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Sustainability – The New Olympic Event

Posted: August 2, 2012 by , Category:Sustainability

The Olympics are underway, so it only seems appropriate to once again check in on London’s sustainability promise of hosting the greenest games to date. The verdict? A little friendly sustainability competition between host cities goes a long way.

London has not disappointed in its green building initiatives so far. From water reclamation to natural lighting, this year’s venues incorporate various techniques and designs to create sustainability. With these structures getting so much publicity, you can be sure the designers virtually tested models of these buildings to ensure performance would live up to expectations.

One of the most impressive buildings in these games is the Velodrome, which contains the indoor cycling track. It utilizes natural ventilation to cool the 6,000 fans cheering for their country. This, along with its use of natural daylighting to cut power consumption and the unique design of

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the roof, makes it the poster-child for sustainability.

Every year there is a growing trend not only for the host country to beat out others in the race for the most medals, but to also beat the previous hosting cities in sustainability. This is great for increasing awareness of green building. New sports stadiums are also helping to push this message by embracing energy efficient technologies. These projects get an abundant amount of news coverage during construction and are automatically going to be benchmarked against the last green venue that was built. With hundreds of thousands of patriotic fans flooding into the host country a spike in energy consumption and CO2 output is all but guaranteed.

With the next Olympics taking place in Rio in 2016, the eyes of the world will be watching to see if the next hosts can match the sustainable construction that has taken place on the lead up to London 2012. Let the sustainability games begin!

green-buildingCommercial building owners are very willing to invest in energy efficient technology…as long as the government is willing to reward them for their efforts, according to the latest survey from the Institute for Building Efficiency at Johnson Controls.

While more building owners and managers are moving to cut costs and incorporate energy efficiency measures in their buildings than in previous years, tax credits, government incentives and rebates are playing a huge role. Federal government programs such as the Better Buildings Initiative are providing those incentives in an effort to make commercial buildings more energy efficient.

According to the Institute for Building Efficiency survey:
The sixth annual survey found 85% rely on energy management to drive their operational efficiency, up 34 percentage points from the Energy Efficiency Indicator survey conducted two years ago.

This is both good and bad news for the sustainable building industry, and here’s why. The obvious good news is that energy efficient building is on the rise — we’ve seen this over the last decade and market share continues to confirm this. But the results of this survey beg the question: what happens when the rug is pulled out from underneath programs that offer incentives and tax credits?

“Nearly 75% of commercial buildings in the United States are more than 20 years old and are ready for energy improvements,” said Dave Myers, president of the building efficiency business of Johnson Controls. “Building owners and operators are looking to lawmakers to bring down the cost of energy retrofits through incentives and rebates.”

As sustainable building technology continues to advance, education is going to play a large role. When building owners and managers begin to understand that they can drastically cut costs and decrease overhead with efficiency upgrades, tax incentives will be a relatively small side note. This understanding will be essential to tomorrow’s sustainable building industry.

I don’t think it’s safe to rely on government policy forever. At some point, the well will run dry and policies will change. But even without government incentives, there are still plenty of reasons why building owners should be capitalizing on efficiency upgrades. We just need to let them know about it!

The world has reached a new milestone. Only problem? This milestone is not the kind worth celebrating.

For the first time in hundreds of thousands of years, carbon dioxide levels in the Arctic have exceeded 400 parts per million, the New York Times reports. Globally, the average is a staggering 395 parts per millon. The level serves as a harsh reminder that, even with new technology and innovation surfacing every day, we’re far from being out of the woods.

“The fact that it’s 400 is significant,” said Jim Butler, global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colo. “It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.”

So what’s behind the increase? Scientists say it’s a number of things – from cars to power plants- our reliance on fossil fuels is starting to take its toll. But one factor in particular is of interest, mostly because they are known as the “energy hogs” of the world- commercial buildings.

Offices, schools, hospitals, churches, gymnasiums, warehouses… Commercial buildings consume 20 percent of all the energy in the United States, and as the commercial buildings sector continues to grow, energy demand and usage will correspond – energy usage is already up nearly 75 percent since 1980, according to the United States Department of Energy. I’m pointing my finger at lighting and HVAC systems, which the DOE says contributes up to 45 percent of energy consumption in the average commercial building.

The commercial building sector cannot continue to consume energy like this if we’re truly looking to make a positive change for the future. As new buildings are constructed and

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old ones are renovated, it’s so important to take advantage of the energy modeling software that’s available. From daylight modeling and ventilation to building envelopes, lighting and insulation, nipping the problem from the start is a lot easier than trying to resolve the issue one the damage has been done.

Energy-efficient building is a commitment the entire industry has to make. Low-carbon, sustainable building for new construction needs to be thought of as requirement rather than an option, and renovations and retrofits should work to improve efficiency for our older structures – not just aesthetics. Only when this happens will we see any significant improvements

in future carbon levels.

Comments Comments Off on Commercial Buildings Contribute to (not so great) Greenhouse Gas Milestone

IES TaP Logo2012 has been a very busy and eventful year — we’ve joined forces with IES, launched IES TaP at Ecobuild and continued on our mission to provide the most efficient environmental assessment tracking tool on the market.

So what exactly is TaP? IES TaP is an intelligent online project tracking solution that allows you to access and track all of your BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) projects and evidence documents in one secure online location, without having to rely on email or fax to manage the process.

This tool is the brainchild of Track a Project Ltd. The idea came from the desire to streamline the way in which the Assessor gathered evidence from the Design Team, a notoriously difficult and time consuming process! The concept popped into the head of one of our BREEAM Assessors during a typically long winded Pre-Assessment meeting. The usual array of architects, engineers, M & E consultants, contractors and Project Managers were assembled around the table.

Running through the laborious process of pen and paper, scribbling down which member of the team was responsible for which piece of evidence, trying to explain what was needed, knowing full well that once back in the office, it would all have to be typed up into an excel spreadsheet and emailed to everyone and would be out of date the minute you hit send!

That was the driving force behind the need for something new, something better. Track a Project was born and the rest, as they say is history!

A team of BREEAM and CSH Assessors set off developing the idea. Talented software programmers, with a background of working on some of the leading information portals on the market, were drafted in and the ideas of the team were quickly made reality.

Once operational, the tool was tested by our in house Assessors for over 12 months. The flaws were ironed out, features added and improvements made. Within weeks of the portal going live, positive feedback from our clients and design teams was pouring in. The impact was enormous. The time the tool was saving was phenomenal. The word was beginning to spread and we knew we had something special on our hands, something capable of revolutionising the Environmental Assessment process.

At that point, we realised this was too good to keep to ourselves, we knew we had to release it to everyone! Track a Project was officially released in October 2010.

With a growing customer base, initial take up of the system was good, however if the product was to explode, we needed more muscle and who better to join forces with than world leading environmental experts, IES Ltd.

Many nights of burning the midnight oil followed, Track a Project was streamlined even further and eventually, after months of collaboration, the new IES TaP portal was launched.

It was fantastic to finally present IES TaP to the industry, and there was no better place to do so, then at the Ecobuild conference at Excel London, in March. It was a manic few days that brought a conveyor belt of people to the IES Booth. We had the opportunity to demo IES TaP throughout the event and we spoke to a lot of interested assessors that wanted to know more about the tool.

So what can this tool do for BREEAM and CSH assessors?

Save time? Check.
Save money? Check.
Make assessments easier? Check.

As far as ticking boxes goes, we’d say IES TaP is pretty much on top of its game. But don’t take our word for it…

“Assessing BREEAM credits can be such a complicated process and this makes it so much easier to be organised. It keeps everyone in the team on the right track and ensures that we never miss our deadlines. It’s a feature that I’ve never seen before in any other tool making it by far

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the number one choice for me.” Andrew Matthews, Director of Vale Interiors Ltd.

“TaP has been an amazing assistant throughout our Code experience! It cuts the paperwork, the hassle and the timescale of passing on the relevant information to your code assessor! Fenwood Estates would recommend TaP to any company trying to achieve CSH whether it be a single plot to a multi-unit development!” Melissa Fennell, Development Director, Fenwood Estates.

So it’s onwards and upwards for IES TaP and this exciting new collaboration. We want to continue to provide the best project tracking tool to our customers in the UK, while also making plans to automate and streamline the process for building rating systems around the

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Believe it or not, there was a time not too long ago when cranking the air conditioning all day was cheap. So cheap, in fact, that it was financially smarter to turn down the thermostat than to invest in green upgrades for a building. I must admit, when I think about this now I’m left scratching my head. It seems….ridiculous!

But, as an article on TreeHugger.com points out, before there was air conditioning, there was shade. And, just as it always had, it worked quite well for keeping people and buildings cool. With today’s soaring energy prices, high electricity demands and the desire for greener, smarter buildings, shade is back.

Brise soleil, or sunbreakers, used to be a popular and effective way of keeping cooler before air conditioning; Like awnings, they were another way of stopping the heat from the sun before it got inside. They could be carefully designed to permit the lower winter sun to enter, and the vertical fins controlled the late afternoon sun in summer.

Ok, but how effective are products like light shelves, solar canopies and awnings? The short answer is — very. CBT Architects used IES’ VE-Pro performance analysis software to run daylight modeling for a renovation and addition to Fitchburg State University’s Science Building in 2011. Models showed that using larger overhangs on the building’s exterior would reduce reliance on air conditioning. The result was a 21 percent decrease in cooling loads during warmer months. Find out more about this project here.

Ok, so these products are pretty effective if utilized correctly. But do they look good? The short answer is yes. An architect with an eye for design can really make a building envelope pop with the right products. TreeHugger agrees.

Really, if more architects would start thinking of these as architectural features as well as simply solar control, we might actually save energy and get more interesting architecture.

Greener Also Means Tougher

Posted: March 28, 2012 by , Category:Green Building, Sustainability

Yes, green buildings are more energy efficient. And yes, they are even healthier for occupants. But safer and more durable than traditional buildings? A joint report by the USGBC and the University of Michigan says you can add this benefit to the list.

The report, highlighted in GreenBiz.com, goes as far as saying that the added resilience of green buildings could even be a major selling point and boost the market for green structures. While the news is great for the industry, I

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actually don’t find it that surprising. Tighter seals on doors and windows, more efficient ventilation and improved insulation protect buildings from the elements. So it makes sense that they are safer.

“…some of the most costly, serious damage is done when wind and water infiltrate a building, sending water deep into hidden cavities. A small opening — whether a missing shingle or a poorly sealed window — can set off a domino effect of damage,” GreenBiz points out.

This domino effect has not gone unnoticed. Organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) know the damage that wind and water are capable of all too well. It’s even prompted the agency to look into green building as way to improve safety during natural disasters. The high quality and detail that goes hand-in-hand with green building could keep roofs intact and windows in place during hurricanes.

“[Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator,] called on leaders from major corporations, government, academia, the scientific community and civil society to help advance green building as a complementary strategy to address pre- and post-emergency-management situations, ultimately forging more resilient communities.”

Construction materials have come a long way in just the last few years. Technology has advanced drywall and windows beyond what many of us thought possible. I’m amazed every time I walk a tradeshow floor. My most recent favorite discovery was insulation made out of recycled blue jeans. Genius! As products continue to become better and better, buildings are getting more efficient, less costly to maintain, healthier…

And now we can add one more reason to the list of why green building practices should be incorporated into every project. Safety.

It might be a down market, but green building is not following the trend. From 2008 to 2010, the value of green construction increased by 50 percent, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2011. And analysts predict three to five-fold growth by 2015. Still, this growth represents only a very small segment of the overall construction industry.

As Forbes points out, there’s an incredibly slow green building adoption curve: “At this stage, there’s only a very small market segment that will buy something because it is energy efficient,” said Reuben Schwartz, Residential Energy Programs Manager of the Department of the Environment, City and County of San Francisco. The problem, I think, is an incredibly slow learning curve and a disconnect between industry veterans and the consumer.

Dan Geiger (Executive Director of the USGBC) cited research undertaken by the USGBC on schools. What parents want, he said, “is a modern, healthy school, so that their children get good grades and go to college. I didn’t say the word ‘green.’ Consumers

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think about this in a different way than we, the practitioners, think about it.”

And that’s really the problem. The architects, the engineers, the modelers — they understand it. It’s what we do day in and day out. But readily available technology and a good price point simply aren’t enough. Without a knowledgeable consumer who knows the advantages of green building, there will always be that disconnect from our world and the consumers’.

Education is vital to the health of the green building industry. The future depends on the general public understanding what I do every day. Only then will I be confident that green building will continue to advance and progress, eventually becoming the standard.

It’s that time of year again — the construction industry gets ready to flock to London for a three day event dedicated to creating a sustainable built environment.

Last year’s event attracted over 50,000 visitors, more than 13,000 exhibitors and 750 speakers. This year’s show promises to be even bigger! And just as Ecobuild is growing every year; so does IES and our presence at the event.  This time around our Ecobuild activity will be spread across 2 stands and the Innovation Zone. That’s right, you can run, but you can’t hide…

But why would you want to hide? We have loads of exciting news and updates to fill you in on…

  • At our main stand (N224) we’ll be launching IES TaP, which is a new online tracking tool for managing the evidence gathering process for BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) assessments. We’ll also be presenting a range of commercial partnerships with Daikin, Monodraught and Plancal and showcasing the new innovations that have come from these alliances. Find out more here.
  • Over on stand N221 we’ll be exhibiting our ground—breaking research projects. With approximately a third of our turnover going into research and development, this is an interesting part of what we have on show at Ecobuild. Drop by the stand to speak with our research experts and to find out about our latest research projects: OPTIMISE, VE-SCAN, IMPACT, THERM, VERYSCHOOL, LESSONS and EASEE. Find out more here.
  • We’ve been selected to present our new VE-Scan project at the Innovation Zone (N530). VE-SCAN is a state of the art tool from IES R&D that goes beyond the traditional use of building simulation at the design stage. It uses building simulation to substantially improve the operational performance of a building. Learn more about VE-SCAN here and cast your vote for your favourite innovation at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/innovationzone2012

We’re also looking forward to once again getting involved in the live Ecobuild tweeting and meet ups over the course of the three days. So much so that we’ve even come up with an exclusive special offer for our twitter followers. With our Twitter Loyalty Offer you will be able to get 25% off a package that includes our architectural analysis tool, VE-Gaia, and the VE-Navigator for BREEAM new customer package.  To qualify for this offer you will need to do the following…

1. Follow us on twitter — www.twitter.com/IESVE
2. Watch out for our daily Special Offer tweet during Ecobuild.
3. Retweet our Special Offer tweet.
4. Bring proof of the retweet to our stand and talk to one of our experts about VE-Gaia and the VE-Navigator for BREEAM.
5. Fill out our special offer form which gives you until the end of April 2012 to claim this fantastic promotion.

And finally, we realise we’ve been tweeting a lot of you over the last year without actually knowing what you look like. So if you are taking a photo of your team or something that has caught your eye at Ecobuild, remember to use our special photo hashtag – #ShowUsYourEcoFace

We’ll be sure to get the ball rolling on Tuesday…

Between last year’s heat wave on the east coast of the United States and this year’s, it seems like crazy weather is becoming the norm. Turning on the news and hearing “record breaking temperatures” is become routine. This year we have had to endure triple digit heat in cities such as Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and St. Louis. All of this has caused injuries, deaths, wildfires and a strain on utilities.

A recent study conducted by the A NOAA/UK Met Office, doesn’t have great news. It stated that last year’s heat wave in Texas was 20 times more likely to occur now than in the 1960’s due to global warming. It seems like we need to get used to the idea that the heat is here to stay. This doesn’t just apply to the United States either; November’s unusually high temperatures in Britain were 62 times as likely. So what does this mean for us in the long run?

The answer is: we can’t be sure. A lot of the studies that have been written don’t have enough clear evidence to be fully accepted as fact among experts. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for the worse. A lot of the country is not as prepared as it should be for these occurrences. You can look at the blackouts as proof. Blackouts due to heat have occurred from United States all the way into The Great White North.

The solution to better handling these heat waves isn’t going to be taking a dip in a pool, going to the movies or sipping an icy drink. It’s going to involve changing the way we design and construct buildings and cities. To avoid blackouts and deal with extreme weather, buildings need to be as efficient as possible and that starts in the design process. By using modeling software we can design a building and know exactly how it will deal with the worst case scenario, whether it’s oppressive heat or violent winds. The building can also be designed in a way that it relies less on power consumption in order to maintain a comfortable environment for the people inside it. People can add all the power conserving and power efficiency technology they want to a building, but if you’ve built a building without testing the design you may be starting behind the eight ball. It’s important to know how extreme weather is going to stress buildings as well as people.

From the design of our buildings to educating people, we need to be ready for whatever Mother Nature is going to throw at us. Is this extreme? Maybe. But we construct buildings to be around forever, not with the intent of ripping them down and starting over in a couple years. So we better design them right and know how they will handle all situations.

Last week, we highlighted the makeover the city of London is getting in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. But London isn’t the only city stepping up when it comes to upgrading its iconic buildings.

Did you know?
**Solar panels shimmer in the sunlight in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. One thousand photovoltaic panels cover the roof of the Paul VI Audience Hall that generate enough electricity to meet all heating, lighting and cooling requirements of the 6,300 seat venue.

**A project to retrofit the Empire State Building in New York began in 2009. All 6,500 windows of the skyscraper are being replaced while the building’s air conditioning and lighting systems are also being upgraded. It’s expected to reduce energy use by over 35%.

**The air conditioning system in the Sydney Opera House has been adapted to utilize sea water from the surrounding harbour.

**The Eiffel Tower in Paris has reduced its energy consumption with a low energy LED lighting system.

Courtesy of CNN.

What does this mean for the industry? According to John Alker, director of policy at the UK Green Building Council, a lot! “These high profile projects can highlight the importance of retrofitting and cause people to think about installing renewable energy systems

on the micro level.”

The way I look at it, if a 120+ year old structure like the Eiffel Tower can be upgraded for the 21st century, we can certainly retrofit other buildings. As I discussed last month in my blog post — “Congrats to the LEEDing states!” — according to a study by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust, “building reuse almost always has fewer environmental impacts than new construction–which means we’d be smart to spend at least as much time renovating existing buildings as we do lionizing fancy new green construction.”

So let’s get out there and makeover some more of the world’s most iconic buildings and landmarks!

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