For eons, humans have used thick, thermally massive walls to store the heat of the day and to warm their homes at night. Due to America’s persistent dependence on fossil fuels, passive solar walls enjoyed brief mainstream popularity during the fuel crises of the mid-20th century, and residences across the country benefited from reliable, renewable heat. As gas prices declined, so did homeowner and developer enthusiasm for these low-energy systems. As we face a massive climate change calamity and most residential heating systems today are still served by volatile fossil fuels, it is time we revisit and incorporate passive solar technologies into our new buildings and renovations.
Many of the readers of the Building Energy Resilience blog may not know that when I started working in the field of energy efficiency, my focus was on multi-family housing serving people with low incomes. ACEEE recently published this study on the income burden for low-income households. The energy burden is the percent of income paid for energy. It turns out that low-income households have two times the energy burden of the median household – paying over 7% of annual income in energy costs.
I remember someone telling me once that the compact fluorescent (CFL) twisty bulb was “sexy.” They were convinced the product would have market appeal. I have yet to meet someone who actually likes the light that comes from CFL bulbs. Now, LEDs are another thing entirely. They do have market appeal and we can see that manufacturers are working hard to develop products that capture consumer interest at prices that make us buy.
Last night I got to spend time with two of my closest friends. We were showing off the well-insulated basement of our new home, and my friend relayed the story of his contrasting clients. For one client he is upgrading the basement and planned to use closed cell spray foam as the insulation material. The client became concerned about off-gassing just before the application and put the project on hold. A different client (an elderly couple) is selling their home and moving into a new trailer. Tom went to install the baseboard trim for them as a favor. When he arrived on site he found the new trailer to be virtually uninhabitable for him and his crew without the windows open. On the kitchen counter he found this label:
For both new building commissioning and existing building retrocommissioning projects, I always stress the importance of verifying that the claimed savings are realized through building performance monitoring (trending) using utility bills, sub-meter data, smart meters, or directly through a building management system (BMS). I also encourage you as a building owner to use a benchmarking tool, such as Energy Star Portfolio Manager, to monitor the overall energy usage of the building over time. While studying for my LEED Green Associate (GA) exam, I came across a new performance monitoring system released last year by USGBC called the LEED Dynamic Plaque. My aim in this blog post is to introduce the new USGBC platform and describe how it can help you to monitor your commercial building’s performance and work towards a more efficient and sustainable building.
In a recent blog post, “The Benefits of an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit,” I discussed the process of performing an ASHRAE Level 1 energy audit, which is the first step in the LEED accreditation process for Existing Buildings (LEED EB). The Level 1 report is used to determine whether there is enough energy saving opportunities to proceed with LEED EB accreditation. In order to receive an energy credit in the official LEED EB application, however, an ASHRAE Level 2 energy audit is required. The Level 2 audit uses energy surveying and an engineering analysis to provide an even more detailed breakdown of how a building is performing; going deeper into the analysis of the Level 1 measures and identifying additional measures to improve the efficiency and functionality of the building. The Level 2 report details the opportunities to such a degree that actual decisions on implementation can be made and the LEED EB credit can be realized.
I’ve been blogging on and off about the challenges I’ve been facing as I seek to build a high performance home. At this point we are looking at cutting back on energy performance, or giving up all together and buying a run-of-the-mill performance house.
It is well known that energy efficiency investments provide opportunities to reduce energy costs and opportunities to leverage incentive dollars. As we have discussed recently in this blog, the relative attractiveness of energy efficiency investments may be evaluated in terms of first cost, simple payback, and life cycle cost. But for a given investment alternative, is it advantageous to finance?
Things have been moving slowly with my home replacement project so there hasn’t been much news. We are advancing towards spring construction (if Vermont’s winter ever ends), but are facing some unexpected challenges. The thing that we are finding most surprising about this process is that there is no roadmap. Originally we had thought that our architect and builder would guide us through the process, but they have been unable to provide much information regarding financing. Here are few of the things we are dealing with now:
Topics: Green Building
At the USGBC Greenbuild Conference held in November of this year, the new LEED Version 4 was officially launched. This updated version has evolved due to a more market-driven green building market. The requirements for a LEED certified green building are more economically feasible and becoming the new standard for construction. In order to continue to drive the market towards greener construction, LEED Version 4 has made some significant changes, including more requirements (pre-requisites) and additional credits. A big portion of this change is focused on the energy performance of the building, which affects our commissioning process.