Green Home Predictions That Are Best Poised to Come True in 2014 and Beyond (guest post)

net zero energy houseToday, a guest post on the green design issues that are becoming realities from Penny Olmos, who is associated with Holloway Houston, Inc. a leading industrial lifting equipment manufacturing company.  Welcome, Penny!

The scorching heat singed us and the winter wave chilled us — more than ever before. What are we heading to? Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes and extreme temperatures? Mother Nature is warning us in myriad ways. And the good news is that we are heeding her calls after long. Saving our natural resources and going green has found many takers. We have seen many eco-friendly homes and buildings designed and created in the last decade. Green homes are here to stay. We look at the popular green home design and construction trends in 2014 that are about to transform the landscape of green realty.

Rise of Net Zero Energy Homes

It seemed impossible until a couple of years ago but 2014 will witness a rise in net zero energy homes. These are homes with zero net energy consumption. The total amount of energy used by these buildings annually equals the amount of renewable energy created on the property. This is the greenest and the most energy efficient house you can possess. And you do not need to cut down on any of your comforts. There are heating, cooling, entertainment and utility appliances functioning in the house like they would in any other home.

The only difference is that it happens much more efficiently. Air source heat pumps are becoming the choice of heating and cooling in such green houses. Solar photovoltaic systems that are installed on the roof function to cover all energy use in the house including charging of electric cars. Zero energy homes are being sold in states with an abundance of sunlight and solar energy like Arizona, Texas and California.

Use of Micro-Windmills

Solar energy-powered homes have taken the realty market by storm, but the trend to watch out for this year will be micro-windmills. These are so small that ten of them can be accommodated on a grain of rice. But do not underestimate these tiny wonders. These micro-mills harness the air for electricity. They are very cost-effective. These nano windmills will soon power entire homes. Their developers claim these tiny wonders can be mounted on the walls of the home to harvest air motion and derive cheap and quick energy.

Smart Collection of Energy Usage Data

  nest

All those interested in having a green home need to first determine their energy consumption and where is it being used. The smart thermostat is going to be a key feature in a lot of energy-efficient green homes where owners want minimum wastage of energy.

These devices can transmit accurate live data about energy usage via your smartphone and help you monitor it as well. Thus the homeowner is equipped to configure all appliances in a way that uses minimum energy. Another reason smart thermostats will find their way into many eco-friendly homes in 2014 is the drastic drop in the price of their hardware.

Energy-Efficient Lighting and Heating

    skylight

Natural light is going to be one of the key realizations of green living in 2014. Architects, Interior designers and homeowners are putting a lot of thought into deciding the number of windows to make and their best placement, so as to allow maximum light into the house. The right windows can be an equally good source of the much-needed winter heat. Install windows with a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.55 to allow maximum heat to pass through your windows.

Another easy step towards a green home is switching from single pane windows to double or triple glazed windows. They will reduce the heat entering the building and consequently the energy consumed by the AC.

For homes where natural light availability is difficult, tubular skylights are an effective and energy-efficient source. Tubular skylights transmit sunlight into the house through roof openings. Tubular lighting also works for providing natural light to the basement and to the first floor of a two-story building. Most tubular daylight devices are equipped with optional dimmers that allow you to control the degree of light in the room. You can dim these energy-efficient lights as and when you like.

Production of energy exhaustive incandescent lights is set to drop in 2014. Developers, interior designers, and home owners are all turning to LED lighting. Investing in LED lights is not just about going green but also about saving the green in your pocket. Home design experts say that built-in LED ceiling lighting can illuminate the whole room. You can say goodbye to those energy consuming bulky ceiling lights and lamps.

Changes in water heating standards, made in the year 2014, will make them even more efficient. Jeff Wilson, HGTV host and author of The Greened House Effect, says that replacement of “incandescent light bulbs and reform in water heating measures alone will save billions of dollars and enormous amount of pollution.”

Radiant Barrier Roof Panels

If there are ways to reduce heating costs, those that cut cooling costs cannot be far behind. Radiant barrier roof panels are extremely energy-efficient. This type of solar board roof sheathing can reduce your air-conditioning requirements by half a ton. There are many radiant barrier roof panel installation systems in the market that eliminate the need for felt paper, making the building process even more environment-friendly.

These roof panels are an attractive option for both the builders and the homeowners. Builders save money on the HVAC equipment and homeowners save on energy costs.

Conclusion

There will be more green homes in USA than ever before as more people take an interest in healthy living and proper utilization and conservation of all available resources. Thinking of going green? Include energy efficient and water saving devices in your homes. Make use of solar and wind energy, bring down your bills, and prevent environmental pollution and degradation.

 Thanks Penny for your thoughts.  Another option, particularly for commercial ventures, is a green roof system such as those provided by XeroFlor America (headquartered in Durham) which uses pre-vegetated mats.  (disclosure:  XeroFlor America is a friend of the Firm.)

Your turn.  What green design do you like? Have you considered?  Share in the comment section or drop me an email.

Photo credits: Net Zero Energy House * Nest Image* Skylight

 

Emergency Bridge Repairs at Bonner Bridge (News Note)

Bonner BridgeThe North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has shut down Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks this week due to emergency safety concerns.  The life safety issues were discovered after routine sonar scanning identified excessive scouring (i.e., sand erosion) on the support structures of the bridge.

The bridge, erected in 1963, is the only road over Oregon Inlet, so the NCDOT is providing extended ferry service during the bridge repairs, which could take as long as 90 days.

The Bonner Bridge has been slated for replacement for several years following damage from Hurricane Irene, but legal challenges from environmental groups as to the location of the replacement have prevented DOT from breaking ground on a $215.8 million repair contract.

As of midday on Friday, December 6th, NCDOT engineers report the following:

· The dredge is on location and the anchors are set.

·  The crew has been developing ideas on alternate discharge pattern/configurations etc.

·  The Army Corps of Engineers 404 & DENR Water Quality Permits are issued.

·  Permit modification for enlarged discharge area to allow flexibility in using the tides & attack angles to assist in filling scour holes has just been issued.

To follow the dredging and emergency repair efforts, go to the NCDOT website and Facebook pages.

To read the positions and concerns of the environmental groups related to the bridge replacement, go to the Southern Environmental Law Center’s webpage.

Your turn:  Now that the bridge is back in the news, what is your opinion as to where the replacement bridge should be located?  Do the environmental groups’ contentions have merit?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo (c) Smkybear.

How is that possible? State Law variations can snag you! (law note)

Today I’m guest posting over on Construction Law Musings.  My post, entitled “You Mean They Can Do That?” discusses the fact that there are different legal hurdles that can present challenges to your Architecture or Engineering Firm when you venture across state lines.

skatesAs I state in the post, just as licensing issues and building codes differ, so too do the laws.  Your best defense?  A good offense. Get help specifically tailored to the new state up front so you won’t get pinched later on.   In other words, don’t be a cheapskate!

Read the full post here.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?  Share in the comments below.

Photo (c) Jan Andersen

 

Infrastructure Defects: ASCE’s Report Card (Spoiler: America gets a D+) (news note)

How many bridges do you drive over on your way to work each day?  Probably a bunch, if you have the typical commute of 32 round trip miles per day.  Now, how many of them are *not* structurally sound?  Probably more than you realize.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has just released its American Infrastructure Report Card.  Overall, the nation scored a miserable overall D+. Here’s the breakdown for the Transportation categories:

        Aviation        D
        Bridges        C+
        Inland Waterways        D-
        Ports        C
        Rail        C+
        Roads        D
        Transit        D

    In the breakout for North Carolina,

  • 2,192 of the 18,165 (12.1%) bridges in North Carolina are considered structurally deficient.
  • 3,296 of the 18,165 (18.1%) bridges in North Carolina are considered functionally obsolete.

The report has a ton of interactive information, including a nation-wide county by county deficient bridges look up, identifying infrastructure defects in detail.  Currently, much of the planned infrastructure improvements is in limbo while the sequester is in effect.  However, our nation’s system of deficient bridges must be a priority.  Will it take another event similar to Minnesota’s I-35 bridge collapse before we fix our nation’s infrastructure?  Let’s hope not.

Your turn.  What are your thoughts about the current infrastructure of America’s roads and bridges?

Engineering for the Earthquake- Dumbarton Bridge (News Note)

Engineers who design in earthquake-prone areas know that they need to design the seismic loads of their bridges to account for potential massive shifts during a quake.  (This is what is legally known as the professional standard of care, which takes into account what similar engineers, in the same conditions and community, would consider acceptable design)**.  The Dumbarton Bridge, the farthest south bridge across the San Francisco Bay, is no exception to this rule.

Currently, the Dumbarton Bridge is being renovated as part of the San Francisco Bay Area Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program.  When the bridge is finished (expected in early 2013), the bridge will increase its ability to move from 20 inches of lateral movement to as much as 42 inches of lateral movement.

Dumbarton BridgeThe retrofit includes friction pendulum bearings designed by Earthquake Protection  Systems, Inc., which will isolate the superstructure from two pier structures where the main span of the bridge meets the approach structures.  A concrete taper will be used from the joints to the main span to ease the transition, as the approach span is 5 inches lower than the main span.

According to Earthquake Protection Systems president Victor Zayas, in a statement to Roads & Bridges magazine, the most critical part of the bearing is the bottom lining, which is a self-sacrificing, solid-lubricant polymer composite that was developed based on earlier research done by NASA in the 1960s.

Click here to read more on the Dumbarton Bridge retrofit.

**  If you missed my post on the jury instruction on standard of care, be sure to check it out here.

 

Photo (c) Jill Clardy via CC.

 

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