renovation

The 13 buildings that are highlighted in this post are among the greenest building and renovation projects of recent years. They include Living Building Challenge certified projects (and a couple of projects that are currently pursuing that certification), as well as some of the highest-scoring LEED Platinum certified projects around the world. (Bear in mind that many traditional and indigenous structures were built using more sustainable materials and methods than those that are typically used in these modern times, so many of the world’s greenest buildings were constructed long before the advent of green building certification systems.) The following projects were all built or renovated within the past decade.

Living Building Challenge Projects

The Living Building Challenge, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is widely recognized as the most rigorous certification system for green buildings; it can also be applied to infrastructure and other types of development projects. It goes beyond most of the LEED requirements. In their own words, “It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.”

So far (as of late 2013), these are the only four buildings to have achieved the full Living Building certification:

Bertschi School’s Living Building Science Wing
Seattle, WA

More Info

Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
Kamuela, HI
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED for Schools v2007.
More Info

Omega Center for Sustainable Living
Rhinebeck, NY
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.
More Info

Tyson Living Learning Center
(at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center)
Eureka, MO

More Info

[February 2014 Update: A fifth building has now achieved the full Living Building certification:
Smith College Environmental Classroom
, Northampton, MA]

These two ultra-green buildings have also been completed and their project teams are currently pursuing the Living Building Challenge certification:

Bullitt Center (Bullitt Foundation office building)
Seattle, WA

(Living Building certification pending)
More Info

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Pittsburgh, PA

This building achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.  (Living Building certification pending)
More Info

 

Top-Scoring LEED Platinum Certified Buildings

So far (as of late 2013), the following projects have achieved the highest scores among all LEED certified projects with the Platinum rating (LEED’s highest rating level). Some are new buildings; some are renovations. And a couple of the projects involve interior spaces (office or store interiors) only.

In the United States

LaraSwimmerPhotoSt. Martin’s University, Cebula Hall Engineering Building
Lacey, WA

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(97 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

Integral Group’s Deep Green Office (remodel)
Oakland, CA

LEED Platinum CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(102 out of 110 points)
Info
Video Tour

The Bridge Building (historic renovation)
Nashville, TN

LEED Platinum CS (Core & Shell) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

502 Second St. NW office building (historic renovation)
Grand Rapids, MI

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction & Major Renovation) v2.2
(66 out of 69 points)
Info
More Info


In other countries

Pixel office building
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(105 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

The Change Initiative store
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

LEED Platinum Retail CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(107 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

ITC Green Centre office building
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

LEED Platinum O&M: EB (Existing Buildings) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info

To see other Platinum projects, check out our listing of LEED Platinum Certified Buildings, Offices, and Homes worldwide.

This post has provided a selected, not a comprehensive, list of super-green buildings.  If you know of another completed, ultra-green building that you’d like others to know about, please mention it in the Comments, with a link to information about the project.

Related posts:

LEED Platinum Leaders: January 2012 Update of Top-Ranking States and Countries

Model Sustainable Neighborhoods: LEED ND Developments in the U.S., Canada, and China

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December 11, 2013
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Saving energy saves money. Reducing your energy use will reduce your gas and electricity bills (which frees up funds for other, more meaningful things). It also benefits the environment and your health in a variety of ways. For example, using less electricity reduces power plant emissions from burning fossil fuels, which reduces air and water pollution, and that helps protect everyone’s health and our shared natural resources. It also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

This checklist outlines a number of ways that you can conserve energy at home (or at work), by changing your household (or workplace) products and practices related to Heating and Cooling, Appliances and Equipment, Lighting, etc. Most of these strategies are easy and low- or no-cost, and saving energy helps save you money down the road.

HEATING AND COOLING

  • Program your thermostat to provide less heating or cooling at night and during the daytime hours when your home/building is not occupied. If you don’t know how to change the settings on your programmable thermostat, read the manual or ask someone for assistance. (If you’d like to have an easy-to-program, energy-saving thermostat with an elegant design, take a look at the iPod-like Nest thermostat.)
  • On hot and sunny days, cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, opaque curtains, or shutters; and turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are using conventional incandescent bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). And if you live in an area that regularly has hot summers, consider adding shade trees, awnings, or overhangs (particularly outside of west-facing windows) and putting a light-colored roof on your home when it’s time to replace the roof.
  • Avoid or minimize your use of air conditioning, when possible. Air conditioners use a lot of energy, making them expensive to use. In warm weather, try using ceiling fans, floor fans, or a “whole house” attic fan (or in dry regions, an evaporative cooler) instead of AC. These options can often provide adequate cooling.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance procedures for your heating and cooling systems. Replace or clean air filters as specified in the owner’s manuals. Have your furnace or air conditioner serviced if it isn’t operating properly or efficiently.
  • Keep your heating/cooling vents dusted.
  • Keep furniture, curtains, and other objects away from heater/air conditioning outlets, to allow conditioned air to flow freely into the room.
  • Make sure your windows close properly. Fix any broken window panes, seals, or latches.
  • Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on if you open a window.
  • Weatherize your doors and windows by using weather stripping or seals to minimize air leaks and drafts.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater, and add insulation (if needed) to your attic, walls, or basement.
  • Hire a home performance contractor to do a home energy audit; they will inspect your home and identify any inefficiencies and seal up air leaks. In many homes, fixing air leaks can save more energy and money than installing a high-efficiency furnace. (One very experienced company that offers these services in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.
  • When purchasing a new furnace, air conditioner, ceiling fan, water heater, windows, or doors, choose products that have a high Energy Star efficiency rating. (For windows, at a minimum, make sure you choose double-paned glass.)

Please continue reading. The rest of this post includes tips on lighting, appliances, electronics, and more:

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

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May 29, 2013
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Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification program. Building projects that have attained this rating are among the greenest in the world.*

I recently added newly certified Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my online listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide, which I had last updated a year ago. The listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Developments, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail.

As of my latest review of the data (at the beginning of January 2012), it appears that there are now more than 1,045 LEED Platinum rated projects worldwide.

While the vast majority of these LEED projects—about 950 of them—are located in the United States (where LEED was created), Platinum rated projects now exist in 25 countries; a year ago only 16 countries had LEED Platinum rated projects. The nine countries that gained their first LEED Platinum projects over the past year are: France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey. The other countries with LEED Platinum projects are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and of course the United States. After the U.S., India is the country with the most Platinum projects, with about 35 projects so far (up from 20 a year ago). Canada and China also have many Platinum projects.

Within the United States, 49 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except North Dakota)—plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—now have building projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating. A year ago, Alabama and West Virginia did not yet have any LEED Platinum projects, but now they do.

In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, here are the top 5 states with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects (at last count):

So California has more than 2.5 times more Platinum projects than any other state—but that’s not too surprising since it’s the most populous state in the country.  On a per capita basis (i.e., as a percentage of population size), Washington D.C. has more LEED Platinum rated projects than any of the states. And when you add in the 50 states, here are the Top 5 with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects per capita:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Oregon
  3. Montana
  4. Vermont
  5. New Mexico

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the iconic TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, which got the Platinum rating for its upgrades under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system) and a number of high-end offices, retail spaces, and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings and many modest homes and affordable housing developments. For example, there are dozens of Habitat for Humanity-built LEED Platinum homes around the country, and more than 75 affordable Platinum homes built in New Orleans alone through various initiatives, including Make It Right.

* Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, four projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The latest project to achieve this certification (along with a LEED Platinum certification) is the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab in Kamuela, Hawaii.

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January 19, 2012
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Most conventional paints and coatings contain and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Some types of VOCs contribute to smog, and many VOCs are emitted or “offgassed” indoors and contribute to indoor air pollution. VOCs can cause respiratory problems and some are known carcinogens.

I have written a 4-page overview of VOCs and other toxicity issues related to paints and other types of coatings. For the free download, just click on this link:

How to Select Less-Toxic, Low-VOC Paints, Primers, Stains, and Coatings [PDF]

Fortunately, almost every major paint manufacturer (and retailer) now has a low-VOC or zero-VOC product line. Most of these products are also low-odor, as some VOCs are responsible for to that noxious “new paint smell.”

I maintain an online product listing of Low-VOC and Zero-VOC Wall Paints, which I recently updated. The listing includes natural paints (e.g., plant- or mineral-based), as well as more conventional synthetic (e.g., latex/acrylic) paints.

A few paint manufacturers, such as AFM Safecoat and YOLO Colorhouse formulate their entire line of paints and primers to be low- or zero-VOC and low-toxic. While most low-VOC paints are interior paints, some brands (including those two) also offer low-VOC exterior paints.

My listing indicates which paint lines have been Green Seal certified or SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified. GreenGuard also certifies paints; it has a basic Indoor Air Quality Certified program, as well as a more stringent Children and Schools Certified program. All of these certification programs are primarily focused on testing products’ VOC emissions.

Unfortunately, synthetic paints often contain other toxic compounds, beyond VOCs, such as phthalates (which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals), propylene glycol and glycol ethers (PGEs), certain heavy metals, and toxic biocides or fungicides. (Green Seal’s certification standard prohibits the use of some of those compounds.) See this Pharos article for additional information on paint toxicity.

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September 26, 2011
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One of the best ways to learn about green homes is to explore examples of real-world projects—by touring green homes or reading about them online. Completed projects can give you ideas for your own home. And we all benefit from hearing about not only the most successful aspects of model projects, but also about the lessons learned the hard way by homeowners or builders who have already “blazed the trail.”

The following websites feature free collections of case studies (or profile articles with in-depth information) on green homes around the country. Some of these sites showcase home renovations and remodels, as well as new homes.

  • High Performance Buildings Database case studies (U.S. Department of Energy / BuildingGreen): Go to “Search Options,” then select “Building Type,” and choose “Single-Family Residential,” or search by location. Most of the case studies in this database are on commercial and institutional buildings.

In addition to the LEED for Homes, Passive House, and GreenPoint Rated certifications that are mentioned above, homes can also be certified under the rigorous Living Building Challenge program. The first home to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification is the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The International Living Building Institute has posted this comprehensive case study on the Eco-Sense home.


Related Post: A previous post also lists websites that feature case studies on commercial/institutional green buildings.

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February 7, 2011
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If you’re thinking about doing a major renovation of your home or building a new home, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the growing number of resources on how to design and build houses that consume very little energy and that produce at least as much energy as they consume (i.e., net-zero-energy homes).

One of the most recent books on this topic is: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet: A comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and economics of net-zero energy homes, by Ann V. Edminster (Green Building Press, December 2009). The publisher says: “Energy Free is designed to equip building professionals and homeowners alike with a toolkit for creating homes that use no more energy than they produce—this means homes that are free from the vagaries of energy-price fluctuations and that help to free society of the high political and environmental costs of fossil fuels. The author includes…step-by-step guidance on how to make decisions that will yield an energy-free residential project, whether a single-family home or multifamily building, new or existing, in an urban or a rural setting.” For more info about the book, click here.

One approach to designing and renovating homes so that they use very little energy is the Passive House approach, espoused by the Passive House Institute. The Passive House (or Passiv Haus) standard was originally developed in Germany. Passive houses are designed to reduce energy consumption by 80-90% compared to conventional houses. The first new home being built as a Passive House in California is a project of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin (CLAM). The home, known as the Blue2 House, is an affordable second unit behind another home in Point Reyes Station; the main house was also renovated using some Passive House techniques.  CLAM is chronicling the home’s construction process and progress on a blog.

Other resources worth checking out include: GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, which has published several case studies of net-zero and near-net-zero energy homes; the Home of the Future program from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD); the Department of Energy’s Building America program; and Affordable Comfort Inc.’s Thousand Home Challenge and Deep Energy Reductions programs.

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June 3, 2010
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Homeowners (and renters) are increasingly interested in making green home improvements, and they’re particularly interested in knowing which improvements have a low cost and a clear payback—i.e., a decent Return on Investment, or ROI. Here are some commonly agreed upon suggestions for relatively easy and economical projects that reap surefire savings (in energy, water, and dollars):

  1. Switch to LED and/or compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. (Note: When buying CFLs, look for low-mercury products. Also, because CFLs contain mercury, they cannot be thrown in the trash; they must be recycled by a hazardous waste facility. Some stores, such as Home Depot, collect used CFLs. You can find other places near you that take used CFLs on Earth911.com.)
  2. Switch to WaterSense plumbing fixtures (e.g., dual-flush or other high-efficiency toilets, and ultra-low-flow faucets and showerheads). [MORE INFO here.]
  3. Switch to Energy Star appliances and electronic equipment when it’s time to replace old units. Install an Energy Star ceiling fan(s), to reduce or eliminate your use of air conditioning.
  4. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater; and add insulation to your attic (and/or walls and basement).
  5. Have a home energy audit done to check for air leaks and identify other inefficiencies; a home performance contractor should then make the needed improvements. More and more companies are springing up to offer these services. (One very experienced company in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.

For other ideas and helpful cost/benefit assessments, check out this new book: Green Sense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, by Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum (Taunton Press, April 2010). Here’s the publisher’s description of the book: “When does a green home project make financial sense? The authors of this book provide the answer to this and other questions relating to the cost (and relative value) of environmentally friendly home improvements. They evaluate a wide array of projects, including insulating pipes, weatherizing doors and windows, composting and recycling trash, installing a solar hot water heater, installing green countertops, upgrading appliances, building with reclaimed materials, and installing radiant heat.”

Other recent books include Green Home Improvement: 65 Projects That Will Cut Utility Bills, Protect Your Health & Help the Environment by Daniel Chiras, PhD (RS Means) and This Green House: Home Improvements for the Eco-Smart, the Thrifty, and the Do-It-Yourselfer by Joshua Piven (Abrams).

A number of federal, state, and local tax credits, rebates, and other financial incentives are available for installing energy-efficient equipment or renewable energy (e.g., solar) technologies at your residence.

For a more comprehensive checklist of ways to save energy, see our new post [added 5/2013]: Tips for Saving Energy

 

For additional tips on green home improvements and retrofits, these are some useful online articles and websites, most of which feature lists of cost-effective improvements:

If you’d like assistance with choosing and implementing your green home improvements or remodeling strategies, I am a green advisor who can provide this type of assistance through email consultations (or phone or in-person consultations). Click here for more info.

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May 6, 2010
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GreenDollarSignThe following are key online resources for information on federal, state, and local environmental tax credits, rebates, and other financial incentives. Most of the incentives that are available are for installing energy-efficient equipment or renewable energy (e.g., solar) technologies.

FEDERAL

These are good directories of federal income tax credits, grants, other incentives for energy-efficient products—for consumers, as well as businesses, builders, and manufacturers:

Click here for a clear summary of the main tax credits currently available: essentially 30% of various energy-efficiency improvements (up to $1,500) and 30% of the cost of solar energy installations. For info on federal grants (to organizations and agencies), go to Grants.gov.

STATE AND LOCAL

Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for a compendium of options, organized by state. Also check with your municipality (city and county governments) and local utility companies. Many offer their own green rebates and incentives. And this is a great summary of energy-efficiency grants and funds provided to state and local agencies by the 2009 economic stimulus/recovery bill (ARRA).

CALIFORNIA

For those of you who are in California, there are numerous entities offering green rebates and other incentives. Take a look at these resources:

If you know of other useful directories or resources related to green financial incentives, or if you have made use of energy tax credits or other green incentives, please share your experiences or suggestions by leaving a comment below.

NEW (added 1/19/10): Also check out the directory of energy rebates and tax credits at EnergySavvy.com. Enter your zip code and the site will give you a list of applicable state, local, and federal incentives.

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November 16, 2009
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I recently added the latest set of Platinum rated projects to my listing of LEED Platinum certified building projects worldwide. The listing is organized by countries and states, and some of the projects are linked to in-depth case studies. As of this month (October 2009), I know of LEED Platinum certified projects in 44 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico, as well as projects in 9 other countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates. There are all types of Platinum projects: commercial, residential, institutional…new construction as well as renovation.

LEED_platinumPlatinum is the highest rating in the LEED green building rating systems. Building projects that have attained this rigorous level of certification are among the greenest in the world.

I update the listing every month or two. If you know of a project that has officially achieved LEED Platinum certification but is not yet included in the listing, please let me know.

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October 21, 2009
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