Happy Earth Day – We Have a Lot of Work to Do!

Here we are again, another Earth Day. There is always more to do, but here are some of the projects we have done that are geared towards reducing environmental impacts.

First EarthCraft house in Virginia (one of six built at the same time to pilot the program out of Southface.)

Here is a duplex we designed for Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity. It is Earthcraft certified as well.

This industrial facility produces stairs and doors. It is also the first LEED NC-certified industrial facility in Central Virginia that produces warm air from a transpired solar collector.

Another duplex project was designed for Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity. This on achieved LEED for Homes Gold certification.

What a beautiful renovation project. This one is Home Performance with Energy Star certified.

This magnificent home has all the luxury of any vacation destination. It also has two roofs full of Solar PV to reduce the impacts on the environment.

This client wanted to save the trees. Nope, the Lorax does not live there, but we were able to save the trees by building a bridge to the front door.

A fast-food restaurant, Dairy Queen, with Solar PV on the roof. Yes, this project, Harmony Square DQ, is using clean energy to make their blizzards!

Net-zero before it was cool. We designed this project in 2005 when solar pv was very expensive compared to today. They still wanted to run their home on clean energy.

The first LEED for Homes Certified projects in the Southeast United States. Yes, and it was done in 2005 even though it looks like a 100-year-old New England Farm House.

Sitting on top of the hill, it has amazing views. Even more amazing is the amount of clean energy produced on the roof.

Another farmhouse that is running on clean energy. This one has a porch like no other. Amazing views and right on the edge of town.

Stay tuned to see what we have planned before our next Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day – Time to Celebrate!

Happy Earth Day – it is time to celebrate! On this anniversary of Earth Day, the movement has become a global phenomenon.

Earth Day

Progress has been made towards protecting our environment. According to the EPA, the aggregate emissions of six major air pollutants have dropped more than 60% since 1980. In 1972 only about 1/3 of the water in the U.S. was considered safe for swimming or fishing, now 2/3 of all water is considered safe. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent since 1980 to clean up hazardous waste sites.

Earth Day

There is still work to be done. In the 1970s environmental harm was easy to identify and it had bi-partisan support to address. Now, environmental issues are considered by many a partisan issue. It is difficult to identify pollutants and those doing lasting damage have a huge influence over those making the rules. So what can you do to protect the earth? Does Earth Day matter?

I would say Earth Day matters only in that it brings awareness to issues that need to be addressed. We have earth day celebrations that include discussions about climate change, alternative energy, pipelines, and energy efficiency. We hold clean-up events to pull trash out of our streams and creeks and along our roadways. So what are some ideas to celebrate Earth Day that moves beyond simply recycling?

1. Plant a tree – pick a tree and plant it. It will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cleanse pollution from the air, reduces erosion, and provides homes for animals.

spring trees broadway Earth Day

2. Educate yourself on ways to reduce energy usage in your home or business.

3. Stop using disposable plastic water bottles. Think of it this way, bottled water production in the U.S. used the energy (barrels of oil) equivalent of the fuel needed to run 1.5 million cars for a year. Then 75% of those bottles get sent to a landfill instead of being recycled.

4. Shop local shops selling local products. It is good for the economy and for the environment. For every product that is created locally and sold locally, you are saving energy that would have to be invested in transportation.

5. Support businesses that are doing things to protect the environment. It is difficult to survive in business regardless of your industry. If a business is doing their part to create environmentally sensitive solutions they have taken a stand and should be supported by those with similar beliefs. Find the companies that are caring for creation and give them a high-five – virtually of course – by writing a positive review for them on a social media platform. Your endorsement does more for them than you could ever know.

6. Ride a bike or walk instead of driving to your next meeting. I love having an office downtown so I can walk to many of my meetings. Reducing the miles driven on a daily basis is certainly an easy way to care for creation.

Earth Day

7. Set up a compost bin. This pays dividends in reducing the amount of trash you produce each week or virtually eliminating what you send down the drain to the sewage treatment plant from the kitchen sink. It also will help you build a locally sourced food production center – a garden.

8. Set up a rainwater harvesting system

9. Spread the good word about solar. The industry is growing quickly but there is still a lot of bad information out there about solar. Having the people who are using solar PV talk about it is a great way to get over the hump to further the alternative energy industry in our area. Tell your story – need a platform – let me know. I am glad to share your story on my blog.

earth day

10. Spread the message – share your ideas with others about the importance of caring for Creation. Taking care of our planet is fundamental for taking care of each other. If we don’t all join into the effort, it will be that much harder to make the positive changes needed for a vibrant and sustainable future.

How green am I, better than some, but still work to do…

As an architect, I pride myself in being able to help people save money, live healthier, and conserve resources. I have used the terms, green design, sustainable design, and eco-friendly design to describe what I know how to do for my clients. The knowledge I have about these issues has been gained through years of research, attending education sessions, and trial and error. I did not just jump on this band wagon when the topic became a trend, I have been working on these issues since I entered the profession in 1999. Am I doing enough with the opportunities I have been given? Here is a list of projects that should factor into my environmental grade.

First LEED for Homes Certified project in Virginia back in 2006. This home reduced the size of the HVAC system by 2/3 over a traditionally built house. That makes their electric bills VERY low each month!

LEED for Homes

This LEED NC Certified industrial building, Better Living Mill Shop, reduces potable water consumption through capturing 95,000 gallons of rainwater from the roof. They furthered reduced their water use through efficient fixtures, cutting usage by 40%. This project diverted 95% of all construction waste from the landfill, used 52% recycled content products, and 34% local materials. But the biggest gain was the 47% reduction in annual energy usage through the use of a transpired solar collector and energy-efficient design elements.

Better Living Mill ShopThis renovation project in Crozet was looking for energy efficiency and comfort. Through some simple design elements and a great team effort, we reduced their energy consumption by 40%, even after adding a state of the art kitchen addition and a second floor bedroom to the home. The air leakage in the home was cut by 55%, the insulation was upgraded, and the HVAC system was replaced. This home received the Home Performance with Energy Star certification. This late 1800’s home renovation project was so impressive, we received a visit from United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who wanted to see the work done.

LEAP CharlottesvilleWe have also done Net-Zero energy design. This home in northern Albemarle has been occupied for a couple of years now and they have a total energy bill of $25 (the hook up fee). Along with many passive design features, this home has high performance insulation, windows, HVAC, and appliances.

Net-Zero Home

Looking for proof that we can make a difference on a modest budget. This home had a budget of $1,100 for energy-efficient upgrades. The annual energy savings = $368. With the tax incentives in place at the time, the project was cash positive in one year.

Energy efficiencyI am working hard to be better, to help our clients save money, live healthier, and conserve resources. If you want to be part of our environmental story, feel free to give me a call (540)437-0012. I am happy to answer questions, design solutions, or just give you advice.

How the First Earth Day Came About From Senator Gaylord Nelson

Another Earth Day: The History of the Movement

In the 1970s a movement started. Americans started noticing our impact on the surrounding environment, so Earth Day 1970 was created. The idea started with Senator Gaylord Nelson after seeing the impacts of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He wanted to infuse energy into public consciousness about pollution of our air and water. The result was millions of Americans holding rallies and demonstrations in support of protecting our world against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, and loss of wilderness. The first Earth Day was a bipartisan event gaining support from both Democrats and Republicans. It led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Act.

Earth Day“Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political “limelight” once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons, the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.” ~ Gaylord Nelson

When I lose focus I look to Pooh Bear

As I look out from under the deadlines and phone messages, I find it hard to stay positive that my work is making a difference. Is anyone listening? Am I just adding to the background noise that blinds us from making this moment in time the point at which we come together as a nation to be great?

“Development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

-source: United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development

I have heard of the incredible stories of innovation and determination that were experienced after Pearl Harbor. The entire country re-tooled, pulled on their boots, and did what needed to be done. I remember back on 9/12 the tremendous change in our community. After the malicious attacks the day before, time stopped, we cried, we acknowledged our neighbors, we celebrated our country, we joined together to defend our nation. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the nation stood still watching, praying for courage and survival. As I traveled down Interstate 59 in the days following the storm, I was changed forever seeing others doing the same thing I was doing, with American Flags flying and care in their hearts for strangers they have never met before.

I am once more changed, sitting here at my desk wondering why it takes disaster, violence, immediate destruction to bring us together as a proud country.

It is time to come together as a community, as a state, as a nation to make a positive change. I understand that you don’t want to give up any opportunity in front of you now. I understand that you have worked hard to get the things in life that you have earned. I just want your kids and my kids to have those same opportunities. I want us to make decisions, painful or not, that will benefit the next generation, not just the current. It is time to look at the bigger costs involved in the decisions we are making today.

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.

-Milne, A.A. The House at Pooh Corner: New York, Dutton Juvenile, 1988

Look for an event next week as we approach Earth Day to plug in and listen, learn, then go and make a positive change. It is so easy to cut your energy use by 10%, to reduce your water consumption by 5%, to reduce your waste output by 50%. You will not even notice the sacrifice made, but you will see the economic benefits. All you need to do is ask questions. All you have to do is look toward the future, to others, all you have to do is think about a better way. If you always take the easy way out – “because that is the way we always do it” – I fear that we are never going to find our way out of this mess.