SRA Board Meeting Minutes

April 17, 2007

Meeting called to order by President Thistle Cone at 7:06 P.M.

Guest Speaker: (Introduced by Anne Pearson).  Michael Furbish, Furbish Company LLC (

“Sustainable Building Approaches”

He noted in the context of development, although conceptually green building development engenders much enthusiasm, it might be difficult to execute in practice.

He described fundamental considerations of building ecology, including consumption of electricity, and other energy sources, and potable water, as well as generation of waste products, solid and gaseous, including CO2.  The Global Ecological Footprint, a tool to determine the ecological impact of an individual can be found at Using this device, he demonstrated that high energy consumption accounts for a good deal to the footprint. Although at the present time, the US and Europe contribute most to the world’s footprint, rapid development in China and India will, in the near future, likely mean the sustainability level will be exceeded.

Building design and codes should take into consideration not only the impact of the building on its occupants, but as well its impact on others, including energy and water consumption and disposal. How is water handled when it leaves the site?  The design should also take into consideration the ultimate disposal of the building at the end of its usefulness.

His organization, the Baltimore based Furbish Company, specializes in the installation of Green systems. He presented several examples of the types of systems with which he deals.

  • Living roof advantages include;

Reduction of  storm water runoff. A vegetated roof cover can optimally absorb 60-70% of rainfall striking its surface, with the nonabsorbed water discharged more slowly than by conventional roofs.
Reduction of  heat island effect, with consequential decreased HVAC cooling loads
Extention of  waterproofing membrane life, by protection from UV light.
   Creation of  natural habitat
Although effective, it is expensive, as a conventional roof must be constructed to support the load.  This expense may be offset in some areas by financial incentives for the construction of a living roof.
   Living walls biofilters. Developed by Air Quality Solutions in Guelph, Ontario, it consists of a vertical wall of plants, absorbing CO2 and adding O2 as well as filtering the air in the bldg. The plants grow hydroponically in a filter fabric. The root mass can absorb and metabolize airborne toxins, such as formaldehyde and cyclic hydrocarbons.  Air that is thus detoxified is returned to the room. About 1 square foot of wall can filter 100 square feet of floor area.
   Living retaining wall, masonry retaining walls, with vegetation growing in the “skeleton”. A variety of blocks are available in varying sizes, and offer greater strength than conventional masonry, as well as the significantly improved appearance of a vertical garden, instead of masonry.
Solar/Geothermal Radiant floors/HVAC.  Furbish company also installs solar and geothermal systems, using radiant floor systems to reduce the requirement for air handling systems. 
Straw bale wall systems.  He described his house, of post and beam wood structure, with non-supporting hay bales as insulation, coated with earth plaster. In response to a question on mold, he noted that careful attention is paid to leak prevention, and no vapor barriers are used. As such the wall is breathable, and water does not accumulate.  Such construction is utilized even in humid environments, such as the west coast of the U.S. and England.

Composting toilets.  To manage waste disposal the most ecologically responsible manner, he installed composting toilets in his house. Despite initial misgivings, he has found his system easy to manage, and “much better than standard plumbing”. The composter needs emptying approximately every 3 months. The compost removed is odor free and is used for plants.  Much discussion.


  • With an aging population, there are now fewer people in a home, therefore smaller homes should be the rule.
  • Design for efficiency. Design to use less rather than spend on new technology.
  • Leverage thermal mass. Harness solar gain to your advantage. (Load up room that gets a lot of heat with thermal mass – the thermal mass, slates bricks) etc will hold the heat.
  • Minimize phantom loads  - electrical loads that do not have to be on all the time.
  • Commit to compact fluorescents. Consume less electricity.
  • Harvest rainwater, rain barrels
  • No mow lawns, (save pesticides, petroleum etc.)   


  • 3rd strategic planning meeting Thursday April 19th 7 – 9 PM Charlotte Lubbert’s house in Crownsville.
  • Saturday April 21st, 9-noon. Garden care and tours at the Chesapeake Ecology Center, 245 Clay St., around the corner from the Navy Stadium.
  • a volunteer needed to help get the annual meeting invitations out (next 2 weeks: maybe 2 phone calls and it’s done!)
  • Blue and Green Heron award nominations are due (volunteer needed to coordinate printing and frames for awards; and/or could help list nominees for decision in May)
  • At May meeting, will vote on slate of new officers and outside directors

Meeting Adjourned 8:25 pm.

(Revised March 2007)