Posts Tagged ‘USGBC’

Energy Efficient Buildings: We Don’t Have to Wait

December 8th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Big savings. REALLY big.

$4 billion investment = $40 billion savings is estimated from the Better Buildings Challenge. That isn’t just savings, it’s Sumo sized savings resulting from a nationwide 20% cut to energy usage in existing buildings.

Through a public-private partnership, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton last Friday announced a $4 billion commitment to increasing energy efficiency in the nation’s government and commercial buildings. Despite the US Department of Energy’s share being roughly half, there will be no upfront cost to taxpayers.

With deadlocked Supercommittee-itis cramping the Obama administration’s style, at least we can hold hands over one thing: saving money on inefficient buildings’ energy use. Or as Huffington Post commenter and USGBC Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi put it: “for one moment we found something we can all agree on.”

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton

President Barack Obama (R), and former President Bill Clinton (L)

“If there’s one item on the energy agenda that’s managed to remain free of controversy, it’s energy efficiency,” proclaimed SmartPower owner Brian Keane in the Huffington Post this week. The investment is part of President Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” measures, or initiatives aimed at spurring the economy that don’t require Congress’ stamp of approval.

We can’t wait, indeed, for energy savings – nor do we have to.

As part of the program, 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders have committed to invest nearly $2 billion of private capital into energy efficiency projects. The $40 billion in savings is the projected result of upgrading energy performance nationwide – 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community college and school buildings for those of you keeping track at home – by a minimum of 20% by 2020.

Big-time San Francisco firms such as Ygrene Energy Fund and Metrus Energy backed the announcement, showing their support as the kind of companies willing to step up and foot the bill on the other $2 billion. Of course, they will then reap some serious savings…

The Obama Administration is clear on how its not using taxpayer dollars for the initial investment, reported the Washington Post:

“The way it works is that the private firm [doing the renovations] takes the risk here,” Jeffrey Zients, the government’s chief performance officer, said. “They make the investment. They are paid through energy savings. Once they are paid back, the [federal government] enjoys the savings going forward.”

The Better Buildings Challenge is estimated to add approximately 50,000 jobs.

The announcement expands on an existing Clinton Global Initiative energy efficiency investment program announced last summer, that has already committed $500 million in private sector funding for energy upgrades.

Kinda trippy how Pike Research just issued that report last week predicting that HVAC systems will double to become a $6.4 billion business by 2017.

Image courtesy newsone.

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,

Proposed LEED Revisions Embrace Energy Efficiency

November 18th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Last week’s roll out of public hearings for proposed revisions to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards mark a historic moment for the energy efficiency sector, as it is the first time the internationally recognized ratings system will address how a building is run once it is built.

The performance credit category measures a building’s operating performance. As LEED standards primarily address new construction decisions, the efficiency of the building was implied, but made “promises of efficiency that weren’t delivered,” said Clinton Andrews, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University in The New York Times recently.

LEED would collect and report this data anonymously through its Building Performance Partnership.

Another proposed change, the “integrated process” category, intends architects, engineers and contractors to sit down together in search of top building performance.

World's first LEED-certified parking garage in Santa Monica, CA

In the same week, The U.S. Green Building Council announced that 1 billion square feet of buildings, many of them in the United States, have now been LEED certified. Even the wry New York Observer – which, for the record, is tired of announcements on LEED-certified dog kennels, called the 10-year-old program “a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

Images courtesy inhabitat, USGBC.

Notorious (G)BIG: Cascadia Green Building Council’s Green Building Interest Group

June 4th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Marching orders from Oregon Senate Bill 79 and the new, more stringent building codes that have come out of it were the topic of discussion at the Cascadia Green Building Council’s Green Building Interest Group (that’s GBIG to you) meeting this week.

Architects, builders, energy consultants and policymakers came together to illuminate and ruminate on the far reaching impact of the new Oregon Building Codes Division’s Green Initiatives, with regard to energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Panelists included Patrick Allen with the State of Oregon Building Codes Division, Chuck Halling, Sustainability Manager with Walsh Construction, Sarah Fujita, Engineer at PECI, and Nicole Hillis, Outreach Manager with Earth Advantage. Sarah Heinicke, Sustainability Advisor, moderated.

The Building Advisor could probably write five posts on topics bandied about at this morning meeting hosted across from the Portland Business Alliance, but we will give you the skinny.

Get this: investment paybacks for energy efficient improvements are based on an energy price in the future.

Maybe it’s just The Building Advisor who’s late to the party on this one, but just think about that for a second. When you’re calculating the payoff on your new HVAC chiller, and you’re looking at say, eight years without incentives (which is just silly anyway, the incentives are out there), and thinking, “No way,” think of what the price of energy will be in eight years.


Because, see, this scarcity thing for one (um, #oilspill), and then think of this: someday, maybe 80 years in the future or maybe a lot sooner, there will be a carbon tax or cap placed on energy usage. And that will cause a price jump.

A big one.

So if you think an energy efficient investment is expensive now, compare that to how expensive energy is going to be when that day comes. And it’s hard to know what energy prices will be like in 60 to 70 years, which is how long new construction now is being made to last.

Now to do it one better: unlike any other state in the union, Oregon has taken it upon itself to formulate, legislate, and implement building codes that don’t resemble federal codes or your typical city/county building codes across the country. Meaning, we’re more stringent, and we’re really serious about sustainable building practice. So under the current state initiatives, the first step is for buildings to demonstrate 15 to 25% increase in effective energy usage, starting July 1.

For extra credit, there is the REACH code (an optional building code that directs contractors to construct buildings significantly more energy efficient than under the present code). REACH codes are still being written. And how they interact with Energy Trust of Oregon’s incentives are still being determined. And moreover, for builders to achieve the above-and-beyond standards above-and-beyond our already above-and-beyond state codes, they’d have to utilize sustainability technology that hasn’t been conceived yet.

Yup. Think that one over. Get back to us when you’re ready.

To construct nothing but net zero buildings by 2030, which is the ambition of Senate Bill 79, we’d need a Star Trek-style teleportational device to take us to a future where that’s do-able.

And here’s part two’s cliffhanger on monitoring and verification of energy efficiency: in the words of Chuck Halling, “How do you measure whether you were successful or not? And if not, whose fault is it?”

In Allen’s words, there’s not a political will out there right now to see if tenants are defeating the efficiency systems that have been put in place. At the end of the day, really expensive energy will be the will to use less energy.

Images courtesy gerard79,, and Green Office Projects

The New Normal

May 4th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Monday’s article Federal Government Poised to Boost Energy-Efficient Building Stock in Environmental Leader sheds some light on the question The Building Advisor wrote about in a recent post, Retrofit Ramp-Up Doles Out Cash. Just what does this $452 million in federal stimulus money mean to energy efficiency in existing buildings on a national scale?

A report recently issued by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), “Using Executive Authority to Achieve Greener Buildings: A Guide for Policymakers to Enhance Sustainability and Efficiency in Multifamily Housing and Commercial Buildings,” (rolls off the tongue, don’t it?) points to 30 existing federal programs worth $72 billion that could enhance energy efficiency with no new legislation. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and his efficiency legislation may be distracted by Klamath Falls, insurance and finance reform, but it’s good to know that the USGBC is ready to go on without him.

From Environmental Leader:

“These [efficiency programs] include integrating energy efficiency and sustainability criteria into competitive grants and funding, “greening” federal banking regulations, bolstering minimum property standards for federal housing and economic development programs by including energy efficiency and sustainability standards, and improving performance standards applicable to federal buildings and leases.”

Their point being, there is so much we can do right now, without coming up with new piles of cash and/or laws, to increase energy efficiency in the commercial sector.

International market research firm SBI Energy came out with its own report, “Global Green Building Materials and Construction, 2nd Edition,” which states that “Green building renovations are also expected to become the ‘new normal’ in the building industry,” and are expected to account for 13 percent of the total renovation market by 2015.

Quick questions: a) What is the current “normal”? and b) Didn’t your English teacher teach you to come up with a catchy title for your reports? I think over ten words is an automatic disqualification from “catchy.”

But back to the ‘normal’ question. BuildingAdvice is often asked who our main competitor is, and BuildingAdvice CEO Jim Crowder will tell you, “a do-nothing attitude.”

Is this the current normal?