Going Green – Fredricksburg Gets A Green Dojo

Aviv Goldsmith’s new Aikido dojo is being built Green, from the ground up. While it still employs some conventional building materials, they are being used in relatively unconventional ways, and some changes are downright radical. Large spans of metal, for example, have been replaced with engineered wood trusses because, according to Eagle Rigid Spans’ website, steel takes 17 times as much fossil fuel to produce as wood does. We’d also add that you need far less tons of wood than of steel to make those trusses, so it’s actually a lot more than that. All of this makes sense, especially from a martial art with a name that means “The Way of Harmonizing With Energy.”

Other considerations going into the mammoth structure include utilizing the sun’s rays as efficiently as possible. There are plenty of south-facing windows, and the entire facility has an open feel to it. The building sits upon 20 acres, and most of that land will be mowed only twice a year, to retain water and keep things green and natural. Temporary ponds have been established to facilitate the efforts. Insulated concrete walls as well as structural insulated roof panels are part of the plan as well. The roof panels will protect the roof from the sun’s rays during the summer months, and keep the biomass heat stored from the sun’s rays from escaping when it’s cool out.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued an Innovation award for the design, and the state of Virginia has likewise given accolades. We add our support as well. Instead of being destructive, this project promises to create a Greener space than it started with. What a wonderful way to harmonize with the environment!

Thermal energy-passive thermal houses-furnace not required

Central Germany is cold — very cold.  Yet a growing number of passive thermal houses are being built that require no furnace at all to keep their inhabitants comfortable all winter long.  No, not another Earthship, just some rather sound, sensible improvements

For starters, the builders take advantage of the high-quality insulation available today.  Add windows that are made for heat to stay in and cold to stay out, doors that are truly sealed.  What you end up with is a nearly hermetically sealed box — and here’s the big exception: Previous attempts at this maintained temperatures, but were musty and humid, due to stagnant air.  Today’s passive houses are employing a heat exchange.   Fresh air is brought in alongside the hot air going out, warming it as it does so, greatly reducing the heat loss due to ventilation. Viola!  A comfy home that is so energy-efficient, you can actually raise the interior temperature by the inhabitants’ body heat!

Great, but how many millions of dollars does it cost?  Water heaters and other such devices all contribute to the overall temperature within the home.  Some of these parts, such as the windows and heat exchange, are not made in the U.S. and must be imported, adding to the cost.  Those differences aside, insulating and sealing a house this well only adds about 5 percent to the construction costs!  In short, by planning well, constructing wisely, and limiting yourself to about 500 square feet per person, you can have a very affordable home and nearly no heating bills, for very little money.

Isn’t it great to see people applying themselves to the problems, and solving them?  We’re glad to see Germany going Green, and look forward to seeing more houses like these all over the planet!

The Gatsby Hollywood-Los Angeles Green Community

MasterCraft Homes is behind the genius of The Gatsby Hollywood, a neighborhood which is designed from the ground up to be a Green, or ecologically friendly, community. All of the homes share a number of Green advantages and features. For example, they’re built from recycled products, and very well insulated, to keep the heat and cool in the buildings. Each home has an array of solar panels, which is a smart move considering that L.A. has LOTS of sun and California has lots of rebate incentives for solar installations.

Amongst the designs of this Hollywood community is that the homes are tied into the grid, which allows the solar productivity of the home’s array to be fed back into the grid, running the meter backwards, per se, which offsets any on-grid energy which might be used during a high demand time period. Theoretically, one could have no electric usage at all. At this time, though it is unclear, it is not likely that the power companies will be issuing checks to the homeowners for power generated in excess of their overall use, (a Florida city is approaching a vote to do just that,) but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Other smart moves include using Energy Star certified appliances, dual pane windows, and energy-efficient lighting. There’s also a computerized monitoring system to keep the homes operating at peak energy efficiency, and alert the homeowners and the developer in case there is a problem. It is expected that data gained from this monitoring will help make even more efficient homes in the future.

As Kermit would say, it’s good to be Green! Cudos to the developers and to Hollywood for leading by example.

Heat Exchange — the OTHER Alternative Energy

Most of the attention on alternative energy is focused upon wind or solar generation, and alternative ways to fuel transportation.  Meanwhile, tremendous amounts of energy continue to be used in heating our homes and water.  Also, there are solar technologies such as the Earthships’ passive solar home designs and parabolic mirror systems.  These “other” alternative energy system may prove far more important, effective and easy to integrate than the more prominent wind turbines, photovoltaic farms, and similar electricity generation systems.  Moreover, heat exchange systems allow that expended energy to be conscripted, recycled, rather than wasted out into the environment.

One example out of Canada is the EcoDrain, which uses a heat exchange system in the shower’s drain pipe to transparently recapture the heat from the water as it goes through the drainpipe, supplimenting the hot water heater’s efforts, reducing the amount of energy which must be expended to bring tap water to a comfortable showering temperature.

Parabolic mirror systems are likewise far more efficient in capturing the sun’s warmth to heat water than earlier pipes painted black which worked by merely passively absorbing whatever light happened to hit it.  The mirrors gather and focus the sun’s rays upon a pipe, collecting the rays from a much larger area than the pipe itself occupies.   Once heated, the water can be used for washing, to heat the home (via an array of pipes and/or an additional heat exchange,) to passively and efficiently maintain a jacuzzi, bath or shower, for a few examples.

Even with wood or fossil fuel stoves, heat exchange chambers will make those furnaces much more efficient.  As such, they will require less fuels, creating a lesser burden on the environment.  When combustion must be used, we have an obligation to be as efficient in our utilization of that resource as possible.

The inverse also holds true; the most effective insulation is the best way to prohibit heat transfers from occuring, keeping the comfortable air within the dwelling, rather than allowing your winter heat to escape or summer cool to be undone.  The value of insulation cannot be overrated. The  use of mylar bubble-wrap as prophylactic (in the form of freezer blankets and window covers) against leaking heat and cooling are a couple amongst many converse applications of heat exchange.

As we embark upon this new age of energy consciousness, it will be imperative that we utilize ALL alternative energy sources to the best of our ability.  Heat Exchangers allow us to capture the sun’s abundant energy as well as providing secondary uses of energy already spent.  Conservation of energy is well-served by focusing on heat exchange related technologies.