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Green Building Takes Root at Lake Tahoe and Truckee

TitleGreen Building Takes Root at Lake Tahoe and Truckee
Author/CreatorCobourn, John; Purdy, Shelly; Segale, Heather M.
Related item(s)Press Release available at
Date Original2005-01-11
Summary/DescriptionLake Tahoe Report Segment #137 - "Green Building Takes Root at Lake Tahoe and Truckee" (Air Date: October 3, 2005).
SubjectConstruction industry -- Energy conservation
Sustainable buildings -- Design and construction
LocationLake Tahoe (Calif. and Nev.)
Tahoe, Lake (Calif and Nev)
CollectionThe Lake Tahoe Report
Original PublisherLake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (
Electronic PublisherUniversity of Nevada, Reno - Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies
Ordering and Permissions InformationFor more information, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, or 775-832-4138.
Date Digital2006-02-15
RelationWindows Media Player
Resource TypeMoving Image
Contributing InstitutionUniversity of Nevada, Reno
TranscriptionSegment 137 - The Sierra Green Building Association will hold its Annual High Performance Green Building Tour 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 8. This guided tour will include visits to new construction and remodel projects that are designed for resource efficiency. Green building is catching on around the country, especially in these times of rising energy costs. Buildings consume 39 percent of the energy used in the United States, more than cars or manufacturing plants, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Although new homes are twice as efficient as they were in 1970, residential buildings still account for about 20 percent of national energy use. Americans are also getting interested in green building because they are concerned about indoor air problems linked to toxic chemicals found in some building materials, carpets and furniture. The chemicals have been blamed for asthma and other respiratory problems. Many citizens are also interested in reducing outdoor pollution caused by burning fossil fuels at power plants. The U.S. Green Building Council, a public-private partnership, developed a green building certification program called, "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED) in 2000. In 2005, they expanded this program to include LEED certification for homes. Also in 2005, the National Association of Home Builders issued their first voluntary green building guidelines at an industry convention. According to Scott Terrell, of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, there are five general criteria for a green building. "First, builders need to consider the building site and find ways to minimize disturbance of the soils and vegetation. Low-impact development principles and best management practices are critical for reducing impacts to water quality and wildlife habitat, " he says. The second requirement is that builders design for efficient water use indoors and out. Such practices range from low-flow shower and toilet fixtures, to collection of rain in rain cisterns for use in landscape irrigation. Some designs can use water collected on rooftops for flushing toilets, while others can use nontoxic "gray water" from sink and shower drains for outdoor nonedible plant use. The third LEED requirement is termed, "energy and atmosphere, " and involves conservation of energy and the production of energy through wind and solar power. Low-cost passive solar designs can greatly reduce heating costs. A home can be oriented and designed to gather heat through south-facing windows and store the heat in masonry floors or indoor "water walls." The use of solar electric panels can also meet home energy needs. These measures also lessen the necessity for burning fossil fuels, which pollute the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. The fourth requirement for green building is "materials and resources." It involves the conservation of building materials and resources through reduction, reuse and recycling of construction waste at the building site. This can also include the use of construction wood from companies who practice sustainable harvesting of forests and other strategies. The last requirement for green building certification is protection of indoor environmental quality. "Many new homes have a ‘new home smell' that may be composed of gasses given off by new carpets, furniture, glues, paints, varnishes and other building materials, " Terrell explains. "Some of these may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be carcinogenic. Green building materials must be certified as ‘low- or no-VOC' products." The new Tahoe Environmental Sciences Center, being built on the campus of Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, is attempting to meet the green building LEED standards for certification at the platinum level. If this goal is achieved, Incline Village will be home to one of only ten platinum-rated buildings. The new science lab and classroom building is using passive solar architecture and active solar energy roof tiles (photovoltaic cells). It will also include a cogeneration plant for gas heat recovery and an atrium skylight to distribute natural lighting throughout the building. All rocks and trees from the building site are being recycled for building landscaping and trim. You can register for this year's Truckee and Lake Tahoe Green Building Tour by calling Rich Solinsky at (530) 587-1920. On-site registration begins at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, 11570 Donner Pass Road, in Truckee, at 8 a.m., Oct. 8. For more information, see the Sierra Green Building Association Web site,

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