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Posts from the ‘Indoor Air Quality’ Category

Sprout Collective starts growing

More neat friends of ours are shaking things up. The Sprout Collective is doing that green jobs thing that we’re all trying to put our finger on. This trio is leveraging a big idea—the Living Building Challenge—and exporting our Northwest knowledge to any school district that is ready. They will solve school capacity issues, provide an innovative and tangible curriculum platform, and create lots of jobs. The team has designed the Seed, which is a net-zero modular classroom. Sprout will coordinate the pre-fab units with partner Method Construction. The primary elements—rainwater collection, PV panels, composting toilet—that make the Seed a Living Building will be contained in a central pod, which can then be enlarged with flanking rooms as needed. The Daily Journal of Commerce has some additional info here. And if you still need convincing, the real point of the Seed is to inspire kids towards a more sustainable future. I can’t think of a better time to simultaneously invest in our kids and the green building industry. Help the mission here if you’re so inclined.

Photo courtesy of Sprout!

LEED success in Everett

Good news to report at Silliker + Partners. We recently finished helping a small Everett HVAC company certify their building under LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance!

Evergreen State Heat & AC wanted to put their building through the wringer and get to know the LEED system first-hand, in hopes of helping their clients pursue similar goals. That’s me (Jared) on the right with CEO Russ Kimball, who led the effort. Russ also studied for, and passed, the LEED exam while we did all the documentation on his building. The project is now the first EB O&M certified building in Snohomish County. We finished with 42 points, although improving to Silver certification (50 points) is fully within reach when we re-certify in the coming 5 years.

I’ll write a more nerdy post soon on some specifics of the project, but despite being a small, simple building, we faced our fair share of issues with the LEED system. Most notably, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is massively backlogged. We first submitted in November 2010, and got final approval in late April (that’s longhand for ‘not fast’). More interesting, however, are all the details that come up once you’re deep into LEED’s requirements. This, of course, happens on large projects as well, but the take home message is that the credit language can seem halfway easy until you try to fill out the online forms for a real project. Some of this is important to maintain program rigor. Other parts are just plain silly. To give you a taste of the latter, we lost an easy point because of this language (within IEQc3.4, Sustainable Cleaning Equipment):

“vacuum cleaners are certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute “Green Label” Testing Program for vacuum cleaners and operate with a sound level of less than 70dBA”

We mistakenly thought that the CRI label included sound parameters. Untrue! The CRI folks barely knew what I was talking about, and no sound information could be found for the CRI-labeled vacuum we purchased prior to learning of this nuance. Thus, no point for us! Our fault in the end, but still silly.

On the plus side, the overall rigor of the program makes sure a building owner is truly running a tight ship. I’m convinced that merely following LEED’s framework, but not certifying a project doesn’t hold water. The end result will, on average, be less awesome.

Pop quiz at IKEA

I love collecting anecdotes from the field and managed to do so while surviving a recent evening adventure to IKEA. I’m shopping for cabinets and wanted to research the low-end options a bit more. I’ll just get right to the quote of the night. To my question, “do your cabinets contain formaldehyde?” the friendly helper enthusiastically says, “NO! In fact, people who go green use our cabinets.” Wow. I’m almost not sure what to call this. It needs a name. Buzzword green-cheese? She went on to tell me that some sort of green TV or channel uses IKEA cabinets. Great. But back to the formaldehyde. Despite the humorous buzzword green-cheese, which probably works just fine for many audiences, I was pleasantly surprised by her response. UNTIL I read the fine print at home. Here goes:

So essentially, they tell us that formaldehyde is bad, but that they use it anyways. On the following page, they go on to say how little they use, but the advertised “no formaldehyde” appears to be false:

“we submit our products to the toughest standards for formaldehyde emissions … this means the levels of formaldehyde emission are insignificant”

One more thing learned about cabinets at IKEA:

They’ve got a decent selection of doors, including a good amount of solid wood, but you can’t get a solid wood door painted white! Well, you can, but the foil they use feels super cheap and like plastic. And all their finishing options mean that painting it yourself is not a real option.