Archive for Denver Metro

Greenwashing at KB Home

Poor attic insulation melts snow
I took this picture on February 7, 2010, in Denver’s Stapleton New Urbanist development in Denver.  Most of the houses in Stapleton are EnergyStar qualified, but this picture tells a story about some that aren’t.  The blue house in the background was built in 2009 by Wonderland Homes.  The tan house in the foreground is a KB Home built in 2008. 

Note how the still-falling snow is melting on the north-facing roof of the tan KB Home, but not on the similarly oriented roof of the blue Wonderland home.  Also note that clear lines of unmelted snow where the roof trusses add an extra layer of insulation between the attic and the roof.  This is a clear sign that the KB Home (NYSE:KBH) lacks sufficient attic insulation, and enough heat is escaping from inside the house to the attic to melt the snow on the roof as quickly as it is falling.  Nor was it just this one house… all the houses I saw that were built by KB showed signs of snow melting on the roof, while all the houses I saw built by other builders (New Town Builders, Wonderland, and McStain) showed no signs of melting.  Many were built in 2007, before either of the homes in the photo.

I was shocked.  The Stapleton website proudly proclaims “Since 2006, every Stapleton builder had been an EnergyStar partner.” I’d taken this to mean that every home built in Stapleton since 2006 was an EnergyStar home… an assumption I’m sure Forest City (NYSE:FCE-A) and KB Home would love us to assume.  Instead, I have to assume it means that KB builds some EnergyStar homes, somewhere.

KB’s web page for their Coach Series homes in Stapleton displays the EnergyStar logo in two locations.  One logo appears with the text “An EnergyStar qualified neighborhood” (emphasis mine) and the other is in a box that says “Save 30-45% on your utility bills with a new KB home compared to a home built as recently as the 1990s.”  The implication is clearly that the Coach series homes are EnergyStar homes, but my photo shows clear evidence that they are not.  (Ironically, the New Town and Wonderland websites display the EnergyStar logo much less prominently.)

From page 19 of KB Home’s2009 Sustainability Report [pdf]: We have a long history of building ENERGY STAR qualified homes. The percentage of our homes that are built to this exacting standard has grown from 1% of our home deliveries in 2001, the year we began working with ENERGY STAR for Homes, to 37% in 2008. One-third of our divisions built every one of their new homes to this standard in 2008, and only one of our divisions did not build at least some ENERGY STAR qualified homes.

I’m underwhelmed.  First, EnergyStar is not an “exacting standard.”  An EnergyStar home must save at least 15% of the energy used by a standard code-built home.  According to a 2008 National Renewable Energy Laboratory study [pdf p.14], “for a 2,000-gsf house built to achieve 30% energy savings relative to standard practice, a homeowner can save $512 a year more on his or her energy bills than the extra cost of the slightly larger mortgage.”  In other words, this “exacting standard” leaves a lot of money on the table, even when the additional cost (and mortgage) is accounted for.

Further, 37% EnergyStar qualified is better than your average homebuilder… but your average homebuilder does not plaster their website with the EnergyStar logo. 

I wonder if the owner of the tan house (or any of the many other KB Homes I saw with melting snow on the roofs) think they are living in EnergyStar homes?

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Coloradans Can now recycle CFLs

This from Geenprint Denver:

Coloradans can now drop off used compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and mercury-containing thermostats for free recycling at any Ace Hardware store in the state. The spiral shaped bulbs contain a small amount of mercury and should not be thrown away in the trash. CFLs are also accepted in Denver’s Household Hazardous Waste collection program.

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Wealthtrack showtime moved

A heads-up for my Denver area readers… KDBI 12, the local PBS station has moved the Wealthtrack Episode on which I will appear to 2:30 AM Monday morning. If you have set your VCR, re-set it.

Sorry for the late notice!

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Five Free (or nearly free) Ways to Learn about Alternative Energy near Denver

I’m often aghast at the price conference organizers ask for people looking to
learn about alternative energy, when there are so may great inexpensive
opportunities available, sponsored by nonprofits a and other organizations
whose mission is to get the word out about our energy options.  Here are
three monthly events that Denver area residents can go to… I go to most of
these regularly.

  1. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Brown Bag Analysis seminar … Free, but make sure to bring photo-ID.
  2. The Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s Monthly Meetings. ($5 or $40 annual membership – snacks usually served afterwards.)
  3. The Colorado Cleantech Initiative monthly meeting. ($10 with RSVP – you get dinner & free beer.)
  4. Smart Energy Living Workshops (Usually about $10-15, lower with membership)
  5. Clean Energy Action monthly meetings (Boulder)

Please leave comments if I forgot (or don’t know about) your regular free
or almost-free event.

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Denver’s Plan for Tiered Electric and Gas Rates

Once again, I’m proud to live in Denver. The new plan for electric and gas rates (if approved by voters) is one of the least expensive ways to imporve conservation measures. Link to and excerpt from Denver post article below. It will also improve the economice of net metered distributed generation.

Mayor backs ‘green’ plan for Denver

By: Howard Pankratz
The Denver Post
October 24, 2007

Mayor John Hickenlooper today formally adopted Denver’s Climate Action Plan, a series of steps intended to reduce the city’s per capita greenhouse emissions 10 percent by 2012.

The plan is the result of more than a year’s work by a 33-member Greenprint Advisory Council, which studied best practices from across the country to determine the top 10 opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“With adoption of the Climate Action Plan, our real work as a community begins,” Hickenlooper said. “If there is only a 3 percent chance that 95 percent of the world’s top scientists are right about the consequences of climate change, we all have a responsibility to act now. Denver remains committed to leading by example.”

Included among the 10 recommendations are:

Incentive Energy Conservation. Subject to voter approval, it would apply a tiered rate structure to electrical and gas usage. Similar to water rate charges, tiered rates would impose a premium charge for excessive electrical and gas usage. Funds generated would support energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction programs, especially for lower-income neighborhoods.

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Investing In Cleantech 101: October 23, Denver CO

I am helping to organize a workshop on investing in Cleantech companies targeted at private equity investors, in conjunction with the Denver Chapter of the Keiretsu Forum.

Click here for information and registration information.

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Waste Oil Recycling Facility Blocked by NIMBYS in Industrial Area

UPDATE: Thanks for all your help! The zoning comission upheld Co Bioenergy’s recycling permit, allowing them to get back to the business of taking used oil and trap grease and turing it into something useful again.

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A local biodiesel company is in danger of losing its permit to recycle used vegetable oil in an industrial area of north Denver. Please send the following requests to anyone you know who might be willing to help out with an email of by showing up to the meeting tomorrow morning.

Doing any of the following will help!

  • Send an email to Janice Tilden, janice.tilden@ci.denver.co.us, stating your support for BioEnergy of Colorado’s oil recycling efforts in the Elyria nighborhood. Here is a draft letter (make sure to include your address and contact information.)
  • Call Ms. Tilden at (720) 913-3050 and express your support for Bioenergy of Colorado
  • Show up to the hearing to support Bioenergy.
  • When: Tuesday, October 2nd at 11AM.
    Where: Web Municipal Office Building
    201 West Colfax Ave. Room 2.H.14
    2nd Floor ­ ask for the Board of Adjustment Hearing Room
    Who: BioEnergy of Colorado, LLC 4875 National Western Dr. (303) 887-6997
    Opponent: Elyria Neighborhood Assoc., Tom Anthony, President

  • Pass on the word to others you know who can do any of the above.
  • More information from BioEnergy of Colorado:

    In February of this year, the neighborhood assoc prevailed at the 1st BOA hearing where the board ruled that the Zoning Administrator erred when, in October 2006, he issued BioEnergy a conditional-use-permit to make biodiesel. Of particular interest though, they also ruled that we could continue to operate until our permit expires on October 20th, 2007 (about 3 weeks from now).
    As a back-up plan to achieve some utilization of the assets already in place, we decided to shift our business model. We applied for a use-permit to recycle used vegetable oil at this facility. In anticipation of this new application, we sought the help of the Denver Fire Department and they signed a letter of support on our behalf. We submitted the permit documentation for a ‘Recycling Facility’ about 2 months ago and we were awarded an ‘unconditional-use-permit’ which means that this activity is allowed in this zone district. No need for public hearings or special meetings with the Board of Adjustment.
    Much to our amazement, the neighborhood association, once again, appealed this decision, saying that the zoning administrator erred. Their reason will astound you. In the technical paper work that we provided the Denver Fire Department, the term ‘esterification’ (not transesterferication) was included. Esterification is the chemical reaction that occurs in the recycling process.
    Here’s the Neighborhood Association Statement;
    The Zoning Code forbids a use not specifically authorized. The applicant’s filing documents stating “the waste oil recycling process is technically known as an ‘esterification process’.” “Esterification Facility” is not authorized as a use in the Zoning Code and therefore the administrator erred.
    Denver’s Board of Adjustment decided to take this appeal and we need your support by attending this hearing in big numbers. The neighborhood association’s tact has been to attack us, our business practices, and even us personally. This is not a hearing about BioEnergy of Colorado; it is a hearing whether a recycling facility can be located in an I-2 Zone district. The next hearing could and probably will be about your expansion plans in the area.
    What’s at risk: The most valuable resource, time, that we all have spent to pave the way toward a greater use of biofuels. The many million$ invested in technology, capital equipment, infrastructure and marketing trying to get the word out about our great businesses. The local market is at stake. The Denver Biodiesel Coop can buy fuel from out of state from someone who bought it, from someone else who made it, and pay all the foreign markups and transportation costs. Or, they can buy it directly from a local supplier….a neighbor …and, much more.

    Contact:
    Tom Foley
    BioEnergy of Colorado, LLC
    Cell (303) 887-6997
    TommyFoley AT Comcast DOT net

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