News Room : Archives : July 2011

 

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EPA Won’t Expand Lead Paint Rule

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided against expanding its Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule to include dust wipe sampling and clearance testing requirements, the agency announced on July 15. The proposed expansion rule would have been a revision to the original LRRP rule that came into effect in 2008. Dealers, builders, and remodelers have attacked this proposal since it was introduced in May 2010. The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association(NLBMDA) led an especially vigorous campaign against the revision.

“This development is a major victory for NLBMDA, LBM dealers doing installed sales, and their remodeler customers,” said executive vice president Scott Lynch. “It will also save homeowners in pre-1978 homes from having to absorb even more unjustified costs associated with the lead rule.”

While the EPA has decided against promulgating dust wipe sampling and clearance testing requirements, the agency said it would revise other areas of the original rule. Some of the revisions include allowing paint chips to be sent to laboratories “certified” by the agency for lead testing instead of having to use a test kit. Also the EPA said it may propose minor changes to the training program accreditation application process and change minimal enforcement provisions for authorized state and tribal renovation programs.

While these changes may quiet some critics of the rule, the NLBMDA indicated that many dealers still feel the rule is too wide and too broad.

“The NLBMDA will continue to pursue efforts to reign in the expansion of the Lead Rule,” said Lynch.

The association is currently seeking restoration of an opt-out provision for customers when there are no children or pregnant women around. The association will also fight efforts to force the rule upon the renovation of commercial buildings.

On July 13, the NLBMDA commended legislators in the House of Representatives for voting to approve an amendment that prohibits the EPA from enforcing the LRRP rule until a reliable lead test is approved. The amendment was supported by the NLBMDA and was passed by the House Appropriations Committee as part of the 2012 budget for the EPA.

Read the original here:
EPA Won’t Expand Lead Paint Rule

Florida Supports Green Building Code

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

I was recently forwarded an interesting article written by Helen Mason regarding the International Green Construction Code.  She did such a good job reviewing the state of green codes that I wanted to make it available for download (PDF) to my readers and ask her a few follow up questions.  Enjoy!

Chris: I was fascinated to read in your article that many Florida groups and cities already have indicated support for the IGCC.  Do you anticipate jurisdictions in Florida will start adopting IGCC soon?

Helen: Yes, I do think the IGCC will be adopted by jurisdictions in Florida. The state has a long history of being a leader in promoting all areas of sustainability. In fact, the Florida legislature has mandated incremental increases in energy efficiency up to 50% by the 2019 Edition of the Florida Building Code and has required the use of the most current version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the foundation code. The IECC is also a fundamental component of the IGCC.

Further evidence that Florida residents are committed to sustainability is shown by the adoption of “ Miami 21 Code” in May of 2010 which requires new buildings greater than 50,000 sq. ft. to be certified “at a minimum” LEED Silver. In addition, the developer must post a performance bond of 2% to 4% of the cost of construction which “shall” be forfeited if the building does not meet LEED Silver within a year of the Certificate of Occupancy. How “soon” the IGCC would be adopted will likely be controlled by the statutory provision that Florida building codes are revised on a three year cycle, generally six months after publication of International Code Council revisions. This would mean that adoption of the IGCC would likely not occur until the 2013 Edition of Florida Building Code.

Chris: Some jurisdictions are adopting IGCC as a “voluntary” code.  What do you think of this development?

Helen: For many individuals, understanding and implementing the IGCC as a minimum standard will require a dramatic change in approach to their work. Therefore, I think it is reasonable for a jurisdiction to initially adopt the IGCC as a voluntary code to allow adequate time for parties to become educated and to discover any unique issues to a specific jurisdiction. However, the only way to achieve significant, predictable environmental benefits on a large scale is for jurisdictions to adopt the IGCC on a mandatory basis.

Chris: You raise a number of legal issues that may arise from the IGCC.  Which do you think is the most significant and why?

Helen: When one is asked what “legal” issues may arise, typically you would think who is going to sue whomever; but I think the most significant legal issue arising from the IGCC is that it imposes obligations on owners to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings. As part of our national security, particularly with the wide unrest in the Middle East, the U.S. must reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings which accounts for 72% of total electricity consumption.

These IGCC mandates for existing buildings can be a first, but important, step in achieving this goal. In addition, these obligations can produce significant public and economic benefits. Requiring periodic improvements will reduce the deterioration of existing building stock; maintain overall quality and value of all construction and thus help to preserve neighborhoods. The public will benefit by maintaining its tax base and having less strain on utility infrastructure. Finally, these provisions can help to create a stable construction job market to meet the retrofitting and compliance obligations of building owners.

Article by Chris Cheatham, of Green Building Law Update.
Florida Supports Green Building Code

Counting Down to Energy Star 3.0

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Green builders need to be thinking now about upcoming changes to the EPA’s Energy Star for Homes program, according to a speaker at the recent NAHB Green Building Conference in Salt Lake City.

Homes that earn the Energy Star designation after Jan. 1, 2012, will need to comply with Version 3.0 requirements, which are built on a three-pronged approach to energy efficiency that entails controlling air flow, thermal flow, and moisture flow. The new enhancements focus on more rigorous energy efficiency measures and enhanced inspection checklists, but Jake Titus, account manager for Fairfax, Va.-based ICF International, told the audience that the new version is about more than just efficiency.

“The EPA is trying to position Energy Star 3.0 not just as an energy efficiency label but as a label of quality construction,” he said. “From a consumer standpoint, a home that saves energy but has hot spots and cold spots and moldy walls is really not acceptable.”

The new measures include higher R-values for wall and ceiling insulation, lower U-values and SHGCs for windows, lower duct leakage rates, and a greater emphasis on water management. In all, the new standards will increase a home’s energy savings by 15% compared to the 2009 IECC and include additional measures that will typically make them 20% to 30% more efficient than standard new construction.

The changes will give more weight to the program, which has become commonplace in some markets where up to 50% of new homes are built to the standard. “It’s become less and less a mark of being on the leading edge of distinction,” Titus said.

Performance Path. Most of the changes are for builders who choose the performance path to certification, especially those who build large homes. To begin, participants must model the home using the Energy Star Reference Design specifications (formerly the Builder Option Package) to establish an Initial HERS Index Target Score. New for 2012, a Size Adjustment Factor (SAF) will be applied to the HERS target when a home exceeds the Benchmark Home Size, which is based on the number of bedrooms. For example, a three-bedroom, 2,400-square-foot home would require an SAF of 0.92.

This path will also provide users with flexibility to mix and match energy efficiency measures such as insulation levels or window efficiency, but with some limitations. For example, U-values and SHGCs must meet or exceed 2009 IECC requirements and ventilation must be in compliance with ASHRAE 62.2.

Version 3.0 also marks the first time the EPA will take into account on-site power generation such as solar or wind systems for performance path users to help meet a project’s HERS Target Index.

Prescriptive Path. The main change for prescriptive-path users will be using the new Energy Star Reference Design (formerly the Builder Option Package). No trade-offs are allowed when the prescriptive path is used.

Regardless of which path is chosen, all participants will deal with new and expanded checklists in 2012. These include:
–Thermal Enclosure System Rater Checklist (completed by the energy rater)
–HVAC System QI Contractor Checklist (completed by the HVAC contractor)
–HVAC System QI Rater Checklist (completed by the rater)
–Water Management System Builder Checklist (completed by the builder)

Titus offered the following tips to help building pros make the most of building a Version 3.0 house:
* Read the new guidelines and complete the EPA’s training early. Free, mandatory orientation for home builders is available online at www.energystar.gov/newhomespartners. New Energy Star builder partners must complete the short course in order to participate; current builders must complete it by Jan. 1, 2012.
* Check with subcontractors to make sure they are aware of new training requirements. Information for rater training can be found at www.resnet.us/energystar. HVAC contractor credentialing information is atwww.energystar.gov/newhomeshvac.
* To help ease into 2012 requirements, consider building a house to Version 2.5, a transitional specification that follows Version 3.0 requirements with some exceptions.
* Begin thinking about energy efficiency and quality control during the design phase. Architects and designers will need to play a bigger role in Version 3.0 than they have in past iterations.
* Work with all stakeholders–rater, architect, and subcontractors—early on to avoid costly mistakes in the field later. Consider hosting a kickoff meeting.
* Leverage the consumer-trusted Energy Star brand in marketing materials. Free EPA material is available atwww.energystar.gov/publications, and a marketing tool kit for builder partners can be found atwww.energystar.gov/mesa.
* Make sure your sales team understands the benefits of living in an Energy  Star 3.0 home and can explain them to customers.

In the current housing slump, builders can prosper by partnering with Energy Star, Titus concluded.

“It can help builders stand out from other builders and stop competing against existing homes—especially foreclosed ones,” he said, “and it provides a marketing platform that shows you are offering a recognized, trusted brand.”

Original Here:
Counting Down to Energy Star 3.0

House Committee Approves Green Building Bill

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

House Committee Approves Green Building Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee marked Earth Day last week by giving a green thumbs-up to legislation that seeks to make homes and other buildings more energy-efficient and affordable by providing sustainability incentives to lenders and financial institutions.

The bipartisan GREEN Act (Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods) now moves to the full House for a vote. This latest version of H.R. 2336, authored by Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Judy Biggert, incorporates consensus changes to earlier legislation that passed in the full House in 2008 as part of the Comprehensive Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act, as well as in 2009 as part of the American Clean Energy & Security Act (ACES).

The proposed legislation, which enjoys broad support from builders, developers, architects, real estate agents, businesses, and environmental groups, contains several provisions prompting the federal government to lead by example. It requires HUD to insure loans made by qualified lenders to finance the acquisition of renewable energy systems for use at residential properties. It also directs HUD to establish a four-year, 50,000-unit pilot program as a means of demonstrating to lenders that funding projects that adhere to higher energy-efficiency standards can be cost-effective.

In addition, the GREEN Act encourages the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to insure at least 50,000 energy-efficient mortgages by Dec. 31, 2012–the thought being that as FHA begins seeking these types of mortgages, a market will emerge among home builders, homeowners, and lenders seeking to acquire federal insurance on mortgage products.

If passed, H.R. 2336 will also award residential block grants for energy-efficient retrofits; channel resources through community groups to extend the availability of energy-efficient products for existing homes; and create partnerships to promote sustainable site planning, building orientation, and landscape architecture.

“The GREEN Act will forge a new path for achieving energy and cost savings in our nation’s buildings, homes, and offices,” said Biggert, who co-chairs the Congressional High-Performance Building Caucus. “It utilizes creative financing mechanisms, demonstrations, and incentives to promote the use of the latest in sustainable building designs and technologies. At the same time, it places a premium on energy-efficient construction and upgrades that will revitalize investment in the green jobs of tomorrow.”

How many green jobs? A report issued by the American Institute of Architects suggests that the legislation could create or save an estimated 140,000 building design and construction jobs each year.

“As the United States struggles with a sagging housing market and rising energy prices, now is the time to encourage investments that promote energy independence, grow the economy, and save American homeowners money,” said AIA President George H. Miller. “By including incentives for energy efficiency into lending and housing programs, the GREEN Act is the sort of innovative and common-sense approach we need to spark our economy while saving energy.”

Read more from the original source:
House Committee Approves Green Building Bill

Complaints about mold and bacteria in front-load washers

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

When you buy a new washing machine, you don’t expect it to stink up your house. But that seems to be a common problem for people who own high-efficiency front-loading washers.

Rae Lembersky of Seattle likes her front-loader. It saves water and electricity and gets the family’s clothes clean. But she hated the smell.

“Imagine that you’re in one of those movies where there’s a swamp monster and it’s that kind of swampy, musty, sort of yucky smell.”

Lembersky could see what was causing the stink. She found “black, gooey, slimy stuff” growing inside the rubber gasket which goes around the glass window on the washer door. That was quite a surprise because she regularly cleans the machine and runs loads with bleach and hot water.

“It just gives me the willies,” she says. “I don’t like the thought of mold in my washer.”

Desperate for relief, she hired technician Scott Wiseman to remove and replace the disgusting rubber gasket. Once he took the washer apart, Wiseman found mold inside the machine, too. The job cost $300.

“It’s a very common problem,” Wiseman tells me. “I get calls about this all the time.”

What’s going on here?
After a while, all washing machines can have some odor caused by mold, mildew or bacteria.  But the problem seems to be worse with front-loaders because they are designed differently from top-loaders.

Front-loaders are tightly sealed. Close the door after removing the laundry and any moisture inside the machine will be trapped inside. With a top-loader the water is more likely to evaporate.

Having the tub on its side, rather than up-and-down, can also create problems.

“Even after it spins everything out, there’s still going to be some water that ends up landing on the gasket. And water sitting on rubber is not a particularly good situation,” explains Consumer Reports deputy home editor Celia Kuperschmid Lehrman.

Consumer Reports subscribers from across the country have complained about smelly front-loaders. In fact, the editors have received so many complaints, they now warn about the problem when they review washers.

I contacted the appliance industry to find out what manufacturers think is causing the odor problem. In a statement, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers suggested one more contributing factor:

“Over time, changes have occurred in consumer laundry habits including the use of less bleach, more fabric softener, and more frequent cold water wash cycles. These habits may impact the accumulation of bio-film and other residues, increasing the potential odor, mold and mildew.”

When you buy a new washing machine, you don’t expect it to stink up your house. But that seems to be a common problem for people who own high-efficiency front-loading washers.

 Rae Lembersky of Seattle likes her front-loader. It saves water and electricity and gets the family’s clothes clean. But she hated the smell.

“Imagine that you’re in one of those movies where there’s a swamp monster and it’s that kind of swampy, musty, sort of yucky smell.”

Lembersky could see what was causing the stink. She found “black, gooey, slimy stuff” growing inside the rubber gasket which goes around the glass window on the washer door. That was quite a surprise because she regularly cleans the machine and runs loads with bleach and hot water.

“It just gives me the willies,” she says. “I don’t like the thought of mold in my washer.”

Desperate for relief, she hired technician Scott Wiseman to remove and replace the disgusting rubber gasket. Once he took the washer apart, Wiseman found mold inside the machine, too. The job cost $300.

“It’s a very common problem,” Wiseman tells me. “I get calls about this all the time.”

What’s going on here?
After a while, all washing machines can have some odor caused by mold, mildew or bacteria.  But the problem seems to be worse with front-loaders because they are designed differently from top-loaders.

Front-loaders are tightly sealed. Close the door after removing the laundry and any moisture inside the machine will be trapped inside. With a top-loader the water is more likely to evaporate.

Having the tub on its side, rather than up-and-down, can also create problems.

“Even after it spins everything out, there’s still going to be some water that ends up landing on the gasket. And water sitting on rubber is not a particularly good situation,” explains Consumer Reports deputy home editor Celia Kuperschmid Lehrman.

Consumer Reports subscribers from across the country have complained about smelly front-loaders. In fact, the editors have received so many complaints, they now warn about the problem when they review washers.

I contacted the appliance industry to find out what manufacturers think is causing the odor problem. In a statement, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers suggested one more contributing factor:

“Over time, changes have occurred in consumer laundry habits including the use of less bleach, more fabric softener, and more frequent cold water wash cycles. These habits may impact the accumulation of bio-film and other residues, increasing the potential odor, mold and mildew.”

Original post by Herb Weisbaum, MSNBC news

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