Posts Tagged ‘Green’

MSCA Musings: Following Up After the Conference

October 27th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Guest post by Jim Crowder, BuildingAdvice CEO, as excerpted from last week’s Building Monitor e-newsletter. If you would like to receive the Building Monitor in the future, you can sign up here.

We just returned from the Annual MSCA Educational Conference in beautiful Colorado Springs. It was a well organized event chock full of useful sessions that will help members improve their performance.

It also marked the passing of the Association leadership torch from Thom Brazel, Hill York, to Woody Woodall, W.L. Gary Company.

Thom helped drive association awareness of the opportunity energy services provides the HVAC industry. Under his leadership, and with the support of Barb Dolim’s MSCA staff, Thom helped create a new vision for the MSCA GreenSTAR program that will help members incorporate energy solutions into their core service offerings. Not only is the association planning to provide tools, but they are developing an impressive training program to educate members.

We at BuildingAdvice applaud Thom and the rest of the association for providing the leadership the industry needs to make commercial building owners and operators aware of how valuable HVACs can be in helping to eliminate energy waste in commercial buildings.

No industry is better positioned to provide these types of services to commercial buildings. Energy expenses represent 30% of the controllable operating cost of a building. HVAC and lighting combined typically constitute about 75% of the total energy spend.

BuildingAdvice CEO Jim Crowder

So, who can deliver real, measurable value to building owners? It’s not the janitors or the elevator guys! We look forward to working with Woody, Barb and the rest of the MSCA team as they move into this lucrative field.

Building Advisor’s Note: Have you seen the MSCA’s new YouTube channel? Check out their first video below.

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.”


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.

Greener, Greater Buildings Are Here.

August 17th, 2011 by Jim Crowder
IBM's Jane Snowdon

IBM's Jane Snowdon

IBM Senior Manager Jane Snowdon guest blogged for CNBC this week, taking the opportunity to mull on New York City’s “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan.” Of course The Building Advisor called out the importance of this little alliterative city initiative back in April of 2010 (Greener, Greater, a Long Way Away?), but who’s counting?

Yep, it’s that old mandatory benchmarking and public disclosure idea again, but this time, it’s a lot closer to reality. It’s happening, people! August 1st deadline!

Not only does the DOE’s Energy Star program dictate the most readily-usable set of standards for evaluating a building’s energy usage, it makes buildings profitable, too. Snowdon shares:

A 2009 study by the University of San Diego found that Energy Star buildings — which rank among the most efficient in a pool of similar buildings — attracted 13 percent higher rental rates than the market average, with vacancy rates running about 3.5 percent lower.” – Jane Snowdon, CNBC

[More great research on how Energy Ratings Can Make Properties More Profitable.]

In states and cities where energy benchmark scores are required, they will be available on sites like (which also has a handy matrix of energy efficiency incentive programs nationwide. Bet there’s one in your city). breaks down efficiency incentives state by state breaks down efficiency incentives state by state

In a New York minute, 16,000 buildings are slated to begin collecting performance data. What’s more, The Greener Greater Buildings Plan has the potential to reduce citywide energy costs by $700 million annually by 2030 and help to create roughly 17,800 construction-related jobs over ten years.

Pointing out the falling cost of the kind of monitor-based, networked technology banks and airlines began employing a decade ago, Snowdon says it’s a great time for commercial real estate to embrace tech for energy savings. I mean, today its benchmarking and disclosure, tomorrow, automated analysis of efficiency investment potentials.

Oh wait. You can do that with BuildingAdvice right now. Right.

Oregon Facilities from Jengo Media

Oregon Facilities from Jengo Media

Say, have you seen the handsome set of facilities-minded, yet glossy and pretty print mags from Jengo Media? We’ve got our own Oregon Facilities here in the Northwest, but they have cognates for Arizona and Utah too. Western facilities managers have all the luck!

Interestingly, energy efficiency isn’t going over as big as some folks had hoped this week:

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported Seattle green jobs program falls short of goals. It seems the program funds low-interest loans and incentives for buildings to do energy-efficient upgrades just doesn’t have enough takers.

Similarly, a small business loan program implemented in Arlington Heights, Ill. earlier this year could expire if interest doesn’t pick up, the Journal Online reported in Energy Program May Burn Out.

The moral of this story? Money from the government for energy efficient upgrades is sitting on the table, unused.

Lastly, Forbes reported Cisco Exits Energy-Management Software Market. What? Their energy-management products were designed to leverage Cisco’s prowess in the “dark arts of networking” for better controlling HVAC systems. But now they don’t wanna.

Are you missing summer camp? Revisit the magic of BOMA 2011 here:

That should cure it.

Webinar on Demand, New York’s Energy Movement

June 9th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

First off, some eye candy! Did you know you can access Part 3 of BuildingAdvice’s How-To Webinar Series – Sales and Marketing Best Practices – at the Energy Services Resource Library?

coned energy efficiency summit new yorkThe New York Times (via Greenwire) reported on a sea change for existing NYC buildings in this week’s story, Skyscraper Owners Learn ABCs of LEDs in Push to Save Energy. Sparked by the Con Edison Energy Efficiency Summit, the event is indicative of what Greenwire called “an energy-efficiency movement that is transforming the city’s real estate market.” Quote:

The City Council is still considering a slew of recommendations offered last year by the Green Codes Task Force, a temporary alliance of building professionals charged by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to find ways to use building codes to force reductions in electricity use. But experts say the “green retrofitting” industry here is taking on a life of its own, independent of the expectations of the Bloomberg administration. – The New York Times via Greenwire

Additional factors cited for added emphasis on energy efficiency in the Big Apple:

  • Falling commercial rents in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis forced building owners to scramble for ways to reduce costs, and cutting energy use was at the top of many to-do lists.
  • The city’s buildings and their equipment are aging and due for refurbishment or replacement.
  • Commercial real estate transactions are down, so property companies are holding their buildings longer than at other times, encouraging them to make them more efficient.

Moreover, real estate professionals are discovering that energy efficient buildings command demand and better rents. And you don’t have to be LEED anymore to garner attention; insiders say the most influential projects do not carry the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) seal.

Perhaps the article’s nitty gritty was spoken by Michael Waite, a senior staffer at the engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. who emphasized the need to spell out the cost-benefit equation to building owners.

“To make an investment, an owner wants proven technologies and some idea of the return on investment,” Waite said. “The lack of confidence in some measures is understandable — there is an investment required, the energy performance prediction tools are imperfect and every building responds differently.”

Another reason to get behind the scientific data collection, analyzation and reporting provided by BuildingAdvice. This “movement” – however exciting – is really a sign of the times resulting from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)’s energy efficiency incentive program enacted last year, as well as new statewide energy efficiency standards. The article has more on New York’s energy rebates, as well.

davinci middle school first LEED classroom

A skylight in the Evans – Harvard High Performance Classroom at the da Vinici Arts Middle School in Portland, Ore. was recently awarded LEED platinum certification – the first K-12 public school building to achieve this level of certification.

Right here in BuildingAdvice’s back yard, Ameresco announced multiple energy efficiency contracts with regional school districts including Portland Public Schools. The energy efficiency and renewable energy company announced it would conduct Investment Grade Audits under a new phase of a budget-neutral Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) with the district.

Nonsequitur: did you know the NEWS has its own LinkedIn Group? Your fave NEWSer editors Mike Murphy (get to know him better at his video blog Murphy’s Travels), Barb Checket-Hanks, and others are there.

If you don’t already know, has a handy Tip of the Day in text and audio format which is quick and informative. You might want to sign up for the RSS to get these tips delivered straight into your email. “Energy Model Can Improve HVAC System Energy Efficiency” caught our ear/eye recently.'s tip of the day

Non-non-sequitur (is that a sequitur?) if you listen to the soundbite at the above link: submetering: what do you think? Does it affect your business? How are you using it? If you could submeter your chiller plant, would you? Did anyone notice The Building Advisor put Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. and Prince into the same post? That’s how we roll.

Images courtesy Rethink Energy and Design, a blog from Better Bricks, Ameresco,

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,


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.


Cascadia’s Green Building Group Gets Real on MoU with GE

December 9th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Last Wednesday, Cascadia GBC’s Green Building Interest Group (GBIG) focused its monthly panel discussion on the Memo of Understanding (MoU) signed between the City of Portland and GE last summer (The Building Advisor blogged on it here). The announcement, while cool, was a bit cloak and dagger, flying under the radar of most media outlets possibly due to its vagarity: the public/private partnership and use of the phrase “sustainable economy efforts” were dead giveaways.

So John Lerch, Government Relations with GE, Clean Energy Works Oregon’s Director of Marketing Will Villota, and John Tydlaska from the Portland Development Commission tried to help the wily brokers, builders, and other green nerds maneuver what was behind last June’s “big formal handshake,” as one panelist put it.

GE and Portland Partner for Sustainable Growth from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

Turns out, nobody’s all that sure what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, the Oregon Sustainability Center (OSC) is going to be a part of it. Clean Energy Works Oregon needs to be a part of it, due to their status as a nonprofit organization in a pilot program stage that needs to expand.

For another thing, Portland still wants to be best in class on sustainability. Sure, the projects aimed at falling under the header of the MoU will be 1) close to fruition and 2) demonstrative of exportable skills. But its clear we want to use the net zero buildings and university system/City partnerships that come out of the MoU as proof of Portland’s brand as the nation’s hotbed of sustainable innovation.

The City of Vancouver's Olympic Village Project

One hope is that in the delivery of ecodistricts – neighborhoods that are self-contained organisms, both creating and consuming the resources they need – around Portland with the help of GE, we’ll be “retrofitting communities.” This is a deep thought, one to which whole initiatives have been devoted to here at the local level.

Even deeper? Enlisting the public utilities to help us. When you’re starting with a self contained community, like a military base, all the way up to a fast growing, diverse neighborhood like Lents Commons, creating ecodistricts out of existing communities will be a trick. Looking at this “retrofitting communities” idea, we’d have to disassemble a neighborhood that is, according to older models, working just fine.

It’s kind of like increasing the energy efficiency of existing building stock. Its a whole lot easier to build something energy efficient from the ground up (just ask Will about his solar envy). When forced to make something that already exists better, we tend to face a roadblock where many people give up.

It’s a mammoth dream, this ecodistricts stuff, and the GBIG folks on both sides of the table know it. As far as how we get there, Villota alluded to companies like Opower (in the residential space) and Bundle (a financial software dashboard), which show users how their resource usage – be it energy or money – measures up to other Americans. The overall goal being to make energy efficient upgrades a more emotional decision than it ever has been before, even a social imperative.

What do you think? Are competitive dashboards the way to incite motivation for achieving energy savings in the commercial sector? Tell us what you think below.

Images courtesy Portland Online and Sightline Daily

So what’s with this “Green” word? Is it really catching on? Why should I care about green?

August 13th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

So you hear about it in the news, online and on our blog. Green… It seems that the word is everywhere these days. The question is, are building owners getting on the bandwagon as well? According to a recent report released by Pike Research, the green movement is only getting bigger. In fact, according to their research, the amount of certified green buildings will increase by 780% in the next 10 years.

Now that is a big number. But how does that affect you if you are a mechanical services contractor?

Let’s do the math. Let’s say you have an average size service business with 500 service contractors. Now, let’s say that just 10 of your customers buildings are currently green certified. If the math holds true then in the next 10 years you would have 78 customers with certified green buildings.

Why is this important?

More and more mechanical service providers are getting into the Energy Game. If your customers are going “green” they will need someone to partner with to make that happen. What are the chances that their “partner” ends up being your competition?

Let’s face it, whether your customers want to go “green” or are just looking to save money, the energy movement is no longer a fad, it is a reality.
If you are not able to provide this service to your clients someone else will.

An executive summary of the report, “Green Building Certification Programs,” is available at

Creating Green Jobs

January 18th, 2009 by Lucas Klesch

The current economic downturn has put an emphasis on how reliable we have become on the standard industries that have perpetually driven our economy. Yet, this current “market correction” is ripe with the opportunities to create a sustainable version of our economy centered on Green Jobs and Energy Services, the two emerging growth industries which are service oriented and focused around the very core of our market economy.

We all work in buildings, right? Those buildings all have either an owner or operator who needs to provide tenants with a comfortable and productive environment so they can retain the rent money. The tenants are driven by “greening” the environment they spend most of there time and feeling good about the job they do during the day. In comes the HVAC service provider who employs an automated building performance test that helps to identify the energy and comfort issues in the building, proposes solutions to the owner to fix them and save money. The owner is excited because their building is more comfortable for tenants, saves them money and because the HVAC provider has tied the performance assessment to the building’s service agreement, the owner has a built in mechanism to assure themselves of the savings when the provider comes back in a few months to do a checkup. The tenants are happy and productive because they are comfortable, work in an environment with clean air and know their building has lowered its Carbon Footprint because of all the energy being saved.

Now, imagine your energy service business doing this every week from a pool of nearly 2,000,000 buildings that range in size from 5,000 to 100,000 square feet, the most underserved buildings from an energy perspective. These buildings consume 56% of the overall energy spend from commercial buildings and easily can squeeze 10-30% savings from there operation without a big ticket capitol expense. The money is in better building operations and service to those buildings. Multiply this by a small team of dedicated “green energy” professionals who offer LEED services along with there energy assessments and you have a growth industry ripe with opportunity, even when the economists are predicting most woes for our economy.

Are we ready for being Green? Part 2: Business Confidence

January 15th, 2009 by Lucas Klesch

Leading entrepreneurs view climate change as a growing strategic concern

Source: Business Wire First Published Nov. 20, 2008

Leading entrepreneurs view climate change as a growing strategic concern according to a survey conducted by Ernst & Young. A significant majority of entrepreneurs surveyed (61%) view climate change as an important strategic concern, while 70% have increased their focus on climate change initiatives over the past 12 to 24 months.

In line with broader corporate trends, 80% expect to increase their cleantech spend over the next five years: namely to improve their internal operations and supply chain, and to meet their corporate responsibility requirements. Nearly half (44%) have budgeted at least US$1 million for climate change investments over the next five years and 6% anticipate spending upwards of US$20 million during the same period. Sixty-seven percent cite the opportunity to enhance competitive position as an important strategic driver. Other key opportunities identified include contributing to a wider climate change solution (65%), brand enhancement (63%), gaining customers (61%) and enhancing efficiency (56%).

In terms of climate change-related risks, the cost of energy and other resources was identified as an important risk by the largest number of entrepreneurs (55%), closely followed by a “greening” customer base (54%), energy reliability issues (44%) and operational efficiency/continuity (43%). When asked to identify the single greatest challenge in responding effectively to climate change, the greatest number of respondents (28%) said regulatory uncertainty.

In terms of financial return, the majority of respondents (69%) said that their response to climate change would have a positive or neutral impact on the bottom line over the next 10 years. Thirty-seven percent of respondents have completed or are in the process of developing a formal climate change agenda. Another 37% identified developing an agenda as a company priority. The majority have taken actions in response to climate change: 76% have identified new products and services; and 74% have identified cost saving opportunities.

Climate change has moved to the top of the CEO agenda at many leading companies. Of those surveyed with a climate change agenda or one in development, most (69%) kept overall responsibility for climate change response at the full board level. Respondents generally believe that their boards have a good grasp of climate change legislation and risk, and that the information their boards need is largely available.

Are we ready for being Green? Part 1: Consumer Confidence

January 12th, 2009 by Lucas Klesch

A recent survey from The Climate Group highlights a willingness to change and that we can impact the economy by doing so without spending extra money, in fact folks even believe it will save them money!

Some highlights of the survey include:

  • 63% of Americans said they believe tackling climate change will benefit the economy
  • 52% said tackling climate change will not personally cost them money
  • Most prefer (as they always did) to contribute by changing their behavior and spending extra time rather than spending extra money

Those feeling financially worse off than last year are scarcely less committed than those feeling better off:

  • 41% of people who said they believe themselves to be financially worse off also said ‘I am focusing on making changes to my life to combat climate change,’ only three percentage points below those who did not feel financially worse off
  • The percentage of people who selected 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 7 for level of agreement to the statement “Climate change and how we respond to it are among the biggest issues I worry about today” was just 18% in 2007, but climbed dramatically to 24% in 2008
  • The percentage of people who selected 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 7 for level of agreement to the statement “I am personally making a significant effort to help reduce climate change through how I live my life today” similarly climbed from 13% in 2007 to 21% in 2008

Callum Grieve, Director of External Affairs with The Climate Group, said, “Now, more than ever, consumers see the value of going green. They know that saving energy also means saving money. People also believe fighting climate change will be good for the economy, and they expect business and government to stick to their commitments despite the economic downturn. The Together campaign makes it easy for consumers to purchase energy efficient products–helping people save energy, money and the planet.”

The Climate Group ( is an independent, nonprofit organization that works with government and business leaders to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.