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Russia’s largest retailer approached IES recently to ask for help in designing significantly better performing buildings – the result a UK 4-day study tour led by our Business Development Consultant for CEE, Guy Eames.

“Britain is one of the leading countries when it comes to high performance or “green” buildings”, boasts Guy, “IES’ technology highlights what is possible, when building owners set their minds to reducing their carbon footprint”.

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Skanska shows off their “Deep Green” engineering and manufacturing workshops near Doncaster

The executives saw first-hand how buildings are passively heated and cooled using locally grown materials pressed into blocks; how green roofs affect insulation and provide natural habitats and how rainwater harvesting reduces water use by 50%. “Implementing such build strategies would be impossible without first making careful calculations”, continues Guy. “Building simulation analysis offers the best way to do that, allowing “scenario analysis” or comparisons between various construction materials and technologies. IESVE offers the most integrated and speediest approach.”

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IES Business Development Consultant Europe, Guy Eames

We were pleased to welcome Environmental Sustainability Manager at Adnams, Ben Orchard on the tour to present to the executives and share the firms sustainability story. Part of this is its BREEAM Excellent distribution centre which incorporates many eco-friendly measures such as rainwater harvesting, solar panels and LED lights. “It was a pleasure to be able to highlight the features and demonstrate the success of our award winning, ‘eco’ designed, distribution centre; an iconic and crucial milestone in our sustainability story”, said Ben.

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Passively heated and cooled distribution centre at Adnams

Globally renowned architect and pioneer for super-efficient buildings Bill Dunster, CEO of ZED Factory, also welcomed the group and praised the IESVE (Virtual Environment) platform. Zed Factory demonstrated the “Zero Bills Home” and how to use innovation to reduce energy demands whilst taking advantage of natural renewable energy – sun and wind.

Renewable energy was a reoccurring topic throughout the tour, as all of the buildings seen were powered naturally. “In the CIS there are very few wind turbines, although PV and hydroelectric are playing a growing role, so there’s nothing like standing under a wind turbine and comparing how whole communities can be powered on renewables.”, said Guy. It was a pleasure to meet with companies like RES which specialise in such schemes and demonstrate how IESVE can calculate loads on individual buildings”. RES showed off their thermal storage capabilities as well as combined solar heating and power installation. Visitors were impressed to see electric vehicles charging from wind and solar power.

The Zero Bills Home at BRE Innovation Park

The Zero Bills Home at BRE Innovation Park

The ZEDfactory Zero Bills Home showed how battery power could store excess energy or cheap off-peak power to cover energy peaks and even charge electric vehicles. The homes, although grid connected, are energy positive for 8 months of the year and only energy negative for 4 months, when they rely on the grid. This is possible thanks to their solar voltaic roofs (BIPV), low thermal loads by maximising energy efficiency and using all electric heat pumps producing hot and cold water, and the reduced costs of electrical storage. There is almost no case for centralised power plants with this combination. Affordable near off-grid buildings are now ready to replace investment in fossil or nuclear powered centralised grid infrastructure – however it requires clients and local government to stop investing in large scale solutions and concentrate on higher quality optimised local buildings and masterplans.

A green-building tour of the UK wouldn’t be complete without learning more about BREEAM. The group was lucky to visit 6 BREEAM certified buildings (many award winning) as well as being greeted by senior staff at the BRE (Building Research Establishment). BREEAM is increasingly being used abroad, either using the international BREEAM or National Schemes. IES works closely with the BRE, projects include IMPACT and modules for the VE to speed up the BREEAM certification process.

The tour was intense but deep – covering retail strategies (Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer found an hour for us), manufacturing and distribution buildings (Skanska, Adnams), and Residential and Office. To complete the day, the group were treated to a presentation of Terminal 5 at Heathrow – the UK’s largest free-standing buildings, where IES was selected as  Energy and Sustainability Modelling Consultants.

Guy concluded, “The tour was a great success, full of inspiring projects, showcasing the best of British in taking forward the sustainability agenda. We look forward to these ideas being transferred across CEE countries and greeting more Eastern Europeans!”.

brochure-image-1Our wasteful use of energy is catching up with us. Environmental disasters which usually happen once every hundred years are happening every year. And climate change, once considered an issue for future generations, has moved firmly into the present.

The simple fact is: if we continue to emit heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels at the current rate, we will force temperatures to rise above the level our eco-system can cope with. All in less time than it takes for today’s preschoolers to finish high school.

Today, most countries have “Brown Economies” that are dependent on fossil fuels. We need to move as quickly as possible to “Green Economies” that have little need for fossil fuels and are resource efficient. Our ever increasing migration to cities and their growth presents us with a unique opportunity to drive this change through our approach to city infrastructure.

We need to stop wasting energy
As governments across the world respond by introducing carbon reduction targets, many people would argue the solution is to stop burning gas, oil and coal altogether and start generating all our energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.

I used to be one of those people. It was only after I completed my PhD, in the generation and use of solar energy, that I realised renewable energy isn’t the solution. It certainly has a role to play – but when I tell people how much space they’ll need for all the solarflex required to power just one building, they quickly agree we need to stop wasting energy and reduce our overall energy consumption first.

When I created the Virtual Environment (VE), to enable architects and engineers to predict the impact of making changes to buildings on their energy consumption, little did I realise just how powerful the technology would become. Today, we’re not only helping facilities managers to reduce energy consumption and creating some of the world’s most sustainable buildings, but we’re also working with city planners to create smart cities where no energy is wasted.

Our buildings need to get smarter
It’s simply unacceptable that in a society capable of understanding the laws of the universe, cloning life and travelling through space, we still allow our buildings to waste a quarter of their energy.

As the Earth’s population continues to expand and more people migrate into cities, we need to look at how to not only make new buildings more sustainable, but also leverage the opportunities for economies of scale this presents. That way, we can we make our existing buildings and cities as energy-efficient as possible.

Only by looking at buildings and cities as the integrated environments that they are – instead of parts of the problem in isolation – can we ensure everyone involved in the conception, design or management of a building gets to leave our world in a much better state than we inherited it.

Thank you for playing your part.

Read more in IES – The Future of Energy Reduction.

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.

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

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!

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.

Gambling on Clean Energy

Posted: September 29, 2011 by , Category:Environment, events, Sustainability

If I was a betting woman…

I’d bet on clean energy.

Las Vegas hosted the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 last month, and none other than Vice President Joe Biden himself was there to pledge allegiance to green cars, photovoltaics and wind turbines. He seemed sincerely passionate about the need for a renewable energy revolution. The event was held at the LEED Gold-certified Aria CityCenter, which looks like any other casino resort, but is far from it. What you can’t see is the waste heat co-generation facility, the water conservation efforts, the fresh air circulation or the electric vehicle charging station. Yes, at a casino. In Las Vegas. CityCenter’s commitment to the environment remarkably demonstrates that a community can be both beautiful and sustainable.

Imagine if the U.S. was the first country able to make solar power that is cheaper than coal. Imagine lithium-ion batteries made here that are capable of carrying an electric car 300 miles or more. Imagine being able to capture waste power from factories and vehicles and convert it to electricity. I think we’re going to see stunning breakthroughs.
Joe Biden

These innovations will help the U.S. by spending less on imported oil from other nations, focusing our efforts to continue pushing the envelope when it comes to clean technologies.

There was also a panel presentation. Newly elected Nevada governor Brian Sandoval said that the state has made a commitment to use 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. If other states would piggy back off Nevada’s commitment, we would be on our way to a more sustainable America. (And well before the Architecture 2030 deadline, too!)

How can we achieve Architecture 2030?

Posted: September 1, 2011 by , Category:Architecture 2030

Architecture 2030 is somewhat of a “hot topic” around the IES offices. There’s always something new to talk about as it relates to the goal focused of protecting our global environment by using innovation and common sense to develop solutions to the increasing problem of global warming.

I recently came across this article on Daily Commercial News by Wayne DeAngelis. In his article, titled “Time to re-think energy use and production,” he gets to the core of what Architecture 2030 is all about.

When American architect Edward Mazria first pondered the notion of what architecture would be like in the year 2030, he was no doubt well aware of the struggle that lay ahead in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, building waste, brownfields, greenfields and the usurping of this planet’s precious finite resources such as water, land and air. Yet he may not have anticipated the momentum “The 2030 Challenge” would initiate.

We’ve quoted Ed Mazria before. I think this quote from a few years’ ago is worth taking another look.
We tend to rush toward the complex when trying to solve a daunting problem, but in this case, simplicity wins. Better buildings, responsible energy use and renewable energy choices are all we need to tackle both energy independence and climate change,” said Mazria.

And that’s just the thing. In order to tackle climate change and build sustainable buildings not just now, but for the future, we need to stop and take a step back. Simplicity at its core is

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something we should practice in many areas of our lives, especially design. Rather than building massive buildings that are underutilized and aren’t energy efficient, we need to take a look at the earliest stages of the design process and ask ourselves, “What is the goal of this building?” Many times, the answer helps guide the design and its ultimate simplicity.

We’ve got just under two decades to get to Architecture 2030. Can we do it?

The United States Conference of Mayors recent Clean Energy Solutions for America’s Cities report is a summary of survey results. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are more than 1,200 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.

I’ll admit, I was a bit worried to dive into the report, with visions of a glum outlook and details that reflect why this cities are not sustainable.

But I’d say things are looking pretty good!

If you want to read the entire report, you can download it here.

But the key findings sum things up quite well.

  • Despite challenging economic conditions, three in four cities (75%) expect their deployment of clean energy technologies to increase over the next five years.
  • Cities identify financial constraints as the most significant challenge to improving energy efficiency and conservation, and developing new renewable energy supplies.
  • LED and other efficient lighting (76%), low-energy building technologies (68%), and solar systems to generate electricity (46%) are the top three choices among mayors as the most promising technologies for reducing energy use and carbon emissions.
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) are shown to have multiple benefits for cities, from helping to cope with higher gas prices to deploying new energy technologies and efficiency measures, now and in the future.
  • Mayors point to the economic benefits of clean energy solutions as key drivers of their energy strategies.
  • For one in three cities, adapting to climate change is already an element of their capital planning and/or capital improvement programs.
  • One-quarter of all cities have already set targets for the use of renewable energy.

What do you think? Are our major cities on a path to a sustainable future? How can we ensure we get there? I certainly think implementing “smart” solutions within commercial buildings is a fool-proof way to ensure energy hogs such as lights and HVAC systems are kept in check, without the need for extra manpower (and extra expenses) to keep tabs during peak demand times throughout the day. But that’s just a small piece of the puzzle. There’s so much more we can do in the world of sustainable design, and we are just scratching the surface

My hope is to view this report 5, 10 years from now and see an even greater move towards sustainability.

Image Source: Philly.com

You might remember our post a couple of months back on the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, and how it did not seek LEED certification, despite an impressive list of green features.

Well, a hundred miles to the south, the Philadelphia Eagles are showing no such constraint with their home, Lincoln Financial Field. The team announced on November 18 that they will try to make it the “greenest stadium in the world.”

Constructed in 2003, “The Linc” was finished just before the green building boom really took off. The team’s owner, Jeffrey Lurie, launched the Eagles’ “Go Green” program in 2003, to “[incorporate] green initiatives, sustainable business practices and educational programs as our core operating principals.” Now, this new stadium initiative is set to be the crown jewel of the franchise’s efforts.

Among the features the team plans on installing:

  • 2,500 solar panels on the roof
  • 80 20-foot-tall wind turbines ringing the outside of the stadium
  • A new power plant that runs on either biofuels or natural gas

When the $30 million retrofit is finished in September 2011, all these features will combine to produce at least 8.6 megawatts of electricity, much more than the stadium’s game day peak usage of 7 megawatts. The excess will be sold to a local utility company.

The end goal? To take the 70,000-seat stadium completely off the power grid through generating all of its own renewable power.

It looks as though, in America, green building is catching on quickly in the sports venue market. According to this Philadelphia Inquirer article, nine American stadiums have applied for LEED certification, and five more are considering it. The fact that these facilities are going with green retrofits to existing stadiums is a promising development for buildings that see the largest number of people gather at any one time in a given area, and thus, produce the most potential environmental waste. Now it seems they’re becoming almost as green as the grass on which their teams play.

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