We’ve been keeping an eye on the sweeping Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (PDF), introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D–NH) and Rob Portman (R–Ohio).
The common-sense bill, likely to come to the Senate floor any day now, enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. It would boost the national model energy code for both homes and commercial buildings, support commercial retrofits with financing help, and develop training programs for green building jobs.
Readers of this Energy Solutions blog may be aware that I’ve been critical of some of our foam-plastic insulation materials. I’ve come down hardest on extruded polystyrene (XPS), which is made both with a blowing agent that contributes significantly to global warming and with a brominated flame retardant, HBCD, that’s slated for international phaseout as a persistent organic pollutant.
So I’m always keeping an eye out for alternatives. I’ve written here about two of those alternatives that I’ve used in our own home: a cellular glass material called Foamglas with high compressive strength that works very well below-grade; and Thermacork, an all-natural rigid insulation material made from expanded cork.
I like both of those materials a lot, but they have two big problems: high cost and limited availability. They just won’t be able to enter the mainstream home building industry—not yet, anyway—since they cost more than twice as much as XPS and polyisocyanurate and are hard to get hold of.
Turning waste into a unique architectural product, Coldspring and Jason F. McLennan have teamed up on a new dimensional stone product.
As the founder and CEO of the International Living Future Institute and its influential Living Building Challenge, Declare product database, and Living Future unConference, Jason F. McLennan has been busy setting a high bar for “green.” Now the former BNIM architect has crossed over into product design, as he is set to announce tomorrow the launch of a unique line of sustainable dimension stone products called Earth Measure, in a collaboration with Coldspring, one of the nation’s largest natural stone providers.
In a world in which green products are defined by recycled content and low VOCs, natural stone has arguably gotten short shrift, as we noted recently in Environmental Building News, in Stone, The Original Green Building Material. Stone is simply cut from the earth and processed., It emits no VOCs or hazardous airborne pollutants, it is water-resistant, will outlive most buildings, and can be reused after the structure is no longer usable. How can you build on that pedigree?
How about turning the relatively small amount of quarry waste produced by stone manufacturers into a valuable product? While working with Coldspring as a consultant, McLennan recognized that the offcuts from stone processing still had value beyond landscaping and aggregate, and with Cold Spring’s corporate goal of creating zero waste from processing, a partnership was born.
After years of living with a nice-looking but rather uncomfortable daybed in our living room, my family and I went shopping for a new sofa. We explored a range of styles and configurations, trying to find something that looked good, would be cozy, durable, and fit in our rather small space. Oh, and we also wanted to avoid bringing toxic and ineffective flame retardant chemicals into our home.
Wait a second. Spring has barely sprung, and you’re saying we need to start thinking about energy audits already? What’s up with that?
There are several reasons why now is a good time not only to focus on energy auditing and weatherization—not only for your clients, but also for your own home.
Weatherization professionals have some time
Because spring is a time when few homeowners are thinking about heating bills and how to bring them down, it’s a good time to find energy-performance contractors who can do that weatherization work.
Those energy-performance contractors who do general construction work may be gearing up for the summer building season, but for those limited to energy audits and weatherization, now is a good time.