Snapshots from West Coast Green 2007

26 Sep, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong

San Francisco hosts green building technology and material vendors.

Last week, a block away from San Francisco’s city hall, green building technology vendors and material suppliers set up shop inside the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for the West Coast Green Conference and Exposition to promote the use of green construction methods in the residential market. Walking around the trade show booths, attendees marveled at the walls from NanaWall, lumber and flooring products from TerraMai, and the solar-powered heating apparatuses from TrendSetter, not just for their aesthetics but for their energy-efficiency and environment-friendly features. Even the Canadian Consulate kept a booth -- quiet, unobtrusive, but visible -- to promote the green engineering services available in the land of the maple leaves.

Green Building Studio v3 in Beta
Green Building Studio (GBS), a local company that has made energy analysis as easy as uploading a CAD file, attracted a steady stream of visitors at its booth. Based in Santa Rosa, California, GBS was previously an energy efficiency research and development consultancy known as GeoPraxis. On September 1, 2005, the company officially adopted the name of its most successful software product, GBS, as its business name. GBS, available as a Web-based energy analysis platform, converts CAD models from Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft ArchiCAD, and other CAD programs into the open gbXML (Green Building XML) schema to process and deliver load, energy, and thermal analysis reports. Though the gbXML format originated from GBS, it’s now maintained by a consortium of leading BIM (building information modeling) tool vendors, according to the company.

Omari Fuller, a sustainability physicist at GBS, was demonstrating the carbon neutral check feature, one of the new enhancements available in the beta release of GBS v3. Once the gbXML file is exported from the CAD program (Autodesk Revit, in the case of Fuller’s demo), the user can upload the model into the GBS environment using the free Web client. The software then generates a baseline, based on the building’s dimensions and location. Afterwards, using the DOE-2 energy and cost analysis software, GBS conducts a building energy simulation. The process encompasses weather, solar, internal load, and energy usage by the design during every hour of the year, according to the company. In addition to LEED credit calculation, the software also offers design alternatives, such as reorienting the building or installing high-performance glazing. New in GBS v3, the output report shows the building’s carbon footprint.

From Autodesk Revit, a user can export the gbXML file for energy analysis.
Click image to view full size.

GBS v3, now available in beta, generates a report that includes carbon footprint. In this case, the software reveals that the building’s carbon dioxide emission is the equivalent of 6.4 Hummer H3 vehicles’ output.
Click image to view full size.

“In our long-term vision,” revealed Fuller, “we want to be able to export the change we make here in GBS [reorienting the building to achieve carbon neutrality, for example] back into Revit … So you keep going back and forth [between Revit and GBS] till you’re satisfied with the building’s energy efficiency.”

But for the present, he admitted, the export is available only in one direction: from CAD to GBS.

Other features include these:

  • U.S. EPA Energy Star score calculation
  • water use estimate
  • daylighting with energy savings
  • natural ventilation potential
  • local weather data
  • corporate accounts management

For more on GBS, read “Green Building Studio” in AEC Tech Trends 115 and “Green is Good.”

Back to School with Whirlpool
Go-2-School, an online software tutorial provider, set up shop in front of Whirlpool’s booth. As it turned out, the household appliance maker is giving away its products for free -- digitally. Now, on Google’s 3D Warehouse Web site, if you search for green appliances, you’ll be able to locate downloadable 3D models of Whirlpool products: KitchenAid refrigerator, KitchenAid cook top, and Whirlpool Duet front-load washer, to name a few.

Joe Sharkey, an associate kitchen and bath designer at Whirlpool, pointed out, “Green appliances are Energy Star-compliant appliances. But we go a step further. We look at how that appliance evolves over time, from cradle to grave, not only how it’s put together but also how it’s disposed of.”

Go-2-School’s purpose was “teaching green designers how to use SketchUp and the 3D Warehouse to help them design sustainable spaces.” For example, in Episode 22, part of the Whirlpool Continuing Education Series, the viewer learns to design a kitchen in SketchUp using Whirlpool product models acquired from 3D Warehouse.

Go-2-School’s online tutorial video shows how to design interior spaces using green appliances from Whirlpool (washers, in this case), downloadable from Google 3D Warehouse.

Opinionated Green Builders Wanted
If you have used green products -- masonry, sliding panels, sinks, insulation, or something else -- and have an opinion about your experience, you might want to visit Rate It Green, a green user community in the making.

Allison Friedman, Rate It Green’s cofounder and vice-president of business development, said, “The site was created because when I was trying to find green products for my home, I couldn’t find what I needed. I wanted to know things like, ‘Is this the best insulation available that’s environment friendly?’ But I couldn’t find the advice I needed.” Out of Friedman’s frustration was born an entrepreneurial idea: “Since the resource didn’t exist, I decided to take a chance and create it,” she added.

Allison Friedman, cofounder of Rate It Green, wants your opinions about green building products.

Think of Rate It Green as the green buyers’ version of Epinions or Travelocity, if you will. The site, which its makers admit is still evolving, currently features forums, user-submitted ratings for green products and services, and basic green education (for example, an article called “Building Materials: What Makes a Product Green?” by Alex Wilson, president, Building Green). Registration is free.

Christine Gould, Friedman’s friend and a self-described fan of Rate It Green, said she became a user when she and her husband were remodeling an old apartment. “We wanted to make sure we had minimal damage on the environment, but we were also concerned with our personal health. I spent a lot of time looking for the information on the Internet. I think this directory was exactly what we needed.”

Friedman is considering creating a new category for green design software products so users can rate them and submit reviews.