Sustainable Sources will go dark on Jan 18 to fight SOPA

On January 18 from 8am to 8pm, SustainableSources.com will join RedditBoing Boing and a growing number of other sites around the Internet in “going dark” to bring awareness of the need to loudly oppose SOPA and PIPA, the pending US legislation that creates a punishing Internet censorship regime and exports it to the rest of the world.

Let Congress know you OPPOSE H.R. 3261 “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and S. 968 “Protect IP Act” (PIPA):

Opponents of SOPA: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, AOL, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy, Zynga, EFF, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX)

Supporters of SOPA: RIAA, MPAA, News Corporation, VISA, Mastercard, Pfizer, Comcast, Time Warner, ABC, Nike, Walmart, Dow Chemical, Tiffany, Chanel, Rolex, Monster Cable, Teamsters, Lamar Smith (R-TX), John Conyers (D-MI)

Where does your Member of Congress stand on SOPA? (Project SOPA Opera)

SOPA and PIPA Are Too Dangerous To Revise, They Must Be Killed Entirely 

Congress needs to hear from you, or these dangerous bills will pass – they have tremendous lobbying dollars behind them, from large corporations reportedly hoping to prop up outdated, anti-consumer business models at the expense of the very fabric of the Internet — recklessly unleashing a tsunami of take-down notices and litigation, and a Pandora’s jar of “chilling effects” and other unintended (or perhaps intended?) consequences.

For example, Monster Cable considers craigslist a “rogue site” for takedown under PIPA – they want to prevent YOU from selling YOUR unwanted cables so they can increase sales! Many other “rights holders” want to do the same. Boycott anyone? There is an app for that.

Corporations pushing SOPA/PIPA want the ability to block you from reaching any web site they feel might be hurting their profits — without due process of any kind, or review in any court — by literally interrupting all Internet traffic to those sites via DNS at the ISPs and by censoring search engine results.  Incredibly, many lawmakers want to give them that right.

There is still time to be heard. Congress is starting to backpedal on this job-killing, anti-American nonsense, and the Obama administration has weighed in against these bills as drafted, but SOPA/PIPA cannot be fixed or revised — they must be killed altogether.

Sen Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep Ron Wyden (D-OR) are championing an alternative to SOPA/PIPA called Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) that focuses on cutting off payments to foreign sites dedicated to piracy, and refrains from disrupting basic Internet protocols, or threatening mainstream US sites like craigslist.

Tim O’Reilly, a publisher who is himself subject to piracy, asks whether piracy is even a problem, and whether there is even a legitimate need for any of these bills.

Learn more about SOPA, Protect IP (PIPA), and Internet Blacklisting:

The Global Straw Building Network discussion forum (GSBN)

The Global Straw Building Network is a private discussion list with publicly available archives and the option for anyone to subscribe in non-post mode. It is composed of representatives of regional organizations and other non-affiliated key individuals involved in the general advancement of straw-bale and other straw-use building materials and techniques. The intentionally small number of members range from highly experienced professionals to well informed laypeople.

The ability to post to GSBN is by invitation only. Any posts sent to the GSBN address from email addresses which have not been approved to post are automatically discarded.

Other discussion forums about building with straw exist elsewhere for those who are new to the process and/or to building techniques in general. Please see http://strawbale.sustainablesources.com or http://sustainablesources.com/resources/online-discussions/ to join them.

Should you have further questions about the operation of GSBN, please contact the list maintainer/host at http://sustainablesources.com/about/contact-us/

To sign up for GSBN or to see the archves (since 1998), go to http://sustainablesources.com/mailman/listinfo.cgi/gsbn

Rare opportunity to visit Gaviotas village

The village of Gaviotas in the llanos of Colombia today announced a rare chance for outsiders to visit.

So far, few outsiders have managed to visit this special place. But public order has made a comeback in the region, and in 2010, two groups of 20 people each (including a 1-year old baby girl!) traveled all the way to Colombia’s eastern plains to visit this unique community. The visits were a success, and the village now wishes to invite another 20 people for a fully hosted day visit. In addition, Gaviotas founder Paolo Lugari is personally inviting you to spend a few additional days in conversation with him and other Gaviotans in and around the Gaviotas office in Bogotá.

During the 8-month rainy season the roads turn into mud and the Gaviotas landing strip is flooded – March is your chance to go before is starts pouring!

See FriendsOfGaviotas.org for full details.

For more info about Gaviotas, see reflections on our meeting with founder Paolo Lugari, and the book Gaviotas, A Village to Reinvent the World.

A Different Kind of HVAC Contractor – And the Book He Wrote

Trish Holder of GreenspirationHome.com Interviews Joe Gorman, Contractor and Author of From Contractor to Consumer

Joe Gorman From Contractor to Consumer

The book you’ve got to read (or at least skim) before choosing an HVAC contractor!

Not long ago I ran across a book on the internet entitled, “From Contractor to Consumer:  The Truth about Heating, Air Conditioning, and Home Comfort Systems”. HVAC nerd that I am, I had to investigate.  After all, this was pretty out of the ordinary for a HVAC contractor to write a book – much less one that is actually geared toward educating consumers.  Frankly, I think a lot of them would like to keep us stupid.  So, I asked Joe to send me a copy of his book and he did.  I was so impressed with this easy-to-read little book (and Joe’s initiative to write it) that I decided to interview this rare contractor who happens to agree with me that what a homeowner doesn’t know about their HVAC system really can hurt.

Read the rest…

“New Energy Star Standards for Dishwashers and Furnaces” is locked New Energy Star Standards for Dishwashers and Furnaces

From Environmental Building News, Vol. 20 No. 9

By Evan Dick

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced revisions to Energy Star requirements for residential dishwashers and furnaces.

Effective January 20, 2012, Energy Star dishwashers will be 8% more efficient than previous Energy Star models and 10%–30% more efficient than conventional models. Standard Energy Star dishwashers will consume no more than 4.25 gallons per cycle and 295 kWh per year, down from 5.8 gallons per cycle and 324 kWh per year for 2009–2011 Energy Star models.

For furnaces, the rules become effective February 1, 2012 and will be regional for the first time, mirroring the U.S. Department of Energy’s new minimum HVAC efficiency standards announced in July 2011 (see “New HVAC Standards Will Be Regional,” EBN July 2011).

Energy Star furnaces must now be 12% more efficient than the baseline in the South and 16% more efficient in the North. Energy Star furnaces in the South will have a special label that lists the states in which the certification is valid.

In addition to the introduction of its Most Efficient label (see “Energy Star to Label ‘Most Efficient’ Appliances,” EBN Aug. 2011), EPA has promised revisions to 20 Energy Star product requirements in 2011.
September 1, 2011

To keep up with the latest, see https://www.buildinggreen.com/product-guide/residential-dishwashers and https://www.buildinggreen.com/product-guide/furnaces .  Both are behind paywalls.

Consider Hybrid Geothermal Heat Pump

New research shows that installing a hybrid geothermal heat pump system can significantly reduce the cost of implementing geothermal heating and cooling. The hybrid system reduces the peak capacity of the ground loop, making a smaller, less expensive ground heat exchanger feasible.

The Energy Center of Wisconsin with assistance from the University of Wisconsin Solar Energy Laboratory collected annual operating data on three working hybrid system installations. The economic and environmental impact of the hybrid approach was to compared it to other HVAC system designs. This data was used to investigate what contributes to an effective hybrid design.

Using project results, the Energy Center developed tools for HVAC system designers to use to assess the benefits of hybrid geothermal on specific building projects. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Alliant Energy and Madison Gas and Electric. Download the final report at www.ecw.org/hybrid.

Straw Social housing in UK

Recent articles in the Guardian and other publications tells of strawbale “Council housing” in the UK. Council houses are a form of social housing. The local council builds the houses which are then offered at a subsidised rent to people who are unable to afford full rental values.

Straw houses are baling out council building plans

Straw Bale Council House, Lincolnshire

North Kesteven District Council page on Straw Council Houses

Straw House Photo Gallery

Building Research & Information, Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2011, pp. 51–65, ISSN 0961-3218

Apply Now for a Greenbuild 2011 Scholarship

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Greenbuild Scholarship Program is now open and accepting applications. Designed for low-income individuals entering into the green building industry the Greenbuild Scholarship Program provides all-inclusive trips to the Greenbuild International Conference to those without the means to attend. Greenbuild is the ideal setting for those new to the green building industry to learn from green building experts, discover innovative technologies and companies that are transforming the industry, and to form worthwhile relationships within the green building movement.

Learn about the program and its requirements and apply »

Site Selection and Analysis

Choosing a site on which to locate a new home is not a simple task. Countless factors – natural, man-made, social and economic – must be examined. Where we choose to build and how we build on a site have an impact on the local and global environments, ongoing costs (utility bills, maintenance) and our physical and psychological well-being. With today’s rapid growth, dwindling resources and increasing pollution threats, concern for human and environmental health are causing us to take a closer look at our building practices, starting with the building site. Whether selecting a site or working with an existing site, and whether the site is urban, suburban or rural, there are many aspects that can be examined with respect to how “green”, that is how healthy for people and the planet, the home on that site can potentially be.

Location, Location, Location

Selecting a building site close to work, schools, shopping, etc. will minimize travel distances and time. Short distances, sidewalks, bike paths and bus stops will allow for healthier modes of transportation and the avoidance of excessive costly, polluting automobile trips. A lot in an established neighborhood located close to town is a particularly good choice for many people. This land has already been dedicated to residential development, so more natural land does not have to be destroyed and the costly roads and utilities are already in place.

Avoiding environmentally sensitive areas helps protect some of the features that makes many areas so special – our creeks, lakes, aquifer, tree-covered hills, wildlife, native wildflowers & plants.  Flat to moderately sloped sites are preferable to steeply sloped lots, as soil erosion, loss of hillside vegetation and damage to waterways are more difficult to avoid when building on steep slopes.

“Site Repair” is a special approach to selection of a building site that can have economic and aesthetic benefits for the prospective homeowner while restoring the local environment rather than burdening it. This involves choosing a site that has been abused (stripped of vegetation, eroded, invaded by exotic (non-native) vegetation, etc.) for the location of the home. Placement of the new home on the “scarred” area often leaves the more beautiful areas to be looked out upon and enjoyed.

Design For The Climate, Flora, Fauna & Soils

The chosen building site can greatly affect the comfort and energy efficiency of the home built upon it. A south-facing slope or good southern exposure on a lot which allows for the long sides of the building to face north and south will facilitate the utilization of our prevailing summer breezes and desirable winter solar heat gain. A hot, bare site will require a greater investment in wide overhangs, shading devices such as awnings or trellises, and shade trees to keep utility bills down and comfort levels up.

Examination of a particular site’s unique characteristics is important. The top of a hill may be too windy, drying and exposed to the hot sun. A valley may be too damp, windless, foggy or subject to flooding. Location and type of trees should be evaluated for summer shading assistance, summer breeze channeling or blocking, winter wind blocking, and winter solar heat gain penetration.

A lot that allows for placement of the house on a relatively flat area and in a natural clearing will minimize disruption of the natural vegetation. This will avoid erosion, discourage growth of invasive exotic vegetation, and be less expensive than massive reconstruction. Minimizing disruption of natural drainage patterns is generally less expensive up front and avoids costly maintenance of elaborate constructed drainage systems. When native trees and vegetation must be removed, they can often be replanted elsewhere on or off the site. Respecting existing wildlife trails and habitat will enhance wildlife observation enjoyment.

Minimization of Raw Materials

One of the best ways to minimize the use of raw materials is to select a site that already has a home on it, and remodel as necessary. At times it makes sense to move an existing home to a new site. Some sites may offer sources of usable building materials such as wood, stone, clay and sand which, if carefully and thoughtfully considered, can be a sound alternative to importation.

One of the best ways to minimize the amount (and cost) of building materials required is to keep the size of the home reasonable. With thoughtful design a small home can be very comfortable, functional and respectful of privacy. Smaller, more affordable lots should not be overlooked.

Social/Psychological/Functional

How the site “feels” – inviting or forbidding, hot or cool, open or intimate – may affect how much the new homeowners take advantage of outdoor living spaces. Maximum use of patios, decks, natural clearings, or other outdoor rooms can result in the need for less indoor square footage that needs to be constructed then heated and cooled, not to mention the psychological and physical benefits of being outdoors. A prospective building site should be examined for existing tree groupings, landforms or structures that will aid in creating pleasant, usable outdoor spaces. Off site conditions which may affect outdoor livability or indoor living with open windows (such as traffic noise, odors or pollution) should be considered before selecting a site.

Many site selection and home design decisions that are good for the environment also have direct positive benefits on the occupants’ health, well-being and budget. Helping to preserve our environment through more thoughtful site selection and home design is one very important step toward a continued high quality of life.

This article first appeared in the Austin American Statesman.