Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Get Bizzy With It

As many of us market our businesses on the web we are always looking for ways to generate attention and thereby traffic to ultimately grow our business.

One such agency can assist you in accomplishing that goal. BizzClick.com

Bizzclick is a Pay Per Click agency. They offer ways to both advertise in their network and/or monetize traffic.

If you are seeking a highly professional marketing/advertising team that offers 24/7 support, personalized client service they may be for you.

Bizzclick has available a multitude of creative tools to assist you in finding the right advertising campaign and one of the fastest XML feed in industry. Check out their Advertiser page or Publisher page for more information.

And for you internet geeks they have their own FiSoAp traffic ranking system that helps our clients to get traffic sources that fit their needs. FiSoAp is a system that helps site owners to manage advertisement offers, avoiding charge backs and enables them to get the highest bids.

Bizzclick has excellent referral programs and other programs that benefit their community members. Offering more ways for you to further generate income and grow your business.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Letting the Sun Still In

We recently had a snowstorm and heavy rains that led me to the question of how does one maintain solar panel performance during winter when solar gain can be impeded by weather issues.

In the Northwest its our grayness that often misleads people to think it rains a lot here when in reality its simply the lack of light and our short periods of daylight that give that impression. Why we are not the sunniest City we do have a strong solar community and no real problems when it comes to maintaining solar gain levels.

However, weather such as snow or long term wind and rain can affect the solar panels and in fact bring damage so they do require some attention. Solar is not maintenance free and most solar installers offer an annual maintenance package to ensure long term performance and when or if one elects to enroll in that option you should find out if it includes those times of extreme weather as it requires special attention to ensure damage, such as cracks, to the panels.

And as solar panels are often on high roofs it requires special care and handling for safety reasons, which is another reason I have frequently said that installing them on an adjacent garage, carport or other low lying structure is a much easier way to simply clean and monitor the panels than risking climbing high ladders and roofs to clean them at any time.

For residential panels, physical maintenance requires a little effort and posing no difficulty. This is because you just need to make sure that the panels are regularly wiped off and cleaned.

Cheap solar panels and home made ones are those that can accumulate dust and dirt easily and should be cautiously protected. Dust can cause blockage of sun rays, therefore decrease the efficiency of your solar panels.

Furthermore, these accumulating elements on the surface of the solar panels can decrease the system’s performance by almost 7% annually.

Cleaning routine will include brushing using a pole routinely to wipe off dirt on the panels. Also, standard garden nozzle and hose is recommended in rinsing the solar panels.

Rinsing must be done in the cool morning. This will avoid drastic changes in the temperature and may further result in damaging the fragile cells.

For rainy seasons, you don't need to exert effort in cleaning the solar panels because the rain will clean it off for you. It is still then recommended that solar panels must be rinsed once a year during peak months of summer.

Also, location is another factor on establishing the cleaning frequency of the solar panels. Developing areas and those with large amount of agriculture requires consistent regular cleaning.

So if you are not sure if your solar panels are performing correctly or are in need of some cleaning/inspection. Contact your installer or licensed roofer to make the necessary inspections and repairs or cleaning that is needed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shadow Rising

I wrote quite some time ago about the Shadow People who are the the rising class of the un/underemployed - too young to go on Social Security, Medicare, too old to be considered employable.

As a result you have a still significant portion of the boomers who have made significant commitments both financial and emotional to maintaining a standard of living and contribution to society. Rather than admit to others that they are no longer as "valuable" they hide in the shadows hoping that somewhere it will all work out. Optimism is a valued trait in those residing in the shadows.

Then came the kids on Occupy Wall Street. They threw in some old fashioned activism with a modern flair. They reminded much of what their parents had raised them to be - polite, organized, fair and equitable. At times annoying, but always confident they movement grew and spread across the nation bringing with it attention to the issue that too has been hiding in the shadows - rising income inequity.

In the 1980s prior to Reagan's election the average CEO wages was approximately forty times the average factory worker by 1989 it was 93 times as much. In 2010 it was over 300%. There is no way in the last 30 years that CEO's are working 300 times as much as any other rank file employee but it still fuels the myth of Horatio Alger.

Well today another report by the Pew Research Study found that Class Warfare is in fact the largest and most significant issue people are facing over any other - including racial discrimination and immigration issues.

The rhetoric of the political landscape has changed where even those on the same team are starting to say that the free market economy is not as free to everyone on the playing field.

I have reprinted the study below to understand that as a Nation we have a very significant problem that if continues will divide our society and impede its growth. As we remind ourselves nothing is Sustainable if its long term affects are not analyzed and evaluated. Its clear that time is now.

Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor

by Rich Morin

The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.

Not only have perceptions of class conflict grown more prevalent; so, too, has the belief that these disputes are intense. According to the new survey, three-in-ten Americans (30%) say there are “very strong conflicts” between poor people and rich people. That is double the proportion that offered a similar view in July 2009 and the largest share expressing this opinion since the question was first asked in 1987.

As a result, in the public’s evaluations of divisions within American society, conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old. Back in 2009, more survey respondents said there were strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than said the same about the rich and the poor.1

Virtually all major demographic groups now perceive significantly more class conflict than two years ago. However, the survey found that younger adults, women, Democrats and African Americans are somewhat more likely than older people, men, Republicans, whites or Hispanics to say there are strong disagreements between rich and poor.

While blacks are still more likely than whites see serious class conflicts, the share of whites who hold this view has increased by 22 percentage points, to 65%, since 2009. At the same time, the proportion of blacks (74%) and Hispanics (61%) sharing this judgment has grown by single digits (8 and 6 points, respectively).

The biggest increases in perceptions of class conflicts occurred among political liberals and Americans who say they are not affiliated with either major party. In each group the proportion who say there are major disagreements between rich and poor Americans increased by more than 20 percentage points since 2009.

These changes in attitudes over a relatively short period of time may reflect the income and wealth inequality message conveyed by Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country in late 2011 that led to a spike in media attention to the topic. But the changes also may also reflect a growing public awareness of underlying shifts in the distribution of wealth in American society.2 According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the proportion of overall wealth—a measure that includes home equity, stocks and bonds and the value of jewelry, furniture and other possessions—held by the top 10% of the population increased from 49% in 2005 to 56% in 2009.

Perceptions of the Wealthy
While the survey results show a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in American life, they do not necessarily signal an increase in grievances toward the wealthy. It is possible that individuals who see more conflict between the classes think that anger toward the rich is misdirected. Nor do these data suggest growing support for government measures to reduce income inequality.

In fact, other questions in the survey show that some key attitudes toward the wealthy have remained largely unchanged. For example, there has been no change in views about whether the rich became wealthy through personal effort or because they were fortunate enough to be from wealthy families or have the right connections.

A 46% plurality believes that most rich people “are wealthy mainly because they know the right people or were born into wealthy families.” But nearly as many have a more favorable view of the rich: 43% say wealthy people became rich “mainly because of their own hard work, ambition or education,” largely unchanged from a Pew survey in 2008.

About the Survey
This report is based on findings from a Pew Research Center telephone survey conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,048 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States, including an oversample of 808 adults ages 18 to 34. A total of 769 interviews were completed with respondents contacted by landline telephone and 1,279 with those contacted on their cellular phone. The data are weighted to produce a final sample that is representative of the general population of adults in the continental United States. Survey interviews were conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, in English and Spanish.

• Interviews conducted December 6-19, 2011
• 2,048 interviews
• Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for results based on the total sample and 4.4 percentage points for adults ages 18 to 34 at the 95% confidence level.

Moreover, a recent Gallup survey found that a smaller share of the public believes that income inequality is a problem “that needs to be fixed” today than held that view in 1998 (45% vs. 52%). And when asked to rate the importance of various alternative federal policies, fewer than half (46%) say “reduc[ing] the income and wealth gap between the rich and the poor” is “extremely” or “very” important. In contrast, more than eight-in-ten (82%) say policies that encourage economic growth should be high priorities.

Social Conflict in American Life
About two-thirds of the public say there are strong conflicts between the rich and the poor, and nearly half of these (30%) say these conflicts are “very strong.” An additional 36% say these differences are “strong,” while 23% view them as “not very strong.” Only 7% say there are no conflicts between rich and poor Americans, while the remainder does not offer an opinion.

Three other historic social divisions are viewed as less pervasive or contentious. About six-in-ten (62%) say there are strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born, including 24% who characterize these disagreements as “very strong.”

That represents a major change from the Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2009. At that time, a larger share of Americans believed that there were more strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than between rich and poor people (55% vs. 47%). Today, even though perceptions of disagreements between immigrants and the native born have increased by 7 percentage points in the past two years, this social divide now ranks behind rich-poor conflicts in the public’s hierarchy of social flashpoints.

Two other social divides are viewed as less pervasive or intense. Fewer than four-in-ten (38%) say there are serious conflicts between blacks and whites, including 10% who see these conflicts as being “very strong.” About a third say there are similar disagreements between the young and old (34%, a 9-point increase since 2009).

Income and Perceptions of Class Conflict
The perception that strong and growing conflicts exist between the economic classes is broadly held. Not only do those at the bottom rungs of the income scale agree that there are serious disagreements between the economic classes, but even those who are relatively well-off hold that belief.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of all adults with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year report serious conflicts between the rich and poor—a view shared by 67% of those earning $75,000 a year or more.

Moreover, the perceptions of class conflicts have grown in virtual lock step across all income groups since 2009, rising by 17 percentage points among those earning less than $20,000 and by 18 points among those making $75,000 or more.

The increase is slightly larger among middle-income Americans earning between $40,000 and $75,000. Among this group, the share who say there are strong class conflicts increased by 24 points, from 47% in 2009 to 71% in the latest survey.

Other Demographic Differences
Young people ages 18 to 34—the demographic group most closely associated with the Occupy movement—is more likely than those 35 or older to see “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor. According to the survey, more than seven-in-ten (71%) of these young adults say there are major disagreements between the most and least affluent, a 17 percentage point increase since 2o09.

Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64—the mothers and fathers of the Occupy generation—are nearly as likely to say there are serious conflicts between the upper and lower classes; fully two-thirds (67%) say this, a 22-point increase in the past two years. Among those ages 35 to 49, more than six-in-ten (64%) see serious class conflicts.

While older adults are the least likely to see serious disagreements between the classes, the proportion who express this view increased from 36% two years ago to 55% in the current survey.

Women are more likely than men to say there are serious disagreements between the rich and poor (71% vs. 60%). In 2009, about half of all women (51%) and 43% of men said there was strong conflict between the classes.

Perceptions of Class Conflict Surge among Whites
In the past two years, the proportion of whites who say there are strong conflicts between the rich and the poor has grown by 22 percentage points to 65%. That is more than triple the increase among blacks or Hispanics. The result is that the “perceptions gap” between blacks and whites on class conflict has been cut in half, while among Hispanics the difference has disappeared and may have reversed.

In the latest survey, the difference in the share of blacks and whites who say there are strong conflicts between rich and poor stands at 9 percentage points (74% for blacks vs. 65% for whites). In 2009 the black-white divide on this question stood at 23 percentage points (66% vs. 43%).

Among Hispanics, the gap has closed and may have reversed: In 20o9, the share of Hispanics who said there were serious conflicts between the economic classes was 12 points larger than the share of whites (55% vs. 43%). Today, the proportion of whites who say there are serious
disagreements is 4 percentage points greater than the share of Hispanics who hold the same view (65% for whites vs. 61% for Hispanics), though this difference is not statistically significant.

The Politics of Class Conflict
Democrats and political liberals are far more likely than Republicans or conservatives to say there are major conflicts between rich people and poor people.

At the same time, in just two years the perceptions of class conflict have increased significantly among members of both political parties as well as among self-described independents, conservatives, liberals and moderates.

The result is that majorities of each political party and ideological point of view now agree that serious disputes exist between Americans on the top and bottom of the income ladder.

Nearly three-quarters of self-described Democrats (73%) say there are serious class conflicts, an 18 percentage point increase over those who said that in 2009. The increase among Republicans was about as large (17 percentage points); currently a majority of GOP partisans see serious conflicts between rich and poor.

Views of class conflicts increased the most among political independents, swelling by 23 percentage points to 68% in the current survey. Two years ago, fewer than half of all independents said there were major disagreements between the classes.

Similarly, perceptions of class conflict among ideological liberals increased by 23 percentage points to 79% in the past two years while rising less quickly among conservatives (15 points) or moderates (18 points).

How the Rich Got Wealthy
Americans divide nearly evenly when they are asked if the rich became wealthy mostly due to their own hard work or mainly because they were born into a wealthy family or had connections.

A narrow plurality (46%) believes the rich are wealthy because they were born into money or “know the right people.” But nearly as many (43%) say the rich got that way because of their own “hard work, ambition or education.”

The latest result is virtually identical to the findings of a 2008 Pew survey. It found that 46% of the public believed that riches are mostly the result of having the right connections or being born into the right family, while 42% say hard work and individual characteristics are the main reason the rich are wealthy.3

These competing explanations of wealth are cited by roughly equal shares of all income groups. According to the latest Pew survey, 46% of those with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year believe that luck and connections explain most wealth, a view shared by 47% of those with family incomes of $100,000 or more.

In contrast, attitudes of Republicans and Democrats on this issue are mirror opposites of each other. Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (58%) say wealth is mainly due to family money or knowing the right people. An identical proportion of Republicans say wealth is mainly a consequence of hard work, ambition or having the necessary education to get ahead. Political independents fall in between: slightly less than half (45%) credit personal effort, while an equal share believe family circumstances or connections is the most likely explanation.

African Americans (54%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (44%) to see wealth as a consequence of family money or connections, a view shared by 51% of Hispanics. Women in the survey are slightly more likely than men to say wealth is the result of family or connections but these differences are not statistically significant.

Young people are significantly more likely than older adults to believe most wealth is due to family money or connections (51% for those ages 18-34 but 37% for adults 65 or older). However, the views of the “younger young”—those 18 to 25—differ significantly from those who are just a few years older.

According to the survey, less than half (47%) of those 18 to 25 say the rich are wealthy because of reasons other than personal effort or drive, or about equal to the proportion of those 35 or older who share this view. In contrast, a majority (55%) of those 26 to 34 say being born into a wealthy family or personal connections are the main reasons that people are rich.

Views on Wealth, Class Conflict
Attitudes toward the wealthy—specifically, how the rich got that way—are somewhat correlated with views on class conflict.

According to the survey, those who believe the rich acquired their fortunes mainly through their own efforts are significantly less likely than those who hold the contrary view to say there are strong conflicts between the classes (60% vs. 72%).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Peach of a Home

Last night indulging in my guilty pleasure the Real Housewives of Atlanta one of the "stars" expressed confusion at what it meant to be "green" when at fundraiser where the issue of Sustainability was being discussed.

Watching many of the "housewives" building/moving into their less than green dream homes it brings to mind how far the green build movement has not come. At times you are seeing heartland projects that are large commitments - such as my personal favorite, Greensburg; other times its mentioned in passing as novelty projects that are not for a wider scale appeal.

You learn by doing and mostly exposing those around you to the advantages of green. Seeing that it is both affordable and not just resigned to modern style of home is essential to further the aspirations and ambitions of what it means to be green.

On that note today I was sent a project that makes it a perfect peach of a home in the Peachtree state. Elegant design, approachable, modern but still embracing traditional elements the home reflects a worthy entry in the green build community.

Athens, GA (January 2012) – Athens, Georgia has its first LEED-certified home that is setting a new standard for modern green home designs in the traditional, Southern college town. The U.S. Green Building Council awarded its highest designation – Platinum – to the custom-built home owned and designed by Lori Bork Newcomer, principal of Bork Architectural Design, Inc.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standard is quickly becoming the norm for new and renovated public buildings across the U.S., as commercial and government building owners recognize green designs are more marketable and result in happier and healthier occupants. Newcomer’s project is significant in that it is among the first to bring the same high level of environmentally responsible design to the residential scale. Her home is only the seventh in the state to receive LEED Platinum certification.

Newcomer already is known for some of Athens’ most distinctive modern home designs, with the kind of clean lines and gracious living spaces regularly featured in publications like Dwell or Atomic Ranch. For her own home, she wanted to incorporate that contemporary appeal but remain sensitive to the architectural context of her historic, in-town neighborhood. To do this, she designed a deceptively compact front façade for the 2,632-square-foot home, blending strong horizontal and vertical modern lines with the traditional gabled form and large front porch indicative of the neighborhood’s cottages.

The side elevation reveals shotgun-style length – another Southern tradition that also allows natural passive ventilation. Tennessee fieldstone, stucco and white clapboard siding echo the native and traditional materials used in many of Athens’ oldest homes. “As much as I love modern aesthetics, we didn’t want to build something alien to the neighborhood,” says Newcomer. “So I borrowed signature characteristics of the cottage vernacular to envelope a contemporary living space that fits our lifestyle.”

Inside, the sculptural vault of the glass-clad front gable provides natural light to the open floor plan’s kitchen, living, and dining areas. Newcomer’s architectural studio is located at the back of the house, below a traditional sleeping porch connected to the master bedroom. Locally-sourced reclaimed heart pine floors and salvaged wood from an old shed on the lot further connect the house to the local site and culture. Large windows provide natural lighting as well as passive-solar heating in winter months.

The ingenuity with which she references the traditional craftsmanship of the early 20th Century while designing for the needs of today earned Newcomer the 2011 award for Outstanding New Construction in a Historical Neighborhood from the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation.

Responding to rising energy costs is one of the growing concerns of 21st Century homeowners, and it’s why green homes like Newcomer’s are beginning to draw more attention industry-wide. Thanks to air tightness, superior insulation, reflective roofing, Energy Star windows, solar hot water and a host of other energy-efficient features, Newcomer and her husband’s utility bills are roughly the same as they were in a previous house that was a third the size of their new home.

Energy efficiency is just one of the benefits of Newcomer’s green home. Low-flow fixtures conserve water inside the house, and a 1,100-gallon cistern captures rainwater for irrigation outside. With drought-tolerant landscaping, Newcomer’s yard looked vibrant even through the worst of Georgia’s drought in the summer of 2011. Interior finishes, adhesives and cabinetry all have low or zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), meaning healthier air for Newcomer’s young family.

“The advantage of LEED for Homes over other energy savings centered programs, like Energy Star, is that it looks at green building from a more holistic viewpoint: tackling not only energy reduction, but also responsible site selection, water conservation and the reduction of construction waste while also promoting recycled materials and healthy indoor air quality,” says Leesa Carter, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council - Georgia. “A Platinum-certified home like Newcomer’s represents the pinnacle of what is possible with green-building practices.”

Other energy-saving and environmentally friendly elements included in Newcomer’s LEED platinum home design include:

EPA-certified low-emissions wood burning stove
Mineral paints by San Marco, USA on interior walls
Polished concrete floors with 20 percent fly ash (recycled waste from coal-fired power plants)
Recycled FLOR carpet tiles by Interface
Formaldehyde-free EccoDoors with 100 percent recycled content
Cellulose and ecobatt recycled wall insulation
High-efficiency heat pump with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator)
Infrastructure for future solar power installation
Spray-foam icynene insulation in the roofline
LED and CFL light bulbs in more than 50 percent of light fixtures
Pervious paving systems

Although the perception is that a green home of this caliber comes at a cost premium, Newcomer says people are shocked to learn the home only cost around $125 per square foot. In some parts of the country standard home construction costs far eclipse that amount, which is one reason Newcomer suspects the housing industry will emerge from its current slump with greener practices in the Southeast. Newcomer notes that while initial construction costs are higher for some green elements such as windows, insulation and heating-cooling systems, savings in monthly utility bills offset the slight increase in monthly mortgage payments.

Newcomer’s designs for two EarthCraft-certified homes built by the nonprofit Athens Land Trust (ALT) in 2010 further dispel the stigma of a “green premium.” Those homes incorporated clerestory windows to allow for natural lighting, sustainable hardwood floors, Energy Star appliances, low-VOC paints, and numerous other features for less than $100 per square foot. However the most remarkable thing about the ALT houses is the open, expansive feel that Newcomer was able to achieve with a minimal footprint.

“We couldn’t have built the same quality of home if we had used an off-the-shelf green home design,” says ALT Director of Operations Heather Benham. “So much of what makes a house livable and efficient is designing it for the site, and that's why it's so valuable to work with someone like Lori."

See how Newcomer’s green home designs progressed on Facebook, or watch a video slideshow.

About Bork Architectural Design, Inc.

Founded in 2005, Bork Architectural Design (www.BorkArch.com) creates regional-based designs in response to site, climate conditions, historical context, and local materials for both residential and small-scale commercial projects. Principal Lori Bork Newcomer received her professional degree in Architecture from Rice University before going to work for world-renowned architect and former Yale Architecture School Dean, Cesar Pelli, in New Haven, CT. Newcomer was made an Associate of the firm at the young age of 25. In addition to having worked on professional baseball stadiums, skyscrapers, and academic campuses, she was one of the senior designers and Project Manager on the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County, CA. Lori teaches studio courses in Interior Design at The University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art and is a founding member of the Athens branch of the US Green Building Council.

Lori Bork Newcomer
(706) 355-3010

Garden Sweet

A Garden Home – The Modern, Spacious & Affordable 21st Century solution to the ‘Granny Annexe’

The site - the rear of a detached home in Kent, England, offers a unique contemporary living space for a couple who required additional room for elderly loved ones. The 2 bedroom home provides 98 sq/m of independent living space for the elderly parents and offers a solution for bringing the family together whilst providing the necessary separate living spaces.

The architectural focus of this build is a practical, modern and relaxing space in an open-plan layout that offers great value for money.

The front of the house and to the left is an open plan kitchen/diner supplied by in.it.joinery; leaving the client with the option to dine inside during the cold winter months, and outside for a quintessentially British cream tea on the spacious ‘Accoya’ fitted decking area during the summer time. The large expanse of opening bi-folding doors on the front elevation allows the large living area and kitchen to be part of the garden space.
At the rear of the property are two great size bedrooms with built-in wardrobes and sitting between the two bedrooms is an attractive shared bathroom that is not only in keeping with rest of the house décor, but is fitted with timeless fixtures giving the bathroom suite that matching contemporary design.

Other modern features include spot lighting which features throughout this self contained home, a sky lit hallway and large floor to ceiling windows,

The exterior offers a superb environmental eco design; where the sustainable architecture is achieved without compromising the aesthetics or increased costs. The building is cladded in Canadian Western Red Cedar, which unlike other timbers has better durability and lifespan than most due to the natural oils in its make-up. This helps to preserve the material when exposed to the outdoor environment and has a minimum lifespan of 60 years.
Furthermore, the cedar used by in.it.studios comes from sustainably sourced forest certified through both PEFC and FSC schemes. The unique living sedum roof effortlessly ties in with its surrounding environment. This durable living organism requires zero maintenance whilst providing a much improved aesthetic in comparison to most typical roofs. Not only does this build offer a great eco design and layout, it lives up to its environmentally friendly features as in.it.studios has managed to not only achieve U-value guidelines set by British Building Regulations , but exceed them by a considerable amount; providing their clients with a well insulated home; and thus saving money on their energy bills.

The experienced team at in.it.studios completed the build of the home in an impressive 8 weeks, with no compromise on quality or finishes. Operating in an efficient manner that saves their clients’ both time and money is what makes in.it.studios so unique to the market. Unlike a traditional build there are no additional architectural costs and fees as all the work is done in house and within our turnkey service; making the approach towards building a new home or granny annexe one of the most competitive in the market.

Monday, January 9, 2012

When the Earth Meets the Sky

Looking through the Builder Online I found perhaps one of the most striking green roof projects. The careful mimcry and unique design allows for the home to blend into the nature that which surrounds the home.

It is an excellent illustration and application of green roofing on a residential project but it is not one easily replicated however and that should be duly noted - not all projects of this kind are but they are still essential to push the boundries of creative design.

Grass Ceiling
Planted roofs help two cottages fit snugly into their unspoiled surroundings.
By: Claire Easley

When the owners of an existing home on this stunning hillside site decided to build a couple of additional outbuildings—one to be used as a yoga studio and another as an artists’ workspace—one thing was already abundantly clear: There was no point in trying to compete with the pristine landscape. Instead, the ingenious little structures simply nestled right into it.

The designs mimic the forest, with upright wood siding echoing the surrounding redwood and pine tree trunks, topped by planted roofs that evoke the forest canopy. And thanks to the site’s steep slope, which mandates a verticality for the buildings, the structures’ shape adds to the illusion.

Bringing the rooftop gardens to life required both structural support and attention to waterproofing and drainage, says Jonathan Feldman, the project’s architect. “You have to build it so that when the soil is fully saturated with rain, the building can support that weight.”

And because the project’s site sits in “earthquake country,” he says, structural support meant both larger columns and more shear walls.

While the soil and plants help to protect the roof against damage from the sun’s rays, they also come with problems all their own, such as concerns regarding moisture and roots. To meet the challenge, a waterproof membrane was applied to the underlying roof structure. Above that, the soil is held on top of a layer of drainage fabric with a cavity underneath to allow excess water to escape. At its borders, the roof is fitted with a layer of river rock on all sides to whisk water away.

Project Mill Valley Cabins, Mill Valley, Calif.
Architect Feldman Architecture, San Francisco, Calif.
Green roof and landscape design Jori Hook Landscape Architecture, San Francisco, Calif.
Builder JP Builders, Oakland, Calif.


Thanks for the post from Sylvester Campbell

I just moved to New York City. I got a great internship at Conde Naste and I am hoping that one day soon it will turn into a higher paying job. I have a great little apartment with my college roommate. She is going to the Parsons Fashion School ( yes the one on Project Runway), but studying fashion marketing. She isn’t a designer, although I wish that she were! We are good roommates and are good at stretching our dollars in our living situation.

We logged onto www.newyorkenergyrates.com and got a great energy rate. We also decided not to get cable, but share a Netflix and Blockbuster account. We hook up our macbooks to the television and can watch movies. If there is ever something on television that we want to watch, it usually ends up being on the internet so we can stream it. We also don’t have a house phone. If you are going to live in New York, you have to be creative about saving money, that’s for sure!

Obama Orders

In light of the current debate over why the DoD is opting out of LEED Gold/Platinum credential there is no less of a commitment from the Obama Administration to retain a strong Green philosophy. This cannot be overlooked given the tatting nature of our current Congress and as a result is large ineffectiveness when it comes to actually accomplishing any policy what-so-ever.

The most recent Executive Order
From the President

Army Sustainability Stats. Released in late December, the third annual sustainability report from the U.S. Army details progress in implementing Executive Order 13514. The report addresses the Army's four core enterprises: human capital; training and operations; material and acquisitions; and services and infrastructure.

According to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack, the report serves as a road map to relate ongoing and new sustainability efforts. To accelerate progress, the Army's senior leadership initiated a comprehensive sustainability campaign to institutionalize sustainability throughout the Army.

Each section of the report addresses topics of note, reports on EO 13514, DoD and Army sustainability metrics and highlights successes. The successes—which span the sustainability spectrum from reduced accidents to increased recycling, quality of life improvements, and increased cooperation with communities—include:

17.2% reduction in accidental military fatalities
12.6 % decrease in civilian lost time and fatal claims during fiscal 2009
42.9% increase in installations with formal sustainability plans (from 21 to 30) year over year, 2008-2009
28.4% reduction in hazard waste disposal year over year, 2008-2009
58% increase in recycling of solid waste and construction waste, year over year, 2008-2009
42.3% reduction in environmental enforcement actions, year over year, 2008-2009
25.3% increase in buffer partnerships, adding 120,657 acres

"Our plan is to appropriately manage our natural resources with a goal of net zero...,"

As you can see that molehill meet mountain when it comes to our DoD and commitment to Sustainability. Being green is a much bigger than a building's LEED points its an overall program and plan to use less, waste less and rely less on non-renewable's. No points should be necessary to achieve this goal.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Damned if You Do and if you Don't

Its been a rollicking week of highs and lows when it comes to the current state of our economy - first with the release of a Pew Study showing that social and economic mobility is near to impossible in the United States and increasing numbers of families falling into poverty with the good news that job creation is up as is manufacturing.

The Horatio Alger myth/legend/story is one we all Americans hear from birth. It fuels the up from the bootstraps, I came from a home where we wore duct tape for shoes to the belief that you can arrive in America and through simple elbow grease become a raging success.

Its a myth and a dream for a reason - its simply not a fact. There are and always will be tales of those who made it from a dream or idea but those individuals were and will always also be few and far between.

The Pew Study found that income mobility is very much a fact of birth. Where and more importantly to whom you were born to will have great affect on your lifetime earnings and place in society.

Link this to a very fluid if not confusing level of what defines poor, middle class and rich you can see why many Americans are not quite sure where they stand in regards to their true level in Society. A recent Gothamist article found a site where many rich participants seemed very distressed at their current lot in life - not only disturbing but a clear example of how truly disconnected people are to those who are not as fortunate. The myth that only if "you work hard" is clearly not the case nor even true as the article from the New York Times (reprinted below) illustrates.

The economic in balance in this country comes at a time when also more of the small percentage who do manage to attain a degree find themselves equally in financial/employment dilemmas. The Washington Post has an article showing that of all fields suffering for new degrees - Architecture is the highest. (It also explains why I was so upset with the blog that had working Architects mock their clients - it really showed another type of disconnect for their peers as well)

What made social and economic mobility possible was a diverse economy that inspired innovation and creativity as well as options for those who wanted to work in the trades versus those who opted for more creative and varied pursuits. To think now that all innovation is simply relegated to the sciences and engineering you wonder what kind of economy, and more importantly, kind of society, that this will generate.

Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

Published: January 4, 2012

WASHINGTON — Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights.

But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican candidate for president, warned this fall that movement “up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe, than it is in America.” National Review, a conservative thought leader, wrote that “most Western European and English-speaking nations have higher rates of mobility.” Even Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who argues that overall mobility remains high, recently wrote that “mobility from the very bottom up” is “where the United States lags behind.”

Liberal commentators have long emphasized class, but the attention on the right is largely new.

“It’s becoming conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not have as much mobility as most other advanced countries,” said Isabel V. Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think you’ll find too many people who will argue with that.”

One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents’ educational trajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.

By emphasizing the influence of family background, the studies not only challenge American identity but speak to the debate about inequality. While liberals often complain that the United States has unusually large income gaps, many conservatives have argued that the system is fair because mobility is especially high, too: everyone can climb the ladder. Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile.

John Bridgeland, a former aide to President George W. Bush who helped start Opportunity Nation, an effort to seek policy solutions, said he was “shocked” by the international comparisons. “Republicans will not feel compelled to talk about income inequality,” Mr. Bridgeland said. “But they will feel a need to talk about a lack of mobility — a lack of access to the American Dream.”

While Europe differs from the United States in culture and demographics, a more telling comparison may be with Canada, a neighbor with significant ethnic diversity. Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians.

“Family background plays more of a role in the U.S. than in most comparable countries,” Professor Corak said in an interview.

Skeptics caution that the studies measure “relative mobility” — how likely children are to move from their parents’ place in the income distribution. That is different from asking whether they have more money. Most Americans have higher incomes than their parents because the country has grown richer.

Some conservatives say this measure, called absolute mobility, is a better gauge of opportunity. A Pew study found that 81 percent of Americans have higher incomes than their parents (after accounting for family size). There is no comparable data on other countries.

Since they require two generations of data, the studies also omit immigrants, whose upward movement has long been considered an American strength. “If America is so poor in economic mobility, maybe someone should tell all these people who still want to come to the U.S.,” said Stuart M. Butler, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

The income compression in rival countries may also make them seem more mobile. Reihan Salam, a writer for The Daily and National Review Online, has calculated that a Danish family can move from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile with $45,000 of additional earnings, while an American family would need an additional $93,000.

Even by measures of relative mobility, Middle America remains fluid. About 36 percent of Americans raised in the middle fifth move up as adults, while 23 percent stay on the same rung and 41 percent move down, according to Pew research. The “stickiness” appears at the top and bottom, as affluent families transmit their advantages and poor families stay trapped.

While Americans have boasted of casting off class since Poor Richard’s Almanac, until recently there has been little data.

Pioneering work in the early 1980s by Gary S. Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, found only a mild relationship between fathers’ earnings and those of their sons. But when better data became available a decade later, another prominent economist, Gary Solon, found the bond twice as strong. Most researchers now estimate the “elasticity” of father-son earnings at 0.5, which means if one man earns $100,000 more than another, his sons would earn $50,000 more on average than the sons of the poorer man.

In 2006 Professor Corak reviewed more than 50 studies of nine countries. He ranked Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark as the most mobile, with the United States and Britain roughly tied at the other extreme. Sweden, Germany, and France were scattered across the middle.

The causes of America’s mobility problem are a topic of dispute — starting with the debates over poverty. The United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.

Poor Americans are also more likely than foreign peers to grow up with single mothers. That places them at an elevated risk of experiencing poverty and related problems, a point frequently made by Mr. Santorum, who surged into contention in the Iowa caucuses. The United States also has uniquely high incarceration rates, and a longer history of racial stratification than its peers.

“The bottom fifth in the U.S. looks very different from the bottom fifth in other countries,” said Scott Winship, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, who wrote the article for National Review. “Poor Americans have to work their way up from a lower floor.”

A second distinguishing American trait is the pay tilt toward educated workers. While in theory that could help poor children rise — good learners can become high earners — more often it favors the children of the educated and affluent, who have access to better schools and arrive in them more prepared to learn.

“Upper-income families can invest more in their children’s education and they may have a better understanding of what it takes to get a good education,” said Eric Wanner, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, which gives grants to social scientists.

The United States is also less unionized than many of its peers, which may lower wages among the least skilled, and has public health problems, like obesity and diabetes, which can limit education and employment.

Perhaps another brake on American mobility is the sheer magnitude of the gaps between rich and the rest — the theme of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which emphasize the power of the privileged to protect their interests. Countries with less equality generally have less mobility.

Mr. Salam recently wrote that relative mobility “is overrated as a social policy goal” compared with raising incomes across the board. Parents naturally try to help their children, and a completely mobile society would mean complete insecurity: anyone could tumble any time.

But he finds the stagnation at the bottom alarming and warns that it will worsen. Most of the studies end with people born before 1970, while wage gaps, single motherhood and incarceration increased later. Until more recent data arrives, he said, “we don’t know the half of it.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Get Organized

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Green Roads

I received an email today about building better roads and in turn building sustainability via energy efficiency in fuel use.

Given the timing and the nature of our current Congress and the debate about job creation and infrastructure the timing could not be better.

I will not reprint the article, Green Technology Road Improvements, here; however feel free to read it at your leisure as I feel they make excellent points regarding ways that energy consumption must be reduced from more than one level the user.

As the authors maintain...

Road systems may be one of the largest, most immediate and least expensive sources of untapped energy savings available. Improved roads can provide significant reductions in fuel consumption at no additional cost to road users and with no changes required as far as driving habits or type of vehicle used. At the same time, road owners can construct more fuel-efficient pavement systems and stabilized running surfaces at lower cost than conventionally designed roads through innovative, sustainable product technology.

We have already made great headway in realizing that the type of concrete one uses has immense effects on water savings and in turn green house gas emissions... why not realize that efficiency is not just the role of the automobile.

Congress Kills LEED

In our contentious Congress and our especially anti regulation, anti environmental House of Representatives a recent Amendment was passed in the House to refuse LEED Gold or Platinum certification of any Governmental building.

Treehugger was in arms about this current turn of events, however I want to point out one of a few things:

1. It was singularly passed in the House, not the Senate nor signed into Law by the President. This was a House Amendment that joins the current legion of position bills that include defunding Planned Parenthood, NPR and re-defining Rape; In other words all politics all the time.

2. The Amendment said GOLD and PLATINUM only not just basic certification or Silver which are perfectly fine reasonable benchmarks if LEED is to be attained at all.

3. The Amendment seems to be focused on DoD buildings which are now requiring an energy analysis regarding performance as a part of certification.

Green Building Law asks relevant questions on what the larger impact regarding green building on the long term will be but if you look further down the blog trail he discusses USGBC's own internal politicking and conflict of interest in their lobbying efforts.

Just like anything one understands is that Lobbying is the largest influence regarding policy decisions, be it green or otherwise. The House currently passed another Amendment to rescind the energy savings bill that required energy saving light bulbs as the mandate. So if anything this is just another "get Obama" and gnaw away at the current efforts by the EPA to actually enforce and regulate the environmental laws passed decades ago to preserve our environment

Frankly I have never been a proponent of Certifications that go beyond the basic necessity of a buildings performance and function and one could point out that higher levels of LEED certifications do not necessarily lend to a buildings superiority in that area. As a taxpayer who funds these projects the Department of Defense should and must sacrifice a few points to make a building "LEED" vs further cuts to social service programs that are increasingly serving more as our economy falters.

Mr. Alter, whom I respect, did not respond to my tweet to him asking him why sacrificing LEED is so distressing when its not a total abandonment of Green build? And frankly I find it odd that given he is Canadian his country is not suffering economically nor have had a overwhelming amount of budget dedicated to "defense" so it seems to be a false alarm ringing. And ironic that Canada just opted out of Kyoto protocol upon the eve of building the XL Pipeline - a by far more detrimental affect on the environment than the lack of a Gold LEED star for a building.

We are a nation and globe undergoing massive changes in budgets, policies and philosophies and frankly forgoing the attainment of higher LEED certifications is a perfectly acceptable cut as long as the overall ambitions of green build are not.