GreenUp – Climate change stops with you!

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Picture © Liz Orfao / Attribution-ShareAlike / 2007-01-07 05:40:23

Since more than 90% of new year resolutions are forgotten by 15th of January we decided to announce our own agenda for 2015 after this date.

Last year was the hottest year on record so the main goal for this year is to take massive action in preventing 2015 from being even worse. If you want to find out more about global warming you can check out the article ‘Global warning!

You are probably wondering how do we plan to do that?

Focusing like always on this site on what can we improve in our life and our home that can impact climate in a positive way. And this year the main problems we want to address are reducing carbon emissions by using energy more efficiently and increasing carbon storage with the help of easy to grow plants.

As this is a super important task we need all the help we can get. So if you are a green enthusiast, you are full of energy and ideas and you can spare half an hour of your time that can be dedicated to saving our planet write us your ideas at reconstructromania@gmail.com and join us on the journey of improving the world starting with ourselves and our home. All ideas are welcomed so be confident and send us an email.

For the GreenUp part of the project we will focus on creating step by step easy to follow brochures, focusing on 2 main directions:

-GreenUp your Apartment:

*Green walls

*Growing food indoor

*Sustainable and automated irrigation

*Regrow plants from food waste.

-GreenUp your House and Garden:

*Plant a small forest anywhere

*Maximize your space and food production

*Sustainable irrigation

*Green roofs

If you have any information about these topics or any other ideas join our project by contacting reconstructromania@gmail.com . As we would like to get to know you better please send us also a few lines about your passions and what drives you to improve.

At the end of the article you will find some links for inspiration.

Have a green year.

F.M.B.

http://www.diyncrafts.com/5350/home/40-genius-space-savvy-small-garden-ideas-solution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_wall

https://reconstructromania.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/the-green-roof/

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/happier-houseplants-how-to-keep-indoor-plants-healthy-apartment-therapys-home-remedies-217100

 

How To Cool Your Home Without Breaking The Bank

The house has been in the center of our lives since the dawn of civilization. It has also become in the last years a center for most of our expenses, from taxes to electricity and from water to heating.

In the US a typical household pays around 1400 $ a year for electricity while a family in Germany would pay around 1200 Euros per year. This does not include the cost for heating and cooling which can add to the final bill around 40%. Off course each individual case may vary but for the purpose of this example we will consider an average yearly expenses for energy for a house in the US of 2000 $, 1700 Euros for Germany and in Romania we could assume that the average yearly expenses for energy are around 800 Euros.

From this amount we waste around 25% of the energy per year, that translates in energy bills to about 500 $ in the US, 425 Euros in Germany or 200 Euros in Romania.

Considering that private houses are responsible for between 26% to 40% of the total Energy consumption, depending on the country,  we reach the conclusion that we are wasting between 6.5% and 10% of the total Energy produced. That in the US translates, in an optimistic scenario, to around 278 billion kWh, enough energy to power more than 2.5 million household in the US per year. At an average price of 12 Cents per kWh that is more than 33 billion $ wasted every year. And the situation is similar in Europe, for example in Romania we are wasting an estimated 4.2 billion kWh per year. At an average price of 9 cents per kWh this means more than 380 million Euros losses every year. We could build 100 km of highways with this money, a couple of world class stadiums or buy 20 F-16 Fighting Falcon.  And in addition to the billions we are wasting every year we are also having a huge impact on the environment by releasing, just for the energy that we do not use, more than 191 million metric tons of CO2.

This figures are based on average energy consumption data from the past available online. For details please check resources.

So where is this huge waste coming from and what can we do about it?

Well to answer this we should first have a look at the graph bellow to see what are the main consumers of energy in a typical household

Picture1

 

As we can see the main energy consumption is related to heating and cooling with more than 50% of total consumption if we consider also water heating and electronics with more than 35% in total energy consumption.

That is why in the future posts we will focus on providing  low-budget and eco-friendly solutions for improving heating, cooling and electrical systems. These suggestions will reduce significantly not only the waste but also the total consumption so that you can use the 500 $ that you save each year to take a vacation, buy a new smart phone or whatever else your heart desires.

In regards to heating and cooling insulation plays a vital role and for more details about it you can check these advises from an earlier post.

But this changes are usually expensive and hard to make especially if you are living in a rented apartment. And since the summer is coming and this relates to an increase in energy consumption for cooling, we will start with some easy to implement changes that can decrease temperatures in your home with up to 6 degrees without using air conditioning.

1. Use window blinds during the day

Blocking the sun at it’s peak can reduce temperatures in the room with up to 3 degrees Celsius. If you have no money to buy them or you want to give your room a personal touch you can simply make them from scratch. And if you get creative you might even turn them into a piece of art that not only helps the environment and saves you money but also makes you happy. You can find an example on how to create a roman shade here and for design inspiration you can click here.

2. Mount a ceiling fan or buy a desk fan

This can also reduce the temperature with up to 3 degrees and is relatively cheap. You can check out how to built a small portable fan here or you could buy one already made.

3. Change your daily habits and your rooms position depending on the season

This works best for people that spend allot of time during the day at home. For instance you might want to have your office facing South in the winter so you get as much heat and light ass possible from the sun but you might want to do the opposite in summer to avoid overheating.

The advantages of these options are that they reduce temperature and energy consumption, they can be fun to build and you can also take them with you when you move so they can be implemented regardless if you are renting or owning a home. Individual impact in energy savings can vary allot depending on the building  so it’s always good if you can monitor the progress in order to determine which of this tips are the best for your home. Please keep in mind that for special solutions it is always recommended to consult with a professional.

You can also check out allot of cool resources and ideas in the descriptions bellow. We will also share new tips about home improvement in the future so follow the blog, like us on Facebook, join us on Linkedin and keep saving money.

I am sure that there are many other tips on how we can reduce our energy waste and I would really appreciate if you would share your experiences and ideas in the comments bellow. Together we can make our home and our wallet smile again.

Until next time live green!

F.M.B

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Resources:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Create-Your-Own-Top-Down-Blinds/

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/refs.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States

http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energia_electric%C4%83_%C3%AEn_Rom%C3%A2nia

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.ELC.PROD.KH

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/electricity-production-kwh-wb-data.html

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/each-year-75000-homes-waste-as-much-energy-as-contained-in-entire-bp-gulf-spill.html

http://homeenergysaver.lbl.gov/community

US Wastes 61–86% Of Its Energy

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090305091603AA3CBnG

http://www.mnn.com/money/personal-finance/blogs/americans-spend-2k-on-home-energy-costs-annually#

https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/foee_ecofys_saving_energy_june2012.pdf

http://www.wikihow.com/

http://casasolara.blogspot.de/2011/03/povestea-mea.html

http://www.termo.utcluj.ro/regenerabile/1_2.pdf

http://remodece.isr.uc.pt/downloads/brochures/Brochure_RO.pdf

http://reconstructromania.ro/category/home/

 

 

 

 

Global warning about climate change!

Global warning?

Dr Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasting at the Met Office, said: “The 3 leading global temperature datasets show that 2010 is clearly warmer than 2009. They also show that 2010 is the warmest or second warmest year on record as suggested in the Met Office’s annual forecast of global temperature issued in December 2009.” (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2011/2010-global-temperature)

If you are a green enthusiast and agree with the data from Met office, you are probably already taken steps to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve the planet for your children and grandchildren, convinced that we are part of the cause for the extreme climatic conditions we have seen in the last decade. Considering that more than 26% of total energy in the EU is consumed by private households it is easy to see that each of us must take action and become more careful on how we consume energy and how much CO2 we put in the atmosphere, in order to not melt in the future.

On the other hand you could be skeptical about global warming and find that scientific data is not conclusive. According to Nate Silver author of “The Signal and the Noise” : “statistical forecasting methods suggest that if you measure temperature trend one decade at a time in any given decade there is a warming trend 75% of the time since 1900 but a cooling trend the other 25% of the time”. On the other hand a steady increase in global temperature of about 1dg C has occurred over the last century. Also we can’t ignore the increase in extreme heat waves that we see and feel everywhere in the last years.

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https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1

Although a large number of scientists believe that carbon dioxide is not the only major cause of global warming, in 2010, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties 16 (COP 16) approved a non-legally binding commitment to cap global average temperature rises to 2°C. A 2°C rise is considered consistent with capping atmospheric CO2 equivalent (CO2-e) concentration levels to 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2050 (IPCC 2007). On current projections, by 2050 CO2 emissions must reduce significantly below not only ‘business as usual’ levels, but also current levels in order to reach the cap of 450ppm. This particularly applies to emissions of CO2 resulting from the use of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas.http://www.globalccsinstitute.com/

Scientist have agreed that climate change is due to man made action and that we have already crossed many of the sustainability boundaries that keep our planet in balance. Some of these boundaries are shown in the infographic bellow by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs from a longer course, “The Age of Sustainable Development.” An introduction to this course can be found on Courserra. https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1

Beyond the boundry

The decision about what to believe is only yours, but the evidence point in only one direction, and we have to start taking responsability for our actions and start working togheter on the solution.

Regardless of what you choose to believe it will not hurt you or anyone else if you reduce your carbon foot print.

If you need some easy to implement ideas on how to do that you can find a small list below.

Use your car less.

Our ancestors used to go everywhere by foot, now we do not even walk for 30 min. each day. Not only driving less will help the environment it will also help your health, posture, looks, self-esteem and wallet.

Don’t waste energy on unnecessary lights or idle appliances. 

You can install sensors that automatically close the light when you are not in a room or have a fancy smart-home system installed, if you are forgetful about this kind of things. Or just use a post-it note above your light switch. In the long term you would be helping the environment and saving also money on electricity bills.

Eat more local and BIO food.

This will reduce the pollution related to growing the plants, especially the release of nitrogen used as fertilizer in land and water, the use of pesticides, and the pollution related to transporting food on long distances.

Not only you will cut pollution but you will also improve your health since most of nutritionist agree that having a diversified diet, based on seasonal foods, can bring major improvements to your overall well-being. Except from making you beautiful eating only how much you need will also save you money and reduce the waste you produce, I think it is safe to say that this can also make you happier.

Michael Pollan tracked how much oil we use to produce a Hamburger. If this doesn’t change your mind about how much our eating habits affect us I do not know what will.

How food affects our environment

Use less water.

70% of our water is used for irrigations. If you have a lawn that requires allot of water for maintenance in the summer you should consider replacing it with small bushes that are fit for arid conditions. This will save water, be just as pretty and will also save you money. If you have a garden where you grow vegetables you could implement a drip irrigation system that uses significantly less water.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drip_irrigation

If you do not have a garden you can reduce water and energy use by taking cold or colder showers. In my personal experience this has proved great for burning fat, increasing testosterone and adapting better to extreme temperature changes. Although we are not always fully aware of it our body has to deal with these changes every day- for example going from 20 degrees in a car or office to 40 degrees outside in the summer.

Another easy way to save some time, energy and water is by using a dish washer.

Plant more trees.

They do not produce WIFI but they produce Oxygen, fruits and a cool place for a swing if you have kids. Also when they are close to buildings they can reduce the energy loads by providing shadow in the summer, and protection against wind in the winter, meaning you will need less energy to heat your home.

As you can see sustainability is not hard, or expensive as many would want us to believe. It just needs a little will power applied in the right direction every day. And since will power is hard to find this days with so many choices around us take consume it, small reminders like post-its above the light switch, an inspirational quote or a picture with your baby, to remind you why this is important, or sharing this article can be good all good motivators for taking action now.

These are just few ideas so I would love to get allot more thoughts on how we can achieve sustainability from you. Share with us your ideas and also tell us what keeps you motivated to be sustainable?

FMB
reconstructromania@gmail.com

Top Pro’s and Con’s of Modular Houses

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picture from www.archinspire.org/

  Modular houses are buildings that consist of multiple sections called modules. The modules can be 6 dimension boxes or wall panels constructed in advance at a remote facility, usually in standard sections that can be easily transported and assembled.

What are the advantages of a modular house?

  • Speed of construction, a modular home can be completed on site, depending on size and complexity, in 10 up to 20 days.
  • High quality. Because the modules are constructed in a controlled environment the common faults that appear on site due to poor execution are avoided.
  • Environmentally friendly due to low waste and optimum use of resources. The factory process consumes less materials and, due to controlled procurement produces less waste than a traditional construction site.
  • Provide a healthier living environment. Because modular houses are built in a controlled environment,  the risk of mold, mildew, rust, and sun damage that can often lead to human respiratory problems, is eliminated.
  • Flexibility is another great feature of modular houses. They can be extended or relocated with ease. When a modular house is relocated the amount of energy used is approximately 3% of the energy that is required to manufacture a new equivalent modular building.

Although the list of advantages is long there are also some disadvantages.

  • Constructed area. Because of transport restrictions the size of the modules can be small affecting the overall size of the rooms.
  • Aesthetics: prefabricated identical units may be viewed as less aesthetically pleasing and less desirable, but now most of the factories that produce modular homes have also design departments that use computer aided design (CAD) programs to draw plans to your specifications or to modify one of their standard plans so almost any home can be made as a modular one.

Modular homes are eco-friendly, fast to build and very flexible. They have to follow the same laws and requirements as normal constructions and have the same taxes and insurance costs as a normal house.

The modular house might be cheaper and faster to built but the value of the property is at the same level as the one of a normal house so if you want to move soon in a new house it might take less to construct a prefabricated building then searching true the real estate pages for a good offer.

Your comments are always welcomed.

Best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Small actions that can lead to HUGE energy savings

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In the E.U. around 26% of the total energy is consumed by private households. So if you apply some small changes to your home you can really make an impact in the overall energy consumption.

You can start making your house more eco-friendly by following this simple tips:

Change your light bulbs with new high efficient ones. This can lead to a saving of up to 30% in your electricity bill.

Turn down your thermostat with 1 degree. You won’t be able to tell the difference and you will see a saving at the end of the month. The recommended habitat temperature is 20-21 degrees Celsius.

Buy A+ rating appliances in order to save electricity and instead of leaving them on stand-by try turning them off when you leave the house. This will not only save you money but provide more quality to your lifestyle.

Improve the building shell (air sealing) and insulation of your building. Proper insulation plays a very important role in energy-saving and CO2 emissions.. A well-insulated home is also easier to sell because lower utility costs are an attractive selling point for buyers. Where does the heat go? 35% is lost true walls, 25% through windows, 25% through the roof and15% through the floor.

Go for solar heating instead of wood, gas, or coal boilers. This will protect the environment and after the initial investment the cost for heating will be close to zero.

If you have any other ideas to improve the energy efficiency your comments are always welcomed.

With best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Insulation

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  Proper insulation plays a very important role in energy-saving and CO2 emissions especially when we see winters getting colder every year.  A well-insulated home is also easier to sell because lower utility costs are an attractive selling point for buyers.
   More air pockets between the outside and inside of your home translates into less money loss on heating and warmer homes . That is why materials that trap allot of air inside them like polystyrene or wool are good insulators.  Against radiant heat loss, mostlly responsible for heat losses true windows and walls, an efficient barrier is aluminium foil which reflects most of the heat back into the room.
   Where does the heat go? 35% is lost true walls, 25% through windows, 25% through the roof and 15% through the floor.
   Windows
   Eco-windows improve the environment through energy efficiency. Double or triple glazing windows and doors provide an outstanding barrier against heat and noise loss. Eco-windows and doors use natural paint and therefore don’t consume additional harmful materials or generate associated waste.
     Adding another layer of air between the room and the window is always a good idea if you want to improve there efficiency during the winter. Bellow you can find two easy to follow examples on how to upgrade your windows with easy to find materials.


   Roof  
   For the roof one of the best insulation is mineral wool. Because it’s composed of many fibers this is not only a good thermal insulation but is also a very good barrier against noise. Also an anti-water foil and an aluminium foil are a good addition to any roof insulation.
  A green roof can also provide a very good insulation, additional to food and a posh gathering place inside a crowded city, and it is highly recommended for flat roofs.
   Floor
    Proper floor insulation is equally important.  Rolls of insulation are an easy method to install insulation in floors. The rolls are made of fiberglass, mineral wool and natural fibers and are designed to fit the standard spacing between studs and joists. This method is suitable for do-it-yourself projects.
    Another way is to use reflective systems made of aluminum foils with such materials as plastic film, cardboard or polyethylene bubbles as backing. Reflective systems are well-suited for floors because they are designed to reduce downward heat loss. Reflective systems are easy to install.
   Walls
    From the traditional materials, used for wall’s insulation, mineral wool, in my opinion, is better than polystyrene because in addition to thermal insulation it’s also a barrier for noise. Polystyrene which is the most popular wall insulation in Romania unfortunately losses up to 70 % of its insulation properties when its wet.
    A few eco-friendly insulation materials for walls are:
    1. Straws and clay (cheap, highly efficient and 100% recyclable)
    2. Cellulose made from recycled paper (very good insulation because of it’s fiber structure and high resistance to humidity)
    3. Sheep wool specially modified to be fireproof. ( wool was approved in UE as a building material in 2003). Shredded clothes can have a similar effect as wool for insulating your home.
    4. Reflective systems made of aluminum foils also improve the efficiency of an insulation system by reducing the radiant heat loss.
   A lot of people have been disappointed after insulating their building, having thought their house would suddenly become warmer, which it won’t. Basically, what insulation does is impede temperature change. So just bear in mind, insulating the building will help your house stay warm, but it won’t warm it.
   Which insulation fits best to your house ? Your ideas and comments are always welcomed.
With best regards,
F.M.B.
reconstructromania@gmail.com

The basics of a green building

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A green building is constructed using eco-friendly processes and is resource-efficient throughout it’s life cycle.

The main objectives of a green building are:

-reducing pollution

-efficiently usage of energy and water

-recycling

In Romania the interest for energy efficient buildings is increasing do to higher cost for gas,electricity and water.

The Romanian government supports individuals that want to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings with “Casa Verde” program.

The maximum grants paid by these program are:

-6.000 RON (approx. 1.200 EUR) for solar panels.

-8.000 RON (approx. 1800 EUR) for heat pumps.

-6.000 RON (approx. 1200 EUR) for thermal power plant that use pellets, wood chips, and all kinds of bio-mass.

Also Romania in accordance with European Union laws has committed true the “Energy strategy 2007-2020” to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy consumption to 35% in 2015 and  38% in 2020.

In order to achieve this goals Romania adopted the green certificate support scheme presented in Law nr. 220/2008 modified by Law 139/2010 and approved by the European Commission.

The future looks green in Romania and hopefully buildings will be to.

Any questions or ideas related to this topic are welcomed.

Best regards,

F.M.B.