Thinking Green: Free Solar Energy Calculator

We need to start thinking of new ways to produce electricity and heat for our homes and offices that are safe for our environment. Solar energy is clean energy that can be easily generated and help your buildings or homes become carbon neutral and self sufficient. It is a powerful source of energy. In fact, the sunlight that shines on the Earth in just one hour could meet world energy demand for an entire year! As designers, architects, contractors and homeowners we need to understand the options that are out there and the tools that are available to help us in our planning.

We can use solar power in two different ways: as a heat source, and as an energy source. People have used the sun as a heat source for thousands of years. Families in ancient Greece built their homes to get the most sunlight during the cold winter months.

You can use clean electricity from photovoltaic panels on your home or business to replace power produced by coal, oil, and nuclear power plants. A solar power system ties into your current utility connection, turning your electric meter backwards when the sun shines. Also, if your home or building produces more energy than you need, there are programs in place that you could sell that energy back to the grid and get money for it.

The process of converting this energy is called photovoltaics. If you have a solar-powered watch or calculator, you’re using photovoltaics!

There is a free program that can help you calculate the amount of energy production you can have for your project. It is Version 1 of the PVWattsTM. You will need the following information to calculate the amount of energy your proposed system can produce.

1. The size of the system
2. The angle of the array
3. The orientation of the array
4. The Cost of energy for the potential project

Version 1 of the PVWattsTM calculator allows users to select a photovoltaic (PV) system location from a defined list of options. For locations within the United States and its territories, users select a location from a map of 239 options. For international locations, users select a location from a drop-down menu of options. The calculator determines the energy production and cost savings of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) energy systems throughout the world. It allows homeowners, installers, manufacturers, and researchers to easily develop estimates of the performance of hypothetical PV installations.

For more information and access to PVWattsTM solar energy calculator go to or follow the Link on my links.

Thinking Green: Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge is attempting to raise the bar and define the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment, using a benchmark of what is currently possible and given the best knowledge available today.

Started by the Cascadia Building Counsel in 2006, it is comprised of 16 prerequisites and six areas of concentration. It takes LEED and pushes it to the next level. There are no points to be achieved just prerequisites.

The rules are simple:

1. There are no credits – just prerequisites.

2. There are 15 prerequisites; and all must be met to achieve Living Site and
Infrastructure status. Many of the prerequisites have “exceptions” that show up in
the footnotes and that are intended to acknowledge market realities. The standard
needs to be challenging – but not impossible to obtain. These exceptions are
temporary, and will be removed as the market evolves.

3. As with the Living Building Challenge, leadership in any category will be rewarded
by ‘Petal’ recognition. For example, a project that succeeds in Net-Zero Water and
Sustainable Water Discharge will earn the ‘Water Petal.’ All Petals must be earned
for a project to achieve Living Site and Infrastructure status.

Living Buildings have their own ‘utility,’ generating their own energy and processing their own waste. They more appropriately match scale to technology and end use, and result in greater self-sufficiency and security. Yet, the ideal scale for solutions is not always at the level of a single building. Depending on the
technology, the optimal scale can vary when considering environmental impact, first cost and operating costs. To address these realities, the Living Building Challenge has inserted the concept of Scale-Jumping to allow multiple buildings or projects to operate in a symbiotic state – sharing green infrastructure as appropriate and allowing for Living Building status to be achieved as elegantly and efficiently as possible.

For more information go to - or follow the link my links.

Design: SOLAR 2 - Green Energy, Arts and Education Center

Solar 2 is designed to achieve PLATINUM LEED* certification. It will be opening the fall of 2010 as New York City’s Green Energy, Arts and Education Center.

Solar 2 will generate more clean energy than it consumes and will be New York City’s first carbon-neutral building, using solar power and advanced mechanical systems to prevent the production and emission of carbon dioxide.

Some of the features that will make this building special include:

1. Recycled and renewable materials will be used in the building structure and interior furnishings.

2. A roof with photovoltaic panels will utilize the energy of the sun to generate even more electrical power than the building will require.

3. Geothermal wells will keep SOLAR 2 warm during the winter months using a technology that conducts heat from the Earth’s interior.

4. Green screens – exterior walls that provide a trellis-like structure for vegetation — will supply natural shading and filtered sunlight.

5. A living green roof will provide many benefits, including: reducing heating and cooling loads on the building; filtering carbon dioxide and other pollutants out of the air; combatting the urban heat effect, which makes cities measurably hotter than surrounding areas; and reducing stormwater runoff, helping to alleviate the load on New York City’s wastewater management system and thereby preventing the flow of raw sewage into our natural waterways.

6. The building’s efficient use of daylight and natural ventilation will save energy and money.

7. Rainwater collection will provide all non-potable water, conserving the municipal water supply.

Check out the website to see Floor plans, renderings and more information on this innovative and well designed building at

As Designers, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Developers, Corporations, Homeowners and Individuals this represents the type of space we should strive to create and live in for our future and for the future of our children.

Thinking Green – Material Reuse

As part of Thinking Green we need to start looking into reusing salvaged materials for our designs, building and homes. For example: In NY city alone 16,500 tons of building materials are thrown out every day. These materials are clogging our landfills, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and creating a need for more materials to be manufactured.

Build It Green! NYC is New York City's only non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials. Their warehouse has everything from panel doors to high end refrigerators and shutters to movie props. Their mission is to keep these materials out of the landfill, while offering deep discounts on their resale.

You can find great items here that have been taken from buildings that were about to be demolished or remodeled in NYC, as well as materials that were donated. This organization would be great to achieve LEED points for both MR Credit 3.1 & 2 – Material Reuse and MR Credit 2.1 & 2 – Construction Waste Management.

Buying Salvaged products not only saves the environment but is great for your pocketbook as well. You can also go and visit their 18,000 sq ft warehouse at 3-17 26th Ave in Astoria for great design ideas and solutions. Also check out their website at for great items and pricing.

Another note is that after operating expenses, all profits, from Build It Green! NYC, are used to augment the funding of Solar One. Solar One’s is an environmental educational organization that has programs - facilitating energy conservation, promoting renewable energy use, and educating the general public on ecological issues that will immensely benefit our communities, our city and our world.

Check out Solar One at their website:

LEED - 2009 Test and Accreditations

LEED AP exam and accreditation requirements are changing. Here is how:

You will only be able to register to take the current exam till March 31st,2009. That means you can register to take LEED NC, LEED CI and other tests till then, example, you can still take the original test in April if you are registered before March 31st 2009. Then the format and accreditations will change. Here is what this means:

As of April 2009, you will have to see what accreditation you want to achieve. Here is the brake down:

There are 3 Levels or Tiers of expertise to be achieved:

Tier I – LEED Green Associate: This would be a person that knows the basics of LEED information. Before the changes of 2009 - if you become a LEED AP, you can be a LEED AP on any project as all LEED exams and reference guides (example, NC, CI, EB, etc) have the same basic body of knowledge that is needed to be a LEED AP (SS,WE,EA,MR,EQ, & ID). So if you took LEED CI, you would be classified as an expert in NC as well, as no distinctions were made between tests taken after the test. Choosing to take this part only will let people know that you have general knowledge of sustainable design and environments.

On this level your exam will be 2.5 hours of computer based multiple choice questions.

NOTE: If you chose to go to Tier II, this test will be the first part of your test that is in 2 parts, see below for more information.

Tier II – LEED AP + Specialty Track: What this means is that a title will be given to LEED AP with the specialty test they are taking, here are the changes:
Example: LEED NC – Before when you took this test you became a LEED AP – Now when choosing to take this test you will become a LEED AP Building Design and Construction (BD&C) – The specialty track will be known.

Here are the tracks to date:

LEED EB – Changes to Operations and Maintenance (O&M)
LEED HOMES – changes to Residential Design and construction (HOMES)
LEED NC – changes to Building Design and Construction (BD&C)
LEED CI – changes to Interior Design and Construction (ID&C)

On this level exam you have 4 hours to take a 2 part test – first part is the same Tier I exam, the second part will be a specialty exam depending on the track you chose to follow. If you fail one part of the exam, you have one year to take it 3 times to pass – if you do not pass, then you will have to take both parts again.

Tier III – LEED AP Fellow: This would be the elite class of leading professionals that have years of experience and undergo peer review. The credentials for this level are still being developed.

*** If you are a LEED AP like me or will be taking the original version of the test to become a LEED AP - here is what you will need to know:

You will be known as “Legacy” LEED APs and beginning June 2009 you will have 2 years to choose to Opt In or Out. To Opt In - you will have to sign disciplinary policy and agree to credential maintenance. If you choose to Opt Out, you will be a LEED AP as inactive in the system till 2011 but after that you will have to retake the tests if you want to Opt In.

If you choose to Opt In – you will have to maintain credential requirements and get to use the LEED AP + Designation (Example – I took LEED NC – so I would be LEED AP BD&C) and be listed in the active registry.

If you are a LEED AP and took the test LEED NC but would also like to get an additional specialty, then you would only have to take that portion of the test.

If you want more information on this topic go to

Eco Product - Henna Baby

I tagged this site as part of my Eco Products for the great design and eco friendliness of it. The Artist is an Architect that is taking her creative eye and talent to create a great designed eco friendly product. Her designs are based on henna designs that she has been creating for over 15 years.

These eco friendly products are for babies and adults. The artist created all the designs and paints them all by hand; it makes all the pieces original works of art. All the onesies are made from high quality 100% organic cotton (SKAL certified) and dyed with non-toxic free dyes. All are painted with non toxic soft fabric paint.

Her motto is Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. So all the packaging has been reused or made from recycled materials to ease up on the environment.

These would be great gifts for new born babies, matching tops for little ones and parents / grandparents, and much more. Check out the website

Thinking Green – Pollution Prevention

Thinking green on how to best control soil erosion and storm water runoff at job sites, office building and in your own homes. Here is a great item that needs to be looked into.

Coir is a 100% organic fiber, from a renewable source…the coconut husk. Naturally resistant to rot, moulds and moisture, it needs no chemical treatment. Hard and strong, it can be spun and woven into matting. It also has the right strength and durability to protect the slopes from erosion, while allowing vegetation to flourish. It can dissipate the energy of flowing water and absorb the excess solar radiation. It is a great product for LEED NC – Sustainable Sites prerequisite 1.

Coir geotextiles provide good support on slopes for about 5 years. It is resistant to saline water. Its greatest advantage is that it provides an ecological niche for a rapid re-establishment of the vegetation cover. Coir resembles natural soil in its capacity to absorb solar radiation. This means that there is no risk of excessive heating as happens sometimes in the case of synthetics.

Coir geotextiles come in various forms like woven netting and meshes woven coir blankets, coir logs, coir rolls, coir pillows, coir mulch and coir mattes. It can be used in both commercial and residential applications.

Thinking Green: Paint

Thinking Green for your home, office or living space needs to start with looking into the health to your family, your workers and the environment. Here are some things you can think about moving forward.

Paint: According to the to the EPA, paint is considered to be one of the top 5 hazards to human health. Paints and finishes are among the leading causes. Paints and finishes release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. The source of these toxins is a variety of VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint.

New environmental regulations, and consumer demand, have led to the development of low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes. Most paint manufacturers now produce one or more non-VOC variety of paint. These new paints are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health.

Here are two types of paints that have I have tagged on my eco friendly links:

Myrthic ( ) their paints are VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) free and exceed the Green Seal GS-11 environmental criteria for coatings used in LEED- certified buildings. I like any company that tries to exceed the LEED standards as they are minimums that should be achieved.

Green Planet Paint ( their paints are fundamentally unique. While there are many zero VOC paints on the market today, Green Planet Paints® is the first to move beyond petroleum toward a truly sustainable paint based on plant resins and mineral pigments.

Here are other safe Paints that can be used from popular manufacturers recommended by the Green Seal website (

Benjamin Moore Benjamin Moore's EcoSpec Interior line (Latex Primer Sealer, Flat, Eggshell Enamel, and Semi-Gloss Enamel) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Color Wheel Paint & Coatings EnviroKote Interior Low Odor Acrylic Interior line (Primer, Flat, Eggshell, and Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Cloverdale Paint Horizon Interior line (Latex Primer, Flat, Eggshell, Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Dutch Boy Dutch Boy Clarity Interior Latex line (Primer Sealer, Flat Wall & Ceiling Paint, Satin Wall & Trim Enamel and Semi-Gloss Wall & Trim Enamel) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Frazee Paint EnviroKote Interior Low Odor Acrylic Interior line (Primer, Flat, Eggshell, and Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

General Paint EnviroKote Interior Low Odor Acrylic Interior line (Primer, Flat, Eggshell, and Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

MAB Paints Enviro-Pure Interior Latex Zero VOC line (Primer, Flat, Eggshell and Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Metro MetroPaint Interior/Exterior Low-Sheen Recycled Latex Paint GS-43 Recycled-Content Latex Paint

Miller Paint Co. Acro Pure Interior Acrylic line (Primer, Flat, Eggshell, Satin, and Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Olympic Paint and Stain Zero-VOC Olympic Premium Interior line (Flat, Flat Enamel, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss, Kitchen & Bath) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Parker Paint EnviroKote Interior Low Odor Acrylic Interior line (Primer, Flat, Eggshell, and Semi-Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. Pittsburgh Paints Pure Performance line (primer, flat, eggshell, semi-gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Rodda Paint Company Horizon Exterior line(Latex Primer, Flat, Velvet Flat, Satin, Lowgloss Enamel, and Semigloss Enamel) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Rust-Oleum Corporation Metalmax DTM Acrylic Urethane
S40 System Gloss Concrete Epoxy Floor Coating
S42 System Medium Build Satin Concrete Epoxy Floor Coating GS-11 Paints (1993)

Sico Inc. Crown Diamond Perfection line (Absolute Mat and Soft Gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Southern Diversified Products American Pride line (primer, flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, ceiling)
Mother's Touch line (flat, satin-eggshell, semi-gloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)

Visions Recycling Workhorse Interior (Latex Flat, Latex Eggshell, Latex Semi-Gloss)
Workhorse Exterior (Latex Flat, Latex Low Sheen) GS-43 Recycled-Content Latex Paint

YOLO Colorhouse Earth's Color Collection Interior line (Primer, Transitional Primer, Flat, Eggshell, Semigloss, Cabinet and Trim Paint), Earth's Color Collection Exterior line (Primer, Velvet Flat, Satin, Semigloss) GS-11 Paints (1993)