Green Building Archive


Build Up Your Library – It’s Architecture Month!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Humans are builders. Ever since the first ape figured out it was nicer to sleep under a couple of branches than out in the rain, we’ve been tinkering with the stuff of the Earth to make our lives a little nicer.

Nowadays, armed with high-tech information and analysis, and inspired by the urgent need to use resources with care, builders are returning to ancient and natural building techniques. Chelsea Green has long been the go-to publisher for natural building titles to guide and inspire projects as small as backyard sheds and as large as dream homes.

Because August is Architecture Month we’re putting the following books on sustainable building methods on sale for 25% off until September 1.

Whether you’d like to learn more about timber framing, straw bale, cob, or passive solar principles, we’ve got the book for you!

The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction

Natural buildings not only bring satisfaction to their makers and joy to their occupants, they also leave the gentlest footprint on the environment. In this complete reference to natural building philosophy, design, and technique, Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton walk builders through planning and construction, offering step-by-step instructions on siting, choosing materials, planning for heat and moisture, developing an integrative design, creating the foundation, wall system, roof, floors … and more.

Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting, and More Using Natural Flows

In this comprehensive overview of passive solar design, two of America’s solar pioneers give homeowners, architects, designers, and builders the keys to successfully harnessing the sun and maximizing climate resources for heating, cooling, ventilation, and daylighting.

 

The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

The Hand-Sculpted House is theoretical and philosophical, but intensely practical as well. You will get all the how-to information to undertake a cob building project. As the modern world rediscovers the importance of living in sustainable harmony with the environment, this book is a bible of radical simplicity.

 

The Straw Bale House

Imagine building a house with superior seismic stability, fire resistance, and thermal insulation, using an annually renewable resource, for half the cost of a comparable conventional home. Welcome to the straw bale house! Whether you build an entire house or something more modest-a home office or studio, a retreat cabin or guest cottage-plastered straw bale construction is an exceptionally durable and inexpensive option. What’s more, it’s fun, because the technique is easy to learn and easy to do yourself. And the resulting living spaces are unusually quiet and comfortable.

Selected titles will be on sale for 25% off until September 1.

Yestermorrow Live: Join a Workshop with the Authors of The Natural Building Companion

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Join the authors of The Natural Building Companion for a workshop — right here!

Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin are hosting a lecture entitled High Performance Natural Buildings for Cold Climates. You don’t have to trek all the way to Yestermorrow — you can watch a live stream of the workshop right here on chelseagreen.com

Here’s some more information about the workshop:

It is critical to identify the role social and community-responsive practices play in providing long-term solutions to the ecological problems and other pressing issues we face.  In this workshop, we will examine the role that natural building can play in supporting these practices.  We will explore a variety of different natural building technologies in a series of different applications, and evaluate how to develop an appropriate strategy for their implementation.  This presentation will feature case study, research, building science principles, and philosophical arguments to support the role for natural building as a solution for building efficiency and resiliency.

Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin co-founded New Frameworks Natural Building (NFNB) in 2006 to offer green remodeling and new construction services that utilize the best that both natural building materials and methods and conventional construction practices have to offer.   Ace and Jacob have conducted field research on moisture and thermal performance of straw bale wall systems, which is featured in their book The Natural Building Companion (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012).

And here’s the video!

Power from the People is Here!

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Power from the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects by Greg Pahl is here!

If you’ve ever looked up at the power lines feeding into your home and wondered if there could be a better way than giant plants miles from town supplying your electricity by burning dirty fossil fuels — this is the book for you. The answer is an emphatic yes! There are many better ways to generate power than our current system, and Greg Pahl shows through examples from around the country and world how communities can take control of their energy destiny, generating power in more resilient and more sustainable ways.

Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet says about the book, “Talk about down-and-dirty. Or rather, down-and-clean! Here’s the actual useful detail on how to do the stuff that really needs doing. Read it and get to work!”

Power from the People is the second book in the Community Resilience Guide series — a project in partnership with Post Carbon Institute exploring the newest and most promising examples of relocalization for uncertain times.

To celebrate the arrival of Power from the People, we’re sharing the Foreword from the book, written by Van Jones, author of the recently-released book Rebuild the Dream and The New York Times bestseller The Green Collar Economy. Jones is president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a platform to foster bottom-up, people-powered innovations to help fix the U.S. economy. He is currently a Visiting Fellow in Collaborative Economics at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.

“This book rests and optimistic message on a pessimistic premise,” Jones writes in the opening of the Foreword. “The paradox is this: Only by recognizing how much worse things can get can we muster the energy and creativity to win a better future. In that regard, the book you hold in your hands is not just an action guide; it is a survival guide.”

We couldn’t agree more. But, if that’s not enough, Jones adds:

Climate change and the economic and equity crises of our communities may appear to have little in common, but they share a key determining factor—namely, our near-complete dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas. The carbon dioxide produced by driving our vehicles, heating (and cooling) our homes, and lighting our cities with fossil fuels is the main culprit behind climate change. Meanwhile, that same dependence on fossil fuels sucks billions of dollars every year out of communities across America, with the poorest households often hit hardest.

But what if we found ways to power our homes, businesses, factories, and vehicles that didn’t warm the planet, that kept local dollars circulating in local economies, and that even created local jobs? What if we spread those climate-friendly, local-economy-boosting, job-creating ideas to every city and town across the country?

For more inspiring words from Van Jones, continue reading below.
Power from the People – Foreword by Van Jones

Pre-Release Special: Power from the People

Monday, July 30th, 2012

More and more Americans acutely sense that the old way of doing things — investing our savings in Wall Street companies who care little about our families and communities; depending on polluting, costly, and non-renewable sources of energy; eating food grown far away that makes us sick — is no longer working.

People want to invest in their own homes and neighborhoods. They want to increase local self-reliance in the face of uncertainty. They want to have a say in the future of their communities. But how?

In partnership with Post Carbon Institute, Chelsea Green Publishing is publishing the Community Resilience Guides — a series of books exploring the newest and most promising examples of relocalization for uncertain times.

The latest guide is Power from the People by Greg Pahl, and to celebrate it’s publication we are offering a pre-release special discount of 25% off for this week only.

More than ninety percent of the electricity we use to light our communities, and nearly all the energy we use to run our cars, heat our homes, and power our factories comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In Power from the People, energy expert Greg Pahl explains how American communities can plan, finance, and produce their own local, renewable energy that is reliable, safe, and clean. Pahl uses examples from around the nation and the world to demonstrate how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofits, governments, and businesses are already putting this power to work for their communities—including the work Pahl has pioneered in his own community in Vermont.

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at PCI and author of The End of Growth, says,

“Energy is at the heart of our 21st century economic-ecological crisis, but most writing on the subject is suffused either with immobilizing anticipation of doom or giddy wishful thinking. Here at last is a genuinely helpful energy book, one that’s realistic and practical. If you want to actually do something about our energy future, here is where to start.”

If you are part of a Transition Town, a city that is looking seriously at renewable energy sources, or just a citizen that wants to be knowledgeable about this exciting and optimistic set of solutions to our energy problems, Power from the People will inspire and inform you.

Get a copy this week and save 25%!

Guides for Natural Builders on Sale

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Are you looking for some easy energy efficiency projects you can do around the house to reduce your carbon footprint? Are you planning to build a new house and want to work with local materials? Maybe you want to try your hand at building and baking in an earth oven. Humans were made to build, and the Earth has all the materials we need if we know where to look and how to use them.

We’ve put a selection of our keystone books on sale to inspire and guide you to think about natural methods for your next building project.

Chelsea Green has published classic how-to texts on natural building techniques since the mid 1980s, with some of them among our all-time bestsellers, like The Straw Bale House. We have continued this proud tradition with the recent publication of The Natural Building Companion and Passive Solar Architecture.

From curvaceous houses sculpted by hand out of cob, to the soft colors of natural plaster over straw bales, and the efficient radiant warmth put out by masonry stoves, natural building techniques have been making people comfortable for centuries. These ancient methods of construction have never really gone out of style, and today they’re more important than ever.

Happy reading (and building) from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing.

The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction

Natural Building Companion Cover Image
Retail Price: $59.95
Sale Price: $38.97

In this complete reference to natural building philosophy, design, and technique, Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton walk builders through planning and construction, offering step-by-step instructions on siting, choosing materials, planning for heat and moisture, developing an integrative design, plastering, budgeting, and much more.

The book is part of the The Yestermorrow Design/Build Library, and includes an instructional DVD with dozens of step-by-step projects designed to help better guide you in the construction of your natural home.

What distinguishes “natural building” from the more mainstream designation “green building”? Author Jacob Deva Racusin discusses the differences, and how to bridge the gap in this video lecture. WATCH IT HERE…

Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting, and More Using Natural Flows

Passive Solar Architecture Cover Image
Retail Price: $85.00
Sale Price: $55.25

In this comprehensive overview of passive solar design, two of America’s solar pioneers give homeowners, architects, designers, and builders the keys to successfully harnessing the sun and maximizing climate resources for heating, cooling, ventilation, and daylighting.

 

Bainbridge and Haggard draw upon examples from more than three decades of experience to offer overarching principles as well as the details and formulas needed to successfully design a more comfortable, healthy, beautiful, and secure place in which to live. Even if the power goes off.

 

Bookbuilders of Boston gave Passive Solar Architecture an award for its professional and informative design. READ MORE HERE…


Adobe Homes for All Climates: Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques

Adobe Homes for All Climates Cover Image
Retail Price: $34.95
Sale Price: $22.72

Adobe bricks are an easy way to achieve a solid masonry-wall system. Contrary to stereotypes, adobe is adaptable for use in cold, wet climates as well as hot, dry ones. Energy and resource efficient, and requiring minimal effort for long-term maintenance, the humble adobe brick is an ideal option for eco-friendly building throughout the world.

 

Equipped with this book, you will be able to obtain a building permit, make and build with adobe bricks to create a beautiful, energy-efficient home that will last for generations to come.

Su Casa magazine reviewed Adobe Homes for All Climates. READ IT HERE…

Masonry Heaters: Designing, Building, and Living with a Piece of the Sun

Masonry Heaters Cover Image
Retail Price: $39.95 
Sale Price: $25.97

Masonry Heaters is a complete guide to designing and living with one of the oldest, and yet one of the newest, heating devices. The value of a masonry heater lies in its durability, quality, serviceability, dependability, and health-supporting features. And it is an investment in self-sufficiency and freedom from fossil fuels.

Those who are looking to build, add onto, or remodel a house will find comprehensive and practical advice for designing and installing a masonry heater, including detailed discussion of materials, code considerations, and many photos and illustrations.

 

Check out the Google Preview for gorgeous photos from the book. READ IT HERE…

Roundwood Timber Framing: Building Naturally Using Local Resources

Roundwood Timber Framing Cover Image
Retail Price: $39.95 
Sale Price: $25.97

This definitive manual marks the birth of a new vernacular for the 21st century.

 

Over 400 colour photographs and step-by-step instructions guide you through the building of anything from a garden shed to your own woodland house. This practical ‘how to’ book will unquestionably be a benchmark for sustainable building using renewable local resources and evolving traditional skills to create durable, ecological and beautiful buildings.

What does a roundwood building look like? Take a tour of Ben Law’s home in this brief video. WATCH IT HERE…

The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

The Hand-Sculpted House Cover Image
Retail Price: $35.00 Sale Price: $22.75

Cob is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as “an ecstatic house.”

 

The Hand-Sculpted House is theoretical and philosophical, but intensely practical as well. You will get all the how-to information to undertake a cob building project. As the modern world rediscovers the importance of living in sustainable harmony with the environment, this book is a bible of radical simplicity.

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE…

The Straw Bale House

The Straw Bale House Cover Image
Retail Price: $30.00 
Sale Price: $19.50

Imagine building a house with superior seismic stability, fire resistance, and thermal insulation, using an annually renewable resource, for half the cost of a comparable conventional home.

 

Welcome to the straw bale house! Whether you build an entire house or something more modest—a home office or studio, a retreat cabin or guest cottage—plastered straw bale construction is an exceptionally durable and inexpensive option.

This book is our all-time #1 bestseller!  

Athena Steen tells her story in this excerpt from the book. READ IT HERE…

The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit

The Carbon-Free Home Cover Image
Retail Price: $35.00
Sale Price: $22.75

You probably know that energy used in your home produces more global-warming pollution than your car, but what can you do to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels?

 

Read this book—then grab your handsaw, tape measure, and drill, and get started! A life powered by the sun is waiting for you. Meant as a guide for renovating existing homes, The Carbon-Free Home gives you the hands-on knowledge necessary to turn your existing house into an environmental asset.

Save money this summer: ditch your clothes dryer! Just one of many great projects from the book. GET STARTED…

Build Your Own Earth Oven: A Low-Cost Wood-Fired Mud Oven; Simple Sourdough Bread; Perfect Loaves

Build Your Own Earth Oven Cover Image
Retail Price: $17.95
Sale Price: $11.67

Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat oven with the ease and timeless beauty of earthen construction.

 

Build Your Own Earth Oven is fully illustrated with step-by-step directions, including how to find materials, build an oven, tend the fire, and how to make perfect sourdough hearth loaves in the artisan tradition.

Why an earth oven? What is this “cob” stuff anyway? Read the book’s introduction to find out. READ IT HERE…

The Passive Solar House, Revised and Expanded: The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home

The Passive Solar House Cover Image
Includes instructional DVD Retail Price: $40.00
Sale Price: $26.00

For the past ten years The Passive Solar House has offered proven techniques for building homes that heat and cool themselves, using readily available materials and methods familiar to all building contractors and many do-it-yourself homeowners.

 

This is the building book for a world of climbing energy costs. Applicable to diverse regions, climates, budgets, and styles of architecture, Kachadorian’s techniques translate the essentials of timeless solar design into practical wisdom for today’s solar builders. Includes a CD-ROM with Custom Design Software.

 

Use your windows to heat your home. FIND OUT HOW…

 

More New and Noteworthy Titles On Sale

The Solar House coverDesign of Straw Bale Buildings coverMaking Better Concrete coverNatural Home Heating coverThe Natural House cover
The New Ecological Home coverStone House coverUsing Natural Finishes coverEnergy Free coverRainwater Harvesting cover

 

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* Books on sale until August 15th*

Summer Cooling Advice from the Author of The Passive Solar House

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Not only are Chelsea Green authors experts in their fields, from organic farming to green building, they’re incredibly nice folks! Just last week we got an email from James Kachadorian including this article full of tips to help fight the extreme heat a lot of the nation is feeling.

So here they are, some passive solar strategies for keeping your home cool without frying the planet.

by James Kachadorian, Author: The Passive Solar House

With temperatures soaring across our country and heat records breaking on a daily basis, let’s consider the summer cooling aspects of a properly designed solar home. On the cover of my book, The Passive Solar House, one will find the words The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home.

Is this an oxymoron? Most people only associate a passive solar home with heating. However a properly designed passive solar home can and will be cooler in the heat of the summer than a conventional home.

First let’s start outside, with proper siting and the strategic planting and placement of trees. The following two pictures illustrate what can be done with deciduous trees. When the leaves have dropped, the winter sun is allowed to penetrate through the bare branches to heat the home. When the trees have leafed out, the summer sun is blocked. We all know it’s a lot more comfortable to sit under a leafed out maple tree in summer than to sit in the open sun.


Winter

Summer

The trees in these pictures were all planted when the home was built.

Next, by siting the home to face true south, the summer south sun that does get to the home is so high in the sky that there is little to no penetration via the south windows and patio doors. The next picture shows the amount of sun penetration at solar noon on the June summer solstice. Not only does the sun penetrate the home just a few inches; but the high angle of incidence “bounces” most the sun’s heat away from the patio doors and windows.

Summer Solstice

However, this is not the case for east and west facing windows. These windows are important heat collectors in spring and fall but can be detrimental in summer. The reason being that the sun’s east-south-west sweep around the home is greater in summer. The next diagram shows how the “slice of the pie” gets greater from December to June. The south aperture goes from 106 degrees in December to 234.6 degrees in June at north latitude 40 degrees.

Sun Angles

Window treatments are effective in controlling east and west heat gain in summer. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays are almost perpendicular to east and west windows in summer making the heat gain far greater than what happens with the  south faced windows. The following diagram and photograph show how east and west windows can be shuttered to keep the morning and/or afternoon sun out of the home. Of course, these same Thermo-Shutters are used in winter to reduce heat loss at night.

Thermo-Shutters

Decorated Thermo-Shutters

So far we have seen how we can control the macro environment by proper siting and the use of deciduous trees. We have also seen how we can keep the morning and afternoon sun out of the home by utilizing window treatments.

Now let’s go inside the home and see what we can do to keep the home cool. The most obvious is proper insulation. Almost everyone understands the importance of roof and wall insulation in controlling heat.  So let’s move on to discuss the use of thermal mass and simple ventilation techniques.

Thermal mass is used in a solar home to absorb heat both winter and summer. In winter the sun’s heat is stored in the thermal mass during the day and then released to the home at night when the sun is no longer shining. If the thermal mass is sized properly, the home stays at a comfortable temperature day and night. My term for this is that the home is in Thermal Balance. Or, the home has thermal inertia. Too much thermal mass and you have a cave. Too little thermal mass and you end up with a hothouse.

In summer, if the thermal mass is sized correctly, by the time that the house heats up, the heat of the day is over. Because of this, a thermal lag has been built into the home. In summer, the technique is to ventilate the home at night and let the night’s cooler air displace the heat retained in the thermal mass.

The formally patented Solar Slab described in The Passive Solar House book effectively accomplishes these heat exchanges because air is allowed to pass through the mass. The following diagram illustrates the air flow.

Note the ventilator placed in the attic. By running this fan at night the cooler night air drawn into the home and reduces the temperature of the Solar Slab. The home is then ready to take on the heat of the next day.

There are areas of the country where all the techniques discussed will not be sufficient to control heat and humidity; and mechanical air conditioning is needed.  In these areas the return air to the central air conditioner (heat pump) is passed through the Solar Slab. This will pre-cool the air and constantly assist the central air conditioner. Experience has shown that size of the air conditioner can be reduced because of the pre-cooling of the returning house air. This is analogous to present day hybrid cars where gravity is used in tandem with the mechanical engine. Whereby gravity charges the battery when the hybrid decelerates.  In the solar home described, the engine is the central air conditioner unit and “gravity” is the Solar Slab thermal mass.

Hopefully this discussion has demystified and illustrated how a solar home can be cooler in summer than a conventional home.

Energy Department Study Confirms Reinventing Fire‘s Vision

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

From TriplePundit, file in the extremely thin folder of articles that display governments’ ability to get with the program on climate change and peak oil!

May there be many more such articles in the years to come, and maybe, just maybe, by 2050 we’ll get to celebrate real independence — from fossil fuels and the gloom of a future we’re destroying with each gas-guzzling shopping trip and coal burning light-switch flip.

This has to be some of the more encouraging news I’ve heard in a while. A report released last week by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), called the Renewable Energy Futures Study, found that using renewables to provide the lion’s share of our electricity by 2050, without requiring any technological breakthroughs is a  reasonable proposition.

In fact, here is one of the key findings of the study.

“Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.”

This validates similar claims made in the Rocky Mountain Institute’s 2011 book, Reinventing Fire.

The NREL study, which used an hourly simulation analysis, evaluated a number of scenarios ranging from 30 percent to 90 percent, before settling on 80 percent as a reasonable, if ambitious, target. Of course it won’t be easy, and we won’t get there without real effort. Even if the technology doesn’t need a breakthrough to reach that goal, other things, such as business models, regulations, financing and infrastructure just might.

Renewables accounted for 10 percent of all electricity in 2010 (plus an additional 2 percent, mostly hydro, imported from Canada) with wind solar and others continuing to grow rapidly. In the 80 percent scenario, solar and wind, both of which are variable, unsteady sources, combine to contribute close to 50 percent of all electric power.

In order to accommodate this high level of variability, we will need a more flexible electric system (i.e. grid) that is capable of dynamically meeting the supply-demand balance in a world that relies heavily on renewables. This will include things like smart grid, demand forecasting, more flexible and responsive conventional plants (e.g. GE FlexEfficiency), grid storage (including V2G), and increased operational coordination.

The results achieved were found to be “consistent for a wide range of assumed conditions that constrained transmission expansion, grid flexibility, and renewable resource availability.”

Given the abundance and diversity of renewable resources in this country, there are multiple pathways by which this level of contribution might occur, which promises a robust and resilient energy future, if we can find the political will to overcome the many non-technological barriers that stand in the way.

Other key findings of the study include:

  • All regions of the United States could contribute substantial renewable electricity supply in 2050, consistent with their local renewable resource base.
  • Higher than current renewable growth rates will be required to achieve this level, but not higher than what has been achieved elsewhere.
  • Electricity supply and demand can be balanced in every hour of the year in each region with nearly 80 percent electricity from renewable resources,
  • Additional challenges to power system planning and operation would arise, including management of low-demand periods and curtailment of excess electricity generation.
  • Additional transmission infrastructure will be required.
  • The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios.

The study is not without its critics. However, they might not be who you expect them to be. Brad Plumer, writing for the Washington Post, suggests that NREL might be wildly underestimating the potential of solar and wind energy, which have been growing exponentially since 2001. He claims that estimates from official agencies, like the IEA, consistently underestimate the potential of renewables. Could that be because of cozy relationships that representatives might have with the utility industry?

Rocky Mountain Institute’s James Newcomb, has a different concern. Though he gives high praise to the report, calling it “rigorous and deep,” he points out that it maintains a business-as-usual assumption when it comes to the business model that utilities will use in the future. Specifically, he is concerned that the role of distributed generation, which could fundamentally revise the electric utility business, has not been adequately represented in the study. RMI’s book, Reinventing Fire, which came out last fall, made the same prediction of 80 percent renewables by 2050 achievable by two different pathways: one, similar to the NREL study, following a centralized utility model, while the second path, shows a more distributed approach.

Keep reading…

Join us at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Join Chelsea Green this weekend at the largest and longest running renewable energy and sustainable living event in the country – Register today!

Each year the MREA Energy Fair transforms rural Central Wisconsin into the global hot spot for renewable energy education. The Energy Fair brings over 20,000 people from nearly every state in the U.S. and several countries around the world to learn, connect with others and ready them for action at home. The Energy Fair is the nation’s longest running energy education event of its kind.

The Energy Fair features:

  • Over 275 exhibitors – featuring sustainable living and clean energy products
  • Over 200 workshops – including introductory level to advanced hands-on education: solar, wind, green building, local sustainable food, and more
  • Clean Energy Car Show – featuring demonstration vehicles and exhibitors
  • Green Home Pavilion – emphasizing building and remodeling in a sustainable way
  • Green Building Demos – displaying sustainable building techniques in action
  • Sustainable Tables – including workshops, chef demos, and a farmers’ market to bring sustainability to your dinner table
  • Live Auctions – two live auctions featuring plants and shrubs, to PV systems and farm equipment
  • Inspirational keynotes, lively entertainment, great food, and local beer

Join us for the 23rd Annual Energy Fair, June 15-17, 2012

Visit Chelsea Green at Booth A32 to receive our show special discount, for featured new and bestselling titles, such as Amory Lovins’s hopeful and pragmatic Reinventing Fire; or our classic primer Wind Power.

Plastic? Problematic. An Excerpt from The Natural Building Companion?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Article reposted from Natural Home & Garden magazine.

Design, craftsmanship and environmental impact are important to Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton, authors of The Natural Building Companion (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012). This comprehensive guide to integrative design and construction focuses on natural building materials that leave a gentler footprint than current practices. While the industrial development of plastic in many ways made life easier, plastic production impacts every phase of the life cycle. Learn about the harmful effects of plastic on human health and the environment in this excerpt from chapter 2, “Ecology.”

Harmful Effects of Plastic

A sea change in building technology arrived in the 1950s with the “Age of Plastic.” Industrial development of fossil fuels into a wide array of plastics changed formulations in everything from insulation to mechanicals to paint, and plastic is still a ubiquitous component of every building assembly. Unfortunately, the impacts of plastic production in its many forms are heavy in every phase of its life cycle. While there is a common general understanding that plastics have negative ecological associations, a closer understanding of what types of plastics create what types of impacts will empower us to improve the toxic footprint of our buildings.

Plastics are not inherently bad, and they have many redeeming ecological features; in fact, many of the techniques we utilize in our designs involve targeted use of plastic products. Their durability and low maintenance reduce material replacement, their light weight reduces shipping energy, their formulation into glue products allows for the creation of engineered lumber and sheet products from recycled wood, and their formulation into superior insulation and sealant products improves the energy performance of our structures.

The feedstock of plastic is primarily petroleum- or natural-gas-derived, although bio-plastics are making inroads in the overall market share of plastic products. Obvious issues emerge regarding the finite amount of available petroleum resources, as well as the pollution associated with oil extraction and refinement; the massive Gulf Coast oil spill of 2010 is only one of the more notorious of the many ecologically devastating accidents that are not frequently considered in addition to the standard pollution impacts of extraction and refinement, which are extensive.

Read more: http://www.naturalhomeandgarden.com/green-living/health/harmful-effects-of-plastic-ze0z1205zsch.aspx#ixzz1vYGQUuXg

Read the entirety of Chapter Two here.

The Natural Building Companion is available in our bookstore.

“What if we could make energy do our work without working our undoing?” – Amory Lovins

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

From TED.

In this intimate talk filmed at TED’s offices, energy theorist Amory Lovins lays out the steps we must take to end the world’s dependence on oil (before we run out). Some changes are already happening—like lighter-weight cars and smarter trucks—but some require a bigger vision. In his latest book, Reinventing Fire, Amory Lovins shares ingenious ideas for the next era of energy.

Reinventing Fire was written by Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute’s many other experts. It outlines numerous ways in which industry—not government—can lead the charge toward greater efficiency and more sustainable sources of power, looking at transportation, buildings, manufacturing, and the way we make electricity. This talk is the best summary we’ve seen of the inspiring strategy the book reveals. If you’ve been feeling a bit blue about the state of things lately, Lovins’ talk should perk you right up.

On a related note, if you happened to be in New York City on the evening of May 10th you might have noticed a very tall and bright birthday card to Rocky Mountain Institute. To celebrate RMI’s 30th birthday, and in thanks for their help in completing the Empire State Building’s efficiency overhaul, the Building’s floodlights glowed bright green! Read more here.


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