News Brief

Sustainable Building Sourcebook

January 1, 1994

New Sourcebook from Austin

Green Builder Program, City of Austin, Environmental & Conservation Services Dept., 206 E. 9th Street, Suite 17.102, Austin, TX 78701; 512/499-3500; 512/499-2859 (fax). Three-ring binder format, 440 pages, $25 postpaid.

The Sustainable Building Sourcebook was written to provide background information for Austin’s Green Builder Program (see EBN,

Vol. 1, No. 1). The Sourcebook is keyed to the program’s Green Builder Guide, which provides a point-rating system for measuring how “green” a participating builder’s project is. The Sourcebook goes well beyond Austin’s Green Builder Program in terms of applicability, though. It will serve as an invaluable reference for all sorts of measures relating to sustainable building. In fact, we consider it one of the most useful publications out there.

The Sourcebook is divided into four major sections: water, energy, building materials, and solid waste. In each section, various topics are addressed, with anywhere from four to over 20 pages on to each. Under each topic, there is a key to the Green Builder Guide, relevant definitions, design considerations, a graphical legend of commercial status and implementation issues (at a glance you can get a rough idea if a technology is readily available and affordable), detailed guidelines, and resources (both specific product sources and information sources). If you’re not in the Austin area (or at least in the Southwest) most of the product and information sources will not be relevant. But we found the guidelines portion of the Sourcebook to be most useful.

Appropriately, coverage given to the various topics is weighted according to applicability to a southwestern climate. Water conservation and passive cooling strategies, for example, are covered in a lot of detail, while less is said about superinsulated wall systems. We found some of the information in the water section to be about the best we’ve seen. A few examples:

• Under indoor water conservation, we learned that simply locating a water heater close to the major usage points reduces water waste in a typical home by about 8,000 gallons per year.

• In the write-up on pervious materials, we learned that if you’re planting grass in interlocking grid pavers you should provide a deep base of topsoil to prevent the root zone from drying out.

• Under flyash concrete we learned that flyash can be substituted for 20% to 35% of portland cement in concrete and will improve workability, reduce water requirements, and increase strength, but that flyash concrete takes longer to reach maximum strength.

• In a comprehensive section on earth materials, we learned that rammed-earth walls can achieve compressive strengths of 450-800 psi without portland cement in the mix, and that 5-10% cement in soil block can increase the bearing strength to 2500-3900 psi.

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