Danny Mueller, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Tucked away on a quiet country lane in Sebastopol, a construction crew is building a simple house with sturdy walls and large windows. The only unusual thing about the project is hidden inside the walls.
The house is being made with hempcrete, a non-load bearing material made of industrial hemp.
“I became familiar with hempcrete because I’m always looking to build in the ‘greenest,’ most sustainable way possible,” said Steve Sheldon, an architect, property developer and builder. “We’re always looking for materials that are rapidly renewable, and as carbon-neutral as possible.”
For more than four decades, Sheldon has designed homes and buildings with sustainable building materials and energy-efficient features. When a client expressed interest in building a “unique” accessory dwelling unit, Sheldon said his mind jumped to a newer version of one of the world’s oldest building materials.
Hempcrete is made by mixing the wood-like core of the hemp plant with hydraulic lime and water. The result is a sturdy, breathable building material with a lower carbon footprint than concrete and a host of other benefits.
At the construction site in Sebastopol, a work crew formed three blocks of hempcrete, each configured for a different purpose. The lightest block represents the material poured for the roof of this 1,000-square-foot house. Harder-packed hempcrete forms the walls and floor of the structure. Later, these walls will be coated with more lime to form a smooth surface.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/9204257-181/hemp-house-rises-in-rural
California became the first state in the nation to require homes built in 2020 and later be solar powered, following a vote by the Building Standards Commission.
The unanimous action on Wednesday finalizes a previous vote by the Energy Commission and fulfills a decade-old goal to make the state reliant on cleaner energy.
“These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said Kent Sasaki, a structural engineer and one of six building standards commissioners. “(It’s) the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.”
California moves to require solar panels on all new homes
While nobody spoke Wednesday in opposition, the commission received about 300 letters opposing the mandate because of the added cost, the Orange County Register reported.
Energy officials estimated the provisions will add $10,000 to the cost of building a single-family home — about $8,400 from adding solar and about $1,500 for making homes more energy-efficient. But those costs would be offset by lower utility bills over the 30-year lifespan of the solar panels, officials said.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9041250-181/california-first-state-to-mandate
Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Like many, Sarah and Bruce King watched in horror as the wildfires burned through the North Bay in October, leaving them to wonder how they might aid the recovery when the smoke cleared.
The San Rafael couple have backgrounds in sustainable construction through a two-decade-old nonprofit called Ecological Building Network, or EBNet. So they were uniquely positioned to make an immediate impact. In late October, along with green building consultant Ann Edminster of Pacifica and Sustainable North Bay executive director Oren Wool of Graton, the Kings hosted a small dinner at their home in late October and got to work.
The group formed a new organization, Rebuild Green Coalition, and decided to hold a one-day workshop in December, inviting others with expertise to the table. The idea was to brainstorm ideas for how Sonoma County and other affected areas could tap new technologies and modern home designs that reduce carbon footprint to help communities recover with greater post-fire resiliency.
“It’s one thing to build green, it’s another for how to actually do it,” said Sarah King. “With the wildland-urban interface, which is big up toward the hills, how do we make that more resistant? That’s the name of the game in a lot of areas, especially where the fires took place, and what happened here is equally applicable for Southern California.”
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7987771-181/green-rebuilding-group-to-host
Michael R. Blood & Judy Lin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gov. Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals, committing the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient in just 15 years.
Brown tried for an even stronger measure that also would have enforced a 50 percent drop in petroleum use by 2030, but was defeated by oil interests. He called that a short-term setback, and insisted that the world needs to wean itself off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
“What has been the source of our prosperity now becomes the source of our ultimate destruction, if we don’t get off it. And that is so difficult,” Brown said at a signing ceremony Wednesday at the hilltop Griffith Observatory, overlooking the haze of downtown Los Angeles.
California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and set a mandate in 2006 to derive a third of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2020. State regulators say they already hit 25 percent last year, as huge solar farms sprouted in the desert and towering windmills went up along mountain passes.
“It’s monumental,” said Alex Jackson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For an economy the size of California to commit to getting half of its power needs from renewable energy resources, I think, is a game-changer.”
Read more at: California wants renewable energy for half its power by 2030 | The State
Bill McKibben, THE NEW YORKER
“The utilities were always convinced that they could throttle down solar just by tuning down the rebate they were offering. What caught them off guard was when costs came down to the point where we didn’t need their rebate for solar to make sense. Suddenly, they couldn’t control the outcome anymore. And suddenly you didn’t see any more solar billboards, and suddenly they started taking a hostile approach.” Lyndon Rive, CEO of Solar City
Mark and Sara Borkowski live with their two young daughters in a century-old, fifteen-hundred-square-foot house in Rutland, Vermont. Mark drives a school bus, and Sara works as a special-ed teacher; the cost of heating and cooling their house through the year consumes a large fraction of their combined income. Last summer, however, persuaded by Green Mountain Power, the main electric utility in Vermont, the Borkowskis decided to give their home an energy makeover. In the course of several days, coördinated teams of contractors stuffed the house with new insulation, put in a heat pump for the hot water, and installed two air-source heat pumps to warm the home. They also switched all the light bulbs to L.E.D.s and put a small solar array on the slate roof of the garage.
The Borkowskis paid for the improvements, but the utility financed the charges through their electric bill, which fell the very first month. Before the makeover, from October of 2013 to January of 2014, the Borkowskis used thirty-four hundred and eleven kilowatt-hours of electricity and three hundred and twenty-five gallons of fuel oil. From October of 2014 to January of 2015, they used twenty-eight hundred and fifty-six kilowatt-hours of electricity and no oil at all. President Obama has announced that by 2025 he wants the United States to reduce its total carbon footprint by up to twenty-eight per cent of 2005 levels. The Borkowskis reduced the footprint of their house by eighty-eight per cent in a matter of days, and at no net cost.
Read more at: Solar Power for Everyone – The New Yorker
Hudson Sangree, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
A demonstration house unveiled in El Dorado Hills last week by national builder KB Home recycles drain water for toilets and landscaping and can power itself entirely with solar panels. Its innovative systems are compact and unobtrusive, and will likely come down in price, making them viable upgrades for new home buyers in coming years, company officials said.
“These are futuristic things, but they’re systems you can do today,” said Dan Bridleman, the company’s senior vice president for technology and sustainability. The features are still relatively expensive, but Bridleman said the cost will fall sufficiently over time so that homebuyers will see a built-in water recycling unit or a house that doesn’t need to draw power from the grid as a “good value proposition.”
KB’s 2,600-square-foot “Double ZeroHouse 3.0” is located in its Fiora subdivision in Blackstone, a 990-acre master planned community along Latrobe Road. Blackstone, like other communities in El Dorado Hills, uses recycled water produced by the area’s two wastewater treatment plants to water lawns.
Water recycling has been gaining momentum in California’s historic drought. Cities including Sacramento are planning to use more of it in coming years for landscape irrigation and to cool power stations. Most recycled water is produced by large municipal wastewater plants.
The Double ZeroHouse takes water recycling to the next level by providing on-site treatment in a system developed by an Australian-American venture called Nexus eWater. The system isn’t approved for household use yet, but company officials say they expect the state to certify it within the next year.
The system gathers gray water from showers, sinks and washing machines in an underground 80-gallon reservoir that looks like a black plastic barrel. Above ground, in a locker-size treatment unit, contaminants such as hair and lint are bubbled out with soap and air, said Tom Wood, Nexus eWater’s chief technology officer.
Read more via New El Dorado Hills house recycles wash water and makes its own energy – Real Estate – The Sacramento Bee. email@example.com
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Gov. Jerry Brown and Rep. Mike Thompson are involved in separate efforts to boost Sonoma County’s groundbreaking program to help residents pay for energy-saving improvements to their homes.
The highly touted program, which has funded more than $50 million worth of residential projects since it started in 2009, sustained a major setback in 2010 when federal housing officials said it jeopardized the nation’s major source of home mortgages.
While Thompson, D-St. Helena, is seeking to remove the federal roadblock, Brown and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer have created a $10 million fund aimed at offsetting the loan program’s potential impact on mortgages.
Thompson’s legislation went nowhere in 2010 and 2011, but may fare better this year with a new director, a former Democratic congressman from North Carolina, heading the federal agency that sets mortgage policy.
via Brown, Thompson step in to aid PACE loan program for homeowners | The Press Democrat.