Posts Tagged ‘green building’

by Charlene Burgi

Is it really January? The skies are crystal clear and the breezes are warm and gentle. This beautiful weather is drawing me away from what I should be doing in the garden right now. I should be checking the nurseries stocked with large bare root assortments of roses, fruit trees, perennial vegetables and ornamentals. I should be perusing seed catalogs and planning for the spring vegetable gardens, but the balmy weather is causing me to fawn after plants that would perish in cold wet weather. This false spring is a temptress!

The unusual weather has led several people to wonder if water rationing is on the horizon. In fact, just thinking about “rationing” brought me back to the ‘70s in Marin when we took extreme measures to save our landscaping. I still have unpleasant memories of hauling buckets of laundry water out to my plants. I wonder now if we had worked harder at conserving our water before that drought, could we have saved more plants from their demise?

The good news is that, thanks to last year’s heavy rains, our reservoirs are only a little below their average capacity for this time of year, and there’s still plenty of time for more rain. But the long dry spell is a reminder of how unpredictable our rainfall can be from year to year and hence why conservation is always important. The more we save now, the less chance of needing to ration water in the future. The question is, why wait? Here are some things we can do right now:

First, attend the Laundry to Landscape class this Saturday, January 14, to learn how to divert laundry water to the garden. Every load of wash could mean several gallons of water rerouted to plants, and every gallon diverted is water saved in our reservoirs and for the salmon. My earlier vision of sore biceps in the ‘70s fades as I consider the ease of minor plumbing changes today.

Next, call to schedule a free Green House Call with California Youth Energy Services. They will check for both electrical and water efficiency and even give your home a mini retrofit with water-efficient showerheads, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and more.

While the weather is so wonderful, check the thickness of mulch around plants to slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil. For new plants, choose water-wise varieties that can provide lots of color without guzzling the liquid gold to survive. When planting them, add a healthy amount of organic matter to the native soil for better moisture retention. Do use the precious resource for edible crops and work the soil with lots of composted materials before planting the vegetable garden this spring.

Irrigation systems are another source of waste if not kept in prime condition. Consider if some spray systems could be converted into drip systems now. A good QWEL irrigation landscape contractor could help here. You might consider turning the irrigation system on—especially if your plants are in need of a drink anyway—to note what needs fixing before irrigation season. Walk around each station while it is watering to make sure emitters aren’t plugged or popped off the tubing. Check spray heads to make certain they are directed toward the area you want watered. Invest in a smart controller to take the guess work out of how long the system should run to keep your plants healthy. We didn’t have smart controllers in the ’70s. This is yet another tool to ease the thought of rationing.

How many water saving ideas can you think of? Please share those ideas with everyone who reads the blog. I will post your tips weekly. The beauty of saving now is we still have several months left for potential rain, and meanwhile we are developing some great habits. I am willing to bet those of us who lived through the ‘70s drought are still implementing many water-saving practices we learned back then!

Frost Damage and Pruning

Since I discussed pruning techniques in the past two weeks, it would be prudent for me to warn that this is not the time to prune frost-tender plants such as bougainvillea and citrus. Despite the temperate days, a hard frost could present itself at any time and do some serious damage. Those tender plants would be left unprotected with their top growth missing. This type of plant must wait until late March or April to see a set of pruning shears. More pruning detail for these plants to follow at that time.

Have a great weekend.

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by Keith Bancroft

Based on a recent survey of people within a 30-foot radius of my desk at work, most people associate October with dressing up in costumes and gluttonous consumption of candy. However, from my observations, this seems to be what they associate every other month of the year with as well. Oh, there are the odd few who know October as “Rhubarb Month,” “Feral Hog Month,” “Squirrel Awareness and Appreciation Month” or, my personal favorite, “National Sarcastic Awareness Month.” But did you know that, in addition to all these wonderful reasons to celebrate in October, it’s also National Kitchen and Bath Month?

As a partner in the U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program, and in honor of National Kitchen and Bath Month, MMWD wants to remind everyone to look for WaterSense labeled faucets, showerheads and toilets when purchasing new plumbing fixtures. WaterSense labeled fixtures are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water than standard models while delivering the same rinse, spray or flushing power consumers expect. Over the last five years, American households have saved 125 billion gallons of water and more than $2 billion in utility bills by using WaterSense labeled plumbing products. For more information on WaterSense products, please visit the WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense.

And for more information on “Squirrel Awareness and Appreciation Month,” visit www.thesquirrelloversclub.com/history.php.

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by Keith Bancroft

Explore the essential connection between water and the built environment at the 8th Annual Water Conservation Showcase on March 22 at the Pacific Energy Center, 851 Howard Street in San Francisco. This all-day event is being presented by the U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter in partnership with PG&E and East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Expert speakers will educate you on the latest water conservation issues and technologies, with a particular focus on the built environment and Northern California. Exhibitors will display innovative technologies and products, alongside government agencies and nonprofits providing information about programs and services. Network with thousands of professionals and key decision makers, including architects, brokers, contractors, developers, engineers, energy and sustainability experts, and representatives from government agencies, non-profits, planning departments, product manufacturers, professional associations, utility districts and more.

Join us for this event, free to all attendees! Learn more & register at www.usgbc-ncc.org/wcs.

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by Keith Bancroft

GreenPlumbers USA is now offering all five of its training workshops online.  This will allow those interested in completing the 32-hour accreditation program to avoid the hassle of travel and to work on their own time, at their own pace. The program is certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is composed of the following five workshops:

GreenPlumbers is an innovative national training and accreditation program that assists plumbers in understanding their role in the environment and public health. The organization’s goal is to train and deploy thousands of plumbers to promote the benefits of water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The focus is on changing consumer and plumbing behavior through the use of energy efficiency and water-saving technologies.

Please visit the GreenPlumbers website for more information.

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The 34th annual Marin Home Show is coming up this weekend, May 22-23. With hundreds of exhibits, the show will feature the latest products for your home and garden—including state-of-the-art “green” products and services to help you save water, energy and money at home. There will also be experts on hand to answer your home improvement questions.

While you’re at the show, stop by MMWD’s booth, #J13, located near the “Going Green” tent. We’ll be offering lots of great tips and resources to help you make your garden more Bay-Friendly. Bay-Friendly practices build healthy soil, reduce waste, conserve water and energy, create wildlife habitat, protect local watersheds and the Bay, and contribute to a healthy community.

Finally, be sure to visit the Garden & Landscape Pavilion for more ideas for water-saving landscapes.

See you there!

Marin Home Show
Saturday, May 22, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Marin Center Exhibit Hall & Fairgrounds, San Rafael
Tickets: $8
More information:

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North Bay Watershed AssociationThe North Bay Watershed Association’s 2010 Conference, “Greening Our Water Infrastructure,” is just around the corner on Friday, April 9, 2010 at the Sheraton Petaluma from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Don’t delay—register today!

Conference highlights include:

  • Keynote presentations by California State Assembly member Jared Huffman and Vice Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board Frances Spivy-Weber
  • Panel discussions on watersheds and new developments in water recycling, water supply, and green infrastructure
  • Wine tasting hosted by Benziger Family Winery

Please see the flyer for more information:

To register for the conference, please click this link:

We look forward to seeing you there!

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by Keith Bancroft

Many experts believe that water will surpass energy as the resource of greatest concern in California. Unpredictable rainfall, climate change, and increasing costs associated with treating and delivering water are some of the water-related concerns facing the state today.

The 7th Annual Water Conservation Showcase will address many of these issues through presentations and table-top displays. Information on water-conserving strategies, the energy and water relationship, policy updates, technological developments, and case studies will also be included.

The Showcase was conceived by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – Northern California Chapter and the Pacific Energy Center in 2004.  The event attracts a diverse audience including architects, building operators, building owners, civil engineers, landscape architects, landscape contractors, mechanical engineers, property managers, sustainability consultants, water district employees and homeowners.

The showcase expects to draw more than 1,000 attendees and 50+ exhibitors and will feature the newest innovative water efficiency technology.

March 23, 2010 at the Pacific Energy Center, 851 Howard St., San Francisco
Exhibit Space Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Program Hours:  10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Happy Hour following the Showcase, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Roe Restaurant & Lounge, 651 Howard St.

For more information, please visit the USGBC web site.

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by Keith Bancroft

There is a lot of attention being focused on green building and green building materials lately. But do you know what makes a given product “green”? How do you go about finding green products and how do you compare different products once you do find them? 

The two resources listed below provide starting points for researching green products for your home or business. Neither directory charges for listing nor sells ads, helping to ensure that the product reviews are unbiased.

The online GreenSpec Directory lists product descriptions for over 2,000 green products researched by the editors of BuildingGreen.com’s “Environmental Building News.”  (Much of the content is free, although a membership is needed to access detailed information and product reviews.)

The Green Product Directory lists suppliers of green building products within the Bay Area and is regularly updated to reflect local availability of products, introduction of new products and other new information. (Please note: I found the Build It Green web site to be a bit slow loading at times.  Please don’t get discouraged—it’s worth the wait!)

Do you have other ideas and favorite resources for finding green products? Leave a comment below to share your tips.

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by Keith Bancroft

If you’re interested in the “green building” field—just generally interested, looking to enhance your resume, or looking for a career change—then here’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss.  On Thursday, August 27, an informational session for the Bay Area Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) Program will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. at the offices of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) located at 130 Sutter Street, Suite 600, San Francisco.

The SBA course is designed to provide participants with the knowledge, tools, and strategies to implement green building projects.  Classroom and field trip presentations feature a variety of industry experts who eagerly share their “real world” experiences in the field and present the proven and latest in sustainable design practices and techniques, with an emphasis on both practical applications as well as underlying theories.

Course participants come from a variety of backgrounds, so if your only experience with building projects is watching This Old House, don’t be intimidated. Attending an information session is an excellent way to learn more about the SBA Course from the Bay Area SBA Program Coordinator and Lead Instructor, Jana Boring.  SBA graduates will also be there to share their experiences and thoughts on the class.

The next SBA Program offered in San Francisco will begin in September of 2009.   Classes meet one weekend a month for nine months, Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m.-3 p.m.).  Classes are held at PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center.

For more information on the SBA Program, or to RSVP to attend the information session, please visit www.bayareasba.org.

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