Building a Greener Future
Homeowners and developers alike are looking for new and innovative ideas to be greener, often times for different reasons. Whether you are doing it to reduce your carbon footprint or simply to lower your utility bills, there are a multitude of ways to achieve your goal.
Words by Scott Gossen.
KNOW YOUR CONSUMPTION
Knowledge is power - know how much energy you use, the waste you generate, and you will be more motivated than ever to take the next step towards reducing your consumption. Energy Monitors clearly show how much energy is being used, which in turn can help you reduce that amount. It is amazing how much energy a house uses, even when everything is supposedly ‘turned off’. Commonly referred to as ‘phantom power’, this idle energy is responsible for approximately 10% of monthly energy use. A great free website which allows you to track your home’s energy consumption is www.welectricity.com.
GET AN ENERGY AUDIT
Reduce your energy consumption by 20-40% simply by hiring a professional to find out where your energy losses are. Audits typically include blower tests and thermal photographs which show where heat and cold are infiltrating or escaping the house. This includes everything from windows, door weather stripping, and envelope construction (walls, ceilings, floors, etc.). This allows the homeowner to make an informed decision to lower their energy consumption and get a quick return on investment – one can expect to recoup their investment in as little as a month.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY OPTIONS
As the cost of oil grows increasingly high, the need for clean, safe, and alternative energy becomes more urgent. There are quite a few options available, all come with pros and cons and some with lengthier return on investment (ROI), but as the technologies improve, the length of the ROI gets shorter and shorter, making these technologies more accessible to your everyday homeowner.
Photograph by alanna Barret, courtesy of smith & Fong
Solar Power – Solar Panels are lightweight, easy to install and because the Caribbean is so close to the equator it is a great energy source. New technologies like Photovoltaic offer solar systems that simply peel and stick to an existing standing seam metal roof. Southern roof exposures are the best and these systems work with nearly every shape and style of roof. Solar Panels themselves are also great insulators; just make sure any penetrations drilled into your roof are waterproofed properly.
Wind Power – If you live in a country with a good source of wind, and many of us living in the Caribbean do, you might consider installing a wind turbine on your home. After all, wind, like the sun, is free. Check with your local development regulations to make sure they are permitted. The cost of a turbine is high, but in some locations communities are working together to offset this initial investment. A wind turbine creates more energy than a house can use, which is why it might make sense for a small community to consider selling the energy back to your local power company to reduce the length of the return on investment.
Geothermal – Maybe you have heard of this technology, but do not understand how it works. Basically, geothermal energy, which can be used to heat or cool homes, makes use of the earth’s heat. When used to cool one’s home, the geothermal unit extracts heat from the air, removing it by heating the liquid, which is then passed through the earth, so that the cooled air is returned to your house. This is possible because the ground temperature remains cooler than the air temperature. A recent report stated that geothermal energy reduced overall emissions by 40-70% compared to standard electrical air conditioning systems. BUILDING a greener future Homeowners and developers alike are looking for new and innovative ideas to be greener, often times for different reasons. Whether you are doing it to reduce your carbon footprint or simply to lower your utility bills, there are a multitude of ways to achieve your goal. Words by Scott Gossen
GREEN BUILDING MATERIALS
The goal of green building is to create properties that require no or minimal nonrenewable products. If you are renovating your house you should consider using renewable resources or recycled materials, and when selecting wood products, make sure they are FSCcertified (Forest Stewardship Council). The Council ensures that products come from reliable sources and they work to maintain responsible forest management.
Photograph by Elizabeth Chai
Flooring – use “Green Label Plus” certified carpets or bamboo wood flooring. Launched by The Carpet and Rug Institute in 1992, this label indicates low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions. Of course, if you want to use another type of wood, make sure it is certified by the FSC.
Lighting – Change incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use 60% less energy per bulb and can save you hundreds per year off your power bill. Put motion sensors on all exterior lighting, and if you require lights at night, put them on timers so they shut off during daytime hours. Oh, and not to sound like my father, but turn your lights off when you leave the room! A 2005 study found that by doing so, one can save up to 45% of their annual lighting cost.
Casegoods – Make sure they are made with low VOC materials. This includes everything from carpets to adhesives, paints, sealants and finishes.
Windows – Everyone loves natural light, but hates the associated cooling bill. If you are building a house, make sure your architect considers the building’s orientation. For example, windows on the south side of your house are exposed to more direct sunlight then the north side. If possible, reduce the amount of southern exposures. If you are an existing homeowner you might want to consider installing energy efficient windows with a Low E coating or energy efficient blinds.
Applicances – By now most people have heard of Energy Star appliances, but did you know that they could save you 30% on your power bill? The Energy Star rating also applies to lighting and other household items – look for the label every time you buy an item that plugs into your house.
Biowalls and Roofs – Quite literally a growing trend, living roofs and walls blossom with benefits. Not only do living walls provide a dramatic vertical appeal to one’s interior, they also bestow a host of other benefits like purifying the air by absorbing harmful contaminants and generating fresh oxygen to lowering one’s energy consumption. Likewise, living roofs are just as dynamic. They reduce cooling loads by 50-90%, naturally filter pollutants, reduce and purify storm water runoff and outlive traditional roofs by about forty years.
Photograph by Photograph by Elizabeth Chai Nedlaw Living Walls
RAIN WATER HARVESTING
71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, 97% of that is ocean and only 0.6% is fresh water in lakes, rivers, and ponds. Of that approximately 70% of the fresh water is used for agriculture. That does not leave a lot for day-to-day consumption, especially with our expanding population. Most houses still flush their toilets with the same water that they drink and irrigate their lawn with tap water. This is an environmental tragedy. We need to start collecting our rainwater and use this precious resource to reduce our demand on our earth’s water supply. A quick solution would be to install a rain barrel.
Grey water should be collected separately from black water (sewage water.) Grey water is leftover water from baths, showers and washing machines. Grey Water is never safe to drink, but if filtered, it can be used for flushing toilets and irrigation. 50-80% of residential wastewater is grey water.
Green buildings are the future. Whether you are renovating an existing structure or building a new place, take the time to consider the environment and you might end up with a more marketable investment down the road. As solar, wind and geothermal systems become more affordable, and advances in high performance technologies continue to improve, it pays to educate one’s self on the available resources. Before you know it, green buildings will be as common as fuel-injected cars, and it is not hard to imagine that in 15 years building codes and development regulations will require that many of these items are standard building practices. Do yourself, and the environment, a favour and be proactive.
FORWARD THINKING COMPANIES
INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS FOR A GREENER GLOBE
FLUSH OF BRILLIANCE
The KOHLER Persuade Curv toilet, with its sweeping curves, boasts a beautiful design paired with exceptional water-saving technology. This dual flush toilet, along with over 30 other water efficient KOHLER toilets, offers homeowners simple and smart ways to save water and reduce their water bill while remaining true to a singular level of quality of performance and design.
KOHLER fixtures and faucets that carry the EPA WaterSense label help buildings earn LEED® water-efficiency points, reducing facility operating costs or accommodating the preferences of homeowners. Kohler’s reputation for leading edge innovation is recognised by homeowners and industry professionals alike, proven by its many long-time favourites such as the Wellworth toilet, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in the market.
For more information on KOHLER products, visit www.kohler.com
SHADES OF GREEN
TUUCI has made their way of doing business greener one parasol at a time: participating in stewardship programmes, carefully sorting their scrap fabrics for recycling and by utilising recycled decorative fabrics on many of their shade designs. They have implemented an Environmental Sustainability Programme that includes efforts to reduce solid waste and the recycling of materials used in their products, packaging and supplies. TUUCI products are made with 100 percent replaceable parts, wood that is ecologically farmed and they save energy and gas by consolidating shipments.
For more information on TUUCI products, visit www.tuuci.com
LIGHTING THE WAY
- No electrodes or filaments are required;
- One bulb last for up to 100,000 hours;
- Premium quality white light ranging between 4,000-5,000K Kelvin and rate 82 on the colour rendering index;
- Highly resistant to cold temperatures;
- Efficiency ranges from 70-90W and in larger fixtures operating at 200-400W; and
- Ex. A 80 watt induction lamp can replace a 250 watt metal halide lamps.
Allsolar & Automation of Puerto Rico collaborates with the best renewable energy companies to distribute solar panels, and induction and LED lighting. Offering the best in technology and service in the Caribbean, Allsolar works with companies such as SunWize, Focused Energy and Advanced Green Technologies.
For more infomation call (787) 605.9486 email or visit www.allsolarpr.com
Water is perhaps the most valuable natural resource considered in sustainable design. As a company that daily delivers water through more than 150 million faucets worldwide, Delta Faucet Company places a high priority on products that address today’s water conservation concerns as well as water quality and accessibility. Delta Faucets is committed to providing smart water delivery solutions that maximise water savings without sacrificing the comfort and convenience of the user experience or the durability and life span of their products.
For more information on DELTA products visit www.deltafaucet.com
Having installed in excess of 300 Photovoltaic Systems and container loads of Solar Water Heaters, Alternative Power Sources Limited was proud to be nominated, in 2010, by the Jamaica Society of Energy Engineers for renewable energy project of the year under the American Energy Engineers Association.
Alternative Power Sources services include: Energy Management Consulting; Energy Consumption Audits; Wind Velocity Testing; Energy Efficient Lighting; Solar Water Heating Systems; Photovoltaic (PV) Systems; Wind Turbines; and Electrical/Mechanical Engineering.
For more information on Alternative Power Sources call (876) 907.3534, (242) 424 6103 or visit www.apsja.com
KITCHENS WITH HEART
Downsview Kitchens contribute to a greener heart of the home using wood grain laminates, reconstituted veneers (engineered from plantation grown trees) and 100% recycled wood products. Their manufacturing environment has been certified as an Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) licensed facility by the Composite Panel Association of North America, and all the components used in the construction of their natural Birch cabinet boxes are made with hardwood plywood manufactured with a formaldehyde-free resin derived from soy known as PureBond.
For more information about Downsview Kitchens, visit www.downsviewkitchens.com
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