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Posts Tagged Retrofit

Today we received the great news that IES R&D has been nominated in the “Best Early Stage innovation” category of the European Commission’s Innovation Radar Award 2017. The competition identifies Europe’s top future innovators and their innovations, and is voted for by the public online. Our NewTREND web tool for energy efficient retrofitting has been nominated alongside 9 others in the category. Voting is open until 15 October 2017 so please vote now.


Developed as part of the NewTREND EU H2020 funded project, the Data Manager supports teams in finding the best energy retrofitting strategy for their particular building by guiding them in the data collection phase. In particular, the Data Manager enables on site data collection and information exchange with the rest of the NewTREND platform, which allows evaluation of different design options at both the building and district level, including district schemes and shared renewables, and will present information on available financing schemes and applicable business models.

The development of the NewTREND platform is still ongoing, but it will soon be tested in three real renovation projects in Hungary, Finland and Spain. On the three demo sites, the involvement of the stakeholders in the design process will be evaluated, with specific activities dedicated to inhabitants and users. This validation will ensure the NewTREND platform addresses the needs of the energy retrofit market, after which the team aims to bring it to market as a cloud service for renovation projects.

Sustainable cities and net-zero buildings are great buzz words for the green building industry. But it seems like every major city in the world is using these words to treat sustainability like a competition. They are creating plans to be energy efficient, to implement retrofits and to have zero waste within the next 10, 20, 40 years. This is great for the green building industry, but a word of caution — let’s be smart with our spending and avoid wasting money.

Big goals require big results and create pressure to meet those set goals. It’s important that the industry doesn’t fall victim to the pressure of bigger projects and loftier goals than can realistically be accomplished. Here’s a look at some cities that are truly setting the bar high, according to C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group:

– Seoul plans to retrofit 10,000 buildings by 2030.
– Austin has a zero-waste plan for 2040.
– Tokyo is introducing higher energy efficiency standards for large urban developments.
– São Paulo plans to reduce the use of fossil fuel on public transportation by 10 percent each year, aiming for 100 percent use of renewable fuels by 2017.

When it comes to the sustainable eco cities of tomorrow, it’s easy to have good intentions but miss the mark. That’s what new technology and gadgets can do to us sometimes — we get caught up in the hype and shoot for the stars.  We expect that because a particular product is new to market or a particular sustainability strategy is innovative, it’s a no-brainer to not only implement it but to use it to exceed our wildest green expectations. When the goals are set high, the stakes are high. It’s easy to fall victim.

At Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, for example, CBT architects had some extra room in their budget when designing the school’s new science building. They looked into upgrading the windows to a new model that was designed to reduce solar heat gain and thus reduce energy consumption. However, after using energy modeling software to run a simulation, architects discovered this particular window application would have done more harm than good. In the end, they were able to avoid spending $200,000 on an upgrade that would have actually made the building more inefficient.

A lot was on the line for this particular project — CO2 emissions, energy savings and the school’s overall sustainability goals. With this in mind, architects and engineers pushed for the absolute best results, and were it not for their extensive backgrounds and training in building modeling they would have made a costly mistake. This project acts as a bit of a microcosm for the rest of the sustainable building industry. With lofty goals come lofty expectations and more room for error.

High goals mean high expectations, but never assume that the newest technology or product is going to help meet those goals. Whether it’s taking baby steps to achieve one goal at a time or setting the bar extraordinarily high, the trick is to do it intelligently.

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

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

The largest and most significant sustainability project ever undertaken for an existing building is underway. Officials announced big plans for Chicago’s Sears Tower — some of which have never been seen before — and I for one am very excited to see new technology and innovation at its finest.

An article in GreenProgress.com dives into some of the more intricate details of the plan, but the overall goal is to reduce base building electricity by a whopping 80 percent. A combination of energy-saving upgrades and co-generation will create a reduction in energy consumption equivalent to 68 million kilowatt hours annually. Need some perspective on that astounding number? That’s about 150,000 barrels of oil a year!

Here are a few of my favorite aspects of the project:
– Mechanical systems upgrades in the form of new gas boilers that utilize fuel cell technologies, which generate electricity, heating and cooling at as much as 90 percent efficiency.
– Lighting that will be upgraded through advanced lighting control systems and daylight harvesting, automatically dimming lights in tenant spaces based on the amount of sunlight entering through the windows.
– Efficiency improvements to the building’s exterior envelope and windows
But coolness factor aside, this project represents more than just reduced CO2 emissions and energy savings; it’s a chance to educate a massive audience. With thousands of tourists flocking to the building every day, the project will feature a dynamic Sustainable Technology Learning Center that is designed to help building visitors and Chicago tourists learn about ways to save energy and money. It will demonstrate to the world how a sustainability program for an existing building can be accomplished.

“The Sears Tower energy sustainability and environmental education project presents a tremendous opportunity for inspiring building owners and the public to aspire to the highest standards of energy-efficiency.”

A project of this magnitude is going to open doors, both for the green building industry and the general public. While I’m very excited to see the end result, I’m more excited about what this means for green building in the United States as a whole.

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!


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