Frozen Solar Panel Incident – Problem Solving at the Green Garage

Throughout the construction phase of our work, we've been exceedingly lucky in remaining somewhat trouble-free when it came to our systems. Interestingly enough, most of the glitches have, in one way or another, involved water. If you own a home, you probably understand how water issues can be quite frustrating to solve. In our case, we've have some leaks from our water storage tanks (not ususual considering the fact that we bought them used) and we have sprung a couple of leaks in the pex tubes under our floors (always related to screwing the boards back down). But these issues have been long resolved and are in fact quite minor compared with what we faced this past week. Tom was working one morning at the building and somehow had the intuition that something might not be right with … [Read more...]

Trash Audit

A couple of weeks ago we performed our first audit of the trash in our building. You may recall that a month ago we were ready to audit the trash, but someone in the building, obviously an overachiever, took the trash out early that morning. We were lucky enough to nail down the trash this time, however, and we were set to go. The procedure basically encompassed emptying the trash onto a tarp and sifting through it to determine real trash vs. incorrectly placed items. We put everything into piles - paper, glass, metal, etc. Then we photographed all of the piles and recycled what we could before putting the trash into its correct bin. Laurie Catey, our chief labs scientist (and mechanical engineer by trade) developed an awesome Trash Audit Google Doc Workbook that I encourage you to … [Read more...]

Recycling Audit at the Green Garage

Last Friday we held the first audit of the materials we have in our recycling bins. We were also scheduled to hold our first trash audit that day, and had every detail figured out...except for the one tiny detail that entailed our trash being taken out that morning by well-meaning cleaners. Ah, well. The purpose of these audits is ultimately to reduce the amount of trash and recycling exiting the building. We also want to determine if materials are being placed in the correct stream. As it turns out, there was plenty to examine in our recycling audit. We spread out a tarp in the 3-season room, brought in all of our recycling bins, emptied them out and began sorting. Our mixed paper bin looked like this when emptied: We found all kinds of erroneously plaed items, like this … [Read more...]

Blower Door Test

We are finally done with construction and we're proud of the fact that we've been able to transform an old Model T showroom into a net-zero energy building. Or is it? We haven't really proven anything yet until the energy usage numbers come in. All of our energy modeling testing shows that our building is so efficient and tight that our estimate to heat it is $300 per year. But the proof is in the numbers that will follow. One group who will be following the building's performance closely is the sustainability labs group. They call themselves the "truth window" into the Green Garage. They will be monitoring 3 areas: waste, water and the building comfort systems. Last week the labs group ran their first test: a blower door test. This is a test of a building's envelope, determining the … [Read more...]

Why It’s Important To Study a Foreign Language To Be Sustainable

As you know, we are inches away from obtaining our certificate of occupancy. We have a few niggling details to work through, and we will be good to go. One of these minor details has to do with the computerized controls for our heating and cooling system. As you may recall, we have solar panels connected to large water storage tanks, and pex tubing coming from those tanks runs under our floors, providing radiant heating and cooling. Our back-up is an Altherma heat pump. All of this runs on programming that is currently being tested. Yesterday I heard from Jeff, one of our heating and cooling specialists, that he has finally figured out why we can't seem to get the cooling programming to work. Apparently the heating/cooling board that Mitsubishi sent wasn't really a heating/cooling board at … [Read more...]

Dealing with rain water

Right now the Green Garage is literally surrounded by cement, except for the tiny 9-ft wide backyard. So when it rains, all of the rain goes to our storm sewers. Our goal, however, is to return 100% of the water back to the land. The reason: storm sewers often overflow, causing the storm water to mix with sewage water, and this mixture returns to our lakes. Not a good thing. So we want our water to get back into the ground where it belongs and out of the sewers. So how much water goes into the sewers right now?  We have a water group studying this very issue, and here's what they have come up with: FOR EVERY INCH OF RAIN, OUR ROOF DUMPS OVER 7,000 GALLONS OF WATER ONTO THE GROUND AND INTO THE SEWERS. Yep, that's 7,000 gallons. Our building is 11,000 square feet, in case you're … [Read more...]

Reusing materials

All the time we have held meetings at the Green Garage this fall and winter, Joe Gallagher has been slowly working on the interior deconstruction. He is not carrying anything out to a dumpster, however, because we wanted to reuse as much of the materials as possible. So right now we have rooms that are beginning to fill with building materials, such as the room pictured below. Fortunately, we have also been working on what to do with these materials. Once a week a group meets, appropriately titled the materials group, and right now their mission is to research reuse possibilities for things, such as fiberboard ceiling panels. More deconstruction photos below. … [Read more...]

Video updates from the zero energy group

I will be relying on video to convey some of the achievements of various groups, particularly when the content rests beyond my range of knowledge (aka: I have no idea what they're talking about). In the following 2 videos, Tom is talking about how, first, passive design techniques are resulting in a 97% energy load reduction for the building, and second, more details on our proposed ventilation system. … [Read more...]

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