Thursday, September 29, 2011

Builders of Hope: Rescued Homes Build Solid Communities

By Wanda Urbanska
January/February 2010
Americans demolish some 250,000 homes annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and many of them are more solidly built than the new structures that replace them. Though in recent years developers have increased efforts to salvage reusable items such as bathtubs, light fixtures and mantels, mountains of demolition debris still clog our nation’s landfills.

Salvaged Homes: Renovating Old Buildings into Unique Houses in Reno, Nevada - Green Homes

By Jessica Kellner
September/October 2011
In Reno, Nevada, HabeRae Homes is the brainchild of Kelly Rae and Pam Haberman, two home renovators and landlords who became fascinated with the idea of living better with fewer resources when they built a rural getaway home for themselves. “The impetus for building small and sustainable came to us when we bought a remote lot,” Rae says. “The builder who built our little cabin—we were living in New Mexico at the time, near Mammoth—said, ‘You have to go off the grid.’ I said, ‘What is that?’ This was in 1994.” Their builder, Don Berenati of Sweetwater Building, was experienced in off-the-grid, sustainable living, and he explained how the couple’s home could generate its own resources. “He said, ‘You can power it with solar panels; it works! And there’s a spring we can tap into with a line that goes to the cistern.’ So I said, ‘OK, I have to see that,’” Rae says.

Save Water, Save Energy: How Reducing Water Use Can Save Electricity

By Alex Wilson
January/February 2011

While the amount of energy needed to treat and deliver clean water varies tremendously by region, roughly 4 percent of the United States’ total power generation is dedicated to pumping and treating water—the largest single electricity user in many cities and towns. In southern California, for example, drinking water is pumped either from the Colorado River and its assorted reservoirs (including the nation’s largest, Lake Mead, which is now half empty) or from northern California. On a per-capita basis, energy use for water varies from about 350 kilowatt-hours a year in the South Atlantic states to more than 750 kilowatt-hours a year in the Mountain states.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Small-Scale Green Roofs

Green roofs reduce stormwater runoff, aid natural cooling and attract native birds and pollinators, as demonstrated by this small green roof on a North Carolina garden shed.


The Benefits of Natural Swimming Pools

By Michael Littlewood
June 2011 web

Imagine a swimming pool, and what do you see? A slab of sterile blue water, surrounded by tiles? It doesn’t have to be like that: imagine instead a pool of fresh, clear water, fringed by native plants and visited by dragonflies. Plenty of people are doing just that: the upsurge of interest in natural swimming pools, which I introduced to Britain in 2000, has convinced many owners of conventional pools to aspire to a natural one. The good news is that converting a conventional pool is usually possible – and much easier and cheaper than starting from scratch.


Jewel Box: A Venice Beach Home Combines Modern Design and Sustainability

By Kelly Smith

Architect Andrew Mangan knows one way to spread the word about sustainable design: Build a can’t-miss-it, Technicolor, ultramodern home just blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Venice Beach, California. Built on a small lot, the colorful jewel box is a model of smart, green thinking.

We know the members of our editorial advisory board are on top of their fields, but recently their ...
Green Insulation 101: Cellulose, Fiberglass, Spray Foam and Cotton

Choose natural forms of insulation for your home.... Mangan designed the home’s colorful façade to attract attention. “Once it caught their eye, I knew people would want to learn more about it,” he says. “This opens up doors to learning more about its green characteristics.”

Compost Bin Made of Shipping Pallets

By Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
July/August 2011

Composting is the ultimate form of recycling, so shouldn't the container used for composting also be made from reclaimed materials? One of the most ubiquitious castoffs in our cities is the humble wooden pallet. It takes just a few minutes to hook together a few pallets to make a phenomenal compost bin.

You'll need:

3 wooden shipping pallets, all the same size (find them behind stores)
Attachedment hardware: your choice of screws, nails, bolts, teist-ties, or wire
Scavenged boards to act as slats for the front of the composter (2x6s, 2x8s, etc.)
12 to 16 total feet of 2x4 lumber (You can piece together scraps, if necessary.)
Chicken wire,hardware cloth, and/or flattened cardboard boxes (optional)


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Loan Requests Pick up as rates hit new lows

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages flirting with 4%

By Inman News
Inman News™

This Mortgage rates continued to inch downward into new record territory this week as worries about the European debt crisis continued to make Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities that fund most home loans look like safe bets to investors.

Borrowers finally seem to be responding to lower rates, with demand for purchase mortgages and refinancing picking up last week.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.09 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending Sept. 15, a new low in records dating to 1971, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey. That's down from last week's record low of 4.12 percent, and a 2011 high of 5.05 percent seen in February.

Read More on Mortgage rates

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Water-Wise Oasis: A Tucson Desert Garden

By Marsha Scarbrough
September/October 2005

Not far from downtown Tucson, at the home of permaculture teacher Brad Lancaster, sun-baked sidewalks disappear into the feathery green foliage of a thriving oasis. Even more surprising than this welcome change of scenery, however, is the source of its sustenance. In one of the country’s most arid climates, this lush garden is irrigated entirely with harvested rainwater and graywater.

Brad transformed a barren yard on a blistering city block into an award-winning showcase for sustainable home horticulture through simple, inexpensive, low-tech strategies that can be effectively applied anywhere. He implements his philosophy—“just get the rainwater into the soil”—using basins, swales, berms, sunken beds, raised pathways and other water-harvesting earthworks to “plant water before you plant plants.”