Eco-Friendly Features from Green Building Elements


Guest Post: Turn Your New Real Estate Green for Big Money and Eco-Awareness Benefits (via Green Building Elements)

Want to create eco-awareness with your new piece of real estate? Eco-friendly hardware and pieces are going to be your best option. Apart from creating awareness, green installations would also increase the value of the location, luring in attractive offers if you sell it in the future. They’ll also…

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An Evening at the Palms Hotel & Spa – USGBC Miami

This past Wednesday, I joined my fellow members of the US Green Building Council – Miami chapter – for “An Evening at the Palms Hotel & Spa”. Beginning the evening at the on-site Organic Chef’s Garden for a tour and tasting, we then convened in Queen Palm (one of nine meeting rooms available at the hotel) for the “Inspired by Nature” program. We ended with a tour of the hotel and spa.

The Palms, located at 3025 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, was originally built in the 1960’s and purchased by Hans-Joachim and Ursula Krause in the early 1990’s, going through several name changes over the years. Still owned and operated by the Krause’s and their daughters, Nicola Meyer and Katja Janzon, the Palms underwent a 20 million dollar renovation in 2008 – 2009 that incorporated green features and a shift to green operational practices.

Their philosophy statement says, “Nature is what inspires everything we do at The Palms Hotel & Spa, from the décor to products & services offered to our core company values. Our commitment to preserving the environment and to care for the world we live is expressed in all elements of our guest experience, and beyond into the local community.” Tanja Morariu’s presentation illustrated how the philosophy is applied throughout the hotel.

Currently, 85% of the lighting has been retro-fitted to LED and they expect to have 95% completed by the end of 2013. They have also installed motion sensors for the lighting in administrative offices and other non-guest areas plus centralized lighting/heating efficiency controls. Next year, the east windows will be replaced with energy-saving engineered glass.

So far, one-third of their toilets are dual-flush and using grey water. The eco-friendly commodes have sinks on top of the tanks for hand washing. The used water then drains into the toilet tank for the next flush. The luxurious “rain” shower heads and faucets are low flow at 1.5 GPM. Guests also have the option to re-use their towels and linens during their stay, thereby conserving approximately 7 gallons of water plus electricity from extra laundering.

The hotel has recycling bins available throughout the hotel, including in all guests rooms, allowing for cardboard, plastic, paper and metal to be recycled. Batteries and light bulbs are kept out of the landfills; and the hotel allows employees to bring these types of items from home for proper disposal through the hotel.

The staff cafeteria uses no disposable items. When an employee is hired, they are given their own beverage bottle (which are also for sale in the gift shop). This initiative alone saves the hotel about $10,000 per year in addition to being great for the environment.

Hotel staff uses Green Seal cleaning supplies, no aerosol at all, and 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink when available. Even the pens provided in the meeting room were partly made of recycled cardboard. Dry cleaning and laundry services are all green certified as well.

Attesting to their commitment to community as well as the environment, the Palms donates “mildly used” soaps, shampoos, towels, linens and paper items to Camillus House and
The Palms also maintains the stretch of beach in front of the hotel through the Adopt-A-Beach program sponsored by the City of Miami Beach and ECOMB (Environmental Coalition of Miami & the Beaches), and participates in coastal clean-up projects throughout the year.

In 2011, the Palms Hotel & Spa won the Miami Chamber of Commerce Sustainable South Florida Award in the Green Practices Category. They have also been recognized as one of only 17 Miami Beach hotels to receive Florida’s Green Lodging Program designation and have achieved a 3-key rating through the Canadian-based International Green Key Eco-Rating Program.

Tomorrow: The Palms Essensia Restaurant, Chef Julie Frans and her wonderful organic garden

Four Environmental Innovations That Have Revolutionized Architecture – Guest Post

Guest Post: Four Environmental Innovations That Have Revolutionized Architecture (via Green Building Elements)

The green revolution has impacted almost every sector of the economy. Now, eco-friendly technology is revolutionizing the way we think about architecture. Every part of the architectural process is undergoing huge changes. When people think of green architecture, they often picture simple modifications…

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How to Get a Clean, Sparkling Bathroom Avoiding Unnecessary Chemicals by Serena Grant

Guest Post: How to Get a Clean, Sparkling Bathroom Avoiding Unnecessary Chemicals (via Green Building Elements)

Standard bathroom cleaning products can be very damaging to your health. Many toilet cleaners, antibacterial sprays, and drain cleaners contain harmful chemicals that if inhaled, can lead to breathing problems, irritation, and more serious health problems. At the same time, air fresheners and other…

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How To Make Your House Greener

Guest Post by Liam Ohm (via Green Building Elements)

It’s becoming increasingly important to make your house greener. Benefits include helping the environment by cutting down on the amount of CO2 emissions released from your home, as well as committing to recyclable materials. At the same time, it’s possible to make your house greener by cutting back on bad habits when it comes to using power, while keeping an eye on the kind of products that you use. By doing so, you can make a contribution to environmental health. These approaches, and more, are detailed below:

Melanie Dawn Miami LEED Platinum Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove – LEED Platinum Home


Solar Panels

More and more people are installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes. Photovoltaic cells generate energy from the sun, and provide a clean alternative to the electricity taken from the National Grid. Tax and tariff incentives are also available for those that invest in solar panels.

Green Roofs

A green roof involves planting vegetation on a layer on top of your home. The vegetation releases valuable oxygen into the atmosphere, while the roof is waterproofed to prevent damaging the structure of your home.

Switching Off Lights

One of the simplest habits that can be followed for a greener home, switching off lights when not in use, and switching older bulbs for eco-friendly ones, as well as investing in LED lights, can save you money and cut down on electricity usage. Dimmer switches can similarly be used to reduce dependence on high energy light bulbs, while automatic lights can turn themselves off when no motion is detected in a room.


Window blinds can provide environmental benefits for your home through UV protection layers, which repel the harmful effects of the sun. At the same time, blinds available in recyclable materials like honeycomb can reduce the amount of plastic in your home.

Avoiding Dryers

If possible, avoid using a tumble drier for your clothes, and instead invest in indoor racks for your home. Doing so will save you electricity, and can be particularly effective on hot and windy days.

Use Eco Cleaning Products

Switching the brands of your cleaning products can have a positive effect on the eco friendliness of your home. Choosing eco brands that don’t contain damaging chemicals or release gases into the atmosphere is particularly recommended.


A simple task to follow: you can boost your home’s environmental rating by sticking to a recycling schedule. This can mean sorting through plastic, paper, and glass, as well as creating a compost heap for food, tea bags, and coffee grounds.

Don’t Overuse Heat

Don’t leave your heating on for more than you need it for. Turning down your heating, or switching it off altogether in the Spring and the Summer, is usually a good idea.

Don’t Build Up Plastic

Try to cut down on the amount of useless plastic that you have around your home. This might be represented by old plastic bags, which can be recycled, and replaced by bags for life.


You can wash most clothes on a cold, rather than a hot water cycle. There are many detergents that work just as well with this setting.

Author Bio: Liam Ohm is a regular home improvement blogger. He highly recommends stylish and versatile venetian blinds for a great way to compliment your windows.

via courtesy Green Building Elements

Solar-Powered Air Conditioning Makes Sense in the Sunshine State

Just as our friends in northern states are enjoying the crisp cooler days of autumn, we in South Florida are sweltering in the hottest part of our year. With our air conditioning units working over-time, wouldn’t it be great to have a way to use the very solar rays we are seeking relief from to power the cooling system?

Kingtec Solar now offers exactly that, as this guest post by Nicholas Brown at TreeHugger explains:

Affordable Solar-Powered Air Conditioner in a Neat Little Package is Finally Here (via Clean Technica)

  Kingtec has developed affordable solar-powered air conditioning in a relatively neat package. Here are some of the key details: Price: $2,895 USD. Cooling capacity: 16,000 BTU (4.7 kW of cooling capacity). Power consumption: 850 watts. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): 22.5. EER (Energy Efficiency…

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Top Five Autumn “Green” Tips For South Florida

Happy Mabon! While it may not feel like it to those of us in South Florida, today is the Autumnal Equinox – the first day of fall. Media sources are full of energy-saving tips for those in the north to “winterize” their homes; but what about the Sunshine State? Are there any seasonal “green” recommendations for us? YES! Here are my top five favorites:

1. Change your light bulbs. The difference may not be as noticeable to us so close to the Tropic of Cancer, but our days are getting shorter too, and we will be using our lights more through the winter. Lighting accounts for approximately one-fourth of our home energy costs. More interestingly for a state that battles the heat 9 months of the year, incandescent light bulbs give off 90% of their energy as heat, not light. If you have not done it already, replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Each CFL bulb can reduce energy use by up to two-thirds, last many times longer that incandescent, and can save you up to $50 over the life of the bulb.

2. Start a compost pile. Even in South Florida, deciduous trees lose their leaves, so why not turn this “lawn waste” into nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer for your winter vegetable garden?  Reduce waste, great for your garden and saves you money.

3. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.

4. Conserve water. South Florida autumns also mark the start of our dry season (mid-October through mid-June). While it is important to conserve water all year long, autumn is when we need to reduce your lawn-watering schedule to no more than once per week. The most popular grasses used in South Florida are both heat and drought resistant. Over-watering is actually bad for them.

5. Adjust the thermostat. The recommended air conditioning setting is 78 degrees while the heater should be set at no warmer than 68 degrees.  By installing a programmable thermostat, you can save additional energy and money by automatically adjusting the temperatures while you are away or sleeping. According to the EPA the typical homeowner can save around $180 annually, or more than twice the average cost of the new thermostat.

Financing Sources To Help You Build or Renovate Green

Guest Post: Funding a Greener Home by author Jonah Trenton (via

Melanie Dawn Miami LEED Platinum Coconut Grove
Standing-seam metal roof & solar panels

Improving a home’s energy efficiency or adding alternative green energy sources is a smart way to help the environment, reduce monthly utility expenses and enhance occupant health and comfort. However, the initial cost of “going green” can put a financial strain on the homeowner, especially in a down economy. How can individuals fund their “green” home improvement projects? Consider the following tips.

Apply for a Grant

Homeowners do not directly receive federal assistance for green home improvement projects. However, the United States government allocates grant money through the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans’ Affairs Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development. These organizations make the funds available through grants distributed by state organizations to qualifying homeowners.

Depending on the particular grant, funding may cover all or part of the green project. Qualifications vary depending on the organization. Common parameters include low to moderate income, age, veteran’s status, disability status or family dynamic, such as being a single mother. The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington maintains a list of all grant opportunities, including government and private resources. is another valuable resource to see what grants you may qualify to receive.

Ask Your Utility Company

On a local level, many utility companies partner with local governments to provide grants that encourage customers to utilize greener resources weatherize their homes or install energy efficient appliances. Power companies may also use grant money to provide energy audits and education for customers. Homeowners can check the website of their local municipality or utility company to see what opportunities are available in their area.

Get Help from Private Organizations

Many foundations and nonprofit organizations give back to the community by offering green grants. The Home Depot Foundation funds nonprofit organizations that provide green assistance to low to moderate income families. United Way also offers funding based on household income. Check with housing organizations in your area to find out what is offered.

Apply for an Energy Efficient Mortgage

Banks have made it easier for borrowers to include the cost of energy efficiency in their mortgage as opposed to having large out-of-pocket expenses after the purchase of a home. Energy Efficient Mortgages are typically used for new homes. The buyer is credited for the home’s energy efficiency, allowing the bank to be flexible regarding the debt-to-income qualifying ratio. Thus, the buyer is able to qualify for a larger loan and purchase a more energy-efficient home. Similarly, Energy Improvement Mortgages are used when purchasing a pre-existing home that needs green improvements. Buyers are able to borrow a larger amount without increasing their down payment.

Utilize Income Tax Credits

Homeowners that install qualifying renewable energy or energy efficient systems in their home are able to deduct a certain amount from their income tax. Tax-payers can claim 30 percent of the cost of labor and installation and up to $1,500 spent on equipment, including energy efficient air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters or construction materials.

Research Local Tax Credits

Many states and municipalities offer incentives to encourage homeowners to upgrade to renewable energy sources. For example, California will allow individuals to deduct the entire cost of installing a solar energy system from their property taxes. Dual-use systems receive a 75 percent deduction.

Making a home greener is an ecologically smart choice. Taking the time to research available funding sources for your demographic can make it a financially smart choice as well.

Other options

If none of the above options work out, there’s still an abundance of home improvement or renovation loans, taking out equity in your house or various other mortgage types that might work for you even if they aren’t directly catered to greener living. Speak with your mortgage professional to find a solution created to fit your particular situation.

Guest Post: Funding a Greener Home by author Jonah Trenton (via reposted with permission

Would You Live Here? Corn Cob House Wins Design Awards

Would you live here? This award winning project from the Archi<20 competition has been characterized as a “corn cob house” and the description does include mention of a “night space” – presumably for sleeping. It seems to me that the word “pavillion” used by ArchDaily is more appropriate. The structure effectively combines the neccessary space for drying the corn cobs with a useful working and resting space for those working in the fields.

photo courtesy of StAndré-Lang Architectes
photo courtesy of StAndré-Lang Architectes

I did like the concept of designing a living space to follow the sun’s movements:

Characterized by the presence of  a light shaft in its middle, the indoor set-up has consequently been chosen according to the Sun’s position and its daily East-to-West cycle. The furniture, consisting of just one block extending around the entire house, integrates the needs of the different daily activities. To the North – the entrance side- a low-ceiling volume (night space) leads to a working one in the Eastern part of the building and to a more generous space in the Southern part, opening up to the sky. On the facade, the rythm of the openings depends on the Sun’s position as well: as a matter of  fact, the design is closely linked to all the natural elements.

Architects: StAndré-Lang Architectes Location: 67600 , Design Team: Bastien Saint-André, Maxime Lang Project Year: 2012 Project Area: 20 sqm Photographs: Courtesy of StAndré-Lang Architectes

The Next Trend in Green Construction: The Net Zero Building

The Next Trend in Green Construction: The Net Zero Building (via

It’s an exciting time to be in the renewable energy or green constriction industries. Year after year, new standards bodies are formed and enable all kinds of exciting new building standards and adoption of eco-friendly materials. In 2012, green building trends are moving solidly in the direction…

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