Saturday, November 21, 2015

Smart Phone Apps for Solar and Green Building

Using solar energy is a lot easier these days thanks to several great iPhone apps. Pictured is the screen for Easy Solar that offers design and measurement tools for professionals. On the other hand, Solar Panel Advisor app is fun for anyone who wants to see their phone behave as a solar panel. And the Pyranometer app allows you to measure the solar irradiance in watts per square meter for and education. Enjoy!

Dirty Laundry Exposed at Thrift Store Chain
Recycling clothing and small household items is a positive thing for the environment, right? So why is the Savers corporation and its Value Village thrift stores under fire? The $1.2 billion per year giant appears to be masquerading as a big do-gooder for non-profits with its slogan: "Good Deeds. Great Deals." In reality, a small fraction of between 8 and 17 percent of revenue goes to charities. Already in hot water in Minnesota, the Washington State for-profit thrift business is finally being scrutinized in Washington - as its board chairman, Tom Ellison, resides luxuriously in his waterfront mansion. Read the full investigation by Francesca Lyman and Investigate West.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Modular, Ultra-Green, Solar Classroom Inspires Sustainability

Unveiled in 2015, this could be the classroom of the future. Located at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, this is one of the first completely sustainable, modular classrooms in the U.S. Fabricated by EcoCraft Homes and developed by the SEED Collaborative, the SEED Classroom features non-toxic materials, generates its own energy, and recycles water on-site. A hands-on sustainable learning space built to Living Building Challenge standards, it impacts thousands of children with its net-zero energy, net-zero water, sustainable materials, daylighting, urban agriculture and equity components.

TAGS: green architecture, green building, modular construction, passive house, solar, energy efficient, pittsburgh

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Usonian Homes on Display at Polymath Park in Pennsylvania
Polymath Park was designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice to be a small community of “Usonian” homes, Frank Lloyd Wright's concept for housing for the common people. Located in Western Pennsylvania, the 125-acre (0.51 km2) property now hosts three homes, connected by unpaved roads on a mostly wooded site. Peter Berndtson, one of the original Wright apprentices at Taliesin, created a 1962 master plan for Polymath Park that allowed for 24 dwellings to be sited in individual, circular clearings in the forest. Ultimately, only two of his home designs were built on the property and are still standing. In 2007, one of Wright’s Usonian homes was deconstructed in Illinois, relocated to the Polymath site, and then faithfully reconstructed according to Wright’s original design. Berndtson's homes are known as the Balter House (1964) and the Blum House (1965), both of which were used as summer homes for the Blum and Balter families. The good news is that you can tour these homes or stay for the night!
Polymath Park Resort

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Well-Behaved Building - Oct 8-10 NYC

Submitted by Francesca Lyman
If you're working on reducing energy and resource use and enhancing sustainability, well-being and community in buildings, the Garrison Institute has an invitation for you.  October 8 - 10 please join your fellow building owners, managers, researchers and community organizers for our annual Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium, which deals with the human dimensions of improving building performance, including energy use behavior.  
This year's meeting, “The Well-Behaved Building: Developing Community, Well-Being and Resilience in Buildings,” explores behavioral and holistic approaches that help make buildings into thriving communities while improving efficiency. Presenters include leading building experts like Barbara Ciesla, Gina Ciganik, Rachel Gutter, John McIlwaine, Jonathan Rose and others, as well as thought leaders from relevant fields like sociologist Jenni Cross, teacher Steve Ritz, activist Alexie Torres-Fleming, resilience expert Andrew Zolli and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg
The symposium is held at the Garrison Institute, a beautiful, renovated monastery on the Hudson River an hour north of Manhattan on the MetroNorth train line.  Scholarships are available for non-profit professionals. You can learn more and register here, or call the Institute at 845-424--4800

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This just in!

by Francesca Lyman
Well, don’t stop the presses: Annual Pew media survey reports woes for traditional media, a continuing rise in digital journalism; and a report on Entertainment news squeezing out Environmental coverage

What’s black and white, and read all over? Not newspapers, as the old children’s riddle once told us, nor traditional news media, according to the Pew Research Center’s annual report, State of the News Media,” out March 18th.

Analyzing the media industry’s economics, audience and viewership, and prospects by sector, the report details continuing rifts in the news media landscape, cuts particularly affecting newspapers, and an ongoing rise in digital media.
This may not be news to readers of Solaripedia, but most news consumers are unaware of these profound changes. Surprisingly, some 60 percent of Americans say they’re unaware of these trends, while 31 percent have stopped turning to news outlets they used to depend on.

Since last year, the newspaper industry has lost the most ground to rivals in the technology industry. The Center’s estimates for newsroom cutbacks in 2012 “put industry employment down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 employees for the first time since 1978.” On cable TV, coverage of live events during the day, “which often requires a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012,” with interview segments up 31%.

In 2011, the center found, losses in print advertising dollars “outpaced gains in digital revenue by a factor of roughly 10 to 1, a ratio even worse than in 2010.” Their conclusion, when circulation and advertising revenue are combined, is that “the newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000.” The result is a news industry understaffed and less prepared than ever to uncover stories or dig deep into emerging trends.

Nevertheless they found that news is becoming a more important and pervasive part of people’s daily lives. “That, in the end,” they wrote, “could prove a saving factor for the future of journalism.”

The brightest spot perhaps is that online news consumption rose sharply during the last two years, as digital platforms have spread. Online news was the only category of news that grew in the Pew Research Center’s 2012 News Media Consumption Survey.

Another journalism report earlier this year found particularly profound changes in news coverage  when it comes to environmental issues (science, health, climate and environmental policy).

Environmental Coverage in the Mainstream News: We Need More,” published in January 2013 by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage (PIEC), a nonprofit organization, found that “on average, entertainment headlines get over three times more coverage than environmental stories for nationally prominent news organizations.”

The study found that environmental stories represent just 1% of news headlines in the US and that entertainment stories garner nearly three times more headlines. It also found that “for some news organizations, entertainment and crime garner twenty times and sixty times more coverage than the environment.
The project conducted a national poll in 2012 by the Opinion Research Corporation over the weekend of April 14–15, and found “seventy-nine percent of Americans believe news coverage of the environment should be improved.” Read More:

As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in examining the report, “Local newspapers were the only media group that paid more attention, on average, to the environment than to entertainment.”

How important is being informed, particularly on issues like the environment? Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

* Francesca Lyman is a Seattle-based freelance journalist and member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. She is the author of  The Greenhouse Trap (A World Resources Institute Guide to the Environment) and Managing Editor of

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Passive Solar Home Stuns in the Sun in New Zealand
For Te Kauwhata House, Solarei Architects of New Zealand designed a lot of thermal massing in the floors; the concrete floors act like re-chargeable batteries that use sunlight instead of electricity for heating. During the day, sunlight shines onto the concrete floor and the energy is then absorbed by the mass. When external temperatures begin to cool during the evening, heat is then released (or conducted) from the concrete slab. Concrete slabs are able to retain and release energy for several days when cloudy conditions persist.Te Kauwhata House in Waikato, New Zealand, is a three-bedroom, passive solar, energy efficient family home that utilizes green architecture principles -- it's passively self-heated during winter, self-cooled over summer and employs green materials throughout. The 2500 sq. ft. home is oriented due north to maximize solar gain and take full advantage of the low-angled winter sun. Power is provided by a 3.2 kW grid connected solar panel system. The house also collects rainwater for drinking. Materials include untreated Lawson Cyprus timber for exterior cladding, untreated macrocarpa timber for interior shelves and architraves (beams), natural bio-paints for the interior finishes, and wool/polyester composite insulation.