Cx Associates’ work focuses on engineering services that save energy, and thus doing our part to save the planet. All of us also have a strong personal commitment to living as sustainably as we can, recognizing that no one is perfect, and that we all do the best we can. Our employees walk or bike to work, take public transportation, compost, live in walkable neighborhoods, drive efficient cars, and recycle.
A few years ago, while living in a small apartment in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood, I noticed that the lightbulb in my kitchen had burned out. Naturally, I went to the hardware store to find a replacement. After struggling to read the French labeling on several different packages, I ultimately decided to go for the least expensive box of LED bulbs that the store had available. Once I installed the newly purchased lightbulb, I noticed a difference in the way our kitchen looked. Specifically, I noticed a difference in the appearance of the bowl of fruit that always sat on the counter. While the lightbulb illuminated the space, I remember thinking to myself how unappetizing and dull my fruit now looked. This exercise, though unintentional, clarified the importance of a light source’s color rendering capability.
Thanks for following the second part of the ground coupled heat pump design. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to go back and read Part 1. In the first part of this post, we discussed the importance of understanding thermal imbalance in a ground source heat pump system and the longevity impacts associated with an imbalanced system. Despite the issues associated with a thermally imbalanced system, there are ways to address building loads with additional technology that will further enhance the performance of the ground-coupled heat pump system, as well as provide long term performance.
In 2011, a study, co-authored by an engineering professor from Stanford and a transportation research scientist from UC-Davis, found that we could halt global warming, save millions of lives, reduce air and water pollution, and develop secure, reliable energy sources in 20-40 years. Nearly all of this could be done with existing technology and at costs comparable with what we spend on energy today.
A large healthcare client of ours recently opened a brand new USP 800 compliant compounding pharmacy, which we commissioned. We collaborated with the engineering team and the hospital during the design phase to help ensure prior issues weren’t repeated, and the hospital’s concerns were thoroughly articulated and addressed. At the conclusion of the design phase, the team was confident that the design direction was solid and would give the hospital what they were looking for.
The ground source heat pump is a wonderful technology that will be vital in achieving energy efficiency goals this century. This technology isn’t new, but it is beginning to become more accepted as a viable solution for large scale, high efficiency HVAC performance. There are two main types of ground source heat pump systems: those that are “Ground Water” (also called Open Loop) and those that are “Ground-Coupled” (also called Closed Loop), see Figure 1 below. In either case, the water from the ground is pumped to a heat pump, where heat is either extracted out of or rejected into the ground and moved into or out of the conditioned space.
As you know, Cx Associates’ work focuses on making buildings perform better for occupants, operators, owners, and for the planet. A common metric we use to assess building performance is the energy use intensity (EUI) which Katie has discussed in her recent blog posts. While attending the recent IEPEC Conference in Denver, I had a discussion with someone familiar with Xcel Energy’s work to be a net zero carbon utility in the relatively near future. We realized that EUI is an insufficient metric for guiding energy program investments at their customer sites. Ultimately, to drive carbon emissions down to a sustainable level that will halt and begin to reverse the climate crisis we are currently in, we need to track energy intensity while also focusing on carbon emissions intensity (CEI) at a building level. Cities and states that have adopted carbon reduction goals will do well to focus on reducing the CEI of their building stock through energy efficiency, fuel switching, and renewable energy generation.
I had never heard of composting as a general practice, until I went to school in Vermont. UVM is one of those places where every trash can is accompanied with a compost and recycling bin (at least when inside near a dining area). When I moved to Boston for a few years after school, I was appalled at the lack of compost availability – what was this madness?!?! Luckily, upon my move back to Burlington, setting up an at home compost was a cinch – just fill up a bucket and drop it off at the waste center every other week for free. While Burlington does a fairly good job of encouraging composting, I just returned from a trip to Seattle where they do curbside compost pick up, and every restaurant I visited had a compost bin…STEP IT UP, EAST COAST!
With a recent move, from the outskirts of Boston back to Vermont (where I grew up), I am rediscovering my love for nature, the outdoors, and taking care of the environment. Shortly after our move, my husband and I began exploring our property to plot out a compost location and now have one that is propped on a stand for easy rotation (which to me, feels extremely fancy compared to the chicken-wire enclosure I grew up with). I also recently discovered the mass transportation system that Vermont offers, which is surprisingly convenient for such a rural area. Taking the bus twice a week combined with having one work-from-home day each week has allowed me to cut down my commuting emissions significantly. Among the other small day-to-day measures we take to ensure we are reducing our impact on the environment, my husband and I take advantage of BeesWrap instead of plastic wrap, reusable silicon sandwich bags instead of the throw-away plastic kind, and eco-modes on our hot water heater (this means quick showers!). Like many (possibly most) others, there is plenty more that we could and should be doing – but we’re working on it.
In a previous blog post, I discussed the energy benchmarking service we currently perform for a healthcare network using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM) tool. This tool is used to monitor the energy usage of a building over time. It allows a user to set energy goals, compare the overall energy use intensity (EUI) to a baseline year, and compare the building in question to other buildings with similar use-types and characteristics. In addition to continuing this specific service for the healthcare network, Cx Associates uses the benefits of benchmarking in other areas of our work too. This blog post will discuss what other areas of our work utilize benchmarking and then provide a brief update on changes ESPM has made to their scoring metrics over the past year.