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CO law prevents Graywater System at LEED Platinum Dorm from being turned on.

28 Feb 2012

Williams Village North LEED Platinum dormitory.

Stephen Del Percio at the Green Real Estate Law Journal (a great blog by the way) posted an interesting story about the University of Colorado’s new $46.6 million, 131,000-square-foot dormitory in Boulder.  The dormitory is the largest (500 residents) of its size in the nation to earn LEED Platinum from the USGBC.  Here’s the problem, its $230,000 graywater system – which recycles water from showers and sinks through the dorm’s toilets, and could save the dorm over one million gallons of water annually – can’t be turned on by the University because of Colorado state law, which generally prohibits graywater systems from being used unless they’re isolated from public areas.

Apparently, a state bill that would have given municipalities greater control over regulating graywater systems stalled in committee; nonetheless, the University may still be able to operate the system through an exemption that allows graywater pilot programs (although supposedly it could still take more than a year to qualify the system through the pilot program).

This is a great example of new technology conflicting with pre-existing (and frequently outdated) law.  As Stephen aptly points out, when signing contracts which require that work and services comply with all applicable laws, codes, and regulations (which they almost all do), you need to take those obligations seriously – particularly on projects which include newer technology and/or green building components.

The best energy dollar is one you never spend. More insulation?

20 Jan 2012

The siding is down for the injection of insulating foam

Many articles that I’ve read say that the best energy dollar is the dollar not spent. Given that the overall trend in energy prices is up, and that our house has some very cold rooms, we thought that it was time to revisit our home’s insulation.

This week, we had USA Insulation add insulation to our attic and inject foam insulation into the walls of our home. Most interesting to me was when I learned that the many recessed lights in the ceiling act like chimneys venting air out of the house – air I had been paying to heat or cool!  The insulators have boxed in those lights, so that has stopped.  We also learned that despite insulation we added 4 years ago, our attic barely met current standards and the walls in our house had little insulation.

USA Insulation told us that we should see roughly a 30% energy savings from this insulation. My daughter has announced that she thinks our home office (which is hot in the summer and glacial in the winter) already seems less cold – and given our recent single digit temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised to agree.

I will be closely reviewing my utility bills, as this was not cheap to do. There are some utility and federal incentives and financing is available, but it’s still a pricey investment.  As we plan to be in the house for 15+ years, I’m hoping to recoup that cost and come out well ahead (I’m hoping for a 4 year or less payback) while saving energy and reducing our carbon footprint as well.

Paper, plastic? No – CFL vs. LED vs. Laser?

16 Nov 2011

We all know that incandescent bulbs are so Twentieth Century and everyone hears how great CFLs are except for the mercury. As I blogged last week, I bought my first LED bulb and now comes news that even that may be passe soon.  Laser based lights?

New Green Terminal Opens at Oakland County International Airport.

13 Sep 2011

The new terminal at the Oakland County International Airport officially opened a few weeks ago unveiling a $7.5 million “green” renovation.  The airport, which is applying for LEED Gold Certification, is touted as being the first LEED certified airport in the country and home to Michigan’s first “green” terminal.  The new 15,000-square-foot terminal includes, among other things, the following green technologies:

  • A living wall of tropical rain forest plants that clean the air inside the building
  • Wind and solar generation of electricity
  • A solar hot water heater
  • Geothermal heating and cooling
  • Highly efficient fluorescent and LED lighting
  • Electric car charging stations
  • Commuter offices
  • Recycled construction materials
  • And reuse of the old terminal site and basement

According to Oakland County’s website, the airport is 12th busiest general aviation airport in the country and the second busiest in Michigan behind Detroit Metro in terms of the number of takeoffs and landings.  The website also states that over a half-million passengers use the airport each year including virtually all the Fortune 500 companies.  As Michigan continues to transform its economy and attempts to recruit companies to move into the state, this would seem to be a great first impression.

Court Dismisses Highly Publicized LEED Lawsuit.

18 Aug 2011

Yesterday the U.S. District Court in New York City dismissed in its entirety the lawsuit brought against the U.S. Green Building Council by Henry Gifford and others which alleged, among other things, violations of the Sherman and Lanham Acts for creating an illegal monopoly and “deceiving users” of the LEED system.  According to the USGBC’s press release, the Court held that “none of the plaintiffs in the action had alleged or could allege any legal interest to be protected by their lawsuit.”

As suggested by a number of people (including myself) when the lawsuit was initially filed, Gifford, the lead plaintiff and a self-proclaimed energy efficiency guru, was not a LEED AP nor did he own any LEED-certified property; thus, many speculated he may have a difficult time demonstrating that he was actually harmed even if he could prove false advertising by the USGBC.  Based upon the USGBC’s press release, it appears those facts may have been the downfall of Gifford’s claims (which, by the way, the court dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that Gifford  and the other plaintiffs are barred from filing a new suit based on the same claims).

What the court didn’t appear to address; however, were the actual merits of Gifford’s claims.  If that in fact is the case, and the dismissal was based the plaintiffs’ lack of standing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gifford finds a “better plaintiff” and files a similar lawsuit in the near future.  I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Gifford.

Sustainability Scores Points.

9 Aug 2011

Qwest Field in Seattle. Photo credit: subactive_photo@Flickr

As I have posted here before (The Greening of Sports) (The Greening of Sports Continued…), a number of professional sports teams are leading the charge on green construction and sustainability.  The most recent announcements call for sustainable energy projects at FedEx Field (home of the Washington Redskins), Lincoln Financial Field (home to the Philadelphia Eagles), and Qwest Field Event Center (home to the Seattle Seahawks).  According to the organizations’ websites, the projects are all set to be completed by September — in time for the start of the NFL season (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL work stoppage delayed some of the construction).

The FedEx Field plans call for the installation of 8,000 panels — some of which will be located on top of 850 premium parking spaces — which will generate up to two megawatts of electricity.  The solar system will be able to fully power stadium operations on non-game days, and partially power operations on game days.

Lincoln Financial Field looks to become the world’s first sports stadium to fully convert to self-generated renewable energy.  The plans call for, among other things, the stadium’s facade to be covered with 2,500 solar panels, the installation of 80 spiral wind turbines atop the stadium rim, and the operation of a cogeneration plant.

Finally, Qwest Field plans to install, on its roof, the largest solar energy array to date in the State of Washington.  The solar installation will cover over 2.5 acres (or approximately 80% of the roof) and is projected to generate over 830,000 kWh of electricity annually, the equivalent of powering 95 Seattle area homes for a year.

Did you know?  The first pro sports-team project to earn LEED certification under the USGBC was not a stadium…but the Detroit Lions’ own $34 million training facility and administrative headquarters in Allen Park.  Given Ford Motor Company’s green roof at the Rouge Plant and the Lions’ LEED certified headquarters, one wonders why Ford Field wasn’t also in the news for “going green.”  Maybe ownership was more concerned with putting a “sustainable” product on the field? (Ha ha.)  I’ll look into this and report back.

New FHA/Fannie Mae green refinancing program

14 Jun 2011

HUD announced at the beginning of this month a new program called Green Refinance Plus where FHA and Fannie Mae will assist owners of existing affordable rental housing to refinance in to new mortgages, provided that they include funding for energy or water saving upgrades.  This is aimed at Low Income Housing Tax Credit and other affordable residential projects to  lower operating costs by improving efficiency.  FHA will insure up to an additional 4 to 5% of the loan (up to about $250,000 per loan) to pay for water/energy efficiency improvements and other needed property renovations.

To qualify:

  • the property must be at least 10 years old with a recorded use agreement that extends for the new loan’s term to help preserve affordable housing;
  • at least 5% of the refi proceeds must go to property renovation or energy retrofit;
  • all improvements and retrofits must enhance value and improve property operations;
  • a Green Property Needs Assessment to identify deferred capital needs and cost effective opportunities for energy and water saving improvements will also need to be conducted. 

Clearly, the administration is trying to jump start something in the energy efficiency field and as most experts say, the cheapest electricity is the electricity you save through efficiency.