Posts filed under ‘News’

Building Technology Update for 5/23/2010

Hello Everyone,

Real life got in the way of regular posts, which for now is solved.  I will be posting again every week on Sunday evenings for the foreseeable future.

Tonight we have one update and several interesting technologies.  The update is on the Chinese drywall problem where the product was off gassing dangerous level of toxic chemicals. On Building Green (http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm/2010/5/17/Chinese-Drywall-Manufacturers-Liable-for-Millions-in-Damages/) we have an update where cases have come to court and the plaintiffs have started getting big awards.  I am glad that this has finally started and I hope that it will cause importers to more carefully screen where they are getting their products.

Here is Southern California we are finally starting to attack the air conditioning monster we need for living in a desert!  In Glendale the first of I hope many projects is getting underway where they will be using ice created overnight with cheap wind energy to provide the cooling that was previous provided be the energy hungry conventional HVAC units.  The complete story is on Clean Technica (http://cleantechnica.com/2010/05/22/53-megawatt-ice-energy-storage-trial-begins-in-california/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+cleantechnica%2Fcom+%28CleanTechnica%29)

Prices and availability on LED bulbs is about to improve radically! The article on Ecogeek (http://ecogeek.org/efficiency/3167-affordable-high-performance-led-bulbs-finally-hitt?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EcoGeek+%28EcoGeek%29) gives me great hope that this much needed technology is finally going to become affordable!

Lastly tonight we have two stories about growing your outside wall covering. Both from Treehugger, one is about growing the map of Europe on your wall (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/living-map-europe-grows-copenhagen-wall.php?campaign=th_rss_design) and the other is about simply growing plants on your wall to improve your local environment. (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/lifewall-modular-vertical-garden-tiles-eat-pollution-feed-plants.php?campaign=th_rss_design)

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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May 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

Formaldehyde in your Home

It is amazing to me the number of items that can emit this “organic” gas into your living space. Being a life long serious asthmatic this chemical is a considerable threat to my health and well being. To quote from the EPA web site :

“Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans.  Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under “organic gases.”

This stuff is not only naturally occurring due to combustion of certain products but is also present in items as varied as the furniture (pressed board variety, think IKEA and other flat pack stuff) to your permanent press clothing! The main EPA site on the subject is here: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formalde.html

A few days ago the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released the first ever study covering concentration levels of this wonderful chemical in the home ( http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/past/04-310.pdf). What they found is that in large number of homes, especially newer ones that the concentrations of formaldehyde are at levels that can cause illness.  A large part of the problem is that modern homes are often too tight, that is not receiving enough ventilation and exchanges of outside air and this allow dangerous levels of chemicals and other contaminants to build up.

This is especially concerning during the winter months where most folks really work on minimizing the intrusion of that outside cold air.  The release of formaldehyde  is accelerated by higher temperatures so it is also a good idea to not crank that heater up into the 80’s if you can stand to keep it lower.  You should also check with manufacturers of products you plan on purchasing to determine if they are produced using formaldehyde and consider other brands with different manufacturing processes. Or at least let the item sit out in the garage for a week to let the majority of the off-gassing occur outside of your living space.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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December 19, 2009 at 8:49 am 1 comment

Sad State of Housing for July 31,2009

Today I am unsure whether to be sad or mad with the state of housing in this country.  We have a city in the United States that is celebrating tearing down low income housing! I guess this is just another case of short sited city leadership.

The story is on MSNBC.com (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32176690/ns/us_news-life/) speaks specifically to large low income housing projects. I agree that these sites have often been a crime ridden mess, however tearing down any low income housing without a concerted and coherent plan for replacing it with smaller more manageable sites is nothing short of criminal.

In another article on Treehugger.com (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/07/enough-empty-houses.php?dcitc=th_rss_design) we come up with an interesting statistic that we in the US have enough empty houses to hold the entire population of Britain! That’s 18.7 million houses.  Why do we have a homeless population problem in this country?  To get serious I am sure that there is certainly a mismatch in the population of homeless versus the location of a large part of the homes. Also I am sure that a significant portion of them are currently not up to any kind of habitable standard.

That being said I certainly wonder why the resource hasn’t even been seriously talked about as part of the overall solution. I wonder if there is a template for Google Earth that could be put together to graphically represent the inventory…hmmm?  Maybe then an enterprising person or three might start trying to match the resource to the problem.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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July 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

Huge Earthquake Test Validates Performance Based Seismic Design

As someone who lives on a very active part of the Pacific Ring of Fire ( Southern California) the advances that are occurring in design to withstand this potential disaster are extremely exciting!

Yesterday in Japan some scientists tested this design process by subjecting a 6 story condominium structure to a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and the structure survived with little damage!  The piece on NPR’s All Things Considered is here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106611639.

Here is a video about the lab in Japan where the test took place.  While not the video of the actual event it is very well done and present the topic with great clarity. Courtesy of National Geographic (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/09/080922-quake-video-ap.html)

The field has advanced to the point where annual conferences are being organized and learned papers being presented like at this recent conference (http://www.ctbuh.org/EventsReferencePage/090430_ASCEStructures/tabid/680/Default.aspx).

It is looking like the old rule about earthquake building code where it is only there to make the building stand up long enough for you to get out before it falls down a thing of the past.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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July 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

New Building Standards Coming

I looks like we are fully into round two of the green building code wars with two new announcements recently.

In one corner we have the International Code Council (ICC) who announced on Earth Day that they will be developing a new green commercial building code ( http://www.greenbuildinglawblog.com/2009/04/articles/codes-1/icc-to-create-commercial-green-building-code/). I am somewhat in favor of this as this set of codes tend to be used as standards by a lot of local entities and this should help with standardization. On the other hand, ASHRAE has been trying to do this for a couple of years with no success, having to disband and reconstitute the committee over differences.

In the other corner the true heavyweight, LEED 3.0! In the story on Treehugger.com (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/leed-30-is-launched.php) there are apparently significant improvements in both the points system and the ease of use along with various online tools.

Excerpt: “ Launched in April 2009, the official name of the new system is LEED 2009 – it is one of the three major components that make up LEED Version 3, or LEED v3.0. The changes within LEED rating system reflects the rapid advancements in building science and technology and provides incentives for strategies that have greater positive impacts on energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reductions, among other priorities. The other components of LEED v3 include a faster, smarter and easier-to-use LEED Online (the tool for managing the LEED registration and certification process) and a new building certification model administered by the Green Building Certification Institute through a network of internationally recognized independent ISO-accredited certification bodies.

While I have not personally looked at the LEED 2009 process in great depth I have great hope that these improvements will lead to more certified buildings and a better product overall.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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June 7, 2009 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

Housing California – Day 1

It was a great day yesterday with many wonderful sessions from policy and lobbying sessions to disaster preparedness.

My favorite was all of the great information on the Mental Health Services Act housing component (MHSA).  It is apparent from these sessions that this is a program still evolving although there are some very successful projects already in place and in process.

The agenda today, day 2 includes the current Sec. of  HUD! I am looking forward to that for sure.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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April 29, 2009 at 7:16 am Leave a comment

Swine Flu – Time to dust off those disaster plans

It is beginning to look there might be a serious chance that we might be facing another true flue pandemic threat. This swine or Mexican flu depending on what country the news is coming from sounds pretty real from a threat perspective.

Often we concentrate on our physical assets when we create a disaster plan for our organization, forgetting that you can’t run a business without people!

It is important to have call in procedures distributed to your staff so that current and accurate information can be handed out. Also your Human Resources department should be reviewing medical leave procedures and sending out reminders in case of a general emergency.

It should also enforce as a good general practice, encouraging employees to stay home until they are well or at least non-contagious.

Here are a couple of web articles, one that gives some goo, green advice on how to reduce your overall risk  from Supereco (http://www.supereco.com/news/2009/04/27/swine-flu-update-protect-yourself-naturally/) and an argument for stronger public heath systems from the NRDC (http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gsolomon/swine_flu_the_need_for_a_stron.html)

Stay safe and help your organization weather the possible crisis!

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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April 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm 1 comment

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