“Seems like four months ago hardly anyone knew of our product, now everyone seems to know about it,” notes Joe Avina of Falcon Waterfree Technologies, whose no-flush urinal saves an astounding average of 40,000 gallons of water per unit annually. According to Avina, the water-saving urinals have already been retrofitted in a variety of locations including Staples Center (186 units), Field Level bathrooms in Dodger Stadium (90 units), the Rose Bowl, bathrooms in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, and other institutional locations in America and around the world.
Falcon’s exhibit, and its “out side the box” solution to saving water, was representative of the approximately 80 green building displays at the fifth annual Alternative Building Materials and Design Expo (AltBuild) held at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last Friday and Saturday. The show featured the latest in building industry products that are environmentally friendly, as well as seminars including the first-ever presentation by the newly organized Green Cities California coalition (Santa Monica included) which promotes sustainability. AltBuild concluded on Sunday with a self-guided tour of green buildings already up and running in Santa Monica.
While a no-flush urinal may not be practical for most homes, Santa Monica businessman Daniel Beattie and his team from locally based Enviro Plumbing had a working model of the latest dual-flush toilet which can be easily retrofitted for residences. One button is for liquid waste and uses only 0.85 gallons per flush. The second button is for solid waste and uses 1.6 gallons. According to Beattie, the dual flush toilet can save 45 to 80 percent of water use over conventional one-flush-fits-all toilets. Enviro Plumbing’s exhibit also displayed a host of other green products including state-of-the-art solar heating panels, a home-scale storm catch system that filters roof run-off and percolates it back into the water table, and an intriguing device that readies hot water for instant use the moment the faucet is turned on – no more wasting cold water waiting for the shower to get hot.
AltBuild’s timing was perfect. On the preceding Monday and in time for Earth Day, the LA City Council unanimously passed landmark “green building” rules for all new projects of 50,000 square feet or larger, mandating energy efficient heating and cooling, use of recycled materials, and water conservation. Many smaller cities, including Santa Monica, have already moved in this direction – LA is the first major city to adopt a green building code. And why not? While much effort is spent by environmentalists on transportation and its impact on the environment, truth be that the majority of our time and environmental-impact behavior is spent in buildings. Moreover, buildings have a lifecycle roughly 10 times that of an automobile, so energy, water, and other resource investment may yield maximum “green return” dollar-for-dollar.
Meanwhile, back at AltBuild, Michael Rieger and Oliver Herbst were babysitting a couple of flats of prostate ground cover on display, foliage suited to GreenGrid’s specialty which is “green roof systems.” According to Rieger, David Hertz Architects at 1920 Olympic is among the first in our city to have rooftop garden systems that insulate and save energy. On warm days – and last weekend was certainly about warm – the roof garden evaporation actually helps to cool the building beneath.
Despite its irreverent name, the company Looney Bins specializes in providing waste containers at new construction and demolition sites and is a leader in recycling those materials at its yard near downtown LA. According to Looney Bins’ display, an amazing 22 percent of landfill waste stream is construction and demolition material. On a somewhat smaller scale, Santa Monica resident Douglas Stoutenburg was on site representing his firm, The Reclaimer, which “reharvests urban timber” from demolitions and offers it for decorative and other use in new building projects. Stoutenburg’s home on Pearl Street features exterior siding that is recycled lumber.
For the small contractor or hard-core do-it-yourselfer, perhaps the best find at AltBuild was the Habitat for Humanity booth. In addition to building homes, the local affiliate also sells donated new building materials at its outlet at 17700 S. Figueroa Street in Gardena. According to David McKechnie, “You never know what we will have in inventory. It is whatever new materials contractors donate. But what is available can be purchased for 20 cents on the dollar.”
Finally, when your newly built or renovated home is green from its underground run-off system to the roof, AltBuild exhibitor and narrative artist S.A. Schimmel has the perfect artwork for the entry or living room – exquisite collage portraits recycled from chopped up junk mail!
Next up on Santa Monica’s all green “Alt” calendar is the 2008 AltCar Expo and Conference on September 26-27.