Green and Sustainable Building at CSULB

by Robin Yeager on 05/06/2009

in Green Building, Green Education/Training

I’ve just left the 3rd class in the Green and Sustainable Building Certificate Program offered by CSU-Long Beach’s continuing ed department. Over the course of eight weeks we are exploring the parameters of green design and building — from exterior site selection to materials (inside and out) and indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

My fellow students range from curious learners to career changers and those already in, or moving into, the green arena. We are architects and city planners, building and engineering contractors, investors, non-profit project managers, construction workers, a self-described “capitalist”, homeowners and renters. Some of us have been laid off and a few are retired. I am the only lawyer. We share the sentiments of a fellow student who cares about “healthy living” and a “healthy planet”.

Our instructors Wes Harding and John Shipman began with an overview of green building and viewing the home as a system, and now we are taking an in-depth look at the elements of residential building.

One goal of green building is to avoid formaldehyde-based and petroleum-based materials where possible.

Reducing concrete’s carbon footprint
I suspect most of us didn’t know that portland cement is one of the biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) contributors. Cement production requires significant amounts of energy and creates a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct. When fly ash, a coal combustion waste product, is used as a cement substitute in the concrete manufacturing process, it results in lower GHG emissions.

There are those who argue that the benefits of fly ash, which contains substantial amounts of toxic metals, are outweighed by its toxicity. That argument is countered by those who note that when fly ash is used in concrete, any heavy metals in the ash are trapped forever. Couldn’t that argument be made about asbestos? It’s not harmful until you tear it down or break it up? Another problem with fly ash is that far more fly ash must be disposed of than is used to make concrete.


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