The Sanborn Sun February - May 2000
Society for the Protection
Of New Hampshire Forest
Article By Amy L.
Web Site By Thomas W.

     What can you do to make your house more environmentally friendly?  To answer this question we decided to visit an award winning, environmentally friendly establishment, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest (SPNHF).  Upon stepping on theSPNHF Sign grounds we instantly knew all our questions would be answered.  The SPNHF created several buildings, including an office building for two uses: to carry on their non-profit work, and to educate others with their energy saving and environmentally friendly designs.

     Entering the main building, you open a huge pine and cherry wooden door; once inside, you must open another door before you enter the lobby.  Having these two doors, with a vestibule in between them is a heat saving feature. It prevents the Pine & Cherry Door outside air from entering the building immediately.

     Once you enter the lobby, the environmental consciousness of all the people is obvious.  The sun enters the lobby through 1500 square feet of glass.  One important aspect of the center is that the whole building is facing south with the glass towards the sun.  In an interview with Paul Leveille, the Property Manager, he told us, "When building a new house, just by facing it towards the south and concentrating your glass on that side, you could significantly reduce your heating bill."

     Not only does the glass increase the amount of heat entering the building, but also the black slate floor absorbs the energy and stores it during the day.  At nighttime the heat is slowly released.  In other spots in the building, there is carpeting made from recycled carpets.

     The building is heated by passive solar heating, meaning it takes in heat, stores it, and then releases it slowly. There are other techniques they use to heat the buildings.  Thirty-four, 10-foot high transparent water tubes in the office areas also heat the center. Each holds 132 gallons of water and the sun raises their water temperature. Halway
Then the water reflects this into the office buildings.  The center also has a complex system to circulate hot air trapped towards the ceiling and moving it below the building and back through the floor panels.

     Insulation is another important technique the SPNHF uses to store heat and energy. Though when the center was created the insulation was considered very "high tech", today it is standard.  The new building the center is currently working on will be 11,000 square feet, and will be "super insulated."  The center is heated 80% by solar heating, and a wood stove and wood fired furnace provides the other 20%. 

     The windows are kept to a minimum on the north side, because it rarely sees the sun.  The earth is higher on this side with a low roof. This protects the north side from the northwest winds.

     Amazingly, they have also devised a way to keep the center cool in the summer.  The windows are positioned so that the high summer sun does not hit them directly.  Also they have planted sugar maple trees to shade the center and vents in the ceiling to release heat.

     Why would the center do all of this? What effect does it really have?  The passive solar heating reduces the need for burning fuels, which contribute to air pollution and global warming.  The center heats its own water with solar water heaters. The hot water systems eliminate the need for propane or natural gas.  The solar panels on the top of the building offset about 5600 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year, thus eliminating the need to pay for electricity from a utility that would be buying it from a coal fire plant.  The solar panels actually produce about 4000 kilowatts of electricity in a year, saving them about $400.  Compared to the $27,000 it cost for the system, that is not saving a lot, but it is a lot when you consider the environmental benefits.

     After the tour, we were very impressed with all the center is doing to help the environment. Mr. Leveille offered these tips to the question, "What can we do in our own house to help out a little?"  Mr. Leveille gave us lots of good suggestions.  To paraphrase he told us, use your energy wisely.  If you look at the biggest environmental crises, the biggest of them, global warming, ozone depletion, and acid rain, they all relate to our use of fossil fuels.  One thing we can do is live close to where we work or go to school.  Get some exercise and walk some places; this reduces the need for transportation needing fossil fuels.  Insulate your house, purchase energy efficient appliances, and install energy efficient lights.  Though this might cost you a little more, the cost benefits will be returned to you in a few years with the energy you save.  Unplug your computers and TV’s.  These appliances are still running even when you turn them off, so that when you turn them back on, they come on instantly.  Andy Lovers from the Rocky Mountain Institute said, "TV’s and VCRs and things like that should have three switches, it should be on, off and really off."

     Mr. Leveille gave us more tips such as, use low VOC paints in your house that do not emit toxic fumes.  Don’t buy furniture made from medium density particleboard, which is made with formaldehyde-based glue.    Mr. Leveille concludes this interview with these words: "Things you bring into your house can have an environmental effect, positive or negative, on pretty much anything you do."  As we walked through the building one last time, we felt encouraged to make our impact on the environment positive.