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Posts Tagged New York

scotland_america_flagScotland has given the world many things – the telephone, the television, Scotch whisky, Irn Bru, tartan, and of course; Integrated Environmental Solutions. Our CEO Don will be flying the Scottish flag this week as he has been invited to New York to participate in a panel debate on sustainable cities with the American-Scottish Foundation on April 5th. Celebrating Scotland-Tartan week, the event is to showcase Our Energy Future: The Power of Partnerships in America and Scotland.

IES was formed in Scotland by Managing Director Dr Don Mclean in June 1994. The roots of the company go back to 1979 when the 1973 energy crisis, the three-day week, power cuts and predictions that oil would run out by 2000 were all high in the public’s consciousness. Against this backdrop, Don started his PHD work in detailed simulation of renewable energy devices at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.  Don’s time at Strathclyde, along with subsequent research and commercial activity consolidated three fundamental observations that IES is built on:

  • Buildings are major consumers of energy and they have to be made more efficient to cut CO2 emissions, conserve fossil fuels and preserve the environment for future generations.
  • Buildings are generally designed on experience and simplistic performance calculations even though it has been proven that the use of performance based building simulation can achieve much better performing buildings that consume significantly less energy.
  • Pre-IES building performance tools were too complex to use and remained in the hands of academics making very little impact on mainstream commercial design.

Although our roots are Scottish, the outlook at IES has always been global. We understand that the problem of increasing C02 emissions is a global problem; not a local one. And that’s why we now have offices across the world in Glasgow, Dublin, Atlanta, Vancouver, Melbourne and Pune {India}. Our ties with America have always been strong – we opened a Boston office in 2004 and have had an office in San Francisco and IES consultants in Minnesota and north of the border in Vancouver.

Our ambition to collaborate within America took another step forward last year when IES acquired North American consulting firm BVM Engineering (BVME), who now act as our South Atlantic Division in Atlanta.

So as far as IES are concerned, partnerships between America and Scotland have never been stronger, with the future looking particularly bright…

We’ll toast a dram to that!

Gone are the days when energy data for private buildings was, well, private — at least in some cities.

Mandatory policies regarding the release of energy data for the private sector are becoming more and more popular. New York City is the first to release its results consisting of 2,065 large commercial properties. This report is part of New York’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which focuses on energy efficiency in the city’s commercial buildings. According to EnvironmentalLeader.com, this plan consists of four different regulations, one of which is Local Law 84 requiring commercial buildings to benchmark their water and energy use. The data collected also goes towards the PlaNYC goal of reducing citywide carbon emissions.

This is the first time any city, state or county has released this kind of information, and I’m taking it as a step in the right direction. The report contains interesting information which may have us rethinking the types of spaces that should focus on energy efficiency.

The data displays information on energy usage per square foot, greenhouse gas emissions, water usage per square foot, and more. The New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking report shows that large buildings are responsible for 45 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions. By monitoring energy use, that number can be reduced.

So what can we take away from this? New York is beginning to realize that it is crucial to improve existing buildings, not just new ones. Energy modeling can have a hand in improving both. While the larger buildings typically have more financial resources to take on energy upgrades, modeling can assist smaller buildings for a fairly low cost, allowing building owners to hone in on specific factors and improvements such as ventilation, solar heat gain and even building envelope.

Focusing on these structures will have a large impact on the city according to the New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking Report, which states that if all inefficient large buildings were brought up just to the median energy use intensity in their category, NYC inhabitants would reduce their energy consumption by 18 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. And that’s just by doing the minimum!

More efficient buildings vs. more efficient utilities — this is what we are seeing recently between New York and San Francisco. The west coast is moving forward with a bill that could require utilities to invest in energy storage systems. The purpose is to help grow the use of solar and wind power within the state. On the other side of the U.S. the first PlaNYC benchmarking report has been released. These reports will serve as a foundation for increasing building efficiency from year to year. Two different solutions are being implemented to achieve the same goal of handling peak demand or when energy demand is at its highest. Produce more energy or consume less energy?

The potential mandate for utilities to require energy storage in California would help overcome some of the obstacles we face when using wind and solar power. Unfortunately, fossil fuels can be stored and provide a constant stream of power, the same cannot be said for renewable energy. Energy storage could take this advantage away from fossil fuels. A steady stream of renewable power would result in a grid that can handle the peak demand hours of the day. Downside? This is going to take a

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major amount of money in investments by utility companies. Who do you think is going to end up paying for it? The cost is going to be passed along to the low man on the totem pole, meaning the end user. But if this works the investment now might be minimal compared to the benefits we could experience in the future.

Although California’s plan is not perfect, neither is New York’s. The data that was collected through a 2009 ordinance, and just released, shows high amounts of variations. Feedback on the program is that when providing data some of the categories are hard to define. People either include unnecessary data or leave out data that they should be including. What this program does do is provide a set of data to benchmark against and track progress, even if it is not 100 percent accurate. The theory is – what gets measured gets done. If you want to see real changes you need to start measuring. It’s like when you were back in middle school if you knew an assignment wasn’t going to get graded, how much effort did you really put into it? The same principle is what makes energy modeling so important. Instead of supplying more power to meet peak demand, New York is trying to make buildings more efficient and reduce the demand on the power grid.

Both ideas reduce the amount of pollutants and greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, provide a solution to meet high demand, and reduce the overall burden on the power grid. Two different coasts have two different schools of thought. Which do you think is the more effective path? Ultimately it’s going to take a combination of ideas and solutions to meet our future demand.

It might seem like a contradiction but for as far as our society has come technologically, the past is teaching us plenty about green building. In fact, the market has shown that some of the greenest buildings in the country are also some of the oldest, in part due to renovation. But where should we draw the line when it comes to making historic buildings more efficient? As it turns out, maybe we should be asking how we can make newer structures more like older ones.

An article published in the New York Times points out that older buildings are often seen as “energy hogs,” especially in New York City, where about 55 percent of buildings predate 1940. Energy hogs? Not quite.

Despite prevailing conceptions, said Lisa Kersavage, the senior director for preservation and sustainability at the (Municipal Art) society, many historic buildings actually already incorporate energy-efficient design features – a legacy of having been built before the advent of cheap energy and modern mechanical systems.

When these buildings were originally constructed, natural ventilation and daylighting were standards, not because it was trendy, but because it was smart. This is the mentality — the approach — that the green building industry needs to take today.

But even for older structures that are in need of a few efficiency modifications, a little goes a long way. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 even includes a manual for preserving the city’s historic buildings — and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

The greening process is often more about optimizing existing elements, like ensuring that cross-ventilation isn’t inadvertently blocked, than about radical retrofit.

In order for the industry to move ahead, we need to look back. Understanding the past is important for the future.

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!

New York City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC). As the City’s primary project manager for construction projects, they build many of the civic facilities New Yorkers use every day. And recently, the DDC has been designing and refurbishing libraries, firehouses and museums, bringing new life to old buildings and reviving the city with a renewed look at architecture.

One recent project is the Queens Central Library, referenced in the NY Times article, “New York’s Public Architecture Gets a Face-Lift.”

What I find interesting is the reference the editor makes to Starbucks and Barnes & Noble. These seem like the most un-architecturally appealing buildings, and certainly not a place for intellectual stimulation.

Libraries have also learned from retailers like Starbucks and Barnes & Noble about what people expect when they leave their homes to go someplace public to sit and read. Libraries have become modern town squares and gathering places; they offer millions of New Yorkers employment counseling, English-language classes and, crucially, Internet access.

But the inspiration certainly worked for the library in Jamaica, Queens. Its architectural design is fresh, unique and inspiring, but still fits in with the surrounding low-rises in the area. Looking at this project an architectural eye, I think this revival of sorts demonstrates what can happen when architects, even without a whopping budget, can do if they have an innovative agenda and a supportive client. Applying the basics and designing with the future in mind is something we can’t take for granted — NYC’s DDC is a great example of what a little updating can do to bring buildings into the 21st

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This sums it up quite nicely.
And it’s the small things, after all – some greenery, good lighting, well-maintained sidewalks and well-made buildings – that shape our perceptions of where we live, whether or not we’re always conscious of them.


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