West Coast Green and the Solar Decathlon

New Green Ideas for the Home

The 2009 West Coast Green environmental showcase took place on the two main piers at San Francisco’s picturesque Fort Mason. A novel 200 foot-long bamboo trellis demonstration garden by Design Ecology — resembling a line of teepee frames —

West Coast Green  and Las Vegas 015

connected the exhibit halls and served as the emblem of the show.

Design Ecology drawing

The walkway’s native and drought-tolerant plant habitat, shown above in a schematic, illustrated key storm water filtration strategies: landscape buffer, hanging gardens as pre-filtration, and in-situ water treatment. Plans for a floating exhibit did not work out this year but I think a modern demonstration houseboat with a living roof would be a great draw in the future — call it the SS Green Living!

Here are some other new home products that stood out.  Nick Lee (Houseplans.com Services, Inc. Chief of Design) also toured the show and contributed several discoveries.

Green Lights. This trumpet vine-shaped LED (light emitting diode) pendant light system

M262 LED pendant from EST

is from Energy Savings Technology, LLC, a small Northern California company. The shape is a classic but using it to surround an LED light is new. The company also offers a sleek tube shaped light

M410_01 led light pendant from est

for installations over a counter or dining table. According to engineer-founder Gerhard Hoog  these lights provide either warm or neutral white light and up to 80% power savings compared to halogen spots or flood lights. They are fully dimmable.

Renaissance in Wood. That new hardwood floor you have been considering (actually I have been dreaming of replacing the dark brown tile in my kitchen with wood) might be older than you think. Recycled wood for flooring, furniture, and cabinetry is an expanding category at the show, with several companies represented. Wood Anchor, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, specializes in reclaiming and reusing wood from urban elm trees (victims of Dutch elm disease) and demolished grain elevators to produce flooring

West Coast Green  and Las Vegas 021

as shown above, and they’re always looking for more. As their website says: “Will Work For Wood.” I coveted their stools

West Coast Green  and Las Vegas 019

reclaimed from old timbers. 

An innovative new wood flooring product was literally uncorked at the show: it’s made from slices of wine corks.


These Showercork™ mosaic tiles by Sustainable Floors have a resilient cushiony feel. They come in 12- by 24-inch by 1/4 inch-thick sheets

showercork2 intallation

and are installed over a mastic, then grouted and sealed with a urethane finish like ceramic tile.

Fresh Air. With new homes becoming air-tight thanks to more efficient insulation and building systems, poor indoor air quality can be a problem. Enter the electric Lifebreath Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV),

155_max_large lifebreath air exchange

which moves stale, contaminated, warm air from the house to outdoors and draws fresh oxygen-laden air from outside and distributes it throughout the house.

illustration.medium air exchanger

The two air streams pass on either side of an aluminum heat-exchange core that transfers heat from outgoing to incoming air. So on cold days warmth is retained as the air gets refreshed.

Green Days on The Capitol Steps

Take a look at this year’s Solar Decathlon on The Mall in Washington, D. C., ending this week.

2009 Solar Decathlon

Sponsored by the Department of Energy (photo above by Stefano Paltera for DOE), this international competition among college teams to design, build, and operate highly energy-efficient, completely solar-powered houses has resulted in an especially innovative crop of designs. It’s a veritable world’s fair of green architecture. Here are some highlights (photos by Jim Tetro, US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon).

Team Spain — photovoltaic walls and sun-tracking roof:


Team Germany — louvers of integrated thin-film copper indium selenide cells (CIGS):


Cornell University — corrugated drum shapes and solar panels:


Team California — solar power and maximized indoor-outdoor living:


University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — Midwest farmhouse forms and recycled barn wood:


The Ohio State University– recycled wood and solar collectors:


Rice University — growing walls:


This year winning teams will be awarded $100,000 over two years to support the Solar Decathlon’s research goal of reducing the cost of solar-powered homes and advancing solar technology. Check out the Solar Decathlon website for in-depth coverage. What a great way to use the nation’s outdoor living room below the Capitol! Members of Congress strolled this “solar subdivision” on their front lawn with evident interest.

One response to “West Coast Green and the Solar Decathlon

  1. Now I know what to do with all those old wine corks :) The garden looks beautiful. I wish I could spend some time there.

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