Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Nuclear Plant Evacuation; Protective Winds Flowing

State College, Pa. -- 11 March 2011 -- AccuWeather reports officials have shut down a nuclear power plant in earthquake-ravaged north-central Japan. Winds could help protect nearby residents in the event of a radiation leak.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is currently not leaking radiation, but the threat of a leak has prompted officials to evacuate nearly 3,000 people within the surrounding 2 miles.
The power plant is located in Onahama city, which is about 170 miles northeast of Tokyo.
The fear of a leak stems from the fact that a power outage and failed backup generator are inhibiting the reactor's cooling system from working properly, according to the Associated Press.
Radiation could leak out if the power outage continues and the reactor core stays hot. A reactor meltdown would be a worst-case scenario.
In the event of a leak Friday night, local time (through this evening EST), winds flowing from the northwest to west may help guide most of the radiation offshore.
Winds will remain offshore Saturday, local time, despite turning more to the southwest.
The danger of a possible leak has also prompted officials to declare a state of emergency at the power plant, the first of its kind in Japan.

By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist for

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

House Blocking EPA Carbon Regulations

CONTACT: Lisa Nurnberger or Randy Rieland, 202-331-6959


WASHINGTON (March 10, 2011) -- Today's House Energy and Commerce subcommittee vote to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating power plant and oil refinery carbon emissions is "an insult to all Americans," according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The bill that passed out of the Energy and Power Subcommittee this morning was introduced by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).

"The House subcommittee vote is a triumph of fiction over fact," said Lexi Shultz, legislative director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. "This bill ignores the vast body of scientific evidence that carbon emissions are leading to climate change and harming public health."

The legislation also would undermine efforts that would save American drivers thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of their vehicles through stronger fuel efficiency standards, according to UCS.

"The Upton-Whitfield bill would end a promising collaboration between the EPA and the Department of Transportation to develop new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks between 2017 and 2025," said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. "Representative Upton claims his bill would save Americans money at the pump, but the reality is that it would do the exact opposite. By blocking future fuel efficiency standards, the bill would eliminate savings at the pump of as much as $7,400 over a vehicle's lifetime, increase pollution, and worsen America's oil addiction.

"For the last 35 years, fuel efficiency standards have saved consumers billions of dollars, cleaned up our air, and reduced our oil consumption," she added. "At a time of rising gas prices, the last thing consumers need is more pain at the pump."

Taking a page out of Orwell's "1984," Reps. Upton and Whitfield titled their bill the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011," when, in fact, it would not prevent an energy tax because no one has proposed one. Instead, the bill would prevent the EPA from reducing harmful carbon emissions, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled the agency has the express authority to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act.

"The bill's sponsors are ignoring the fact that Clean Air Act regulations have and will continue to save lives," said Shultz. "They also have provided enormous financial benefits." The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, for example, have prevented as many as 160,000 premature deaths last year alone, she pointed out, and while they cost $65 billion to implement, their overall financial benefit could reach $2 trillion by 2020, according to the EPA.

Reps. Upton and Whitfield justify their bill by citing grossly inflated industry-generated estimates of the cost of new carbon regulations. Historically industry has overstated the cost of regulation. Past Clean Air Act standards, such as those that addressed acid rain, have cost less than a third of even the EPA's own estimates.

Meanwhile, warnings from the scientific community are mounting. In October 2009, for example, 18 U.S. scientific societies sent a letter to Congress that stated: "If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced." In 2009, the U.S. Global Change Impacts Report concluded that if global warming emissions are not cut dramatically, "threats to human health will increase." And earlier this month, more than 2,500 scientists signed a letter urging Congress to allow the EPA to move forward with carbon regulations.


The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

List of Top 10 States for LEED Green Buildings Released

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) today released its 2010 list of top 10 states for LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings per capita, based on the U.S. 2010 Census information. The District of Columbia leads the nation, with 25 square feet of LEED-certified space per person in 2010, with Nevada being the leading state, with 10.92 square feet per person in 2010.
Other top states include New Mexico and New Hampshire and Oregon with more than 6 and 4 square feet of LEED-certified space per person, respectively.

“Using per capita, versus the more traditional numbers of projects, or pure square footage, is a reminder to all of us that the people who live and work, learn and play in buildings should be what we care about most,” said USGBC SVP of LEED, Scot Horst. “2010 was a difficult year for most of the building industry, but in many areas, the hunger for sustainable development kept the markets moving.”

The top LEED states per capita, including the District of Columbia:

  • District of Columbia: 25.15 sf 
  • Nevada: 10.92 sf 
  • New Mexico: 6.35 sf 
  • New Hampshire: 4.49 sf
  • Oregon: 4.07 sf
  • South Carolina: 3.19 sf
  • Washington: 3.16 sf 
  • Illinois: 3.09 sf
  • Arkansas: 2.9 sf 
  • Colorado: 2.85 sf 
  • Minnesota: 2.77 sf

USGBC’s LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings. Over 40,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising over 7.9 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 117 countries. In addition, nearly 10,000 homes have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system, with nearly 45,000 more homes registered.

Notable newly certified projects in 2010 include the Frito Lay manufacturing site in Jonesboro, Ark.; the Wells Fargo Center in Denver, Colo.; the two International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters buildings in downtown Washington, D.C, which earned LEED Gold for the operations and maintenance of an existing building ; Parc Huron multi-use residential property in Chicago, Ill.; the Edina Crosstown Medical Building in Edina, Minn.; Barcelona Elementary School in Albuquerque, N.M.; Centennial Hills Library in Las Vegas, Nev.; The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Ore.; KPMG: Greenville in S.C.; and multiple fire stations and the Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza in Seattle, Wash.Of the projects represented on the list, the most-common project type was commercial office and the most-common owner type was for-profit organization. The cities most represented in the list were Chicago and Washington, D.C.

For the full list of LEED-certified projects visit: ###

U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.

With a community comprising 79 local affiliates, 16,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 162,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product from 2009-2013. USGBC leads a diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.

Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings. Over 40,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising over 7.9 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 117 countries. In addition, nearly 10,000 homes have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system, with nearly 45,000 more homes registered.
By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community. For more information, visit

NARI firm gives family home a second life through a green remodel

Des Plaines, Illinois, March 9, 2011—Green is more than a color; it's a building philosophy. For Peter Michelson, CEO of Renewal Design-Build of Decatur, Ga., building green is also the way he helps his clients live healthier, eco-conscious lifestyles, save money on utility bills and make the world a greener place.


"Green homes incorporate sustainable materials and design ideas aimed at protecting the environment by promoting energy conservation,” Michelson said. “The more you are doing to your house, the more of an opportunity you have to replace inefficient equipment with high-efficiency equipment and materials.”


Renewal Design-Build won a 2010 southeast regional CotY award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a whole-home remodel it completed Decatur, Ga.  The company is dedicated to building energy-efficient homes in an effort to help reduce climate change. Their plans incorporate a number of strategies that are meant to increase a home’s energy efficiency by 30 percent, conserve water and reduce storm water pollution. By promoting recycling and the use of durable, low-maintenance, recycled, and rapidly renewable materials, Renewal Design-Build helps to ensure homes conserve natural resources and protect ecosystem biodiversity.


The firm’s award-winning remodel began as a 900-square-foot, 1930s cottage with two bedrooms and one bath. The original floor plan was dated, inefficient and no longer fit the modern needs of a growing family. The homeowners were dedicated to achieving a total green renovation, and worked with architect Eric Rawlings and the Renewal team to incorporate innovative, sustainable building practices, materials and technologies into both construction and the interior design of the home.


The remodeling team first deconstructed most of the home’s original structure down to the foundation. They then expanded the living area of the home to 2,100 square feet. “We reused everything we could reuse from the original house, which was challenging if you saw how tiny the original house was,” Michelson said.


High-efficiency and sustainable building were top priorities for the project. The team used SIP, or structural insulated panel, construction instead of traditional stud framing. SIPs are made by sandwiching a layer of rigid polystyrene foam between two pieces of oriented strand board (OSB). SIP construction is stronger than conventional stud frames and it takes less time to erect. It also creates an airtight, draft-free envelope for the home, which saves homeowners money on their energy bills.


“An important thing to consider in green renovation is allowing the house to mechanically breathe,” Michelson said. When a house is built very tightly, it can increase the chance for mold or air quality issues without the proper use of ventilation. In this case, energy recovery ventilators helped to reduce the costs of heating and cooling by transferring heat from the warm air inside with fresh (but cold) air from outside in the winter. In the summer, the inside air cools the warmer supply air to reduce ventilation cooling costs.


Energy Star-rated exhaust fans in the bathrooms and cooktop vents in the kitchen helped to reduce the chance of mold growing in more humid areas of the home. In addition, the remodelers placed a 40-millimeter thick vapor barrier in the home’s crawl space and added an Energy Star-rated dehumidifier so that no ground moisture could seep up into the house. “The tighter a house becomes, sick home syndrome becomes a bigger issue,” Michelson said.


New geothermal heating and cooling, high-efficiency windows and doors and a tankless water heater cut down energy costs. In another strategy to save on cooling, the team incorporated deep roof overhangs to provide shade for the windows. Another savvy addition was the water harvesting system, which was hidden inside the home’s exterior stone columns. The cisterns collect up to 600 gallons of rainwater that the family uses to flush toilets, wash cars and as landscape irrigation.


Upon completion, the new prairie-style home featured four bedrooms, three baths and a spacious modern kitchen. Careful consideration was taken in choosing interior finishes. The homeowners opted for Forest Stewardship Council-certified hardwood and bamboo flooring throughout the house. “Since we built this house so tight, so we had to pay close attention to off-gassing and make sure that all of our finishes were low- or no-VOC and non-formaldehyde,” Michelson added. 


The builder says that the initial cost of building green pays for itself over time. For example, an additional investment of $10,000 will typically cost a homeowner about $65/month on a standard loan. If the energy savings meets or exceeds $65/month, then it becomes a great return on your investment. "A typical green project adds 10 to 15% to the construction cost,” said David Michelson president of Renewal Design-Build. “However, as the price of energy continues to go up, the payback accelerates when people build green homes and they can see dramatic decreases in their monthly utility bills.”


NARI Green Certified Professional (GCP) remodelers can help homeowners plan eco-conscious remodels that will save you money and reduce your environmental footprint. Log on to to find a remodeler in your area. For green remodeling information, please visit


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About NARI: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry.  The Association which represents more than 8,200 member companies nationwide—comprised of 63,000 remodeling contractors— is “The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.”™ To locate a local NARI chapter or a remodeling professional, visit NARI’s Web site at, or contact the national headquarters, based in Des Plaines, Illinois, at 800-611-NARI.


EDITOR'S NOTE: NARI can provide you with photos to accompany your story. Contact NARI with your request at or ask for Morgan Zenner at (800) 611-6274. Click here for an online version of this press release.