Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Social Energy

November 17th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

They said it couldn’t be done. But ConduitNW, an online watering hole for energy efficiency professionals, has nearly 1,000 members since launching in May of this year. As Sustainable Business Oregon reported last week:

Led by [Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance] NEEA in partnership with the Bonneville Power Administration, Conduit was built and will operate through 2014 on a $1.25 million budget, about $400,000 of that dedicated to development costs.

The BPA contributed a separate grant, in addition to the startup website’s group of utility funders, to get ConduitNW up and running. The two agencies have been working for the last two years on the project.

The new social media site – which is a mix of LinkedIn, Facebook Groups (from way back when?) and Google Docs – gained some social media cred recently when it stole what would have been serious Twitter thunder from this year’s Efficiency Connections Northwest 2011 held in Tacoma, WA.

This is what a futurist looks like.

[BTW: the conference featured David Zach (who’s job title is “Futurist.” WTF, what a great title. Apparently there are only a few on the planet). The other Keynote Speaker was L. Hunter Lovins, Author of Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.]

Though ConduitNW’s main target for the site is the 150 nationwide utilities working toward energy efficiency, it also attacts a number of contractors and “impementers,” according to NEEA’s online community manager, Ben Fowler. The site came out of a call for collaboration by utility execs to state govenors in 2008, according to a BPA public utilities specialist in energy efficiency.

At ConduitNW, you can catch up on industry news as well as upcoming energy-related and NEEA events. Browse by sector, function, topic or group, receive email notifications and share information with colleagues through document sharing.

And of course, upload a great profile pic.

Sidenote: Have you checked out “A Profitable and Resource-Efficient Future,” the new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) yet? The ever-vigilant EarthTechling picked it up and spit it back out to us this week:

According to to the report, commercial buildings are responsible for about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and, in some countries, 70 percent of electrical consumption. Nearly one-half of all energy consumed by buildings could be avoided with new energy-efficient systems and equipment, and the energy savings would exceed the cost of upgrades, generally within five years or less, the report said.

Urban Cowboys, Going Deeper with EEI

September 22nd, 2011 by Jim Crowder

UrbanLand Magazine recently turned out a thoughtful analysis, Energy Efficiency Markets Evolve Globally, of The 2011 Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) , the fifth time a global survey of real estate decision makers has been conducted by Johnson Controls. For the first time, ULI got into the research fracas with Johnson Controls, to analyze and release the results. The Building Advisor touched on the EEI a couple weeks back in Summer HVAC Wrap + BetterBricks Video, but nobody does serious data like ULI.

If you’re not familiar, the EEI is the last word, the “state of the union,” if you will, gauging the hearts and minds of of global executives and building owners responsible for energy management and investment decisions in commercial and public sector buildings. This year, the EEI surveyed 4,000 respondents in 13 countries on six continents and was conducted in eight languages. That’s a lot of bubbles to fill in completely with a #2 pencil!

‘Extremely’ or ‘Very’: Energy Efficiency Makes the Big Time

What you probably already know: as many as seven in ten executives globally say energy management is extremely important or very important to their organizations. Execs have pursued an average of nine different energy efficiency measures in the past year.

And what’s motivating them? Simply put, the rising cost of energy. We all know energy costs will keep on rising. It’s sort of like gravity – you can pretty much count on it. Up significantly in importance from 2010, however, is government incentives. With over half the states offering some kind of financial incentive for efficiency measures, execs are now listening. It’s sort of like getting cash back at the grocery store on a big ticket item: why not? Third biggest motivator was to enhance the branding of a building.

In fact, interest in certified green buildings doubled from 2010 and for the first time, certification efforts are more prevalent for existing buildings than new ones. Lower on the motivational list: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, domestic energy security, and other government policies.

Now, the challenges: while the graphic to the left shows that 67% of executives surveyed report that they have allocated capital from their operating budget to energy efficiency in the last year, (yay!) significant market barriers to pursuing further investment (boo).

These barriers come in all colors and flavors, depending on market sector. From the report:

The five key barriers to energy efficiency investments reported in the survey are:

  • lack of awareness of opportunities for energy savings;
  • lack of technical expertise to design and complete projects;
  • lack of certainty that promised savings will be achieved;
  • inability of projects to meet the organization’s financial payback criteria; and
  • lack of available capital for investment in projects.

For the contractor serving small to midsize buildings, it is interesting to note that respondents with control over more square footage in larger facilities report having implemented more energy projects than those with smaller facilities. But trickledown is sure to follow.

Four is the Magic Number 

According to the EEI Survey, real estate organizations sharing the following four key strategic practices are most likely to get on the energy efficiency bandwagon, and implemented four times as many energy efficiency improvement measures as those that did not:

  • goals established for reduced energy use or carbon emissions;
  • energy use data measured and analyzed at least monthly;
  • added resources dedicated to improving energy efficiency through the hiring or retraining of staff, or the hiring of external service providers; and
  • external financing sources used for projects.

The Building Advisor can’t help making a couple of points here. For energy use data measured and analyzed at lease monthly, our Verify product for ongoing, continuous monitoring is the solutions. I mean, have you read what it did for J.E. Shekell in Smart Solutions (J.E. Shekell Uses Building Advice to Slash Energy Bills in Half ) or the NEWS (Facility Energy Audit Leads to Huge Savings)?

And in the second place, BuildingAdvice is like adding a team of expert management, sales, and engineering personnel acting as an extension of an HVAC Contractor’s current team to drive the development and ongoing execution of an energy services business. ‘Nuff said.

And Speaking of Incentives Changing the World

Sacramento development image by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

The Gray Lady’s Energy & Environment section reported  on a $650 million private sector investment in energy efficiency for existing buildings in this week’s article, Tax Plan to Turn Old Buildings ‘Green’ Finds Favor.

It’s getting around that a retrofit can typically cut a building’s energy use so much that the project pays for itself in as little as five years. A new tax arrangement in Miami and Sacramento allows property owners to upgrade their buildings at no upfront cost, typically cutting their energy use and their utility bills by a third.

Lockheed Martin, Barclays Bank and some other big boys, headed up by Ygrene Energy Fund of Santa Rosa, Calif., have formed a consortium that will invest $650 million in such upgrades over the next few years.

The article called waste in older buildings “one of the nation’s biggest energy problems” and cited energy as a sector that could eventually be worth billions.

The meat of the plan is pretty genius: the constortium is kind of like a strip mall serving all of your energy efficiency needs in one stop. Ygrene and its partners gain exclusive rights for five years to offer this type of energy upgrade to businesses in a particular community. Lockheed Martin does the engineering work. Short-term loans come from Barclays Capital to pay for the upgrades. Then, “Contractors will offer a warranty that the utility savings they have promised will actually materialize,” the article states. Insurance underwriter, Energi, of Peabody, Mass., backs up that warranty. It goes on from there.

Best of all, owners pay no upfront cost for energy efficient upgrades. Instead, a surcharge is attached to subsequent property tax bills for five to 20 years. However, as the surcharges are less than the savings, the upgrades pay for themselves. Really. The new approach could garner substantial private capital for many midsize and smaller businesses to get on the energy efficiency bus.

In the past three years, half the states have passed legislation permitting energy retrofits financed by property-tax surcharges, and hundreds of cities and counties are considering such programs. The new financing approach is called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE financing. PACE saw some serious backlash last year when an arm of the federal government that oversees the mortgage market took a hostile stance toward such projects on residential property, on the grounds that they add risk to mortgages. But, the article notes, “So far, it appears that PACE programs for commercial properties pose fewer legal complications.”

Richard Branson by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

The consortium was put together by the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit environmental group based in Washington set up by Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur and billionaire, to tackle the world’s climate and energy problems in cost-saving ways.

Git Along, Little Doggie

“Perhaps the most serious risk,” the article notes, “is that fly-by-night contractors will be drawn to the new pot of money, pushing energy retrofits that are too costly or work poorly.

‘Contractors are cowboys,’ said Dennis Hunter, chairman of Ygrene. He promised close scrutiny of the ones selected for the Miami and Sacramento programs.”

What say ye to that, boys?

Ride ‘em, cowboy!

Cowboy image courtesy themurkyfringe.com.

Integrating HVAC and Energy Services with Energy Service Agreements

September 16th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Advice to HVAC Contractors on Making the ESA Sale, Avoiding Anklebiters, and Long Term Relationships

Thom Brazel, our hero

Thom Brazel, our hero

by Thom Brazel, Chairman of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA) Board of Managers and General Manager of West Coast Operations for Hill York, a leading provider of commercial air-conditioning and energy solutions. This 75 year old company is a leading provider of commercial air-conditioning and energy solutions with six locations across Florida. With nearly twenty years experience in the HVAC industry, Brazel is a LEED AP, and was part of the Task Force that created the MSCA LEGS (Labor Estimating Guide for Service) as well as the MSCA Green Star certification and MSCA Green PM.

Note: This article appeared in HVAC Business on June 28, 2011. The Building Advisor wanted to get it over to the blog for archival purposes. 

When I look back at the HVAC industry over the last few years, I’m amazed that in 2007, nobody in our industry was talking about LEED or green. At that time, honestly, finding enough retrofit and service techs was an HVAC company’s biggest problem.

Now it’s absolutely different. I’m hearing anecdotally that a 60% decrease in HVAC contractor business is common. We’ve had people flat out tell us they don’t know what to do. Contractors who used to be in residential and light commercial are competing with bigger companies, because the smaller projects have dried up.

I call them the “ankle biters,” because they’re underbidding; they want to get the job now, get the money and move out. It’s creating significant price competition. However, many of the small guys are going under, and the larger companies that aren’t adapting to change are going away as a result of competing a losing battle on price.

Anklebiters Vs. Value

We are now seeing a culture shift between contractors competing merely on price, and those companies really executing on more of a value-add. And I see an ever widening rift between these two types of companies. We can fight over the scraps for awhile, but the smaller contractors who are in it for the short term will eventually run out of cash, fall away, or get gobbled up by a bigger company.

Many contractors seem to be dealing with difficult times by grieving over it, rather than reinventing themselves. They go from denying there’s a problem, to being angry, to bargaining and making deals, until they’re depressed and finally move into acceptance of the marketplace for what it is right now.  Unfortunately for many companies, it is now too late.

A lot of businesses think if they stick with it, things will go back to the way they were.

Everything Existing Is New Again

At Hill York, our focus for decades has been predominately on new construction, and we’ve had to adapt beyond an additional focus on service, maintenance and retrofits all the way to creating safer, healthier buildings that are serviced from a holistic viewpoint.

We have restructured the company in response to current economic times, and made multiple changes to provide solutions. The biggest change is our attention to existing buildings, and energy driven retrofits. We like to say, ‘It’s only a new building once, but it’s an existing building forever.’ That is where the majority of our focus now lies.

Two years ago, our hyGreen division [Hill York’s team dedicated to providing strategic, energy-saving solutions to new and existing buildings] was a department made up of seven or eight people. Today, it is becoming a company-wide culture. Almost every retrofit project we do has an energy component. We now don’t simply take it past the hyGreen team – we ask ourselves going in, “what is the hyGreen component of everything we touch?”

We’ve sold approximately 35 Energy Solutions Agreements (ESAs), and we use a building performance diagnostic program, BuildingAdvice, in conjunction with many of them. BuildingAdvice uses data collection and analysis to generate comprehensive reports such as energy benchmarks, assessments and audits with escalating levels of detail on improving energy usage in the building. There are other tools available, but BuildingAdvice is our preferred tool because it’s automated and applicable to the widest number of building types.

At Hill York, we have it structured where the customer pays for the initial energy reports only if they don’t elect to complete a project we recommend as a result, assuming that project meets their buying criteria. By and large, we know there’s the potential for energy savings in pretty much any facility we survey, so we have little risk of not finding a viable project.

Looking Forward 

If you’re the driver, you’re never going to get driven around. My advice to HVAC contractors working with an ESA model is that right now, it’s a financially-based sale,  but it’s a relationship-based sale as well.

You have to show the hard numbers on ROI or it’s not going to happen. Tools like BuildingAdvice reports help to quantify statements. [Hill York’s hyGreen also partners with other companies, including utiliVisor, OptiNet, Energy Expert, and SmartCool, to sustain and measure energy performance for commercial and industrial businesses.] For example, in Florida, HVAC is typically 60% of a building’s overall utility cost. We can anticipate overventilation, but measuring carbon dioxide levels with BuildingAdvice helps us put a dollar figure to it, rather than simply being speculative. The findings have to be real, and tangible. But that’s only half the battle. You need a customer who knows and trusts you. A customer who sees you as a partner.

Learning from Mistakes

Here’s a little example of where Hill York blew it with a potential customer. We were recently going after a maintenance agreement with a customer who has been using another vendor for years. From a pricing standpoint, our proposal on the 200,000 square foot commercial office building was in the same ballpark as the other vendors. Our program was clearly a value-add to the potential customer, as it included a simple energy benchmark, determined the building performance relative to other buildings and identified a handful of opportunities, all of which yielded significant energy savings opportunities. Here’s how the conversation went after they’d received that info:

Potential Customer: “Thanks for the info. Good stuff! However, we are happy with the folks we’ve been working with. We know them and they know us.”

Hill York: “If your current vendor is truly looking out for your best interests, why have they never mentioned any of these cost-saving opportunities to you before?”

Potential Customer: “Good point, however, now we are aware of the opportunities for savings, and we really appreciate the information!”

Long story short, we didn’t get the maintenance agreement, and the other company did the energy projects we recommended.

Where did we fail? We used the finest technologies available to gather data, did the analysis and proved to the customer we were smarter than the other guys, but we didn’t bother to develop a level of trust and rapport first. Did we differentiate ourselves?  Absolutely. But we missed the most important piece – the relationship.

Relationships Still Key

During challenging economic times, the companies who survive will do so due to strong relationships. Work within your company’s relationships, and strengthen them with the credibility that comes from harnessing the information that can be obtained from the technologies that are readily available. Continuously look for ways to make every one of your customers operate their facilities better, and they will remain your customer.



Why The Building Advisor Loves ULI, Too

September 7th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Rachel Headings on a dream date with ULI

So, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) is really smart. Last summer they launched a video contest – the very directly aimed “Why I Love ULI Video Contest” – and recently announced the winners in advance of the organization’s Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo in Los Angeles, Calif. coming up October 25-28. Best of all, ULI posted the most contest entries on their YouTube channel, ULITV. Brilliant!

And other than the fact that it’s hard to find really good videos having to do with building performance, here’s why ULI isn’t really off topic for The Building Advisor: the Urban Land Institute provides leadership in the responsible use of land, and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. This membership organization supports real estate professionals, including contractors, at the local, national and global levels with regard to best practices, industry news, land use development, and a free exchange of ideas.

But Rob Voigt explains it way better.

Joanna Todaro puts it all poetically to a sweetly animated, adorably scored video that articulates the HVAC related virtues of ULI: bridging professionals and social responsibility. And watching Rachel Headings fall in love with a personified ULI is nothing short of a mini romcom.

Now, Stephanie Darden kinda stole The Building Advisor’s heart with this one. Why? Because hugging a building is what it feels like when you’re happy that it’s functioning as energy efficiently as possible. And for the dog who makes a cameo.

But the winner is – well, telling in that it got the most likes on ULI’s Facebook Page. Man I Love ULI — submitted by Varun Sharma of Toronto, Ontario – will thump its way into your heart. Sharma is a gangsta of love, this much is clear. He will be awarded a one year ULI Young Leader (less than 35 years) or Associate Membership, along with an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 ULI Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo, October 25 – 28 in Los Angeles.

Read more about the content and winners at the ULI Live! website, dedicated to the organization’s Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo in Los Angeles, Calif. October 25-28.

Near and Far, Awareness of Energy Efficiency Grows

August 25th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Mass Energy LabFirst, the good news. In Massachusetts yesterday, a Cambridge-based commercial and industrial energy solutions firm, Mass Energy Lab, announced a contest inciting undergraduate and graduate level students to identify, research and present evidence on a promising new-to-market energy efficiency product. Entrants will present evidence on the product’s ability to impact energy waste reduction and its marketability, and are eligible to win $3,000 as the top prize.

Anybody want to research BuildingAdvice? We make a great science project.

According to a press release, the contest is “intended to encourage students to research and identify cutting-edge, new to market energy efficiency solutions and to think deeply about how the technology can be applied to facilitate the reduction of energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings. “

Check out Mass Energy Lab’s foxy R&D section debuting any day now, featuring whitepapers, casestudies, product reviews, industry experts and test results.

Now, the not-so-great news.

li keqiang david cameron

Li Keqiang and David Cameron make a deal.

China’s buildings need to go ‘green’ – before it’s too late”:

“In the next 20 years, China plans to urbanise as many as 300m of its rural people, driving an insatiable demand for energy and materials as almost the equivalent of America’s population fires up their new fridges and air-conditioners.”

DOOD!

Chinese Vice Premiere Li Keqiang’s visit to England’s Building Research Establishment (BRE) – a group of architects, engineers and scientists at the cutting edge of new building techniques – last winter made Britain’s Telegraph UK this week with the announcement that the BRE was signed up by the Chinese to create a £100m, 4.8m sq ft innovation park in Beijing, together with Vanke, China’s largest property developer.

Apparently, China’s “green building” industry could eventually be worth £144bn per the vice minister of the Housing and Urban-Rural Development ministry. Now that’s actually pretty good news.

On the other hand, Chinese government is “painfully aware” that a quarter of China’s energy use is currently eaten up by buildings. In turn, they are pressuring developers to spend time thinking about water, energy and carbon savings, but many who design real estate in China think sustainable construction means simply tacking on green components with add-on costs. As writer Eric Fish puts it,

“When integrated intelligently from the start, utilities savings quickly cancel out the extra costs. Total upfront costs sometimes even dip below the price of traditional buildings.”

The Times of India reported that The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bureau for Energy Efficiency (BEE) for the creation of energy efficient technologies (‘We need to adopt energy efficient technologies’).The MoU also outlines the creation of awareness and capacity building of local Business Development Services (BDS) providers for implementing energy efficient technologies. The clusters will be scaled to meet the needs of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) clusters.

Lastly, right here at home in Oregon our Department of Consumer and Business Services Building Codes Division received a national award for its work in energy efficiency.

Jeff Johnson was an advocate of Building Energy Codes

Jeff Johnson was an advocate of Building Energy Codes

The sixth annual Jeffrey A. Johnson Award for “Excellence in the Advancement of Building Energy Codes and Performance,” an award designed to recognize the pursuit of energy efficiency, according to Sustainable Business Oregon.

Energy Savings Grabs Attention

June 30th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

evansville courier press logoFile under “bursting with pride”: last weekend’s Sunday edition of the Evansville Courier Press featured our latest BuildingAdvice poster boy/channel partner Aaron Derr of J.E. Shekell in a story by Carol Wersich, Evansville ARC finds energy savings with state grant. We were particularly pleased to see local coverage on this terrific energy savings win for a nonprofit serving adults and children with disabilities in Evansville, Indiana.

The Building Advisor was also excited to see that same channel partner featured in Contracting Business’ June print issue under Editor’s Notebook: Business Bits. If someone has stolen your copy again, you can see the online article here: BuildingAdvice™ Energy ServicesProgram Leads to 50% Savings.

But enough about us…ok, that line never gets old. Sorry.

new construction contraction

May's ABI score was 47.2, a slight decrease from a reading of 47.6 the previous month.

Last week, Heidi Schwartz of Today’s Facility Manager reported on the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a leading economic indicator of construction activity. The number has contracted rather sharply for two months in a row, reflecting the decrease in spending for new construction.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. was quoted as saying:

…there is no denying that the prolonged credit freeze from lenders for financing commercial projects is the number one challenge to a recovery for the design and construction industry.

What does that mean for HVACs? With no early indicators of growth in new construction, it means the focus is on keeping existing buildings running and functioning smoothly – maybe even more efficiently than their owner/managers had considered before. As with many aspects of our lives, the recession is forcing everybody to extract the most value from the assets they already possess.

dog at work

Apparently prolonged exposure to computer screens can indeed cause eye strain.

(On a lighter note, did you know TFM has a Friday Funny category on their blog? Last week’s was on Take Your Dog To Work Day, or TYDTWD for those official memos. Couldn’t resist stealing this pic).

An BuildingAdvice favorite, BEPinfo – that’s Building Energy Performance Assessment News, if you’ve been installing too many AC units of late – included the great news this week: Hartz Mountain Industries Receives Two Awards For Energy Efficiency Practices.

BOMA New Jersey recognized Hartz Mountain, one of the biggest privately held real estate owners/developers in the U.S., with two awards for its energy efficiency practices as part of the chapter’s First Annual Building Energy Reduction Awards program. One of the awards was for energy reduction achievements at five commercial buildings which resulted in an annual savings of $262,243 and an overall consumption reduction of 13% or 1.9 million kWh saved. With industry leaders like Hartz and CB Richard Ellis stepping up all over the place, it’s only a matter of time until energy reduction strategy is standard practice.

Images courtesy Evansville Courier Press, Take Your Dog to Work Day, webpagefx.

Dave’s World: How Soon the Return of the 100-Year Building?

May 2nd, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Here’s another post from Dave HewettBuildingAdvice senior advisory consultant and  former Chairman of BOMA International. It’s part of a series of guest posts from his blog, “Dave’s View,” a from-the-hip view of issues facing commercial real estate executives published on his site, ecobuildertoday.com.

Enjoy!


I have been reading, watching and thinking much about ancient structures lately;  including the coliseum, cathedrals across Europe, ancient cities of the Aztecs, and Egyptian pyramids. Most of these are buildings that required decades, if not a century or more, to construct; most were functional for multiple centuries and are still standing (if only partially) today. Modern architects, engineers and other professionals are continually amazed at the complexity of the design and engineering that went into their planning and construction.

Egyptian pyramid

Today we debate the holding period of a building in years, with ten years as being a long term hold, while we consider the useful life of a building in terms of a few decades at best. Is this because they cannot be used in our ever changing society, or because we cannot see into the future as well as ancient real estate developers?

For the next decade at least, I believe we will see many changes in the ownership period of buildings, as well as the expected lifecycle of buildings. The economics have forever changed in our industry. While certainly, like any other industry, there will be opportunistic owners and special marketplaces with dramatic peaks and valleys, I believe overall we will see a flattening of cycles and an economic landscape in the real estate industry resembling a marshland; be careful where you step more than ever.

Rome's Colosseum

Properties will rely more and more on long term potential, so buildings will have to adapt to varying uses, and capable of longer lives. With a society that changes so quickly from day to day and hour by hour, the demands on buildings are more and more forced to respond to a changing life cycle. Churches become pubs, theaters become churches, warehouses become housing, and office becomes retail.

The real estate investor needs the skin of a chameleon, prepared to consider the next use prior to making the first purchase. The strategy of real estate has become a serious game of chess.

Aztec temple

The modern one hundred year building, typically found as a downtown, (or core area), high rise (used for housing or office) was constructed to last through several owners and uses. Today, most urban and suburban buildings are constructed to fit a spreadsheet, not a market cycle.

This will be change as markets get flatter, cycles get faster and uses continue to change: adaptive re-use will become the king. New buildings will be forced to become not only environmentally sustainable but economically sustainable as well, which will force a longer ownership horizon. Infrastructure will be required to be  adaptable and built for the long term, whether core, urban or suburban.

Images courtesy korthalsaltes.comsynergy-athletics.com and destination360.com.

 

Dave’s World: Green Comes in Many Flavors

April 27th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Here’s another post from Dave HewettBuildingAdvice senior advisory consultant and  former Chairman of BOMA International. It’s part of a series of guest posts from his blog, “Dave’s View,” a from-the-hip view of issues facing commercial real estate executives published on his site, ecobuildertoday.com.

Enjoy!


On a recent flight (delayed by only three hours), I picked up a copy of National Geographic. While it may make sense to find a great example of sustainability and green in this magazine, I was surprised to find the expression of sustainability in an article that was a celebration of renewal.

The High-Line is an abandoned elevated rail track in the midst of Manhattan. It was originally built in the 1930s and mostly abandoned by the 1960s, providing some limited use as a rail service into the early 1980s. While it had a very productive and useful life, over the last 30 years it has sat vacant and deteriorating. Parts of it were torn down in the 60s while the remaining one and one-half miles has been neglected, discussed, overlooked, looked into and finally, mostly forgotten.

In 1999, a couple of young residents began the long process of seeing what could be done to save this unique structure. Over the past 10 plus years much has happened. Among zoning changes, neighborhood meetings, city meetings, and everything else that goes into changing real estate including public money, private money, and sweat, a park was developed. The neighborhood began to revive and thrive. Today the majority of the remaining line is a world class park. A community is teeming and there is green, as in flowers, trees, and shrubs in the urban core of New York City.

This is the type of thinking I believe we will continue to see across the country: adaptive re-use of real estate. Given the massive change in our economy andlingering unemployment, high vacancy rates will take years to fill. I believe the biggest play in real estate for the next five to ten years will be adaptive re-use of existing infrastructure. Green has sprung from concrete and steel in NYC; we can only imagine where we will see it next. This is sustainability from both an economic and an environmental perspective.

To get a firsthand view of the High-Line project, watch the video, read the article at National Geographic Article –High-Line or just enjoy the photos at National Geographic Photos – High- Line.

 

Race To The Facilities: Who Will Be the Software Solutions Provider of Choice?

April 13th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

It’s a little bit out of The Building Advisor’s ken, but Property Management Software Guide has a blog that recently caught our eye thanks to the nice guys at Software Advice.

IBM Acquires Tririga; Facilities Management Enters the Limelight ran on on Property Management Software Blog last week and as author Houston Neal points out, the move could be a telling one by Big Blue to acquire not only facility and real estate management software provider Tririga (full press release here), but how their allowance of $20 billion to spend in acquisitions of software companies under IBM’s Smarter Buildings initiatives will play out.

Smarter Buildings, launched in February 2010, is a portfolio of applications that help property owners and managers track operations, maintenance, and energy expenses.

The Triringa acquisition helps round out IBM’s current offerings with new real estate portfolio management, capital project management, and energy management capabilities. Triringa, a Vegas-based outfit, has won accolades from Gartner Inc, worked with the Department of Homeland Security, and runs an annual user conference.

IBM predicts their Smarter Planets projects will generate $10 billion in revenue by 2015. This is consistent with the predicted trend toward increased awareness (and spending) on the massive potential to reduce energy waste in buildings. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, energy efficiency upgrades could represent a $250 billion market over the next 10 years.

The larger question, of course, being who will be THE provider for property management, real estate and facilities software? Do all of those user groups want to be lumped into one category? Does a holistic approach mean one software channel into which all data flows through?

As Neal writes:

“All these ‘illions are grabbing the attention of major IT players and bringing facilities management vendors into the limelight. Microsoft, HP, Cisco, and many others are making strategic moves to fill their rosters and fortify their offerings. Who will get there first?”

Thanks to Tim Kensok for helping out with this post!

Images courtesy caston_corporateCrimCollective.

Living Future Is Almost Here

March 15th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Cascadia Green Building Council LogoSome of the best and brightest in the green building and facilities industry gather in Vancouver April 27-29 for Cascadia Green Building Council‘s fifth annual “unconference,” Living Future. “The unconference for deep green professionals,” Living Future features keynote speakers Majora Carter (Majora Carter Group), Jason F. McLennan (CEO, Cascadia & International Living Building Institute), Sarah Harmer (Canadian Singer-songwriter/Activist), and Margaret J. Wheatley (Author, Speaker, and Organizational Consultant). For keynote speaker bios, click here.

Living Future also presents an exhibitor tradeshow and education sessions on energy and other breakout topics. Architects from CxA and HKS, Inc. will give a demonstration on incorporating energy modeling into the design process to inform schematic phase design decisions. Got a bright idea you’d like to present? You can submit it to the “15 Minutes of Brilliance” presentation, in which individuals with transformative ideas share their solutions on sustainability and the built environment. There’s even a “FUN” Camp for kids, tweens and teens, and tours of the area too.

Spots are filling up quickly, so you’ll want to book soon. Last year’s demographics show contractors as only 4% of attendees, but our guess that number will be on the upswing this year. Living Future is a great way to get to know Cascadia Green Building Council, a membership-based nonprofit organization which provides its members with learning and networking opportunities based around sustainable building practice through regional hubs. Flip through Cascadia’s free online magazine, trim tab, for a taste of the organization.