Tips For Buying an Eco-Friendly Home

Buying an eco-friendly home is not as difficult as you might think, and in the long run it can save you a lot of money, as well as having less of an impact on the environment. An eco-friendly home is one that is energy efficient and saves you money, but it also can mean it is a home made from recycled materials and one that makes much better use of space. When buying an eco-friendly home you will still need to consider the same things that you do when buying a normal home, such as going through the right channels to borrow money and paying additional fees like stamp duty and conveyancing fees.
Building methods
You can start thinking eco-friendly even before you start building the home. Choose an architect that is familiar with eco-friendly homes and have them design a home that is suitable for your block. Think about creating a home that takes up less land space, leaving as much room for trees and plants as possible. Leave room around the home for water tanks and a vegetable garden. Think about where on your block you build the home too. Make sure it is in a position so you can make use of natural light, and it is facing a direction so you get the warmth of the sun to increase the energy efficiency.
Building materials
You can even be eco-friendly with your choice of building materials. Any timber in your home should be recycled from other sources. You will find that you can buy bricks from homes that are being torn down. You could also choose to build with eco-friendly materials like mud or stones, or even build a straw bale home.
Energy efficient
One of the main purposes of your home is for it to be energy efficient. Make sure that it is well insulated so it stays warm in winter and cooler in summer. You can also put in double glazed windows and have solar panels installed so you rely on the sun to power your home. Solar power can also heat your water so you can save on gas as well as electricity. Solar panels are not as expensive as they used to be and many new homes that aren't eco-friendly are being built with solar panels to heat their water.
Appliances
Within your home you can be more eco-friendly by choosing the right appliances. When you buy a dishwasher, washing machine, fridge or even a clothes dryer you will see the energy rating listed on the item through a star rating system. The more stars an item has the more energy efficient it is. You can also buy dishwashers and washing machines that use less water. You can also be more energy efficient when lighting your home by choosing to use power saving light bulbs. Another way to be eco-friendly is to watch your energy consumption, so turn off lights in rooms that are not in use, switch appliances off at the wall and don't heat or cool rooms you are not using. Having blinds or curtains on your windows will help keep your house warm in winter and block out the heat in summer.
By the way, do you want to learn more about Real Estate? If so, I suggest you check Conveyancing and Conveyancing Fees.

How Technology Is Really Helping Us Become More Sustainable

I'm a technology lover like many people are. I love my smart phone and laptop and just about anything else that has technology and is useful. Everybody has that inner Geek in them to some level. You might have noticed that technology products have become more efficient in their energy use. Companies brag and advertise about how their product uses less energy and has a longer battery life because they are aware that consumers are looking for that, not necessarily because its "green", but because it makes sense financially and is more convenient to use. Who would want a product that uses more energy instead of one that uses less?
Solar panels area a great examples of how technology has helped us be more sustainable. With the improved technology and with the help of sustainable architects, they have been specified more frequently, have become more efficient, and have also become far cheaper than they used to be. Clear glass can even be used a solar panel with advances in technology. Some cars even have an optional solar panel on the roof that operates a fan when your car is parked in order to prevent it from getting too hot inside. Who wouldn't want that technology and convenience in their car?
One invention that Sustainable Architect is really impressed with is the BloomBox. We are in no way whatsoever affiliated with BloomBox or its manufacturer, however it is the product that we feel is closest to being ready for mass production. A fuel cell of this kind, which can be as small as a stack of DVD cases can actually power a whole house and keep it off of the grid, saving the homeowner money and also making them less dependent. When this becomes popular, it could actually be the end for coal-burning power plants, which pollute a tremendous amount. Energy could be provided to homes wherever they are located, independent of their proximity to the electricity grid. We believe that as products like these become more marketable, hundreds of similar products will be developed. This will increase availability, reduce the price and make society as a whole more sustainable. It will also create an incredible amount of job and financial opportunities.
At one point in time, people proclaimed that we would put a man on the moon and they were mocked and ridiculed. With a lot of technology and determination, it happened. If we can put a man on the moon, just imagine what we can do with technology? We can have all of the gadgets, convenience and comfort we want and be very sustainable.
Sustainable Architect is a public blog and source for Sustainable Architecture information created and maintained by Teche, an architecture firm based in San Diego.

Investing in Missouri Countryside

Either for residential purpose or hunting, ranching and recreation, countryside land in the state of Missouri is perceived by many as a worthwhile investment. Far from the city rush, you can enjoy a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere surrounded by scenic beauty.
Missouri is a gem of a state. Blessed by nature with mountains, dense forests, lush plains, rivers and abundant wildlife, the state of Missouri is situated in the Midwestern part of the United States. It shares its border with eight states including Iowa in the north, Arkansas in the south, Illinois in the east and Kansas in the west.
The state has some really beautiful places and living there is dreams come true for any nature lover. Either for residential purpose or hunting, ranching and recreation, rural land in Missouri is perceived by many as a worthwhile investment. And why not? For one, land for sale in Missouri is available at an affordable price. And being still undeveloped, the region presents a great potential for high returns in future.
What are the ideal places to invest in Missouri? In fact, there are several extracts of excellent rural land on sale in Missouri. Among others, Barnes Hollow which is an absolutely gorgeous place with an abundant natural beauty is highly sought after by a number of buyers. It has parks, conservation areas, rivers and lakes. Antler Ridge, located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, is another choice you have. Indian Creek and Whispering Oak Ranch beside others can offer you the opportunity to live a casual country lifestyle. If you love adventure and being closer to nature, you will enjoy what the mountains, dense forests and rolling plains of this region have to offer. It is perfect for your camping or hunting trip, hiking, horseback riding, and bird watching and biking. The beauty of this region is incomplete without its rivers, lakes and ponds. You can go for fishing, swimming, floating, rafting or canoeing.
Missouri offers one of the most captivating landscapes in the United States, enabling you to peacefully reside far from the busy streets and careless honking of vehicles, which is so inextricably associated with the city life. Anytime you wish, you can also go for recreation such as swimming, floating, rafting, camping, tubing and canoeing. You would get to enjoy a tranquil atmosphere that is just not possible in hectic city lifestyle. Offering splendid landscape and plentiful wild life, Missouri is a place tailored by nature for fun-filled outdoor activities.
When looking for country land in Missouri, take into account what exactly you expect from it. If you want to use the land for raising livestock, you can purchase grasslands with a water source. For using the property for hunting, buying forest land will be better. The level of accessibility to the land must also be taken into account. Also consider the services available in the region such as availability of electricity, water supply and road access.
Whether you want to build a beautiful house to complement the scenic beauty of the surrounding and settle down permanently, spend a month long holiday or you are looking for investment opportunity in country land, Missouri is the perfect place. Identify the best land for sale in Missouri to fulfill your dream.
The author of this article is associated with Classic Country Land, a real estate company that offers mountain land for sale on affordable rates

LED Lighting Tax Aspects of Furniture Chains

The 2008 collapse of the U.S. housing market had a particularly damaging effect on the domestic furniture industry. A virtual freeze on new and existing home purchases resulted in a drastic decline in sales for furniture chains who, prior to the collapse, dominated the industry primarily by selling foreign-made furniture. The furniture industry has largely evolved into an import model where huge warehouses store the furniture that is then sold in retail show rooms. Some major brands use large, warehouse-like structures as their retail facilities. As the economy continues to improve, these companies will be able to realize significant energy cost savings and very large EPAct tax deductions by installing LED lighting in their showrooms along with energy-efficient lighting and heaters in their distribution centers.
Large store showrooms looking to showcase their furniture can use LED's for focused lighting, while huge warehouses that hold the furniture before it reaches retail storefronts can realize tremendous operating cost reductions by installing LED's or other energy-efficient lighting. While each of these building types involves a distinct planning process with different tax implications, LED lighting can drive large tax deductions for all furniture chain facilities.
The Section 179D EPAct Tax Opportunities
Pursuant to Energy Policy Act (EPAct) Section 179D, furniture chains making qualifying energy-reducing investments in their new or existing locations can get immediate tax deductions of up to $1.80 per square foot.
If the building project doesn't qualify for the largest EPAct $1.80 per square foot immediate tax deduction, there are tax deductions of up to $0.60 per square foot for the three major building subsystems: lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), and the building envelope. The building envelope is every item on the building's exterior perimeter that touches the outside world including roof, walls, insulation, doors, windows and foundation.
Alternative Energy Tax Credits and Grants
Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, there are multiple 30% or 10% tax credits available for a variety of alternative energy measures with varying credit termination dates. For example, the 30% solar tax credit and the 10% geothermal heat pump tax credit expire January 1, 2017.
All alternative measures that are eligible for the 30% and 10% tax credits are also eligible for equal cash grants for the three years staring January 1, 2009 and ending December 31, 2011.
Unique 2011 Opportunity: Enhanced Bonus Tax Depreciation
Solar P.V. and geothermal systems are ordinarily eligible for 5-year MACRS depreciation, but building owners who install these systems after September 8, 2010 through December 31, 2011 can take 100% depreciation tax bonus immediately. Even if building owners miss this 2011 window, they can enjoy a 50% tax depreciation bonus on equipment placed in service from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.
The Tax Planning Implications for Furniture Chains
Showrooms and EPAct 179D
LED lighting is excellent for presenting furniture because it provides a high-powered, focused beam ideally suited for showroom floors. The shopper is naturally drawn to the furniture because of the LED's spotlighting effect. For this reason, the Ashley Furniture showroom in Boca Raton, Florida has opened one of the first furniture stores seeking LEED certification for its inclusion of, among other things, LED lighting. Since this store is nearly 100,000 sq. ft. large, it will be eligible for up to $60,000 in tax deductions for lighting alone, and potentially greater EPAct deductions for qualifying HVAC equipment and building envelope measures. Indeed, as part of its plan to seek LEED certification, Ashley installed high-performing, low-emitting glass with automatic shades that conserve energy and rooftop solar tubes at its Boca site. A qualified professional can convert Ashley's required LEED energy model into an EPAct tax model.
Warehouse Lighting and EPAct 179D
Building lighting comprises a large part of furniture warehouse energy use. Most warehouses that have not had a lighting upgrade to energy-efficient lighting in the last 7 or 8 years use earlier generation metal halide or T-12 fluorescent lighting. It is important to realize that effective January 1, 2009, most probe-start metal halide lighting may no longer be manufactured or imported into the United States and, effective July 1, 2010, most T-12 lighting may no longer be manufactured or imported into the United States. This means that warehouses that still have older lighting technology will soon be, or already are, subject to large price increases for replacement lamps and bulbs.
This earlier generation T-12 and metal halide lighting is energy-inefficient compared to today's T-8 and T-5 lighting, and a lighting retrofit can easily cut lighting electricity costs by 40 to 60 percent. In addition to large energy cost reductions from upgrading basic building lighting, most warehouses undergoing lighting retrofits install sensors that completely shut off lighting in portions of the warehouse that are not in use. Previously, many warehouse owners and lighting specialists were reluctant to install sensors because they reduced fluorescent lamp useful life. Today, with improved technology, sensors are available with warranties that protect against reduction in lamp useful life. In the furniture warehouse business, sensors will prove particularly useful because warehouses only need intermittent illumination. Combined with flourescent, induction or, increasingly, LED lighting, sensors are a vital consideration to any furniture warehouse operator.
Warehouse Heating and EPAct 179D
New, improved commercial heating systems can give energy cost savings of 8 percent or more over the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 2001 building code standards. There are multiple heater technologies suitable for the furniture warehouse market, including Cambridge direct fired gas heaters, unit heaters, and infrared (e.g. radiant) heaters. If it can be done, the warehouse heater could mount on an exterior wall to optimize the roof top space for a solar P.V. roof top system.
Typical Large Furniture Warehouses Obtain Large Tax Deductions
Many large warehouses have made the investments necessary to get the full $1.80 per square foot EPAct tax deduction. Since the EPAct tax deductions relate to square footage, a 500,000 square foot furniture warehouse can secure a $900,000 EPAct tax deduction.
IKEA's Pioneering Solar Projects
IKEA uses large integrated warehouse/retail facilities to directly sell furniture. The Swedish company has recently announced that it will install solar P.V. in some of its stores in Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. By taking advantage of its enormous, flat rooftops on its facilities, IKEA will be able to generate enough kilowatt-hours to power its own stores' lighting and HVAC needs with energy left over to sell to utilities. Further, they are making the ideal use of their solar investment by installing highly energy-efficient geothermal heating systems and LED lighting. Geothermal typically generates large EPAct 179D tax deductions, especially when coupled with LED lighting. As noted above, the geothermal system will also be eligible for a 10% tax credit or grant and very favorable tax deprecation.
The New York Market
New York City has experienced a quicker economic recovery than the rest of the country, and furniture chains are acting now to try to capitalize on the city's momentum. Cleveland-based Arhaus Furniture; Nadeau Corp., a West Coast-based seller of eclectic furnishings; and discounter Home Goods, a division within TJX, are all newcomers to the NYC scene and each is hoping to take advantage of the heightened demand than has often forced homeowners and renters into the suburbs to shop for their furniture. With the opening of 20,000 to 40,000 square foot retail centers, these companies have the opportunity to use LED lighting, and, in some locations, solar P.V., in their building design to drive down their operating expenses while utilizing large tax incentives.
Furniture Warehouse Tax Incentivized Energy-Efficient Design Process Steps
1. Assemble team including warehouse experts for EPAct tax incentives, utility rebates, lighting, heater, building envelope and solar energy.
2. See if roof is compatible for solar and heater. Obtain proposals for installations of solar installations and any other needed roof/insulation projects and any other needed roof/insulation projects.
3. Obtain lighting design that replaces all inefficient lighting. Compare and contrast costs of fluorescent, induction and LED lighting alternatives.
4. Obtain Cambridge heater or alternative heater proposals, taking into account possible roof designs.
5. Determine utility rebate based on all proposed separate and joined energy-efficient measures. Efficient lighting will cut electric use. Roof, insulation and heater will cut "therms."
6. Determine tax incentives including EPAct Section 179D tax deduction benefit and solar credit tax deductions. EPAct is based on total project square footage, including mezzanines and pick and pack modules. The 30-percent solar tax credit is based on the total solar material and installation costs.
7. Prepare project proposal detailing project costs, energy savings, utility rebates and tax incentives.
8. Get project approved by building owner.
9. Hire contractors and execute project.
10. Have EPAct tax expert prepare model and tax documentation using IRS approved software.
11. Process utility rebates.
12. Reduce federal and state estimated tax payments to account for expected large EPAct tax deductions and credits.
13. Celebrate tax-enhanced energy-efficient warehouse achievement
Conclusion
U.S. furniture industry supply chain structures are ideally situated for LED lighting particularly in showrooms and integrated warehouse show rooms. Since EPAct tax savings relates to square footage, the industry's large facilities drive large tax deductions. The required warehouses are typically large, flat roof structures that are ideal for solar P.V. Achieving energy reduction enhanced with tax savings will help this very competitive industry accelerate its recovery concurrently with overall economic recovery.

Irrigation Audits - Fact Based Irrigation Management

Properly done irrigation audits (in accordance with standards recommended by the Irrigation Association) collect a wide variety of data about an irrigation system. While all of this data provide insight on the status of an irrigation system, there are two measurements or calculations of especially high importance in an irrigation audit. Each of these calculations are determined at an irrigation valve or station level and are based on the amount of water collected in each catch can.
One of these measurements in an irrigation audit is distribution uniformity or DU. In simple terms, DU is just a value that indicates how evenly or unevenly water is applied to the landscape. Unevenly distributed water results in either wet spots or dry spots. However, this is not always visually obvious so the DU is the means by which this problem can be discovered.
The second of these irrigation audit measurements is precipitation rate. This value measures the amount of water applied per unit of time and it is usually calculated in inches per hour or centimeters per hour. As mentioned in an earlier article, it is crucial that the dimensions of the catch cans are the same. This will ensure that a good, solid precipitation rate can be determined. While a given station will have a few dozen catch cans, the precipitation rate calculated is essentially the average precipitation rate for the entire station.
The importance of the precipitation rate in an irrigation audit is in how the precipitation rate compares to the type of soil that water is absorbed into. How quickly water is absorbed into the ground depends on the type of soil. Some soils readily take in water while other types absorb water far more slowly.
Once the precipitation rate is calculated for a particular station and the type of soil is known for that same station, the irrigation audit will inform the interested parties how that particular station irrigation should be set up so that water is applied in a manner that allows it absorb into the soil. Not knowing this could result in a station running water too long for the soil to take in and water simply puddling or running off on the surface. That is wasted water.
Conversely, some soils require a longer sustained application of water in order to sufficiently penetrate the soil surface and reach the root zone of the grass or shrubs. Not doing so is another, but less obvious, way water is wasted. Water is applied but instead of running off it enters the soil but that is it. It does not reach the ultimate goal of the plant roots.
An irrigation audit tries to remove as much subjectivity and guesswork as possible in scheduling an irrigation system. Guessing is the common way that irrigation schedules are typically set up. However, a well done irrigation audit provides an opportunity for facts to dictate an irrigation schedule instead of vague rules of thumb.
Beighley Associates has provided expert landscape design services for over 30 years. With licenses in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, Beighley Associates serves residential, commercial and governmental clients throughout the Pacific Northwest. Find out how to contact BAI with your landscape design needs that a longtime Portland landscape architect like BAI can meet and exceed.

Why Choose an Eco-Building?

An Eco-building is a building which has been designed to minimise its impact on the environment. This can be achieved in many ways;
Sustainability of the materials it is constructed fromEnergy EfficiencyImpact on the environment in the event of demolition of the building
Sustainability of Materials
An eco-building should be constructed from materials which are demonstrably responsibly sourced and, if possible, renewable. So we need to think about where the materials have come from and if they can be replaced.
Certain materials traditionally used, such as stone are clearly naturally occurring - but not immediately renewable - and have an obvious impact on the environment when extracted.
Bricks are made from naturally occurring clay, but again have an obvious impact during extraction of the clay and a less widely known impact through the bi-product of fluorine which is a highly reactive element that is dangerous to humans.
Many options- but the only truly sustainable, renewable and natural construction material is timber. Timber has been used in construction for centuries and ancient timber buildings can be found throughout the world: particularly in Scandinavian countries.
By using timber in your green building, not just in the frame of the building, but for the internal and external walls as well you can be confident in a truly sustainable building envelope.
Look for FSC and PEFC certification to confirm sustainable sourcing.
Energy Efficiency
As the cost of energy increases and potential for shortages in the future grows, an eco-building will ensure that energy use is minimised in order to reduce ongoing costs and, if possible, dependency.
High levels of insulation are a must: the "U" values of your new building should be checked to ensure that lost energy is being minimised. The "U" values will often be shown against different elements of the building such as windows, flooring cassette or walls. Make sure that there are no weak spots. If you have selected a wooden building such as MPL (Machine Profile Log) then low "U" values such as 0.16W/m²K for the roof and windows potentially as low as 1.0W/m²K will be an obvious attraction.
Good natural light has multiple benefits: financially it will help reduce energy bills, however, more important are the personal benefits as sunlight not only improves mood but general health and well-being and is even proven to kill germs within the furniture and building. Your eco-building should give opportunities for sun-tubes and roof lights to help increase the natural light especially in corridors.
Ventilation is also an important consideration in your new eco-building. Avoid expensive cooling systems and ensure that there is adequate passive ventilation. Such simple options as opening windows and electronically operated roof lights can help to ensure that there is good air-flow. Make a good choice of sustainable materials ie timber log walling: wood is able to better regulate humidity than artificial materials and does not retain any electro-static charge. This is of benefit in particular to allergy sufferers which account for approximately 1:4 of the population.
Don't forget - insulation works both ways keeping summer heat out as well as winter heat in!
Impact on the environment after demolition
Depending on the choice of sustainable building the lifespan will vary. An MPL wooden building will typically last well in excess of 80 years. The larch cladding alone will last 60 - 80 years without treatment. Eventually, almost all buildings come to an end of their natural life, whether through degradation of materials of advances in construction and design making them obsolete. You need to make sure that your new eco-building will not be a burden to the next generation.
Check to see that the materials offer a sensible option for re-cycling. Brick and block can be crushed for hardcore on other building projects - but this tends to only happen on larger sites, otherwise it is potential landfill as it is expensive to transport. Steel and glass can be re-cycled and re-made but it is likely to be only a small element of the construction. Plaster from demolition almost always ends up in landfill. Timber is 100% recyclable and at the very least will always be in demand for fuel: which is a growing market and certain to be required even when the building itself is no longer.
When looking for an eco-building, look for a timber building. Timber is the only natural construction product which is traditional, sustainable and renewable. An MPL timber buildings from Cabinco are energy efficient, ecological and economic.

Sustainable Building for Education

Sustainable building is now high on the agenda. There is currently social, political, and legislative pressure to ensure that any new school buildings are seen as "sustainable". This is a part of your drive to be an Eco-School. This includes any shelters and gazebos, as well as new classrooms.
With so much to think about whilst primarily focused on budget and deadlines, how can you ensure that your school building is truly sustainable, and causes minimum impact on the environment through manufacture, construction, life span; and, at the very end of its life, demolition. Our recommendation would be to choose timber for sustainability, and off-site manufacture for budget and speed of delivery.
Timber is the planet's only natural, renewable, recyclable construction material: it has been used in construction for many thousands of years. Now with FSC or PEFC certification you can be confident in its sourcing as well.
In order to keep the focus on the budget at the same time as sustainability, we would suggest you look at off-site manufacture: buildings which are factory prepared prior to delivery to site, and consequently provide large savings on construction costs through reduced build periods and site disruption: systems such as Cabinco's MPL shell buildings. The logs are precision factory engineered and then delivered to site ready for speedy, accurate, construction of an individually designed sustainable building.
The larger the proportion of timber in your new school building, the more chance of a fully recyclable building envelope. Timber does not have to be restricted to just the outer skin which gives the appearance of sustainability, but can extend to the inner walls, floors, windows, doors, roof structure and even the final roofing material through such options as cedar shingles. A solid wood solution.
Checklist for Sustainable Buildings
Sustainable sourcing of materialsNoise, Odour & dust during constructionWaste to landfill during manufacture and constructionMaintenance and energy required during use of the buildingRecyclability after the end of the building's natural life.Overall Carbon Footprint
Carbon Footprint
The carbon footprint is an assessment of the impact of the school building on the environment. It looks at all aspects of the processes involved in delivering your built solution in great detail, and includes such things as the energy used in manufacture, where that energy comes from, whether it is renewable energy; energy used in transportation of materials, including the fuels used; construction phase energy and waste; in service energy consumption; and, finally, end of life energy use - or NOT in the case of timber, which can be reused as fuel.
Research shows that timber buildings have the lowest whole life carbon footprints of all.
A company with a real focus on supplying sustainable buildings will provide all this information on its website. Cabinco is award winning expert in designing and constructing sustainable school buildings and eco-schools throughout the UK. Visit the website for more details.

Save Water On A Landscape Combining Smart Controllers and Good Irrigation Management

Presenting a good, positive image is important to any business, and an attractive, healthy landscape definitely helps how the public views a commercial property. However, maintaining a quality landscape is not cheap since sufficient water needs to be applied by the irrigation system to keep the grass, shrubs and flowers healthy and vibrant. That's why installing smart irrigation controllers can help. These devices provide a great way to reduce irrigation water use, simplify landscape maintenance, and keep a landscape looking great.
Smart controllers lessen water use by collecting and applying information about site conditions (like rain, wind, slope, soil, plant type, and more), and applying the proper amount of water based on those factors to maintain healthy growing conditions. During hot weather plants need more water than during cooler weather. Smart controllers adjust the amount of water used based on these changing conditions. If enough rainfall takes place, rain sensors adjust by lessening the volume of water as needed. If the soil is of a type that absorbs water slowly or the landscape has steep slopes, smart controllers will use that information and run less water, but more frequently, to lessen water run-off.
A vital point to keep in mind with these types of irrigation controllers is how these devices are programmed. All of the variables (e.g., soil type) affect the final amount of time water will run. Adjustments to the initial programming will have to be done to get it right, which is a matter of good management. In fact multiple tweaks are needed since this whole process is as much of an art as it is a science. Simply put this human factor is the most important variable in the programming process.
In order to get the most out of a smart irrigation controller:
Inspect the Irrigation System: Smart controllers work best when the entire irrigation system is working well. Such an inspection will check for leaks, proper water pressure, malfunctioning hardware, and other similar issues that might affect the effectiveness of the complete irrigation system. Repairing problems like these will ensure the controller is able to provide the expected water savings.
Work with a Professional: These controllers are generally only available through irrigation or landscape contractors instead of retail outlets. The Irrigation Association (the umbrella organization for irrigation manufacturers, contractors and suppliers) has compiled a list of professionals who are certified to install "smart" irrigation controllers. To locate an Irrigation Association certified professional, or to confirm the status of any irrigation contractor in your area, please consult this list of Certified Professionals.
With the right combination of hardware, programming and hands on management, these types of irrigation controllers will provide long term, ongoing water savings.
Irrigation Management Systems (IMS) has saved water and money for its clients since the late 1980s, long before green was fashionable. Using the right combination of technology and management practices, IMS has long worked on keeping that delicate balance of saving water while keeping shrubs, turf and flowers sufficiently watered.

Downtown Seattle Life Merging Natural Beauty and Cosmopolitan Living

When looking for a place to live, you cannot choose a more perfect place than downtown Seattle. A city on the rise, Seattle is fast becoming one of the most important economic hearts of the nation. While Seattle is growing in cosmopolitan appeal, it has still retained its important roots. As the center of the Pacific Northwest, it also is the icon and epitome of Northwest living. This means that the city is still relaxed and eco-friendly. Despite the bustle of downtown life, residents can still find peace and quiet in the surrounding greenery and fresh air.
Set in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, Seattle has been drawing new residents in flocks. Seattle is nestled between the saltwater of Puget sound to the west and the freshwater of Lake Washington to the east. Just over the water, residents of Seattle are graced with the breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains. With rich forests within view, combined with the topography of beaches, oceans, lakes and mountains, Seattle is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Living in downtown Seattle is an opportunity that should not be missed. Downtown life is perfect for families and seekers of night-life alike. The true city livers should consider Belltown, which is in the heart of Seattle and has some of the best bars, restaurants and dance clubs around. Living at the base of Capitol Hill means having easy access to Pacific Science Center, Seattle Children's Theater, Key Arena and the Space Needle. Living close to the water means proximity to Pike Place Market, which is a draw for tourists and locals alike. With its market atmosphere and fresh produce, Pike Place is a hot spot for anyone looking for food and fun.
Brand new condos are springing up in downtown Seattle all the time. As the city grows, opportunities for affordable cosmopolitan living become more and more possible. With views of the ocean and the mountains beyond, the highest floors are understandably coveted. Luckily, however, Seattle has slopes and curves uphill away from the water, meaning more people can afford views that would otherwise never be available. There are also many homes and office buildings available directly on or with views of Lake Union, a similarly beautiful body of water to the east. Public beaches along the ocean and areas like Gasworks Park on Lake Union mean the anyone can have direct access to the water for swimming, boating, kayaking, and even fishing. Seattle is redoubtably on of the best places in the nation to spend the fourth of July, as Seattleites enjoy an incredible fireworks display over Lake Union, as well as shooting from the top of the Space Needle. Thousands gather at Gasworks Park on blankets and chairs, and boat owners take their sailboats and yachts directly under the amazing display.
The attitude and friendliness of downtown Seattle cannot be beat. Locals know that underneath the cement sidewalks and bustling shopping centers, a great heart beats. With the diversity, stunning natural beauty and true big-city living, Seattle is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for moving families, and seekers of the city life alike.

The Versatility of Cargo Containers

Shipping containers are quite versatile in their uses. These steel boxes are durable, weather resistant, mold and pest resistant, intact they are theft resistant, and they come in varying lengths to accommodate different cargos which lends itself quite nicely when recycling these sweet steel building blocks.
Sure, shipping container houses are all the rage lately, and why not? The designs that have surfaced take home architecture to new heights in function and elegance. From the simple weekend getaway cottage next to the lazy river in the woods, to the multi-family ultra-modern high-rise complex in a metropolis, these boxes are adaptable to nearly any and every climate and setting. From urban to suburban and rural homes, the innovative plans available for shipping container homes are astounding in their function and form. But is there any other use for a surplus shipping box?
How about government use? We are all looking for ways to save money and the government should be no different- what about using surplus shipping boxes for military use? The standardization of the boxes is perfect for many applications such as:
Portable toilets for training sites or disaster sites.Portable showers for large groups at trainer or disaster sites.Portable command posts and temporary offices during emergencies or natural disasters.Portable or temporary kitchens for training, terror, or disaster sites.Underground and portable emergency shelters.
These are just a few possibilities for government uses of these resources, but what about private or business uses? Is housing the only way to recycle a Cor-ten Steel box? The applications for volunteer projects alone are astounding. Here are some other possibilities for personal or business uses:
A potting shedWith a few modifications, a greenhouse for multi-season cropsPersonal emergency shelter and emergency supply storage.Bulk grain storageTemporary office buildingsBuilding project bathroom facilitiesPortable On-site storage for machinery and toolsA small dinerA coffee shopA store frontWarehouse for small business inventoryArtist's studioBuilders workshopCommunity Food pantryBarn for livestockHomeless shelterHomeless soup kitchenHomeless emergency medical station
As you can see cargo containers have plenty of potential.
Several containers might make a nice sized Community Center or after school haven for young people
The list is as endless as the imaginations of the people prepared to reuse these oversized building blocks. With a little motivation, creativity, and inspiration money, time, and resources could be saved and businesses and communities grown.

Green Homes: The New Black?

In today's over-saturated real estate market, sellers looking for ways to distinguish their properties are touting environmentally friendly and energy-saving features. Recent publications list numerous measures green builders are taking to attempt to capture this market advantage. While home sales remain flat or in decline, the ability to claim certification from the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, the National Association of Home Builders, or the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes program adds some credibility to green status and translates to increased marketability... or does it?

What do the green certifications really mean to buyers when there may be a lack of overarching standards for the certifying entities? To earn the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star certification, a home needs to be at least 20 percent more efficient than the benchmark for a standard new home. The "bronze" level of certification from the National Association of Home Builders requires adding a few features, such as low-flow toilets, energy-efficient windows to block out heat and dust, and prefabricated roof trusses. These measures - in addition to state and federal tax credits that may also apply - certainly have merit, but how do they convey value to a potential buyer?

Some industry experts believe that the absence of a clear national standard leads to confusion, preventing easy comparisons for both new and existing homes.

Home sellers, and contractors specializing in green retrofits, would do well to focus on measures that enhance indoor environmental quality along with basic energy efficiency. So in addition to swapping conventional light bulbs for CFL's, removing asbestos, using low VOC paints, and switching to eco-friendly floor coverings, suggested practices include energy audits and working with qualified consultants to vet your green cred and tap into the possibility of enhanced marketing opportunities.

It is difficult to ascertain the connection between taking steps to green a home - either through new building or energy retrofits - and direct return on investments for these measures. A recent McGraw Hill study showed 81% of home buyers would prefer to buy a green home, even in this sluggish economy. However, buyers' willingness to pay a premium for green features seems to be connected to how long it takes to recover their investment than environmental concerns. Rising utility rates could well provide the impetus to elevate this as a priority that might influence buying decisions. And even if consumers are unwilling to pay a premium for energy-efficient features, they may well be a distinction that helps move one property over another.

Is Energy Efficient Design Really Just a Fad?

Sustainable living is not only a growing business and news trend, it is also the direction home design and construction must move towards as valuable, limited resources become increasingly sparse for our growing population. Energy efficiency in the home building industry will remain the focus of some progressive, forward thinking companies, but not all of them. But when will this focus on efficient design become a commonplace reality of modern home design?

The conservation of energy, as part of the design process itself, is not the main focus or even a standard practice in the site built home construction industry or in the manufactured, modular and pre-fabricated home industries. Comparing these two categories of home building, I am confident that if the average consumer compared major site built home companies to the high-end factory built home builders, their ultimate conclusion would be that the factory built home builders put more emphasis on energy efficient design, and have a much more inherently efficient building process, than their site built counterparts. If the future of home construction will be heavily influenced by efficient design, why, then, aren't more site built and factory built home construction companies currently working towards this end?

There are three main reasons why more homebuilders, factory built or otherwise, are not working swiftly towards energy efficient design within every home they build. These reasons are: first, the cost of new design plans that are energy efficient is greater than sticking to standard practices; second, many of these homebuilders do not have the technical aptitude or interest to undertake energy efficient design, and lastly, consumer demand has not reached a fever pitch.

As a homebuilder, it takes serious commitment of financial and human resources to develop a new product line or commit a company completely towards green design. Those in charge of making these financial decisions must determine if their new energy efficient design will easily fit within the framework of existing building codes. They must also consider whether or not the commitment to energy efficient design will be rewarded by a consumer base willing to pay for an extremely efficient home. Consumer demand, therefore, is extraordinarily important in making these decisions.

At present, there are two main issues affecting consumer demand: first, education on the benefits and implementation of energy efficiency; and second, the general uncertainty and pessimism that lingers from the recent meltdown in housing brought about by "McMansion" sprawl. in our recovering economy, many consumers are focused on basic necessities, obtaining benefits and features consumers are currently familiar with, and of course the overall price. The purchase price and anticipated resale value of a home is far more important than green design in the minds of many consumers as the notion of never-ending home equity growth has been dashed by the recent debacle with mortgage lending. However, this will most likely change in the future substantially.

Regardless of if our economy remains sluggish or worsens, it remains likely that the price of electricity, water and gas will increase. We have seen this in the price of gasoline. Throughout the economic crisis, gas prices have risen and fallen and, in California, we are still paying over $4.00 per gallon. Whereas the price of gasoline peaked at over $5.00 a gallon a few years ago, we have not seen the price of gas drop to pre-recession levels. If our economy improves substantially, what incentive do the producers of gasoline, electricity and heating oil have to reduce the price of their commodities? None really. And with a growing population, the scarcity of these resources will always command a higher value in the eyes of commodity owners and producers.

Energy efficient design is really a niche in the home building industry. It is definitely not a standard practice. There is a trend towards energy efficient design because a segment of the population is very concerned about the conservation of energy and sustainability. Green builders must compete to win the attention of this consumer niche. However, over time, considering the scarcity of resources, growing population and lack of any incentive for owners and producers of commodities to reduce their premiums, energy efficient design will be a standard practice and those home builders that invest the time, energy, and financial resources in to energy efficient design today, will reap significant benefits in the future.

Why You Can Look Forward to Green Homes in Malaysia

Gone are the days when the concept of 'green living' were only reserved for the conservationist groups and tree huggers. What started as an alternative lifestyle movement has become a pivotal effort to conserve Earth's depleting resources in a bid to create sustainability and a healthier environment. We have started living our green lives but have you given much thought as to whether your home should do the same too?
A sustainable property employs a few methods to reduce pollution, emissions and unnecessary waste. Many forward-thinking property developers in Malaysia have taken to creating sustainable communities and selling the concept of a green lifestyle, in their projects. Many downstream property companies have also begun embracing this new paradigm by actively conducting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that contributes towards a sustainable environment.
In an age where preservation is imperative to the Earth's subsistence, eco homes are fast taking over the market in Malaysia, not only for its increasing trend but also its contribution to long-term investment, and the fact that the country possesses the ideal location and climate for green homes. Today you can find such communities blossoming in various parts of the country such as Setia Eco Park, 11 @ Mont Kiara and Hijauan Residence, all located within Kuala Lumpur's vicinity. Urban developer YTL Corp has commissioned Bird Island in Kuala Lumpur as the proposed site for the YTL Green Homes Competition, which challenges international world-class architects to create the most ground-breaking and environmentally-friendly home ever built.
It was announced that Kuala Lumpur will host the 3rd International World Class Sustainable Cities Conference (WCSC 2011) this coming 20th and 21st of September 2011. The conference will showcase a number of successful green practices that have been implemented around the world, tobe considered for future development projects across the country. A local municipal council based in the state of Selangor called Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) have deliberated on the possibility of awarding RM500 rebates to homeowners who partake in eco-friendly practices at home. This includes discounts for energy-conserving home upgrades like solar-powered water heaters or even cycling to work. This initiative was recommended by the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry's Low Carbon Cities Framework and funding for this project will be channelled from the PJ Sustainable Development Trust Fund, which will require RM50,000 for the project to take off after a proper assessment has been regulated.
The concept of eco-friendly homes are increasing in popularity in Malaysia. If you already own a property, you can make conscious choices on your lifestyle to create a green home; or if you are currently looking to buy or build property, you can begin looking into making the right choices by being mindful of the consequences of your development, as well as the effects the property has on its surrounding environment. Either way, you are working towards the future of Malaysian homes and living.

Living Life Right - The Insiders Look to Lake Washington

One of the most unique and wonderful places to live in all of Washington, much less Seattle, is undoubtedly on the shores of Lake Washington. For those lucky enough to be able to afford waterfront property, this is an opportunity that should not be missed. Even the more affordable houses with views over this magnificent body of water should not be overlooked, as Lake Washington offers those who live near it aspects of beauty you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

The second largest lake in the state after Lake Chelan, Lake Washington has availability for housing developments along its entire shoreline. Because of its long, skinny shape, the shoreline is considerable and is still open for more building opportunities. Save for the areas that are parks, marinas or airports, the rest of the shores are dedicated to homeowners, and giving those people some of the most incredible opportunities around. The waters of this lake are fresh and blue, and are extremely clean after extreme measure were taken to improve the water quality in the 60's.

Houses built along Lake Washington are built to take in the view. Sweeping windows are common, along with sloping lawns to take advantage of the shoreline. Most houses have docks with the capability to house 1-3 boats, and a smaller percentage of them have covered boat houses. Even those that don't have docks often take advantage of the required buoys just off the shore, and can tie boats off there. Waterfront condos are less common than waterfront houses along Lake Washington, but condos are often built on the hills that rise away from the water, meaning that every floor can enjoy a waterfront view. Great snowy Mount Rainier can be seen from just about anywhere on Lake Washington, as it rises over the southern section of the lake on clear days. Because of the north-south orientation of the lake, and how skinny it is, the vast majority of houses face either due east or due west, which makes for some of the most stunning sunset or sunrise views of the whole state. There is nothing quite like enjoying your morning cup of coffee while the sun rising golden over the forests on the other side, and turning light to liquid fire as it touches the water.

Lake Washington is home to an abundance of wildlife. The waters are teeming with fish that are available to fish (when in season) that include salmon, bass, perch, carp, longfin smelt and even sturgeon. Mallard ducks and Canadian geese are common sights over the water, while bald eagles herons make the occasional appearance as well. River otters are a treat, as there is nothing more adorable than two sleek otters play-wrestling in your yard.

Living lakeside is an opportunity that should not be passed up. It is the ultimate luxury, and provides a stunning setting to raise a family among nature. With the endless summer entertainment it provides along with an epic seasonal backdrop, Lake Washington is arguably one of the greatest places to live in the world.
This article was produced by Eric Badgley; specializing in Lake Washington Real Estate.

Building Green Home Real Estate Helps More Than Just The Environment

"Going green" is seemingly the latest theme of the day.
A trend that can be seen in everything from the newest cleaning solutions on the market to the invention of solar paneled roofs, how to make a green home is central to the design schemes utilized by today's architects.
What is the purpose behind building green living homes?
Simply stated, green energy efficient homes contribute to the cause of saving the planet.
And besides the energy saving aspect, building a green home changes the overall affordability of owning real estate.
For example, those who live in energy friendly homes do not have the need for the general utility set-ups (such as electricity) that are required for residents of non-green communities. And because the demand for these utilities becomes lower as a result of green neighborhoods, the prices go down for everyone who still has to rely on other methods for their power.
In addition, the construction costs for green built homes are often much less than what would be spent on a creating something conventional - a fact that also gives green residences a better chance at being approved for a building permit.
Another advantage of green home real estate is that it provides a way to maintain the environment so that the occurrences of detrimental atmospheric events have a chance at slowing down. As a matter of fact, government studies have shown that if all buildings in the United States followed the standards set by green construction, the end result would be a 10% decrease in the emissions that create global warming.
A measured 70% reduction in waste from using green materials for construction is a further plus of modern green homes.
This waste reduction is possible because much of the time the materials used in green friendly homes are recycled - a process which also has the advantage of helping to decrease the overall cost of the project. And, green homes are further able to add to the savings factor because these types of structures have a much longer life span than those homes constructed by non-green methods.
What are some of the green building techniques used to turn a home into an environmentally friendly residence?
A simple way to start on the path to building a green home is by using certain kinds of wood when designing the home's floors. One such wood that meets the standards of green construction is bamboo.
Not only is bamboo unusually durable, but the rate at which it is able to replenish itself (between five and ten years) is a much less amount of time than the fifty to one hundred years of maturation time on other woods selected for flooring purposes.
The paints used on the inside and outside of the home also make a difference as to whether or not said home can be called "green."
Paints of the non-green variety contain toxic metals, solvents and harmful VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are damaging when inhaled by those performing the painting task. Paints of this kind also create by-products such as more smog and pollution that are added to the atmosphere.
Using zero or low-VOC paint is a green building technique that protects the occupants of the home while also helping to clean up the environment at the same time.
Low or zero-VOC paints do not contain the toxins found in the paints from the past, nor do these types of paints dry and still continue to release their dangerous substances into the air.
The manner in which a garden is kept is another qualifying factor when it comes to whether or not a home can be considered a green friendly residence.
For example, buying simple hand tools for one's gardening needs (instead of purchasing items that run on gasoline or electric power) helps to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that escape into the air, while giving the user a bit of exercise at the same time.
Raking and sweeping leaves and other yard debris instead of using a leaf blower to do the job is a second way to go green in the garden - as leaf blowers operate on gasoline and thus release those carbon dioxide emissions that are best avoided when possible.
Best of all, choosing not to rake the leaves and instead using them to surround the garden's plants is one way to create a natural mulch - and pairing these leaves with used coffee grounds will cause an extraordinarily lush garden to bloom.
Using non-toxic pesticides to make insects and other animals stay away from the garden is another method aimed toward making the environment a more green place to co-exist. It can be as easy as placing earthworms and ladybugs into the foliage to keep these pests away.
And, toxin-free pesticides also have the advantage of keeping the water supply in a cleaner state, as there is no risk of the run-off from dangerous gardening chemicals contaminating the water if said chemicals are not being used.
Whether it is the actual materials used for construction of the home or the tools meant for the garden, there are many ways to incorporate green techniques to make for a much healthier place to co-exist.
Buying a home and selling a home are two of the most important milestones ever experienced by many during their lifetimes. Both the home selling process and home buying process can prove to be complicated. Therefore, hiring a real estate agent is the way to go.
I specialize in Lakewood, California homes. And because I grew up in the area, I am therefore a local real estate agent who is very familiar with the community and its associated amenities.
If you are looking to buy or sell property in Lakewood or even Long Beach, contact me today so together we can find your dream home.

Irrigation Management Tools - What Is Better? Central Control Irrigation or Smart Controllers?

The weather in the Portland area continues to be more April than July. This past Sunday, July 17th, the slight chance of showers in the weather forecast turned into a multi-hour rain event that eventually totaled over half an inch of rainfall. Suffice it to say that very few irrigation controllers in the region adjusted accordingly for that night's watering. Instead they ran as if it had not rained at all because it would require an on-site visit by someone to actually reduce or shut off irrigation schedules. That rarely happens and on Sunday it does not happen at all. What about them new fangled smart controllers? You know the ones that receive some type of weather data that adjusts the irrigation run times without a personal visit? Well, they very well may have adjusted appropriately. However, how do you know?
Were there any problems with the communication of said weather data?Was the weather data source recording the weather properly or at all?Is the smart controller in the right mode to incorporate the weather data or was it accidentally set to run in stand alone?
The bottom line is that you don't know with these smart controllers for a couple of reasons. First, there is no communication option (outside of a spendy upgrade) that allows a user to contact the smart controller to check on its status. It still needs an on-site visit to do that. Second, there is no way to retrieve any kind of stored data within the controller to produce a report to review.
Now a rainfall event like this past Sunday certainly is a clearcut example of how a controller that is accessible via telephone, wi-fi, cellular, etc. is such a key part of effective irrigation management. Whether from a website or a central computer, an irrigation manager can check that the irrigation is shut down due to such a rainfall amount. That is tremendous peace of mind for the irrigation manager and a huge water savings for the property owner. This is no different for less dramatic weather changes like a week's worth of scorching hot weather followed by a weekend of mostly cloudy weather. Again, the irrigation manager can check that the weather data is recorded properly, transmitted properly and watered properly...without visiting the controller in person.
Smart controllers do none of this. Now smart controllers are a step in the right direction when compared to traditional controllers. However, they are woefully incomplete. There is no way to retrieve data, produce reports, check on communication links, make programming corrections or see if the irrigation controller actually has electrical power and is running irrigation schedules. In contrast, central control irrigation systems provide all of these management benefits. Whether it is via a website or software loaded onto a desktop or laptop computer, an irrigation manager can check on the controllers without a site visit. The technology is readily available for these central control irrigation systems. Why settle for a partial solution?
Irrigation Management Systems (IMS) has saved water and money for its clients since the late 1980s, long before green was fashionable. Using the right combination of technology and management practices, IMS has long worked on keeping that delicate balance of saving water while keeping shrubs, turf and flowers sufficiently watered

Is Your Future Smart House at Risk to Hackers?

For those of us who now have SmartGrid electrical meters on our homes, we realize that in the future we will have more tools to help us monitor our electricity usage. When General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Ford started putting in real-time gas gauges which showed drivers their miles per gallon based on whatever they were doing at the time, drivers immediately noticed that they were attempting to keep that number as highest possible, almost as if they were playing a videogame, therefore increasing their miles per gallon. Obviously when gasoline in the United States is four dollars per gallon it makes sense to do this.
Now then, in the future with a SmartGrid electricity meter on your home, with a control panel, you will be able to see the difference in your electricity usage when you have a TV on in the other room that you're not using, or an extra set of lights on. Indeed, I imagine, as do analysts who study consumer conservation for energy, that this will make it impact on the amount of electricity we use in the United States. It could actually drive the electricity usage from the consumer markets down 10%. That might indeed stave off the need to build more energy generation plants in the future.
This also means that we will need to build fewer coal-fired plants, and therefore we will also put less CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Now then, this article isn't about global warming alarmism, because I don't believe in that. Rather I'd like to talk about these new features in your future smart house. And I'd like to discuss the risks from our electrical grid being hacked, and poisonous software being introduced from the point of consumption through the SmartGrid, or someone entering through your smart house's Wi-Fi system, perhaps a hacker putting in a virus, malware, or monitoring software without you knowing it.
There was an interesting article in the USA Today by Byron Acohido titled "Hackers Ooze into Printers, Copiers - Digital Thieves Fine Entry through Office Equipment," published on August 5, 2011. Who is to say in the future that hackers won't come in through your refrigerator, your washing machine, your dishwasher, your microwave oven, or your garbage disposal and hack into your smart house? Now then, on August 16, 2011 there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this one by Ian Sheer which was titled "H-P Looks to Kitchens, Cars" and the article stated;
"H-P hopes that webOS on appliances and in cars will create an ecosystem of devices around it."
Now then, this sounds all well and good, however it better be safe, and if someone hacks into your house, the same way they hack into your computer peripherals, then no one is safe from a hack attack, and the hackers are coming to a home near you. Please consider all this and think on it.
Lance Winslow is a retired Founder of a Nationwide Franchise Chain, and now runs the Online Think Tank. Lance Winslow believes writing 24,500 articles by August 24th or 25th will be difficult because all the letters on his keyboard are now worn off now..

What Is LEED Certification?

In March of 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced the creation of a new ratings system - The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED ratings are used to certify buildings (both commercial and residential) that meet certain environmental metrics like reduced CO2 emissions and water usage, and improved overall energy efficiency. LEED certifications have become the gold standard for environmentally friendly construction.
Much more than just an assessment of the final product, LEED measures nine different categories of sustainability: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environment quality, locations & linkages, awareness & education, innovation in design, and regional priority.
Building on previously used land earns points in both the Sustainable Sites and Locations & Linkages categories. In addition, points can be earned for limiting impact to the ecosystem, reducing pollution and soil erosion, and controlling storm water runoff. Appliances that save water and electricity can earn both Water Efficiency and Energy & Atmosphere points. Recycling, waste reduction and sustainable production processes are encouraged in the Materials & Resources category.
Some people are surprised to learn that points in the Awareness & Education category are not earned for raising general awareness about LEED and green building. Instead, builders earn points for educating building tenants and managers on how to maximize the "green features" of the building. The Innovation in Design category awards points for unique design features and technologies that exceed even LEED's high standards. And finally, developments earn points for addressing Regional Priorities determined by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) regional councils.
In general, the LEED certification has been well-received, and highly sought after. Not only is there prestige associated with being LEED certified, but developers and builders have learned that promoting environmentally friendly and sustainable building standards is good for business.
However, over the years, complaints have arisen regarding the ease with which certifications can be obtained, and the fact that there's no follow-up. Now, the U.S. Green Building Council is proposing changes aimed at addressing those issues.
The primary criticism leveled at the LEED certification is that it's a one-off process. Builders and developers can include systems that allow them to check things off a list, but they never have to actually use those systems. In addition, points are awarded, but not deducted. For example, up to ten points can be earned in new construction buildings that reduce overall water usage by 50 percent, but there's no penalty if the building doesn't participate in a recycling program or if the builder installs a used, inefficient, air conditioning system. As a result, there's no real incentive for including a comprehensive environmental plan in new construction.
Taking these criticisms into account, USGBC has announced that a new ratings system - LEED 2012 - will be rolled out this fall. The new system will require LEED-certified buildings to make information available regarding their environmental best practices, in the hopes of encouraging transparency and data sharing. It will also require buildings to undergo a re-certification process every five years.
Though the new system will be released in November, USGBC members will have a chance to vote on the system next summer, giving time for members to implement the new system and determine what - if any - adjustments need to be made.
If nothing else, LEED certification raises awareness about the overwhelming need to start thinking long-term about the environmental impacts of development and construction practices. As USGBC continues improving its certification process, it provides a beneficial blueprint for environmentally sustainable building.

Rice Military Homes

If you are looking Houston properties in an up and coming, family friendly, neighborhood, you should give strong consideration to the Rice Military Homes. This vibrant upper middle class neighborhood is located in Houston's Inner Loop in close proximity to Memorial Park and a wide variety of other amenities. Just west of downtown, Rice Military homes give you the best of two worlds, an exciting urban lifestyle, and easy access to the natural beauty of Memorial Park. Making your home in one of the choice pieces of real estate offered in the Rice Military Homes area may be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
The Rice Military Homes area is named such as the area was formerly owned by the Rice Family. Its close proximity to Camp Logan contributed "Military" to the neighborhoods moniker. The area began its life as a residential area in 1910 and has been growing, and improving, steadily ever since. The Rice Military area has been embracing modernization since the 1980's and has grown trendier every year.
The perks of living in the Rice Military area are many. One of the biggest advantages is its close proximity to the amazing 1,500 acre Memorial Park. Memorial park has a variety of amenities, including a golf course, a nature center, the Houston Arboretum, six miles of bike and nature trails, a swimming pool, a fitness center, open space, and a variety of sports fields. On the other hand you also will have easy access to Houston's downtown arts and museum district, and lots of amazing shopping. In the museum district alone you can visit the Houston Zoo, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and more. Purchasing Houston real estate in this area, gives you the best of both the indoor and outdoor worlds.
Real estate available in the Rice Military area consists primarily of Townhouses, condominiums, and single family homes. The median price range for real estate in these Homes is $200-600,000.00. Most of the homes have spacious layouts and large garages. The exteriors of most of the beautiful homes in this area exude a trendy modern feel. This neighborhood is a mecca for both young professionals and more affluent people alike. Purchasing real estate in these homes is a good investment, whether you are seeking a starter home, or an investment, as the neighborhood is growing and appreciating more every year.
Whether you decide to purchase real estate in Rice Military Homes for its urban appeal, its proximity to outdoor activities, or both, you are sure to find something that suits your tastes in this neighborhood. The Houston real estate market boasts many great neighborhoods, but these sets it's self apart with its diversity of urban and recreational activities in close proximity. If you stop to have a look around you will likely find that Rice Military Homes may be just what you are seeking in a neighborhood for yourself or your family.
Considered as one of the most wanted neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, Rice Military homes are an amazing place to live with your family and loved ones.

What Are the Benefits of Green Building?

GE Appliances & Lighting recently opened a new data center at its Kentucky headquarters, equipped with innovative high-efficiency cooling systems. It also utilizes high-density servers containing more computing power per square foot, thus, reducing the amount of energy the center needs for cooling. The company has even installed water saving fixtures to reduce water consumption in the building by 42%.
Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, last year announced its intention to meet most its water heating needs by relying on 378 solar panels, which will heat 140,000 liters of water every day. According to its management, the sustainable investment is expected to save 3,200 kWh of energy per day, accumulating to 690MWh of energy savings annually.
Hervey Bay's Riviera Resort broke a solar panel record in Queensland this month by installing more solar panels on its six-story building than any other construction in the Australian state. The owner of the resort claims that he has enjoyed $16,000 in energy savings - a reasonable return on his sustainable investments.
Businesses aren't the only ones taking advantage of eco-friendly tweaks and innovations. ZeroCottage in San Francisco, a net-zero energy project-under-construction by David Baker and Partners Architecture, is employing the benefits of high-performance windows, air-tight folding doors and wall assembly, rainwater reclamation and efficient water heating. Kelly and Matt Grocoff, a Michigan couple, reconstructed their 1901 2200 sq. ft. Victorian-style home and turned it into a net-zero sustainable investment. It cost the family a total of $47,130, with an expected return of $104,000 over 20 years.
According to calculations by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), buildings in most countries take up at least 40 per cent of national energy use. In the European Union, the construction industry eats up 42 per cent of the EU's final energy consumption and accounts for about 35 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), estimates the European Commission. In an economy where companies and homes are cutting costs across the board, energy is one of the first areas to feel the slash. Governments are taking this trend into account and are encouraging energy-saving sustainable investments through incentive tools such as tax breaks and feed-in tariffs.
2010 Deutche Bank Research figures indicate that green buildings enjoy energy savings of about 30% more than conventional buildings. Sustainable buildings generally tend to use less water and are cheaper to maintain. McGraw-Hill Construction's Green Outlook 2011 report values the growth of U.S. green building construction at 50 per cent from 2008 to 2010. Green buildings represent 25% of all new construction in 2010 and, according to McGraw-Hillprojections, the market size will likely rise to about $135 billion by 2015. The UK will likely see increases in the sector as well as the government has set up the goal to increase energy reductions in the country and to achieve carbon neutrality in all new English homes by 2016, per WBCSD.
Before embarking on greening the office or home space and reaping the benefits of energy cost cutting, government incentives and more affordable building maintenance, investors need to thoroughly educate themselves on their nation's industry standards and regulations. As the sustainable constructions investments market picks up speed, it brings with it the persisting need for quality asrurance.
There are several third-party entities that set up standards and certify buildings constructed under sustainable investments initiatives. In the U.S., the leading green building certification system is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed LEED in 2000, to provide housing and commercial building owners and operators with a set of measurable criteria that evaluate the building's practicality, design, effectiveness and management efficacy.In the European Union, and UK in particular, the widely used regulatory system is BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). Established in 1990 by the UK Building Research Establishment (BRE), BREEAM had the purpose of evaluating the sustainability of new commercial buildings. It has since expanded to also include residential buildings under its umbrella. In 2003, the Green Building Council of Australia launched Green Star - a rating system to quantify the environmental effects of constructions as well as the improvements brought about by innovations in the building sector.
To find out more about sustainable building and ethical investments, go to sustainable-investment-guide.com. Sustainable Investment Guide is an informational portal keeping you up to date on carbon credit market facts, trends, news and sustainable investment opportunities.