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Building green

Dana Tims, Portland Oregonian
Buyers are demanding homes that leave smaller energy footprints, and developers are paying heed

…the compendium of construction techniques and materials huddled under the green building umbrella is finally starting to unfurl.

“Notions that houses should be efficient, environmentally friendly and built on principles of sustainability are really gaining traction,” said Sebastian, who estimated that fully 80 percent of his buyers today care passionately about how green their new home is. “And it’s absolutely clear that things are going to continue in that direction.”

Some crucial underpinnings of the residential construction industry — most notably lenders, insurers and appraisers — have yet to catch up with consumer demand when it comes to green construction.

But with the creeping advent of so-called green mortgages, along with early indications that appraisers are increasingly paying attention to what’s taking shape on the ground, many industry analysts say it’s only a matter of time before the move toward green construction remakes the entire residential landscape.

Already, seminars on green building are among the most popular offerings of the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland, an industry advocate based in Lake Oswego. Dozens of area builders have taken the opportunity to gain familiarity with varying levels of green-building certification.

Real estate agents, too, are grasping the need to be on top of the trend.
(10 January 2008)

Retrofitting your house for sustainability

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Review of ‘Eco-House Manual: how to carry out environmentally friendly improvements to your home’ by Nigel Griffiths.

…Although most books in the green building library focus on new build, there are a few books on what to do with the millions of buildings we already have, but many of those that I have read tend to be quite superficial.

Eco-House Manual is quite superb as a practical manual for anyone owning a ‘normal’ house, and it is written in the style of a well-illustrated DIY manual. It looks at materials and how to decide between what is available, how to reduce heat loss from your home, different approaches to heating, conserving and generating electricity, interiors (paints, carpets and so on), as well as also looking at water management, waste and pollution and how to make best use of the land outside the house.

The book is well illustrated throughout, with clear step-by-step photos on doing jobs like installing rainwater harvesting systems and installing light tubes. The section on reducing heat loss is a very good, clear guide to draughtproofing, insulation and how to address the insulation question in the various kinds of houses you find in the UK. It makes U-values understandable, and assesses the pro and cons of different approaches.
(10 Jan 2008)

James Howard Kunstler on the human habitat
Duncan Crary, Institute for Humanist Studies (via Global Public Media)
Author James Howard Kunstler talks with Duncan Crary of the Institute for Humanist Studies about the tragedy/comedy of suburban sprawl, what makes a successful town, and the fantasy of alternative fuels. Kunstler also reads passages from his book, The Geography of Nowhere.

Audio and transcript provided by Duncan Crary. From The Humanist Network News Audio Podcast #25, produced by the Institute for Humanist Studies.
(14 January 2008)