Building Energy Resilience

Ideas to fuel a sustainable built environment

3 min read

The Future of Demand Response After FERC v. ESPA Decided by SCOTUS

By Ben Fowler on Apr 27, 2016 10:00:00 AM

On January 25, 2016, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) v. Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA). The ruling, which was 6-2 in FERC’s favor, is great news for the bright future of a practice which can help grid operators better match electrical grid power supply and demand in real-time, known as Demand Response.


What is Demand Response?

Topics: Public Policy Energy Efficiency
3 min read

Move Over Governments – Corporations are Leading on Climate Change

By Eveline Killian on Dec 9, 2015 10:00:00 AM

During the Kyoto Protocol meetings, the world thought governments were going to lead the carbon-emission reduction efforts. But the foremost carbon-emitting countries (US included) didn’t sign this protocol and, until recently, seemed content with sidestepping any commitments.  Now 25 years later, the world itself is calling for change, and governments are finding grassroots support from the public as they go into the Paris Climate Change discussions.  Companies world-wide are initiating energy and waste reducing measures and promoting renewable energy procurement themselves, without mandates, because they see the economic benefits.  The tide has turned.

Topics: Public Policy
3 min read

Prices Keep Falling for Large-Scale Solar PV. So what?

By Ben Fowler on Oct 21, 2015 6:00:50 AM

In the five years or so between the late 2000s and 2014, prices for large-scale solar photovoltaic (aka “solar PV” or “PV”) power generation installations have fallen by 50% due to reasons including incremental technology improvements, higher production volumes, more efficient manufacturing, and more efficient and competitive installation. The news of falling large scale solar PV costs is not new to those who follow these kinds of things, but the continued drastic decline in prices has brought us to a point worth noting. A recently released Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) report on this subject titled Utility-Scale Solar 2014[1], found that the 20th percentile of utility scale PV project costs (the least-expensive 20%) were installed for around $2 per WattAC. Some notable recent utility-scale PV power purchase agreements (a.k.a “PPAs”, which are contracts between producers and buyers of power typically for a fixed price per megawatt) in the Southwestern US have been for prices as low as $40/MWh—the study notes that at this price, solar PV is competitive with the fuel-only component of operating a natural gas plant (i.e., ignoring gas generation fixed capital costs such as the power plant itself!).

Topics: Public Policy Energy Efficiency
2 min read

Toxic Living Environments – Why Are They Legal?

By Jennifer Chiodo on Oct 14, 2015 6:00:00 AM

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:

Topics: Green Building Public Policy
3 min read

Legionnaire’s Disease and Cooling Towers: Risk Management

By Ben Fowler on Aug 19, 2015 6:00:00 AM

On August 6th, the Commissioner of the New York City department of health issued an order[1] to all commercial building owners/operators in the City requiring the adoption of a new standard, issued in June 2015 by ASHRAE[2], titled Standard 188 - Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems. The order to adopt this standard was in response to the recent Legionellosis outbreak (also known as Legionnaire’s Disease), which has resulted in 12 deaths, sickened more than 100 people, and is believed to have originated from a rooftop cooling tower above a deli in the South Bronx[3].

Topics: Building Cx & Design Review Public Policy
3 min read

Is a Net Zero World Even Possible?

By Eveline Killian on Nov 12, 2014 5:00:00 AM

I take climate change very seriously and do what I can in my personal life and through my career in energy efficient building commissioning to mitigate my impact on the environment. But I am also cautious of doomsayers who call for unrealistic achievements or all is lost. So I was motivated to do some investigating recently when I read that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that “global emissions need to hit zero by 2100 to keep global warming below 2°C by the turn of the century.” That struck me as such an idealistic goal. Can we really do that? I decided I wanted to educate myself and, of course, found that this iceberg is deeper than I expected, and the answer is not simple. In this post I’d like to share its complexity and, in a subsequent post, I will speak to my interpretation of realistic goals.

Topics: Public Policy Energy Efficiency
3 min read

Is It a Heat Pump, Boiler or Furnace? – A Case for Engineer/Social Scientist Collaboration on Market Research

By Jennifer Chiodo on Oct 29, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Who knows technology?

I should know better than to presume anything when someone is speaking about their “furnace,” because what they most frequently mean is “the thing that makes heat.” I was recently asked about a home heater replacement by a relative who is the chief engineer at a major communications company. His question was, “should I replace my furnace to save energy?” I inquired about the efficiency and he replied 88%, which is pretty good for an oil-fired furnace, so I told them that was probably the best they could do. Then I was asked, “what about our hot water heater?,” which was described as “a tankless type fed off the furnace.” At that point I realized that my friend wasn’t using accurate language and that was causing me to give him bad advice. He in fact has a high-mass oil boiler with an indirect fired hot water tank, and since the boiler is near the end of its useful life, he does have an opportunity to replace it with a higher performance boiler.

Topics: Public Policy Building Performance & Technology
4 min read

Is Big City Engineering Better than Local Engineering?

By Jennifer Chiodo on Sep 17, 2014 6:00:00 AM

My business partner, Matt Napolitan and I each spent 10 years working at major, international engineering firms. I worked for nationally ranked 11th Syska Hennessy Group in their San Francisco office and Matt worked for 14th ranked Buro Happold out of their New York office. We now operate a 10-person engineering consulting firm in Burlington, Vermont. We know both large, big-city engineering and local, Vermont engineering.

Topics: Building Cx & Design Review Public Policy
3 min read

US Ranks 13th out of 16 in Energy Efficiency

By Jennifer Chiodo on Jul 23, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Energy efficiency is a tremendous opportunity that we are squandering at the federal level. While many states have adopted aggressive energy savings goals and have committed the necessary resources to advance both policy and practice toward meeting those goals, little federal action has been taken to advance building and transportation efficiency. The ACEEE’s 2014 International Energy Efficiency Score Card ranks the US near the bottom of industrialized economies in efficiency. The countries that are doing worse than we are include Russia, Brazil and Mexico.

Topics: Public Policy Energy Efficiency
3 min read

E-Cigarettes and Indoor Air Quality

By Ben Fowler on Jun 25, 2014 6:00:00 AM

A year or so ago I was part of an “office share” office where I had my own desk in shared office space with other professionals in unrelated fields. At the time, I lived 40 miles from our company offices here in Burlington, and to cut down on the daily commute, for a few days each week I worked out of this shared office closer to my home. It was really a great place to be, interesting, and much better for productivity that siting at the kitchen table!

Topics: Public Policy Workplace & People