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.
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!
The architects at 1:1 Arkitektur would like us to believe that they have built a home of the future.
And we may just believe them.
It's not so much the home itself that is futuristic but the manner in which it was built. And that manner itself does not involve futuristic technology -- it simply takes existing tools and materials, accounts for challenges presented to our current method of building homes, and completely changes the game.
The firm has built what they call a "Printable House" using little more than a CNC machine, a computer and many sheets of plywood. A design fed into the CNC machine tells it to make cuts in sheets of plywood that then get assembled in a specific order, sort of like a puzzle. Except at the end of this puzzle you get a house.
And it's a house that goes up in very little time (four weeks), requiring very little in the way of cost and labor and producing very little in the way of construction waste. Additionally, there is not much else besides the plywood that goes into the construction process. No concrete, no nails.
Sustainable, inexpensive, quickly-erected. Sounds pretty futuristic to us.
According to Builder Magazine (online), the arrival of two HUD programs that attract private investors to energy efficient incentives spells headway for the green mortgage industry.
One program is called the Energy Innovation Fund, which will award $25 million in funding through a grant process that will seed up to $200 million in revolving loan funds, loan guarantees and green mortgages. The second program is Green Refinance Plus, in which the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) assumes half the risk on a loan or acquisition underwritten by Fannie Mae on existing green projects. This allows homeowners to borrow additional money to make energy-saving improvements to their properties.
Builderonline goes on to mention other organizations that are driven to convince lenders of the benefits of green retrofits. Fannie Mae, for example, is compiling energy use data on multifamily buildings in order to develop a ratings scale. Other initiatives seek to standardize collective energy consumption data to compile a "broad-reaching energy data taxonomy" for use by multifamily industry green innovators.
Caving under member pressure and stakeholders, the USGBC recently announced that the ballot for LEED 2012 has been pushed back to June 1, 2013. It will also be renamed LEED v4.
A message from USGBC President, CEO & Founding Chairman Rick Fedrizzi lays out the reason for the delay. He states that the USGBC has "heard repeatedly that while our community continues to fully embrace the mission, they need more time to absorb the changes we're proposing and to get their businesses ready to take the step with us."
Speculation is rampant, of course, and even we have reported on the under-fire LEED 2012 standards and the backlash from the Plastics Industry. Is the new announcement a reaction to negative criticism?
There's an interesting backlash against LEED that's underway. If you follow TreeHugger, you'll remember a recent piece about the Sustainable Forest Initiative's movement to get the Federal Government to drop LEED. Now there's coverage of the Plastics industry making similar moves, claiming LEED's 2012 restrictions on PVC will hurt the industry.
According to the Plastics industry, two proposed credits in the 2012 LEED rating system arbitrarily restricts chemicals in the building and uses a European standard called REACH, which the industry claims will hurt US manufacturers and job creation in the long run.
The other side of the argument suggests the Plastics industry is frightened by a safety standard being applied their products and is simply seeking to twist arms to hurt an establish building standard that is only working to keep home and building occupants safer and healthier.
Which side of the fence are you on in this matter?