Greener Building, Greener Living

Bedford NY, proposed wind-towers

Much like a doctor, before prescribing a course of action, the first task is to gather information and evaluate how much energy you are using and how it is being used. (free energy NY audits provided www.gogreenstar.com)….Great energy related links are listed below with a brief description, as well as some simple household tips:

-Replace your regular incandescent (normal) light bulbs with the curly compact fluorescent bulbs (cfl) or LED (light emitting diodes).  Manufacturers are phasing out production of incandescent bulbs (what the industry calls lamps) within 2 years.

-Lower your thermostat in the winter, raise it in the summer at least 2 degrees.

-Add insulation especially in the roof, where most energy loss occurs.

-Install motion sensors, most are familiar with these devices in the commercial world to control lights or fans, they are cheap and great for the absent-minded.

-Replace your older appliances and hvac equipment with units that are labeled “energy star”  that are far more energy efficient.

-Windows and glass doors that are single paned should be replaced with units that consist of 2 layers of glass with a inner layer of argon (insulating) gas and coated with low emmisivity coating.

http://www.world.org/weo/energy summary of 100 top conservation sites

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/energy/?source=NavEnvEnergy great understandable site for alternative energy

http://www.eere.energy.gov/ good to view the government’s spin and energy efficiency audit info

http://www.coned.com/thepowerofgreen/tips/001.asp simple steps to save on home energy use

As our pocketbook continues to take a hit on energy prices, what seemed like an option and possibly seemed environmentally/socially/trend conscious, is about to hit the grand stage as Con Edison was recently approved for a another rate increase this summer in many NYC suburbs at the same time we’ll flirt with $4-5/gallon gas.

Cost and many other energy related issues will continue to have increasingly profound consequences. Duh…Codes will get more stringent, penalties and usage fees will likely increase, designers will no longer be so casual with window locations, site orientation, selection of heating/cooling/lighting systems. Much like the adoption of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that was enacted in 1990, it will take about 10 more years for many of these energy conservation measures to be fully integrated into our mindset.

Fortunately, there are many simple measures we can take to use less energy. Foremost, is to think and consider what one is doing. Audits are critical so you can analyze where you are most wasteful.  This is not just about buildings.  From combining errands and car trips to using cold water detergent, building smaller houses, using EZ pass at tolls, the list could grow into a manifesto…

Consider how pointless it is now to live without a GPS system or at least get directions online prior to embarking on an unfamiliar trip. Technology such as telecommuting, webinars, skyping etc all greatly reduce our need travel more.

The simple economic principals of diminishing returns really apply to buildings. For example, planning principals in Scandanavian countries begin with a premise of 400 sf per person for a home. Meaning that a family of 4 would have a 1600 sf house, and you need to prove why you need more room…sounds bizarre, but it is adequate and essentially true.

On a personal level, the whole alternative-energy shift can be frustrating.  One local wind-powered project (see photo above) went kaput recently because town code enforcement wizards considered our proposed windmill an accessory structure (like a garage) and enforced the same dimensional regulations , simply because we were the first to try to build one and they did not want to set a “soft” precedent.

Additionally, many of the government tax incentives have been reduced or eliminated because many layers of government are hurting for tax collection…most opting for short term politically expedient solutions rather that long-range benefits for society. This  stymies growth for  environmentally friendly projects.

The point is to do something small and acheiveable, NOW.