Some really great links compliments of The Center For Sustainable Energy in the Bronx, NY.
We’re entering a new era of solar energy.
Congress just passed historic solar legislation that will increase the use of solar energy all across US, and the President signed it into law. HR1424 extends the 30% solar tax credit for eight years and removes the $2000 monetary cap for residential solar electric installations.
This is a tremendous accomplishment, and is the result of many months of grassroots advocacy by the solar community, including our colleagues at Solar Energy Industries Association.
“This bill is a major step in our long journey toward energy independence and ensures that solar energy will be a significant part of America’s energy future,” said SEIA president Rhone Resch. “This long-term extension of the solar tax credits will create a domestic solar industry with hundreds of thousands of jobs while providing clean, affordable, carbon-free energy to millions of American families, businesses, and communities.”
Not only will this help families combat skyrocketing energy costs and generate thousands of green-collar jobs — but it will help homeowners save thousands of dollars to make solar energy even more affordable.
The timing is good because the National Solar Tour kicks off this weekend, making now the perfect time to learn more about solar energy. Mark your calendar!
Value Engineering is a useful concept. In the article below it is applied to co-ops but can be applied to any building practice.
Saving Green, and Greening, Too
Value Engineering Analysis helps condo owners and environment
It’s no secret that the current trend in home greening has been a boon
for developers and homeowners, as well as the environment. Energy-
saving features not only lessen the drain on our natural resources, but
provide compelling economic incentives like lower energy costs and
long-term savings. Kipcon Inc., a full-service engineering firm based
in North Brunswick, has come up with a new benefactor for this doubly
helpful practice: the community association.
People who live in co-ops, condos, and the like, are collectively
responsibile for the replacement and maintenance of essencial building
components such as roofs and boilers. In order to plan for the purchase
and care of these high-ticket items, community associations create a
reserve schedule in which money from each resident is saved in a combined
account according to the demands of the property. Target savings amounts
can be determined by partaking in what is known as a reserve study.
“In a typical reserve study, we only evaluate the physical elements of the
building, typically, just the capital replacement items,” explains Kipcon’s
president, Mitchell H. Frumkin. “For example, a reserve study may find
that the roof of a condo has a $100,000 replacement cost and a 20-year
lifespan. The analysis would suggest that the homeowners put aside
$5,000 every year, so when it comes time to replace the roof, the money
will be there.”
While a reserve study alone is an invaluable tool for a community
association, Kipcon has taken this service one step further with the
introduction of its Value Engineering Analysis. “Rather than simply
assessing the costs of replacing or maintaining capital replacement
items, Value Engineering seeks alternative options,” says Frumkin.
Kipcon takes a holistic approach by looking at the capital replacement
items, the relationship between the items and the cost of their
maintenance, and the cost of energy. These three factors are then
compared with one another in order to save the community
association money over time.
Builders are realizing that if they can create a greener
building, it will add another highlight to their sales
“If a building has an inefficient boiler that still has five years left
in it, we would suggest that the homeowners save for a high-efficiency
boiler,” explains Frumkin. “The new boiler might cost slightly more,
but will save residents money in the long run by reducing energy needs.”
With approximately 80 percent of new residential developement
falling somewhere into the category of multi-unit residential projects,
the community association market is booming. Value Engineering
Anaylsis can also be advantageous to developers during pre-construction,
in that it can help developers gain an edge over their competitors as well
as help homeowners save money in energy costs and reserve requirements.
According to Frumkin, “Most builders want to get the lowest cost
possible for their building, because they need to sell units. However,
more and more builders are realizing that if they can create a greener
building that will also save homeowners money, it will add another
highlight to their sales proposition.” –By Jodi LaMarco
Here is a useful Q & A on LEED for homes.
Presented by O’Brien & Company.
How does the “no additional lumber” address cases of historic/cultural design, in
particular on an infill project in a historic neighborhood or a gut rehab of a historic
This credit has been revised to a 10% cap on the waste factor in the lumber order, so the
“additional lumber” language is no longer moot.
How does LEED for Homes apply to historic homes?
The LEED for Homes rating system can be used for gut rehabs of homes, including
historic homes. LEED for Homes is evaluating innovation applications for deconstruction
of existing (e.g., historical) homes on a case-by-case basis and may consider
establishing some performance threshold for deconstruction in a future version of LEED
for Homes. In addition, wood salvaged from historic homes may be reused in new
How is material salvaged from deconstruction treated (is it salvaged? Resource
Salvaged or reused material is eligible for recognition under MR5, Environmentally
Preferable Products; in cases where it is not listed as an alternative for a given building
component, the builder should submit a credit interpretation request for consideration by
the MR-TASC. If the quantity of materials being reused in substantial enough (i.e.,
comparable in magnitude to the other measures in MR 5), the request for an ID credit will
Is a list of builders participating in the pilots available? If not now, when?
USGBC has asked the pilot builders if they are open to having their contact information
made public; a response is expected in coming weeks. USGBC plans to post this
information on the LEED for Homes website at www.usgbc.org/leed/homes.
What are the registration fees?
There is a $150 fee for project registration, with $50 per unit for certification.
Those are fees due to USGBC from builder. Other applicable fees (e.g., for certification
services) are at the discretion of the Provider. Fees for the third-party certification will
vary with the level of experience of the green home builder, the home size, the desired
certification level (i.e., Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum), and the distance that the third
party has to travel to conduct site visits at the LEED Home. Earth Advantage (EA),
Portland is the Provider in the Northwest. O’Brien & Company has been contracted by EA
to represent perform ratings on its behalf in Washington.
Can verification be done by the same person doing technical
assistance/consulting? (Who’s doing quality control of verifiers?)
The official certifier of LEED Homes is an authorized LEED for Homes Provider. All
LEED raters or verifiers must be contracted to a LEED for Homes Provider. It is up to the
discretion of the Provider to determine who is qualified to deliver on-site verification
services. Providers are responsible for recruiting, training, and supervising qualified
LEED raters in their local markets. LEED Home raters must meet qualifying criteria. In
particular, since LEED for Homes requires ENERGY STAR for Homes qualification, the
rater must be qualified by ENERGY STAR NW through its performance testing and
Also, all individuals offering verification services related to LEED for Homes are required
to submit a declaration stating possible conflicts of interest. This declaration needs to be
provided to the builder and any other parties who might be affected by potential conflicts
As pilot raters in Washington, O’Brien & Company is providing some guidance to design
teams to help them leverage integration opportunities and optimize their design. O’Brien
and Company works under the supervision of the LEED for Home Provider Earth
Why won’t LEED Home Builders be able to hang their hats on a LEED AP? We
should be able to use that Brand.
The current LEED AP designation does not indicate any familiarity with LEED for Homes;
rather, it represents knowledge of other LEED rating systems, which relate to commercial
buildings. USGBC is considering whether to develop a comparable exam and
credential for professionals who are conversant with LEED for Homes. Currently,
qualified LEED for Homes support is available to builders via their local Providers. LEED
APs that are qualified in green home building are encouraged to develop business
relationships with the LEED for Homes Provider in the markets that they serve.
Will there be a LEED for remodels?
The challenge with a LEED program for remodeling is that remodeling by its nature is a
“one-off” business, with few economies of scale and in most cases, no buyer (in most
cases, the client already owns the home). Thus, the remodeling market poses challenges
with respect to the creation of a viable (i.e., sustainable) business model for USGBC.
Further, the LEED Rating Systems are generally used to assess the whole of a building.
In remodeling, only parts of the home are affected. Thus, it is difficult to asses the greenness
of a building when only part of it has been upgraded. For the time being, we
suggest that remodelers use LEED for Homes to provide guidance with respect to the
goals and principles — and in some cases, e.g., plumbing fixtures, performance
specifications — that can be referred to in the remodeling process. USGBC may tackle
the remodeling market sometime in the future. Note that LEED for Homes can be used
for gut rehabs.
Will there be a LEED for existing homes (recertification process) given frequent
This represents a challenge similar to remodeling; and besides the fact that there are no
economies of scale, it remains to be seen whether there is any significant demand
potential. Since the seller is the homeowner and not a builder, s/he stands to gain no
professional reputation benefit by offering the LEED brand. In the future LEED may
achieve sufficient consumer brand recognition that prospective buyers will look for a
LEED label on a used home as well as a new one — and be willing to pay for it — but it’s
likely to be quite a few years before that happens.
Part of building a healthy environment is keeping track of the environmental stressors. A stressor is something that alters the body in some way. It could be heat, humidity, sound, or electromagnetic fields. Stressors are not necessarily bad. We need heat and a correct level of humidity for example.
Other stressors are a trade off. Most people want Wi-Fi in their home so they can surf on their laptop while lounging on the couch. And they are willing to forego any possible dangers that the Wi-Fi signals may cause. In fact most people don’t give it any thought.
But as a builder it does need to be considered (so home dwellers don’t need to worry about it).
The truth is that electromagnetic radiation is still up in the air as to how much damage it can cause. We are seeped in it, from electricity lines in the wall or next to the house, nearby cell phone towers, Wireless devices like our phones, laptops, and countless other appliances.
This field of energy existed before electronics. The earth creates its own electromagnetic field. That is how a compass works. But today that field is greatly amplified. If you could “hear” electromagnetic radiation it would be a deafening roar compared to what it sounded like a century ago.
This energy stimulates our body. Again, that might not be bad. But it might be…
One of the most cited study is the elevated rates of cancer among people who live near high voltage electric lines. From a common sense point of view this is no mystery. If you rattle the body with huge amounts of energy it might break down.
As a builder I prefer to be safe and seriously consider how electromagnetic energy is placed in the home.
The easiest way to do this is through the electric lines in the walls, which are needed for the many plugs and switches in a house. I pay close attention to how they are laid out. You want to make special care that there are no lines along certain key places.
The most important one is where people will sleep. You need to make sure no lines run near any place where a person might possibly place their bed. At the very least you need to avoid putting lines about two feet above the floor, which is about where their head would be when sleeping.
Another possible place is in an office, where somebody might be sitting in one place for long periods of time. This one is tricky because an office also needs a lot of electric supply.
The main consideration is where to run the main lines. These lines supply each floor with juice and tend to be bigger than say a line to a single switch. The best place is to run the main line along an area where people spend little time, like under the stairs or in a corner.
This consideration is what makes a normal house a great house. It is what gives a house that unmeasurable “feel good” quality. When your body is not bombarded by unwanted stressors it can relax and heal. This is when the home truly becomes your sanctuary.
Here is something from Bau-Biologie that is interesting:
Microwave Radiation – Cell phones, Wi-Fi
Are they safe?
As fast as possible, our society is becoming more and more technologically oriented. Homes, schools, offices, entire communities are making decisions to go wireless. Cell phones are proliferating at an alarming rate. These devices were never pre-market tested for your safety. There is an incorrect assumption that the government has “approved” these and that the research shows these are safe.
What are the hazardous levels of microwave radiation? It all depends on with whom you speak. From the perspective of Building Biology, it is when the cell structure or bio-communication of an organism starts to exhibit variations from a natural baseline. For example, if blood cells start to clump together at specific electromagnetic field strength, then this would be characterized as a variation of normal cellular activity, a deviation from the natural baseline, and therefore hazardous. Whether or not a person would exhibit a symptomatic response is NOT the determining factor, but that is the basis for most industrial standards – radiation is safe unless the skin actually burns.
Independent, medical science continues to provide mounting evidence that radiation from wireless communication devices, including cell phones, cordless, and the WiFi now deployed across schools, hospitals and offices, produces dangerous health effects. It is important for you to take protective steps as a consumer. We are concerned with eliminating as much as possible, the man-made artificial stimuli that can bring about this change. Thus, we hope to prevent the chronic low-level exposures that are very significant concerning health issues.
What can I do about it?
There are, however, some initial steps you can take today to protect you from EMR exposure.
1. Minimize all exposure and usage of wireless communication: cell phones, cordless phones, and WiFi devices.
2. Turn cell phone off when not in use and definitely when sleeping. Never keep it near your head or use it to play games, movies, etc.
3. Keep cell phone at least 6-7 inches away from your body and others while on, talking, texting and downloading.
4. Never keep cell phone in pocket or on hip all day. The hip produces 80% of the body’s red blood cells and is especially vulnerable to EMR damage. The close proximity may also affect fertility.
5. Do not talk on cell or cordless phone when pregnant, with a baby/small child in arms, under age 16, or while in a vehicle (car, train, plane, subway) – the radiation gets trapped and is higher in these closed metal zones!
6. Replace all cordless and WiFi items with wired, corded lines (phones, Internet, games, appliances, devices, etc.). The cordless phone base emits high levels of EMR – even when no one is making a call. (900MHz Analog cordless phones are okay)
7. Minimize/space out computer use, sit back from the screen; flat screens are preferable. Use wired Internet connections, not WiFi – especially for laptops. Keep laptops off of the body and preferably on wooden surfaces.
8. Keep a low-EMR sleep, home, and personal zone. Move alarm clock radio at least 3 feet from head or use battery power; 6 feet is the recommended distance from all electronic devices during sleep.
9. Avoid waterbeds, electric and metal frames. Futons/wood frames are better than metal-coiled mattresses and box-springs. Metals attract EMR: keep them away from and off of the body.
10. Ensure that there are no electrical appliances, power meters, or circuit panels on the exterior or interior wall of bedrooms.
As a licensed real estate broker I wanted to get as much ecological training as possible in the real estate field. The typical broker training, although extensive, only touches on the green aspect of real estate and I wanted more.
After looking around it seemed that the EcoBroker® accreditation program seemed like the best choice. They are highly regarded in the real estate community.
They were listed in 2008 as a “Top Green Building & Business Certifications” by Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) Journal.
REALTOR Magazine says they are one of the top “25 Trends Driving Today’s Market.”
In 2006 they were awarded “Education Program of the Year” by the Real Estate Educators Association.
Having taken the course I am happy with what I learned. They offer a comprehensive training that educates you in the many aspects of green real estate.
These involve better understanding:
– The energy efficiency elements of a home, from types of boilers, insulation, windows, solar panels, water heating and materials used to insulate a home.
– The effects of the surrounding environment on a home, from solar direction, tree positions, shaddows, and any other physical elements that might effect the heating/cooling of a home.
– Potential health hazards and how to deal with them, such as radon, lead, asbestos, mold, and pests.
– Understanding what steps to take in order to make a home more eco-friendly
– Knowing the benefits of an eco-friendly home and how to market those elements effectively
– Knowing what professionals to team up with in order to provide a better service to the customer. These professionals can be green pest control people, solar panel installers, radiant heat installers, ecologically aware painters and so on.
I am always scheptical of potential greenwashing (pretending to be green for financial gain) but I was satisfied with the course offered by EcoBroker®. I feel they genuinely do want to improve the invironment.
Whenever consumer opinions are poled Real Estate Brokers compete with Used Car Salesmen for the MOST despised group of professionals. That is really a brutal position to be in and not one I’m proud of. The truth is that real estate is a game of sales and sales is a game of psychology.
So a lot of psychological manipulation goes on between brokers and customers and it is not always appreciated.
But now with the new focus on green, brokers can offer a really great service that is not only dependent on the sale. It is dependent on how well they help the customer in understanding the green elements of a home. It is more a role of an educator than a salesman.
I think this added value will be appreciated by customers.
As an Eco Broker it is important to form partnerships with other green minded real estate professionals.
Because our customers have similar interests an Eco Broker usually has stronger and more ties with the following people:
landscaping or xeriscaping companies
eco minded lenders
appraisers who value green building
sustainable building architects
IAQ specialists (indoor air quality)
water quality specialists
star appliance specialists
High E window companies
green pest control companies
heating and cooling specialists
retailers of green products
designers (Feng Shui, for example)
home inspectors who understand green
doctors (allergists, for example)
recycled building materials providers
Residential Energy Services Network’s (RESNET)
(For trained and certified home energy raters in your service are.)
Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating System Accreditation Standard
(For operating home energy rating systems, by state.)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Energy-Efficient Mortgages Program
(For a searchable list of approved energy-efficient mortgage lenders.)
Here is my answer to “Why should I use your real estate services?”
I am a real estate professional with additional EcoBroker training on the energy and environmental issues that affect real estate transactions. There are tremendous green resources available in the market and as part of my service commitment to my clients, I help you identify and make sense of these invaluable green opportunities. I am a great facilitator in this regard.
Education makes me uniquely qualified to present the eco features of the home and help attract qualified buyers. I’m not a specialist or an expert on energy and environmental issues, but I have additional training on these issues and I have a better handle on the basics and the available resources than your standard real estate licensee. I understand the relationship between Energy Star and quality, and I can help
I look forward to working with you. Please call me at ………347 244 3016. Gennaro Brooks-Church.
Solar Panels for creating home electricity have come a long way. They are cheaper and last longer than before.
Photovoltaic systems now have expected lifetimes of 20 years and more, with manufacturers offering system and individual component warranties. Contractors are also offering warranties on installation and extended service agreements.
Even in the absence of additional financial incentives, photovoltaic systems are currently available in the market place for between $5,000 and $10,000 per kilowatt. For a 4 kW residential package system, it is not unusual to see bids in the range of between $28,000 and $40,000, completely installed and operational.
Available systems include photovoltaic roofing shingles and stand-alone modules in a wide variety of configurations.
Financial incentives such as low interest loans, federal and state tax credits, grants, special utility incentives, and technical assistance are available to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing photovoltaic systems.
These incentives vary from state to state and from region to region. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy, available at http://www.dsireusa.org/, is an excellent resource for learning about incentives available in your area.
In NY the incentives are very good. NYCERTA governs those regulations.
It is becoming more and more attractive to install solar in NY homes.