Archive for the 'Green Construction Topics' Category
Our Attitudes Toward Construction

Here is a very interesting talk given by Dan Phillips.  He specializes in creating unconventional houses that are extremely ecofriendly.  He explains that our socially-accepted asthetic these days is a barrier to greener building.  His talk is very thought provoking – give it a listen.

Eco-Roofs: Cool Roofs

I’ve been wondering about my roof.  It’s a dark bronze metal roof.  And while there are a lot of eco-friendly benefits of having a metal roof, I’m not so sure about the dark color in Texas.  I’ve been wondering if I paint the top of my roof white while leaving the sides bronze (for the aesthetics) would I save some energy in the summer?

Apparently I would!  I’ve been reading a lot lately how a white roof can lower the surface temperature of my roof up to 80 degrees.  Here is an example of a product developed to cool roofs that includes small glass spheres – they provide insulation and reflective properties to the paint.

Unfortunately, I can’t apply it this year due to the surface temperature of the roof, I’ll be doing this in January or February to be ready for next summer.  I’ll have two years’ worth of summers to compare my 2011 electric use to!

Eco-Roofs: Green Roofs

Copenhagen just passed a city ordinance that requires all new buildings to have green roofs…green as in vegatation!  Read about it here.  We’re toying with this idea on our studio roof – but retrofitting irrigation and an access point is a bit troublesome.  Ideas?

Rainwater In My Washing Machine – FINALLY!

I am happy to report that we finally received approval to hook up (again) our washing machine to our rainwater harvesting system.  It’s been a 10 month ordeal of emailing and waiting and emailing and starting over and waiting (you get the picture). 

In my previous post I linked to the new Dallas rainwater harvesting guidelines.  Now I received the following from Mark Daniels, the acting Chief Plumbing Inspector, when I asked if an RPZ valve fulfilled the intent of the guidelines:

We find the “RPZ valve” acceptable for this individual case and consider, with your agreement and acceptance, that your required plumbing inspections are complete and this permit is in final status. There are no other actions required on your part.

There you have it!

PS:  mind you that I’ve had a plumbing inspection/permit since last April, so I really wasn’t waiting on a permit of any sort – just trying to do the right thing and pave the way for others who want to use rainwater in Dallas.

City of Dallas & Rainwater Use: What the heck is going on?

Dallas Logo

I’ve been extremely patient with the City of Dallas.  We have been trying to obtain the final regulation/code that governs the use of harvested rainwater in a washing machine for eight months.  Our rainwater contractor presented information to the City twice early this past spring.  And now, in January, it seems that we’re not any closer to having the regulations than we were in April of last year.

Lonnie Erwin, the City’s Chief Plumbing Inspector, informed me in an email back in August that we would have new regs “after October”.  While technically that could mean 10 years after October, I assumed it meant November-ish.  My last email to him (and to City of Dallas Chief Inspector Zaida Basora) dated 11/17 was answered in December by someone informing me that Mr. Erwin was no longer with the City of Dallas. 

I was also told that Mr. Erwin left behind ZERO information regarding our request and our presentations.  NO ONE had been working on our request for months!  Thank you, Mr. Erwin!

Theoretically someone from the City Plumbing Inspection office is working on the request now, but it’s been almost a month since I’ve heard from him.

What should I do now?!?!

Dallas Rainwater Harvesting Update (or non-update)

CisternsI wanted to provide an update to the People Newspaper post that I created a couple of months ago.

The situation in Dallas remains the same:  there are no rules that regulate the use of rainwater in clothes washing machines.  I was informed by Lonnie Erwin, the Dallas Chief Plumbing Inspector, that the regs won’t be ready until the new fiscal year starts in October.  I’ve got a note on my calendar to send him an email on 10/1!

PS:  the photo is of our two 2500 gallon cisterns on the side of the house.

LEED for Homes Documentation

Aerator Photo 08062009In a prior post I mentioned that our Home Provider (GWS) informed us that we have completed all of our documentation for the LEED certification process.  I thought I’d share a few tactics that we used to document our compliance where we were required to do so.  It might have been easier to compile this stuff as we went along had we understood the depth of information that was required.  Generally, our Home Provider accepted the following:

  • Invoices/Purchase orders that clearly outlined the fact being proven (FSC Certification, specific framing orders, etc).
  • Website links (that show local production, special certifications, etc).
  • Google Maps (that prove distance to Open Spaces and Public Transportation).
  • Spec Sheets (to prove characteristics of appliances, toilets, hot water heaters, HVAC systems, faucets).
  • Photos (to prove specific installation facts – and also used to provide that we used 1.5 gpm flow rate aerators!).
  • Statements from suppliers (we used this for our framing orders, local production, and FSC certification of framing lumber).

Generally, assume that you’re going to have to file proof of every point that you’re trying to get.  A helpful hint is that you should take a lot of photos of the house during each phase of construction.  Not only will it be helpful later when you’re trying to figure out exactly where that stud was placed, it will be helpful if you’re asked a question that you can’t remember the answer to because the walls have been closed up for 6 months!

Anyone have other helpful documentation hints?

Permeability

Patio PadsI’ve been having some conversations with our Home Provider about permeability. 

Because stormwater runoff is a bad thing (moving water with pesticides, fertilizer and general trash into the sewer system, local lakes and streams), LEED SS4.2 values permeability – meaning it’s a good thing for the rainwater falling on your property to soak into your property and not run into your neighbors yard or into the street.

LEED provides a graduated point system that ends with 4 points for 100% permeability.  Keep in mind that 100% permeability doesn’t mean you can have -0- concrete.  Rather the Rating System states that you have to have features that direct water falling on the impermeable areas to features designed to capture the water and direct it to an area where the water will be absorbed.

With this post I provide a photo of our back patio – designed to direct water to the spaces between the concrete pads (versus having a solid slab).  Also, next to the patio (and difficult to see in this photo) is a swale that keeps the water from running downhill into our neighbor’s yard. 

drive_ribbon_2 (2)

The key question that I’m discussing with our Home Provider is the driveway ribbons.  We specifically designed this drive for permeability purposes.  The current question is whether the space between the ribbons is sufficient to support the amount of runoff from the ribbons…our Landscape Designer is working on the calculations.

USGBC Tour Follow Up

dsc_0114We hosted the North Texas Chapter of the USGBC this morning in spite of what turned into an all-day rain storm.  About 60 folks showed up to hear a short talk from our architect, Kelly Mitchell, and our Landscape Designer, Jim Martinez.  I added a few words of my own.

There were lots and lots of questions ranging from how often we should seal our ipe wood deck to how much more did building a LEED home cost us.  I didn’t now the answer to the first question, but am all too keenly aware of the second.  Fortunately the guy we bought our ipe from was there and he told me that we should clean and re-seal the ipe every two years….good to know.

Robert will be posting photos from the event to the website gallery soon (I hope).

Tour de LEED: Homes

leedlogo2This coming Saturday ours is one of three homes being toured by the North Texas Chapter of the US Green Building Council.  We moved in 3 weeks ago and are hustling fast and furious to get the house presentable.  We’ve given our builder this Thursday as their deadline to be done and out (we’ll finish anything remaining undone after that).

The tour is featuring one LEED for Home certified Platinum house, and 2 LEED for Homes registered Platinum house.    Sign up quickly!  They’re limiting the tour to 60 participants!