Archive for the 'sustainable methods' Category

A New Home for the Solar Decathlon 2011

The new site for the solar decathlon was announced today.  You can read the original press release here,  It was previously rumored to be moving way off the national mall south of the district and I for one, am glad that didn’t happen.  But here are a few questions that the new site bring to mind.

Firstly, the new site, West Potomac Park, is on the splot of land between the FDR Memorial/Tidal basin and the Potomac River. There are ball fields there now that get a little bit of use, and usually a great place to snag a parking spot and walk into the monuments (Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR).  I am familiar with this part of the tourist areas as it is easy access if you know the way.  It is a beautiful area with the river to one side and the tidal basin (through the cherry trees) to the other.  There is little out there in the way of services: restrooms, food vendors, benches, etc….

Here is a sunset picture from the Jefferson end of the field that I shot last year.  Not much out there, a few trash cans and baseball backstops.  Which brings me to my first concern, there is not much out there.  Tour buses drop off loads of kids and tourists to view the Jefferson Monument just behind me (and over the bridge) in this shot.  But no easy Metro access, closest metro is about 1 1/4 mile to the Smithsonian station. Logistics will be harder to work through.

The biggest concern I have looking at the map is provided in the press release mentioned above.  They have taken the sites and rotated them 45%.  I would think that this deep into the competition, changing the orientation would be a big issue.  I would love to hear from someone involved with the teams on this as I hope that I am wrong.  Perhaps it will separate the good designs from the really great ones that are flexible enough to be reoriented.

I wish the teams good luck and hope to see great things at this year’s event.


Green Schools Challenge

USGBC SWVA (US Green Building Council Southwest Virginia chapter) is hosting a green schools challenge.  The momentum has been building since the kick off last fall.  We have schools

throughout the region paired with mentors in the community all taking part in a living sustainable science fair.  As details begin to come in it is exciting to see and hear about the great sustainable work beginning done by our local students.  From the beginning USGBC recognized that instilling sustainable habits in children did two things: bubbled up to the parents and trickled down to the next generation of community leaders.  This is a win win strategy that will have long-term beneficial effects.

Just think about recycling.  Twelve years ago (1999) it wasn’t what I would call a common practice, at least not around here.  Those first graders are graduating now and just imagine where we will be in the next twelve or even twenty-four years as the next generations of little recyclers graduate.  If you don’t think that is a big deal, just ask communities like Lexington, Va.  Their landfill is about to close.

So keep your eye on our website for all the latest updates across the great state of Virginia.

Local Roots opens Friday

We were excited to see the progress two weeks ago.  I have high hopes for this sustainable restaurant in Roanoke.

via Local Roots opens Friday.


Jsut as a follow up on this very col restaurant in Roanoke….. the latest review.


The Farmer’s Market

Growing up in Roanoke in the 70s meant on Saturday mornings we went to the Roanoke Farmer’s Market to shop and lunch at the Roanoke Wiener Stand.  I remember the crowded walkways and holding on to Mom’s hand so not to be swept away.  The fresh produce was endless.  And I even remember the sawdust floor and pungent smell of the meats in the old market building.


Mom buying fresh Virginia grown spinach for tonight's dinner.

Today was a great day on the market.  It was the annual chili cook-off and strawberry festival.  I have always thought this was a strange combination but it seems to workout.  Nice weather, although the clouds were threatening all morning.

Between the strawberries and the chilies, the Roanoke Farmer’s Market is a natural pedestrian link and what a crowd.  It was wonderful to see the market humming.  It reminded me of those Saturday mornings, I was so much smaller than the crowds.  I am hopeful for the vendors on the market, as today was surely a great day for them all.

Farmer’s markets are the sustainably in thing to do these days.  They always have been sustainable.  And like the country song they were sustainable before sustainable was cool.   By shopping for produce at your local farmer’s market, you are supporting locally grown produce by local farmers.  The sustainable benefits include….

  • little transportation costs, straight from the field to the market,
  • no electric consuming big box store just you and the farmer in the elements,
  • you know where your food has been, most of the farmers love to talk about the crops they grow,
  • fresh local food and in some cases organic.
Geraniums ready to be potted.

Geraniums ready to be potted.

We are lucky to have the farmer’s market in our area.  It is one of the oldest continuously operating markets in the state of Virginia, since 1882.  So if you are also lucky enough to have a local Farmer’s Market, go check them out and support their efforts.  If you don’t then check out this great website and find one close to you.  You will be shopping sustainably and your salad bowl will thank you.

Home Energy Audits

100_4983This past week the local USGBC chapter held its monthly meeting at one of our member’s home to preform a live energy audit.  It was an interesting evening.  We got to see a blower door test, duct test and infrared scan.  How these test worked was interesting and eyeopening. Because this was a remodel (somewhat in progress) we expected the results to be not so great.  But what we discovered was that if you took all the holes and leaks in the home and collected them into one big hole it was equal 25% of the exterior surface.  Ouch!  The amount of energy loss was more than even the homeowner expected.

Josh, our guide/tester/teacher recommended that the first line of defense should always be the roof.  Make sure your envelope is closed by insulating the roof.  Then the second most important place was the floor and lastly followed by the walls.  So if you have to break up the job, there is the most economical priority.

To have your own energy audit done is highly recommended.  The going rate is somewhere around $1,000 but expect a significant payback.  The audit will tell you exactly where the leaks are located.

Lights on, lights off


Two events for tomorrow of significant sustainable noteworthiness…

First, the anticipated landing of the the shuttle on their return trip  from a successful mission. The final solar array was installed for full power at the international space station. The expected landing will be at 1:30pm on Saturday.

Then later tomorrow night (8:30 – 9:30), earth hour is happening around the globe. Be a part of a global awareness to reduce unnecessary lights and turn off any nonessential lighting for one hour. Follow as the world participates in earthhour.  Be sure to check out the great videos and lists for creative things to do for an hour with no lights.

Solar Shuttle


The countdown is underway for Discovery’s STS-119 mission.  Matt and I missed being at the launch by a few weeks, while we were in Florida.  There were delays with the control valves that have been fixed.  The new launch date is set for Wednesday March 11th at 9:20 pm,  Sunday, March 15th  at 7:43 p.m. EDT.  It will be one of the very cool night sunset launches.

The STS-119 astronauts pose for a formal crew portrait. In the front row (right) are Lee Archambault, commander and Tony Antonelli, pilot. In the back (left) are Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, all mission specialists.  There will also be one “passenger” exchange, Koichi Wakata will be giving his seat to Sandra Magnus for the ride home.  He stays behind to return on another mission.  She has been on the space station for 4 months and it is her time to come home.

STS119-S-001 [Converted]On the sustainability front this is an exciting mission.  They will be carrying and installing the last of the large trusses and solar arrays that will power the space station.  Here are some of the facts from NASA’s website

Space shuttle Discovery’s STS-119 crew is set to fly the S6 truss segment and install the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the International Space Station.

The S6 truss, with its set of large U.S. solar arrays, will complete the backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power needed to support a crew of six.

The two solar array wings each have 115-foot-long arrays, for a total wing span of 240 feet. They will generate 66 kilowatts of electricity — enough to provide about 30 2,800-square-foot homes with power.

The mission patch references the mission by highlighting the S6 Truss with solar array and the American flag coming from the tail of the spacecraft is signifying U.S.’s support of the International Space Station as well as the support of the American people.


I wonder if the solar panels in space gather more energy from the sun or are made differently than those on the planet?  There proximity to the sun and the lack of ozone hampering its power would lead me to think that they are.  It is exciting to think of our future world supported completely on the power of the sun.