Beyond Green Building: Morning Round-Up

Posted on: September 14th, 2007 by Patrice Frey

The Untapped Green Within Graying Buildings An excellent article highlighting the greening of the 80 year old Joseph Vance Building in Seattle by Jonathan Rose Companies LLC. The company launched a $100 million smart growth investment fund in 2006 to green existing buildings. The company explains the impetus behind the fund: “In terms of the building stock, only 1 percent is new construction annually, so it is critical to focus on the existing 99 percent, which are huge consumers of energy.”

The article discusses the company’s climate sensitive approach to heating and cooling, and extensive lighting improvements. The developer’s approach to historic windows is particularly noteworthy. The company “weighed installing new windows against restoring existing windows. Since operability was key for tenant comfort, the company chose to restore the existing wood windows because the sashes of many had been nailed shut. Weather stripping was added, as well as mecco shades and light shelves to the south and west facades for proper interior shading.”

All too often, the assumption is that historic windows have to be replaced to make historic buildings energy efficient (case in point, the article also quotes David Lehrer with the Center for the Built Environment that “replacing single pane windows can address one of the most important parts of the building skin in terms of energy performance and impact on occupants.”)

It’s refreshing to see the Rose Companies’ approach -- acknowledging that retaining historic windows has value because it increases occupant comfort and that the performance of these windows can be improved by weather stripping and other measures.

The subject of window replacement is something I've spent a fair amount of time researching. What I've learned thus far: the manufacturing of replacement vinyl or aluminum replacement windows requires huge amounts of energy – and particularly in the case of vinyl – produces toxic bi-products during the manufacturing process. Retaining existing windows avoids these impacts. And as the greening of the VanceBuilding indicates – there are plenty of ways to improve the thermal performance of historic windows. It’s a win-win for people, and the environment.

News to Keep You in the Know...

Vacant Houses, Scourge of a Beaten-Down Buffalo NYT. In this city beaten down by decades of factory closings and residential exodus, the razing of thousands of vacant houses is being touted as a sign of progress.

Green skies: Engineer's work may reduce jet travel's role in global warming – ENN. Princeton Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Fred Dryer has a lofty goal: end the nation's reliance on oil for jet travel.

BP Breaks Ground On First Wind Project in Texas – ENN. When it's up and running in 2008 a new Texas wind power facility will see 24 2.5 megawatt wind turbine generators, the largest wind turbines built in the U.S. turning in the Texas wind. When it's finished the $100-million dollar project will generate enough carbon-free electricity to power approximately 24,000 average American homes. The project is a venture of BP and Clipper Windpower.

Curbing Key Chemicals Could BeatKyoto Climate Goals – Reuters. Curbs on chemicals that damage the ozone layer could have a side-effect of reducing far more greenhouse gases than the main U.N. plan for confronting climate change, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Thursday

More European Companies Switch to Green Power - CSRwire. A growing number of European companies are switching to renewable energy for their manufacturing plants, stores and office facilities. Renewable energy is allowing more companies than ever to power their operations while realizing a number of business benefits in the process

Window to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change Closing – ENN. Consumption of energy and many other critical resources is consistently breaking records, disrupting the climate and undermining life on the planet, according to the latest Worldwatch Institute report, Vital Signs 2007-2008.

Survey: 65 Percent of Americans Oppose Mountaintop Removal – ENN. Two out of three Americans (65 percent) oppose the Bush Administration's proposed rule "to ease environmental regulations to permit wider use of 'mountain top removal' coal mining in the
U.S.," according to a national opinion survey.

Governors to push state action on global warming – ENN. Governors want to expand state regulation of greenhouse gases in hopes of increasing pressure for federal action on global warming, the chairman of the National Governors Association said Wednesday.

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