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Green Epiphany

By George Harvey

Robert Scarano, an architect with twenty-five years’ experience, says there was a time when his buildings were energy hogs. That changed a number of years ago, when he had an epiphany from studying the DOE’s Challenge Home and the Passive House. Now he runs Scarano Green Services. Some of the things he told Green Energy Times are worth repeating.

“Ninety percent of the energy used in buildings could be saved by effective design, without increasing costs. You add to the cost of insulation and air sealing, but eliminate the costs of things like furnaces. It comes out a wash.”

“By far, the most important thing about reducing energy usage is air sealing. Insulation is not nearly as important.”

Scarano is just now completing a new project called “Bright ‘n Green,” in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn. Each of the building’s six units is so well weatherproofed that the standard heating consists of a warming mat in the bathroom. The building is entirely self-sufficient for energy, because of its 38-kW solar array. The list of green features goes on, seemingly forever.

Scarano is aspiring to a 110-point score from LEED, for a platinum rating. First a period of occupancy is necessary for certification. What he really wants, however, is certification by the Living Building Challenge. The program is so demanding that every item specified in the building has to be vetted, not only for embodied energy and chemical content, but also for the social policies of the manufacturer. His daughter spent a lot of time researching that. For example she would call carpet manufacturers, to ask about their policies on employee sick leave.

We expect to have an article on Bright ‘n Green in the next issue. In the mean time, visit brightngreen.com. We could use some of that in downtown and on the waterfront in Burlington.

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