Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Serious Materials

There are some exciting innovators in the construction material business. These are business leaders that not only manufacture products that are Green for the end-user (contributing to energy efficiency, durability, health and sustainability) but are also committed to greening the manufacturing process.
They wonder:
"How can we continue to make our products and lower or eliminate the environmental impact?"
"How can our products be utilized or recycled at the end of it's usefulness?"

Ray Anderson from interface is probably the best known of these pioneers. Please follow the previous links to learn more.
Another Company that has come to my attention is Serious Materials. They manufacture sheet drywall, windows, doors and coatings. I'd like to focus on two of their offerings.

EcoRock , which will be available in the spring of 2009 (western US), is the better drywall.
  • It uses 80% less energy to produce than standard drywall.
  • It doesn't contain gypsum. In fact, it's made with 80% post industrial recycled waste.
  • It doesn't generate any mercury during the manufacturing process.
  • It resists mold, up to 50% better than even mold resistant drywall.
  • It is less dusty which cuts down on airborne contaminants.
  • Application and installation process is like standard drywall so additional installer training is not needed.
ThermaProof 1125 Windows
These are fiberglass frame windows that come in picture, casement and awning styles. They also have a sliding door. The frames are insulated with soy based foam and along with the enhanced AlpenGlass+ (TM) glass, these are high performance, low maintenance and amazing. They achieve a R11 and a U factor of 0.09.

Here's a comparison chart from the ThermaProof site:



Both of these product lines are really exciting. With the Energy Tax Credits coming back online in 2009, these would qualify for a 10% tax credit (up to $200.00) for the cost of these windows and doors.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caroma Profile Smart Toilet

As I mentioned in a previous post, we installed a Caroma Sydney dual-flush toilet in our green bath remodel. We really like it.

 Caroma has now gone 1-step further with this dual flush/sink addition to their line of bath products. This Profile Smart toilet has won the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award for 2008. http://www.caromausa.com/Profile-Smart

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Green Building Design Principles

A really interesting video on the principles that should guide all Green building designs. Part of a series given by author Dan Chiras. Excerpts are from a Residential Renewable Energy workshop offered through CU Boulder's Sustainable Practices Certificate Program. This and many others can be seen at sustainablepractices

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quick Draw


One element of remodeling and building that I love is the designing and presentation of projects to clients.  We discuss their vision, needs and budget. If they didn't hire a designer or architect, I would draw up the usual floor plans (mostly for permit purposes) for their approval. 2-D drawings aren't the most inspirational at times and aren't a great way to show the client what the finished project will look or feel like. 
For the last year, I've been using SketchUp and what a blast! It is so much fun! It's a Google 3D modeling program that is fairly easy to master. They keep pushing the envelope and have just come out with version 7. It is a fine tool for designing and presenting to my clients their vision. It's sophisticated enough to show where shadows and sunlight might play in a design. (ie. Is the overhang right for the summer sun at 4:00 in the afternoon?) There are walk-throughs, scenes you can create to "fly" around the exterior, sectional capabilities that show the "guts" of an addition-endless possibilities. 
There are hundreds of Ruby scripts that can add functionality and enhance SketchUp. Wow!
Google is doing many things that help the user, no matter the skill level. Tutorials by them and others are awesome. 
These are just a few of the individuals and companies that are contributing to the education of SketchUp users everywhere.
Google holds a annual "Bootcamp" for training and just to show off what some designers and architects are doing with it.
They have the 3D Warehouse that holds thousands of models (from houses to soccer stadiums) and components (furniture, windows, doors etc.) that can be brought into your model. Major manufacturers, such as Pella and Whirlpool have their product lines there for download. 
My favorite page is their Green section. This page highlights Green projects by among others, Michelle Kaufman of MKD, a designer of prefab homes.
It has become an essential part of my business.





New Remodel for the Holidays

Hammontree Builders is close to completing a new kitchen/living room remodel. We're just waiting for the countertops to be installed and then, we can celebrate. The clients closed on the house on October 1st and it should be complete in time for Christmas. It was a very nice project with some tasty Green elements.


BEFORE:




  • First thing, removed drywall/light eyesore from ceiling (seen above in picture) and patched ceiling. The gaping hole in ceiling did afford electrician access for wiring new lights.
  • Removed old carpet, pad, vinyl and luaun from the kitchen, dining room and living room.
  • Replaced with prefinished Maple floors that came from responsibly managed wood lots in Canada. Instead of 15# asphalt impregnated felt for underlayment, we used Kodak paper. Absolutely no off-gassing.
  • Repainted all rooms mentioned above with low or no-VOC paints.
  • Old cabinets and tops removed. Cabinets donated to ReStore to be sold and used by others. Old kneewalls torn out and all 2 x 4 material salvaged for backer/incidental framing.
  • New Kraftmaid cabinets.
  • Island hood installed for better ventilation.
  • Appliances are Frigidaire and all are EnergyStar rated.


AFTER:


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lost: A year of Energy Tax Credits


Great news!

(Question; Why did it take so long and why wasn't it retroactive for 2008)


Home improvement tax credits will be available, nationwide, for 2009. This is a continuation of the ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005. These home improvements include new energy efficient windows, doors, HVAC equipment and added insulation. Click on title of blog entry or here to be whisked away to the Energy Star site that explains all.
While it is disappointing that we lost a year of tax credit incentives and possible work for those of us in the building industry, this should be helpful. I'm also incredulous that the maximum amount of tax credit is still just $500. This amount includes all work done in 2006 ,2007 and 2009.

The wind and solar energy systems tax credits are exciting.




  • Small Wind - Tax credits are available to homeowners who install residential small wind turbine systems. The credits are available for systems placed in service from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2016. The tax credit is for 30% of the cost of the system, up to $500 for each half kilowatt of capacity with an overall maximum of $4,000.

















  • Solar - Tax credits are available for qualified solar water heating and photovoltaic systems. The credits are available for systems placed in service from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2016. The tax credit is for 30% of the cost of the system, up to $2,000. After December 31, 2008, this $2,000 cap will be removed for photovoltaic systems (but not solar water heaters). This credit is completely separate from the $500 home improvement credit.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Step-through Tubs

During a recent bathroom remodel, my clients and I were discussing options for their cast iron tub/shower unit. They were concerned that it was getting more and more difficult to get in and out of the tub to take showers. That 16" high rim is not easy to step over. They don't take baths anymore and were strongly convinced that my plumber should tear the tub out and re-plumb for a 5' walk-in shower. If you've ever torn out a cast iron tub, you know, this is one tough, nasty and messy job. 
They had aged glass doors on the tub and these are so hard to keep clean that they needed to be replaced or removed.
Add the fact that, in this case, tile goes from the ceiling to the tub rim; you either have to tear that out and durock and re-tile or tile from the rim level down to the new shower pan. The expense, mess and the debris going to the landfill made this an unappealing option.
Enter Surface Specialists. This a national franchise that does re-glazing, repairs, and step-throughs for tubs. Steve Streifel, owner of Surface Specialists of Michigan came over and in short order turned their tub into a walk-in shower.


              From this:                                                                                                           












                To this!












Why this is Green:
  • By not tearing out the tub and/or the tile and starting over, the project didn't contribute to the waste stream.
  • Eliminated shower doors which are hard to clean and are growth zones for grime and potentially mold.
  • Contributes to the health of customers by removing a risk, in this case, falling.

Monday, September 8, 2008

350.org

Traverse City, MI- Northern Michigan was fortunate to host a presentation given by Bill McKibben, the author of the seminal global climate change book, The End of Nature on Sunday, Sept. 7th. Sponsored by the Michigan Land Use Institute, this event drew more than 500 concerned citizens and rallied all in attendance to become activists. He discussed what's happened world-wide, politically and environmentally, since his book was published in 1989. He talked at length about the future and the need for all of us to be involved, to become activists, to do something. He encouraged all in attendance to join 350.org, a group engaged in environmental activism, who's goal is to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the current level of 387 parts per million to 350.


As a Green builder and Green blogger, I attended this event because education is a good thing and it's important. If we want to build responsibly, sustainably and environmentally, Green is the answer.
Here's a great video from the 350.org-

 



Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Energy Tax Credits

I don't want this blog to become a political rag-The only topic I've gotten on the soapbox for previously is my post about the rebate checks. I started to write this blog because I was excited about the Green Building industry. I was thrilled with the concept of building a durable, healthy and energy-efficient home and I wanted to share it. I wanted to share my projects and talk about the practicalities of new products and techniques. These Green concepts are adaptable to remodeling as well as new home and commercial construction. 
It seems that there isn't any subject that can escape the "political sphere". The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which ended at the end of 2007, was hopefully going to be extended this year. This act gave homeowners tax credit INCENTIVES to improve their homes HVAC systems, install more insulation, replace old doors and windows and/or install wind or solar systems. The list can be found here
At a time of rising unemployment, the housing industry in free-fall and rising energy costs wouldn't you think this would be a no-brainer. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 should be extended. The House of Representatives had passed A Renewable Energy package but it died in the U.S. Senate last week. Very untimely and unfortunate.

Friday, July 4, 2008

OUR GREEN BATH REMODEL

It was time... We were ready... Time to tackle the bathroom...
 Over the years. as I learned more about Green building and the new products and techniques available, we had made many changes to our own home. 
The bathroom was next on the list. You see, as a Green Builder. I don't want to just "sell" green jobs to my clients, I want to live as green as I can. I need to try these products; experience is the best teacher. Live with them and see how they stand the test of time. Practice on ourselves before I recommend a product to a client . 
While green building techniques are the correct way to do things, the products can be subjective (ie: which no-VOC paint is the best? ). We used Pittsburgh Pure Performance.
  • We started with expanding the door into our linen closet. The existing bifold was only 2' wide, although the closet width was over 3'. This made it difficult to remove and return larger blankets, quilts and stacks of towels. We bought a door to fit the new opening at a reuse-it shop. (I take a lot of doors, windows, cabinets, etc. to this shop through my remodeling business) A couple coats of no-VOC paint, it looked like new.
  • The floor needed replacing. Very dated! I didn't want to tear it and the underlayment out because I didn't want to contribute it to the landfill. Ceramic tile would require this to occur and it is cold on bare feet. The height difference between the hall wood floor and the existing bath floor was 3/8", so we needed a flooring that would bring the floor level close to the hall floor. We chose Marmoleum Click. This product is a floating floor with a cork backing, is treated to repel water and is easy to install and maintain. 18 colors to choose from. We chose Caribbean. 
  • We added an Ikea cabinet above the toilet area to get the storage out of the vanity.
  • We kept the existing vanity, again to save on the work, waste stream and cost of replacing. Paint is a great way to turn old into new.
  • New countertop, faucet and sink. The countertop is formica, which could be argued isn't green, but I purchased the formica from a local lumberyard's "dog bin". Every lumber company has this area so-called for mistaken orders, discontinued or unused products. I may have saved this from being thrown away. For those of you remodeling, check this area out. You can find windows, doors etc. and save money and landfill space.
  • Caroma dual-flush toilet. Made in Australia. This a great way to conserve water.
Please enjoy this video of before and after.
  


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another Lighting Post

Over the last few years we've converted almost all of our incandescent bulbs to compact florescents. In earlier posts, (here) and (here) I've discussed the lifespan of CFLs versus Incandescents (6000-15000 hrs and 750-1000 hrs. respectively). But eventually, they grow weary and burn out. These CFL's contain a small amount of mercury so they shouldn't be thrown out in any circumstance. If you're fortunate enough, like I am, to have a place to take them, who will recycle them, please do so. As I've mentioned in a previous post, for those living in the Grand Traverse region of northern Michigan, The Lighting Center will take them for 25 cents per bulb. 90% of the bulb is recycled, including the mercury!
There's also some exciting and Green lighting choices. Juno has some great recessed lighting options. See this .pdf for a catalog of CFL fixtures. They also have their Trac12 system, a LED Track lighting system that is fantastic for mood and attention grabbing lighting. 



Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What do you do with 140,000 plastic bags?



ANSWER:Build a 500-square-foot Deck

In an earlier post, I mentioned a deck project that I was going to start. I was discussing the deck surface choices that are out there. That blog brought some reader's comments (which I always appreciate!) about other manufacturer's products. The homeowner's made TREX their choice. This winter was long and cold, so I didn't even attempt to start it. I started the project on April 9th and here it is!
In this case, this isn't a 300 square foot deck with steps and benches, it's a 84,000 recycled plastic bag deck!

In the May/June 08 Smart Homeowner 's annual Green Issue, there is an article titled Smart Use for Grocery Bags. TREX recycles plastic grocery bags for their composite decking. They launched its BagSmart Plastic bag Reduction and Recycling Initiative in Pa. and NJ. The company is working with major grocery and retail chains and Goodwill to encourage consumers to recycle their plastic grocery bags, dry cleaning bags and newspaper bags. There are drop-off bins at participating grocery and retailers. Goodwill Industries collects, sorts, bales and ships to TREX for repurposing. TREX use 300,000 tons of recycled plastic and wood scraps each year. Granted, this is a stop-gap measure. Until these plastic bags are banned, (as is happening in parts of the country), this is a way to reuse those awful "Paper or Plastic" consumers choices we have to make at the check-outs. And the homeowner's? They made a good choice.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Arizona Dreamin'

My family and I spent a week in Arizona and luckily we made it home through the AAirlines mess. As we landed in Detroit (our destination), they announced to all passengers that the fleet was grounded for a undisclosed reason. Now, we know.
The topic of this entry is my disbelief that I didn't see many examples of water conservation. Here we have a state (and in all fairness, it really is it's biggest megalopolis, Phoenix) that is reliant on the Colorado River and a series of canals to supply water to it's thirsty residents. We stayed with a dear friend in Prescott who proudly announced that their water came from drilled wells, not the Colorado River. We toured Taliesin West and they get their water from a well. Interesting story there- When Frank Lloyd Wright purchased the 640 acres in the early 1930's, he paid an extra $7.00 an acre for the water rights. The sellers thought they really had fooled the architect and made a killing. FLW hired a well driller and 400-some feet later they hit an aquifer and they are still using the water.  
Dual-flush toilets are a great concept and a great water sipper. They come with a 2-button flushing mechanism. One uses .8 gallon per flush for (how can I put this delicately) yellow and 1.6 gallons for the other stuff. Caroma and Toto are 2 great companies to look at.
Another great conserving technique is water barrels or cisterns to capture rain water from eaves trough. The water can then be used to, at least, water plants. We toured Arcosanti and they were the only place we saw capitalizing on this free water from the sky. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Basement Finishing



In an earlier post, I talked about a basement finish job that I was bidding. This originally included adding a basement egress window with window well enclosure by Bilco and was to have a bath.
The  job was downsized to an basement office. This sketchUp drawing is showing the components that explain the building science involved to make this a warm and dry space to work. To get a closer view, click on drawing.
Basements in Northern Michigan are typically cold in the winter and damp in the summer. Generally the soil is sandy with good drainage. We have to keep these things in mind when designing systems to make this space a pleasure to use.
  1. A 2 x 6 sill plate on a 8" block wall allows air flow from inside of block cores into basement space cooling floors above the block and the basement as a whole. I glue in 2"cuts of 1" foam on top of block. I then glue  4 x 8 sheets of 1" ESP foam (R-4) on the block surface. The reason I use ESP is it allows the walls to dry to the inside. It costs about $4.-5.00 a sheet ($1.00 per R factor rating). 1" EXP foam is R-5 and is quite pricey. Up north, it is difficult to get EXP without the moisture retarding skin and that would not allow the walls to dry out. All seams are caulked (as is the perimeter) and taped.
  2. 2x4 stud wall on 2' centers goes up next. Use a treated plate. This is needed for running electrical and heat runs easily. 
  3. Run heat runs in stud bays as close to floor as possible. Make sure you add cold-air returns equivalent to heat.
  4. Insulate stud bays with R-13 insulation.
  5. NO VAPOR BARRIER.
  6. Drywall lifted off concrete slab. This prevents any wicking of moisture from floor. Caulk bottom gap.
  7. Prime and paint with latex paint (NOT OIL). This will allow the walls to breathe and continue to dry to the inside.
  8. Flooring is next. Because of the dampness of basements in the summer, the flooring choices are limited. Carpet gets musty and damp in summer. Glueing wood to cement is not a good choice. Tile is about the only good choice but would be cold in winter. We put DriCore panels down after it was painted. It was amazing the difference your feet felt between the concrete slab and the DriCore surface. DriCore claims about a 6 degree difference. Well worth the $5.00 per panel cost.
 

Friday, March 14, 2008

Don't Spend Economic Stimulus at WalMart

Here's an idea that should grow into a cause, then a movement. 
I recently received a letter from the IRS, excitedly informing me that the check's in the mail! (or will be starting in May) I won't even start on the fact that it's borrowed money or that if spent wrongheadedly we'll likely stimulate the Chinese economy. Oh, I guess I did.
Instead of buying a flat screen TV at WalMart or putting a down payment on that Hummer, we should use this money to make energy/water improvements to our homes and lives. Let's call it, Green4Green or Re-bate/Re-Place. There are so many good, inexpensive improvements we could make and stretch those checks and benefit from the investment. If you do decide to replace anything, (doors,windows) please consider either recycling or taking it to ReStore. Carpet manufacturers such as Shaw Contract Group will recycle old carpet.

Here are just a few-
  • Caulk and seal any leaks (air and water)
  • Replace drafty window(s), door(s)
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL's or LED's
  • Replace Toilet(s) with dual-flush toilets
  • Low flow faucets and shower-heads   
  • Get more insulation in attic
  • Have furnace cleaned and serviced.
  • Replace noisy bath fans with quiet, energy efficient fans
  • Replace old deck surfaces with recycled-content composite decking
  • Insulate basement
  • If your carpet's old and needs replacing, replace with wool or recycled-content carpets. Watch the VOC's. Better yet, replace with Forbo, engineered (and sustainably harvested) wood. Recycled-content tiles are a good choice too.
These are just a few ideas. Congress is still trying to extend the energy tax credits for home improvements from the Energy Act of 2005. See here. If extended, you may qualify for tax credits. So, let's get on the bandwagon and spend and save at the same time.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Green Education is Key!

I was fortunate to attend a green building seminar on March 5, 2008 in Traverse City, MI at Northwestern Michigan College. It was sponsored by both- 
  • the Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area, Inc. A few words about the HBA. I'm not a member (so this isn't being said to promote "my" group or association) but they are really concerned about those issues that confront us as builders and consumers. They've been at the Green forefront and are leading the charge in our state. 



 
  • The Traverse City branch of the AIA. 
The presenter was Doug Garrett, CEM, and his expertise is HVAC. His website is here. I've been to several of these and it's really interesting how, depending on the presenters expertise, the focus of the day can change. His focus was on not only heating and cooling but Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). He talked about getting the HVAC supplier involved in the design process to size the heating and cooling equipment correctly and getting the venting equipment just right. The building is a system and every component will have an effect on the performance. Insulation type, windows/doors, even wall sheathing will affect the decisions that need to be made to get   the best total home package. He mentioned that HVAC vendors consistently oversize equipment to cover themselves so get them involved early. IAQ is so important! Allergy and asthma sufferers have suffered for years in tightly built homes that don't have the correct number of air changes per hour that are needed. "Sick building syndrome" is the moniker that describes this phenomenon. Heat Recovery ventilation and Energy Recovery ventilation are crucial for exhausting stale indoor air and introducing fresh air. The HRV picks up heat from the exhausting air and the ERV picks up the heat and humidity before the stale air exits.
He also talked about Radon and how easy it is to exhaust that. The slide show can be viewed here

Friday, February 22, 2008

Compact Fluorescent VS. LED



This blog entry is an update to an earlier entry (Here) that discussed some of the drawbacks of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Don't get me wrong, I was not playing devil's advocate and wishing we'd go back to incandescent bulbs. They consume 10% of the electricity in the U.S and we've got to get off this addiction. 
I was bemoaning the fact that LED or light-emitting diodes are pretty expensive as an initial investment and light fixture designs are really in the beginning stages. Though if you look (Here), there are some pretty cool bulbs and fixtures out there. What is incredible is that LED's use 1/5 the power and 
  • last up to 50,000 hours 
  • (Incandescent bulbs last 1000 hours), 
  • (CFL's last 10,000 hours). 
The United States Energy Department (Here) and (Here-patience, this takes awhile) estimates that LED technologies could reduce our energy consumption for lighting by 50% by 2025 and save consumers billions. Importantly, we could keep 100 megatons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And their costs are dropping rapidly.

Monday, February 18, 2008

LEED for Homes Pilot Program Update

I received a notification (02/14/08) from the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability that the LEED for Homes Pilot program is coming to an end. The last day for registering a project, under the pilot program (V1.11a), is today (02/18/08). I apologize for the delay and untimeliness of this post. The last day to certify a project under V1.11a is 02/18/09. The official release date for the fully chartered program was delayed a year from the original projected release date. The reason for the delay was the overwhelming success of the pilot. The interest and sheer volume of projects has been stunning.
The LEED for Home 2008 program is available for download at the USGBC website and The Green Home Guide.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

LEED for Homes

I recently attended a seminar in Grand Rapids, MI hosted by The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability. The day long discussion was about the LEED for Homes pilot program that is currently in progress throughout the U.S. 
LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the rating system put together by the USGBC to "provide national consistency in defining the features of a green home and to enable builders anywhere to obtain a "green" rating on their homes."
"A green home is a high performance home that is built to EXCEED the minimum requirements of the building code, especially in the areas of indoor environmental quality and resource efficiency (including energy, water. materials and land."
Once signed up with a local LEED for Homes Provider,  the provider will require documentation of the building process and arrange for specified performance tests to be conducted on the home. Once all has been verified, a rating certificate will be issued. There are four levels of green.
  • Certified
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
All LEED Homes are third party inspected, performance tested and certified to be higher-performing homes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Building Green Part 1

This a really nice 2 part video of a green remodeling project. There are a couple of quibbles I have with the project. 2 x 6's on 19.2" or 24" centers on framing ( also called Optimum Value Engineering) would have saved even more on materials and insulating value. The spirit of the homeowners and the project is in the right place. Remodeling is inherently more green because you are not building a new home. (Disturbing the land, broadening the power grid, etc.) I say Bravo! Thanks to the Mikezk Channel on YouTube for posting this and other great Green Videos. 

Building Green Part 2

Part 2. This completes the series. Some great ideas that can be applied to both new construction and remodeling.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Low VOC Paint

A client purchased a Veterinary Hospital and we've been going through the place room by room, updating the spaces. Each exam room has wallpaper (With ducks!) on the top half of each of the walls. As soon as one room is finished, it gets used and we move to another, so I don't disturb the flow of business. The wallpaper is stripped off and then skim coated, sanded and 
primed with Sherwin-Williams Odorless oil primer.
 I selected Sherwin-Williams ProGreen 200 for the finish paint and I'm really impressed with the utter lack of odor. It is $1.50 more per gallon than a regular, comparable paint plus, it is a really nice paint (coverage and ease of use.)  



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CFL Play-offs


Ok, so it's a bad pun-I just wanted  to mention that one of the problems with Compact Florescent Light bulbs is what do you do with them when they "burn out"? Don't throw them out! They contain mercury. This can wreak havoc to our water environment. For those in the Grand Traverse region they can be taken to The Lighting Center on Hall St. in Traverse City. This according to a Grand Traverse County brochure on waste recycling. As an aside, batteries (cell phone, digital camera, etc.,but not car batteries) can be taken to the county's offices on Lafranier.


 
I'm hopeful that LED lighting will take off so that CFL's can be a transitional bulb choice. (Unless a mercury-free CFL is developed) The price needs to come down and the bulb designs need to be broadened. With time, I'm sure this will happen. LED's last longer and use even less energy.



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alt-Countertops

Because of the predominance of granite as a countertop material in up-scale kitchens, I've been interested in alternative materials. Granite poses a few problems for the Green Builder. The actual mining process is rough on Mother Earth and the embodied energy of mining, manufacturing and transport really doesn't fit in the Green kitchen. Some great options are:

  • squak mountain stone (http://tmi-online.com/). These tops are made from recycled paper, recycled glass, coal fly ash and cement. Based in Washington state this would be great for western homes.
  • ShetkaSTONE (http://www.shetkastone.com/)From their website- "shetkaSTONE is a revolutionary product that has a 100% sustainable life cycle. Products that are produced from shetkaSTONE are manufactured from pre and post consumer waste paper and rely on using none of the Earth's overtapped resources. All by-products (waste created in the manufacturing process) can be recycled back into the manufacturing process. All products that are damaged or are at the end of their life cycle do not have to be put in any landfill, they can be recycled back into the manufacturing process." The company is Minnesota based.
  • Recycled glass countertops. These are tops made from recycled glass and concrete. IceStone (http://www.icestone.biz/new/is a company based in New York City that manufactures this product for kitchen, bath, wall and floor applications. "Due to the VOC-free, high recycled content and Cradle to Cradle™ certification, IceStone durable surfaces are ideal for projects seeking LEED certification." Check it out!
  • Concrete- Can be done locally and/or on the job.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Blackle

This is an interesting energy-saving alternative to the standard Google search page. Use Blackle by Google (www.blackle.com ) and save energy. It's a little harder to read but you do get used to it.  It has the choice of a Blackle or web search. It also has a green search that is small in hits but the more people that use it, I think it will grow.