Green Builder News - April 96

Green Builder News

A program of the City of Austin

April 1996

"We shape our dwellings, and afterward our dwellings shape our lives." Winston Churchill

The Newsletter of the City of Austin's Green Builder Program



On March 6, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) held a one-day seminar at the Austin Convention Center to discuss "New Urbanism: Creating Community in Cities and Suburbs." The driving force behind this conference is a desire for Austin to grow sustainably, as a cohesive community rather than rafts of homes adrift in a sea of disjointed suburbs. The list of sponsors included educators, regional governments, and building industry representatives.

The ULI is a nonprofit education and research institute with the mission to provide responsible leadership in the use of land in order to enhance the total environment. Established in 1936, the ULI is located in Washington, D.C.

The two most exciting aspects of the conference were the diversity of interests represented (including developers, politicians and environmental activists) and the desire to look at new and sustainable ways to develop our region.

The presentations, including one from Green Builder member Pete Dwyer, gave attendees a broad view of development possibilities. The "vision" of regaining the best characteristics of traditional neighborhoods was discussed along with the "reality" of recreating these communities in the current culture and regulatory environment. For instance, creating another Clarksville or Hyde Park, two popular neighborhoods in Austin, would be against the law under current zoning ordinances. The good news is that there was also agreement that this situation has to change. Some of Austin's biggest "players" (those who can make such a change happen) were well represented at the conference.

A shift in building practices toward a "greener" approach is similarly occurring in the urban planning arena. The "sustainable cities" dialogue is popping up all around the country. Through programs like the Green Builder Program and the efforts of the ULI, builders, developers, regulators, and urban planners, as well as urban dwellers, are realizing there are better ways to build a city.

"Sick Building Syndrome" Expert Comes To Austin

When Joe Lstiburek speaks, people listen, and for good reason. He is a nationally-known expert on "Sick Building Syndrome" and how to achieve good indoor air quality in homes and buildings. Lstiburek is an authority on air quality, vapor barriers, moisture related problems, and building durability.

Lstiburek will present two trainings in Austin in May. One will focus on the residential sector, the other will be on commercial building construction. The commercial training will be Tuesday, May 21, 1996 from 8 a.m. until noon at the Joe C. Thompson Center on the UT campus. See page 5 for details. The time and place for the residential seminar will be announced soon.

Lstiburek was a major contributor to the Super Good Cents program, the Canadian R-2000 home program, and regularly consults with several of the nation's largest production builders on warranty problems and new construction technologies. He is the author of the new U. S. Department of Energy Handbook on Moisture Control and the Environmental Protection Agency publication Building Air Quality. Recently, he was seen on the PBS series "Nova" addressing problems in new construction and sick buildings. He also served as the Director of Research for the Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada.

The seminars bring research and field application together to help builders, architects, engineers, developers, property managers, renovator, and weatherizers prevent and solve problems related to indoor air quality and the health of a building's inhabitants.

    Topics To Be Covered

  1. Ensuring a healthy indoor environment for the building inhabitants
  2. Vapor barrier installation—how, why, and when
  3. Roof ventilation and moisture problems
  4. Caulking, when it works, when it doesn't
  5. Why you may not want a cathedral ceiling
  6. Why you shouldn't vent crawl spaces in warm climates
  7. Why a combustion air opening in a furnace room can promote spillage and backdrafting
  8. Why blown insulation can cause paint peeling
  9. Why Sick Building Syndrome and indoor air quality problems cannot be solved by air sampling alone

National Expert In Austin To Speak on Indoor Air Quality

Joe Lstiburek B. A. Sc., M. E., P. E., with Building Science Corporation, is an internationally recognized authority on moisture-related building envelope problems and indoor air quality, authored the U.S. Department of Energy Handbook on Moisture Control, the textbook Moisture Control, and North Carolina Alternative Energy Center's Builder's Field Guide.

Date: May 21, 1996
Time: 8 a.m. 'til noon
Location: Joe C. Thompson Conference Center
Auditorium, 26th and Red River
Cost: $25 in advance, $40 at the door
Call Susan Barnett at 499-2458 to register.

There have been revolutionary developments in products, materials, and systems, and the technology of construction has become exceedingly complex. The building envelope and mechanical system interact with and influence interior environmental conditions as never before. These interactions have serious consequences.

Mold, mildew and other microbial moisture-related problems, their associated odors and health effects can be a source of lost revenues, structural deterioration, management frustration, litigation, image problems, lost clients, and poor indoor air quality.

Joe Lstiburek's dynamic talk will focus on both architectural and mechanical design for hot and humid climates and for good indoor air quality. He will address new technologies including breathable walls, give design techniques to prevent indoor air quality problems, and discuss preventive maintenance.

Integrated PVs--Coming to a Building Near You?

Generating electricity from the sun with photovoltaic (PV) panels is a proven technology with a long track record plus a lot of public support. The primary obstacle to higher use has been the high cost; however, the cost is falling.

Building-integrated PVs help close the cost gap because the PV modules are designed into an architectural feature of the building where money is already planned to be spent. Building-integrated PVs can be used as shingles, skylights, facades, and shading elements.

Atlantis Energy, Inc. (14790 Mosswood Lane, Grass Valley, CA 95945, 916-274-2743, 916-274-2564 fax) has contacted the Green Builder Program to inform us that they have established a plant in the United States to manufacture building-integrated PVs. The U.S. plant is using the technology and experience of five years of successful applications of its Swiss parent company, Atlantis Energy Ltd. The company has several U.S. projects in the works.

Building-integrated PVs is a major strategy for reducing the costs associated with PVs. For electricity users that pay demand charges, it can make cents sooner rather than later since PVs peak in output at the same time that demand for electricity peaks.

Events and Training Opportunities

Residential Green Builder Training

(Call or email Laurence Doxsey to register for residential training, 499-3504)

Thurs., April 11, 1996
6 p.m. - Green Builder Program Enrollment Seminar
7: 15 p.m.- Technical Seminar, Photovoltaics
John Hoffner, Austin Electric Utility
Waller Creek Plaza Assembly Room
625 E. 10th St.

Fri., June 21, 1996
Passive Solar Design Workshop
Leonard Bachman, AIA
Hornsby Bend Waste Treatment Plant Auditorium
2210 S. Farm Rd 973
9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Mechanical Systems and Code Training

(Call Doug Garrett to register, 499-3505)

Tues., April 16, 1996
New Contractor Orientation
206 East 9th, St., Ste 17.102
9 a.m.-Noon

Wed., April 17, 1996
Residential and Multi-Family Duct Construction and Inspection
Street and Bridge Auditorium
4411-A Meinardus Dr. (off E. St. Elmo, behind Wyndham South Park and Celebration Station) 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Thurs., April 18, 1996
MADAIR Training
206 E. 9th St., Ste. 17.102
9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tues., April 30-Wed., May 1, 1996
Ground Source Heat Pump Training and Certification (TACCA)
Four Points Sheraton, 7800 N. IH 35
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
(Call Nancy Jones to register, 288-8505)

Green Building Conference Coming in the Fall

The Austin Convention Center will be the site for the 1996 Green Building Conference, November 8 and 9. This year's conference is being coordinated by Nick Denner of Open Springs, Inc., and will feature a large exhibition of green building products and services. There will be two tracks of lectures - one track featuring exhibitors describing their offerings and the other featuring ideas, experiences, and inspiration in residential and commercial green building and sustainable development. A tour of local green building examples will occur on November 10.

The conference will be promoted primarily to the South Central United States, Mexico, and Central America. Internationally known speakers and regional case studies will be presented.

Look for more information about the upcoming conference in future newsletters. Call Nick at (512) 264-0004, fax 264-3444 if you would like more information.

Passive Solar Design Seminar

Leonard R. Bachman, AIA, is an expert on passive solar design. He has taught, researched, and presented nationally on approaches to passive solar design.

Bachman is professor at the University of Houston with the Environmental Control Systems Program. He is a certified instructor for the Passive Solar Industries Council's Passive Solar Guidelines and Design Calculation Methodology. A longtime activist and practitioner in passive solar design, Bachman will help you make your passive solar design affordable and effective.

ASTM Committee on Environmental Assessment to Meet in Austin

The American Society for the Testing of Materials, the preeminent standards association of the building industry, will convene the meeting of Committee E-50 on Environmental Assessment at the Omni Hotel, April 25-27. Committees will be developing guides and standards for issues such as coal ash, global sustainable development, environmental compliance auditing, wetlands, life cycle assessment, residential green building (design and existing), sustainably harvested wood, and environmentally preferable cleaners.

Green Builder Program staff members Susan Barnett and Laurence Doxsey are coordinating the committee developing a Commercial Green Building Specification Guide. It's heartening to see such activities occurring at such a respected institution. It's also fitting to have them visit the heart of green building activity in the nation for their important work.

Recycled Paint Available to Members

The City of Austin's Hazardous Home Chemical Collection Center has an abundance of its recycled latex primer. This product is available at no cost to Green Builder members. For more information, call Robby Hendrick at 326-5789.

High Quality US-Made Horizontal Washer Available in Austin

Conserving water and energy can be increased by using horizontal axis clothes washers instead of what is commonly used now—vertical axis washing machines. The conventional vertical axis clothes washer requires that clothes be submerged in water, meaning the entire tub is filled with 45 or more gallons of water per cycle. In a horizontal axis machine the water fills about one third of the tub and the clothes are immersed through a horizontal tumbling motion. Another positive feature of the horizontal axis machines is that the spin speeds are higher, meaning that the clothes will need less drying time.

Staber Industries of Groveport, Ohio, a mainstay in the U. S. commercial clothes washer market, has developed a residential horizontal axis machine that features heavy duty, easily serviced components, and the capability to load the clothes from the top. Top loading is a positive feature of vertical axis machines since it is easier on your back. The horizontal axis Staber System 2000 Series is similarly designed to be top loaded and includes all the environmental features of horizontal axis clothes washing.

If you are interested in a clothes washer that saves almost 60 percent on water and energy costs, makes clothes drier (and cleaner), requires minimal maintenance, and dramatically reduces the use of laundry additives (over 80 percent), check it out at McNair's Appliance on 6225 Burnet Road (454-4526).

The Healthy House Institute

Lynn Marie Bower has been ill with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) for over 15 years. Her illness was the result of a six-year remodeling project she and her husband John undertook, using typical construction and decorating materials. Instead of letting her illness get the best of her, she and her husband started the Healthy House Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. They publish books on building for a healthy indoor environment and provide telephone consultation for specific questions or problems.

Publications from the Healthy House Institute

Understanding Ventilation
by John Bower
How to design, select, and install residential ventilation systems.
432 pages, hardcover, $31.95

The Healthy Household
A Complete Guide for Creating a Healthy Indoor Environment
by Lynn Marie Bower
480 pages, paperback, $17.95

For phone consultations or to order books, call the Healthy House Institute, 430 Sewell Road, Bloomington, IN 47408, (812) 332-5073.

Reduce Your Operating Costs With The Waste Reduction Assistance Program

The Waste Reduction Assistance Program(WRAP) is available to Austin area businesses to assist with reducing their waste volume and toxicity, decreasing disposal costs, and conserving natural resources. Austin businesses can benefit from WRAP through dollar savings associated with waste disposal and regulatory compliance, identification of recyclable material markets, and assistance with technical issues and government regulations. Waste reduction measures can also increase efficiency and reduce operational costs.

In the first year of operation, this program has worked directly with over 80 Austin businesses and has assisted with measures that have saved over $205,000.

This program, the only one of its kind in Texas, is non-regulatory, voluntary, free of charge, and confidential, and works to develop a cooperative relationship with businesses.

For additional information, please contact Robert L. Fernandez, R.E.P., Manager of the Waste Reduction Assistance program, at 499-2737.

The Green Builder Newsletter is published six times a year by the City of Austin Green Builder Program, P.O. Box 1088, Austin, Texas 78767. Phone: (512) 499-3545, Fax: (512) 499-2859. Inquiries and articles are always welcome.

Editor: Jill Manlove Mayfield

Green Builder Staff
Doug Seiter--Manager
Susan Barnett
Laurence Doxsey
Doug Garrett
Perrie Hodge
Jill Mayfield
Pat Mazur
Mary McLeod

The City of Austin is committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This publication is available in alternative formats. Please call 499-2501 for information.

Planning, Environmental and Conservation Services Department
206 East 9th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

webmaster: Bill Christensen, InfiNet