Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Architects & Climate Change

by Larry Strain

Climate change is happening. No help and a lot of hurt is coming from Washington. Architects are going to have step up our efforts. Buildings account for close to half of the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S.

So what can we do now?

Bishop O'Dowd Center for Environmental Studies

ZNE-verified: Center for Environmental Studies, Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland, CA

Reduce Operation Emissions
We can design and advocate that all new buildings be zero net carbon (ZNC) – super-efficient, all electric and powered by renewable energy. (Adding short term on-site battery storage also helps the grid stay off fossil fuels when the sun isn't shining.) If our buildings can't achieve ZNC, they can be ZNC ready, and can still be powered by 100% off-site renewable power, through programs like Community Choice Energy or PG&E's Solar Choice program.

Reduce Embodied Emissions
We can reduce the embodied carbon footprint of our buildings. Building a new home generates 30-50 tons of GHG emissions and larger commercial buildings generate a lot more – equal to more than 10 years of operating an efficient, code compliant building. When our new buildings are ZNE, embodied carbon accounts for all the emissions. We can reduce those emissions by 25-30% by just focusing on concrete and a few other materials. Higher reductions are possible when we pay attention to everything else, and use carbon sequestering materials. Building with materials that are made from atmospheric carbon – wood, straw, and, coming soon – concrete and even plastics – could transform our buildings into carbon sinks instead of carbon emitters.

Reuse & Upgrade Existing Buildings
We can design and advocate for reusing and upgrading existing buildings instead of building new ones, which saves carbon twice – reuse generates less carbon emissions than building a new building and upgrading reduces the operating emissions from existing buildings. (Operating existing buildings accounts for 95% of all building emissions). Most existing homes and a lot of commercial buildings could be retrofitted to be ZNC.

None of this is easy, but if we're serious about addressing climate change, it's what needs to be done.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Rebuild Green Expo

Santa Rosa Veterans Hall, 10 am-7 pm, Free

Presented by Rebuild Green North Bay Coalition  


Resilient, affordable, community-centered
GREEN rebuilding options for the North Bay

Home owners involved in rebuilding after the fires face thousands of decisions: design, builders, materials, budget, the list goes on and on. Many of those decisions offer a variety of green options, but it’s a challenge to know how to go about it.

Fortunately, Northern California is home to many of the world’s most experienced and knowledgeable green and sustainable building professionals, who have formed the Rebuild Green Coalition. The Coalition is hosting the Rebuild Green Expo on Friday, February 23, at the Santa Rosa Veterans’ Hall. Admission is free to the public, and promises to make the process of rebuilding green much easier.

“Mostly, it’s about showing people that green and sustainable approaches are not only viable and affordable, they are also healthier and offer better resilience for communities to survive disasters with less disruption,” says Steve Sheldon, architect and builder with Ibis Builds of Sebastopol who represents the US Green Building Council Redwood Empire, and one of the Expo organizers. “We’ll also be offering folks the chance to meet and speak to the experts about their own home designs while learning about all aspects of green building.”

The Expo will showcase information on fire-resistant materials and methods, rooftop solar and micro-grid systems, healthy homes and interiors, resilient communities, defensible and drought-resistant landscapes, zero-net energy, efficient home design, safe induction cooking, financing green building, accessory dwelling units, battery storage for homes, and much more. Professionals on hand will include architects, engineers, energy providers/consultants, landscape designers, contractors, and materials suppliers, to name a few.

Why green? A few benefits include:
  • Economic: energy, water, and other efficiencies don’t necessarily cost more, and yet most pay for themselves within a few years and offer significant savings in long-term operating costs. In addition, efficiencies in construction can actually reduce building costs, and incentives can often provide even more savings.(PG&E and Sonoma Clean Power are developing incentives for homeowners rebuilding after the fire, and will be sharing them at the EXPO.)
  • Health: homes designed to provide good indoor air quality and non-toxic materials are healthier for people and other living things.
  • Resiliency: making sustainable and renewable choicessuch as micro-grids, batteries, water reuse systems, and more — make neighborhoods and communities more likely to withstand fires, earthquakes, and other potential threats with less disruption and faster recovery.
  • Environment: making sustainable choices is good for the planet.

“The question really is ‘Why would anybody NOT choose green?’” Sheldon adds. “Who wouldn’t want a more efficient and healthier home? We aim to make it as easy as possible, and the group is ready do whatever we can to help folks who are facing the daunting challenges ahead. We are in it for the long haul. The Expo is only the beginning.”


For more information, visit


Presented by Rebuild Green North Bay Coalition
Contact: Oren Wool, Sustainable North Bay
(707) 636-4732