Glenn Robert Lym Architect AIA/PhD

G r e e n

The Earth is not doing well
We are used to unlimited resources. But something is different. Our climate is slowly changing and major resources that we depend on are now understood as finite and dwindling.

The United States with only 5% of the world's population, consumes 25% of the world's energy resources and produces 20% of its greenhouse gas emissions yearly.(1,3) China with 20% of the world's population has recently surpassed the United States as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter with 22% of world wide emissions, though on a per capital basis, China yields 4.6 metric tons of emissions per person compared to our 19 metric tons per person.(4)

As a consequence, we direct our attention to our vehicles.
Yet we need to be looking intently at our buildings
All forms of transportation - car, trucks and ships - constitute 27% of our annual, national energy consumption. Industry consumes about 25% of our nation's energy. Buildings on the other hand consume 48% of this country's energy. In terms of carbon emissions, buildings exceed transportation by about 25 to 33% each year - with both sets of emissions growing yearly. In contrast, industry's emissions have remained flat since 1980. The construction and operation of buildings consume 65% of the nation's electricity and create 30% of all national greenhouse gas emissions. The construction of buildings produces 136 million tons of construction debris each year, and globally uses 40% of all world wide materials.(3)
In 1950, the average American home housed 3.37 people per household at 297 square feet of habitable space per person. In 1970, the average home housed 3.14 people at 478 square feet of habitable space per person. By 2000, the average house held 2.62 people at an average of 840 square feet of habitable space per person. From 1950 until 2000, the average American home housed 0.75 less people yet grew in size by 43%. Studies show that a doubling of home size raises energy consumption by 35% and the consumption of building materials by 60%.(1) Put another way, construction of a new 2000 square foot house consumes up to an estimated 1.5 acres of world forest. The production of a ton of Portland Cement produces one ton of carbon emissions.(3) All in all, the construction and operation of our buildings and homes are bigger contributors to resource use and greenhouse gas emissions than that of our transportation vehicles.
Here in the Bay Area, we live near fresh water, fertile agricultural and nearby industry. So we may not be as aware of a warming climate and pending challenges to our fresh water supply. Yet by looking at expected sea level rise, there is much to consider. The State of California's Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has conservatively estimated that by 2040, both the San Francisco and Oakland Airports' runways will be under water if present trends hold. At some point thereafter, the transition zone where fresh water from the central valley and salt water from the Pacific Ocean merge - zones that currently reside within San Francisco Bay - will move upriver into the Sacramento Delta area. If that happens, the waters supplied will compromise the backbone of California's agricultural, commercial and civilian water systems. By 2100, BCDC estimates that the Sierra Snow Pack will have disappeared year round. This is the snow pack that currently stores and slowly divvies out much of California's fresh water.(5)
California has been a leader in the efforts to stem these
adverse conditions.


Since the 1970's, California's Title 24 Energy Conservation measures have improved the residential energy efficiency of California buildings by mandating increasingly higher standards for insulation, window glazing, heating, ventilation and lighting systems. As a result, California's per capita residential, daily consumption of energy has remained almost flat since 1976, growing only at a 1 to 2% rate per year, while the rest of the country's rates have risen. Yet total California residential energy use has increased 44% as our total population has increased from 1980 to 2000.(2) Recently, on its own, California has enacted components of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.

An increasing number of local Bay Area
jurisdictions are enacting green building standards.
The LEED Rating system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design) is under the purview of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), a private, nationwide organization representing manufacturers, contractors, designers, researchers and environmentalists. For a project to qualify for LEED standing, it must attain a requisite number of rating points associated with a given LEED standard - e.g. Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum. When seeking a LEED standard, a building's design and construction team along with the owner collaborate and identify which rating points they will seek. Different team members lead the efforts for each point. During design, the project can be formally registered online with the USGBC. For this Design Phase Review, online LEEDS forms
must be completed and analytical material uploaded by appropriate team members. Upon the building's completion, the Construction Phase Review online forms are to be entered. Depending on the LEED standard sought, further online submissions may be necessary months later. When the LEED online forms are complete, the USGBC examines the submitted material, makes its determination and issues the building's LEED certificate. In general, the LEED system bases its evaluation on a building's conformance to a construction plan that has been analytically determined to improve that building's performance compared to normal "standards" of construction. The LEED system does not base its ratings on an measurement of the completed building's actual efficiency and performance.(6)
In 2008, San Francisco created its Green Building Ordinance (GBO),
adding it as Chapter 13C to the city's building code. The San Francisco GBO requires new and reworked non-residential structures of a certain size to "attain" specific LEED standings. The GBO does not require that the building actually achieve a LEED standard before a permit is issued as this be impossible. Rather, the GBO requires that members of the design team certify that the project would meet the required LEED standard. At present, there is no precedent for what would happen if a project, submitted on good faith, fails to achieve its expected rating.

Version 3.0 of LEED for Homes has not been released as of 2010. Both
it and the earlier version are not primarily designed to guide custom residential construction. The USGBC has targeted LEED for Homes at the large, multi-unit developer residential market where the bulk of new residential construction occurs. LEED for homes aims to improve residential energy conservation 25% more than that aimed for by California's current Title 24 measures.(1)
Thus many Bay Area jurisdictions have adopted the residential GreenPoint Rating system by Build-It Green in lieu of LEED for Homes. Build-It Green is a private organization originating in the Bay Area. Its GreenPoint Rating system is used through the West and involves a third party, independent GreenPoint Rater who co-ordinates with the building team before, during and after construction. The Rater visits the completed building, examines and tests it in order to confer a GreenPoint rating.

In 2010, under the San Francisco GBO, a new single family residential project must submit a GreenPoints Checklist showing that a certain number of points could be attained by the project. From 2012 onward, a project must show an increased number of GreenPoints and have a GreenPoint Rater certify those points upon project completion. As of 2010, the SF GBO has no such requirements for single family residential remodeling.

San Francisco has three other coordinated green design initiatives in place or in the works. The San Francisco Stormwater Design Guidelines requires any project in the city that disturbs over 5000 sf of area to submit and secure an approved Stormwater Control Plan that includes ongoing, on-site post construction verification. San Francisco's Green Landscaping Ordinance pertains to a project's exterior grounds and encourages rain water and gray water conservation. As of this writing, the San Francisco "Better Streets Plan" is in the middle of its public review process.

LEED, Build-It Green and San Francisco's green ordinances focus on issues in addition to those related directly to energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. These issues include:
. the embedment of a project within denser, urban communities for sharing existing housing, social service and transportation resources;
. techniques for the conservation of water resources;
. clean up of an existing site's pollution;
. support facilities for bicycles, bicyclists and alternative fuel vehicles;
. maximizing exterior open space;
. minimizing building exterior solar heat retention through reflective roofing and paving;
. minimizing a building's night time light pollution;
. reducing landscape water usage through plant selection, irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting and reuse of grey water;
. low water use plumbing fixtures;
. reuse of significant portions of an existing building;
. significant reduction in and recycling of off-site hauled waste;
. use of recycled building materials;
. use of locally manufactured products requiring minimal site transportation;
. use of renewable materials and certified, sustainably grown materials;
. durable construction resulting in buildings that are easy to maintain and have long usage lifetimes;
. use of low outgassing, low emissions materials, sealants, glues and finishes;
. quality ventilation systems with sophisticated control systems, CO2 sensors, ductwork without construction debris, and duct filters;
. maximized natural daylighting.
Being a 'LEED Accredited Professional'
(LEED AP) means that I am trained to be a part of a building team charged with securing a LEED standard. My accreditation means that my participation on the design team secures the project an additional point. Being a 'Build-It Green Certified Green Building Professional' means that I have been trained as a part of the building team to work with the third-party GreenPoint Rater to facilitate the ways in which a project can attain its required GreenPoints.

Several of our past projects have realized some of the elements that are now a part of green building.
In the 1970's, the first home that I designed and built myself in the woods of New Hampshire aimed to bring large amounts natural interior daylighting into a house shaded and protected by a surrounding forest. High clerestory windows brought sun (and moonlight) into the home and evacuated warm summer air that accumulated at the top of the house. Care was taken to position intake air windows to face into tree shaded areas. This way naturally cool air was pulled into the house through the movement of warm air out the clerestory. The owner of the home in the late 1990's clear cut the forest surrounding this house for their horses. In the process, the home was exposed to sunlight year around and to winter winds. The home's new owners are hoping to change this condition.
Later, I put these same features into the San Francisco house I designed for my family. I have been a believer in over insulating a home and taking advantage of the direction of the natural breezes. In this home, its remotely operated skylights open so that breezes move over them pulling out hot air accumulating at the top of the home. The south facing dining room's greenhouse used to let the sun's energy be absorbed by the thick, insulated concrete floor. In 2000, I remodeled this home, creating an enlarged and opened up dining room-kitchen-sitting area. Radient Floor heating was introduced within the concrete floor, allowing lower ambient air temperature yet with people feeling warm and cozy on cold days.
These features also reappear in a house built across the bay on the sunlit ridge of a warm Orinda hillside. Here very wide roof overhangs minimize direct sunlight into the interiors.

However a home with a significant, air mass above its occupied area tends to draw heat away from that lower area. Slow moving ceiling fans fix this problem.
In the early 1990's, a San Francisco client requested solar hot water panels on the roof of his new upper floor addition. Today, solar hot water is a very viable technology in San Francisco and the Bay Area, that significantly reduces energy consumption for domestic hot water and water based, house interior heating systems.
In the early 2000's in Marin County, a client fully populated their single story roofscape with photo-voltaic panels to produce a sizable surplus of electricity. Electric radiant floor heating was used in the addition, taking advantage of that surplus with no increase in the consumption of off-site energy.
And in the late 2000's, another San Francisco client populated their roof with photo-voltaic panels, generating electricity given back to the utility company during the day in exchange for cheaper electricity drawn from the grid at the night. The family will plug-in their electric car and charge in the garage at night. This home also monitors its energy use. The client has verified, as several studies have shown, that a significant portion of the household's electrical consumption, upwards of 30%, is attributable to household appliances that stay on all the time even though "shut off" - devices such as DVD recorders, televisions, printers, and computer equipment. Their home's use of the latest energy saving refrigerator/freezer, washer/dryer, and dishwasher appliances helps reduce energy consumption.
In the end, building green is not about a home with special features. Rather green building is an approach, which one of my trainers called "a whole systems" approach(3) - an openness and diligence in triaging among any number of ways to create buildings that are:
. efficiently integrated into their large communities,
. consume less energy and water,
. are durable yet easy to maintain,
. are efficient and sustainable in their use of materials,
. and provide a healthy, safe environment for their occupants.
R e f e r e n c e s
1. Ann Edminster, "Getting Ready to use LEED for Homes", PGE Pacific Energy Center San Francisco, 6 October 2006
2. Danny Parker, "Designing a Successful Zero Energy Home in California", PGE Pacific Energy Center San Francisco, 14 August 2008
3. Marc Richmond, "Build-It GreenTraining/US Energy Information Center", Oakland, 2-3 March 2009
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions
5. www.bcdc.ca.gov  
6. Ed Dean, "Real Mitigation of Climate Change: The Path to Zero Net Energy Buildings", arcCA, September 2008