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This month we welcome guest blogger Noelle Hirsch to the IES blog to explore a hot topic in the green building industry. Noelle writes regularly for Construction Management resource, which you can find out more about here.

There are many different ways to “go green,” but construction offers one of the highest possibilities for widespread change. Offices, homes, and industrial buildings tend to consume enormous amounts of energy, often unnecessarily. Inefficient appliances and construction techniques implemented in a world where energy was inexpensive and “eco-consciousness” was an unknown concept are causing a lot of pain today, both in terms of out-of-pocket expenses and environmental harm. Retrofitting buildings with energy-saving tools is often very expensive, however. In this sense, communities that have suffered natural disasters or large-scale destruction may actually be at an advantage: starting from scratch is often the perfect excuse to build green from the ground up, making ravaged cities better than ever once completed.

Inefficient construction is often difficult to spot without looking at energy meters or accrued bills. In many communities, the goal of construction is aesthetics and production speed more than thoughtful efficiencies. The faster a house can be built, the sooner it will sell, or so the theory goes. This sort of philosophy may be short-lived, however, particularly with today’s emphasis on environmentalism and global protection.

“Buildings consume nearly 40% of the nation’s total energy in heating, cooling and electricity use. But it doesn’t need to be that high–we lose a ton of energy through old inefficient buildings and appliances,” the Energy Service Corps says on its website. According to a recent article in Forbes, energy-efficient upgrades could cut the amount Americans spend on electricity and natural gas by almost $3.4 billion. Getting there can be a real challenge, however. Actually convincing home- and business owners to replace their appliances and invest in building upgrades is rarely easy.

After a community has been damaged by a natural disaster like a flood or tornado, however, the calculus seems to change. When building occurs from the ground-up, there is a golden opportunity to make good of a devastating situation by committing to rebuild with green principles in mind.

“The large-scale rebuilding effort following a disaster is an ideal time to require or encourage high energy efficiency standards for all new and remodeled buildings,” the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Commission says in a pamphlet for city and state officials. “Constructing energy-efficient buildings from the ground up is much cheaper than retrofitting or upgrading down the road.” The Energy Department’s guide seeks to provide a template and resource that leaders can use should they be faced with massive destruction.

Several cities have already taken the plunge. The first was New Orleans, Louisiana, which suffered extensive flooding during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. “Before Katrina, government officials rarely talked about renewable energy or ‘green building,'” the Huffington Post reported. “Now, they see a watershed era taking shape.” Many of the rebuilt homes and offices make use of solar panels, which conserve electricity. Oil giants and timber manufacturers, two industry leaders in the area, are also spearheading efforts to introduce pollution-reducing technologies and more efficient wastewater systems into rebuilt plants.

Even more extensive greening efforts took place in Greensburg, Kansas, which was all but levelled by a tornado in 2007. During the rebuild, city officials pledged that all official buildings would strive for the coveted “platinum” ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Platinum is the highest LEED certification awarded, which indicates extensive efficiency and conservation, in everything from construction design to appliances installed.

A number of private businesses and homeowners have followed suit, turning Greensburg into a “living lab” of sustainability. Making green changes upfront has been costly, but has also done a lot to revitalize what was once a struggling and economically depressed region.

“The tornado was one of the biggest blessings to hit our town,” Mayor John Janssen told USA Today. “We were like every other town in the Rust Belt and the Midwest. We were dying a slow, agonizing death. Suddenly, we don’t have a town. So we’re rebuilding a new green town.” Morale, as well as population and business, have gone up substantially since the changes were implemented, Janssen said.

Energy-efficient, low-carbon construction is touted by many as one of the easiest ways to reduce global warming and prolong the health of the planet. Using less both costs less and harms less. Cities and towns suffering from devastation are often in a unique position of getting to rebuild from scratch. Though green construction is costly at the outset, many have found the latent efficiencies and cost savings over time to be something of a silver lining to their loss.

Noelle Hirsch

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!

Last month, to mark our return to the AIA Convention, we launched a competition to explore the architect’s role in building energy analysis. We put the following question to architects, engineers and sustainability consultants around the world — What do you view as the Architect’s role in Energy Analysis?

We received many interesting and thought provoking answers that had our judges deadlocked in deciding who would come away with the fantastic prize of a one year license for VE-Gaia, the VE-Navigator for LEED, as well as associated IESVE modules and training.

Our expert panel were pushed to pick a winning entry and we are delighted to announce that the winner is Susan Welker of Harris Welker Architects. Susan’s entry impressed us because it really got to the heart of what the architect must strive for when aspiring to create the most energy efficient building possible. Here is Susan’s winning entry…

As Architects of not just the built environment, but the planet, our role in energy analysis is threefold. We are the thought leaders in the early stages of design and set the form for the building’s needs for light, water, energy and natural resources. Architects analyze their initial energy analysis with engineering consultants to revise and maximize the buildings minimum energy usage. Finally and most importantly, Architects follow through with observations and field testing to achieve the minimum energy usage during the construction phase.

We also had other entries that are too good not to give an honourable mention to…

Ryan Arnold of MSI Engineers made an interesting point about the collaborative nature of energy analysis – Energy analysis has developed into a truly collaborative process, a process that’s success relies on it not being the claim of one profession, but as a shared responsibility to the whole project team. Thus, the role of an architect in energy analysis is the same as all involved parties- to constantly facilitate the collaboration and creativity needed to solve the complex energy issues we all face, together.

Kirsten Wood of Technical Commissioning Services excellently articulated what energy analysis should mean to the architect and humanity – Architects combine functionality with aesthetics to produce structures that are pleasing to the human senses and useful. Today, that usefulness is also defined by how structures consume energy. A structure that is wasteful will not serve humanity well. Therefore, the role of architects in energy analysis is to reflect deeply on the aspects of energy efficiency and incorporate those into the design.

We’d like to thank all of you who took the time to participate in our contest. Your answers provided a real insight in how the architect’s role in energy analysis is changing, and how our software is helping facilitate this change for the better.

And once again, a big congrats to our winner Susan!

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’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.

DCLG Charges Update – Add Your Voice

Posted: February 23, 2012 by , Category:software, Sustainability

Firstly, we would like to thank you for your response to our original blog in our campaign against the DCLG’s proposed software validation charges — “Don’t let DCLG charges damage our industry

Since then there has been significant development that we would like to bring you up to date on. On Friday 18th February, IES met with DCLG and a number of our industry peers to discuss EPBD, Green Deal and validation charges. This meeting exposed some serious inaccuracies in the charges put forward by Landmark, the company who will be responsible for software validation on behalf of the DCLG. BRE have pointed out that the figures actually tendered by them were much lower than the industry is being charged.

It also brought to light further proof that this tax would clearly lead to an unlevel playing field in our industry. The impression at the meeting was that the costs being imposed on software providers were in part contributing to the costs of developing iSBEM and other Government free tools. We think this should be investigated to see where the money from the proposed charges is going to be spent.
A summary of the main issues that arose from the meeting are:

– It is unfair that charges are being levied on the industry when the high scale cannot be justified on the basis of the work involved. By involving a middle man (i.e. Landmark) DCLG is creating unnecessary costs and time delays that could be avoided. On DCLG’s website the amount spent on External Consultants was £13.4M in 2010/11 out of a total staff bill of £95M. http://www.communities.gov.uk/corporate/foi/disclosure-log/disclosurelog2011/may2011/externalconsultants/

– DCLG is holding a monopoly position with free tools such as iSBEM competing in a commercial market. Free commercial software is already available and the competition from publically funded software is distorting the market

– We are fearful that we could end up with duplicate charges for software linked to the Green Deal and the likely heavy impact of these charges on smaller organisations, some of which might not be able to bear all the additional costs.

– At the moment the frequency of validation is still unclear as there has been no consultation process or impact analysis involving the industry. For instance DCLG persist in stating that ‘there is no need’ for revalidation of existing software this year, but this doesn’t answer the question about validation triggered by updates BRE or by the software providers themselves who are all continually improving their products.

Our objective remains the same — we want the DCLG to withdraw their proposed cost structure for these charges and work with the industry to agree a more reasonable way forward. Adding your voice to the cause remains an essential part of making this happen. What are your views on the charges and how do you feel you could be affected by them? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at DCLGcharges@iesve.com. All the feedback provided will be brought forward to our next meeting with the DCLG on Friday, 24th February.

We will keep you posted on any progress made!

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!

As you may or may not know, in the past the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have provided a non-domestic software validation service for UK building regulations. They issued a statement on 13th January 2012 proposing to withdraw this service and instead make it a so-called “self-funding” operation where they will charge software suppliers a fee each time their software requires validation. These proposed fees include an Initial validation fee of up to £16,000 and then a re-validation fee of up to £10,000 thereafter.

We believe that these proposed charges are unreasonable and potentially unlawful. They will not only have a serious negative impact on the UK construction industry but the entire UK economy and the Governments Carbon Reduction objectives will suffer as well.

Some of the most concerning issues are:
– The charges will discourage new entrants to the market, and will cause existing software vendors to withdraw products due to cost of development and validation.
– There will be fewer products, less competition, poorer quality software, and a climate in which vendors take a very conservative attitude to innovation.
– Charges cannot be justified in terms of the work involved in the validation exercise.
– It is unreasonable to impose a blanket fee for re-validation since the size of this task varies enormously depending on what needs to be done. In our experience this had ranged from a check on a table of numbers to a full examination of every aspect of the analysis.
– The number of job losses will increase because companies will no longer be able to provide free or low cost products due to the cost of validation which will impact on many of the smaller service based businesses that rely on this software to be competitive in the mass market.
– There will be no charges for iSBEM and ORCalc software which are both provided by the government. Why should the government be spending taxpayers’ money to compete in an established commercial market with a number of established vendors whilst at the same time imposing punitive, excessive, unjustified and arbitrary charges only on competing commercial products?
– The proposals are not practically workable and will fundamentally damage an industry which plays a vital role in tackling the UK’s carbon reduction objectives.
– IES have been a strong supporter of the Governments low energy drive and invested heavily in making Part L effective. We also provide free tools (SBEM interface and DEC software) and free support for these tools to the industry. There are thousands of small companies that rely on these tools that become untenable if we have to pay the proposed charges.

These are just a selection of the reasons why the DCLG must reconsider their statement. A full list can be found in this news item on our website.

We would like to appeal for your support and assistance on this matter. If you agree with any of the points above please take a moment to email Peter Matthews {Peter.Matthew@communities.gsi.gov.uk} and DCLG minister Andrew Stunnel {enquiries@andrewstunell.org.uk} to register your opposition to these charges. Failure to do so could lead to long lasting damage to our industry and will make the UK’s carbon reduction objectives far more difficult to achieve. We reasonably request that the DCLG’s current statement on software validation is withdrawn pending discussions and agreement on a more practical way forward.

Thank you for your time.

Congrats to the LEEDing states!

Posted: January 31, 2012 by , Category:LEED

Earlier this month, the USGBC released its 2011 list of top 10 states for LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings per capita, based on the U.S. 2010 Census information.

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of Buildings.

What I found most interesting in the article, though, was this fact.
In December 2011, USGBC announced that LEED-certified existing buildings outpaced their newly built counterparts by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis. A focus on heightened building performance through green operations and maintenance is essential to cost-effectively driving improvements in the economy and the environment.

I had also stumbled across this article on TIME — LEED From Behind: Why We Should Focus on Greening Existing Buildings. The article states, “A study by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation shows 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 while many new buildings are looking to go LEED at the onset of the project, I would like 2012 to be the year of LEED-EB: O&M. How can we as an industry put our knowledge and expertise towards making our world a more energy efficient place, using what we’ve already got?

It could be a sign of the times. The economy still isn’t great, so focusing on upgrading existing buildings rather than fronting cash for brand new buildings makes economic sense. And as USGBC gets ready to finalize the LEED 2012 standards, there is a chance there will be a revival in excitement for the rating system. What do you think? Can we make 2012 the year we focus on reusing buildings, so to speak?

In closing, I’ll leave you with the quote in the article that I think should be the mantra for 2012 building… “The greenest building is one that is already built.” -Carl Elefante

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