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All The Money Waiting for a Good Cause!

Advocating for the diversification of buildings, biomes, and businesses to establish sustainable legacies.

✔ Accessible rebates & grants for sustainable building

✔ A case for the wood stove in a battery-operated world

✔ The importance of plaster in natural building


Rebates & Grants


In the last 2 weeks, I've had random encounters and, subsequently, interesting conversations with at least a half dozen grant writers in the sustainable building space.


I took it as a sign to start researching what kind of incentives and funding are available on both federal and private levels for sustainable building. The hard truth is that sustainable building can be expensive, but as it turns out, there are several ways to get a hold of these incredible funding opportunities:


1. The Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit


What qualifies?

  • Solar Rooftop - 30% tax credit for federal taxes (Grants are also available to cover 50% of the cost for those eligible)

  • Solar water heating

  • Fuel cell energy

  • Small wind energy

  • Ground-source/geothermal heat pumps and storage

  • Tech-neutral structure

  • Open to other technologies deemed zero emissions

  • Insulation or energy-efficient doors or windows (installation labor not included) - $1,200 annual credit limit

  • Heat pumps and biomass stoves or boilers (installation included) - $2,000 annual credit limit

  • Energy audits - $150 per year



2. Energy-Efficient Homes for New Construction Programs



3. Home Electrification & Appliance Rebates


  • Energy Star Heat pump - Up to $8,000

  • Electric load service center & wiring - Up to $7,500

  • Insulation, Air Sealing, & Ventilation - $1,600


4. Other Funding Programs



I was surprised to see how much money is out there floating around waiting for a worthy cause! Currently, the IRA is bringing $370B to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.


What's more is you don't actually have to be a non-profit to go after these opportunities. In many cases, you can simply partner with a non-profit to have them write a letter or submit an application for you.

Remember, I am not a tax attorney. Consult your tax accountant to see how to file for these credits. Also, personal and business tax credits differ and I did not distinguish the difference here.



A Case for the Wood Stove


I love wood stoves. They are a resilient and a globally recognized method for heating. Also, who doesn't enjoy the peace of looking into a mesmerizing fire? If you live in an abundance of trees, and are actively managing woodlands, wood stoves are a great backup heat source.

Unfortunately, the wood stove is slowly losing merit in regards to efforts to draw down carbon emissions. I recently learned that in some jurisdictions, having a wood stove can actually account for negative points towards energy efficiency. In urban areas, I can see how this could be the case— with houses close together, CO2 running rampant, and a lack of woodlands. However, in many rural wooded areas, this consideration seems unnecessary. In fact, it goes against the very nature of resilience and self-sufficiency.


This simple and primal technology is the root of humanity. Having the element of fire in our homes is important not only for our heating needs, but (in my opinion) our psychological needs. Any biomass heater is actually a form of SOLAR heat. The tree or plant grew, thanks to the sun. It is a renewable resource if sourced responsibly.


In a world of electrification, I start to feel weary of the reliance on a battery-powered world…



The extraction and processing of raw materials for batteries (especially in the case of lithium-ion batteries [lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite) can result in significant carbon emissions as well as environmental impacts such as habitat destruction and water pollution.


When biomass (such as wood for wood stoves) is burned, it releases carbon dioxide (CO2), but the net emissions can be considered relatively low and sustainable if the biomass is sourced responsibly and replenished through regrowth or other means.

So how does one source biomass responsibly? Simply don't clear cut trees. Cut back sporadically (this can help decrease wildfire spreading in some areas). Also known as coppicing, which is the woodland practice of cutting down a tree to a stump. In many species this actually encourages new shoots to grow from the stump or roots, ultimately regrowing the tree. The FSC has more detailed regulations, but if it's on your own land, you can cut trees with that same principle.


Compared to traditional open fires or older less efficient stoves, modern biomass stoves equipped with efficient combustion technologies and proper ventilation systems can actually minimize emissions and improve air quality. This reduces emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides.


A wood stove indeed has some very real safety concerns. Putting a fire inside the house, if not properly controlled, can destroy everything you've built very quickly. There is also the risk of increasing particulate matter, carbon monoxide, VOCs, and nitrogen oxides in the air, so it's important to have a proper venting system to bring in outside air and remove stale interior air consistently.

Safety notes for a wood stove:


  1. The flue does not bend (currently not to code in many areas)

  2. Burn completely dry hardwood

  3. Use an EPA-certified stove with a catalytic converter



One other plus to having a wood stove in your home is that it can reliably heat water for our domestic needs. With a combination of wood and solar-heated water, you can have most of your hot water throughout the year with minimal effort!


Ben Falk has some great information on how to set these systems up.



The Importance of Plaster in Natural Building


Plaster is a big deal. I didn't come to terms with this until I found myself at the Plaster Guild Retreat on the Olympic Peninsula a couple of weeks ago. Surrounded by 50 lime and clay plaster enthusiasts, I started to realize that this was the HEART of the natural building movement.


Natural Building is nothing without high-quality plasters. The precious earthen and plant-based materials acting as our insulation and thermal mass can not do it alone! These materials will degrade from the elements or the invasion of critters. Properly maintained plaster is completely weather resistant. Plus, with proper reinforcement, no animals can find a way to nest into that nice straw, cellulose, or hemp.


Plaster also acts as an air barrier, increasing the air-tightness and energy efficiency of the home. You don't necessarily need some fancy high-embodied carbon membrane or tape. As long as gaps around corners, outlets, windows, and doors are sealed with the plaster, it is airtight.



It is also the perfect pair for natural materials because it is vapor-permeable which keeps the building envelope from trapping moisture in and growing mold or mildew. There are certain plasters, such as Tadelkt (a Moroccan Lime Plaster), that can be buffed down with a stone and made completely waterproof.


The international code for plaster is still somewhat ambiguous. The standardization of lime and clay plastering mixes and techniques still need to catch up. However, there is no doubt that plaster has been used globally since the beginning of our building history.


Plastering is a true craft, and I consider plasterers artisans. There is a real opportunity to bring custom art and beauty into our homes. These integrated art forms are what makes our houses feel like homes.


Plastering is not an easy job. It is hard on the body. With heavy buckets and hand troweling, it's not for the faint of heart. Plastering is a manual job that takes time and it is often expensive. As technology advances, we are beginning to see more spray applied plasters. These techniques still take time and labor, but it is far easier on the body for those working on these projects.



Interested in building a resilient property?










 

… And that wraps up this month's Building Resilience newsletter! As always, please email a reply if you have any questions about resilient design or if there is a topic you'd like me to cover in a future newsletter.

Once again, I just want to thank you for all that you do whether that's sustainable building, or just educating yourself on the matter. Even the smallest step towards a more resilient future is a move in the right direction. I commend you for helping build a strong foundation for our future generations.

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 CHRISTINA

I love all things natural. I love building places we can call home and in turn be our most authentic selves. 
 

Although I specialize in architecture and interior design, I appreciate all forms of design where form and function are in balance.

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