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Alex Wilson Speaks on Green Building Trends

March 4, 2010

 Yesterday I went and listened to Alex Wilson speak on emerging trends in green building.  The speech was presented by the USGBC Georgia Chapter and held at the Herman Miller showroom in downtown Atlanta.  Listening to him speak is very humbling.  His depth of knowledge on every subject was amazing and very scientific.  He is the executive editor of Environmental Building News, a news product of BuildingGreen

One of the interesting products he spoke of was polystyrene and whether products that contain this should be used when building green homes.  Insulation boards that are used between the framing & exterior of a house are commonly made of polystyrene.  A potential replacement for this is a product called “rigid mineral wool”.  He mentioned Rockwool insulation, which is non-combustible and withstands more than 1000°C.  It can even act as a fire barrier.

Image from

Another cool trend going on in large commercial projects is Thermal Energy Storage.  His example was the One Bryant Park Bank of America building in New York City.  I won’t try to explain how it functions but in short it is able to store energy in the building during off-peak hours and use that energy during the day (peak hours), therefore saving the company big-time money by not purchasing energy during the most expensive part of the day.  It is able to provide 1/3 to 1/2 of all energy required to run the building and could potentially be paid off within 2-4 years!!  A side benefit of drawing your power at night is it supports renewable energy industries like wind & wave/tidal production since they are 24 hour producers and are often at peak production at night. 


He spoke about distributing daylight throughout a building and taking it deeper into a building.  In Atlanta we are starting to see solar tubes become more prominent.  This is just like it sounds, a tube that captures sunlight on the roof and is fed into a bathroom, hallway or other room in the house.  At this point the room needs to be within a few

feet of the roof to be effective.  Technology has certainly improved but it comes with a price.  You can now bring the light deeper into the building and even come out of standard looking light fixtures, but today 4 lights cost about $10,000.  Click Here to view a youtube video showing a little about what it looks like.  Apparently Wal-Mart is outfitting over 700 stores with this technology. 

He talked about many other products including fly ash which is commonly used in the production of concrete.  The discussion was centered on the debate about whether or not fly ash leaches toxins into the building over time.  He showed an example of bark siding from a tulip (poplar) tree and discussed how this is a great example of making use of a bi-product of something else.  The last product he spoke of was Timber SIL which is a form of pressure treated wood.  The process it goes through makes the wood unrecognizable to wood destroying organisms.  It is also non-toxic and non-corosive which makes it an easier product to build with. 

Be sure and check out, it is a wealth of information that is non-biased and is funded by subscribers, not advertisers.  If you want to learn more about the USGBC and the Georgia Chapter, check out and become a chapter member. 
2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2010 9:30 am

    check out Highland Craftsmen up in Spruce Pine, NC. They are at the forefront on the sustainable building products, specifically Bark Siding and Shingles.

  2. June 15, 2010 11:17 am

    Wonderful! Here is an extremely helpful article about the difference between green and sustainable!

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