practice to the same level are going to be the next steps.  There are some leads on the architecture, and a couple of other possibilities that could be in the offing, as well.  And now that the weather is beginning to turn nice, I’m going to have to get out a bit and start working on my photography portfolio, as well.

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