20th Annual Midwest Renewable Energy Fair
Every summer NPCC staff grab their suitcases for a wild vacation....Wait.
What I meant to say was, “a Continuing Education trip to benefit our clients.” Our Continuing Education trips always spark ideas and excitement about new directions our company can take. And if we have a little fun along the way, well, we can’t help it. We’re just a fun group.
This past summer, New Prairie staff joined over 23,000 other participants at the 20th Annual Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. Our company was able to learn more about wind and solar energy systems, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly building techniques, biofuels, and new green products. We also had an opportunity to get better acquainted with non-profits around the country fighting for the environment.
A tour of green-built homes and businesses allowed us to see a variety of green building techniques at work. As part of the tour, we stopped in to enjoy a beer at the Central Waters Brewing Company, a local brewery using solar power, radiant floor heating, recycled materials, and energy efficient equipment. They even recycle the grain used in the brewing process.
After a weekend at the Renewable Energy Fair, New Prairie headed up to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio.
Taliesin, Welsh for “shining brow,” stands on a hill in Spring Green, Wisconsin, Wright’s boyhood home. Because Taliesin was built by inexperienced students and Wright was more interested in the design than the future of the house, its restoration has been difficult and uncertain. When we visited, much of the house was in the process of being shored up.
A bit of friendly arm-wrestling (Jenn won) topped off another New Prairie vacation full of golfing, hiking, sightseeing, and swimming. The country around Spring Green is beautiful and well worth a trip. If you visit, be sure to check out the nearby House on the Rock, another architectural wonder that houses a vast collection of unique objects.
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BECOME A FAN!
New Prairie is now on Facebook! We use our FB page to share interesting facts and links, update our customers on new services, and post the occasional silly picture of the crew.
ORPHEUM CELEBRATES RESTORATION
And who doesn’t like a silly picture?
The New Orpheum Theatre in Champaign, Illinois, was a vaudeville stop on the once-famous Orpheum Circuit, a series of Orpheum Theatres scattered across the United States and British Columbia. Among the many famous acts that played at the theatre during its heyday were Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Burns & Allen.
The historic theatre was saved from demolition in the late 1980s by our local Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA). Since then, New Prairie has been privileged to restore and remodel both the lobby and mezzanine areas and, this past year, the auditorium.
This massive job, which began in February of 2009, involved repairing or re-fabricating damaged plaster mouldings, beefing up framing, drywalling, and painting. A “dance floor” scaffolding was erected to reach all parts of the 32-foot high ceiling.
As part of the moulding restoration, New Prairie invited students from the University of Illinois School of Architecture to our shop to learn more about the process.
The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, which owns the building, celebrated the restoration with a fundraising wine gala in October, 2009. To see pictures from all phases of the project, and to learn more about the process, visit New Prairie's Orpheum Restoration webpage.
NEW PRAIRIE RECYCLES
Although remodeling is less wasteful than new construction, there is still quite a bit of debris generated. New Prairie recycles everything it can from the job site, and is always looking for new ways to keep material out of the landfill.
All of our metal, recyclable plastic, and cardboard are sent to recycling centers, and reusable scrap wood is stored at our shop. (Smaller scraps go into wood-burning fireplaces). Some items removed from the site, from cabinets to trim, can be donated to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore or the Preservation and Conservation Association in Champaign. We are currently looking for better ways to dispose of waste from the various chemicals we use, such as paint thinner.
Some facts to ponder:
Visit Earth911, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Energy Information Administration for more information.
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KIDS' BUILDING FAIR
The Preservation and Conservation Association and the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum began the Kids' Building Fair in 1992 to help engage children in some of the activities and skills associated with our built environment.
The Fair always takes place in May, which is Historic Preservation Month. The Theatre itself, which is listed on the the National Register, is a wonderful example of an old building being restored and put to a new use.
New Prairie has run the Carpentry section of the Fair for over a decade. Copious amounts of donated scrap wood, nails, and hammers are available so children can create whatever they dream up. Our crew is on hand in case the kids need help finding the right pieces, nailing, or getting their turn with a hammer. (We also scour the parking lot with heavy-duty rolling magnets to pick up all the extra nails!) Often kids will finish off their creations at the Painting section of the Fair. Other booths include plumbing, electrical, plastering, bricklaying, tiling, and landscaping.
The Kids’ Building Fair was a recipient of a 1994 Richard H. Driehaus Preservation Award for Educational Programs from Landmarks Illinois. Contact the Orpheum at (217) 352-5895 for more information.
For more information about New Prairie’s commitment to community involvement, visit our our Community Work webpage.
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When considering choices for flooring in your next home project, why not take a closer look at eco-friendly products?
Bamboo flooring, reclaimed hardwood, natural linoleums, recycled rubber, and cork are all considered environmentally-friendly. It’s important to thoroughly research your sources, however; some manufacturers still use formaldehyde-based glues and finishes that off-gas even if they claim to be “green.”
If you’re looking for the warmth and look of wood, bamboo and reclaimed wood make good choices. Most reclaimed wood comes from the timbers of industrial buildings, old barns, and other structures slated for the landfill. Both hardwoods and softwoods are available. Many vendors are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or by SmartWood. Bamboo, which matures in three years, is self-regenerating, requires little or no pesticide use, and is available in several shades and “grain” patterns.
Natural linoleum, marketed as “Marmoleum,” is reportedly made from all-natural materials, is non-toxic and biodegradable, and is installed using either solvent-free adhesives or no adhesive. Expanko’s Rubber flooring, according to its website, is made from “a unique blend of recycled tires, post-industrial waste rubber and virgin rubber.” Both products come in a wide variety of colors; rubber can also be custom-colored.
Cork flooring, currently enjoying a resurgence of popularity, is available in dozens of rich colors and patterns. No dyes or stains are used to achieve cork’s unique look; the variations result from the production process. It is soft on the feet, sound-dampening, resilient, durable, and environmentally-friendly from harvest to installation. Most cork is coated with a UV-inhibiting finish, but exposure to sunlight should still be limited.
While New Prairie doesn’t endorse any specific brand, we’ve found Expanko's website, to be an excellent and well-organized source of information on cork and recycled rubber products. Ecohaus also has information on a wide variety of flooring choices. Just type in “flooring” in the product search box, and a list will come up.
BENCHMARK FOR GREEN BUILDING: LEED CERTIFICATION
Since 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization, has advanced its Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. It is now nationally recognized as the benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.
LEED certifies new commercial and residential construction, as well as the operations and maintenance of existing buildings. Buildings built or retrofitted and maintained following LEED guidelines reduce waste and harmful greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and water, and have improved ventilation and indoor air quality, which helps reduce the occurrence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
The LEED for Homes rating system measures the overall performance of a home in eight categories: Innovation and Design Process, Location and Linkages (placement of homes in community), Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere (efficiency in heating and cooling), Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Awareness and Education (of homeowner, tenant, and/or building manager about operation and maintenance). There are four performance tiers – Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, based on points given for each of the eight categories.
Presby Hall, on the University of Illinois campus, was built to LEED Gold standards. It is the University's first "green" residence hall. The building uses a ground source geothermal heating and cooling system, low flow faucets and toilets, and environmentally-friendly furniture, among many other green features.
LEED Certification isn’t just environmentally friendly, though; it can make economic sense, too. Although the up-front costs are generally larger than a traditionally built home, LEED programs reduce operating costs, increase resale value, and, in some areas, qualify for tax rebates and other incentives. These benefits have been shown to make green building extremely cost effective.
Check out USGBC’s website for more information on the LEED program. The site also has links to the latest green building research, educational opportunities, and “The Green Home Guide,” with tips and links for homeowners.
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Interested in learning more about New Prairie? Visit our website to meet our staff, see interesting photos, and more. You can even request an estimate.
More questions or comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 217-344-5131. We'd love to hear from you.