All Posts Tagged With: "Green Building"

The weekly green: juice for the journey #1

Dymaxion Car: Patent drawing figure 1

Today begins a NEW weekly feature on GOforChange.

The great strawbale building pioneer¬†Matts Mhyrman has said, “The road to good intentions is paved with hell,” and that feels about right to me. The journey of someone who cares deeply about the earth and is working like hell to do something about it can be a bumpy one indeed.

We each have our coping techniques. The very talented David Eisenberg, founder of the Development Center for Appropriate Technologies (DCAT) writes poetry and arranges it artfully on his gorgeous photographs of wild places. I know many folks unplug and spend weeks at a time in those wild places.

One of my ways is to collect quotes. It hasn’t been a conscious practice until very recently. I just appreciate the way a good quote or aphorism sums up the entire world so elegantly.

Each week, I will offer one of my favorites as inspiration to support you through the challenges you are bound to encounter along your path as an advocate for the earth. I’ll include a brief meditation on what the quote means to me, and a question to take into your week. Now, let’s get started!

Week 1

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new reality that makes the existing reality obsolete. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

This has long been on my touchstone. It’s an elegant way of saying, “don’t curse the darkness; light a candle.” In many ways, the green building movement demonstrates the truth of this. We have all the technology and know-how we need to create zero-energy buildings, so let’s just get going and do that. What can you do this week to build a new reality?

More: Buckminster Fuller Institute

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?

Warning: Argue About Climate Change At Your Own Risk

photo by: Julie
Recently, I had a conversation with a green business colleague, who is absolutely convinced that the recent brouhaha about a so-called global climate-change conspiracy has set back the green movement ten years. His concern is at least one branch of the movement – notably green building – has hitched its wagon to the climate-change star of late, rather than sticking to their more successful message that green buildings save money, attract higher-paying tenants and get media attention.

What to make of this? I’m fascinated by the passion on both sides of this argument – and, in fact, that there IS an argument at all. I happen to accept the science that climate change is real and caused by human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels from the earth’s crust (where they were deposited over eons, because they are toxic to life in the biosphere). But I’m not going to argue with someone who disagrees with me. I choose not to lead with climate change, because it is too controversial and turns people off.

I’ve been studying belief change lately. The best way to get someone to harden their position on something is to try and talk them out of it. Think about it. When we believe something, we tend to see evidence of its truth all around us. We also ignore any and all evidence to the contrary – and you can bet there is such evidence. We just don’t see it, because we are too busy noticing the proof. Instead of arguing, the more effective course is to subtly play with people, asking questions to shift their perceptions and awareness. (More on belief change in future articles.)

There’s another reason I abstain from the climate change debate. There’s a universal law that what we focus on, expands. I have long turned away from the “doom-n-gloom” environmental messages. Why put out that anxious, fearful energy? Instead, look at how advantageous it is to adopt a green mindset: it’s smart business to reduce or eliminate waste (which equals money down the drain or up the smokestack); connect to new markets of people who DO care; and get free PR. (More on benefits of green business in future articles.)

Can’t resist passing this along. Since my belief is that climate change is real, I see all around me evidence to support that! For instance, NOAA has a new website covering climate change, which I investigated this morning. It’s full of the latest information, with sections on education, data, and understanding climate.

Also, Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist that has been warning about this for decades, has a new book that I haven’t read yet: “Storms of My Grandchildren” which looks to be a gloves-are-off call to action. (Not for the faint-hearted: the words “last chance” are splashed all over the website.)

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know!

4 Myths and 1 Important Truth About Greenroofs

photo: courtesy Furbish Company

I’m consulting on a community poolhouse project and the design team is considering a 6,000 square-foot greenroof. The building committee has gotten nervous about this kookie technology: is this decision going to be cursed by future generations? Turns out, there are at least 10 acres of greenroofs in the D.C. area alone. People have figured them out and are installing greenroofs to slow down and filter stormwater, provide a cooling effect and supply a green habitat, among many other benefits . I spoke with two leading experts in our area: John Shepley from Emory Knoll Farms and Rick Truett from Furbish Company . Here are the myths and their answers:

Myth #1. They are expensive and need specialized maintenance.

Yes, they are expensive; they can run roughly double the cost — or more — of a conventional commercial roof. But they also protect the roof’s membrane from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays , wind, and extremes of temperature fluctuations. This can double the life of the membrane — or more. Rockefeller Center in NYC has greenroofs from the 1930s that are still on the original membranes. Another important consideration on cost results from systems thinking . That is, for sites that have challenges handling rainwater (aka, stormwater) in conventional ways, greenroofs are a godsend. (See Myth #4 below for more on this.)

Upkeep is minimal. A 10,000 SF mature roof would require 1 to 2 person-days per year, maximum. For the first two years, there would be a bit more maintenance to get it to maturity, but not that much more. On a little roof of less than 2,000 SF, the initial work would be would be 3 days the 1st and 2nd years, then a half-day or less every year after that.

Myth #2. In Europe where they are more common, greenroofs are on buildings with trained, equipped, full-time maintenance staffs. They have to rake leaves in the fall, remove pollen-related detritus in the spring, pick up dead branches throughout the year, reseed or replant bare spots, and fertilize wearing safety harnesses when near the roof’s edge.

I have done tiny, 300 square-foot additions with greenroofs. Continued

Who Else Wants More Creativity and Less Competition?

photo of 2007 Solar Decathlon, 2nd-place winning LEAFHouse team: Al Santos

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”
African proverb

I have been listening to Riane Eisler’s brilliant book, The Real Wealth of Nations.¬† It is a miraculous synthesis of her life’s work in the study of cultural values, gender relationships, and economics.

One framework that resonates particularly strongly is her characterization of cultures on a spectrum between two opposite modes: domination at one end and partnership at the other. This framework allows her analysis of current economic theory, policy and practice to be independent of political or social ideology. Any culture can be one of domination or of partnership, and never are they purely one or the other.

As she characterizes them, domination requires insensitivity, competitiveness, cruelty, and destructiveness. It inhibits the partnership qualities of consciousness, caring, and creativity. Human beings have the biological capacity for the full spectrum of all these traits. Whatever model our culture orients to will bring out, express, or inhibit these tendencies.

Domination systems are rigid, top-down rankings that are maintained through physical, economic, and psychological control. A superior / inferior worldview ranks men over women and humans over other species, leading to other rankings of in-group over out-group, which applies to anything including race, ethnicity, or religion.

By contrast, partnership systems value and support participation, empathy, equity and caring. Continued

Aurora Energy, Inc.

photo courtesy of: Aurora
Aurora Energy, Inc. is a Columbia, Maryland-based solar-energy company specializing in solar thermal and solar electric installations. Its website includes an extensive photo gallery of previous projects, detailing the construction of solar water-heating systems, solar paneling, and solar signage at various residential and commercial sites, both locally and nationally.


drawing by: alyssa

Klockner is a green building company out of Takoma Park specializing in design / build projects including upscale additions, renovations, and custom homes. With an extensive knowledge base on green products and construction methods, the firm offers services in budget development and project design.

JG Architectural Supply

detailJG Architectural supply was founded in 2006 and specializes in Green Building materials. Apart from eco-friendly materials, JG offers a LEED Accredited Professional to assist you with any of your Green Building needs. Offering numerous high-quality eco-friendly materials and energy-conscious expertise, JG aids in finding the best materials that will keep long-term energy and maintenance costs low.