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Green Building

In addition to my internship here with Sustainable Schmidt, I’ve been spending some time interning with San Mateo County government for their Energy Upgrade program.  This statewide incentive program provides rebates for homeowners who want to increase the energy efficiency of their homes.  This program is unique in that it helps you to “upgrade” the comfort and efficiency of  the home as a whole – not just single products like PG&E’s rebates.  Each county in the Bay Area has their respective branches to this program.  Rebate amount goes from $1000-$4000, depending on how much you improve your efficiency by.  My goal by the end of the summer is to convince my dad to retrofit our home with this program.  With any luck, we’ll be able to combine them with other rebates and tax credits.  If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of all the different rebates in your area, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Ever really thought about what that tree in front of your house does for you? The Colorado Tree Coalition has written a comprehensive list of the Benefits of Trees in Urban Areas.  I understood the obvious benefits of urban forests like carbon sequestration and reduced run-off, but had never considered how trees in neighborhoods would strengthen its community, or helps slow traffic.

I’m halfway through Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart.  These two authors introduce an interesting concept for product life-cycle that draws inspiration from nature itself.  Rather than creating products that create unusable waste and degrade the natural environment, a product design that encourages integration of its life with the rest its environment.  For example, whereas conventional roofing degrades, overheats, and eventually has to be thrown away, green roofs covered in plants “maintain the roof at a stable temperature, providing free evaporative cooling in hot weather and insulation in cold weather, and shields it from the sun destructive rays, making it last longer.” William McDonough gave a good lecture on TED Talks of this design concept:



Kyle’s Kitchen: PCBC

by Sustainable Kyle on June 24, 2011 · 0 comments

in Miscellaneous Schmidt

On Wednesday I got the opportunity to check out the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, PCBC, for the first time.  The Moscone Center was jam-packed with an impressive variety of tradespeople advertising their product.  Despite this, Sir Helmut was tripping pretty hard about how few people there were (and sober, no less!).  Apparently, PCBC has been struggling with attendance for the past couple years since the economy went south.  The numbers aren’t out for this year’s conference, but this article discusses past attendance issues the conference has had in previous years.  Nevertheless, I was introduced to a lot of new, innovative products at PCBC that I’d like to share with you:

  • Cabinets: Executive Cabinetry has come out with a line of cabinets, “EcoFriendly.”  This product is certified to the highest GreenGaurd standard: Children & Schools.  The cabinet is made with FSC certified wood, and finished with water-based products that emit zero Formaldehyde.
  • Insulation: Owens Corning has released a new insulation product that is also GreenGaurd Children & Schools certified.  Their pink EcoTouch insulation also helps prevent indoor air pollution by being Formaldehyde free.
  • Solar water hearing: The Velux solar water heater was something I found particularly innovative.  This is an Energy Star qualified system that should drop energy consumption for heating your water by 50-80%.  I really liked this system because it could be installed in conjunction to a skylight you could use for your bathroom.
  • Roofing: I’ve never really thought to use recycled rubber and plastic to roof a home, but EcoStar has provided us this service of sustainable roofing with a line of tiles made out of 80% post-industrial recycled materials.  I saw for myself at PCBC that these products look almost exactly like the tiles or wood shake they emulate.  This roofing is warrantied to last 50 years.  This product is recyclable, so once that time is up just toss them in the blue bin.


I’ve been busy at the office researching/googling a host of different aspects to green building–in the hopes of gathering research for my sustainable apartment kitchen project.  I have stumbled across a good amount of interesting websites and articles, and thought it would be a good idea to share it with you all.  My first “green building bucket list” goes as follows:

  • GreenPoint Rated: If you think you own a “green” home or are considering building one, try putting that “green”-ness to the test with the systemized rating system from The Green Building Council.  This GreenPoint Rated system certifies that the property you own or plan to build is more comfortable and healthier, while simultaneously lessening your impact on the environment.
  • PG&E sham(?): An interesting article from SFGate exposed a PG&E carbon offset program to be more marketing sham than sustainable function.  This “ClimateSmart program highlights the complex and murky relationships among big business, state regulators and conservation groups working on climate change – a relatively new and untested system in which a huge amount of money is traded without much public scrutiny.”
  • Noise Abatement: If you are looking for some way to muffle your neighbor’s noise next door, Keene Building has a line of products called Quiet Qurl that are made out of 40% recycled content and are designed to absorb sound in apartment or dormitory complexes.  This polymer matrix that you apply between walls or under flooring in conjunction with gypsum concrete can also help if you are looking for LEED certification.
  • Alternative Countertops: On the subject of kitchen countertops, few consider using butcher block.  “Butcher block countertops are natural, beautiful, practical, renewable, economical, and, contrary to popular belief, one of the safest, most sanitary kitchen work surfaces available.” Helmut has also noted other cool alternative countertops to the traditional laminate or granite.

That is all I got for now. More soon.




by Sustainable G on March 15, 2011 · 1 comment

in Miscellaneous Schmidt

According to, the LA Unified School District is starting a program to build more energy efficient schools for kids.

In case you have not seen this (I had not), here is President Obama’s plan for creating a greener nation.

Now that you know the President’s plan (assuming that you read this articles in chronological order – I don’t know why you wouldn’t) here is what San Francisco just decided to do in order to help increase its energy efficiency.

Here’s a link for all you activists who want to get more involved in saving the planet.

Found a fifty-eight minute long video about San Francisco’s building standards and how they are making SF greener.  If you really want to watch all of it, then click on and enjoy, otherwise, just click it and listen to the really bad jazz intro and then decide whether or not you want to continue.

For all you do-it-yourself people out there, here are five-tips to make your house more energy efficient (none of them look extremely dangerous).

Now Mr. Schimdt (he hates it when I call him that) told me to make these posts more fun (that’s what all the parenthetical comments are – my attempt at humor, let me know if I am annoying and I’ll stop), so I decided to start a “poll”.   I am a large supporter of saving the planet and I think that building smarter is a great way to do it; however, let’s face it – some of these green buildings are just plain ugly.  So with each post I will put up a picture of a energy efficient/ green home and leave it up to you (the beloved reader) as to whether or not you think that the building is ugly or not ugly. Since I cannot seem to get the poll system running, just write a comment with your answer (ugly or not ugly) and I will tally up the results and display them next post (assuming that anyone comments at all).

House #1

This house is located in the Mission District of San Francisco.  Click here if you want to see the inside of the house too.



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Why develop the same old cookie cutter community crap that everyone else does?  Aside from the fact that McMansions built out of Styrofoam and formaldehyde suck ass I mean.  It is not for lack of good examples.

Michael Reynolds, architect, developer, visionary of the Earthship Biotecture may be a bit hippy dippy at first, but his point is damn well taken: housing can be constructed to have a no resource footprint.  His communities are true models for long term sustainable living.  Thinking about our future, housing must be built this way; we cannot consume at our current level, the global changes already underway are catastrophic enough without us continuing to dig the hole deeper.

The following piece will give you a taste of his vision, and if you want more watch the documentary Garbage Warrior – it will give you that kick in the ass you need.

I know what I would like to do – make one of these in the middle of San Francisco.  Now all I need to do is figure out how.


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