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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!

Carbon dioxide emitted by the United States reached its lowest level since 1992 earlier this year, according to a US Department of Energy Report, and the reasons might be a bit of a surprise.

Usually you wouldn’t contribute a reduction in CO2 to our extreme weather — or at least I wouldn’t. It seems a little counter intuitive. But experts say that this year’s unseasonably warm winter played a significant role in the drop in CO2. Warmer weather meant less energy consumed trying to keep homes and offices warm during what should have been the coldest parts of the year. Unfortunately, this stat only applies to the carbon dioxide emissions released from January to March of each year; the energy expended keeping our homes and office cool during the fourth hottest summer on record will surely make up for any reduction earlier in the year, scientists say.

Surprise number two? The recession is reducing CO2 emissions. The longer you think about it the more it makes sense. Less work = less fuel used. Government policy, new technology and an inability to afford gas-guzzling vehicles have lead to an emphasis on fuel efficiency. When was the last time you saw a Hummer on the road?

Lastly, the use of natural gas is playing a role in the numbers. This trend has been majorly driven by its affordability. The money that companies can save by increasing sustainability through natural gas is becoming more substantial. The good news is that natural gas seems like it might be a long term aid to reducing greenhouse emissions. Where the numbers from a warmer winter and slowing economy don’t tell the whole truth, the use of natural gas certainly does.

These stats might look good now, but they are a little deceiving and definitely don’t indicate that we should decrease our efforts toward reducing CO2. The next set of data that will be released is sure to prove this. Commercial buildings are still a major culprit when it comes to consuming and wasting energy. This is an area that real change can be made in. By making our buildings more sustainable, we can reduce our carbon footprint in a way that isn’t just a fluke but part of a long term solution toward energy efficiency.

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

Earlier this year, the Cleantech Group declared San Francisco the Cleantech capital of North America. From Mayor Ed Lee to the government to the 815,000 citizens, San Francisco has embraced cleantech and green technology as a lifestyle — not just a fad.

It’s pretty impressive that San Francisco raised more cleantech venture investment than New York City, despite having a population that is 8 times smaller. San Francisco has established itself as the go-to place for cleantech companies and investors, with more than 208 calling the city by the Bay home.

Much of the credit should go to the local government. San Francisco helped the cleantech industry thrive by supporting the Clean Technology Payroll Tax Incentive, which granted 10 years of payroll tax exemption to cleantech companies. This incentive helped create jobs and support further growth of the cleantech industry within the city.

But San Francisco doesn’t only support cleantech through its local economy — it also practices what it preaches. Evidence of this is in its buildings. San Francisco has been proactive in setting an example for sustainable building by implementing green building standards in its required building code. In 2008, the Green Building Ordinance Chapter 13C went into effect. This ordinance is based on elements of the USGBC’s LEED rating system. The city has embraced modeling technology to maximize energy efficiency in order to meet these new mandatory building codes in many of its buildings. This might give San Francisco an edge for years to come based on studies that point to green buildings boosting worker productivity and happiness.

San Francisco’s emphasis on cleantech has spread throughout the state of California. California accounted for the most cleantech patent registrations out of all 50 states. According to Next 10’s 2012 California Green Innovation Index, due to energy efficiency efforts, per capita electricity consumption in California remains close to 1990 levels.

This is great news for the green building industry. Energy modeling not only can help a building owner’s bottom line but better the lives of the workers in the building. California didn’t stumble into maintaining its per capita electricity consumption, it took careful planning. Moving forward more cities can utilize energy modeling to apply the same concepts to their buildings and cities that has made San Francisco so successful.

San Francisco looks set to continue its reign as cleantech capital of North America. Through its building practices and investment in cleantech, it’s head and shoulders above the competition.

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 our Software Development Director, Pete Thompson, returned from the 10th International Association for Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) Symposium. Pete, who is now a regular attendee of this yearly event, is the creator of Simulex, our tool which enables you to define a building and its occupants, and simulate how they move around a building day-to-day and evacuate during an emergency. The event was hosted by the Department of Fire Protection Engineering and took place in College Park, Maryland, USA.

With over 400 scientists and engineers attending the Symposium, it offers a great networking opportunity as IES continues to push into the North American market. While in the states Pete met with Don, our Managing Director, who is in the middle of a 4 country, 9 city, 32 day, 18 flight N.American & Asia trip. That’s a lot of timezones!

While at the event Pete was asked to co-chair a workshop examining how science and computing power feed into the process of modern building design and approval. The aim of the session was to “facilitate discussions between experimentalists (advancing the basic science & data), developers, users, and regulators to increase the information flow between the disciplines and attempt to focus minds on common areas of concern and benefit”. The workshop, entitled “Fire & Escape Modeling — from bits and bytes to safe buildings”, is available in the PowerPoint slides below, and they also contain links to the other discussions which took place during this block of sessions.

Global Snapshot

Posted: February 4, 2011 by , Category:Sustainability

Is 2011 going to be another exciting year for sustainable design? We scanned the globe for some awe-inspiring projects as we welcome in the New Year.

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore: Dubbed a master class in green architecture, the lotus-inspired ArtScience Museum is a living, breathing embodiment of the ArtScience theme. The Museum will feature naturally illuminated galleries at its ‘fingertips,’ while a dish-like roof harvests rainwater for its 115 ft. waterfall.

Santiago, Chile: The Costanera Center, South America’s tallest towers to date, is aiming for LEED Gold with extensive sustainable design strategies. The center features a massive 30,000 square meter green roof and a natural cooling system that channels water from nearby San Carlos Canal.

Tainan, Taiwan: Also known as ‘The Magic School of Green Technology,’ The Y. S. Sun Green Building Research Center is Taiwan’s first and only zero-carbon building. Incorporating 13 green building design methods, it features the world’s first natural buoyancy ventilation system, which keeps an international conference hall cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Florida, USA: A fantastic geodesic-inspired glass atrium in St. Petersburg, Florida is the new home to the surrealist artwork of Salvador Dali­. While its thick concrete walls were purposefully designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, its thermal mass doubles as a heat sink to minimize temperature highs and lows.

In the USA – the birthplace of behavioural psychology – you may hear of people going to see a “shrink”. When we think about people who are actively involved in creating a sustainable World, we think of policy makers, industry leaders, innovators and engineers. So how can a “shrink” shrink our environmental impact?

It has long been established by psychologists such Erwin Schroedinger and BF Skinner that much of our behaviour is controlled by the unconscious mind, implying that we are driven more by our desires, instincts and emotions, as opposed to rational thought and our ‘civilised’ modern environment. (You only have to see the way that software developers descend on a fresh chocolate cake; akin to a pack of vultures!) Many leading scientists strongly believe in the existence of ‘selfish genes’ inherent in every one of us, giving us a genetic tendency to “look after #1.”

If we think of that chocolate cake as a bountiful World full of natural resources, we can clearly see the same thing happening on a bigger scale. Entire nations clamour for the few fish left in our oceans (remember the cod wars?); global corporations compete for the ‘right’ to remove the remaining fossil fuels from the Earth only for energy providers to compete for their perceived right to burn as much of these resources as their considerable profit margins allow. If you wondered why the Copenhagen summit last year was such a failure, you only have to think about the human condition. We didn’t get to the top of the food chain by being considerate, sustainable and nice to each other.

As the developed World strives for a better quality of life and material values, the developing nations naturally want the same things. With the World population predicted to rise from 6.5b to over 9bn in the next forty years, there are already concerns about shortages in global food production and drinking water. How long will it take before we fully understand it is our greed-driven lifestyles and subconscious desires that form the root of the problem?

We love coming back from the holidays to good news. According to Environmental Leader, and specifically by research released by Zpryme, the U.S. green building market is set to grow 146 percent by 2013.

According to the Environmental Leader article, “The commercial sector should get a boost from the news that major real estate firms have signed up for a pilot program that would help building owners, prospective tenants and buyers ascertain the energy efficiency of a building. The Building Energy Quotient program — Building EQ for short — is administered by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).”

We are looking forward to the results of the Building EQ program. Given our position in the industry, it is (and has been from the beginning) our hope that buildings are as energy efficient as possible. For new buildings, this starts from the earliest stages of design. For retrofits, there are many changes architects can

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implement during the remodel to ensure a building not only reduces its energy usage, but also reduces it carbon emissions.

On another note, and for a little fun to start your new year off right, our partners at Autodesk have created RetroFits, a game to help raise awareness about the benefits of better, greener buildings. Stop by and check it out! Buildings continue to be the #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. But we can make them more energy efficient, little by little.

Sustainability in the States

Posted: August 5, 2009 by , Category:Sustainability

From goats to green roofs and organic composting to affordable green housing, cities across the states are working on creative ways to save the planet. People are used to recycling programs and the promotion of public transportation, but some cities are going above and beyond those steps to ensure that our planet fights global warning.

These cities are rated in the Natural Resource Defense Council’s top 10 smart cities. The ranks were defined by a number of different categories including alternative energy, affordable housing, energy efficiency, and public transportation. Topping this list was Seattle, Washington who has begun using goats instead of pesticides to clear away unwanted shrubbery.

Austin Texas made the list at number 6 for their energy

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saving insulation and sealing. The city of Austin, provides free installation for the energy conserving upgrades for low and moderate income homes. They are also running a program that allows residents to sell excess energy from their solar panels back to the city.

My home city of Boston ranks as number 8 on the list of smart cities for their implementation of one of the largest public transportation systems. Boston is adding to their bicycle structure adding new bike lanes and more racks.

To find out more, or see how your city ranks, please see the Natural Resource Defense Council’s website, http://www.nrdc.org/about/ or http://green.yahoo.com/blog/greenpicks/249/top-10-u-s-cities-of-the-future.html


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