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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Green Tech 

Practical Green Remodeling: Down-to-Earth Solutions for Everyday Homes by Barry Katz (The Taunton Press)

Going green at home can seem like an all-or-nothing proposition. Does one sell everything (including the house) and start over, building and buying only eco-friendly, renewable goods? Or take the advice offered up in this book and remodel instead? Green building expert Barry Katz makes an argument for remodeling in Practical Green Remodeling as he guides readers through what can be a perplexing and daunting process. Katz explains how different choices impact a home's overall green quotient, as well as its bottom line. Emphasizing off-the-shelf materials, Practical Green Remodeling shows how homeowners of ordinary means can green up a remodel, resulting in less waste, more energy-efficient homes, lower maintenance costs, and more comfortable, healthful environments. A leading proponent of green building, Katz, the recipient of the 2007 HOBI Award for Best Green House from the Connecticut Association of Homebuilders, has more than 20 years experience in new home construction and remodeling.

Practical Green Remodeling is not a how-to book. Unlike a lot of books about home remodeling, there are no step-by-step instructions, no tool or materials lists, no advice from the pros for the do-it-yourselfer. Instead, this is a what-to book. After all, before readers get to the how-to stage, they need a vision of what they want to do. Katz suggests new ways of thinking about what makes for a successful remodeling project. Is it enough to create more living or storage space, a more convenient floor plan, a nicer kitchen or bathroom? Is it enough simply to make the home more attractive?

What creates value? One of the first things homeowners want to know about any improvement is, will it be a good investment? Will the added value justify the expense? But what is the standard for judging value? Is it just about how much the home will sell for?

Most home improvements do not add as much value to the house as they initially cost. On average, most renovations add anywhere from 65% to 85% of their cost to the homes value. So why do it? The answer for most people is that part of the value comes from the added enjoyment or functionality they get from the newly improved home.

And what about less tangible or at least, less visible improvements? If readers choose nontoxic materials that dont endanger their familys health, isnt that worth something, even if the materials cost slightly more? What is the return on an investment that provides improved indoor air quality, reducing the likelihood that their children will suffer with allergies or asthma?

What if readers have strong convictions about the environment? They might happily donate money to the World Wildlife Fund to help them fight deforestation in tropical rain forests. They dont expect any return other than the knowledge that they helped a little bit. But they know that if enough people do the same it will have a meaningful impact.

But what about spending a little more for sustainably harvested lumber? As the price goes down, illegal harvesting in rainforests becomes less profitable and a vital resource is preserved. Whether any particular choice adds to their enjoyment of the house, or their sense of pride in being a good citizen of Planet Earth, it is clear that not every decision they make is based on its value as an investment.

Still, in many ways, green remodeling is a sound financial investment. Investing in energy efficiency might cost a bit more up front, but they come out way ahead because the savings on their utility bills are greater than the small increase in their mortgage payment. It is an investment that pays for itself, and then continues paying dividends as long as they own their home and when they go to sell it. A growing body of evidence suggests that buyers are willing to pay more for energy-efficient green homes, and that such homes sell faster than non-green homes. As more people become aware of the benefits of living in healthy, energy-efficient homes it is likely those homes will sell at a significant premium, while energy hogs with poor indoor air quality will lose value.

Smart and sensible, Practical Green Remodeling is an essential guide for anyone who wants to go green but isn't sure where to begin. This is an attractive, well-organized book with lots of good ideas. By presenting a selection of successful green remodeling projects, in all price ranges, from all over the country, Practical Green Remodeling inspires readers to think about what they might do to make their own home greener. And to give readers a wish list, and a what-to list: what to ask their architect or designer, what to ask their contractor, what to ask the heating contractor, what to ask a landscape designer, what to ask about the materials that will go into their remodel, what to ask about indoor air quality, what to think about when choosing lighting, appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, countertops, paint, flooring in short, what to look for in the way of greener, more sustainable everything.

Greening Existing Buildings by Jerry Yudelson (McGraw-Hills Greensource Series: McGraw-Hill) This GreenSource guide explains how to transform existing buildings into more energy-efficient, resource-conserving green buildings. The book provides a clear process that guides you, step-by-step, through each phase of moving building operations and maintenance toward the goal of a green-certified building.

Greening Existing Buildings features proven technologies and operating methods, and shows building owners and facility managers how to green buildings in a cost-effective way. This practical and insightful resource highlights the ten best practices for greening existing buildings, and includes more than 25 case studies of successful implementations and 35 insightful interviews with industry experts and building owners and managers.

I've been writing books about green buildings, green homes, and green developments since 2005; each has focused mostly on new buildings, with the objective of helping building owners, architects, developers, contractors, engineers, and homebuilders to understand and implement the business case for green building.

Green building growth appears now to be self-perpetuating, expected to achieve nearly a 20 percent market share of the new nonresidential construction market in 2009. Now, the time has certainly come to focus on existing buildings, which after all represent the great majority of all buildings and which contribute approximately 20 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Similar conclusions hold true for other developed economies: in Canada, western Europe, Japan, and other countries; existing buildings are where we must look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure more livable places for people to work, live, play, and learn.

A seminal event, the election of President Barack Obama and an overwhelming Democratic Congress in late 2008, makes it almost certain that greening existing buildings will move up much higher on the scale of national priorities. Over the next four years, the United States, the world's largest economy and second largest genera-tor of greenhouse gas emissions (after China), will begin to tackle seriously the challenge of human-caused global warming and attendant issues of ameliorating rapid climate change. There is no way to do this without addressing the energy use of exist-ing buildings.

In many ways, the challenges of greening existing buildings are far greater than greening new buildings; we are not starting with a blank slate, as with new buildings, but with an existing edifice and set of operating practices. In many situations, it's not easy or cheap to change the building envelope, it may not be economical to change out the HVAC equipment, and a significant percentage of the building's energy use is already determined by scale, mass, and orientation.

Nevertheless, as this book demonstrates, there is still a lot we can do. On very large buildings, as you'll see with New York's iconic Empire State Building, it may even pay to replace all the windows. On many properties, the greatest savings will come from dozens of measures, individually humdrum, but collectively significant.

Beyond savings in energy, water, and waste management expenses, the real gains in greening existing buildings lie in the seemingly "soft" benefits: improvements in health, comfort, and productivity of building occupants; enhanced marketing and public relations; risk mitigation, improved recruitment and retention, and greater employee morale. As building owners Look co make a business case for greening an existing building, whether a single-tenant or multitenant building, these other benefits consti-tute a strong part of the justification.

How should a building owner, building manager, or facility manager go about greening existing buildings? This book focuses mostly on using established green building rating systems, especially the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB), but includes consideration of newer evaluation schemes for existing buildings from the U.K.'s Building Research Establishment's BREEAM rating system and the Green Building Council of Australia's Green Star program.

In this book, I have chosen to emphasize use of the USGBC's LEED-EB rating sys-tem, for three reasons. First, it is the longest established and most widely used of the existing building rating systems, having first appeared in a pilot program in 2002. Second, it offers a full range of options for greening existing buildings, measures duplicated in other rating systems, so that by examining projects using the LEED sys-tem, you will understand how to use the other rating systems in countries where they are more widely used. Third, LEED-EB is the fastest growing of all LEED rating systems since 2007, indicating a growing market acceptance of the system.

Having decided to focus on LEED-EB, I then decided to focus primarily on com-pleted projects that have received the highest ratings in that system, the Gold or Platinum designations. Interestingly, most of the completed projects are by private owners, corporate-owned and operated properties, commercial buildings owned by smaller local enterprises, and commercial buildings managed by large national and international firms. That private owners are willing to incur the costs of upgrading their properties to the highest standards, alone speaks volumes about the benefits of greening existing buildings.

I have not neglected the universities with strong commitments to greening their cam-puses or the government agencies, federal, state and local, with similar commitments and achievements. After all, collectively, government activity represents more than one-third of the total U.S. economy; moreover, government agencies, colleges, and universities expect to own and operate their properties for decades (if not centuries) to come.

The most significant "father" of the LEED-EB program and its longtime champion, is Paul von Paumgartten, Director of Energy and Environmental Affairs for Johnson Controls, Inc. I recall a dinner meeting with Paul (or PvP, as he is widely known in green building circles) in Los Angeles in 1999, when he advocated passionately that the LEED rating system for new construction, then still early in its first pilot evaluation stage, should be expanded to include existing buildings. I asked this tireless (and very effective) advocate for upgrading the existing building stock to write the foreword for this book.

Greening Existing Buildings shows the way for anyone involved with building ownership and operations to upgrade the energy and environmental performance of almost any building. In the book, I focus on lessons learned in actual projects, profile more than 25 LEED for Existing Buildings certified projects and use interviews with more than 35 industry experts and building management practitioners. It's my fervent hope that you will take this information and put it to use in your own buildings, facilities, factories, hotels, hospitals, high-rise residences, schools, and campuses.

As a country, and as a world, we need to get moving quickly to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from the existing building stock. By profiling the large number of successful projects, by demonstrating the business case, and by showcasing the wide range of specific strategies for greening existing buildings, I hope to motivate you, the reader, to begin taking action now in your own spheres of influence.

Green Energy: Sustainable Electricity Supply with Low Environmental Impact by Eric Jeffs (CRC)  defines the future of the world’s electricity supply system, exploring the key issues associated with global warming, and which energy systems are best suited to reducing it.

Electricity generation is a concentrated industry with a few sources of emissions, which can be controlled or legislated against. This book explains that a green sustainable electricity system is one whose construction, installation, and operation minimally affect the environment and produce power reliability at an affordable price. It addresses the question of how to build such an electricity supply system to meet the demands of a growing population without accelerating global warming or damaging the environment.

The green argument for conservation and renewable energies is a contradiction in terms. Although they produce no emissions, because renewable systems are composed of a large number of small units, a considerable amount of energy is required to produce, erect, and maintain them. This book is a response to that conundrum, answering key questions, such as:

  • How can renewables be exploited to contribute the greatest energy input?
  • Should coal be used for clean fuel and chemical production rather than for power generation?
  • How quickly can we start to build the Green Energy system?

The author has more than forty years of experience as an international journalist reporting on power-generating technologies and on energy policies around the world. Detailing the developmental history, and current state, of the global nuclear industry, he discusses the dire, immediate need for large quantities of clean, emission-free electric power, for both domestic and industrial uses. This book details how current technologies—particularly nuclear, combined cycle, and hydro—can be applied to satisfy safely the growing energy demands in the future. More

Smart Green: How to Implement Sustainable Business Practices in Any Industry - and Make Money by Jonathan Estes (Wiley-Blackwell)

As eco-conscious citizens and consumers search for answers to today's environmental problems, businesses are rushing to deliver the sustainable products, services, and business practices they want. But how can businesses—including yours—do this without sacrificing profitability? Can we find a way to keep the Earth and the bottom line healthy?

Not since the heyday of the early dot-com era has there been so much energy and enthusiasm surrounding the endeavor of entrepreneurship. Back then, everyone was scrambling to seize the opportunity to profit from the Internet boom. Today, everyone is scrambling to get in on the ground floor of the green boom—and cash in on the eco-conscious products, practices, and technologies we need to build a sustainable world.

While there is more interest than ever in sustainability in the business community, there has never been a practical, real-world guide that shows entrepreneurs how to meld sustainability and business success. Smart Green explores the best ideas in sustainable business, helps you plan a sustainability strategy, and presents case studies and business principles to show you how it's done.

Smart Green is not only the perfect book for entrepreneurs, it's also great for anyone interested in business, the environment, and how they interact. It answers questions we should all care about, including:

  • What is sustainability?
  • How do you build a strategic plan to achieve it?

  • What are the benefits of marketing your green initiatives to customers?

  • What are the key issues entrepreneurs will face in achieving sustainability?

  • How can we lessen the tension and create cooperation between the business and environmental communities?

Entrepreneurs are the stuntmen of the business world—taking risks others wouldn't in exchange for rewards others can't imagine. Today, there's a massive gap between the environmentally conscious products and services consumers want and what businesses have on offer. Government won't solve the problem of sustainable business; smart, green entrepreneurs will.

For business leaders who want to find a way to go green without giving up greenbacks, Smart Green offers an analytical, verifiable model that ensures profitability, lowers risk, and decreases the environmental impact of business.








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