Monday, January 18, 2010

Build Green

There are more reasons to build green than saving the environment - expanding our green technology will certainly boost the economy and provide much-needed jobs. Here's an interesting article we read last week:

Green Energy Opportunities Start with Smart Climate Policy
by Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council
January 15, 2010

Each new commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is yet another indicator that the clean energy market will explode.

The question is: how rapidly will this market grow in the United States?

I have seen promising signs here in America. Green jobs, for instance, are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. But there is another indicator as well: the enormous sense of possibility that is spreading across the country. Everywhere I go I meet people who want to design, invest in, or build the next wave of clean energy technology.

I have talked with researchers at MIT who are fired up to create the next generation of hybrid car batteries. I have met with green entrepreneurs in Ohio who are converting windshield factories to make solar panels. And I have heard from steel workers in Indiana who want to revive America’s industrial heartland by manufacturing wind turbines.

These people are doing what America has always done well: leveraged our ingenuity to become technological leaders.

But there is no guarantee that we will retain our leadership when it comes to clean energy. Germany and Spain have long been leaders in clean energy, but now China has created stringent fuel-efficiency rules for vehicles and strong renewable energy standards. It is also reportedly preparing plans to invest between $440 billion and $660 billion in the next 10 years on alternative energy development. India’s cabinet meanwhile, just approved a bold plan for generating 20,000 megawatts from solar energy by 2022.

America has yet to take similar action. We remain dependent on dirty fossil fuels that endanger our national security and escalate the costs of curbing global warming.

The best way to secure a place in the global clean energy market is through smart policies. We need government incentives to get technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace, and we need pollution-reduction targets to increase demand for cleaner options.

The most powerful tool we have for accomplishing this is a law that puts a price on global warming pollution and directs investment into clean energy alternatives. Such a law will give businesses an incentive to invest in things like hybrid technology and highly efficient heating and cooling equipment, and it will reward consumers for buying more efficient appliances and better insulated homes.

The businesses supplying these low-carbon solutions will experience dramatic growth. NRDC’s experts say that contractors who can successfully manage commercial-scale green-building projects have more work than they can handle. The same will soon be true for energy auditors, smart grid engineers, green architects, and hybrid battery designers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Interior Design: Lighting

One of the experts we recommend to our clients who are building a new home and need help selecting appropriate light fixtures for their home is Ellen Winkler, CEO and principal of Ellen’s Interiors on Main Street in New London, New Hampshire. Her 3000 square foot showroom features a lighting display, fine furnishings, kitchen & bath fixtures, granite & tile displays, area rugs, carpet samples, decorative accessories, and wall art. I had the opportunity to talk to Ellen recently to find out what her potential clients are concerned about the most in regard to designing the interior of their home.

Not surprisingly, one of the top concerns folks have about interior design is lighting. When clients bring up the subject of lighting, Ellen says she puts her clients at ease, explaining that lighting style and efficiency, as well as basic lighting elements are more easily addressed after each room is evaluated for its purpose and use.

Addressing lighting efficiency, Ellen helps clients decide how much light they actually need, rather than how much they think they need. “I talk about lighting elements and their uses in the home,” Ellen explains, “and we discuss ambient lighting for general indoor and outdoor activities, task lighting for specific areas such as under-counter kitchen lights, table lamps, or bathroom mirror lights, and accent lighting to showcase aesthetics such as sculpture and art.”

Our visual performance depends on the location of the light as well as quality and quantity. “An example of this is a client who has a specific sculpture they would like to showcase,” Ellen says. “We discuss the angle of the light as well as the type. For instance, placing the lighting unit above the sculpture will produce a lot of angles and shadow. Lighting placed below the sculpture will highlight the texture of the piece. We talk about their specific goals in displaying the sculpture and the results they would like to achieve to determine the location of the lighting units.”

For kitchen lighting, Ellen likes to use a rack system for under and display cabinet lighting applications, such as this Xenon fixture. The photo here demonstrates the system nicely. (photo courtesy WAC Lighting)

Ellen explains, “We like this low voltage system for several reasons: 1) The Xenon bulb has a rated life of 8,000 to 20,000 hours making it a good financial and long term choice; 2) The Xenon bulb is dimmable and is available in a variety of sizes for a variety of lighting needs; 3) The Xenon bulb does not emit much heat, and can be specified for use in compact designs, such as cabinet, soffit and cove lighting applications without maintaining a huge distance from combustible surfaces; and 4) Xenon bulbs emit a warm light, which is nice aesthetically and does not present health problems for people who are sensitive to florescent lighting.” The photo below shows the Xenon rack system under the cabinets (photo courtesy Ellen’s Interiors).

More light is not necessarily better, as some may think. “After identifying the ambient, task, and accent lighting areas, I create a lighting plan identifying the number of footcandles (a unit which measures the intensity of illumination) in each room. Hallways and other areas that require only ambient lighting can require only about 4-5 footcandles. On the other hand, areas where specific tasks are performed, say an office or bathroom vanity, may require 45 or more footcandles, depending on the intensity of the task.”

Concerns about lighting are minimized when you work with an architect and experienced interior designer.

Ellen’s Interiors, Inc.
12 Lovering Lane
New London NH 03257