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Some are calling it a debacle; others are calling it a massive u-turn on the Governments behalf. Whatever way you label it, the general consensus in the green industry is that any plans to scrap the “consequential improvements” policy would be a massive mismanagement of the UK’s long term low carbon objectives.

The “consequential improvements” scheme would require home owners that wish to carry out extensions or loft conversions to make additional energy saving improvements to their building. The home owner will not bear the brunt of these costs as funding will be provided by the Green Deal. If the energy savings do not at least match the extra costs involved, then the owner can refuse to carry them out.

So we make our homes more energy efficient, take a step closer to a low carbon Britain, create new jobs, and all at no cost to the home owner?  Where did the u-turn come from?

Well Kevin McCloud puts it down to “scaremongering” in the press, who have labelled the proposal as a “conservatory tax”. Kevin said “Government’s plans to require homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their home when they build an extension are about as sensible as sensible gets, especially when the homeowner doesn’t have to pay for those improvements. Reading the recent coverage I began to wonder if there was a secret anti-insulation lobby rabidly bent on increasing our domestic fuel bills.”

Paul King, CEO of the UKGBC, continued to lay the blame on the doorstep of the press, saying “Government has a responsibility to look beyond the ludicrous media headlines. This policy would have helped protect ordinary people from soaring energy costs, as well as reduce carbon emissions to meet its own supposedly legally binding carbon budgets.”

So what do you think? Could this be a major blow to our carbon emission reduction targets? Would a potential u-turn on this policy show a lack of commitment by the Government to an energy efficient UK?

Answers on postcards, or the comment section below…

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.

If you think NFL teams are competitive on the field, that’s only the beginning! There’s another competition going on, but this one doesn’t require pads, players or even a football. This one involves the stadiums themselves.

If you haven’t seen the Philadelphia Eagles’ plans for Lincoln Financial Field yet, an article in GreenBiz.com will give you a good backgrounder. Notorious for immense amounts of energy consumption, stadium overhead has long taken a huge cut out of the bottom line for team owners. But that may be a thing of the past.

The [Eagles] Friday announced a partnership with wholesale-power-generation giant NRG (NYSE: NRG), which will install and operate 11,000 solar panels and 14 micro wind turbines at the stadium…The Lincoln Field renewable-energy system, which is expected to generate about six times the electricity consumed during all Eagles home games annually, will make Lincoln Financial Field one of the greenest stadiums in the world when it’s completed in December.

And I think that’s quite an accomplishment. Especially considering the Dallas Cowboys reportedly spend a mind-boggling $200,000 in electricity each month. Yes, that’s FIVE zeros!

It’s good to see the Eagles push for a more energy-efficient stadium. This could be the start of something big for NFL stadiums. After all, the NFL is competitive bunch. So we can expect before too long that another team will try to make their stadium even more energy-efficient than the Eagles. And then another, and another. (You get the idea.) Here’s to competition and a more eco-conscious stadium experience!

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!

Not just trends….Megatrends!

Posted: February 3, 2012 by , Category:LEED, Sustainability

2012 is going to be a great year! Just ask “the godfather of green” Jerry Yudelson. Builder magazine featured his 10 predictions for the next 12 (well, 11 now — where does the time go?) months.

Take a peek.

I’m particularly excited about #3 — LEED-EBOM (Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance) Will Gain Momentum.
We’re going to see this move to other sectors,” he says, particularly among hotels with strong convention and meeting businesses who want to be able to market their eco-friendliness. Grocery stores, hospitals, and retail centers are moving in the same direction, with features such as solar panels on top of Walmarts or department stores. “Last month, President Obama and former President Clinton announced the Better Buildings Initiative. It’s only $4 billion, so it’s not huge. But still, this is stuff that moves markets. When you have two presidents pushing something, it does get people’s attention. More and more building owners are realizing that they don’t want to be late to the party.

As I mentioned earlier this week in my post, Congrats to the LEEDing states!, around the IES offices, we’re hoping 2012 is the year of LEED-EB: O&M. Let’s reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose…we’ve only got one Earth, and it’s getting pretty crowded.

What are your predictions for the rest of 2012?

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

Does going for LEED make good business sense?

Posted: January 19, 2012 by , Category:LEED

Another year, another blog about LEED

There’s never a shortage of opinions when you bring up the topic of LEED.

Last year, we blogged about whether or not LEED certification was working, questioning the goals of the program. We decided that if the goal is to increase awareness for better design and sustainability, regardless of whether or not a building ultimately achieves certification, then the program is succeeding. The way we see it, a better building is a better building, certification or not.

After reading a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, the question of whether or not “going green” impacts a business was one I thought I’d weigh in on.

The Headquarter Honda dealership in Florida is LEED Platinum. Only nine other buildings in the state – all of them constructed for educational, military, aerospace or government purposes – share this rating. An exceptional accomplishment when you look at it comparatively. But as Kevin questions, “Does securing that mark of planet-friendly excellence help sell Accords, Civics and Odysseys?”

Maybe not. But for the owner of the dealership, the energy savings alone seem to be worth the certification. “According to estimates based on more than a year’s worth of utility bills, the 30 percent premium will be recouped in a decade, Esteve said, which in the long run will make the building cheaper to own than one with a more conventional design.”

I’m not going to tell you that LEED certification is a necessity for every building. But I do think you should consider the requirements as part of your building process. If nothing else, a focus on implementing various energy-saving technologies and being aware of factors such as daylighting and the like will ensure a building will be viable for many years to come. LEED Platinum or not, that’s something we can all appreciate.

2011 Recap: Hottest Green Tech Stories

Posted: January 11, 2012 by , Category:Sustainability

With 2011 officially in the books, the IES team thought it was time to take a look back at the hottest green technology and sustainability stories this year had to offer. Even with some of the fallout from the Solyndra and Beacon Power bankruptcies — assets are being sold off as you read this — 2011 served up some really interesting innovations. From the military and car manufacturers to solar and wind power, Earth Techling sheds a little natural daylight on the must-reads in its “2011 Green Technology Year in Review“.

What I find most interesting is that while wind and solar power definitely took their licks this year, they are far from being down for the count; just ask Walmart and Costco customers.

You may be surprised to find that [Walmart], which sells everything from shoes to shower curtains, also happens to offer a selection of renewable energy devices, including a 600-watt wind turbine. Costco members will soon be able to add solar power systems for clean energy solutions at home alongside power tools and pancake mix on their shopping lists.

The best part about these products is that they are cheap. For around $800, you can lower your electricity bill and increase energy efficiency for years. It will be interesting to see how the commercial market will react as the cost continues to drop for these types of technologies. If the residential market is any indication, solar and wind power might be more affordable than ever in the commercial sector. The sustainability goals and LEED certifications that many building owners and property managers seek might be a little easier to attain in 2012.

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