Tips and Info

8 Sawyer 7562 crop 400 1080

 

GreenThink

Watch for more GreenThink on our site or catch us on Facebook.

While the issues of making our natural resources last and minimizing our negative impact on the environment are complex, there are simple things you can do to make a real difference, and save money. Here’s some GreenThink from Carmel Building & Design.

 

GreenThink – Energy retrofits improve comfort and resale value

There’s an interesting article in PG&E’s Energy Advisor newsletter about the benefits of energy retrofits—including improving your home’s resale value. Give it a read.


GreenThink – Passive House

Posted July 20, 2016

Passive is aggressive – See how Passive House strategies lower your energy use and your carbon footprint

Getting a grip on the amount of energy we consume and switching to renewable sources are no longer just goals for the future. They’re now part of a mainstream movement. Energy reduction strategies and investments in renewable energy are being built into local, state and national policies. The quickening momentum is all about efforts to combat carbon emissions that are jeopardizing the health, and future, of our planet. And when the planet’s in jeopardy, so are we. A set of building standards that I’ve found to be a sure fire way to reduce the energy demands of a home is Passive House. Whether or not a homeowner decides to go for PH certification, we still employ its energy-efficiency strategies like air sealing and super-insulation. Here are 5 things you should know about Passive House.

  1. Passive House can dramatically lower the energy demands of a building, regardless of size, whether new construction, remodel or retrofit.
  2. Although “House” is part of its name, these design/build standards are being applied to buildings of all types including commercial, residential, institutional, even industrial.
  3. Airtight, well-insulated and supplied with continuous fresh filtered air, air temps are kept at a consistent level so little heating or cooling is needed.
  4. Since the air is filtered, it’s clean and healthy to breath, free of dust, mold and moisture that can harm humans as well as the structure.
  5. Building or remodeling to Passive House standards adds little or no expense.

If you want to know more about Passive House and other energy saving strategies, drop me an email at info@carmelbuilding.com


 

GreenThink – Earth Day 2016

Posted April 14, 2016

Here are ten things we can all do to celebrate Earth Day (April 22), starting now and all year long.

  1. Think twice before you toss—ask yourself…”Can I find a new use for it? Can I recycle it? Can I donate it? Can I compost it?” When you answer “yes” and take action, you help reduce the vast amount that goes into landfills. www.mrwmd.org/programs-services/
  2. Buy local—whenever possible, opt for items that are produced or grown near you. Think less transportation and the related impact on the environment as well as how much it supports the local economy. www.seemonterey.com/food-wine/farmers-markets/
  3. Use less water—even though we’ve had some rain this season. It’s still important to get creative about ways to reduce water usage and waste. www.montereywaterinfo.org/rebatesNEW.html
  4. Get growing—whether in pots on a patio, balcony or porch or in a patch of land, use whatever space you have to grow your favorite herbs and veggies.
  5. Lose the leaks—check ductwork, windows, doors and other openings for leaks. Small fixes can mean big savings in heating/cooling costs as well as make for a more comfortable and healthier indoor environment.
  6. Make the switch—keep a supply of reusable bags handy for shopping. And don’t forget to take them into the store.
  7. Take steps—benefit your health as well as the planet by walking or biking instead of driving when you can.
  8. Ditch the disposables—Treat yourself to reusable mugs, glasses, water bottles and other containers to cut down on the amount of trash from single use items.
  9. Green up—take a little time out of your busy schedule to explore websites (including ours) for ideas on greener living, and re-greening your home. www.carmelbuilding.com
  10. Save your energy—sign up for a home energy audit. You might be surprised at the money, and natural resources, you can save. You’ll get a list of strategies to choose from as your time and budget allow. For a no cost walk-through and consultation, send an email to jaygentry@cherp.net.

If you’re looking to do something special in honor of Earth Day, check out the many Earth Day activities in local communities. And you might just find a fun way to stay involved year-round.

www.sustainablemontereycounty.org/2016-earth-day-events-info/

www.mearthcarmel.org/events/mearth-day-2016/


 

Why gray water is green

Posted September 23, 2015

There’s a lot being said about reusing “gray water” these days as City, County and State government agencies continue to grapple with California’s drought. Movements are emerging to require gray water recycling in new commercial buildings. More and more homeowners are looking for ways to reduce water waste and the ever-increasing cost of this precious resource.

So what is gray water anyway? It’s water from showers, laundry and bathroom sinks. Right now, it’s most commonly used for landscape irrigation and is only safe when stored for less than 24 hours due to bacteria growth. Advanced systems—like the Nexus eWater system we recently installed in a Carmel residence—include an integrated treatment system. This means that the treated gray water is safe, and approved by the health department for use in flushing toilets as well as for watering the landscape and vegetable gardens. And because it’s treated, it can be stored without worry of bacteria growth. When considering the millions of gallons of potable water that’s used to flush toilets every year, using treated gray water for this purpose saves a tremendous amount of drinkable water.

As these technologies become more widely used, their cost is certain to decrease. If you would like to know more about the Nexus eWater system or want to talk with us about improving the water and energy efficiency of your home, please send an email to info@carmelbuilding.com.

Watch for more GreenThink on Facebook or here on carmelbuilding.com.


 

What you don’t know can hurt you

Posted September 4, 2015

While it may not be practical to go through all your household products, trash and replace all of them at once, knowing more about what’s in them is a start. Even things that sound pleasant like “fragrance” or seem beneficial like “antibacterial” or promise to make our job of cleaning easier like “no scrub” can belie the harmful chemicals inside. For some people, ingredients commonly found in household cleaning products can trigger asthma attacks and other breathing difficulties, inflammation and skin irritations. And the “hidden” chemicals that go down our drains and into the air are not doing any favors to the environment either.

The good news is that there is a growing cadre of alternatives that are better for your health and the health of the planet. And there are always natural alternatives like vinegar, lemon and baking soda. Here are a few sites that offer healthy solutions, good information and help to get you on the road to a healthier state of clean.

http://purehabitats.com/

http://www.earth911.com/living-well-being/health/cleaning-vinegar-baking-soda-lemon/

https://experiencelife.com/article/8-hidden-toxins-whats-lurking-in-your-cleaning-products/

Watch for more GreenThink on Facebook or here on carmelbuilding.com.


 

Breathe easier—lose the VOCs

Posted June 22, 2015

VOCs, volatile organic compounds, are everywhere. You’ll find them in thousands of products—everything from adhesives such as carpet and wood glues, flooring materials, paint and stains, pesticides, even household cleaning products. They come in both nature- and man-made forms. Some have been recognized as extremely dangerous. Others, while not life-threatening, can result in “sick building syndrome” with constant exposure. These compounds vaporize at very low temperatures and show up in the air we breathe. Low and no VOC products improve the quality of the indoor air in any structure. Since the homes we build are air-tight for energy conservation and cost reduction as well as creating healthier, more comfortable and cleaner indoor air, we take special care to avoid VOCs. While air recirculation systems ensure a constant supply of fresh, filtered air, we still need to make choices that reduce our risks and improve our indoor air quality. In a Carmel home we recently finished remodeling, we eliminated all VOCs, a requirement for staying off “the red list” for a Living Building Challenge Net Zero Energy certification. It took some creativity and research, but was well worth it.

Even if you’re not up for a complete retrofit or new home construction, there are choices you can make as you get ready for changes in your home—like putting in new carpet, freshening up rooms with a new hue and buying cabinets and furniture. And be aware of what you’re bringing into your home with everyday cleaning products. Fortunately, there are many healthier options on the market today. Incremental changes can put you on the path to a healthier home.

Watch for more GreenThink on Facebook or here on carmelbuilding.com.


Knowing where you stand is a good first step

There’s nothing like seeing the month’s utility bills to get one heated up. You’re turning off lights, lowering the thermostat, even unplugging electronics when not in use. And still, your energy use and related costs rise. Maybe it’s time for an energy assessment (also called an energy audit). Fortunately, there are many local and online resources to help from DIY to hiring a pro. Here are a few links we think you’ll find illuminating.

http://www.goretrogreen.com
http://energy.gov/public-services/homes/home-weatherization/home-energy-audits
http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/analyzer/index.page?WT.ac=MyHome_Landing_HomeEnergyCheckup
Or send us an email at info@carmelbuilding.com.

Watch for more GreenThink here and on Facebook.


Getting the “blues” is a good thing

Getting the “blues” via the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s Go Blue campaign, could be a boost for your budget as well as your environmental spirit. Whether you’re a homeowner, renter or a business, MPWMD offers a variety of free, yes free, devices, communication materials, classes and services that can help you save water, and dollars.

Learn more, and join team Go Blue at www.montereywaterinfo.org.


Manage your liquid asset

Everyone loves a beautiful landscape. Here are a few things you can do to improve your green spaces while saving some green.

• Attach an adjustable spray head to your garden hose, and make sure it doesn’t drip or leak around the edges.
• Turn off the water just before you’re finished and use what’s left in the hose so it’s not lost a drop at a time.
• Opt for drought tolerant plantings for a beautiful, budget-loving landscape.
• Consider a ‘smart’ irrigation system. It detects moisture in the soil and turns on the water only when you’re veggies and flowers are thirsty.
• Explore a water catchment system for use in hydrating plants and gardens, or washing the car. Whether you opt for a simple barrel to collect rainwater or a sophisticated system that captures the flow from the shower and washing machine, you’ll have ‘recycled’ this liquid asset.


Manage your liquid asset

We all know that water is a precious commodity, and an expensive one. Here are a few things you can do to manage this liquid asset, and your cash flow.

• Little drops can lead to big leaks in your wallet. Check faucets, showerheads and pipes for drips—typical repairs are simple and low cost.
• Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge to avoid wasting water to make it cold.
• Explore the feasibility of an on-demand or recirculation system for your home. A lot of water goes down the drain while it’s heating up.
• It’s been said before, but it still makes sense. Turn off the water while doing things like brushing your teeth. Stop the flow until you need it.


What the heck is a VOC and why should I care?

VOC stands for volatile organic compound. VOCs come in both nature- and man-made forms. Most common VOCs in the home and office are those found in adhesives such as carpet and wood glues, flooring materials, paint and stains, and household cleaning products. Some (like asbestos and formaldehyde) have been recognized as extremely dangerous. Others, while not life-threatening, constant exposure can result in “sick building syndrome.” These compounds vaporize at very low temperatures and show up in the air we breathe. Low and no VOC products improve the quality of the indoor air in any structure. Since the homes we build are air-tight for energy conservation and cost reduction as well as creating healthier, more comfortable and cleaner indoor air, we take special care to avoid VOCs. While air recirculation systems ensure a constant supply of fresh, filtered air, we still need to make choices that reduce our risks and improve our indoor air quality.

Watch for more GreenThink on Facebook or visit carmelbuilding.com.


Flooring with a green footprint—wall to wall options

When it comes to recycling, we think that applies to good information as well as materials. With flooring, as with most of the many choices that must be made when building or remodeling your home, there are pros and cons to be considered. Where it comes from, how it’s manufactured, its durability and its impact on the environment—inside and outside your home.

From concrete, cork and carpet to tile, wood and composite materials, explore and compare by searching “flooring” on www.greenbuilding.com. Or send an email to info@carmelbuilding.com.


Managing liquid assets, inside and out

The late start of this year’s rainy season amps up the urgency for careful use of water, but it’s not a new or temporary problem. It’s been with us for decades and we have yet to agree on the best ways to address the limited supply of this vital natural resource. As state and local entities grapple with identifying short- and long-term solutions, there are many things each of us can do to help.

1. Check faucets, showerheads and pipes for drips—typical repairs are simple and low cost, and can save a lot of water.

2. Explore the feasibility of an on-demand or recirculation system for your home. A lot of water goes down the drain while it’s heating up.

3. Turn off the water while doing things like brushing your teeth or shampooing.

4. Think ahead, and voice your support for changes in housing codes like those that allow graywater for use in flushing toilets.

5. Explore a water catchment system for use in hydrating plants or washing the car. There are many options, from a simple rain barrel to a sophisticated laundry-to-landscape graywater system.

6. Attach an adjustable spray head to your garden hose, and check for leaks on hoses and spigots.

7. Opt for drought tolerant plantings for a beautiful, budget-loving landscape.

8. Consider a ‘smart’ irrigation system that detects moisture in the soil and turns on the water only when your veggies and flowers are thirsty.

For more ideas, send an email to info@carmelbuilding.com.


Flooring with a green footprint – Carpet

As with any flooring choice, there’s a lot to think about when selecting carpet for your home—durability, comfort, impact on indoor air quality, stain resistance and ease of cleaning, cost, and of course, its planet-friendliness. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Materials. While fibers like wool, sisal and cotton are natural choices, be sure to opt for backing and adhesives that are equally green. If you choose nylon—a petroleum-based material—there are types of nylon carpet that can be broken down and remanufactured for use over and over again.
Mode. Wall-to-wall isn’t the only choice anymore. Carpet squares/tiles are easier and less costly to install. And when high traffic areas have seen better days, just replace those tiles rather than the entire carpet. Or rotate them (think tires on your vehicle) now and then.
Manufacturing. How the carpet is made is as important as what it’s made of. In the 1990s, Georgia carpet maker Ray Anderson started a 20-year quest to create carbon-footprint-free nylon carpet. Everything fit the net zero bill—from materials to manufacturing. His pioneering commitment to doing the right thing continues to put on big smile on the face of Mom Nature. And it has inspired other manufacturers to follow suit.


Green isn’t black and white

To quote a famous frog, “it isn’t easy being green.” And it’s far from black and white. It takes time, effort and information to make informed decisions. Carmel Building & Design is a resource and we’re happy to “think out loud” with you as you weigh your objectives. What’s most important—healthy indoor air quality, reducing dependence on foreign oil, comfort, energy usage and costs? For us, it doesn’t matter “why” we strive for a brighter shade of green, as long as we’re moving in that direction. Send an email to info@carmelbuilding.com if you’d like help exploring your objectives.


Shedding light on windows

According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study, about 9% of U.S. residential energy consumption goes right out the window. Here are 3 key things to consider when looking at windows.

1. GLASS—energy-efficient, high performance window glass more than makes up for the slightly higher upfront cost. The right glass can lower energy costs, bump up comfort in winter and summer, reduce the load on heating/cooling systems, keep out mold-friendly moisture, promote a healthier indoor environment and reduce noise and fading.

2. FRAME—but there’s more to it than the glass. Frames, sashes and spacers contribute to energy efficiency (or lack thereof). Aluminum and steel easily conduct heat and cold. Wood and some composite materials, along with proper insulation and installation, offer “greener” ways to go.

3. PLACEMENT—choosing the right wall for the window and the right window for the wall makes a difference. South facing windows are open invitations to the sun’s heat—a good thing in colder months, but less welcome during the dog days of summer. Eco-friendly coatings can absorb energy while multiple panes can provide insulation. Awnings and other shading options can help with heat management A little strategic thinking goes a long way.


Watching your waste

You’ve probably heard the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” a million times. Well, count this as a million plus one. The impact of waste on our communities, economy and environment is staggering. We’re proud that great strides have been made in Monterey County, but more can be done. Here are a few basics.

1. A number of beverage containers are redeemable for cash. You’re charged a few cents (CRV) when you buy them, so you’re literally throwing money away if you don’t recycle. Check the container for redemption info.

2. Many things, besides paper, plastic, cardboard and glass can be recycled. Check with your waste disposal company for the details. Some items are collected curbside, while others—like oil, electronics, batteries and solvents—can be taken to designated centers. Faithful practice reduces the volume that ends up in landfills as well as all that bad stuff that can work its way into our water and atmosphere.

3. Consider composting food waste. Some areas offer community composting or you can do it yourself with minimal effort and expense.

4. Just because they’re showing a little wear and tear, clothes, towels, linens, furniture and other household items still have some life left in them. Nonprofits like Goodwill offer convenient drop off locations. And because some donations are deductible, you might just reduce your taxes as well as waste.


Don’t let little things sap your energy

Most of us are aware of major electricity-wasting habits, like leaving the lights on when we’re not in the room. But there are also many little things you can do to save big over time.

1. Clean up well. Fill up the dishwasher before using and opt for ‘energy saving’ settings.

2. Don’t lose your cool. Check freezer and fridge settings to make sure they’re not too high. And limit the time you leave the doors open.

3. Pull the plug. Many electronics, appliances and chargers are drawing energy even if they aren’t turned on. Remember to pull the plug or turn off power strips, especially when you’ll be gone for hours, or days. Use smart power strips for your computer and related devices.

4. Be an energy star. Opt for Energy Star rated appliances and systems whenever possible.


Manage your liquid asset

We all know that water is a precious commodity, and an expensive one. Here are a few things you can do to manage this liquid asset, and your cash flow.

1. Little drops can lead to big leaks in your wallet. Check faucets, showerheads and pipes for drips—typical repairs are simple and low cost, and can save a lot of water.

2. Explore the feasibility of an on-demand or recirculation system for your home. A lot of water goes down the drain while it’s heating up.

3. It’s been said before, but it still makes sense. Turn off the water while doing things like brushing your teeth or shampooing. Stop the flow until you need it.

4. Think ahead, and voice your support for changes in housing codes like those that allow graywater to be used in flushing the toilet. We have the technology and can put it to work.


Manage your liquid asset

Everyone loves a beautiful landscape. Here are a few things you can do to improve your green spaces while saving some green.

1. Attach an adjustable spray head to your garden hose, and check for leaks on hoses and spigots.

2. Opt for drought tolerant plantings for a beautiful, budget-loving landscape.

3. Consider a ‘smart’ irrigation system. It detects moisture in the soil and turns on the water only when your veggies and flowers are thirsty.

4. Explore a water catchment system for use in hydrating plants or washing the car. There are many options, from a simple rain barrel to a sophisticated laundry-to-landscape graywater system.


Keep your cool

1. To keep summer heat in the great outdoors, make sure your weather stripping is in good shape. Hot air can get in during warmer weather just as easily as cold air when it’s chilly outside.

2. Use window coverings to reduce the amount of heat sun brings into your home, especially through south, west or east facing windows. And don’t forget the exterior—use shutters, awnings and solar blinds or screens. You’ll want to remove exterior shading during winter months when those rays can help lower your heating bill.

3. If you use a window air conditioner, make sure to seal around the edges.

4. Fans are a thrifty way to bring in cool air at night and circulate it during the day.

 


Need an energy boost?

There are many ways to boost energy efficiency and lower the related costs that can really sap your budget. And you’ll improve air quality, durability and your stewardship of the environment while you’re at it. Here’s a link to a few videos that shed some light. The CHERP site is also a good resource for info on home energy retrofits and ways to get better performance from your home.

www.cherp.net/building-science-videos


How the numbers add up may surprise you

Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan created an amazing body of work that graphically depicts just some of the ways we impact the health of the planet and its inhabitants. We agree with the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And these photos speak volumes. www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/rtn and www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/rtn2. While you’re visiting the site, check out his other collections that further document the beauty, and vulnerability of the Earth.