Re: Re: Is building green, green or is it light gray
From: Fritz Jack (
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2004 08:51:11 -0700 (PDT)

Your question addresses an extremely important issue for 
the modern industrialized world! Sadly, I think we
are still at the stage of research on how to evaluate
the total impact of products on the environment.  I asked
the same question of a presenter at some green conference
I attended, and his seemingly informed response was that
not many products are analyzed from this perspective,
not to mention designed from it.

One area of research is called Life Cycle Analysis.  
Another is Industrial Ecology.  Fascinating concepts, and 
they ought to be mainstream business and desgin practices, 
but they are not yet...

Here are some examples from a brief google search on
"appliance life cycle energy analysis".

>From the "Journal of Industrial Ecology"

"The life-cycle energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and 
costs of a contemporary ... home were evaluated to study 
opportunities for conserving energy throughout pre-use 
..., use ..., and demolition phases."

Another research presentation, in which the life cycle 
costs of an appliance are studied as an example is here:

One legitimate reason we are so far away from this is that 
it is a complicated subject.  You have not only the energy 
use question, but the material question.  How much of what 
resource are we using and what did we do to the earth
to get it?  How do you combine into a single measure of 
"cost" such disparate things as energy use and the degraded 
land from strip mining ior whatever was done to get the
raw materials.  

In a properly functioning industrial ecology, the first 
generation of appliances to use a new material would 
seem to come out very costly, but the next generation 
that re-uses the material would be of significantly 
lower cost.  One has to figure out how to amortize that 
cost over multiple generations...

Amory Lovins (Rocky Mountain Institute) and other daring
visionary souls are starting to talk about this sort of 
stuff.  I would have thought that the Rocky Mountain 
Institute would have a lot going on in this area, but I 
couldn't find anything directly relevant to it on their 
web pages.

I think Pliny Fisk at the Center for Maximum Potential 
Building Systems is on this track, but for the buildings, 
more than the appliances.  For example, from

we have: 

"Life cycle analysis measures 'the total impact of 
resource utilization, including sourcing, transportation, 
manufacturing, use, reuse, recycling and disposal.'  For 
instance, in their analysis of the state insurance 
building, Fisk found that by substituting granite from 
Texas for Italian granite, they could save 600,000 
kilowatt-hours of energy. Replacing imported materials 
with local materials saves not only energy, but time and 
local jobs."

Most interested to hear anything from others who know 
about anything going on in this area.

Eric Viscito

--- Cynthia Armistead <listmail [at]> wrote:

> Duncan Cavens wrote:
> > Hi everyone,
> > 
> > This is a very relevant question to my partner and I right now: our home 
> > in Roberts Creek Cohousing (near Vancouver, B.C.) will be finished at 
> > the end of the month.
> > We've been trying to figure out the environmental benefits/costs about 
> > buying new energy efficient appliances vs. buying slightly used 
> > appliances.  I've done a lot of searching, but have not been able to 
> > find any information other than factsheetsfrom Federal Energy 
> > authorities that seem to only promote the appliance manufacturers (i.e. 
> > "current appliances are twice as efficient as appliances from 10 years 
> > ago".)
> > 
> > While this information is useful, I'd like to know what the impacts are 
> > of manufacturing a new stove, shipping it halfway across the country, 
> > and what the impacts are of disposing/recycling of the old appliance 
> > that we wouldn't be buying on the second-hand market (we don't currently 
> > own any appliances.)    My gut feeling is that the net impact of making 
> > a new appliance (fridge/stove/etc.) far outweigh the environmental 
> > benefits of a new appliance, but I have no way of figuring this out.  
> > Money isn't really the issue (although slightly used models run for 
> > about 1/4 to  1/8 the cost of new.)
> > 
> > Does anyone have any insight / resources/ etc. on this topic?
> Hi there! I've been lurking 'til now.
> I don't really think you need to worry about the appliance that you 
> might have bought. In my experience, they do find new homes. I've never 
> simply discarded one - even those that weren't working at the time were 
> usually repairable. Local Freecycle groups are absolutely marvelous for 
> rehoming appliances and just about anything else 
> ( ).
> We recently bought a new dishwasher because the old one just wasn't 
> working well enough. We'd end up running one load through several times, 
> or I would essentially hand-wash everything and then put them in the 
> D/W. Both were very wasteful (and hard on my hands).
> It was better to simply buy a new, more efficient dishwasher. The old 
> one went to someone who could and would fix it. We're saving water, the 
> gas to heat it, and time.
> Namaste,
> Cyn
> -- 
> --
> cyn [at]
> "I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma."
> --Eartha Kitt
> -- 
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