Earthships, Zero Net Energy, LEED & Energy Star, Oh My!

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly – September 20, 2010
By Guillermo Metz

There will be some old, some new, and something for everyone at this year’s Green Buildings Open House! This annual event kicks off the first weekend in October for two days of touring some of the most incredible green buildings in the greater Ithaca area. And it all starts with an exciting presentation on Friday night at Cornell’s LEED Gold-rated Weill Hall.

Join professor John “Jack” Elliott as he discusses where green buildings fit into the larger picture, including climate change, the production and disposal of toxic materials, and indoor air quality. What has been the impact of creating and populating buildings? How does green building address some of these environmental and social problems? How much can we expect green building methods and materials to help solve the problems created by our built environment? What other solutions will have to be—and are being—developed?

Come find out at least some of the answers to these and other questions at the special presentation Green Building: Attaining the Promise. Then rest up for a big weekend of touring the County (and just over the border into neighboring counties!) when more than 30 homes, businesses, and one amazing bus open their doors for a behind-the-scenes look at real-world green buildings. There are many new sites on this year’s tour, along with some old favorites, where homeowners have at least one more year of experience to share living in and with their homes. You’ll see some of the latest green technologies, including solar thermal panels and tubes, geothermal heating and cooling, photovoltaics, and wind energy, as well as traditional green building methods and materials such as timber framing, strawbale, natural and non-toxic finishes, masonry heaters, passive solar design, living roofs, cob and much more. And the Green Guerrillas will have their solar mobile production studio—a biodiesel-powered 1990 Ford EconoLine bus—parked at the First Peoples’ Festival in DeWitt Park all day Saturday. For complete information on all sites, including which day they are open, visit

Van, bicycling, and walking tours led by expert guides will be available again this year. Preregistration is required for these, but there is a charge only for the van tours ($10/person or $15 for two from the same household). Call Guillermo Metz at Cooperative Extension to preregister.

As always, the Open House is free and open to the public, but this year we are accepting donations at each site on the tour, to help defray costs. Please consider donating, but there’s no need to donate more than once as you tour several sites (unless, of course, you really want to).

Look for volunteers at most sites, wearing bright green t-shirts emblazoned with “Green Buildings Open House” on the front and “Volunteer” on the back. They can help answer your questions and get you signed in. Please sign in at each site you visit, as that helps us track numbers and learn more about how the tour is working, which is critical to our program’s success.

And, look for the official brochure around town. This year, we’ve produced a fold-out poster with complete information about the event, a matrix of each site’s features, full-color maps, and individual listings for every site. It’s available at Greenstar, Ithaca Bakery on Meadow St., Tompkins County Public Library, as well as other locations around town, and here at Cooperative Extension. Inside you’ll also find a short mail-in survey, which is also available on-line at Please fill it out on-line or tear it off the brochure and mail it in. Future programs depend on your input! If you have any questions or comments, e-mail or call Guillermo Metz, Green Building and Renewable Energy Program Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, at or 272-2292, x185.

Special Presentation: Green Building: Attaining the Promise
At Cornell’s Weill Hall
Friday, October 1
$5 suggested donation

The Green Buildings Open House runs Saturday, October 2 and Sunday, October 3, from 10-4. For a full listing of sites, their features, and which of the two days they are open, go to or call Guillermo Metz at 272-2292, x185.

Sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and the Ithaca Green Building Alliance, as part of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s Green Buildings Open House and the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour.

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles

Tags: ,