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Newsletter // GreenerBuildings News, Dec. 2, 2010:

December 02, 2010
In This Issue GreenBuzz
  » The Latest News: GE's Energy Management Play, Making the Case for Clean Construction, and More...
  » Featured News: Simplifying the Energy Star Process for Building Managers
  » GreenBiz Radio: The Greening of Food Service
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Keeping 'em Honest

By Rob Watson

Maybe it's just me, but things seemed to be happening at the wrong time more and more these days, sort of like peak foliage in Central Park in November or Christmas music and advertising starting just after Halloween. I've been out in New York for the last week, practically in shirtsleeves. And, although none of the days set all-time temperature records for the dates, it still has been weird weather for this time of year.

So far global surface temperatures for the January through October time period are the warmest on record, while the satellite atmospheric temperature data shows second warmest or third warmest depending upon which dataset you're comparing it to. In addition, the Arctic ice volume is the lowest on record and demonstrates the second smallest extent of sea ice observed since records were kept was reported last week.

I suppose this is part of the "new normal" that we will be getting used to.

Sometimes it seems as though the more we know, the more we don't know. Or, more likely, it is the more we know, the more people try to tell us we don't know what we think we know. Indeed, facts can be stubborn things, but selective or partial use of facts, or the use of facts out of context, can easily manipulate or distort the truth.

For example, the United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) launch of a new global effort to secure the energy and CO2 reduction benefits of phasing out incandescent lighting will undoubtedly give rise to the persistent crop of misinformation about compact fluorescent lamps.

This new UNEP initiative coincides with the Cancun COP16 meeting that is trying to hammer out a new post-Kyoto agreement on controlling CO2 emissions. Worldwide, according to the international energy agency, lighting comprises approximately 19 percent of global electricity use and contributes to another 3 percent to 4 percent of power needs for cooling requirements, net of heating contributions.

Approximately 30 national governments, including the United States, have initiated bands on incandescent technology, with most of them coming in to full effect in the next 2 to 4 years. So what will replace this beloved technology?

In the short run, it probably will be compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and in the mid-to longer term, light emitting diodes (LEDs). At the rate the technology is developing, we may see LEDs come in faster than anticipated. But we are sure to see in the near term a great deal of misinformation disseminated about CFLs.

To be sure, CFLs are not perfect technology; what is? However, they are neither the health hazard nor the one-world government black helicopters they are made out to be. Undoubtedly, in the wake of the UNEP initiative, the Internet will once again be flooded with the apocryphal story about the Maine homeowner who was told that she needed a hazardous waste company to come and remove her broken compact fluorescent from her living room.

It is true that compact fluorescent lamps do contain mercury -- four to five thousandths of a gram -- less than 1 percent of the mercury in a thermometer and about 35 percent less mercury than would be emitted through the combustion of coal over the life of a CFL. In addition, most of the mercury is bound in the phosphorus coating of the lamp and tests have found that less than 40 percent of the mercury ultimately evaporates if a lamp is broken.

Nonetheless, common sense dictates that if you break something that contains a hazardous substance, like a thermometer, that you take precautions when cleaning it up. Indeed, the EPA recommends opening the windows of a room where a CFL has been broken; it recommends using gloves and sticky tape to pick up the glass shards -- the biggest hazard being from getting a glass shard impaled in your skin -- and disposing of the waste properly. Rather than calling a hazmat crew, EPA recommends putting the resulting waste in a plastic bag.

Speaking of proper disposal, Albertson's, the West Coast retailer, just announced that two of their Santa Barbara stores divert from landfill and incinerator over 95 percent of their waste. Generally, a diversion percent above 90 is considered "zero waste" by Zero Waste International Alliance. Annually, these two stores divert over 1,000 tons of waste through recycling, composting, or reuse. In a nice post-Thanksgiving angle, perishable food that is still edible is donated to the Santa Barbara County Food Bank while other organic waste is composted.

On the buildings front, our good friends at Green Order have shared an interesting article on progress being made in clean construction, which has moved out of concept into implementation.

I remember when we were planning on releasing LEED Version 3.0 back in 2003 and Uchenna Bright at NRDC developed a "clean construction equipment" credit proposal that encompassed many of the features described in the article. As the authors Atkins and Crowley correctly point out, construction equipment is one of the biggest point sources of particulate emissions in crowded urban environments, and one that is mostly unregulated.

General Electric just announced the release of its Nucleus home energy management system. The Home Energy Management (HEM) system allows smart appliances to connect with the smart grid. The HEM uses open protocols that allow interoperability of a variety of different home appliances, such as water heaters, refrigerators and dishwashers.

Although it would've made a great stocking stuffer, the HEM will only be available initially through your local utility. And speaking of stocking stuffing with a purpose, check out, which has partnered with more than 1600 retailers to donate up to 30 percent of customer's spending to over 95,000 charities or schools of their choice.

This week's Look-Grandpa-I-picked-up-the-$20-bill-you-said-was-fake-but-it's-real! award goes to eBay for its new LEED Gold certified Topaz datacenter in Utah. The Topaz facility has a power utilization effectiveness (PUE) of 1.4, which means that for every kilowatt-hour utilized by the datacenter, approximately 1.4 kWh come into the facility. Given the fact that the datacenter must be online 24/7 and is absolutely critical to the fulfillment of eBay's mission, the 1.4 PUE is quite amazing, since a PUE of 1 is the theoretical maximum.

But, energy must be used for ventilation, cooling, lighting, etc. (Some people advertise a PUE of 0.9 for their data facilities, but that's a nonsense number -- how can more energy go to the data equipment than comes into the facility -- obviously it's a fantasy generated by a marketing team, not an engineering team.) According to the Uptime Institute, a typical datacenter has a PUE of approximately 2. Given the size of the Topaz facility, we can expect eBay to save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in energy costs.

   The Latest News
GE Expands Smart Grid Efforts to Include Home Energy Management
By Rob Watson

GE launched a new energy management business today aimed at helping consumers use smart grid technologies to reduce their household energy use.... Read More

Hospitals Failing to Adopt Energy Efficient Technologies, Survey Finds

eBay's Green Data Center Lands LEED Gold

The Story Behind Solar Gard's Environmental Product Declaration

Making the Case for 'Clean Construction'

   Featured News
Simplifying the Energy Star Process for Building Managers
By Rob Watson

With the economic and environmental benefits of Energy Star certification for buildings well established and widely known, why aren't more businesses taking part? There are a few key challenges building managers must overcome.... Read More

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   GreenBiz Radio
The Greening of Food Service: National Geographic Society
By Brian Dawson

(Episode 105): In the first of a three-part podcast series, the executive chef at the National Geographic Society explains how Sodexo has worked with the group to cut costs, reduce waste, and help earn LEED Platinum certification.... Listen

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Green Building Market and Impact Report 2010

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