News Room : Archives : June 2011


Posts Tagged ‘change’


Green Buildings are Hazardous to Your Health, Says Fox News

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

solar powered house

The buildings commonly referred to as “green” could actually be hazardous to your health, according to a new report.

That’s one of many warnings out of a new report from the Institute of Medicine, which tracked the potential impact of climate change on indoor environments.

The report cautions that climate change can negatively and directly affect indoor air quality in several ways. But the scientists behind the study warn that homeowners and businesses could also be making the problem worse by pursuing untested or risky energy-efficiency upgrades.

“Even with the best intentions, indoor environmental quality issues may emerge with interventions that have not been sufficiently well screened for their effects on occupant safety and health,” the report said.

To save costs and cut down on emissions, building owners typically find ways to seal off potential leaks and conserve energy. But in “weatherizing” the buildings, they also change the indoor environment.

By making buildings more airtight, building owners could increase “indoor-air contaminant concentrations and indoor-air humidity,” the report said. By adding insulation, they could trigger moisture problems. By making improvements to older homes, crews could stir up hazardous material ranging from asbestos to harmful caulking — though that problem is not unique to energy improvements.

The report did not dissuade homeowners and businesses from making the energy-efficiency upgrades. Rather, it called for a more comprehensive approach, urging organizations to track the side effects of various upgrades and minimize the “unexpected exposures and health risks” that can arise from new materials and weatherization techniques.

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Green Buildings are Hazardous to Your Health, Says Fox News

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Oryzatech: Strawbale Lego Blocks for Grown-ups

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Oryzatech straw building blocks photo

Strawbale Building is one of those endeavours that mostly flies below the radar. Although a proven construction method for more than 100 years, the mainstream building industry don’t really allow it to appear on their screen.That might be because it’s been hard to pigeonhole. After all, the raw material is scooped, as agricultural waste, right off a farmers field, instead of shipped out a factory door, complete with specification and safety data sheets. But that distinction might be about the change.

Oryzatech make their Stak Block from compressed rice straw, considered the world’s largest bio-waste crop. The interlocking blocks do look uncannily like Lego for giants. Each fire resistant block weighs about 13.5 kg (30 lbs) and contains 96% recycled content, as well as being rated to R50 for insulation*, which is claimed to be thrice that of a standard insulated stud wall.


Testing at California Polytechnic University found that Stak Blocks were not only highly insulative but also seismically strong: “better than wood framing and less brittle than concrete walls,” is how Oryzatech put it.

Being a waste agricultural product Oryzatech Stak Blocks are said to sequester carbon dioxide. The company don’t go into great detail about their manufacturing operation, but it is described as “a scalable, low energy-production process.” However a peek at one of their patent applications hints that straw stalks and an undisclosed binding agent are squished under pressure at temps of about 120 to 175 °C (250 to 350° F).


Elsewhere in the patent application Oryzatech allude to the reasons we cited above for strawbales glacially slow acceptance by the broader industry. “… in 2002 one million straw bales were used for building construction and the majority, if not all, of the straw bales were provided directly by independent farmers. As such, contractors have typically been required to adjust their building practices based upon the fluctuating size and quality of the bales produced by a particular farmer’s equipment and baling practices.”

Which leads on to this observation: “Accordingly, not only would it be attractive to provide a construction material effectively comprising recycled straw stalks that have little other practical use, but it would be especially desirable to provide such a material that will yield consistent and uniform characteristic.”

Aside from the hiccup that Oryzatech’s Stak Blocks are still in the developmental phase, and on the look out for new investors, we wonder if they couldn’t have engineered out the need to bolt the blocks to a building’s foundations with rather copious use of threaded metal rods? Kinda of cancels out all that wonderful carbon sequestration, if you also have to guzzle heaps of energy making steel rod.

But ignoring that caveat, Stak Blocks sound like a great idea, that just might have mainstream construction embracing the many benefits of building with straw.

::Oryzatech, although first spotted on Jetson Green who spied them at West Coast Green.

Oryzatech: Strawbale Lego Blocks for Grown-ups

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