Archive for the ‘Energy use’ Category
August 9th, 2009
The partnership between a home improvement company and a shelter provider might seem simple, but the plans that two established organizations have now are far from cut and dry. A $30 million green building program is going national, funded by the Home Depot Foundation, and plans to build 5,000 efficient homes over the next five years.
Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation started a pilot last year through 30 affiliates that resulted in 260 sustainable homes. The Partners in Sustainable Building program began there, and is now poised to break into the national sphere.
Some of the homes were even certified to LEED Platinum, which resulted in nearly 50 percent energy savings in some cases. During the pilot, which according to Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford was “extremely successful,” early results yielded 15 to 30 percent energy savings.
At the end of August, over 120 Habitat for Humanity affiliates will participate in the national rollout across 45 states. Affiliates will receive grants depending on certifications that structures attain– $3,000 for Energy Star guidelines and up to $5,000 for other nationally recognized standards.
Habitat expects nearly 1,500 homes to be built between the August start and the end of 2010. Some of the certifications mentioned by Reckford were the National Association of Home Builders standard, LEED, EarthCraft and Enterprise Green Communities.
Retrofitting has been an emphasis by administration recently, citing green jobs and efficiency, though Habitat is meeting an ever-expanding need for new and innovative construction. These new buildings will be supported by Habitat’s network through eight Habitat State Support Organizations (which service 4,400 affiliates) and will be growing in size and host new training sessions to teach green standards.
Out of the 263 homes built in the pilot program, most buildings leaned towards a higher green building level (135) and 128 were certified to the Energy Star guidelines.
Popularity: 11% [?]
August 2nd, 2009
For those of you who follow our blog, you know we’re big fans of what the folks at Aptera are up to. Aptera is building an all-electric, three-wheeled car that has a small fraction as much aerodynamic drag as a Prius. The Aptera 2e goes 100-120 miles with a top speed of 85-90mph, and boasts normal car safety features and impressive crash test results. And it looks like a super cool Jetson mobile, which makes it especially exciting.
Now the folks at Aptera are starting to reveal what the inside of their space-age auto will look like. You can see a sample below and here is what Aptera has to say about their design developments:
“The first major issue was space. We tested men and women of every age and stature and found, in many cases, we were not offering enough room in the cabin. With that information, we enhanced the cabin using our Aptera formula — safety, then aerodynamics, then lightweight. The new interior cabin is now roughly 10% larger by every measure.
“The new 2 series also now has headroom and legroom comparable to, if not better than, the Mini and Chevy Volt. We widened the area at the hips to provide more space than the Smart EV and the Nissan Cube. Then to top it off, we increased our cargo capacity by more than 24 cubic feet, which is nearly two times the space available in the Honda Accord.”
Alright, let’s get that thing into market and start driving it! We’re ready!
You can learn more about Aptera here. Images courtesy of Aptera.
Popularity: 10% [?]
July 26th, 2009
I know it’s depressing to think about, but it won’t be too long before we start thinking about taking the sweaters out of the closet and putting the swimsuits in their place. While the weather is still nice, though, it’s a perfect time to identify and fix those pesky energy-sucking leaks around windows, electrical outlets, and anywhere else where the insulation behind your wall or ceiling isn’t quite perfect.
Fortunately, there’s a new tool out there from Black & Decker called the Thermal Leak Detector that will make this task much more accurate than guesswork or incense sticks and much less expensive than a full-blown energy audit. We mentioned it back in December, but it’s now widely available and can be found at LIL’s partner Energy Federation and at Amazon. (note: if your heating or cooling bills are high and your home is > 10 years old, a professional audit is most likely the best way to go. They’ll be able to do a much more comprehensive job than you will, and can help to identify which fixes are most important. We have a great list of auditors near you on Low Impact Living).
The Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector is very easy to use and pretty accurate. Simply scan it across a wall or other surface and a light emitted by the device will change from red to blue as you scan over zones that are hotter or colder than a reference temperature you select. Try to pick a day when the difference between inside and outside temperatures is high and scan away!
Popularity: 4% [?]
July 15th, 2009
Written by Andrew Williams, courtesy of Gas2.0, originally published on July 10, 2009
US-based car-share giant Zipcar Inc. has launched its first ever Electric Vehicle Pod, featuring an all-electric Citroen C1 and a Plug-In Toyota Prius. The vehicles, among the most efficient and technologically advanced on the road today, can be hired by the hour for a fraction of the cost of owning one.
The company figures that EVs are ideally suited for early, large-scale use in Zipcar’s car sharing platform since the average Zipcar trip lasts just under four hours and less than 25 miles, well within the range of a typical EV. (more…)
Popularity: 7% [?]
July 14th, 2009
What produces less carbon emissions: Driving from Los Angeles to Chicago, or making the same trip by train? That depends — on how many people are in your car. Drive alone, and even moving in an ultra-green hybrid will be less green than taking the train. But carpool with 3 other friends and your per-person carbon footprint will actually be less than a train rider’s — even if you and your friends are in a gas guzzling SUV!
That handy number crunching comes courtesy of Trip Footprint, a new website that lets you easily compare the environmental impact of various modes of travel. Just plug in your start and end cities and the number of travelers to get the numbers displayed in an easy-to-read graph. Above are the L.A.-to-Chicago results for a solo traveler; below are the same results for four travel buddies that stick together.
Trip Footprint gets its numbers from a Union of Concerned Scientists study called Getting There Greener: The Guide to Your Lower-Carbon Vacation, which curious number-crunchers can check out for details on the methodology behind the numbers. Beyond that, Anirvan Chatterjee, co-developer of Trip Footprint, says the site does its best to calculate actual travel distances: “For planes and trains, we try to use realistic airport and Amtrak routings, and take into account the type of plain and train models used on those routes.” In addition, Trip Footprint’s numbers try to take into account the non-CO2 carbon impacts of aviation — something most carbon calculators do, according to Anirvan, but Getting There Greener does not.
Of course, while Trip Footprint’s numbers certainly provide quick, understandable data, figuring out the best way to travel isn’t so cut and dry as Trip Footprint’s bottom-line statements like “You should definitely drive. Even a typical SUV is better than the best plane!” For one, Trip Footprint’s numbers look simply at the carbon cost of the trips themselves, without taking into account the total lifetime costs of each mode of travel.
This means that the travel comparisons don’t include the carbon emissions that are created by, say, building rail lines and stations, expanding airports, or putting in miles and miles of highways that have to be constantly repaved and upgraded. If Trip Footprint included the infrastructure costs of all modes of travel, the data would likely look significantly different.
A recent study, for example, revealed that when those sunk costs are taken into account, flying can actually be even more efficient than taking the train! That study also took into account the fact that in some places, train stations aren’t ideally located — and thus ended up being extra carbon intensive because people had to drive to get to the train station in the first place — and the station has to build large parking structures to accommodate these drivers.
And as advocates of new urbanism and walkable communities will point out, there’s more to consider than simple trip carbon emissions when taking a trip. Supporting a mass transit infrastructure that lets people get rid of their cars altogether will go a long way towards creating pedestrian-friendly communities that foster more neighborly interactions and fewer unsightly freeways and cul-de-sacs.
Still, Trip Footprint certainly gets us thinking more deeply about greening our travel. To me, the application shows exactly how wasteful single-passenger car trips are. I’m ever more determined to find a carpool partner to go anywhere that requires driving!
One thing I’d love to see in the Trip Footprint is the time and money required for each mode of travel. We know it would take a Kenyan runner a whopping 3 years to get from L.A. to Chicago — but the same details aren’t yet included for the more realistic modes of travel. Since the Obama administration’s put its money and support behindnan expanded rail network, I’m hoping that we’ll see faster, cheaper train travel soon — which will get more people out of their cars and onto mass transit simply to save money, time, and stress — thus improving their quality of life while traveling green.
Popularity: 8% [?]