Tag Archives: The Green Schoolhouse Series

Greengrade Helps Canadian Projects Get the Green Grade

greengradeDuring the LEED® certification process, there are numerous guidelines, regulations and requirements that need to be addressed before the final LEED® stamp of approval is achieved.  LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Design, and is an internationally recognized environmental program that verifies projects were built in such a way to promote energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and CO2 emissions reductions to the fullest extent.

With the help of Textura Corporation’s Greengrade-LEED® Management Software, this process has been made easier. Project teams in Canada can now achieve LEED® certification via the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in a much more efficient and streamlined process by using Greengrade LEED® Management Software designed for the Canadian market.

In the United States, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is the certification entity that issues all LEED® certifications, but many design firms have projects in both the U.S. and in Canada.  That being the case, it was important to have a certification system in place that kept the same basic guidelines and requirements as those of the USGBC, but adapted them for the Canadian market.  Differences in Canadian construction practices, climates and regulations use to mean that U.S. firms working on projects in the Canadian sustainable design market had to have two separate systems in place to get LEED® certification.  Now, by adding CaGBC Rating Systems to their Greengrade-LEED® Management software, Textura has helped those firms cut the cost involved in the certification process and achieve new levels of profitability while saving time and resources.  For builders and designers who are feeling the hit from the downturn in the global economy, this will go along was to relieve their stress and encourage environmentally-friendly building practices.

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The Green Teen Movement

green teens

Many studies show that by teaching kids about conservationism and sustainability at an early age we create much more environmentally aware and responsible adults.  When Judy Shils included her young daughter, Erin Schrode, in her environmental protection efforts as part of their daily lives living in Northern California, she proved these studies correct.  Erin grew up with positive environmental stewardship as a well-worked family value, so it is no wonder that she grew up to develop the organization called “Teens Turning Green:  A Way of Life,” a collaborative youth-led movement to change the world.

Originally called Teens for Safe Cosmetics, Erin launched the campaign in 2005 in an effort to ban toxic substances such as lead, mercury and other harmful chemicals from cosmetics.  Erin and her mom, soon to be joined by other teens from local middle and high schools, identified common cosmetics used by teens, and then went to work with scientists and chemists to develop safe, green alternatives to the toxic make-up currently on the market.  It wasn’t long before Erin and her team travelled to Sacramento to testify before the legislature and ban poisonous ingredients in cosmetics.  Their mission was successful and with a desire to widen their sphere of influence into other areas of environmentalism, sustainability, and protection of the earth and its resources, Teens Turning Green was born.

They soon moved into the educational field, launching a school awareness program called Project Green Dorm on such things as food service, janitorial supplies, landscaping and classroom products.  They held a public rally in San Francisco during prom season to highlight the ease, functionality, and availability of eco beauty, fashion, décor and transportation options, and named their efforts Project Green Prom.   They also launched Project Lunch, a movement to make quality food affordable and available to everyone.

green dorm

Today, Teens Turning Green makes and distributes their own line of skin and body care products through trusted companies, and founded the first Project Green Challenge in October 2011, that challenged students and schools across the world to participate in eco-awareness and conservation efforts across the board.

Teens Turning Green started from one small spark that became a catalyst for positive change in the world, and Erin and her group promise to keep forging ahead, inspiring young people to know, care, act, dream and do.

For more information on Teens Turning Green, click here.

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“Green” your home for $100 or less!

One of the most common misconceptions about green living is that it’s expensive to get started. In reality, there are many ways to green your home that are cost effective and can be done in as little as one weekend. Most importantly, these four DIY projects are easy for anyone to complete – regardless of skill-level.

1)      Replace standard lights with motion-detecting modelsthermostat
How many times have you walked out of a room and forgot to turn off the light? Probably more often than you think. This habit wastes energy, creates heat and increases utility bills due solely to the fact that someone forgot to flip the switch. While most homeowners will just try to kick the habit, some may turn to an increasingly affordable technology and install motion detecting sensors to household lights. Whether they’re installed indoors or out, these sensors typically cost no more than $20 and they’re as easy to install as changing a standard light switch.

2)      Replace old thermostats with programmable models
As one of the best ways to save energy and lower utility bills, programmable thermostats have internal clocks that can be set to heat or cool your home to different temperatures throughout the day—such as automatically turning off when everyone is at work or school, and turning back on shortly before you return.

3)      Find and fix leaks throughout your home
When we say leaks, most assume faucets or sinks. However, doors and windows should also be regularly checked as they can dramatically decrease the effectiveness or heating and cooling your home. By using weather stripping, caulk and tape, you can save a bundle on your utility bills.

4)      Wrap the water heater in an insulated blanketwater heater
Water heaters are necessary for keeping your home’s water ready for showers and dishwashers, but they also pose the threat of wasted energy as they are constantly heating water to a suitable temperature. While it’s important to ensure your water heater isn’t heating past 120° F, it’s also important to make sure the unit is not releasing heat and wasting energy. A thermal blanket can help keep the water’s heat from escaping through the heater’s metal or fiberglass exterior, thus using less energy on the water’s temperature.

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New Solar Technology a Game Changer in the Industry

When many people think of solar technology they imagine the large bulky panels on rooftops of homes and buildings, but researchers at UCLA have announced a breakthrough in the way solar energy can be absorbed. They have developed a nearly transparent film, created from an organic polymer that is more durable and malleable than silicon. This means that not only windows on building can use the film but also imagine car windows, even airplane windows capturing solar energy along the ride. The film may even be used on cell phones and laptops, a way that technology we use can grab the energy it needs to run.

UCLA  Solar film

The new transparent solar film developed by UCLA researchers.

“I think that solar has to take a different attitude,” explains Professor Yang Yang at UCLA’s California Nanosystems Institute, who has headed up the research on the new photovoltaic polymer.  “Whenever people think about solar, they think about the big silicon panels that they put on their roof, or the big solar farms that SoCal Edison builds out in the desert. But for the future of energy use, we must think about how to harvest energy whenever and wherever it is possible. If we can change the concept that energy has to come from one source, which is the power company, that the supply should not be subject to the limitations of the power grid, a lot of new things can happen.”

The applications of this new technology are a game changer in the solar industry. The polymer could even be sprayed on, meaning that solar technology could become even more cost effective, cheaper to apply.

“[A solar film] harvests light and turns it into electricity. In our case, we harvest only the infrared part,” says Yang. The material doesn’t have to be dark or black or blue, like most silicon photovoltaic panels. “We have developed a material that absorbs infrared and is all transparent to the visible light.”

Yang and his team see a bright future in the possibilities with this new technology and many see how it will help in developing countries around the world.


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San Diego Contractor Tapped for County Conservation Services

Green Schoolhouse Series Partner, Reno Contracting has been selected to provide energy and water conservation services to the County of San Diego under its energy and water sustainability program.

building efficient sustainable practicesReno Contracting, a leader in the green building industry, will have their Efficient Sustainable Practices (ESP) division work with the County of San Diego Department of General Services to help lower energy and operational costs, drive down greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce water consumption.

“Through Reno Contracting’s Efficient Sustainable Practices division, we help local government agencies and private companies achieve operational efficiencies and reduce costs through promotion of alternative energy and the strategic deployment of high performance building systems,” explains  Eric Scheidlinger, LEED AP and Division Manager of Efficient Sustainable Practices at Reno Contracting.

Reno ESP also designed a strategic leadership relationship with Brummitt Energy Associates and Environmental Building Strategies. The wider team of specialty subconsultants also includes Redhorse Corp., Advanced Onsite Systems and the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

The areas in the county that will be assessed by the collaboration include over 1,100 facilities, such as offices, community centers, health service centers, libraries, jails, parks, and fleet garages totaling 7.3 million sq ft.

The services that Reno ESP will provide include LEED consulting, whole building energy assessments, building energy/water usage analysis, distributed generation development and building commissioning services to formulate sustainability recommendations for detailed energy and water conservation projects.

“We are excited to be a part of this initiative with the County of San Diego, providing leadership to the team on their program to create healthier living, learning and working environments,” says Scheidlinger.

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How Green is Your City?

Popular Science published a list of America’s 50 Greenest Cities, using a scoring method that assigned numerical values to categories such as electricity, transportation, green living and recycling.  According to its calculations, Portland, Oregon is the greenest city in America, scoring big in areas of energy, transportation and green living.

Portland gets half of its generated energy by renewable resources and a quarter of the city’s workforce carpools, rides the bus or rides their bike to work.  The city also has a higher than average amount of LEED® certified buildings, meaning the U.S. Green Building Council has recognized the buildings as exceptional in terms of Energy and Environmental Design.

Other cities that made the top of the list have come up with some interesting ways to go green. The city of Boston, Massachusetts for example, has thought up a way to put all the fallen leaves that a New England fall creates to good use. The city uses the methane generated by the anaerobic bacteria feeding on the organic waste to power upwards of 1.5 megawatts’ worth of generators.  In addition to energy harvesting, the compost created by the breakdown of the leaves is used to enrich the city’s soil.

Another example is Oakland, California. Oakland has turned its transit system into a fleet powered by hydrogen-based energy – meaning zero emission buses driving down its city streets instead of the toxic, petroleum-based buses too many cities still use.

Oakland Bus

The East Bay cuts pollution with hydrogen-powered transit.

Here is a list of the top 10 cities in order of “greenness” according to the website’s scores:

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1

2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0

3. Boston, Mass. 22.7

4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5

5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4

6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2

7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2

8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1

9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3

10. Austin, Tex. 21.0

It’s encouraging to see big cities take steps toward a greener, healthier world.  If more cities start getting on the “green” bandwagon, there is the very real possibility that some of the devastating effects of pollution and toxic waste might be reversed and we can begin healing our world and our environment.

Visit the Popular Science website to read the full list of the Top 50 Green Cities and see how your city ranks.

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The Many Uses of an Old T-Shirt!

It’s always exciting to hear about the new ways in which different projects and organizations are working toward reducing waste and doing good for the environment.

Project Repat is on a mission to reduce the amount of clothing waste going into our landfills in a very unique way. The organization is partnering with individuals, brands and universities to “upcycle” old t-shirts into unique, fashionable and functional blankets and accessories, like this upcycled t-shirt blanket.

t shirt blanket

According to Project Repat, 5% of all material waste on earth is used textiles. They strive to keep those old t-shirts out of landfills by repurposing them into accessories that will be worn and loved.

How it works: With Project Repat, you send in your old t-shirts and 2-4 weeks later your shirts are returned to you repurposed as a one-of-a-kind great new accessory. You can have your shirts turned into a reversible bag, circle scarf, tie or blanket.

circle scarf

Many people have a closet or dresser drawer full of old t-shirts that they just can’t seem to part with. This is a great way to turn those t-shirts into a wearable work of art.

Project Repat blankets are made at NuPath, a non-profit organization that creates employment organizations for individuals with disabilities.

For more information on Project Repat and to learn more about how you can upcycle your old t-shirt collection visit www.projectrepat.org.

t shirt bags

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Green Apple Day of Service

September 29, 2012 is the date for the first ever Green Apple Day of Service, an event hosted and promoted by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools.

On that day, advocates from all over the globe will join together to show support for a healthier and more sustainable world by performing various environmental service projects.  Even though the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is based in the United States, it recognizes that environmental issues are of global concern which is why the organization has reached out to conservation and sustainable-living movements for involvement on a multi-national scale.

Green Apple Logo

On mygreenapple.org, participants can search for service projects by country, city and even by the type of project they would like to be involved in. The site lists a number of different target areas relating to sustainability and environmental protection – featuring titles like “Waste Not,” “Take it Outside,” and “Educate” – making it easy for people to find service projects that best suit their interests and areas of expertise. There is even an RSVP option that allows participants to make a commitment to attend an event in advance.

One of the most exciting things about this project is the fact that it involves organizations from all over the world.  A large number of international organizations have already joined the USGBC in support of the Green Apple Day of Service and are hosting events in their own communities to help tackle important environmental issues.These are issues that affect us all and being able to join together from across the globe makes a powerful statement.

To date, the Green Apple Day of Service has already added more than 270 service projects worldwide. Join one by clicking here. Green Apple Day Map

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‘No Marketing Rights’ for Olympic Design and Construction Firms

There have been smiles, cheers and celebration a plenty at the summer games taking place in London right now, but one group that is not happy are the architects, contractors and engineers who transformed London into an Olympic Showcase. As millions of spectators convene in London and millions more watch on television, most will never know those behind the work that went into the design and construction of the various building around the historic city.

The internet is a buzz with articles and commentary on the marketing agreement that bans the building and design industry from promoting their work on the historic buildings.

Under the agreement, the industry is banned from publicizing their work on the various Olympic building across London until next year. Excluded from the ban are the designers of Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, who are not considered third tier sponsors. The clause, which is called the ‘No Marketing Rights Protocol,’  leave many feeling that the restrictions only hurt small firms and individuals whose work is seen by millions. The agreement, which affects almost 40 architects, even includes a ban on award submittals for the work on Olympic buildings.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) gathered on August 3 in order to drum up support of their cause and to ask officials to lift the ban.

“Now is the time to stand up for our architects,” said RIBA president Angela Brady. “I really thought they were going to lift the barring of architects and engineers the day they opened the games. The eyes of the world are on London right now and what are we doing to show off?”

Brady and fellow architects wore shirts listing all the firms banned from promotion and even posted that same list on a big sign in front of RIBA headquarters.

“Architects and engineers have delivered incredible buildings which are hosting the London 2012 Games right now,” explained Brady. “Let’s shout about the great design and engineering talent that the UK has to offer and not miss this valuable opportunity to do so.”

Olympic buildings London

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WorldHaus Provides Home Kits to the Developing World

You may have read our past post on prefab homes, but these modular kit houses are so unique that they deserve a post all their own.

Introducing WorldHaus – a company that manufactures custom designed, weatherproof home kits for families in the developing world at an affordable price.

These aren’t your typical prefabricated modular homes – these are home kits that employ a modular building system allowing families to build their home from the kit materials – compressed earth-bricks, steel roof panels and concrete – to any size and configuration they desire.

These home kits also allow for a number of optional amenities that include clean burning stoves, toilets and solar electricity systems. One-bedroom, 220 square foot base models can be built in just 10 days with a starting cost below $2,000.


A WorldHaus prototype home

The company’s Founders Bill and Daniel Gross have also been working with mortgage providers to make the homes available for monthly installments of $40 – a price even more accessible for rural and semi-urban families in developing areas who make anywhere from $3 to $10 a day.

They have also partnered with state governments, NGOs and landlords to develop rental housing programs and subsidies that could cut the cost to occupants to less than $2 a day.

According to the UN Habitat on substandard housing, more than a billion people worldwide live in substandard housing conditions without access to things like clean water, sanitation and electricity.  WorldHaus is not only helping to alleviate that need, they are helping to build local economies through the use of local construction, a local dealer network and factory supply chains and they are promoting the stand-alone sustainability of homes independent of the constraints of housing projects or utility grids.

To learn more, visit worldhaus.com.

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