It gets 100% of its energy from solar panels and 100% of its water from rain harvesting. It's the Bullitt Center office building in Seattle, and with its recent opening it is being considered the greenest office building in the world.
The 50,000 square foot building adopts principles from the Living Building Challenge, a model for sustainability that demands a building minimize its impact on the planet while imparting a sense of beauty on the environment in which it is built.
The building's most prominent feature -- its roof -- spans far out from the building itself in order to house the many solar panels needed to harvest power in Seattle's less-than-ideal climate. The roof performs double-duty, too, by capturing enough rainwater to send 56,000 gallons to a cistern in the basement. According to the building website, the Bullitt Center is the first one in the US to use only harvested water to meet all of its water needs. As the water gets captured, it runs through an advanced filtration system that first treats the water with chlorine (per federal regulations) but then filters the chlorine out.
Will the Bullitt Center design inspire a new generation of homes? We can certainly hope.
The building currently houses the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental foundation run by Earth Day founder Denis Hayes. Additional tenants are in the process of moving in.
With last summer's record heat and prolonged drought still fresh on our minds, we bring you news of the WaterStep M-100 Chlorinator. This may just be a game changer.
The device is the result of a collaboration between GE, the non-profit WaterStep and a handful of volunteers. Built in the garage of GE engineer Steve Froelicher (and with help from fellow engineer Sam DePlessis), the M-100 has been over a year in the making.
Essentially, the invention uses electrolysis -- generated by table salt and a car battery -- to produce chlorine gas, which then disinfects contaminated water to make it drinkable.
According to the organization's website, the M-100 Chlorinator is capable of generating enough chlorine to disinfect 38,000 liters of water per day -- enough for about 10,000 people.
What does this have to do with home improvement, you may ask? Those of you living in the central states who took the brunt of last summer's droughts know the seriousness of the water shortage issue. If last summer was as portentous as some would have us believe, a device like the M-100 may be a must-have for communities in the future. Or, if things get real bad, individual homes.
Are you looking to make some positive changes around the home in 2013? Why not start here?
1) Stay Organized. Was 2012 a year of accumulation? You're not alone. Our consumptive society values materialism but doesn't seem to encourage making space for the new acquisitions. The result is a home better fit for Hoarders than for Beautiful Homes. But we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, so we're offering these de-cluttering tips for 2013.
2) Lower Bills. No beating around the bush. Your home has a leak. An energy leak. All that hot air is escaping, and it might as well be dollar signs. Take these 4 steps in the first month of January and use the money you save to do something nice for your family.
Get an Energy Audit. This will ultimately save you significant time and will give you the best information on where you should be addressing leaks, cracks and energy loss locations.
Add some more Insulation. Specifically, insulate your water heater, your pipes and attic spaces. There's heat being lost in those areas all winter long, and only you can put an end to it!
3) Be Handy (er). You can do it! Pick up a hammer. Rev that drill a couple times. Okay, now put them both down and come back to the computer. We're going to give you 3 DIY projects that will set you down a path of empowerment and home improvement. If you've done all 3, good for you! Are you available Sunday? We're putting up drywall.
Install a Below-Counter Water Filter. There are very few tools and steps involved in this one. In fact, a sharp mind could probably just follow the instructions and get 'er done. But the visual tutorial can help, too. Bonus: you get to help the planet by eliminating bottle water in your home!
Inspect and Repair your Gutters. In truth, this project isn't that difficult. But the height factor makes it deserving of a more moderate rating. Whatever you, practice safe ladder climbing and consider doing this one with a partner.
Install Crown Molding. This projects can frustrate even the experienced, so take is slow, forgive yourself for little mistakes, and measure twice!
Have you made some improvements already? Tell us about them!
It may not be officially winter yet, but it's just around the corner. Lest we get complacent with the warmer weather, this Southerner on the move gives Tommy and the rest of you New England folk a reason to double-check your Winter Preparedness List.
Hank: I'm moving from the South to the Northeast for work. I know you're a Boston guy, so I'm curious to know what I need to be prepared for in terms of the Winter. Maybe give me the top 3 things I should be thinking about in terms of surviving a New England winter.
Tommy: Welcome to New England!
1) Four wheel drive. I used to get around without it until it snowed like crazy or got really icy, then you were stuck. Now I have a truck and I wouldn't do it any other way. At least have front wheel drive. But personally I find that having four wheel drive is a must. And if you don't have a reliable car, make sure you've packed extra clothing in the car in case it breaks down.
2) Long underwear. I go with Carhartt. Maybe it's because I'm used to wearing it as a kid. I've been caught outdoors without it before and let me tell you, it's not worth it. Sometimes when you first go outside it may seem warm, but cold weather creeps up on you. Inside 15 minutes, you're going to feel it.
3) Warm jacket. Again, I may go with Carhartt, although some people don't think they're the prettiest. A lot depends on what you're doing. If you're going to be outside for an extended period of time, you'll want a heavier jacket. And make sure you're layered. I always have turtlenecks.
Besides that, you'll definitely want good boots and socks. And lastly, be prepared for it to get dark after 4PM. That's going to be an adjustment!
It's the Holidays! It's the time for eggnog, caroling, presents and sappy movies starring Jimmy Stewart! It's also the time for tragic falls from ladders, house fires and accidental ingestions.
Want to keep this Holiday joyful and mishap-free? Follow these important tips, courtesy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association:
Place trees away from heat sources. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, property losses from Christmas tree fires are up around $19 million. So keep the tree a safe distance from stoves, fireplaces, vents and radiators.
Buy Fire Resistant fake trees. It's great that you want to be more environmentally-friendly and buy a fake tree. Just be sure the tag reads "Fire Resistant."
Keep the Tree kid-safe. This means using unbreakable, inedible, un-sharp decorations. Dispose of tree trimmings immediately.
Use Caution with Candles. Never leave the home with candles burning. Never go to bed with the candles burning. Place candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface, out of reach of kids and pets. Make sure the candles are place well-away from anything that can catch fire.
Light with Safety. Lights can pose a few different hazards. To ensure that the lights you intend to use are safe, look for lighting sets test by the UL or a similar laboratory. Check all lights for damaged sockets, compromised wires or loose connections. Throw out any damaged sets. The same goes for extension cords. Be sure that lights used outdoors are certified for outdoor use. And most importantly, use caution when climbing ladders to hang up lights.
We have to scratch our heads a little at their Corner Window slide, though. Maybe we're not looking at the same houses that they are, but this seems like a smaller movement and not so much a full-blown trend. We agree that they're cool and they add to a room's brightness and sense of space. And surely more homeowners would like to have one (or three). But prominence on wish lists does not a trend make.
As far as passive homes go, well, there's still a lot of questions as to how the next four years are going to go, housing-wise. There may have been a demand for green building before the bubble burst, but it has yet to reach those heights again. With that said, energy efficiency is sort of walking the line between trend and the norm. We'd love to see it more the latter, of course, and a little help with rebates and incentives goes a long way.
Have you incorporated any of these trends into your home?