Building Blog #3 – Foam Foibles by Sustainable

In this series of blog posts, we answer Frequently Asked Questions, offer helpful tips and advice when it comes to how your home works – and doesn’t work! – and how methods employed by Sustainable can get you the most efficient, comfortable, and healthiest home for you and your family.

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Why Hand-Drawing Matters by Sustainable

Some people may wonder why designers still make hand sketches now that we have powerful software and computers that can represent any unimaginable shape with high precision and air-brushed realism. Well, hand-drawing matters, it is an indispensable component in the creation process.

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Future Proofing by Sustainable

The complexity, reach, and negative effects of natural and human-caused disruptions have reached an all-time high. With no quick way to predict or avoid such problems, the best solution for every community is to join forces and work together to future-proof our world.

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Energy wonks hope to achieve breakthrough at Basalt Vista project by Sustainable

Sunsense Solar employees Kevin Lundy, Matt Greenlund and Cole Alexander install solar panels on the roof for the Habitat for Humanity Basalt Vista netzero project on April 19.  Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Sunsense Solar employees Kevin Lundy, Matt Greenlund and Cole Alexander install solar panels on the roof for the Habitat for Humanity Basalt Vista netzero project on April 19.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Energy wonks in the Roaring Fork Valley are even more excited about a new Basalt affordable housing project than the homeowners.

The first phase of Habitat for Humanity’s Basalt Vista project will serve as a laboratory for unparalleled management of household energy use and independence from the electrical grid.

“These will be the model of what we want to do in the future,” said Chris Bilby, a research engineer with Holy Cross Energy.

Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork decided to make the housing project all electric. Along with off-the-charts energy efficiency, each unit will each have a solar photovoltaic system. As a result, they will be “net-zero” — producing as much energy as they consume.

“This program hopes to demonstrate that adjusting energy levels by providing solar arrays and battery storage at a home can be more cost-effective than modifying energy production at a centralized power plant.”from a policy paper prepared by Holy Cross

Once the decision for all-electric, net-zero was made, Holy Cross Energy jumped at a chance to experiment with energy consumption and storage. The energy cooperative is a major supplier of energy in the Roaring Fork Valley and Interstate 70 corridor in Garfield and Eagle counties.

Holy Cross is installing sophisticated energy regulators in the first four units constructed at Basalt Vista. The systems will learn the residents’ energy use habits and adapt accordingly, Bilby said. If the homeowners tend to take showers during the same one-hour window each morning, for example, the system will interact with the water heater to prepare. The system will make multiple decisions throughout day and night to adjust energy consumption of the home.

It will “manipulate consumption in a way no one notices,” Bilby said. “The homeowner won’t know which way the meter is spinning.”

HCE will also install batteries in the four units so that energy produced by the solar photovoltaic systems can be stored and used when it benefits the homeowners the most. On a sunny winter day when the systems produce more energy than the homes consume, the excess energy will be stored in the batteries. When the homeowners return in the evening, energy can be tapped from the batteries rather than drawn from the grid, at a time when prices tend to be highest.

The idea is to take the smart home technology and tie it to battery storage to create a more sophisticated and integrated system. While delayed self-storage systems are common these days, this system will take it to a new level, Bilby said. There are also implications for energy suppliers such as Holy Cross Energy.

“This program hopes to demonstrate that adjusting energy levels by providing solar arrays and battery storage at a home can be more cost-effective than modifying energy production at a centralized power plant,” said a policy paper prepared by Holy Cross.

Pockets of all-electric homes already exist in the Roaring Fork Valley, mostly due to a surge in popularity in the 1980s, Bilby said. There are 160 all-electric homes between Basalt and the upper valley, many in the Capitol Creek and Snowmass Creek valleys.

Bilby said the energy consumption of the Basalt Vista homes will be compared to the older generation all-electric homes to measure if the new systems are truly more beneficial and, if so, by how much.

Another experiment he is eager to undertake is to see if energy production and storage in three of the units at Basalt Vista could fully supply the fourth unit — creating a more resilient system.

Holy Cross Energy’s experiment is funded for four months, though the cooperative hopes to extend it. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden will help analyze the performance of the systems, recommend adjustments and determine how they can be used on a broader scale.

The goal of the experiment is to create self-regulating systems that Holy Cross Energy can offer to its customers, Bilby said. The energy cooperative wants renewable energy to account for 70 percent of its energy portfolio by 2030.

Even without being a living lab for energy use, Basalt Vista is a unique project due to unparalleled cooperation. Roaring Fork School District supplied the land for the project, which will total 27 units. Pitkin County supplied some of the construction funding. In return for their contributions, the two entities receive units for teachers and people who work in the county.

Habitat for Humanity is constructing the project. Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork President Scott Gilbert said Basalt Councilman Auden Schendler really pushed the concept of an all-electric, net-zero project back in the planning phase.

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE, backed the idea with a $100,000 grant to help offset higher construction costs. CORE officials convinced Habitat not even to run a gas line to the site as a backup, according to CORE Executive Director Mona Newton and Gilbert.

“The big fear was, if we put it in we’re going to use it,” Gilbert said.

Eschewing a gas line saved about $30,000.

The buildings in Basalt Vista are models of energy efficient construction that exceed local building codes.

“Energy efficiency is number one,” Bilby said. “You need to check that box first.”

Gilbert added, “The less power you need, the less you have to produce.”

Everything from heating-cooling systems to food preparation will be electric. But rather than relying on the grid — a mix of renewable and fossil fuel energy sources — each home will have its own 10-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof.

While efficient, the units are also all-electric, so they required solar PV systems that are larger than might be typically found in units that are 1,100 to 1,550 square feet.

Sunsense Solar of Carbondale, a regular collaborator with Habitat For Humanity, is installing the solar PV systems.

“This will be our 15th and 16th building that we’ve installed for Habitat,” Sunsense owner Scott Ely said.

The first four units are scheduled to be completed by June 1. Holy Cross Energy and its partners will experiment with the regulation and storage system for about one month before the owners move in. The experiment will continue for another three months before the batteries and regulating systems are removed. However, all 27 units will be all-electric, net-zero.

CORE’s Newton hopes that Basalt Vista becomes a model for housing in the valley.

“I would like to see all affordable housing in the valley be net zero,” she said. “We want everybody to have access to clean energy and efficient buildings.”

Basalt Vista sits on a bench south of Basalt High School. Looming in the view across the valley is the burn scar of the Lake Christine Fire. Holy Cross infrastructure was damaged in the fire, and power distribution from its sub-station near Lake Christine was threatened in the early days of the blaze.

Bilby said the experience in last year’s fire makes the Basalt Vista experiment even more important. It could be the key to creating neighborhoods that won’t be in the dark if a disaster knocks out the grid.

“A year later, we’re building an all-electric, net-zero, self-reliant community,” he said.


Study shows green roofs could reduce indoor air pollution by Sustainable

Toronto City Hall Green Roof via  Flickr

Toronto City Hall Green Roof via Flickr

Green roofs – roofs that are planted with vegetation—may improve the indoor air quality of commercial buildings by cutting the amount of ozone coming into the buildings from the outside, according to new research from Portland State University.

The findings add to the already known environmental benefits of green roofs, including reducing carbon dioxide, decreasing storm water runoff and cutting down on urban heat, according to PSU researchers.

The researchers from PSU's departments of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Biology and the university's Honors College, set up measuring devices on the roof of a big-box retail store in North Portland that was split between a green roof and a more conventional white membrane roof.

Credit: Portland State University

Credit: Portland State University

They measured the air coming into the building from outdoor intake vents, and found that the air coming in from the green roof area had modestly lower ozone levels than the air coming in from the unplanted area. They found that the vegetation trapped and filtered the ozone in the outdoor air.

The trapping effect is a process known as dry deposition, in which airborne particles collect or deposit themselves on solid surfaces. It's a natural process that is key to removing pollutants from the atmosphere.

The study was conducted over a two-day period. The authors said the findings warrant a longer-term study – one that could include measuring other pollutants as well as ozone.

The study was published in the March 15 edition of Building and Environment.


Notre Dame is a metaphor for the planet by Sustainable



Everyone says we should do something, but nobody ever wants to pay the price.

According to Wikipedia,

Victor Hugo began writing Notre-Dame de Paris in 1829, largely to make his contemporaries more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture, which was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings or defaced by replacement of parts of buildings in a newer style. For instance, the medieval stained glass panels of Notre-Dame de Paris had been replaced by white glass to let more light into the church.

After his book became a hit, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was hired to restore it, but they did it the quick and dirty way.

Not everyone loved it then, nor more recently as Oliver Wainwright reminds us of a more recent critic:

The spire that collapsed was added by Viollet-le-Duc in his massive renovation and restoration of starting in 1844, fixing the damage done during the French Revolution, so – like so many great buildings – it is not an original.

Interior of Notre Dame a few years ago/ Lloyd Alter/   CC BY 2.0

Interior of Notre Dame a few years ago/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Even Victor Hugo wrote: "Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries." It's not surprising that environmentalists also made a natural connection:

Bill McKibben and Eric Holthaus exchange thoughts:

“Construction fires are particularly tragic because they are preventable, but the major reason that these fires of significant buildings keep happening is lack of funding. Brazil's National Museum and its 20 million item collection was a "tragedy that could have been avoided". The museum had been trying to get money to protect its collection for years.”

© Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

© Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

In Glasgow, the School of Art was destroyed because of poor management of fire risk during the restoration after an earlier fire, which occurred because a sprinkler system was not completed.

The late Andrew Tallon was quoted in Time two years ago:

“The damage can only accelerate,” says Andrew Tallon, an associate professor of art at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and an expert on Gothic architecture. Having carefully studied the damage, he says the restoration work is urgent. If the cathedral is left alone, its structural integrity could be at risk. “The flying buttresses, if they are not in place, the choir could come down,” he says. “The more you wait, the more you need to take down and replace.”

The more you wait, the harder it gets to fix. You can say that about buildings, infrastructure, and, of course, climate. But nobody wants to pay the price.

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Stopping Tax Fraud by Sustainable

We at Sustainable strongly support the efforts by our industry partners in stopping the underground economy that puts workers lives at risk for very little gain.

Our colleagues from three carpenters’ unions has put together four informative videos about the Underground Economy and how they affect all of us. Companies that partake in the Underground Economy circumvent the laws that protect workers for a minimal gain in revenue through under the table cash exchange. Workers are most vulnerable to the exploitative practices that endangers their safety and the public’s well-being.

Take action here!


An office cat or dog won't just lower your stress levels — it may also boost your productivity by Sustainable

A dog in the office is definitely good for the atmosphere, said Marie-José Enders, who studies animal-human relationships at the Open University.  Douglas Barnes/AP Photo

A dog in the office is definitely good for the atmosphere, said Marie-José Enders, who studies animal-human relationships at the Open University. Douglas Barnes/AP Photo

  • Nowadays, it's no longer such an outlandish idea to have a pet in the office.

  • According to Marie-José Enders, who studies the relationship between animals and humans at the Open University, office pets can help lower cortisol levels.

  • The researcher also explained that people with dogs are perceived as friendlier, so having an office pet may help improve your relationships with your colleagues too.

When Myrthe Kusse of Dutch company Wallaart & Kusse Public Affairs gets to work in the morning, there's always someone there to greet her.

Office cat Sammie is sat on a desk, waiting to be fed breakfast and given a fresh bowl of water.

"Until a few years ago, Sammie lived in a student house," explained Kusse. "But the students had to leave and Sammie needed a new home. A colleague of ours happened to want a cat, but his partner didn't, so we all decided to take on the cat as an office."

For bigger companies like Google, it's nothing unusual to take your dog to the office but the same seems to be the case for a lot of Dutch companies too — on LinkedIn, there are currently 75 active vacancies at Dutch companies that mention an office dog.

Nowadays, it seems it's not such an outlandish idea to have a pet in the office — there are actually quite a few advantages. For example, a few years ago, research by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that people experience less stress when a dog is around.

Researchers took saliva samples from factory employees and looked at how much of the stress hormone cortisol was in it. The results showed that only the employees who had had a dog in their vicinity had low cortisol levels by the end of the day.

"It's definitely good for the work atmosphere to have a dog in the office," said Marie-José Enders, who studies the relationship between animals and humans at the Open University. "Not only does your cortisol level drop when you stroke a dog; you also produce more of the hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel more relaxed and happy."

Having pets in the office also has other bonuses

"If your boss is giving you a hard time, a dog can make it easier to put certain situations into perspective. You can just take a bit of space and walk the dog," said Enders. "An animal at work makes people more motivated — they like their work more and they experience less stress."

Esther Jonker, owner of labradoodle Joep, noticed all these effects in video marketing company TVMC's office where she works.

"I've been taking Joep to the office every day for about two years now," she said, "and he usually lifts the atmosphere considerably. If we're all a bit engrossed in something, he'll notice, he'll pop over and he'll press his nose against you for a stroke."

"When we've been very busy working on something, it's nice to play with Joep," she said. "I think it makes us more productive."

Joep also brings a lot of fun to the office. "If you put your bag on the floor and there are treats inside, he always manages to fish them out — and sometimes he steals things, then runs through the whole office with a stack of paper or something."

One thing about the set-up that isn't quite as popular?

"The walking," said Jonker, "especially in winter."

In spite of this, both Jonker and Kusse think office pets are also good for team morale.

"We often laugh together about Sammie," said Kusse, "She's scared of the printer and loves to climb into any box she can get her paws on. She often comes to the office with mice too, although some aren't too keen on that! It's just entertaining to watch her. Taking care of Sammie together works well for team spirit."

A fish tank has about the same effect on people as watching a hearth fire. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

A fish tank has about the same effect on people as watching a hearth fire. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

What's the best way of choosing the right pet for your office?

According to behavioral psychologist Lotte Spijkerman, dogs and cats have roughly the same psychological effect on people.

"They reduce stress and increase productivity, mainly because they interact with you of their own accord and, when they pop over to your work station, it's a good reminder that you might need to take a break," explained the psychologist.

In the case of, say, a hamster, the effect is less pronounced — but if you don't feel like changing litter boxes or taking the dog for a walk, they're a bit more of a low maintenance option.

"Watching fish can also be very relaxing", says Spijkerman. "A fish tank has about the same effect on people as watching a hearth fire. That goes for birds or anything natural in the office, like plants. Even smells can have a soothing effect, with citrus smells being useful for calming."

So, if the goal is to create a little peace and quiet in the workplace, you could, instead, opt for a lot of plants or a reed diffuser — or there's another alternative.

"You can give a colleague the responsibility of ensuring people get enough rest," said Spijkerman. "They can tell you from time to time that you need a break or that it's time for a walk."

According to Enders, people with a dog are perceived as friendlier. Glassdoor

According to Enders, people with a dog are perceived as friendlier. Glassdoor

An office pet may even help you get to know colleagues more quickly

Office animals have another effect that can be crucial to the success of your business.

"They 're a great ice-breaker," said Spijkerman.

"We know from psychology that if you find someone nicer, you move with him or her faster. And if someone looks like you, because he also has a dog, for example, it could be easier to make a deal. "

"People with a dog are perceived as friendlier," said Enders.

Jonker claims to have observed that Joep has this effect on her clients.

"Of course there are some who are afraid of dogs and, in that case, we leave Joep at home or we take him elsewhere, but other clients will often give him a biscuit. Last year he even got gifts at Christmas! He's a part of the company. "

Kusse said the same was the case with Sammie.

"At Christmas, our contacts get a Christmas card with Sammie on it. She represents us and she's our pet. She's always there, even over the weekend. The cleaners and a colleague who lives in the neighborhood ensure that he gets enough attention and food."

Kusse said she could no longer imagine an office without Sammie. "I really don't want to think about what we would do if Sammie weren't around anymore," she said. "We're really fond of her. I think if she weren't there, we'd definitely have to have another cat."

Read the original article on Business Insider Nederland. Copyright 2019.

Meet Sustainable’s office dog, Moose and Nero the cat on our Team page!