There’s beauty not only on the exterior of these new homes, but inside as well.
Behind the walls and in the floors, there are many green features: energy efficient radiant in-floor heating, concrete floors and insulated concrete form construction, heat recovery ventilator, a rain screen wall system and sprinkler system are just some.
There is much to recommend Glas, a 21-townhome development in Marda Loop by Avalon Master Builder. The two buildings that comprise Glas offer a collection of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and den, and three-bedroom townhomes in Marda Loop. Homes range in size from 697 square feet to 1,741 square feet, with the end units offering a slightly larger footprint.
The project is under construction, and a 697-square-foot, one bedroom, one bath show suite recently opened, with plans for the launch of a two-bedroom show suite to open in early April.
Learn from industry thought leaders and case studies in the green economy. Get your copy of the Green Economy Journal delivered to your door.
The show suite is a one-bedroom unit, one of seven such units that face south onto 27th Avenue S.W., with tall windows that make the most of the sunlight.
From the street, concrete stairs lead to the upper of the home’s two levels, entering the main living space. Inside the home, stairs to the lower level are straight ahead, while the room opens up to the right.
A wall of windows at the front of the room, reaching from the floor to the nine-foot ceiling, provide bright light through the living space, which is next to the windows, the centrally located dining area and kitchen at the back of the unit.
Further enhancing a sense of space are the cut-outs overlooking the staircase, allowing for more light and longer sight-lines.
The back wall of the kitchen holds the French-door refrigerator with lower mount freezer, oven and stove, with an over-the-range microwave. The white quartz countertop and white tile backsplash provide a bright counterpoint to the dark flat-panel cabinetry made from solid maple that extends to the ceiling.
Facing the great room, a wall-attached island holds a dual sink and dishwasher. The counter extends at the end with room for two stools.
There is space between the kitchen and the living room for a proper dining table, providing a comfortable setting for entertaining or eating at home.
Down the stairs, the lower level holds a full bathroom, stacked laundry and some storage in a closet under the staircase, and the master bedroom. The bedroom has a large closet, and, at 14 foot nine inches by nine feet 10 inches, is a spacious room. It has sliding glass doors that open onto a private 93-square-foot patio with terraced landscaping for privacy.
The lower level features carpet, while the upper level has engineered hand-scraped hickory floors.
When policymakers get to work designing strategies for executing the Paris agreement, they should not rely heavily on rising energy costs to advance their objectives. European Climate Foundation chief economist Thomas Fricke lays out a better approach.
The climate agreement that world leaders reached in Paris last month has been widely celebrated for establishing the ambitious target of limiting the increase in global temperature to well below 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the agreement is just one step, albeit an important one. Policymakers now must figure out how to achieve this goal – no easy feat, especially given that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, steadily rising costs for conventional energy cannot be counted on to propel the necessary shift toward a low-carbon future.
At first glance, the logic of negative economic incentives seems sound. If, say, driving a gas-guzzling car becomes more expensive, people will presumably be less likely to do it. But the impact of changing fuel prices is partial and delayed. While drivers may purchase a more fuel-efficient car in the long run, they are more likely, in the shorter run, to reduce other kinds of consumption to offset the rise in cost. When it comes to resolving a problem as urgent as climate change, Keynes’s famous dictum – “In the long run, we are all dead” – clearly applies.
Moreover, even if consumers did respond efficiently, fossil-fuel prices are dictated largely by heavily financialized markets, which tend to be extremely volatile. The sharp decline in oil prices over the last 18 months is a case in point. Not only have oil prices themselves failed to spur a reduction in consumption; they have undermined incentives to develop alternative energy sources. Investing in, say, solar power may have seemed worthwhile when oil cost $100 per barrel, but it looked a lot less appealing when the price dropped below $50.
Conceivably, policymakers could raise taxes to offset such declines. But such hikes sometimes (like now) would have to be huge, and adopting erratic policies that mirror the volatility of the market is never a good idea.
Carbon pricing could experience a similar fate. In the European Union, carbon prices have been low for several years, and for now market participants seem to be following the herd in believing that they will remain so. But there is no guarantee that free emissions trading will not function like other financial markets, producing sharp fluctuations in CO2 prices. Should expectations suddenly change, the herd might turn and run in the opposite direction, causing CO2 prices to soar.
Yet another problem with the price-based approach to mitigating climate change is that it fails to account for markets’ potential to create perverse incentives. When the cost of conventional energy rises, new suppliers see an opportunity; thus, before June 2014, when oil prices were high, investors poured resources into developing shale oil and gas in the United States.
The additional supply, however, ultimately causes prices to fall, reducing the incentive to invest in alternative energy sources or energy efficiency. This is a normal market reaction, but it does not advance the fight against climate change, which would require steadily rising costs.
The final reason why negative incentives alone are inadequate to mitigate climate change may be the most irrational: after some years of rising taxes, the public is staunchly opposed to any policy that may increase energy prices, regardless of whether current prices are high or low.
People are so convinced that energy costs are “exploding,” despite the recent oil-price collapse, that any new project implying even slightly higher prices – even if overall energy prices are still lower than they were five years ago – is now exceedingly difficult to initiate.
The implication is clear: When policymakers get to work designing strategies for executing the Paris agreement, they should not rely heavily on rising energy costs to advance their objectives. A strategy that assumes that the market will punish those who do not invest in a low-carbon future is not realistic.
A better approach is possible: Directly reward those who do invest in a low-carbon future, whether by enhancing energy efficiency or developing clean energy sources. For example, governments could implement accelerated depreciation schemes for investment in low-carbon businesses; offer subsidies for investment in energy-efficient buildings; and create policies that favor industrial innovation aimed at reducing emissions and boosting competitiveness. All of this would make fossil fuels less attractive to both investors and consumers.
While an approach based on such positive incentives would be costlier than tax hikes in the short run, the long-term benefits can hardly be overstated. At a time of strong resistance to higher energy costs, this may well be among the most effective – not to mention politically savvy – mechanisms for advancing the goals set out in Paris.
Big Delta is a 3D printer created by the Italian engineering company WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) and what sets it apart from other printers is it’s sheer size. It’s 40 feet (12 m) tall and was created with the purpose of rapidly building nearly free housing using local naturally occurring materials. As such it is perfect for offering emergency relief housing, but it could easily become more than that.
The sturdy metal frame that supports the Big Delta printer measures 20 feet (6 m) in diameter. There is a rotating nozzle, which works as a mixer to keep the building materials homogeneous. According to the creators of this printer, it only requires a couple of tens of watts of power to function making it incredibly energy efficient. As for the building materials, a wide array of materials can be used to print structures using the printer. These include mud and clay, which can be reinforced with the addition of chemical additives to ensure structural soundness, while the printer also works with cement. WASP, however, promotes green and sustainable building materials being used at all times though.
The primary goal of this machine is providing emergency relief housing to people in need, such as those in areas affected by earthquakes, floods, war or other disasters. Technology that would allow us to build homes and other structures quickly and at very low costs, would come in handy not only on Earth, but also in space. Especially in space, 3D printing would solve a huge problem of how to build functional structures without the aid of any type of machinery used for this purpose on Earth.
Use in space is probably still a way off, but according to WASP the town of Iglesias, on Sardinia, has already shown interest in using the Big Delta printer to build several housing units in its historic area. It will be interesting to see if this project goes ahead.
The number of Britons with asthma could almost double by 2050 because the air inside homes is becoming more polluted as they become more energy-efficient, a new report warns.
The trend towards airtight houses could also worsen allergies as well as breathing problems, and even exacerbate lung cancer and heart problems, according to a leading expert in indoor air quality.
Airborne pollutants created by cooking, cleaning and using aerosols such as hairsprays will increasingly stay indoors and affect people’s health as homes are made ever more leak-proof to help meet carbon reduction targets, a report by Professor Hazim Awbi claims. Small amounts of chemicals found in detergents can stay on the fibres of washed clothes, be emitted into the air and combine with particulate matter from logs burned in a real fire, for example.
“Poor indoor air quality is connected with a range of undesirable health effects, such as allergic and asthma symptoms, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease,” says the report written by Awbi, who is professor of the built environment at Reading University’s school of construction management and engineering. “With the expected increase in airtightness for UK dwellings, it is anticipated that indoor air quality will generally become poorer, resulting in an increase in the number of cases of health symptoms related to poorer indoor environment quality.”
People with long-term health conditions and three groups who spend a lot of time indoors – young mothers, children and older people – will be particularly at risk, the report says.
It predicts that by 2050 – the date by which Britain is supposed to have achieved an 80% cut in carbon emissions – declining indoor air quality could have led to:
■ An 80% rise in the 5.4 million people already suffering from asthma.
■ Concentrations of volatile organic compounds – chemicals linked to the use of aerosols – being 60% above World Health Organisation 24-hour limits.
■ Nitrogen dioxide levels rising to 30% above the WHO’s limits.
The report’s findings reflect growing concern that indoor pollutants, not just fumes and other chemicals in the outdoor environment, can damage health. The WHO has already identified indoor air quality as a health hazard. And Public Health England, an agency funded by the Department of Health, is finalising a report on “climate change and the domestic indoor environment”, which it will publish before Christmas.
Lack of proper ventilation in both newly built homes and those that have been refurbished to reduce their consumption of gas or electricity is storing up future health problems, Awbi said.
“Many people spend 70-80% of their time at home, or even as much as 90% indoors if you include workplaces. Given that the average person takes in 500 litres of air an hour, if the air you are breathing in is polluted, you can imagine how much of this pollution is going to be absorbed,” he added.
He fears that increasingly airtight houses in which too little fresh air gets in are causing indoor air quality to deteriorate and preventing pollutants from being dispersed quickly. Humidity caused by poor ventilation also helps the proliferation of mould and house dust mites, which can cause asthma and other allergic conditions, according to Professor Peter Howarth, a professor of allergy and respiratory diseases at Southampton University.
Formaldehyde, a toxic gas emitted by wooden furniture, can also be problematic, added Howarth, who said he believed Awbi’s estimates were a realistic assessment of the harm to human health if building regulations are not overhauled to improve ventilation and ensure “air exchange”.
Simply opening windows to let in fresh air is not enough, and some form of mechanical ventilation is needed, according to Awbi.
“Poor indoor air quality can have a negative effect on people’s health, including aggravating asthma,” said Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis, Public Health England’s’s head of environmental change. “While energy-efficient houses will help address climate change, it is important to ensure that adequate ventilation levels are maintained and indoor air pollution sources minimised to protect public health.”
Awbi’s report was funded by Beama, a body which represents the UK’s electro-technical industry, which includes firms that install ventilation systems.
Andrew Proctor, director of advice and support at Asthma UK, said: “We know that indoor exposure to allergens can be a real problem for some people with asthma, but it is difficult to avoid them.” The one in 11 Britons with asthma should always seek help promptly when they have symptoms suggesting an attack, he said.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change said simply that government was committed to ensuring energy efficiency improvements in homes met the highest standards of installation.
The buzzword in home construction today is “sustainability” – building homes that integrate with the landscape, are energy efficient and use renewable materials. And an eco-friendly home doesn’t mean sacrificing luxury or design. Whether you’re buying new construction or renovating an older home for greater efficiency, there are a few terms and concepts you should know about.
Insulation: Walls, ceilings, basements and attics are places where your home can lose energy. Options for a well-insulated house can range from specially insulated exterior walls to blown-in cellulose, from energy-reflecting cool roof systems to roof and interior attic foam insulation. Many states offer rebates or low- or no-interest loans to help you save energy and reduce heating and cooling bills. Start by calling your local utility company and asking about any programs they offer. A well-insulated house can take advantage of environmental factors to keep the temperature constant and comfortable.
Windows: Since windows are mostly glass, substantial savings in heating and cooling can come from improved glass performance. Highly efficient replacement windows can save you hundreds of dollars, but they can be very expensive. If you live in a hot climate and are interested in keeping the heat out of your home, a less expensive option may be to apply low-E film to your windows. Low-E film enhances the window’s ability to reflect heat, rather than absorb it. You can apply these films yourself or hire a contractor to handle a more complicated application. Finally, window shades are a low-tech and inexpensive way to control temperature in the home.
Solar: Passive solar depends on how your house is sited and landscaped, and how architectural features work to collect, store and distribute heat in the winter and reject heat in the summer. When passive solar features are included in the building design, they add little or no cost and can result in thousands of dollars in energy savings over the life of your home. Solar heating usually refers to technologies that collect and store energy from the sun, often using photovoltaic (battery) systems. Solar power systems can be used to generate electricity or heat water. Again, there may be local or state programs that offer incentives to buy or rent home solar energy systems.
Low (or Zero) VOC: VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals found in paints and flooring that can vaporize and emit gases for long periods of time. Eco-friendly paints that are low VOC emit smaller amounts of these gases and are usually odor free. Low VOC carpeting is made by many manufacturers and is attractive and comfortable.
Low-Flow Water Fixtures: Low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets use less water per minute than traditional fixtures and conserve water by adding air into the system to produce a strong flow while using less water. Installing these devices requires an investment, but you will likely earn back your expenditure in the first year. Again, many city governments or utilities offer incentives to install these energy-saving fixtures in your older home.
Focusing on sustainable design and materials means you can make your house more comfortable and less expensive to maintain while minimizing your impact on natural resources and respecting the environment.
As they net better investment returns than traditional buildings.
Over the last eight years, the jury was still out on whether energy-efficient buildings delivered better investment returns than those built to traditional standards.
Up until recently, energy-efficient buildings were said to have better investment fundamentals, but there was a dearth of research to back this up.
But over the last two years, further research has been conducted and is now shedding light on the matter.
In fact, the latest research by the Investment Property Databank (IPD) and the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) points to energy-efficient commercial buildings being better investments. The research is now in its second year.
The results of the research for the year to December 31 2014, indicate that energy-efficient buildings have higher net income growth and capital value per square metre and higher occupancy levels compared with less efficient buildings.
Vice President of MSCI-owned IPD South Africa Phil Barttram, says energy-efficient buildings consume less energy and water per annum. This is an indication that landlords and occupiers are spending less on operational costs at an energy-efficient building.
The study tracked performance of the 597 most energy-efficient buildings (referred to as the top quartile efficient), which are benchmarked with about 1600 buildings that are not as energy efficient (referred to as the rest of the IPD universe).
The water and energy use of buildings in both categories were pitted against each other.
The buildings had a collective value of R167 billion in excess of 20 million square metres. “It represents over 60% of professionally invested commercial property market in South Africa and we have been collecting the data since 1995,” says Barttram.
Property funds like Emira Property Fund, Delta Property Fund, Growthpoint Properties, Hyprop Investments, Liberty Property, Old Mutual Property, Pareto Limited, Attacq Limited, SA Corporate Real Estate Fund and Vukile Property Fund contributed to the study.
Even on an investment perspective, green buildings are getting better total returns than buildings that are not as efficient.
According to the research, buildings in the top quartile efficient netted total returns of 12.1% compared with buildings in the IPD universe which recorded total returns of 9.4% in one year.
South Africa has over the years rapidly adopted the green building movement in light of the country’s worsening energy crisis, with rolling power outages now seemingly a part of daily life.
In fact, US-based McGraw-Hill Construction in its World Green Building Trends survey notes that South Africa’s adoption of green building trumps most developed regions which include Europe, Australia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Brazil.
While South Africa is only playing catch-up to its developed and developing counterparts, the survey expects the country’s take up of green building to grow three-fold, from a measured 16% in 2012 to 52% by 2015.
When South Africa’s green building movement started in 2007, the GBCSA only certified one building, but now 100 buildings are certified. “This is a clear sign that green building has gained rapid momentum in South Africa. The Green Star certified projects have also demonstrated world-class, innovative implementations that benefit people, planet and profit,” says GBCSA CEO Brian Wilkinson.
Associate and sustainability consultant at WSP Africa Alison Groves supports Wilkinson’s views saying there is now a deep understanding of the benefits of green building.
Green initiatives – such as replacing conventional light systems with energy efficient lighting, upgrading chillers, investing in rain harvesting technology, waste disposal, solar panel heating – have been largely driven by tenants in buildings.
“Tenants understand that they would rather pay more in their square metres and reduce their risks in terms of energy costs. Those tenants are demanding green buildings because they see the benefits of going green,” Groves says.
Leading private property company Amdec has set its sights on tripling the number of green buildings in its property portfolio over the next two years.
Having already earned Green Star SA ratings for two of its buildings in the last two years; Amdec plans to boost its pace of investing in green buildings by taking this number to six in the coming 24 months.
James Wilson, Amdec CEO, comments: “We take a multifaceted approach to sustainability and energy-efficiency. So, while we intend to pursue more Green Star SA ratings for all our new developments, and some of our existing ones, we are also adding more resource-efficient features to all our assets, whether there is a rating tool available for them or not. This helps take strain off our power grid, and our building users’ pockets, as well as being good for the environment and helping communities prosper.” By considering the bigger picture, Amdec’s green building ethos has a far-reaching positive impact. Its holistic approach to green buildings is helping to change the way people think and live.
“An important part of green building is educating and transforming communities, updating legislation and government processes, and changing how we experience development,” explains Josef Quraishi, head of sustainability and green building for the Amdec group. “Our macro view considers a building’s inherent relationship with its surrounds, ensuring it contributes to the sustainability of its community and natural setting,” explains Josef. “When we develop, we look at the broader context of investing in communities. A thriving community is good for business, the more attractive a community is, the more desirable our buildings become.”
Green building is growing apace in South Africa and Amdec, an active partner to the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), is helping it move into the future. In fact, Josef was closely involved with developing the GBCSA’s Socio Economic Category Pilot, which has been embraced by the World Green Building Council. “Our relationship with the Green Building Council has allowed us to better understand where green building is going and the components of sustainability, like energy and water benchmarking,” says Josef.
As the owners in what can undoubtedly be considered South Africa’s first sustainable green precinct, Melrose Arch, which was developed ahead of its time and before the formal green building wave began in South Africa, Amdec knows first-hand the benefits an environmentally sound foundation adds to green building. That’s because the green inner-workings of Melrose Arch support more than a single building, they underpin a whole precinct. It is here that Amdec has earned its two Green Star SA ratings: 40 on Oak was South Africa’s first multi-unit residential project certified under the Green Star SA system, with a 4-Star Green Star SA Pilot certification and The Worley Parsons TWP head office was awarded a 4-Star Green Star SA Office v1 Design rating.
As part of its multiunit residential rating at 40 on Oak, Amdec cut energy consumption for each apartment by 50% and water consumption by 40% making the Melrose Arch apartments even more desirable. For the green rated office, it lowered energy consumption by 40% and water consumption by 50%. Melrose Arch will also play a leading role in its future targeted green star ratings, two of which have already been registered at GBCSA.
Melrose Arch is packed with ingenious designs and small, smart green touches that also create an enjoyable environment. It includes a central district cooling plant that utilised evaporative cooling so its buildings use less air conditioning than usual, it uses gas and has integrated recycling. Its mixed-uses and pedestrianisation reduces the need for cars, it also benefits from good access to public transport. In short, Melrose Arch is an enabling platform for sustainable buildings. It is this revelation that is inspiring Amdec to create even more environments that facilitate more green buildings
Josef tells that as companies transform the way they think about business, from being purely profit driven, to a paradigm that considers people, planet and profit, so property developers need to respond. “Blue-chip businesses want their markets to know they are doing the right thing, so occupying a green rated building is becoming a business imperative for them. Amdec is likeminded and answering the call for green rated buildings in South Africa, which has been recognised as the fastest responding country to green building in the world.”
Inefficient buildings stand to become obsolete faster, being less sustainable and Josef highlights that green buildings make for happy tenants too. “They boost productivity and profitability by creating healthy workspaces that also mean lower absenteeism. So they are commercially desirable.” Developing macro plans for green precincts can help deliver more green buildings, and bigger positive impacts.
“In fact, we are considering taking our next R4 billion mega development of a 128,000ha mixed-use suburb in Port Elizabeth, entirely off the grid,” says Josef. With soaring energy costs, clients across Amdec’s portfolio of assets, including its Evergreen Lifestyle Villages, enjoy the benefits of Amdec’s energy-efficient, water-efficient and cost-efficient focus. Amdec’s approach to green building goes beyond active green building technologies, also incorporating more subtle elements of green building in design and orientation. Of course, the commercial sustainability of a building is essential, and is typically at the forefront of every developers mind. It is fundamental to pushing the green button for a project.
For existing buildings, Josef explains that Amdec has prioritised getting ratings for single-tenants buildings. “Then we’ll move on to our multi-tenanted buildings, which can be more challenging,” says Josef. For Amdec, its green building ethos is simply good business. “With our sustainability initiatives, we’re not only helping the positive transformation of South Africa through quality green buildings, we’re also up-skilling and educating people, and applying innovative thinking to build better communities, like using material from construction excavation to rehabilitate a public park,” says Wilson.
Follow Alive2Green on Social Media
“We are looking for companies and individuals who have either funded or developed sustainable solutions which offer direct benefit to the local community, enhances access to clean running water, or energy-efficient innovation to participate in the publication to be nominated for awards,” says Diane Naidoo-Ngcese, MD of The Alchemist PR.
Categories for entry as well as editorial submission include innovation in:
- Transport and logistics
- Education and youth development
- Architecture and construction
- Design and production – advertising and print houses
“Sustainability is often wrongly perceived as a white middle class issue when in reality, the consequences of not going green has a dire impact on the working class. The cost of electricity, the access to clean running water, the overall improvement in the quality of life makes sustainability a non-negotiable if South Africa is to truly offer a better life for all,” comments Naidoo-Ngcese.
Financing options available
Funding institutions such as the Industrial Development Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa are among a host of financing options available for green initiatives. The SA Green Fund alone has a budget of R800m for projects to assist South Africa’s transition to a low carbon economy.
But the innovators and game-changers in this space are either unaware of the funding options or do not have the capacity to create the exposure required to attract the attention of investors. “Green good news stories and projects undertaken through CSI programmes are relegated to internal newsletters, annual reports or corporate presentations, and young entrepreneurs ideas remain ideas. And yet the green economy would be fast-tracked if these ideas were transitioned to a profitable business model that creates jobs and bolster the local economy,” Naidoo-Ngcese says.
“When I started my business nine years ago, consumers did not quite understand what energy-efficient windows and doors were, how they worked or the financial benefits these products represent hold. If the movement for sustainability had access to ad-spend of big global brands, we would see greater community buy-in,” managing director of TEVA Windows, Pieter Malherbe, says.
He says GreenOvation is one small step in ensuring sustainability becomes a mainstream issue which garners mass support, as communities, business and as government. He also believes that if the private sector throws their weight behind this initiative, it will also assist young aspirant entrepreneurs like him to ‘connect the dots between innovation, enterprise development, job creation and the development of the green economy’.
WWF SA has come on board as editorial advisors for the publication, with Saliem Fakir, head of the Living Planet Unit at WWF, to serve on the awards judging panel along with Miss Earth 2004, Catherine Constantinides.
The Passive House Institute is known to have one of the strictest energy-efficient building standards in the world. What does it take to build your own Passive House, and how can you do it with healthy, high-performance materials? This is the second of a three-part series on the challenge of building a certified Passive House without foam or other harmful materials. The challenges are numerous—from sourcing materials to making it as airtight as possible, and keeping an unseasoned team (and myself) on task. For healthy materials, simple substitutes for traditional products are not only typically easy but also cost effective. Take a look at what it takes to build a Passive House in the Colorado Rockies.
Carefully keeping the surrounding Ponderosa Pines safe, which provide critical shading in the summer, we dug out a foundation stem wall and crawl space, a design that is critical to the foamless flooring insulation system. Not only does this minimize the concrete use but 20 percent of the cement was replaced with fly ash.
To do air sealing right you almost have to find religion and be obsessed with making sure that every place where two building elements come together is properly sealed, well before they’re covered. At the foundation, we applied a plywood “seat” for the I-joist to sit on and a similar detail happened at the wall-to-ceiling connection. Because the walls will be very well insulated, we used vapor open materials for air tightness so moisture does not build up in the wall over time. The air barrier is closer to the living space so water will not condense on it if it gets really cold outside. The ceiling and North wall were wrapped with Intello—a “smart” membrane that changes its vapor profile depending on the relative humidity.
Why is air tightness such a big deal? Passive House requires a leakage test of .60 ACH at 50 Pascals or less because leakage is a fundamental way a building loses energy, and allows mold-making, rot-inducing moisture into a wall. The building’s airtight layer is done so we can test it before we install windows, insulation, and all the other stuff that can cover a potential problem. We hit a respectable .45 ACH at 50 Pascals, or roughly the equivalent of 8 square inches of total opening in the entire envelope.
Next, it was time to make the insulation layer. The primary insulation material is Applegate cellulose, sandwiched with Roxul mineral wool batt on the inside and Drainboard on the exterior. We started with Larsen Trusses—basically a ladder like frame made from 2×3 supported by plywood scraps and wrapped in weed fabric to hold the insulation. The Larson Trusses were screwed to the exterior wall to make large bays, and a 2.3/8″ layer of drainboard was then attached to that. After not finding a competent contractor to insulate the bays with cellulose, I purchased a machine and got dirty, learning the ins and outs of properly filling a 24″ wall cavity so the insulation won’t settle over time. Overall, we installed 1100 25-lb bags of the stuff, which is just about an entire semi-load. The best part is the insulation is all recycled from nearby Denver and produced only 100 miles south. The mineral wool board, on the other hand, had to be specially made and shipped from a factory in Canada.
The Intus windows come from Lithuania, in their own container. While less than ideal, the cost and performance are untouched by any American window manufacturer. They swing inwards and can be placed so the exterior frame can be over-insulated to reduce heat loss through the frame. The PVC windows also are the largest compromise by far from my unhealthy materials list because it is highly toxic to manufacture and very hard to recycle.
Another vital Passive House technology is the Heat Recovery Ventilator. This technology uses two fans: one to extract bad air, and one to provide fresh air. A heat exchanger keeps the energy in the building, and if hooked up to an earth tube the house can be naturally cooled in the summer. The unit I selected was the first in the US from a Czech Republic manufacture called Air Pohoda. It uses an a stingy 32 watts in regular mode (important for being off grid) and is over 90 percent effective at reclaiming waste heat.
In the meantime, the energy model seemed to go haywire when new climate data was entered. I find some interesting issues when I went sleuthing for what happened. Finishes such as siding, drywall, finish plumbing, and electrical all have to be installed—the punch list never seems to end. In the last installment of this series, I’ll discover if it’s possible to live in a house in Colorado in wintertime with no working heat, and after doing the Passive House Planning Package software modeling for myself I get a huge surprise. We do the final blower door test with fingers crossed, and I decide to submit to the Passive House Academy for the German certification and forgo the Passive House Institute US certification. Ironically, I was the first to report on the US-German split in 2011, and that news became a very personal journey.
Book your seat here.
Join the discussion here.
Follow Alive2Green on Social Media
Green Building Council’s new tool assigns ratings to existing buildings.
Nearly eight years ago, green building was considered ‘the right thing to do’, but more developers and building owners now view it as an economic necessity.
This is according to Nedbank’s executive head of property finance Rob Lockhart-Ross. “New buildings represent about 2% of South Africa’s building stock and existing buildings represent some 98% – clearly we have to work on existing buildings.”
New buildings are more likely to have energy efficient initiatives than existing buildings, which are mostly built to traditional standards.
Brian Wilkinson, CEO of Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), says a green building on average saves 25% in electricity and “if all the buildings did that [go green] we would not have an energy crisis”.
Developers are starting to take stock of the benefits of going green, through retrofits such as energy efficient light fittings, investing in rain harvesting technology, waste disposal and solar panel heating.
Beyond the cost saving elements, energy efficient buildings are said to be competitive, better marketed and generally preferred by occupants over traditional buildings.
Rating ‘old’ buildings
As green building continues to take off at a rapid rate in South Africa, the focus will now be on greening buildings that are built to traditional standards.
This is already happening with the GBCSA’s Existing Building Performance (EBP) tool, a first of its kind in the country. The tool, which was launched in 2013, assesses the management of a building in order to maintain optimal sustainability performance.
Since the launch of the tool about 65 non-efficient buildings have registered to be assessed for a green star certification. About 25 buildings of the total have applied for their energy efficient certification.
Already, two existing buildings have been awarded a green certificate and more are expected to be announced says the CEO of GBCSA Brian Wilkinson.
The latest green certificate was awarded to WSP House building in Bryanston, which was awarded a three-star green star rating.
The North Park (pictured below) in the Black River Park office park in Observatory, Cape Town, was the first building in the country to be awarded an existing building certification.
The building was awarded a five-star green star certification from the EBP tool for its 75 000 square metre office park size.
Some of the buildings which are undergoing an EBP tool rating include Redefine Properties’ Cape Town CBD-based The Towers (previously Standard Bank Centre), Growthpoint Properties’ Fredman Towers, Grayston Office Park in Sandton and KwaZulu Natal’s Lincoln on the Lake.
Nedbank’s 105 West in Johannesburg, Menlyn Maine in Pretoria, Clock tower in Cape Town and WSP House Bryanston are awaiting an EBP rating. The regional headquarters for BP Southern Africa near the V&A Wharf Shopping Centre in Cape Town is also in line for a possible rating.
The GBCSA had no rating tool applicable to existing buildings, focusing its efforts largely on new buildings instead.
In April, the council certified its 50th building, representing a million square metres in space, says Wilkinson. “We hope to reach our 100th building in April this year. It took us six years to get 50 buildings,” he says. The registered buildings on the EBP tool will enable the council to reach its certification targets.
GBCSA’s technical manager Jenni Lombard says certification of a building using the EBP tool lasts only for three years to enforce the continued monitoring of buildings.
“With new built tools [referring to tools for newly constructed buildings] you get a once-off rating that you keep forever,” Lombard says. However, she expects that existing buildings will be reassessed every three years to renew their rating. “We need to know that the building managers are still maintaining and managing a building, in the same way.”
Wilkinson says in terms of green rating existing buildings, they can be awarded from a three- to six-star green rating – representing best practice to world leadership.
Despite South Africa being fairly new to green building compared with established markets such as Australia, the US and Europe, the country is considered the fastest-growing green building market.