Solar and Green tour showcases environmental building practices

by Patricia E. Matson
Thursday, October 6, 2011

Staff photo by Allison Potter

A skylight provides natural illumination to a renovated office space and children’s play area at ILM Design Build in the Queen Street Co-op.


"We all really work together," said Justin Durazo of ILM Design Build, one of the three businesses sharing the Queen Street Co-op. The facility was among seven sites visited by the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance’s 7th Annual Solar and Green Building Tour on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Co-op tenant Rick Harris of Cape Fear Rainwater explained how the building, which houses his company, along with Carolina Green Building and ILM Design Build, collects rainwater for their own uses. The co-op business owners practice what they preach in other ways such as recycling tile samples from a previous tenant for their bathroom floor.

Durazo said he never really used to think about building green, but since working in the business, he found it was not only worthwhile but fun.

"It’s awesome. … It makes me be creative and find new ways of doing things," he said.

The Queen Street Co-op was the last stop on the CFGBA’s annual tour, which began at WAVE Transit’s Forden Station. The new bus station facility features a green roof, pervious pavement, recycled materials, low-flow fixtures, low-VOC paints, geothermal heat and orientation to maximize sunlight in winter and minimize it during the summer.

A WAVE bus carried approximately 20 people on the tour; others drove or biked, and dozens more attended demonstrations of eco-friendly technology. Tour goers included staff members from the New Hanover County planning office, students studying sustainability technology at Cape Fear Community College, people who had recently moved to the area and a family planning to build a new home in 2012.

At the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the marquee on the lawn was partly disassembled to reveal its inner workings. The designers placed a blanket over the solar panel to simulate night, triggering the LCD lights. Stan Harts of UNCW said various conservation measures at various school facilities had reduced the university’s per-foot energy consumption by 30 percent.

At an energy-retrofitted private residence on Finian Drive, Carolina Green Building’s Robbie Sutton explained how his company had combined photovoltaic and thermal systems as well as sealing the home to prevent energy loss. He said the renovations, which also included a solar water heater, were expected to pay for themselves within seven or eight years.

At a new home on Lauralis Bluff Court contractor Bill Christopher explained the water-conserving features that led to the home’s designation as the first in the state to obtain WaterSense certification, which signifies efficiency in water use. There was no outdoor irrigation, a pool liner prevented evaporation and all plumbing fixtures were low flow. In addition, the master bath conserves water with a motion sensor that triggers a recirculating pump for hot water, sent from the heater when needed rather than cooling in the pipes and having to be flushed. The measures were calculated to save thousands of gallons of water per year.

The last home on the tour, on Hellene Drive, was the winner of the 2011 CaliBamboo Green Home Challenge. Solar tubes reflected sunlight into the interior, but the house also featured subtler green factors such as low-flow fixtures, non-irrigated landscaping, and orientation to optimize lighting and minimize the number of trees that had to be cleared.

Glenn Floyd of the Wilmington Housing Authority explained the green features of the LEED-certified Taylor West housing development. All appliances were Energy Star certified; separate air-conditioning systems cooled the upstairs and downstairs, and low-flow fixtures saved water. In addition, the development was close enough to walk to churches, banks, schools, parks, one restaurant, and a bus route.

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