Category Archives: Green

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Neil Kelly selected as a City of Portland Clean Energy Works Pilot Program contractor

Neil Kelly Home Performance has been selected as one of eight local contractors qualified to implement Phase II of the City of Portland’s Clean Energy Works Portland Pilot Program.

This phase of the pilot program aims to help 50 local residents reduce carbon emissions and cut household energy use, while creating local jobs, by retrofitting existing Portland homes. The long-range Clean Energy Works Portland pilot goal is to upgrade 500 Portland homes before moving the full-scale program to the entire community.

The major barrier to any energy retrofitting has always been the upfront costs. This pilot program eliminates all up-front costs for participating Portland homeowners. Once qualified, these homeowners will receive low-interest, long-term financing for quick, easy and affordable energy efficient upgrades, with low monthly payments to be added to their local utility bills from PGE, PPL or Northwest Natural.

Nation’s First ‘Emerald’ Green Remodeling Project Certified in Phoenix

A newly renovated home in Phoenix has become the first remodeling project in the nation to receive Emerald certification, the most stringent achievement level in the National Green Building Standard.

The 1,600-square-foot, 70-year-old ranch house is in the Pierson Place Historic District near the city’s new light rail line. It is the first in a series of homes being renovated by Green Street Development, a Phoenix home building company specializing in environmentally sensitive design and construction. All are planned to meet requirements of the standard.

“This project is an excellent example of what home builders and remodelers can accomplish with the National Green Building Standard,” said Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a builder and developer in Tulsa, Okla.

The National Green Building Standard is a rating and certification system for green residential construction developed by NAHB and the International Code Council and approved by the American National Standards Institute. It is administered by the NAHB Research Center, which also certifies local inspectors around the country.

“If we are going to significantly reduce residential water and energy use, we need to retrofit and renovate the more than 120 million homes that use excessive amounts of these precious resources,” Robson said. “I’m proud of all the services we offer through our broad-based green building initiative, NAHBGreen, particularly the third-party certification of homes using the standard.”

All new and remodeled homes certified to the standard must meet benchmarks in energy, water and resource efficiency and indoor environmental quality and provide operations and maintenance information for their home owners.

“The National Green Building Standard is the industry’s only national green rating system for remodeling, and using the standard’s Green Remodel Path is the streamlined way to achieve huge environmental benefits for the nation’s aging homes and cost savings for their owners,” Robson added.

In remodeling the home, Green Street reduced the Home Energy Rating — set at 100 for today’s new homes — from 178 to 68. It features new Energy Star-rated windows and appliances, water-efficient fixtures, upgraded heating, air conditioning and insulation systems, and native landscaping for even more water savings: The builder estimates the improvements should cut water use by 65 percent.

The home was inspected by Mick Dalrymple of a.k.a Green Services in Scottsdale, Ariz., an NAHB Research Center-accredited verifier.

“The standard and the third-party certification process provide the home owner with assurance that this project has been inspected and verified to be authentically green,” said NAHB Research Center President Michael Luzier. “I commend Green Street for going the extra mile for the customer to seek the highest level of ‘greenness’ available in residential remodeling.”

“The Emerald certification symbolizes our company mission of creating walkable neighborhoods, preserving existing structures, and supporting sustainable development,” said Green Street owner Philip Beere.

Additional information about NAHBGreen and National Green Building Certification is available at www.nahbgreen.org.

Energy Tax Credits

This is the easiest to understand explination of all the tax credits I have seen. Click on the picture below for the full size version. Then roll over this interactive poster to see the requirements and deadlines for remodeling-related energy improvements and equipment. The information comes from Remodeling magazine’s coverage of the stimulus package.

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Local Company Begins Passive House Remodel in SE Portland

HBA member Meritage Construction Inc. is set to begin one of the first Certified Passive House ™ remodel projects in Oregon.

They will be remodeling a 2,100 sq. ft. SE Portland home according to super energy-efficient building standards, and once it’s complete, the family will no longer need their gas furnace or fireplace, relying only on “internal” heat gains, small electric bathroom heaters, and a small amount of hydronic heating from their existing high-efficiency natural gas water heater.

Meritage Construction will use Passive House techniques to create a super-insulated, yet well-ventilated home that loses extremely little heat compared to conventional buildings. The approach reduces energy demand for heating to about 10% -30% of heat required by typical homes.

National News: Practical Stategies for Green Marketing

Leading a seminar at the NAHB National Green Building Conference earlier this month in Dallas on “Practical Strategies for Green Marketing,” Jim Groff, president of the York, Pa. firm Baublitz Advertising, offered some ideas on how green builders and remodelers can become a dominant force in their marketplace.

  1. Know your stuff, he said. “Confused people don’t buy,” Groff said, and successful green builders and remodelers cut through that confusion by positioning themselves as a source of knowledge. That doesn’t mean that every builder must be an expert in all aspects of green design and construction, any more than a successful Little League coach must be an expert on the rules of baseball. “You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know more than the kids,” he said. That said, builders should know where to get the information they need – and start with NAHB. “Be a good student to be a good teacher,” Groff said.
  2. Make sure that you have a written communications plan for your company that includes an assessment of the overall market, target audience, the effect of trends, what media to use, a message and a timeline. “You can’t be all things to all people,” Groff said.  A written plan also ensures that expectations are clear and that the builder can gauge whether the plan is achieving its goal. “What is your objective? Do you want people to visit your Web site, or attend a seminar?” he asked. When hiring an outside firm, expect to pay between 2% and 5% of total sales on marketing and media, he said. “Every expenditure is like tuition. You learn from your mistakes,” Groff said.
  3. Make sure the message you choose differentiates your business from the competition. The message, Groff said, “has to be more than about quality or green. It has to be unique, meaningful and credible. If it doesn’t mean anything to your target market, it doesn’t mean anything.” One good selling point is value, he said. Builders cannot promise energy savings but they can talk about features that can help achieve it. “Even smart people often need you to connect the dots,” he said.
  4. Make sure your customers understand the importance of your credentials and certifications, including the Certified Green Professional designation, an NAHBGreen-certified home or a Green Approved building product. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it, Groff said. Even if it’s true that in 10 years everyone will be green, it’s still an advantage for now. “Use it for the next 10 years,” he advised.
  5. “Fish where the fish are,” said Groff. So-called “dark green” home buyers still trend toward being affluent, well-educated, married and 40-ish. “Medium green” buyers are looking for hope, convenience and prevention of possible health issues or high energy prices. “Light green” buyers are driven mostly by self-expression and status, he said. “Qualify your prospects. Listen more than you tell,” he added. “You don’t know what their hot buttons are if you are doing all the talking.”
  6. Choose tactics that are right for your target audience – and also your budget. First, all corporate identity materials – truck logos, uniforms, the Web site – should be “professional and consistent,” he said. Beyond that, take advantage of public speaking engagements, social networks such as Facebook, home parade and expo participation, e-newsletters and other means “as frequently as you can give folks meaningful information,” and establish yourself as the expert they seek.
  7. If you decide to hire an advertising or public relations agency, shop around, Groff said. Make sure that work samples are the product of people who are currently on staff; also, share your budget and discuss expected results. “Look for compatibility, clear dialogue; find someone you trust, and take their advice,” he said.
  8. Don’t overpromise. “Speak the truth” about energy-efficiency claims or possible health benefits, Groff said. “Never greenwash, because all of us will lose.” All builders and remodelers who are going green are “growing” the category – but early adaptors will get the earliest benefit. Once the market returns, “growth will benefit the category leaders,” and that’s likely to be green builders, Groff said.

National News: Universal Design, Green Remodeling Have Joint Appeal to Baby Boomers

From ReNews, NAHB Remodelers

A remodeling project that combines universal design and green remodeling can be a strong seller in today’s weakened market, particularly with baby boomers “coming of age,” according to Mike Vowels, of Stewardship Remodeling in Seattle.

Vowels sees a strong link between the two remodeling concepts because both involve consumers planning for their futures and incorporating sustainability in a home.

But Vowels also cautions that designing the remodeling solution offered to potential clients has to be “seamless and invisible,” or consumers won’t find it appealing.

“You need to be careful when presenting the subject of ‘aging-in-place’ to prospective clients because some people are uncomfortable with the language,” Vowel says. “People don’t want to envision themselves getting old or becoming less capable.”

Instead of using the term, “roll-in shower,” for example, Vowels talks to his prospects about curb-less European showers. Instead of ramps, he discusses step-less grade changes leading to the front entrance or back patio.

Vowels markets and sells universal design and green remodeling as a total home remodeling solution rather than as two compatible concepts.

“You wouldn’t recognize the differences if you didn’t point them out,” he says. “You have to be able to demonstrate that the remodeled home would have all these tasteful changes without anyone being aware that anything is different or out of the ordinary. None of the changes should look temporary, generic or institutional.”

The most effective way to accomplish such a seamless remodel, Vowels says, is to anticipate future needs, plan accordingly and integrate the universal design and green solutions.

“It’s about how smart your house can be,” says Vowels. For example, a design that plans for future changes can include stacked closets that are properly sized so that they can be converted into an elevator shaft later, if needed. Such pre-planning meets the home owner’s needs now and their changing needs in the future.

The approach makes the whole remodeling project much more marketable and easier to sell because there are more features and benefits to sell — and because they work together, he says.

“Unlike a carton of milk or a steak, the function, safety and comfort of your home should not have an expiration date on it,” Vowels says.

  • Economic Sustainability — An energy-efficient home will have lower operating costs (e.g., utilities) and coupled with universal design, the home will be more marketable to a broader population. Long term, a home with green features and universal design is a good investment.
  • Environmental Sustainability — A home incorporating universal design is remodeled to anticipate the transitions linked to aging. This lessens the need for ad hoc changes in the future that are age related and less seamless.
  • Social Sustainability — A home incorporating universal design provides visitability for people of varied abilities and enables home owners — and sometimes whole families — to stay in their same home (aging-in-place) and continue living in their same community.

The overall combination of benefits that result from combining universal design and green remodeling into one seamless remodeling solution is helping Vowels differentiate his company from his competition.

“We’re trying to distinguish ourselves on universal design by showing the attractive side of a very prudent choice for our customers to consider,” Vowels says.

The Stewardship Remodeling Web site, www.universalandgreen.com, and all the company’s marketing materials help focus its branding and reinforce the reason to integrate the two remodeling concepts.

Universal design and green remodeling, Vowels says, answer the current and future needs of prospective home owners by creating a finished product that is timeless in its use, contributes positively to the environment and is sustainable.

Oregon bill encourages energy efficiency upgrades

Leaders of the Professional Remodelers Organization attended a press event  today in support of HB 2626.  Read more about the bill below.

Dave Nielsen, Senator Jeff Merkley, Tom Skarr, Mitch Stanley, Jon Chandler

Dave Nielsen, Senator Jeff Merkley, Tom Skarr, Mitch Stanley, Jon Chandler

From KGW.com
Oregon lawmakers hope to encourage property owners to invest in energy efficiency upgrades by expanding a state loan program.

A bipartisan group of legislators announced their plan Wednesday, saying the move would help combat climate change while also creating jobs throughout the state by dramatically increasing the number of efficiency projects each year.

The program would allow property owners to take out loans and grants, financed through state bonds, to help fund upgrades. They could repay the loan at a low interest rate over a long period time through their utility bills.

Sponsors said property owners would see an almost immediate decrease in their utility bill, even with the loan payment tacked on.

“We know that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects are good investments in the future,” said state Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, one of the bill’s chief sponsors.

The legislation does a number of things to encourage financing these products, including offering simplified payment options, a point of contact that helps plan and implement the projects and increased bond funding.

Bailey said tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects could be funded through the program if approved, the added benefit of which would be economic stimulus to the state.

The bill has attracted both Democratic and Republican sponsors. One of them, state Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, called the plan “the most cost-effective way to meet the challenges of climate change.”

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., was also on hand to support the program, which he said could become a national model.

“I will be watching very carefully what these gentleman and their colleagues do,” Blumenauer said. “I think the work that they’re going to be doing can have broad national implications.”

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National News: Energy Tax Credit to Generate $6 Billion in Remodeling Jobs

Energy Star has published comprehensive information on how the housing industry and consumers can take advantage of the federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements in the new economic stimulus package. The credits are expected to significantly increase demand for green renovation projects this year and next, according to federal officials.

Congressional economists project that the new provisions will generate an estimated $6 billion in remodeling work by the end of 2010.

The credits will be the centerpiece of new marketing efforts for remodeler Scott Sevon, CGR, GMB, CAPS, GMR, CGP of Sevvonco Inc. in Palatine, Ill. “We will be featuring information for consumers on our Web site, brochures and other promotional materials,” he said. “We want to make sure they can come to us for accurate information.”

Remodelers trained in and experienced with making energy-efficient upgrades are well-positioned to take advantage of increased consumer interest in consuming less power. They can also use the tax credits to encourage home owners to undertake a more complete renovation that can be certified under the National Green Building Standard as part of NAHBGreen, the NAHB National Green Building Program.

The Internal Revenue Code Section 25C for existing homes, which had expired at the end of 2007, was reinstated as part of the economic rescue package passed by the Bush Administration last fall. Installing energy-efficient windows, doors, roofing and insulation as well as furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps all qualified for the credit.

But remodelers found that the terms of the 25C credit — equal to only 10% of the cost of each product and with a lifetime cap of $500 — weren’t quite strong enough to get home owners off the fence and into a contract.

Under the stimulus legislation signed by President Obama, the percentage of the cost and lifetime cap have been tripled to 30% and $1,500, respectively, and the deadline for installing them has been extended through the end of 2010.

In addition to expanding the 25C tax credit, the IRS 25D credit for renewable energy products has also been expanded and is even more generous for specific improvements — including geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar hot water heaters, small wind energy systems and fuel cells. The 30% tax credit applies to these products but there is no cap on their cost through 2016. In addition, these credits also apply to new construction, as well as to remodeling and renovation projects.

The newly expanded tax credits are in alignment with industry research showing that remodeling and retrofitting the nation’s older homes will have a far more significant impact on reducing residential energy consumption than meeting even the most aggressive efficiency goals for new homes, according to Greg Miedema, CGR, CGB, CAPS, chairman of NAHB Remodelers.

A December 2008 survey by Whirlpool Corporation revealed that 84% of consumers said that energy efficiency is significantly more important than water use or other potential savings when it comes to home appliance efficiency. Seventy-two percent of respondents seek the Energy Star label when making purchasing decisions.

“These new tax credits are another way that the home building industry can combat the potential effects of global climate change by encouraging home owners to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes,” said Miedema.

A 2008 California study showed that homes built before 1983 were responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to single-family envelope energy consumption.

The study also found that spending $10,000 to retrofit a 1960s home could save 8.5 tons of carbon at a cost of $588 to $1,176 per ton, depending on existing tax credits and incentives. By comparison, increasing the energy efficiency of a new home 35% over current state requirements would cost about $5,000 and would reduce emissions by 1.1 tons at a cost of $4,545 per ton.

The bottom line is that retrofitting existing homes with energy-efficient features is four to eight times more carbon- and cost-efficient than adding further energy-efficiency requirements to new housing, the study showed.

Tax Credit How-to

Details on qualifying improvements are available on the Energy Star Web site.

Remodelers should familiarize themselves with the model types and products that qualify for the tax credit so they can advise their customers. However, they do not need to give their clients the product sales receipts to verify the claim. Certification statements in the manufacturer’s product information may suffice.

Home owners can claim the 25C and 25D credits on Form 5695 when they prepare their income tax returns. They should also retain records that include:

* Name and address of the manufacturer
* Identification of the component
* Make, model or other appropriate identifiers
* Statement that the component meets the 25C standards
* Climate zones for which the criteria are satisfied
* Additional information for storm windows, if applicable
* A declaration that the certification statement is true

Expanded Energy Tax Credit to Boost Demand for Renovation Jobs

Beefed-up tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements in the new economic stimulus package are expected to help increase demand for green renovation projects this year and next.

The Internal Revenue Code Section 25C for existing homes, which had expired at the end of 2007, was reinstated as part of the economic rescue package passed by the Bush Administration last fall. Installing energy-efficient windows, doors, roofing and insulation as well as furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps all qualified for the credit.

But remodelers found that the terms of the 25C credit — equal to only 10% of the cost of each product and with a lifetime cap of $500 — weren’t quite strong enough to get enough home owners off the fence and into a contract.

Under the stimulus legislation signed by President Obama, the percentage of the cost and lifetime cap have been tripled to 30% and $1,500, respectively; the list of eligible improvements has been expanded and the deadline for installing them has been extended through the end of 2010.

The newly expanded tax credit also is in alignment with industry research showing that remodeling and retrofitting the nation’s older homes will have a far more significant impact on reducing residential energy consumption than meeting even the most aggressive efficiency goals for new homes, according to Greg Miedema, CGR, CGB, CAPS, chairman of NAHB Remodelers.

“These new tax credits are another way that the home building industry can combat the potential effects of global climate change by encouraging home owners to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes,” said Miedema.

A 2008 California study showed that homes built before 1983 were responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to single-family envelope energy consumption.

The study also found that spending $10,000 to retrofit a 1960s home could save 8.5 tons of carbon at a cost of $588 to $1,176 per ton, depending on existing tax credits and incentives. By comparison, increasing the energy efficiency of a new home 35% over current state requirements would cost about $5,000 and would reduce emissions by 1.1 tons at a cost of $4,545 per ton.

The bottom line is that retrofitting existing homes with energy-efficient features is four to eight times more carbon- and cost-efficient than adding further energy-efficiency requirements to new housing, the study showed.

Tax Credit How-to

Details on qualifying improvements are expected to be available soon on the IRS Web site.

Remodelers should familiarize themselves with the model types and products that qualify for the tax credit so they can advise their customers. However, they do not need to give their clients the product sales receipts to verify the claim. Certification statements in the manufacturer’s product information may suffice.

Home owners can claim the 25C credit on Form 5695 when they prepare their income tax returns. They should also retain records that include:

* Name and address of the manufacturer
* Identification of the component
* Make, model or other appropriate identifiers
* Statement that the component meets the 25C standards
* Climate zones for which the criteria are satisfied
* Additional information for storm windows, if applicable
* A declaration that the certification statement is true