A recent blog post in POLLUTION ENGINEERING inspired us to plot a path to LEED Platinum for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.
Editor Roy Bigham's piece was about new EPA clean air standards being considered for for wood stoves. We use a sawdust pellet stove in our office to demonstrate renewable energy. The U.S. Green Building Council considers the burning of sawdust a renewable energy source because sawdust would decay anyway and release its carbon. Since the production of lumber is considered a proper use of natural resources if it is a common species, its byproduct, sawdust, satisfies the renewable energy requirement for that credit.
Our green building consulting division, Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy, is working on LEED documentation for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. HVAC systems are particulary tough aspects in the quest for LEED Platinum certification. In this case, there is only a modest area available for solar panels, which may barely be able to power the AC system during the summer. The real problem was the boiler for the hot water heating system which is in the main floor. The solution is to use sawdust pellets for the heating system. By having the two systems, we will avoid having to install a costly ($30,000+) geothermal system which would require two separate systems, one for the hot water floor heating and one for the air conditioning system on the roof. The stove shown in the photo is in our LEED Platinum office. It's an EPA Certified sawdust pellet system that has very low emissions but still smells great. The combustion system is completely separate from the forced hot air system which heats the office.
Here's a preliminary scorecard on our path to achieve LEED Platinum. We may get four credits because we are using an existing home's shell and providing access to open space on the generous lot. It will be a sustainable site because it's entirely planted in native wildflowers and grasses which require no irrigation and doesn't use toxic pest control -- that should give us 24 credits.
A full 15 credits may be achieved by improving water efficiency with rainwater harvesting and high-efficiency toilets and faucet aerators. Low water-use clothing and dishwashers would be specified, as well.
The energy and atmosphere systems for the home built in 1956 will be hard to modify and improve. Air sealing, air-to-air heat exchangers and high-quality interior storm windows will barely bring the home up to conventional comfort levels. Using the renewable sawdust pellet stove and solar panels for electricity production will raise the credit count by 27.5.
Indoor environmental quality will be improved by extra outdoor air ventilation, better air filters, enhanced combustion air venting and the lack of a garage -- 18 credits could be achieved. Rounding out the project will be green cleaning and green building education programs at the home. An innovation in design point will be awarded because of the passive solar orientation popular with Wright's designs. The more than 450 square feet of windows are a signature feature as well, but more than five times as much as needed for passive solar heating systems. The lack of roof overhang is mitigated by external shading in the summer. This proposal totals 112.5 credits, LEED Platinum is achieved for projects over 90. Photo by Thomas R. Schiff.
So let's get back to Bigham. We disagree when he concludes, "These and many other changes are not driven by market pressures to improve anything. These are bureaucratic changes that the government tells us is better for us. Nobody in my circle of friends wants to be forced to spend up to $100K for their next car. My last purchase was around $18K."
U.S. citizens' tax dollars fund the EPA's work to develop air quality standards. I want to follow them for my and my neighbors' health. We paid $3500 for our EPA Certified sawdust pellet stove. You can get one like it in size at Walmart for $1500, which pollutes the atmosphere unnecessarily. We achieved LEED Platinum for $12 per square foot. We believe you can be environment-positive and economical by spending where it's needed and saving through reusing materials. My last car purchase was $7K 12-year-old Honda Insight. It gets 100 mpg once you learn how to drive efficiently. Now that's green, clean and inspiring!
If you liked this post, you may also like, "The Joys of a LEED Platinum Green Office and How You Can Achieve It."
For a no obligation green building consultation for your home or office please contact Chuck Lohre, LEED AP ID+C. He'll go over the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Reference Guide with you and offer helpful suggestions for Green Building Consultants, Architects, Interior Designers, Building Material Suppliers and Contractors. You can even borrow the Reference Guide if you like. Article from the Cincinnati Business Courier.