Thursday, December 31, 2009

Getting to Zero: Aspiring to the Zero Energy Home

Going into the new year I'm naturally in a reflective mood. What can I do to impact the greater world as we head into the unknown promise and potential of a new year? Sharing ideas which matter is a place to start!

What if more Zero Energy Homes became more prevalent in the coming year? What's a Zero Energy Home you ask? It is a home which produces the same or more energy than it uses over the course of a year. The specific design and make up of the Zero Energy Home adapts to its regional and micro-climate, siting and the needs and budget of individual homeowners. There is no single solution but rather a common approach to design which starts with shifting behaviors and motivations of all those involved.

A Zero Energy Home is valuable for a number of reasons. It can be an extremely comfortable, healthy and pleasant place to live. It can be carbon-neutral and good for the environment. It also can deliver future energy cost predictability by committing to upfront investments in a super-insulated building envelope, high performance internal heating / cooling systems, renewable energy sources, energy star appliances, lighting and healthy interior materials/ furnishings. As we head into the new year we don't know what our energy costs will be going forward but know intuitively they will continue to escalate with fossil fuel scarcity and growing demand. (See IHS Data, DOE calculator). There will be no magic energy solution I believe. Just hard slogging...

Thus, Zero Energy Homes can form part of the solution going forward, reshaping how we think about our homes into long-term investments which steady-state our energy costs into the future. Their lighter footprint on the earth and in our communities can only be an asset to strengthening them.

How and where does one start?

Read as much as you can: Visit informative web-sites such as....
Hire and Organize a Great Integrated Design Team: Contact your local American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Homebuilder's Organizations and look for standout professionals who have experience designing and building low-energy use and/or zero energy homes. They can assist you in early stages of site selection, construction strategies and project delivery methods which best adapt to your needs, budget and schedule. Depending on your project's complexity and your goals your Architect may suggest hiring an Energy Consultant and other specialized sub-consultants/ team-mates to really look at your needs and help optimize building envelope, heating-cooling systems, lighting, building controls and interior design.

Be Prepared to Learn and Grow Over the Course of Your Project: It's a journey with lots of learning along the way and exposure to new ideas and concepts. With the right team, it will be an enjoyable and never dull experience!

Investing in the Future: Remember, you're doing something which will benefit generations to come by looking beyond the present!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I want for the New Year: "The Green Workplace", Leigh Stringer's new book


Two Greenbuild's ago in Boston in November 2008, I saw Leigh Stringer, the Author of "The Green Workplace: Sustainable Strategies that benefit employees, The Environment, and the Bottom Line." who participated in a social media oriented seminar with other green luminaries of the blogosphere. I blogged about it in November of 2008. It was a fascinating session.

Last August her book named after the blog she originated and oversees became available. It's what I want going into the New Year. Apparently The Green Workplace Blog provides much of the material she and others cultivated there into a transformative book about the ins and outs of greening your workplace. Reading reviews of it on Amazon indicates usefulness to workplace sustainability managers, human resource personnel, designers of all kinds among others.

I'm going to sample some of the review words and phrases I saw there to tantalize.
------------
"alternative work options"
"replacing destructive behaviors"
"a good compilation of the issues facing corporations today"
"help(s) businesses improve their ecological footprints"
"(the book) informs, educates and inspires..."
"illuminating, accessible, and comprehensive"

What I'd like to know is how others who have read the book used it in their workplace design and sustainability efforts in the last couple of months? What effects do resources like this have on workplace culture and facilities management, design process, materials selections and operational effects, user satisfaction etc.? What kinds of changes has this inspired for others? Do people who bought the book use the blog and vice versa? At Maclay Architects we're always on the look out for inspiring ideas to help us with our work with our environmentally and socially conscious clients and partners.

Of course, I've got to go read the book and I'll let you know how it folds into our work and design process as well.

In the meanwhile, tell me how this book has affected you. Or, if you have other books or articles you suggest I take a look at and perhaps share with others, please let me know. I'm happy to take a look.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Apply Now for 2010 Top Small Company Workplaces

Winning Workplaces, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps small businesses, is teaming up with Inc. Magazine to recognize "Top Small Company Workplaces." This yearly competition attracts the best of the best of small business entrepreneurs, especially those active in the socially responsible business sector.

Applications for 2010 are now being accepted at: https://tsw.winningworkplaces.org Winning organizations will be featured in the June 2010 issue of Inc. Magazine.

Winning Workplaces says a benefit of applying is the opportunity to think about your employee practices in a formal way, to help develop a people strategy that aligns with your business strategy.

Learn more about Top Small Company Workplaces 2010 by reading Winning Workplaces' FAQ at: http://www.winningworkplaces.org/topsmallbiz/2010/faq.php

Monday, December 14, 2009

Green Headquarters Delivers 375% ROI for SAS Canada

I read today in the second digital edition of HQ, a collaboration between McGraw-Hill and Architectural Record some interesting articles. One article on HQ was about how SAS Canada's headquarters which turned four recently has been a very good financial investment and on other levels too.

Please see the link to the article originally published on Canada Newswire. Please comment!

I'm always on the hunt for information about the effectiveness of green building and sustainability on workplace design / business performance.

Here's also a link to a digital version of the first inaugural issue as well.