Building Retrofits: The Retrocommissioning Approach

Posted by Jennifer Chiodo on Feb 21, 2018 1:28:36 PM

If you're the owner or manager of an older commercial building, you may wonder if retrocommissioning is right for your building retrofit. You are not alone.

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Topics: Building Performance & Technology

Open the Mines! Let’s Start the Dig for Data and Improve Building Performance.

Posted by Rick Stehmeyer on Feb 14, 2018 10:23:00 AM

Despite the fog’s best efforts (diverting my schedule three hours by car outside of Chicago), I  made it to the 2018  ASHRAE Expo . For those who don’t know what the ASHRAE Expo is, you can think of it like a  Comic-Con, but for Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). There is a huge exposition where products are shown off and the latest in energy efficiency technology is pandered off in a bazaar filled with old friends from across this global industry.

I attended six talks, a few open panel discussions, an ASHRAE GPC36 Committee meeting, and topped the days off by making new friends and “nerding out” over HVAC. I chose to attend panels and presentations that had to do with controls, integration, and grid management because that’s where I believe we can easily continue to chip away at excessive energy consumption due to poorly controlled building HVAC systems.

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Topics: Building Performance & Technology

2018 Resolutions: Goals for the Building Commissioning Industry

Posted by Gretchen Schimelpfenig on Feb 7, 2018 11:15:00 AM

Forty years ago, the practice of commissioning systems to ensure buildings deliver functionality and comfort for owners and users originated in Canada. Twelve years later, ASHRAE debuted Guideline 1 for the commissioning (Cx) process. For twenty years, the U.S. Green Building Council has included commissioning in LEED documentation, and in 2014, LEED v4 was released, requiring fundamental Cx, including design review, for all new construction projects seeking certification.

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Topics: Building Cx & Design Review

Impressions of Colombia: Farming, Fair Trade, and the FARC Peace Treaty

Posted by Eveline Killian on Jan 24, 2018 1:30:00 AM

I recently had the privilege to travel to Colombia with Engineers Without Borders to assess the needs and resources for an irrigation project for family farms.  Colombia is very well suited for coffee and sugar cane, but the dry season is too harsh for more sensitive plants like basil, lettuce, spinach, and peppers.  For this, farmers need drip irrigation, water catchment, water reservoir, and water diversion.  Our group’s goal is to develop an affordable, sustainable, and replicable design as a pilot project for ten farmers in central Colombia.  We are working with Food 4 Farmers, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), Nueva Realidad, a Bogota based NGO, and Nuevo Futuro, the local coffee cooperative.  We knew what our goal was before we started, but we had no idea what to expect from the trip.  Here are our impressions of the country with which our team returned.

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Topics: Sustainability, Public Policy, Workplace & People

Using Opposite Season Testing to Protect the Integrity of Your HVAC System

Posted by Ben Fowler on Jan 17, 2018 9:07:00 AM

During this recent cold-snap in the northeast, you can be sure that HVAC contractors were some of the busiest people around. Inevitably, when outdoor temperatures reach what are called “design-day” conditions, (the days with the highest expected heating or cooling loads a building can experience for its local climatic conditions), HVAC systems are put to the test. It is not uncommon for problems that are not obvious at lower temperatures to suddenly arise - sometimes leading to system outages, frozen pipes, and worse - exactly when you need your HVAC system the most.

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Topics: Building Cx & Design Review

Retaining Energy Savings, and Snowflakes

Posted by Rick Stehmeyer on Dec 29, 2017 4:40:00 PM

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was born in my home town of Jericho VT in 1865.  My town is situated in Vermont in a unique way that allows for a lot of annual snow (by Vermont standards).  Not only does Jericho get a lot of snow, but we also seem to be situated in such a way that we get perfect snowflakes that don’t clump together.  This is what allowed Mr. Bentley to become one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He invented his own way of catching flakes using black velvet, so they wouldn’t melt or evaporate before he could get a picture of them. 

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Topics: Sustainability, Energy Efficiency

The Role of Commissioning for Industrialized Construction Projects

Posted by Gretchen Schimelpfenig on Dec 6, 2017 2:52:00 PM

As buildings become increasingly complex and codes require more verification of performance, commissioning is as valuable as ever. “Savvy building owners recognize the gaps in the current design and construction process and the impact they have on the ability to achieve increasingly higher performance requirements” said Ryan Corker of the National Institute of Building Sciences in a November 2017 roundtable for the ASHRAE Journal. The Journal Editor asks: “Why is commissioning necessary if we have professionals designing buildings…shouldn’t everything just work correctly?”

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Topics: Building Cx & Design Review

The Role of Thermal Energy Storage in Electric Grid Management

Posted by Daniel Tuhus-Dubrow on Nov 29, 2017 10:00:00 AM

I spend most of my time focused on improving energy efficiency in buildings. Common recommendations include improving scheduling so that equipment doesn’t run continuously 24/7 or implementing lighting controls so that lights automatically turn off when nobody is in the space. These types of measures can significantly reduce electricity consumption but may have little impact on the building peak demand, let alone the grid peak demand.

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Topics: Energy Efficiency, Building Performance & Technology

The Business Case for Health Care Reform in the United States

Posted by Rachael Straub on Nov 15, 2017 12:32:00 PM

While this is off the topic of energy efficiency and optimized building functionality, it’s relevant to sustainability, specifically the long-term health of businesses and the people they employ. The United States’ health care system is in crisis. As a nation, we spend over twice the amount on health care than other developed countries, but rank last in terms of health care outcomes, such as equity, efficiency, and mortality rates (see: How Bad is U.S. Health Care?). As the cost of health care rises, the financial hardship of staying well not only burdens those who need help the most – the sick and the poor – but also those businesses committed to providing health care to their employees.

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Topics: Sustainability, Public Policy

Can We Transition to Renewable Energy Systems without Government Support?

Posted by Eveline Killian on Nov 9, 2017 10:00:00 AM

According to various studies, the United States is beating its energy reduction and renewable energy production goals beyond any federal predications.  Total energy consumption in 2016 was 17% lower than expected, wind power production was 79% higher, and solar production was 383% higher than the United States Department of Energy predicted in a February 2007 report, as stated in the October 5, 2017 Statista Portal.  In addition, a 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report finds that 45% of the 1.9 million workers in the Electric Power Generation and Fuels technologies are in the low-carbon emission generation technologies (renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas).

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Topics: Sustainability, Public Policy, Energy Efficiency

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