Toward a Carbon Neutral House

submission by pallrand
Toward a Carbon Neutral House

About Your Organization

Organization name(s):

Home Front Build

Organization website:

http://homefrontbuild.com/portfolio_category/projects/

Organization Twitter handle:

@HFBuild

Organization Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Home-Front-Build-Los-Angeles/143069215732008?sk=timeline

Organization Instagram:

http://instagram.com/home_front_build/

Describe your organization (check only one):

Nonprofit organization

For-profit organization

Government

Individual

Please describe yourself (check only one):

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe what your organization does.

:

Home Front Build is a design/build firm that specializes in green and historic construction.

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

:

The project will assess the benefits of using salvaged materials in the construction of new homes to minimize climate change in Los Angeles.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County? Check only one.

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

No

Please write a sample tweet to describe your submission.

:

Instead of clear cutting more forests for our new homes, let's re-use the old growth lumber that is already here in our community.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit? Check all that apply.

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay

Westside

Other:

What is your idea/project in more detail?

:

When a home is demolished to make way for a new home in Los Angeles today, what is the opportunity cost of not salvaging these materials for the new home? One of the greatest costs is increased carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions which through increased climate change threatens our environment both globally and locally here in Los Angeles.
CO2 emissions comes from many sources along the supply chain for construction materials which we believe could be avoided through the use of salvaged materials available to us in the numerous houses demolished everyday in Los Angeles. The goal of our project is to demonstrate how locally sourced salvaged materials can be utilized to reduce our carbon footprint and advance our concept of sustainability.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

:

To implement the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project we propose to demonstrate the relative benefit of using salvaged materials based on a case study of the deconstruction of an existing house and the construction of a new house using salvaged materials from the former. The case study will include a cataloging of inputs and outputs of materials for salvage and disposal at each of the two house sites in Los Angeles for the purposes of a Life-Cycle Assessment (“LCA”). This LCA will establish an “energy budget” for the new house based on: 1) a calculation of the embodied energy of these materials; and, 2) a calculation of the projected operational energy use for the new house over its life-cycle.

This total energy budget of the new house will allow us to further analyze and compare the case study with other cases such as a Baseline Case which meets minimum code requirements. Additionally, we will be able to find the associated CO2 emissions of each element of the new house, and add other external emissions to the Baseline Case such as from the landfill disposal of a typical demolition. This will allow a more complete picture of the performance of the new house not just in terms of its energy use, but its carbon footprint.

If, through this case study, we are able to demonstrate there is a significant amount of reduced CO2 emissions from using salvaged materials to build a new home, then we would propose to use this assessment to advocate for the reform of the applicable codes and standards (e.g. Los Angeles Green Building Code and LEED for Homes). To accomplish this goal, we propose to organize and disseminate the results of our work for use by the relevant stakeholders and policy makers. We will use a variety of media and formats for communicating our results including a short video to be used online and at screenings for educational and advocacy purposes.

The LA2050 grant will allow us to carry out a complete and thorough cataloging of the inputs and outputs of the deconstructed house and new house, and to conduct a Life-Cycle Assessment which will help quantify the CO2 emissions of salvaged materials in new home construction. With the proper funding of the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project, we hope to carry out this case study in a manner that will serve a range of stakeholders and policy makers, but in the end serve the greater community of Los Angeles through reduced carbon emissions and helping to create a more resilient city.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to live today? In 2050?

:

The “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project will help make Los Angeles the healthiest place to live by serving as a launch pad for reforming the codes and regulations which shape the homes we live in, and therefore drive how we as a city produce CO2 emissions and contribute to climate change. In the Los Angeles region, we have both the blessing of beautiful landscapes and a history of environmental damage in the smog and pollutants we have produced, and the wildfires and droughts we have precipitated due to climate change. To mitigate this damage and make Los Angeles a more resilient city and region will not happen overnight, nor in a year, but if we take incremental steps like reforming the codes, we can achieve a steady progress toward a healthy environment in which to live over the long term.

In the next year, we believe the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project will demonstrate the relative benefits of using salvaged materials in new homes, and we will begin to reform the necessary codes and regulations for all of Los Angeles and the region to be able to take advantage of this smart CO2 emissions reduction measure. In the long term (and definitely in 2050) the construction industry will, we believe, have embraced the use of salvaged materials as a standard practice, and the benefits of reduced CO2 emissions and minimized climate change will be enjoyed by all Angelenos.

What this will mean for Angelenos is a more resilient city and region where the extreme outcomes of increasing climate change such as wildfires, droughts and rising sea level will be minimized. Like a firefighter taking the fuel away from the fire, these natural events will hopefully be minimized in their severity and frequency if we are able to minimize climate change. Similarly, the severity of smog and levels of air toxins in the Los Angeles region will hopefully be reduced if we minimize climate change due to the reduced CO2 levels and temperatures which contribute to particulates collecting in the atmosphere even.

In 2050, Los Angeles will be a healthy place to live for all Angelenos due in part, we hope, to the early efforts of the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project to serve as a launch pad for the necessary documentation, advocacy and reforms to the codes and standards which shape the way we live.

Whom will your project benefit? Please be specific.

:

The “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project is intended to benefit all of Los Angeles's communities from the improved environmental quality associated with reduced CO2 emissions. To accomplish this goal the project proposes to first lay the groundwork for reforms to the codes and standards which shape the homes we live in, and how they treat the use of salvaged materials. Therefore, the project will at first be a documentation and advocacy tool for stakeholders and policy makers who work in the residential construction market in the Los Angeles region.
The specific stakeholders we are targeting include general contractors, sub-contractors, building materials suppliers, architecture and engineering professionals, sustainability consultants, and environmental and community groups. The specific policy makers include researchers, building officials at the municipal and state level, officials at the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, and USGBC technical committee members. The benefits of this research will hopefully be to provide a foundation for future research, help to build a consensus on the issue of salvaged materials within both the private and public sector, and hopefully lead to real reforms of the applicable codes and standards such as the Los Angeles Green Building Code and LEED for Homes.
The goal of the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project is to demonstrate how locally-sourced salvaged materials can be used to reduce our carbon footprint, and thereby improve the environmental quality of the world we all live in. The benefits of a reduced carbon footprint extend well beyond the city limits of Los Angeles, and will require the participation of many more communities to be effective, but that is the nature of environmental issues. Pollution, climate change, and other environmental challenges do not tend to respect borders, and consequently require a global response, but acting locally is always the first step.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

:

The “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project will be lead internally at Home Front Build by Derek Ryder, a licensed architect and LEED AP, who will serve as the sustainability professional and project coordinator leading the data collection, dissemination and project management activities with the project team. Derek comes to Home Front Build with 13+ years of experience in residential and religious architecture, and received his Master of Architecture degree from the Yale School of Architecture in 1999.

The USC School of Architecture is a confirmed partner. Faculty members Douglas Noble, Chair of the Ph.D Program and Discipline Head of the Building Science Department, and Karen M. Kensek, Associate Professor, will provide supervision and direction to a graduate level thesis project analyzing the data collected by the project.

BurroHappold International engineering firm is a confirmed partner. They will provide strategic over-sight of the process including the data collection and life-cycle assessment. They will assist directing the graduate student work and provide peer support and review of the results of this research. Further, they have interested international parties and contacts, specifically in the UK, that are conducing industrial research in this area and who would be able to share their expertise and be able to build on it.

Veracity Productions will operate as a subcontractor to Home Front Build in the making of a documentary for educational and advocacy purposes: www.veracityproductions.com.

How will your project impact the LA2050 "LIVE" metrics?

Access to healthy food

Healthcare access

Exposure to air toxins

Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard

Percent of imported water

Obesity rates

Rates of homelessness

Walk/bike/transit score

Acres and miles of polluted waterways

Rates of mental illnesses

Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Percentage of residents receiving coordinated healthcare services (Dream Metric)

Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

Other:

If other, please specify.:

Level of knowledge and connectivity of stakeholders and policy makers

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.:

In the next year, the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project will impact the level of knowledge and connectivity of stakeholders and policy makers related to the residential construction market in the Los Angeles region. Serving as a launch pad for reforms to the applicable codes and standards, the project would seek to raise the level of knowledge of specific stakeholders such as general contractors and code officials, and it would seek to increase the connectivity of these parties in order to build a consensus on the issue of salvaged materials.

In the medium term, we would hope to lay the ground work for potential impacts in several of the “LIVE” metrics in the next several years, notably in: 1) Exposure to air toxins; 2) Percent of imported water; and, 3) Percentage of Los Angeles communities that are resilient. Through the use of salvaged materials in residential construction, the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project will seek to reduce the toxins levels and related smog Angelenos are exposed to through a reduction of CO2 emissions.

Similarly, the project will seek to reduce the percent of imported water to the region through minimizing climate change and thereby reducing frequencies of drought and associated loss of water capacity from melting snow cap, evaporation, etc. And finally, the project will seek to increase the percentage of Los Angeles communities that are resilient through minimizing climate change and thereby reducing the susceptibility of communities to extreme weather events such as drought, wildfire and rising sea levels.

The “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project would hopefully achieve these three “LIVE” metrics goals in a subsequent phase of the project over the next several years, and not in the scope and schedule of the LA2050 grant. Consequently, we would not evaluate the project based on these metrics in the term, but instead use the project evaluation discussed below.

Please select which other LA2050 Goals are relevant to your project or organization (check all that apply):

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to PLAY

LA is the best place to CONNECT

LA is the best place to LEARN

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

:

We will evaluate the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project by three main metrics: 1) was it technically rigorous; 2) did it communicate to key stakeholders and policy makers; and, 3) did we connect the technical and regulatory goals to the environmental and health benefits to the community. The project should be technically rigorous in order to be useful for other researchers and policy makers to draw upon it as a basis for pursuing additional research or making policy decisions. To meet this criteria, the project should follow accepted standards for documentation and assessment of CO2 emissions, and should establish a thorough yet practical protocol for team members to follow.

The project should be able to communicate to key stakeholders and policy makers in order to have an effect on the construction sector in Los Angeles with the intent of reforming its practices, and, by extension, hopefully reducing CO2 emissions. To meet this criteria, the project should produce documents formatted and organized for use by the following groups: 1) researchers; 2) building officials; and, 3) building contractors. Through a focused campaign of reaching the above groups, we will attempt to build a consensus on this issue which could lead to reforms that would encourage the use of salvaged materials.

Finally, the project should connect the technical and regulatory goals to the environmental and health benefits to the community. These benefits were outlined above and would include: 1) Exposure to air toxins; 2) Percent of imported water; and, 3) Percentage of Los Angeles communities that are resilient. While these metrics goals would not be achieved, the reforms which will hopefully be achieved should be oriented toward achieving them in the future. For example, if a reform to a green building standard is proposed which would encourage the use of salvaged materials, it should not do so at the cost of other CO2 emissions goals such as reduced transportation distances (i.e. salvaged materials should be locally-sourced).

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

:

The first lesson which informed our solution concerned the way we as a community view the existing houses in our neighborhoods. We look at our historic structures as architectural and design monuments and overlook the value of the component materials themselves. Our work with the existing building stock in Los Angeles has exposed us to lumber and building products that could only be produced today if you harvested in a National Park. The redwood and Douglas fir trees that was milled from the late 18th century until the mills in the Western Sierra’s were closed in the late 30’s were old growth trees that for the most part only exist today in protected areas such as National parks.

When those trees were milled it was a different time, lumber was plentiful and the ethos of the time was to mill this lumber was to emulate the beauty and grandeur of the old growth forests. So why are we throwing this valuable lumber away? It lead us to appreciate not only this lumber but all building products not as consumable resources but to look at them as resources that can become sustainable. By saving this lumber we are saving what is left to us of the old growth forests.

The second lesson which informed our solution concerned the way the applicable codes and standards viewed the use of salvaged materials. When we first looked at the possibility of using salvaged materials for the predecessor to the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project, we did a code review of the Los Angeles Green Building Standard, the LEED for Homes standard, and the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation's construction and demolition recycling requirements. After our review, we concluded that these codes and standards provided reasonable incentives for the downstream recycling of demolition waste, but provided little if any allowance for the use of salvaged materials in the construction of new homes.

This emphasis on downstream recycling on the part of these agencies and organizations was, we believed, overlooking an area of great potential benefit in the cause of CO2 emissions reduction. With this lesson, we conceived of the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project as a way to reform these codes and standards.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

:

The salvage of an existing single family dwelling originally constructed in 1905 will take place during late summer 2014. The salvage operation will take approximately two weeks. The salvage process will be documented daily and materials will be transported during this time frame leaving the lot clear at the end of this period.

Compilation of the salvage data and dissemination of this data to the partners will commence in fall of 2014. Analysis of the embodied energy in the salvaged materials and “Life Cycle Analysis” will begin at this time and be completed by spring 2015. This analysis will take place simultaneously with the reuse of the salvage material.

Construction of the new single family dwelling will begin in Late Fall 2014 and end in the summer of 2015. Follow up analysis of the new structure and quantification of materials reused and analysis will occur in late summer to early fall 2015.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

:

We anticipate two main barriers to the “Toward a Carbon Neutral House” project coming largely from the regulatory process surrounding the use of salvaged materials. These barriers are: 1) the California Building Code (“CBC”) currently restricts the re-use of framing lumber as framing lumber; and 2) the California Green Building Code (“CalGreen”) and LEED for Homes (and similar green building standards) do not weight their point systems in favor of the use of salvaged materials.

The restrictions of the CBC are based on understandable concerns about, specifically, the integrity of re-used lumber and how it will perform as a structural member given the potential nail holes and non-standardized dimensions. We believe there are reasonable protocols which can be written into the build code which both respect the life safety of occupants and property, and are not overly burdensome to apply given the example of other jurisdictions which have addressed these concerns and allowed for its use (e.g. the State of New York).

Regarding the green building code and standards, we believe that through the necessary documentation and advocacy, they can be reformed to better reflect the value of salvaged materials for CO2 emissions reduction. This may take some time and effort given the process of amendment to the LEED system at the USGBC given that the organization is a consensus-based one, and there is always an interest in maintaining the status quo. With the benefit of the documentation, assessment, and dissemination of the results of the project, we believe progress can be made at reforming the LEED for Homes system.

What resources does your project need? (check all that apply)

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)

Education/training

Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach

Network/relationship support

Quality improvement research

Discussion
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Award topvotedidea 5a5ae14e3d56a10363ea2a398cece46cf4df891213cbe68677c19d8903a1932a
$100,000
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Submission Began
Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Submission Ended
Thursday, July 31, 2014
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Voting Began
Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Voting Ended
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Winner Announced
Tuesday, September 30, 2014