Posts Tagged ‘USGBC’

Please Join Us for the First Collaborative Informational Session

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

We issued the invitations today to our first of six Collaborative Informational Sessions.  The first event is on Saturday, October 24 from 12:30 pm to 4:20 pm.

To register for the event, you must go to the event registration site.


We are hosting these informational events as part of our ‘showcase’ of innovative building materials and innovative construction practices.  We are collaborating with the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the AIA, the USGBC Northern California Silicon Valley Branch, and Build It Green‘s South Bay Guild.

Our invitation reads as follows: 

You are invited to the first of six collaborative information sessions to see the construction of a zero net energy, zero carbon house being built that is applying for LEED-H Platinum certification.
The benefit of seeing this house as it is being built is that you will see how green materials are used during the construction process. Many of these materials will be ‘covered’ when the house is completed so this is an opportunity to understand what is behind the walls. Attending the informational sessions allows you to see how we are using innovative building materials and innovative construction practices throughout the construction process.
During the informational session, you will be able to ask questions regarding the green building materials to better understand how these innovative building materials affect the cost of construction, the skills required to use these materials, and how using these materials affects the construction timeline.
The project involves constructing a full lower level (basement) under an Eichler home, built in 1969, while renovating the main floor. The green features of the house include:

  • Roof made with SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) by Insulspan (12¼ inch – R47)
  • Geothermal heat exchange with 3,000 ft. ground loop in 25 vertical concrete piers
  • Floor constructed with 50 hollow core concrete panels, manufactured in Los Angeles (Irwindale) that were placed in 4 hours
  • Concrete mix that includes high slag content (70% in the mat slab and 50% in the shotcrete foundation retaining walls)
  • Water-to-water heat exchange with radiant heating throughout the house
  • 48 roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels, with two inverters, to be a net generator of electricity
  • 3,700 gallon cistern, to harvest 100% of the rainwater, that will be used to irrigate drought-tolerant native California plant species
  • The original design of the house included generous roof overhangs that limit direct sunlight, reducing solar gain in the summer. This passive design has been enhanced with the use of 1.5 million lbs of insulated thermal mass (concrete) in the house that will slow heating from solar gain and slow night time cooling.
    Overall, the house performance exceeds (is better than) the Title 24 standard design by 72.9%, which is one of the highest performing single family dwellings in the State of California.
    Given this is an active construction site, you will have to register in advance to attend the session and, when entering the site, sign a waiver acknowledging the inherent risks of an active construction site.
    For further information on this project, please visit the construction blog at
    If you have questions on this event, please contact Bryan Mekechuk at 408.655.0400 or
    We look forward to seeing you at our first collaborative informational session.

    Planning to Put Our Construction Project on Display

    Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

    We are planning to put our construction project on display so we can show others how we are following ‘green building principles’ by using innovative building materials and innovative construction practices.  We decided to offer six informational sessions from now (October 2009) through May 2010 and invite people in the construction industry value chain to attend.

    In our view, ‘green building principles’ are those as promulgated by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and, applicable to us, the LEED for Homes program.

    Advocating Green Building Principles

    We advocate green building principles for several reasons.  First, we believe following these principles is required for sustainability of our planet and subsequent generations.  Second, we believe following green building principles will result in better indoor air quality, which has direct health benefits.  Finally, we believe there is a financial benefit to following green building principles.

    The cost of following green building principles is currently higher than otherwise, largely because of the extra documentation required and the low volumes of certified green building materials and innovative building materials.  The extra documentation required is costly because the processes and automated systems are not in place to provide that documentation at a low cost.  As with most supply conditions, there are economies of scale that, with competition, help to lower prices.

    These problems will be addressed with the increased adoption of green building principles.  However, the adoption remains slow. 

    We advocate green building principles and would like to help increase the adoption rate in our community.

    Accelerating the Adoption of Green Building Principles

    One of the barriers to construction and renovation of more green building is the lack of understanding of the new building materials available and the sustainability of those materials.  Educating the participants in the construction value chain needs to occur at all points, from the architects and designers, through planning commissions, contractors and building officials/inspectors, to owners and tenants.  Importantly, building appraisers need to determine how to value the green features in buildings by understanding the financial and other benefits of those features. 

    Third party certification programs, including USGBC LEED and Build It Green help generate awareness and understanding of green building techniques.  For example, under the LEED-H program, applicants can earn points for ‘Education & Awareness’ as set out below (E&A 1.3):

    1.3 Public Awareness (1 point). Promote general public awareness about LEED for Homes by conducting at least three of the following activities:

    a) Hold an advertised, attended public open house that lasts at least four hours per day on at least four weekends or participate in a green building exhibition or tour. The home or building must display at least four informational stations about the LEED for Homes features (and/or offer a guided tour that highlights at least four LEED for Homes features).

    b) Publish a Web site with at least two pages that provides detailed information about the features and benefits of LEED homes.

    c) Generate a newspaper article on the LEED for Homes project.

    d) Display LEED for Homes signage, measuring six square feet or more, on the exterior of the home or building.

    By including public awareness as a criteria, the USGBC has created the mechanism for applicants to help educate others in the local community and through the internet, and reward applicants for doing so.

    In our municipality, the City of Monte Sereno, we are not allowed to post signs so we are proposing changes to the sign ordinance.  Although Monte Sereno has formally acknowledged both the LEED and Build It Green programs and now require permit applications to include a completed Build It Green checklist, the City of Monte Sereno is not actively promoting these programs in our community.

    Challenges with Elements of Green Building Principles

    Many of the elements in a green building are only seen during construction as these elements are ‘covered’ by finishes or other materials.  For example, consider the structural elements, waterproofing under the foundation and roofing materials, rainscreens, geothermal ground loops.  The hidden elements are known to the builders but very few others in the construction industry value chain.

    Even when the elements in a green home can be seen, people may not understand and/or appreciate those elements.  For example consider low VOC paints and finishes, materials from within 500 miles, reclaimed wood that has been remilled, etc.  If people do not understand or appreciate those elements, they will assign little, if any, value to those elements or features.

    Consequently, we are going to host six informational sessions through our project that will highlight our green building principles, and innovative building materials and innnovative construction practices.  Our objective is to help educate participants in the construction value chain by making green building principles more tangible.

    Informational Sessions and Timing

    We plan to offer six infomational sessions on Saturday afternoons, from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  Attendees will be required to confirm their attendance in advance, so we can avoid disturbing our neighbors too much on these days.  The dates and focus of these six informational sessions are as follows:

    10/24/09 Structural Concrete, Waterproofing and Hollow Core Concrete Panels

    Attendees will see the structural elements of the building and understand the construction challenges that we face and how we addressed those challenges in an environmentally friendly manner.

    11/07/09 Structural Insulated Panels

    We will show how the building is constructed using our SIPs (manufactured by Insulspan), including the various connections required and seismic requirements (e.g., shear walls).  Attendees will see how our SIPs integrate with the existing structure.

    12/12/09 Mechanical, Radiant Heating and Cooling, and Plumbing

    Attendees will see how the mechanical systems in the building are designed and installed, and how these systems integrate with the overall building design.

    02/20/10  Geothermal Heat Exchange and Photovoltaic Solar Panels

    We will profile the geothermal heat exchange equipment and show how it works, and how it is integrated with our photovoltaic solar panels.  Participants will see how these systems were designed to be scaleable in the future.

    03/20/10  Windows, Doors, Fixtures and Finishes

    At this informational session, attendees will see the building as it nears completion.  Many of the fixtures and finishes will be completed at this point and the ‘green’ features of these elements will be profiled.

    05/15/10  Pre-Commissioning

    The appliances will be in place and this will be one of the last opportunities to see the building before it is commissioned for our family.  The building control system should be in place, with the heating, lighting and resource consumption (water and energy) systems in place.  The passive features of the building should be apparent at this time.