Saturday, October 31, 2009

WF Sector Plan testimony

Continuing from last post...

Diverse groups testified in support of the plan, with modifications:
  • Sierra Club - the plan "has the basics right" but there need to be tightened environmental standards.
  • Coalition for Smarter Growth - plan needs jobs-housing balance with more housing, more aggressive TDM (transportation demand management) techniques to encourage people not to use cars, east-west BRT (bus rapid transit) service, and transit service on Rockville Pike
  • Action Committee for Transi- reduce lane width to 10-11' to promote proper driving patterns on a 25 mph design for Rockville Pike using Glatting Jackson design, and build smaller city blocks
  • Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA)
  • AARP - interested in walkable communities convenient for seniors

With regard to environmental issues, the sector plan calls for very strict storm water management, all new building will be green certified (no definition of this, that is why the Sierra Club wants some clarification of standards). The presenters stated that the final buildout could even have more impervious surface than the current condition, due to the replacement of vast paved parking lots with smaller blocks that include park and landscaped areas, some buildings with green roofs, and the upgraded storm water management.

Community groups that testified on Tuesday (I was unable to get to the Thursday hearing) were:
  • Timberlawn HOA - wanted buildings no higher than the NRC, at 275 feet, larger civic greens, a dedicated library site for full-service, a community center, and the creation of the sector as a destination space with dedicated theater and arts spaces
  • Randolph Civic Assoc. - in favor of Glatting Jackson "complete street" design for the Pike, and lobbying for 2 school sites, reopening Rocking Horse ES and a new site within the sector plan. See the discussion on schools in the previous post about cluster districting issues, etc.
  • Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park - want a school site in the sector, are working with Lerner & Tower Companies (owners of White Flint Mall) to design proper buffer areas between White Flint Mall buildout and their detached home neighborhoods, want the plan "to be better" and concerned about how the proposals will be financed
  • Luxmanor Citizens Association - want building heights limited, designate the area as an arts center, including a senior center with dining area, auditorium and classorrms, publicly owned series of pocket parks with resident-tended gardens, and a full-service library site
  • Forum Condominium - wants rezoning of NE 2 acres of their property, adjacent to the new Maple/Chapman Rd corridor, to be able to add a companion building with new "street edge" with 304 FAR (floor area ratio), with maximum 150-250 foot building heights
  • Fallstone HOA - support Glatting Jackson design for Rockville Pike and support the White Flint Partnership tax plan for infrastructure financing. Strong message to phase in the infrastructure improvements first
  • Crest of Wickford Condominium - concerns about permitted height of buildings south of Edson Lane, within yards of condominium property. Sector plan, at this time, allows 150', they want no more than 50'. Also concerned about difficulty of getting in and out of their community on Rockville Pike, which is already problematic.
  • Mayor of Garrett Park - want attention given to impacts of community at edges of the development, adverse traffic effects, and ecological sustainability
  • White Flint Community Coalition - want to reduce the density from sector plan proposal, expressing concerns about creating an "urban canyon" effect from taller buildings and pushing for a residential cap of 9800 residential units, the opposite of the testimony from the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The WFCC speaker mentioned "dense urban sprawl," which is an oxymoron. A major concern is about the possibility of future overcrowding at Walter Johnson HS and other cluster schools. The coalition wants the plan to require centers for the arts, seniors, and a full library, with a reserved site for a future elementary school.
  • Other community representatives speaking from were Coalition of Kensington Communities, WJ cluster PTAs, Montgomery County Civic Federation, Wisconsin Condominium, and numerous individual speakers from North Bethesda and surrounding neighborhoods
  • The final testimony from a community organization was from the Gaithersburg/North Potomac/Rockville Coalition, which recently had hearings for the West Gaithersburg Plan - this was the only group to try to deep-six the sector plan, comprised of members who are not stakeholders in North Bethesda. They have a website,, and are interested in stopping development.
Business organizations that testified are:
  • Bethesda/Chevy Chase and Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce
  • Developers & landowners in the sector: Combine Properties, Vika, LCOR, Gables, Lerner, Tower, Mayhood, 11610-11620 Rockville Pike Partnership, Federal Realty Investment Trust, JBG
  • Fitzgerald - wants to remain in the sector, but will not maintain a dealership on Rockville Pike; can move it to one of the other two properties owned by Fitzgerald
  • White Flint Partnership, a coalition of 55% of the developer/landowners in the sector
Overall, there was concensus in nearly all of the testimony that Rockville Pike and surrounding road infrastructure should be among the first projects undertaken, with the Glatting Jackson design for Rockville Pike nearly unanimously hailed as superior to the sector plan design and desired by practically everyone. A public-private venture to finance the infrastructure improvements, instituting a special tax district with dedicated funding for this sector is desired. Rockville Pike should have a design speed of 25 mph. A school site, library, and multi-generational community center is critical, with arts as a focus for the sector. The council should set environmental guidelines that are more specific to make all new construction conform with quantifiable "green" standards, making sure that connectivity of bikeways is enhanced, with parks as large as practicable. Wall Park and the Gables VOB property to be a main recreational site, with community consultation at all stages and maintaining a forested buffer to Old Georgetown Road.

I would like to add that, just outside the sector plan boundaries to the north, DOT has insisted on building a Park-and-Ride lot at the corner of Montrose and Rockville Pike, a site so unsuited as a vehicle gathering-place (imagine having people drive to the park-and-ride lot in the middle of a new urban center to pick up transit to another urban center- madness!) that there was a 20-minute tirade from the planning board directed at DOT, with the demand that the lot be moved "as soon as possible." DOT has no such plans. This area, proposed as a pedestrian promenade to link the sector to Montrose Crossing, Mid-Pike Plaza, and the nearby apartment at The Monterey, may become a new fire/police center. Either way, the park-and-ride lot has to go, and this message needs to go directly to County Executive Ike Leggett, who has some influence on DOT (we hope).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

County Council conducts public hearings on White Flint future

The White Flint Sector Plan, developed over a period of three years with the cooperation of community leaders, property owners, developers & their land use attorneys, planning staff, etc. has come to the county council after being passed by the planning commission. This plan will establish the guidelines and aspirations for the White Flint/ North Bethesda central business area for the next 20-30 years. The county council has the power to modify and pass the plan.

On Tuesday evening, the full council heard public testimony from 46 speakers. Tonight at 7:30 pm, the hearings will continue with another round of testimony. Written testimony from anyone in the public arena will be accepted until October 30. You can write to Council President Phil Andrews, County Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850, or email your testimony to and

The overwhelming testimony on Tuesday evening was positive and in favor of passage of the plan, which will transform the strip mall/surface parking character of North Bethesda to an urban center with structured parking, mixed use buildings with a greater emphasis on housing units (than previous plans), street-level retail and public spaces, and millions of square feet of office space. Each speaker had suggestions for improvement of the plan.

Several coalitions have formed with specific needs and "takes" on the designs. The White Flint Parnership is composed of about 55% of the property owners in the sector. The WF Partnership commissioned a study by Glatting Jackson to guide urban design concepts and develop a plan for Rockville Pike that would turn it into a "complete street," meaning that it would separately accommodate public transit, cars and trucks, pedestrians, and bicyclists along an urban boulevard. In the Glatting Jackson plan, the 3 travel lanes in each direction would be separated by a median with mass transit, either light rail, trolley, or bus rapid transit (BRT). Parking lanes would flank the travel lanes, and a dedicated bike path would be protected from the travel lanes by the parking lanes. Sidewalks would be wide and, in places, have room for seating and public gathering. Landscaping is emphasized. Another coalition is the Friends of White Flint, of which the White Flint Partnership is a member. Other members include community leaders and residents of surrounding neighborhoods, business owners, and county planners. The White Flint Community Coalition is comprised entirely of several civic organizations and homeowner associations of surrounding communities.

Issues at stake are the amount of density allowable, phasing of the street infrastructure, amount of public space within the sector plan, and whether or not the county council will designate a dedicated site for a full library, elementary school (there is a major debate over the location of a school site in the sector), community and senior centers, and how the surrounding communities may be protected from cut-through traffic generated by the higher density urban core.

Library: currently, the plan calls for an "express" library, which will not have areas for congregating, book stacks of any size, and will only serve as a place to drop off & check out books, with some public computer access. Community groups want a full library site.

School: there is some conflict over the interpretation of the projected numbers of students that this plan will generate. Typically, a highly urban housing core has very few school-age children, since the housing stock is primarily 1-2 bedroom apartments and condominiums. However, an elementary school site should be identified and set aside within the sector boundaries. The current proposal promotes opening Rocking Horse Elementary School, in the Randolph Hills subdivision. This site will alleviate crowding in Veirs Mill ES, but is not within the planning sector and is outside of the Walter Johnson cluster. If this plan is followed, the cluster will have to be redistricted, which is not acceptable to the community. A school site behind White Flint Mall, currently an employee parking lot, is a poor choice for its size, topography, and difficulty of access. The ideal site, in my opinion (and others) is the WMATA bus depot between Nicholson Lane and Old Georgetown Rd. This site is opposite many of the high-rise residential buildings, accessible for children and parents, and is large enough for a full-featured school. Maintaining a bus depot in the center of this new urban center is inappropriate.

Cut-through traffic in local communities: the council should approve the use of restrictive turns that are approved by the surrounding neighborhoods to prevent over-use of local residential streets.

Infrastructure phasing: the current plan calls for development in four phases, phased by geographic area and not by the readiness of a particular property owner and its economic viability. The planning staff wanted to be sure that a certain density would be reached in a given area to make it "work." However, leaving the street grid and Rockville Pike boulevard improvements to Phase 3 is universally abhorred by all but the planning staff. The White Flint Partnership and Friends of White Flint are actively working to propose private-public funding mechanisms that will put the infrastructure improvements into Phase 1, around which the developers can place their new buildings.

Building heights: currently, the highest building in the sector is NRC, at 275 feet. The new residential tower at North Bethesda Market will be 289 feet. The plan calls for higher buildings (not monolithic- the upper floors must have a very small floor area per level) in the center of the sector (within 1/4 mile of White Flint Metro and along Rockville Pike), with building heights stepping down to existing communities. This is a problem for the Crest of Wickford Condominiums, which are townhouse-sized buildings right on Rockville Pike and will be impacted by the height of buildings nearby at Edson Lane. Timberlawn HOA also testified in favor of building heights no higher than the NRC.

The next post will go into some more detail on the testimony given pro and con aspects of the plan.

Almost anything can be recycled - NEW CATEGORIES ALLOWED

Montgomery County has recently added new capability to its recycling program. Check the link for full details, but the highlights are that, in the paper category, waxed cartons and food packaging is now recylable, along with the newspapers, household paper, and cardboard that we have been recycling for years. All of these items can go into the large blue rolling bin that has the lid. As a matter of procedure, I keep a paper grocery bag near the kitchen, into which goes paper egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, newspapers, magazines, junk mail & envelopes, and now, milk cartons and the boxes from frozen foods. When full, this goes out to the blue bin. In my home office, I keep a yard waste bag (the paper kind that people use to put out leaves in the fall) in the closet and fill it with the shreddings from my shredder. All mail that has our name or any other personal information, confidential work papers, financial papers that are no longer needed get shredded, then the shreddings fill a yard waste bag, which goes into the blue bin when the bag is full. That way, no paper leaves our house in the garbage.

Also noteworthy is that practically anything that is plastic (short of plastic bags, which can be recycled at the collection bins at our grocery stores) can be recycled in the smaller open blue bin. The new guidelines now include containers like Tupperware and other semi-permanent food storage containers. Empty aerosol cans and their lids are allowed. I also recycle the packaging from newly purchased products.

If you haven't made a pilgrimage to the Solid Waste Transfer Station (on Rockville Pike, just south of Shady Grove Road), you have missed a treat (really!). This is a great field-trip for kids old enough to appreciate the industrial process of multiple recycling streams. There are collection stations for fabric (don't throw fabric into the trash- recycle it!), cardboard, books, computers, TVs, building materials, scrap metal, yard waste (finished lumber is not recyclable), hazardous materials, and practically anything else you can think of. The county has found vendors to process and reuse most of what we throw away these days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lessons from the Solar Decathlon

This year's Solar Decathlon ended on Sunday, Oct. 18, and was a leap forward from other years in several respects. For those who are not familiar with this contest, it is sponsored by the Department of Energy, occurs every 2 years, and involves 20 universities from around the world. The goal is to create an energy efficient residence that is judged in numerous categories. The Solar Decathlon houses are constructed on the Mall and are open to the public for about 10 days, with some house closures scheduled for judging.
The DOE conducts this contest partly to educate the public in energy conservation and efficiency techniques, showing the values of different construction types, insulation value, window design and construction, thermal solar uses, and the latest in photovoltaics. There is always an exhibit at the center of the "street" of houses with interactive displays, docents give tours, and each university team has its members & volunteers available to describe the specific advantages and design features of its house.
The rules for the decathlon change from event to event, and, this year, the DOE decided that the teams could not set up battery storage systems for their solar arrays. All of the houses were connected to the grid with net metering, under the DOE assumption that the standard homeowner who installs a solar photovoltaic system would utilitze net metering (if the solar system doesn't provide enough power for the house, the power company will supply the shortage; if the solar system generates more power than needed at that time, the excess power is "sold" back to the power company and the electric meter runs backwards). With this system, there is virtually no power generated for use at night, and the house must draw from the electric grid. Adding storage battery capacity to a new solar installation adds significant cost, but allows the homeowner to store generated energy for use when the photovoltaics aren't sufficient for the need.
The houses were judged on their energy generation (net metering), architecture, market viability, engineering, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment, lighting design, and communications. Although the University of Alberta's SolAbode ranked 10th in the architecture (and 6th overall), I found this house to be gorgeous, made from natural materials blended in a warm and stylish design. Team Germany came in 1st overall, with a really innovative house "skin" made of super-thin solar panels. This house combined many advanced technological concepts in a modern package, achieving great results with a larger square footage of living space than other teams attempted. To my taste, the ultra-modern styling left me a bit cold, but it was a worthy winner. Team California was third, with a nice twist to the solar model in that they turned their modules at angles to create a small courtyard effect, quite different from the standard box.
The entertainment category was also interesting. Each of the teams that we visited used LED TVs, which use approximately 42% less energy to run than LCDs and dramatically less than a plasma TV, which is a noted energy hog. The two companies chosen for the TVs were Sharp and  Samsung. I don't know if any other manufacturers are in the LED TV market, but these two were prominent.
As for sustainabililty and environmental friendliness, this aspect is not emphasized in the Solar Decathlon, the DOE's main thrust being energy efficiency. Although the teams made efforts (some more than others) to use recycled materials, there was no concerted drive to find materials whose manufacture doesn't pollute or generate undue amounts of greenhouse gasses, etc. Using local materials was clearly secondary to the stated goal of conserving and generating energy. Not a crime, just an observation.
Take a look at the houses and their special features on the official website. It was a real education, and I look forward to the next Solar Decathlon. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

White Flint Sector Plan Before County Council

The county council will hear testimony on the plans for the North Bethesda urban area on Tuesday 10/20 and on Thursday 10/22 starting at 7:30 pm. The council is accepting written testimony and comments from the public, either submitted at the hearings or emailed to the council. The council president is Phil Andrews,, and our district member is Roger Berliner, You can also write our progressive at-large council members, and The hearings are in the County Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850. Some concepts that are important in this conversation are: 1. It is vital that increased density come to this area with enhanced transit opportunities. That could include subsidies for transit use, restrictions on parking in the urban area (particularly for the new residents and workers who will occupy the urban center), a shuttle on a frequent schedule that will circulate in the district, covered "smart" bus shelters, new MARC stations and more frequent Red Line service 2. The Park-and-Ride lot that is being built at the intersection of Montrose Road and Rockville Pike is IN THE WRONG LOCATION! We should not be encouraging car trips into our urban center to pick up shuttles to take the riders to another urban center. The planning board was unanimously opposed to the location of this parking lot at this site, but the county and state are building it anyway. It should be moved to a location next to I-270, which is where the traffic is coming from. 3. There are currently no plans for an elementary school or a library in the White Flint Sector Plan area. This is absurd, considering the numbers of new residents projected for this area. Currently, a school site is being considered nearby, but it is in a location that will take park space from a local neighborhood and is out of the planning area. An ideal location is where the current county bus depot is located off Nicholson Lane. 4. Wall Park, next to the Aquatic Center, must be protected, and the local citizens must be consulted if any changes are proposed. Please contact the council to let the members know what your critical issues are.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rockville Pike/Montrose Road intersection detours

Last week, the traffic at the intersection was realigned (again), and it will be changed again at the end of this week. In a nutshell, Montrose Parkway is being tunneled under Rockville Pike, which involved building a new bridge so that the Pike can go over the Parkway. The bridge is now nearly completed. During the construction of the bridge, all Pike traffic was shifted eastward, out of the construction zone. Since the bridge is done, southbound Pike traffic as routed onto the new bridge, but the northbound traffic remained in the old detour alignment. At the end of this week, all north-south Rockville Pike traffic will be on the new bridge. Where does that leave us for now? There is NO LEFT TURN allowed from eastbound Montrose Road onto northbound Rockville Pike. If you want to go north on the Pike, you have two choices; at East Jefferson St., you can turn left, then get to the Pike further north, or you can turn right, take Executive Blvd. to Old Georgetown Rd, then Old Georgetown to the Pike. I don't know if we will ever get that left turn at Montrose/Pike restored, but it will disappear forever once the Parkway underpass is completed. The reason is that, with the opening of the Parkway (maybe late 2010??) underpass, it will intersect with the Pike only by ramps. This will be a true interchange. Montrose Road will deadend into a new parking lot that replaces the park-and-ride lot that was at the north end of the Mid-Pike Plaza parking areas (southwest corner of Montrose and the Pike; this is where the underpass is being constructed). By the same token, Randolph Road also will be a deadend. The only way across Rockville Pike will be by the Montrose Parkway underpass, and the ramps will be the only way to get onto the Pike. Wait till you see it!

White Flint Community Coalition

This is an additional organization involving the neighborhoods surrounding White Flint. They are working on the sector plan, growth policy, etc. to get sustainable development and public transit. They welcome new members and community interest. The website is, and I have added it to the list of links in the right panel.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Widening I-270 proposal

Despite all of the financial issues in our economy, and the clear recognition that dependence on foreign oil is a national security risk, burning fossil fuels pollutes our environment, and sprawl development degrades our standard of living, the proposal to widen I-270 is alive and being debated. Next Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council will vote whether or not to support a $4 Billion widening project. Go to to sign a petition to oppose further degrading Montgomery County and spending billions of dollars that are needed to promote transit opportunities and walkable/bikable communities. For some unimaginable reason, and despite all evidence to the contrary, some people have not realized that building roadways promotes the use of transportation options (single-occupancy vehicles, specifically) that are contrary to our welfare and communities. It has been demonstrated time and again, in city after city, that road construction leads to greater use of SOVs, which results in clogging the new roadway. Congestion cannot be cured through pavement. It has also been shown that, for the square footage of land used, a lane of vehicular traffic transports the fewest individuals. Therefore, road construction and widening is wasteful of precious dollars, precious land, and the health of our citizens who live nearby. Please sign the petition and let the council know that this is an issue that needs to be solved through other transportation options.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Energy audits, supply sources, & tax credits

It's a great idea to have an energy audit performed on your house. A good auditor will be able to identify the sources of energy leakage, possible issues with air quality, and create a report that will quantify the energy savings vs. cost of making suggested improvements. It will cost $400-$500. Make sure you use a certified Home Energy Rater. RESNET has a directory, A local company that does a wonderful job is AccessGreen, You can schedule an audit directly from their site, which is very informative. Montgomery County has just passed a new program called HELP, Home Energy Loan Program, which is modeled after a program in Anne Arundel County. Our councilmember, Roger Berliner, has been spearheading energy conservation efforts in the county. The program specifies that, if a homeowner has an energy audit, the costs of the suggested energy measures can be borrowed from the county at a zero to nominal rate and is paid back over an extended period of time (I have heard 10-15 years, but I haven't seen the actual legislation yet) on the property tax bill. No separate checks to be paid, and, if you sell the house, the cost remains on the tax bill, and doesn't follow you. My understanding is that the cost of the audit itself can be made part of the long-term loan. Savings on energy bills after remediation often more than pay for the remediation itself. To follow through with energy repairs, the Amicus Green Building Center,, which sells quality products that are sustainable, energy conscious, and healthy (such as top-quality paint that doesn't emit toxic chemicals). Prices are very competitive, but you will find products that are unavailable elsewhere, as well as staff that is extremely knowledgable. They are in Kensington on Howard Ave., but you can shop online as well. Amicus Green has created relationships with reliable contractors who are familiar with the products and energy issues, so you won't have to re-educate a contractor. Montgomery County has a program called Clean Energy Rewards. Among other incentives, you can get credits on your electricity bill if you specify that you want 50% or 100% wind power to supply your home's energy needs. The county site for the various incentive programs is There are other incentive programs available from the state and fed'l gov't, often involving tax credits. These programs are expanding all the time. You can check for fed, state, and local incentive programs at

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Join Friends of White Flint

The White Flint Sector Plan is the blueprint for the next 20 years' development of the "downtown" area of North Bethesda. With the White Flint Metro station at its core, North Bethesda is creating a new town center. Residents, community leaders, business interests, and the planning department have been hard at work for the past few years to create a walkable, livable, vibrant environment for the future. Friends of White Flint is a new organization that we can all join to learn more about our community, participate in its growth, comment on the challenges, and enjoy the results. Check out the link, to join. Membership is free until May 11, after which a nominal $15/year fee will apply.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Disposing of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL)

These bulbs last a very long time and are becoming more and more popular. As I've written before, a "color temperature" of 2700k to 3000k will simulate the familiar look of an incandescent bulb. You can now get these energy-efficient bulbs usable as floodlights, vanity lights, and other common shapes. Since they have a tiny bit of mercury in the tube, they shouldn't be thrown away in trash destined for the landfill. We don't want to see any toxic chemicals leaching into the groundwater or contaminating the soil. Montgomery County's transfer station at 11601 Frederick Road (on the Pike just south of Shady Grove Road) accepts CFLs in the hazardous waste area. It is open every day, including Sat. and Sun., from 9am to 5pm. If you've never been to the transfer station, it's a great field can recycle TVs, computers, fabric, mixed paper, scrap metal, leaves, and usable building materials, in addition to disposing of regular trash and hazardous waste.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Energy audit vs energy rating: What's the difference?

Essentially, an energy audit is an inspection resulting in a report of the energy usage of an existing building. An energy auditor can test the various components of your house, checking for the efficiency of the appliances and HVAC system, helping you analyze your utility bills, and suggesting repairs, upgrades, and maintenance items that will result in energy savings. A certified auditor (look for an auditor that has been certified by HERS) has tools that are not commonly available, such as the capability of doing thermal tests of the building envelope and pressurizing the house to discover hidden sources of air leakage. Standard home inpectoions, used for decades when buying and selling houses, do not substitute for a good home energy audit. Often, many of the corrections noted are not costly, such as caulking, sealing leaks, adding insulation where electric junction boxes are on exterior walls, etc. Anywhere that we can conserve energy reduces our utility costs, reduces our personal carbon "footprint" (coal-fired power plants put out a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, as well as other toxic pollutants), and can reduce our country's dependence of foreign energy sources. Good all around! An energy audit will cost between $400 and $550, but will teach you things about your house that you could never have learned another way!! As a certified Eco realtor, trained in energy and environmental issues surrounding property, I can help you find an energy auditor. Your energy audit is a bonus when you go to sell your house, since it shows that you have taken steps to reduce the utility bills for the property. Now, let's talk about an energy rating. At this point in time, it is not possible to "rate" an existing building, but new construction can apply for an energy rating. The most well-know and oldest rating system is a LEED rating, which predominantly rates commercial construction. The developer designs the project to include as many energy and environmental attributes as possible from a detailed list of possible "green" building techniques, materials, and design guidelines. Depending on how "green" the final project, it is then rated as LEED Gold, LEED Platinum, or other levels of enviromental and energy efficiency. LEED is working on ratings for new home construction. New homes are more typically submitted for an Energy Star rating, which is set up by the EPA and includes a checklist of the many design, materials, and techniques that can be used in residential construction. You will find more and more new homes projects advertised that the community is being built as an Energy Star rated community. The builder will then provide the prospective homebuyer with a list of the elements that make the property conform to the Energy Star rating. It is not yet possible to rate older construction for energy usage and environmental advantages. Older homes were built with using many different techniques, types of materials, siting, etc., but there are moves in the field to create a credible rating system for existing homes. At this point, we are happy to be able to have our older homes audited so that we can make them as earth-friendly and energy efficient as possible.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Commuting vs. housing cost trade-off

As I noted in the April 15, 2008 post on this blog, there is growing demand for housing near transit with buyers weighing the advantages of location vs. possible loss of living square footage and some privacy. The link at the end of that post is no longer working, so this link is the one to use to calculate the cost-benefit in the location choice, It is possible to save several addresses, edit each category shown in the calculator, and compare the cost of living in a specific location with the cost of the commute to work for that household. Check the Information link for specific instructions or just play with the categories to edit them. The calculator was created by the Urban Land Institute, an organization that develops land use policy in the DC Metro area. You will find all kinds of interesting information on their site; check the navigation panel to the left of the calculator tool.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eco-friendly closet systems

Yes, it's possible to build a beautiful closet and use recycled and reclaimed wood materials as well as working with a company that cares about energy usage and environmental concerns. We haven't yet filled our closet, but it was built by Eco-Nize, The price is competitive with the many closet installation companies, but the quality is great and you don't have to worry about the environment. We are thrilled with our new closet!
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