Solar Lighting For Subdivisions – Earth-Friendly Ways To Make Your Community Beautiful

Solar lights solve many challenges for housing subdivisions. This article describes simple applications of solar technology that homeowners’ associations can use to cut costs, increase security, and improve the aesthetics of their community. These applications include:

  1. Solar sign lights for entrance signs and public buildings.
  2. Solar-powered security lights to automatically light common areas as people approach.
  3. Deck lights for use around pool, patio and tennis areas.
  4. Landscape lights to highlight garden features and pathways.

Generally, solar systems save money in both installation and operation. They don’t need expensive wiring for installation and there is no need to connect to your local electric utility. The sun charges them every evening, and will automatically turn them on each evening.

Solar Sign Lights Most subdivisions have signs at their entrances, but these signs are typically far from the homes and utility connections. Rather than dig trenches and run wires to distant signs, solar sign lighting provides a cost-effective solution. They turn on automatically each evening, eliminating the requirement for a lamp timer. Smaller solar spotlights can even be used to mark street intersections or common buildings.

Motion-Activated Security Lighting Solar-powered floodlights come with motion sensors that automatically turn the light on as someone approaches. This capability can be used to improve security in dark areas around the complex, including entryways and walkways.

Deck Lights Many housing developments include swimming pools, tennis courts and common decks as part of their amenities. Solar deck lighting can be used to highlight these areas at night. Placed around the perimeter of a deck or walkway, these lights help guide residents to their destination and create a more festive atmosphere.

Landscape Lighting A wide range of solar garden lights are available to highlight landscape features around common areas. Most useful are solar pathway lights, which consist of decorative independent lights that emit a soft glow. These typically include an embedded solar panel so no wiring is necessary. All that needs to be done is stick them in the ground.

Help your homeowners’ association create an earth-friendly, low-cost and pleasant environment with solar lighting!

Should the World Go Modular?

Modular buildings are built almost entirely in a factory and arrive at the site 90 – 95% complete. Framing, insulation, roofing, siding, doors, windows, electrical, plumbing, and interior finishes are completed in the secure environment of the factory. After which, the modules are shipped to the site where they are ready to be finished with interior amenities, appliances, paint, and carpet.

Key Advantages of Modular Construction?

Short Build Times

Typically, 50-60% less time is taken when compared to traditional methods.

Safer Construction

Modular construction has proven much safer than traditional constructional methods.

Environment Friendly

Efficient factory production techniques are less wasteful and installation is less disruptive.

Reduced Labor Requirement

The erection and finishing teams require fewer workers than traditional methods.

Flexibility

Modular construction can easily be disassembled and then get relocated for new use.

Adaptability

The buildings are designed to quickly add or remove modules suiting to the need of the client.

What types of modular construction are there?

They are of two types: Permanent construction and Relocatable construction. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Permanent Construction

This type of construction provides markets with the performance of conventional construction in roughly half the time. This construction has a life cycle expectancy identical to that of conventional construction. The design considerations for permanent construction is higher.

Relocatable Construction

It provides the market with instant relief for space needs as the project time for this type of construction is very less. The construction generally provides a life cycle of 1 – 7 years. This market is primarily driven by low-cost of production and speed of construction.

A report by a market research firm estimates a high growth rate for the global modular construction market.

The market is still in its early stages, particularly in the United States, despite having been in existence for at least 25 years. Countries, such as the United Kingdom and India, have shown a significant increase in modular construction. In India, the government plans to build 50 million homes and more than 90 smart cities by the year 2022. Certain cities, like Bengaluru, have already inculcated the modular construction in the residential and industrial sectors.

The main hurdles for modular construction market are increased costs in transportation and logistics. Studies have shown that shipping modules become cost prohibitive when they must travel more than 150 to 200 miles from the factory to site. The industry generally recognizes 125 miles as the maximum practical distance modules should need to travel from factory to site.

Green Living in Adobe House – The Benefits of Living in a Green Adobe House

On a visit to Tucson in 2003, an old high school friend of mine, Daniel Snyder of Westwind Solar Electric, introduced me to the designer and builder Tom Wuelpern.  As the award winning owner of Rammed Earth Development, Wuelpern has built many an adobe house in the Tucson area.

Wuelpern lives and works in the Barrio Santa Rosa district of central Tucson and the 800 block of Meyer Avenue has been a principle focus of his creativity.  Here he’s built homes that complement the vintage adobes of that historic district.  When he first arrived there wasn’t a single house left on that stretch of Meyer Avenue so Wuelpern had to live out of a trailer while building his first home.  He says the neighborhood was “a little rough” and that occasionally he’d sit out in front of the trailer “with a gun over my knees.”

Things have changed since those early days when people said that Wuelpern was crazy to build in a “slum.”  Now the original residents share the Barrio Santa Rosa with, artists, architects, symphony musicians, and many other creative types attracted by the rustic character of the adobe house.

Adobe construction was first brought to the southwest by the early Spanish settlers who were originally introduced to it by the Moors from North Africa.

One old adobe after another crowds the Barrio’s dusty avenues, many of them painted in vibrant colors which scintillate in the desert heat.  The Barrio Santa Rosa really has the feel of a traditional Mexican town.

I, being a “creative type”, was enchanted by all of this and when Wuelpern offered me the opportunity to have some input on the adobe house that he was about to build, I had to say “yes.”

And it has been a treat to get to know the pleasures of a small Green adobe house. 

The walls are 18 inches thick and the floor is poured concrete with a radiant heating system embedded in it.  I chose recycled blue jeans insulation which is as effective as fiberglass for temperature but even better for sound, and more green and ecological so that it will never present any hazard to the environment or to anyone’s health.

I get a snug feeling just thinking about my adobe abode.

The paint on the interior walls is uniquely appropriate because it is a non-toxic clay paint composed of earth pigments sourced from the desert landscape itself.  All other interior paints are Non-VOC, so they do not pollute the interior space of the house.  I am always struck by the yucky smell of toxic chemicals emanating from the paint, carpeting, and other components of newly built or remodeled conventional buildings.  It’s the first thing I notice and there is none of that in this Green Living, ecological, adobe house.

In addition to benefiting our health by not out gassing toxins the natural paint allows the thick adobe walls to breathe because it doesn’t form an impermeable skin between the interior air and the walls.  These walls can then act as a temperature and humidity reservoir for the house which stabilizes the in door climate through out the day.

Adobe is not a very efficient insulating material so an adobe house is not the best choice for regions with harsh winters but it is an excellent choice for the desert where it gets very hot during the day and can be very cold at night.  This is because adobe has a good “thermal mass,” which means that as the suns heat is absorbed by the exterior walls it gradually penetrates through the wall to warm the interior during the night.  By the next morning the cold night air has cooled the wall contributing, in turn, to cooler interior temperatures during the day. This allows me to cut back on the air conditioning and the heating. 

Since adobe is essentially an inert material, the “toxic” content of the structure is hugely reduced.  This makes adobe construction, when feasible, a very attractive Green Living alternative.  Adobe construction is a reasonable way to achieve sustainable living spaces appropriate for us and the environment.

This is a very comfortable Green Living and ecological adobe house.  It is a beautiful residence which places no demand or burden upon its occupants; it feels neutral and enriches the spirit with its light and benevolent character.

What Makes a Home Green?

Many are promoting green living. This is due to the destruction that Mother Nature is undergoing. We may not know it but simple activities at home can contribute to the deterioration of our environment. The movement to go green has been repeatedly promoted. But what makes a home green? And why is it important to support such movement?

A green home does not literally mean having green walls and gate. It simply means that your home was built using eco-friendly materials. The primary objective of building a green home is to uphold what is good for the environment by choosing the right materials and the right manner of home building.

This does not stop in the building of the property as it continues to the other items in the house. This continues to the choices of devices and appliances used by the property owners. So what else are the characteristics of a green home? First and foremost, a green home is a property that utilizes less energy. In addition to that, it also utilizes less water and natural resources and most importantly, it discharges fewer waste, making it a healthier place for its occupants.

How will you achieve a green home?

It is about time to have a green home, but how will you achieve that? Here are some ways to do that:

1. Replace your old appliances with a more eco-friendly devices. The old appliances use up more energy. If you change it with a more energy efficient device, you can save up more in your energy consumption. Such appliances include refrigerator and air conditioning unit.

2. Mind your heating and cooling expenses. This is normally among the biggest energy consumers. During the winter, heating expenses are high, while cooling expenses skyrocket during the summer. There are different ways to deal with this. One is to improve the insulation of your home. Attend to the drafts of your property as well.

3. You should also be mindful of your water consumption. There are simple ways to save water. You can use low-flow toilet, use glass when brushing and repair the leaks or drippings right away.

4. Use energy efficient light as well. In fact, you can also use devices that allow you to benefit from the natural light. You can also make adjustments in your window, to let the natural light in. Moreover, there are bulbs that produce brighter light while consuming less energy. These bulbs do not emit a lot of heat as well. They last longer too.

5. Make sure that you choose products that are environmentally friendly. Check the labels of the cleaners you pick. They may contain toxic materials that can put you at risk. Choose cleaners that are eco-friendly.

You can apply various ways to make your home greener. Other examples include planting trees and growing an organic garden. The use of organic product can also help you achieve a greener home. Although these are simple ways, it can greatly help improve the condition of our environment.

The 5 Basic Elements of Green Architecture

Sustainable architecture is the practice of designing buildings while taking into consideration sustainable development and environmental growth. It aims to minimize environmental impact of buildings through moderation in the utilization of energy and development space as well as building materials. To be able to strongly promote the practice, there are some basic elements to keep in mind:

Small space

More often than not, large houses consume a tremendous amount of energy. Aside from that, they also need a lot of building materials. To minimize wastefulness, smaller houses are now preferred as these facilitates energy conservation and reduces depletion of natural resources.

Solar energy

A solar-heated house makes it very comfortable to live in. A well-built passive solar energy should be able to provide enough sunlight into the rooms.

Water conservation

In making green buildings or green homes, the use of low water should be highly taken into consideration. Toilets, shower heads, faucet aerators and flow restrictors should be carefully chosen. Others even use drought-tolerant plants in order to minimize water usage.

Renewable energy

A good way to produce electricity while conserving fossil fuel is by making use of the natural powers of the wind, water and the sun.

Natural and local materials

Nature provides us a wide range of materials which we can use to make homes and buildings – mud plasters, lime, glass, bricks, tiles, bamboo, grasses, paper, reeds and natural fibers. Using local materials for construction minimizes transporting costs and hassles. You may also use plants to enhance natural ambiance in your living space. Aside from the ambiance, plants also release oxygen into the air.

These are some of the basic elements of green architecture. Considering green homes and green buildings will not only help you save the environment, it will also help you save on costs, in the long run. Thank you for taking the time to inform yourself about how to build a greener home.

Helpful Tips on Switching to Energy-Efficient Appliances for the Home

Nowadays, because green living is the in thing, you have to promote eco-friendly type of lifestyle. One great way to start with is by converting your old electronics into energy-saving gadgets. This is simply because it helps a lot in maximizing your budget when in terms of bill payments.

In addition to that, there are researches and reports that say when you use energy at home, this can cause more pollution that using the car. This is simply because plants that burn fossils can produce energy that you can use at hoe. Bear in mind that the air pollution can help worsen the global warming. The very effective way for every home to cut off air pollution is by using energy-saving appliances.

When you buy home appliances and other electronic gadgets, be sure that they have the Energy Star rating. If you see more star ratings, the higher energy-saving features it has. Thus, if you have plans of shopping for new appliances at home, consider some of these steps in looking for the right model.

You have to know your purpose for buying such device. Determine if you really need it and how much is your budget. From here, you can easily trim down your choices. Of course, you would pick those with energy-saving features. Having these features will justify your investment for such unit.

As soon as you have identified them, you can now determine the cost for maintaining the appliance. Sometimes the price can be cheaper but the cost for maintaining can go high. You also have to consider this aspect.

You can now do the canvass for possible brands. Go into every feature of the product. Compare the prices as well as the performance. You can try it so you will know its condition and how to use it. Ask the salesman to demonstrate and explain the features especially its energy-saving part. Remember that your goal is to buy energy-efficient unit so it should have this specification.

The last one would be to look into the yellow and black energy guide label. This will show you the amount of electricity to be consumed by the unit every year. Before you buy, be sure to compare the efficiency of the item and other brands. There are brands that offer cash discounts as additional marketing for their products.

Buying energy-saving appliances for your home is a form of investment. Although they come a bit pricey but you are assured of the long term benefits such as huge savings on electricity bill. Do not hesitate to shell out your money since you will be getting a lot of savings later on. So find a good brand of appliances that can help you save money and energy consumption.

What the Green Building Industry Can Learn From Motorola

Whether driven by a genuine desire to reduce their environmental footprint, or simply to insulate themselves against rising costs, energy efficiency is becoming a significant organizational goal for many companies around the country. In order to achieve these goals, businesses are looking for direction on how they can have their buildings’ designed and/or operated to consume as little energy as possible. Many have looked to the LEED Rating System to provide both the guidance for, and recognition of exceptional energy, water and material conservation. However, large barriers remain; the planning, modeling, implementation, measurement and documentation requirements of attaining a LEED designation can be daunting. Worse, many companies begin the process of having their building LEED certified, only to abandon the project due to lack of focus and uncertainty. While some companies are waiting for the streamlined documentation promised by LEED V4 (set to release in September), the real solution may be found in a more unlikely place – the Six Sigma Methodologies originally developed by Motorola in 1986.

Six Sigma Methodologies

Six Sigma is a business management strategy that seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, primarily statistical, to define a project and carry out a defined sequence of steps towards a quantified target (generally cost reduction or profit increase). These steps are known as DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. All this is done in an effort to operate at Six Sigma quality levels, in which only 3.4 outputs out of 1,000,000 are defective. In a time when New York’s Energy Benchmarking law found that the Chrysler Building, constructed in the 1930s, is more energy efficient than the newly constructed (and LEED Certified) 7 World Trade Center, a discipline that focuses on excellence in results might be exactly what the green building industry needs.

Although Six Sigma had been developed for manufacturing processes, the principles are highly compatible with sustainability initiatives, and specifically, the LEED rating system. Instead of cost reductions, a simple shift in the focus to the environmental performance requirements set by the various LEED Credits would offer a perfectly quantifiable target. In addition, the collaborative management model that includes key employees, independent subject-matter experts, suppliers, and customers lines up neatly with the commissioning requirements of LEED projects. While the LEED reference guides outline different responsibilities for the levels of hierarchy on a project, a true collaborative model must be thoroughly understood and internalized to truly be successful.

Surprising Compatibility

In fact, there is a surprising level of similarities between what the USGBC intended LEED to promote and what the Six Sigma methodologies actually uphold. In order to achieve points towards a LEED Certification, extensive measurements must be taken on a variety of different metrics. Moreover, while a project team may, for example, measure a building’s energy consumption for 1 year of post-construction occupancy to achieve the credit points, having a Six Sigma mindset would let project teams see the real value in measurement and continuous improvement.

Another example is the adjusted weights that the USGBC gives to the different credit categories of LEED. In an effort to convey that energy efficiency is more important to overall sustainability, there are significantly more points available in the Energy & Atmosphere credit category than the other credit categories. While most understand and agree that energy efficiency is indeed the most important factor in how sustainable a building is, it would be interesting to see what the point ratings would come out to if measured and analyzed through the Six Sigma processes.

The green building industry must also recognize another significant truth – that, despite the tremendous growth, there remains a large swath of construction companies and building owners that stay clear of LEED because they do not recognize an economic benefit. The rigorous and quantifiable analysis of the Six Sigma methodologies could help reveal the economic payback, and show the late adopters that it makes almost no economic sense to not invest in efficient and sustainable designs and operations. Instead of simply trusting the utility savings based on an energy model, becoming trained in the Six Sigma methodologies would allow everyone to understand what was measured, how it was measured and what the results of improvements will bear. All companies can benefit from applying the Six Sigma methodology to these sorts of challenges and will see definite financial benefits.

Shifting Perceptions

Finally, the change in attitude of managers and employees may be the biggest contribution to the green building industry that Six Sigma can offer. The USGBC hopes that mangers and owners of a LEED project are convinced that sustainable measures and tools are worthwhile. But now, they are convinced primarily by the tax and marketing benefits rather than a genuine understanding of the issues. This success is not possible without the right degree of skill gained through a Six Sigma Certification. Not only will they be able to eliminate the inefficiencies that lead to unsustainable practices, but they will also have the tools and data to better manage their energy use and get a clear view of ROI.

With more business models and government programs being created based on expected energy efficiency, it is time for the industry to align itself with an established system for achieving perfect results. This transition could simultaneously lead to broader appeal and more intense enthusiasm for the benefits of sustainability, both economic and environmental.

Have Bad Credit? How to Use FHA 203k to Purchase Distressed Real Estate

A hot topic here in Miami is distressed real estate. With all of the foreclosures and REO (real estate owned) properties on the market for sale, there are good deals to be had. The FHA 203k loan, sometimes called energy efficient mortgage or EEM for short, is a program that is available to help you purchase a distressed property and rehabilitate with energy-efficient “green” improvements.

It’s no secret that many of the foreclosures or REO properties have deferred maintenance. So it’s possible the electrical system does not work as it should, the hot water heater could leak, the air conditioner may need to be serviced or replaced with an energy efficient unit. Maybe the paint is dull and needs to be freshened up. All of these updates or repairs (and many more!) can be added into the cost of your mortgage, making your home more energy efficient and helping you to reduce your carbon footprint. Although there are tight lending guidelines that banks and lenders are required to follow, luckily enough there are still funds available to lend and bring these distressed properties back up to modern living standards with the FHA 203k loan. Even if you have less than perfect credit, FHA is on your side to help make your home ownership dream come true!

FHA loans are flexible when it comes to bad credit. If you have premature credit, FHA can approve a loan based on a single trade line and a single credit score, whereas conventional lending requires no less than two of the three credit scores. FHA is also great for first time home buyers who may have limited funds in the bank. The FHA 203k program allows buyers to put as little as 3.5 percent as a down payment (even though it’s a good idea to put down more). Another bonus of FHA is that you may still qualify whether or not you can demonstrate consistent work history over the previous two consecutive years. FHA loans are really forgiving.

Even prospective borrowers with more seriously damaged credit still have hope. Those with judgments, liens, collections, foreclosures or bankruptcies, who are interested in taking advantage of the distressed real estate market may still reach home ownership dreams. Here are some guidelines to follow:

–Collections – Not all collection accounts will be required to be paid prior to closing. Each collection trade line will be reviewed on a case-by-case base. If the collection still shows on your credit report, satisfaction might be requested in order to remove the negative trade lines prior to closing.

–Bankruptcy – Chapter 7 discharge of bankruptcy should be two of more years from loan application and show reestablished credit on all recent trade lines. Chapter 13 must show at least 1 year of payments to the courts after the restructure. No late payments are allowed since the bankruptcy started.

–Foreclosure – Foreclosures will not disqualify you from obtaining a FHA loan. However, buyers must typically wait a minimum of three years from the foreclosure date prior to purchasing (possibly less if you have extenuating circumstances and have established good credit).

–Liens – Federal liens are not eligible, such as a tax lien. Liens must be paid off or at minimum, a repayment plan must be established. Federal loans, such as student loans cannot be delinquent and must be brought current prior to application.

So, if you have been daydreaming about taking advantage of a good deal in the Miami real estate market, chances are that you might be in a better position than you think. You don’t need to be a bench warmer. You can play too!

The UK’s Green Real Estate

With worries about climate change on the rise, eco-friendly homes are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. The demand for environmentally sound housing is leading constructors to source innovative alternatives to traditional building materials, including straw and even grass!

Eco building consultants ‘Home grown Home’ have designed and built a cabin using bales of straw. Located in East Yorkshire, the Straw Bale cabin has been constructed using 96 full and 46 half bales of wheat straw sourced from local farms. The bales themselves bear the weight of the roof, removing the need for a timber frame. Aside from straw, other renewable materials used include sheep’s’ wool as wall insulation and paints and oils made from plant extracts. A range of recycled materials have also been put to good use including an old barn door for beams in the lounge, reclaimed railway sleepers and even pipes from the old milking parlor.

Cliveden Village in Taplow, Buckinghamshire is a development of properties built on a prestigious National Trust estate. All 134 houses and apartments have been designed to protect the environment and maintain high ecological standards. All properties have been built from rated materials such as FSC sourced timber and recycled materials from the original brown field site. Inside the homes, the use of PVC has been voided by choosing low volatile organic chemical fittings and finishes. Other eco-friendly features include solar hot water and mechanical heat recovery systems, as well as energy efficient lighting and insulation. Water use across the estate is reduced through the use of rainwater collection and low volume fittings on taps and toilets.

Dunescape is a three floor eco-property in Camber Sands, Rye. Built in 007, the environmentally-conscious house is let to visitors as a contemporary holiday home. A grass roof soaks up rainwater and solar power provides hot water in the summer. Geothermal heat from the ground insulates the house in the winter months, ensuring guests keep warm after bracing walks on the nearby beach. Finishing touches in the property include tables made from reclaimed timber, phosphate-free natural washing up liquid, vegan toiletries and organic cotton towels.

BedZED is a carbon neutral community in Sutton, South London. Completed in 2002, the housing development comprises a total of 99 homes each specifically designed to support a sustainable lifestyle. An innovative joint venture between the Peabody Trust and environmental charity arranging, the project has won a raft of awards for its cutting edge design and impressive environmental performance. Recent figures show that BedZED residents use an average of 81% less energy on heating and 8% less water than the local average.

Ecostessey Park is a development of 22 town houses on the banks of the river Tud in Norwich. Each property is built to a demanding ecological specification and is zero carbon rated. A number of environmentally-friendly features are included as standard in each home, such as photovoltaic solar panels which allow residents to sell energy back to the National Grid. Other energy efficient features include low energy lighting and a thermostatic bath to control water temperatures.

Green Architecture: Changing the Home Design Trends of Today

Whether you are considering a home renovation or exploring designs for a new house, one of the common suggestions that you will get both from architects and engineers is to make it adaptive and earth-friendly. For those who may not be too inclined on the technical details of home designs, “adaptive” and “earth-friendly” are just words, that also often appeal to be expensive and complicated to achieve.

However, with the ever changing trends in home designs, we need to start equipping ourselves with knowledge on economical yet safe home design choices. With this, we will try to look into the basic concepts of earth-friendly and adaptive homes – two concepts that are closely interrelated.

Earth-friendly Home Designs

These designs are born out of the campaigns of several countries for an environment-friendly lifestyle or sustainable living, which of course includes house designs. Along with this, professionals in home construction and design have also innovated their skill set to meeting these new standards.

When we speak of environment-friendly home designs, this has a lot to do with the materials used to build or renovate the house. For instance, some architects have been practicing the use of biodegradable materials in house interiors.

These design techniques closely resemble that of the ancient times, when majority of the house materials come from natural sources. Even the paint products for the house have to be eco-friendly, which is not only safer for the walls, but for the occupants’ health, as well.

Other strategies being applied by architects is the creation of outdoor rooms in the house.

This means using natural light and air to save on energy for the room. All these, along with eco-friendly household practices easily contribute to having an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

Adaptive Home Designs

This type of home design deals with two major things:

1) the ability of the house to adapt to the changing lifestyle of its residents, and 2) ability of the house to adapt and withstand the various environmental changes.

Also operating around the concept of sustainable living, these designs are meant to make the house last longer and the family living in it safer. Common feature of these homes are sturdy lumber and concrete, insulated panels, and dome-shaped ceilings. These type of house built has been proven to be more resistant to storms, tornadoes, and even earthquakes by the Wind Engineering Research Center. With natural calamities hitting the country almost every year, it pays to be keener in the construction materials used for your house.

When it comes to adaptive spaces for home, this is where secret rooms and sliding door comes in. This is also an innovative trend that architects and interior designers are looking into, in order to make a house with limited floor area still spacious enough for a growing family. Aside from choosing space-saver and multi-purpose furniture, it is also important to choose a house design that is easier to renovate in case the need for expansion arises. And this is exactly what your architect mean when they speak of adaptive home design.