Sustainable design comes home at West Coast Green (photos)

Green building festival West Coast Green showcases the newest ideas in sustainable home design.

James Martin
1 of 13 James Martin/CNET

LED lighting

SAN FRANCISCO--Each year, the West Coast Green show plays host to many companies hoping to turn what are currently considered alternative technologies into a new, greener standard for home building. This year's show, which runs through tomorrow, features everything from solar window shutters to efficient, nontoxic piping, and greywater collection systems.

Many of the products and technologies here are designed to be integrated into existing home architecture, making current homes greener and more energy efficient.

This is a colorful--and highly efficient--LED lighting display being shown off at the conference.
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Evaporation-based solar desalination system the Watercone is a simple yet innovative device that converts saltwater into clean drinking water.

Fill the black base pan with saltwater and place the contraption in the sun. Water condenses onto the inner wall of the cone, trickling down and collecting on the inner lip.

Originally designed for coastal fishermen in Yemen, the design has a daily harvest of up to 1.6 liters of water.

In addition to serving the 2.8 billion people worlwide without access to clean water, the Watercone could also be used as an emergency water-collecting device for the developed world.
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Aquatherm polypropylene pipes are made of a low-friction material that makes the pipes more energy efficient than traditional metal plumbing systems. They also hold energy better and do not require external insulation, according to the company.

The pipes have heat-fused joints and a flexibility in construction that mean builders can drill into the sides as needed, allowing for easily customizable systems.

The pipes also take less energy to produce than steel or copper counterparts, and will not corrode or leech toxins into the environment, Aquatherm says.
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IceStone is a recycled glass and concrete mixture that can be used to build countertops. While many traditional home concrete products are produced with harmful chemicals, IceStone says its products contain no volatile organic compounds.

The company says it also kept sustainability in mind while building its factory in Brooklyn, N.Y. IceStone says its factory is lit with natural light and is outfitted with a water recycling system.
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Smarter homes

Intel made an appearance at the convention to promote some of its efforts to get into the burgeoning smart-grid industry.

Yesterday at the show, the company announced a reference design for a home energy-management tablet device it calls a home energy control and management "panel."
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PV Solar Shutters

PV Solar Shutters take advantage of the sun, mounting solar cells on bamboo shutters to harvest energy from the sun.

While not capable of powering an entire home, the shutters can act as part of a larger energy system to give homeowners a way to reduce their power consumption by using the many small resources available.

Just plug the grid-tied inverter into any wall outlet to feed the power back in to the home.
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The RainTube was one of many designs at West Coast Green that make simple modifications to existing home building architecture for greener gains.

The simple tube, which lays in standard roof gutters, collects rainwater at a rate of up to 100 inches an hour and stores the runoff in underground tanks.

The system not only protects the foundation of the home from excess water, the company says, but also provides recycled water for use in home maintenance and gardening.
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Saba Motors

Saba Motors' 100 percent electric plug-in sports car is a design that was part of the Automotive X Prize competition in search of a 100mpg production-capable car.

A zero-emissions vehicle, the lightweight Saba Motors vehicle averages a 120-mile city driving range at a reported cost of less than 3 cents per mile.
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Insulated radiant floor-heating system Crete-Heat provides a vapor barrier and thermal insulation.

Installed as an insulated layer below poured concrete floors, and fitted with water-heated tubes, Crete-Heat both retains heat from the home and warms the floor.
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High-performance solar collector Chromasun is a solar-concentrating system that tracks and directs the sun's rays on a narrow strip of solar-collecting silicon.
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GreenLite Motors

Prototypes for GreenLite Motors' 100-mile-per-gallon hybrid vehicle are on display, one of many alternative vehicles on display at West Coast Green.

The two-passenger motorcycle chassis design, which is then covered with a car-like safety shell, reaches freeway speeds and has a range of 250 miles, according to the company.
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Solar water heater

Many products use the free resources of the sun to reduce energy costs and a home's environmental impact.

This solar hot water heater from Velux harnesses the sun's power to heat water for a house. The company says its product has an advantage over traditional home water heaters that require natural gas or oil because they are dependent on the cost of oil, while sunlight is free.
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Aqua2use uses the water runoff collected from the shower, bath, and washing machine for garden and lawn irrigation.

The filtration system easily connects to a home's indoor plumbing and to outdoor irrigation systems, making use of the 40,000 gallons of greywater a typical home produces annually--all of which is typically discarded.

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