Last year, Jeff and Rachel Hohensee’s winter energy bill was $500.
This year, they don’t even have an energy bill. Jeff, a consultant on sustainable-living topics at Natural Capitalism Solutions, was feeling guilty about his energy-wasting home, so he and his wife set out on a two-year project that transformed it into a net-zero home–meaning it generates more energy than it uses.
They started with easy fixes like switching to CFL bulbs and low-flow showerheads, and getting an energy audit to see where air was leaking from their home. They used caulk and insulation foam to fill the leaky areas.
Eventually, they hired insulators to add materials to the home’s walls. Jeff says they took the process to a higher level by hiring someone from Standard Renewable Energy to follow the insulators with an infrared gun. The infrared photos would show areas where the initial insulation was too sparse, and more was added. Read more
Sometimes it seems like deep green building is for the wealthy. Even a “for the masses” house in a zero-energy neighborhood in Boulder clocks in at more than $1 million. But now, Boulder County is trying to bring green — and the resulting cut in energy bills and increase in comfort — to those with fewer resources.
Boulder County’s Housing Authority, which helps low-income familes, seniors and people with disabilities find a place to live, is going seriously green.
The county finished the Paradigm Pilot Project in October. The tiny, near zero-energy development is only three units, but it’s the template for a much larger plan: a 153-unit green neighborhood.
When the cranes showed up at the property on Avalon Avenue last summer in Lafayette, they wrenched 13 giant boxes off the back of five semi-trucks and stacked them like Lego blocks.
When the cranes left, the connected boxes — which were already fitted with wood floors, cabinets, countertops and porches — had become the modern-looking Paradigm Pilot Project, a near-zero-energy, low-income pair of buildings owned by Boulder County. The tiny project can only house three low-income families, but it’s just a test run for the much larger green-building aspirations held by the county’s housing authority. Read more
Realizing that that it would be nearly impossible for Boulder to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals without forcing landlords to make energy-efficiency upgrades to rental properties, the city is considering the best way to create such a mandate.
And Boulder is looking to other cities and towns for useful examples. Some are the usual suspects (Berkeley and Burlington), but others are not so often on the same wavelength as Boulder, including Houston and Palm Desert.
The ultimate goal is to force the upgrades — but to simultaneously create a program that would make it easy and cheap for landlords to comply.
Boulder is seeking a unique way of mending the debate between landlords and tenants on energy-efficiency — a single program for homeowners to meet proposed new standards.
The new energy-efficiency recommendations for rental housing have caused an uproar in Boulder, but there’s a second, private-sector arm to the city’s greenhouse gas reduction effort in residential spaces that has received less attention, and will ultimately help property owners meet whatever new standards come to pass. Read more
In the world of solar, it’s just not that sexy.
It doesn’t make electricity like photovoltaic panels. It doesn’t warm water like solar thermal. It can’t run a giant steam turbine like concentrating solar power.
It’s just a big metal wall that relies on a ridiculously simple principle to harness the sun’s warming rays, massively reducing the building’s heating bills. And it’s coming to Boulder.
You might ask, if this “solar wall” technology is so simple, why didn’t anyone think of it before? And you’d be right — because it was thought of before. Solar walls have been around since the early 1980s when the energy crises of the 70s spurred a first solar boom. But they fell out of favor when fossil fuels got cheap again.
But retro solar walls are cool again. And oddly, it may have taken Wal-Mart jumping on the solar wall bandwagon to resurrect the technology. The mega-retailer slapped solar walls on its new supercenter in Aurora a few years back, bringing attention to the elegant technology (which can pay for itself in half a dozen years without rebates, tax breaks or other incentives). Read more
Recently, we posted on a Boulder ballot issue over a loan that would help make the Boulder County jail more energy efficient. That got us thinking about other jails.
Here are a few other interesting jail-related green items from around the country:
At the Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Washington, inmates of the minimum-security facility, raise bees, grow organic tomatoes and lettuce, compost 100 percent of food waste and even recycle shoe scraps that are made into playground turf. The program was facilitated by the Sustainable Prisons Project.
If it’s yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down, but not very often Read more
This week in green Boulder events:
Green From the Ground Up, two-day workshop that focuses on holistic approach to green building, sponsored by Boulder Green Building Guild, city and county of Boulder, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Reynolds Branch of the Boulder Public Library, 3595 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder, $285-$325; 303-447-0901. Read more
Today the biggest part of my salad saga was not the salad I ate — Colorado pears, local greens, blue cheese with a Dijon-white wine vinaigrette. Rather, it was acquiring lumber to make three cold frames in the backyard. My summer procrastination meant that I didn’t get these built in time to plant some greens in July for winter-long eating. The stuff I’ll be putting outside now will mean that I’ll get a few leaves in the fall, but more in the very early spring. Although I like to believe that living in the moment is the best thing — so very intentional and all — I’m already wishing myself into the future to eat those greens. In the meantime, I’ll also be attempting to raise spring mix inside under the flourescent lights I generally use to start seeds of warm weather vegetables. Read more