Nominations for Beyond Green™ Awards Now Open

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at Sun, Aug 31 - 10.43AMThe National Institute of Building Sciences Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) has incorporated resilience into its 2014 Beyond Green™ High-Performance Building and Community Awards. The awards program, which issued its 2014 Call for Entries today, highlights those initiatives that shape, inform and catalyze the high-performance planning, design, construction and operations processes. This year, for the first time, buildings and communities can be recognized for their contributions to building and community level resilience.

The Beyond Green™ Awards recognize buildings, initiatives and innovations that best exemplify the eight design objectives of a high-performance building: sustainability, accessibility, aesthetics, cost-effectiveness, functionality, productivity, historical sensitivity, and safety and security. Resilience falls within the ‘safety and security’ attribute, which promotes designing and constructing buildings that resist natural and man-made hazards.

Award categories include: High-Performance Buildings; High-Performance Attributes and Systems; High-Performance Initiatives; and Innovations for High-Performance Buildings and Communities; as well as the Greg Franta Memorial Award for an individual’s outstanding contributions to high-performance, sustainable building design and construction.

Once selected, the winners of the Beyond Green™ High-Performance Building & Community Awards will be invited to present their projects and receive their awards at a special Beyond Green™ Awards Luncheon, to be held during Building Innovation 2015: The National Institute of Building Sciences Third Annual Conference and Expo, the week of January 6-9, 2015. The awards presentation gives winners an opportunity to share directly with leaders in the building community, highlighting the challenges and opportunities they faced while delivering high-performance buildings.

Winning projects will be published on the WBDG Whole Building Design Guide® website. Additional recognition will include an announcement in the Institute’s newsletter, a plaque, posting of the case study on the SBIC website and potential inclusion in future SBIC technical guidelines and publications.

The deadline to apply for the 2014 Beyond Green™ Awards is Friday, October 31, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. EDT. Take this opportunity to recognize a deserving high-performance project, particularly one that addresses resilience. The application process is now available online. Submit an entry today!

New ‘intelligent agents’ lab to help improve building energy efficiency

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is converting one of its laboratories into the equivalent of a small office building—not because of an increase in administrative overhead, but to develop and test smart software technologies designed to slash energy use in commercial buildings.

Architectural drawing of the new NIST 'intelligent agents' lab for more efficient building control systems. Credit: Kikkeri/NIST

Architectural drawing of the new NIST ‘intelligent agents’ lab for more efficient building control systems.
Credit: Kikkeri/NIST

From schools and hospitals to stores, offices and banks, commercial buildings account for a growing share of U.S. energy use—about 19 percent of the total and a third of electric power consumption.* More than four-fifths of this energy is consumed after construction by heating, cooling, lighting, powering plug-in equipment and other operations. By one estimate, day-to-day energy expenses make up 32 percent of a building’s total cost over its lifetime.**

NIST figures that these energy-eating operations can be accomplished far more efficiently and frugally with existing equipment by more intelligently coordinating their use. At the mock office building now under construction in a standard 1,000 square foot (93 square meters) modular lab space, NIST researchers will put this assertion to the test. There, they and their collaborators will investigate whether artificial intelligence tools already used in search engines, robots, routing and scheduling programs, and other technologies can work cooperatively to optimize building performance—from minimizing energy use to maximizing comfort to ensuring safety and security.

“Adapting intelligent agent technologies from other fields offers the promise of significant improvements in building operations,” explains Amanda Pertzborn, a mechanical engineer working in NIST’s Embedded Intelligence in Buildings Program. “The idea is a kind of ‘one for all approach’—use networked intelligent agents to manage and control devices and equipment subsystems to enhance the overall performance of a building rather than to optimize the operation of each component independently of all the others.”

Intelligent agents are combinations of software and hardware—sensors, mechanical devices and computing technologies—that perceive their environment, make decisions and take actions in response. They can monitor, communicate, collaborate and even learn, predict and adapt.

The energy-saving potential of this smart technology will grow with the evolution of the “smart grid” and its two-way communication capabilities, Pertzborn says. So, for example, cooperating teams of intelligent agents can parse time-of-day pricing, weather forecasts, availability of renewable energy supplies, and occupancy patterns to adjust individual equipment and systems to achieve optimal overall performance.

NIST’s simulated office building will serve as a proving ground for assessing whether intelligent agents dispersed among a structure’s multitudes of devices and subsystems can achieve this unity of purpose and work in concert. Prototypes will be tested on the most energy-intensive of building operations: heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC). So-called HVAC systems in commercial buildings account for about 7 percent of total U.S. energy consumption.***

Modern HVAC systems consist of thousands of devices from local dampers, heaters, thermostats and fans to boilers, air handling units, chillers and cooling towers. When a building’s HVAC system is first installed and tested, this vast assortment of components can be tuned so that the system starts out performing at peak efficiency. Over time, however, efficiency tends to degrade from the optimum and energy use patterns of occupants change, requiring retesting and retuning the system. Intelligent agents distributed throughout a HVAC system would enable continuous tweaking to orchestrate the operation of all components so as to maintain peak performance and efficiency throughout the building’s lifetime.

Using a real building HVAC system under controlled laboratory conditions will enable meaningful comparisons of prototype intelligent agents, Pertzborn explains. Scheduled to be completed in the fall, this building-in-a-lab will consist of four zones serviced by two chillers, three air-handling units, four variable air volume units to control air flow and one ice storage tank, plus pumps, heat exchangers and other equipment.

* U.S. Department of Energy, Buildings Energy Data Book, http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/ChapterIntro1.aspx.

** Siemens, Integrated Building Optimization: A Crucial Convergence of Demand-side and Supply-side Energy Management Strategies, 2014.

*** J. Shonder, “Fact Sheets on HVAC Measures,” www.pertan.com/ORNL_govenergy/Shonders_HVAC.pdf

Bipartisan Energy-Efficient Cool Roof Jobs Act expected to create up to 40,000 jobs

us-senateU.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has reintroduced the “Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act,” S. 2388, which would boost job creation in the construction industry and significantly increase the energy efficiency of buildings throughout the U.S., lowering energy costs and saving money. The bill would improve investment returns on building energy-efficiency improvements by shortening the tax depreciation period for the installation of new roofs on existing buildings that meet certain thermal performance and “cool roof” requirements.

S. 2388 is co-sponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Senator Cardin also filed the Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act as an amendment (S. Admt 3186) to the EXPIRE Act (S. 2260). U.S. Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) have introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 4740). The bill reduces the depreciation period for commercial roof retrofits, lowering the current 39-year depreciation period in the current tax code to a 20-year depreciation period for energy-efficient cool roof systems. To qualify, roofs must include systems with insulation that meets or exceeds the ASHRAE Standard 189.1-2011, a model green building standard, and have a cool roof surface in climate zones one through five.

The Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act has attracted a wide range of supporters. The bill would create nearly 40,000 new jobs among roofing contractors and manufacturers; add $1 billion of taxable annual revenue in the construction sector; make the tax code simpler and more equitable for small businesses of all types; reduce U.S. energy consumption and save small businesses millions of dollars in energy costs; and reduce carbon emissions by 800,000 metric tons – an amount equal to the emissions of 153,000 cars.

LG Electronics selected for DOE tech program

lg-electronicsHVAC manufacturer LG Electronics is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on a new program designed to accelerate adoption of cutting-edge energy-saving technologies for commercial buildings. The technology is called variable refrigerant flow (VRF), and is being used in new commercial air systems. LG’s Multi V IV system uses VRF technology and brings a new level of energy efficiency, performance and flexibility to U.S. commercial office buildings, schools, hotels and hospitals.

Using the DOE TPEx program, product evaluators and purchasers can access a centralized, web-based portal for finding and sharing energy performance data for commercial building technologies such as VRF systems. This will allow them to quickly and easily identify best-in-class technologies and data for assessing their energy saving impact on a building.

Technology evaluators can leverage the raw data contained in the Technology Performance Exchange to greatly reduce the time required to evaluate technology performance and improve the quality of their assessments. Energy-saving products will thus be able to penetrate the marketplace more quickly than ever before.

LG has chosen to start work on the TPEx project by providing DOE the performance attributes of its VRF systems. With the TPEx, builders can better assess LG’s product performance, conduct financial analyses with greater confidence, and compete more effectively for limited organizational capital resources by presenting robust energy savings and payback analysis’ for approval, McNamara explained.

Meeting demand for energy-saving HVAC technology

The fourth generation in LG’s popular Multi V series uses industry-leading VRF technology that delivers significant benefits versus traditional HVAC systems, enabling improved energy efficiency by allowing occupants to choose whether to cool or heat only the zones in use. LG Multi V IV systems, whether Heat Recovery or Heat Pump systems, build on the success of the LG Multi V III, as LG’s flagship commercial HVAC system in the United States, where demand for high-performance, energy-saving HVAC technology continues to grow.

Among its many benefits, the LG Multi V IV offers users a more compact footprint and is lighter in weight than other models currently on the market. Equally significant, the new Multi V IV model allows for a wider heating and cooling operating range than its competitors and a wider range than thought possible.

LG VRF systems are engineered to significantly reduce the costs often associated with traditional HVAC products. Typical systems include large duct work, distribution fans, water pumps, water piping, cooling towers and complex controls. The LG VRF system eliminates these huge initial costs and lowers lifecycle costs. Multi V IV effectively eliminates efficiency losses experienced by current HVAC systems and provides more sustainable energy benefits. Multi V IV will help building designers achieve as many as 16 LEED* points.

Key VRF differentiators for builders and architects

The LG Multi V IV delivers a number of key differentiators to architects, commercial contractors and building owners, including:

  • Enhanced Energy Efficiency – New compressor design and optimized heat exchanger contribute to enhanced AHRI certified efficiency of up to 28.2 IEER.
  • AHRI 1230 Certification – Multi V IV is performance-certified. This ensures building owners receive verified ratings which comply with national energy codes.
  • LG Inverter Scroll – A high side shell innovation offers a more compact size for the same capacity output with greater reliability in cold climates.
  • Low Ambient Heating – Heating operating range down to -25F which provides greater comfort and saves on installation and operating costs for additional systems.
  • HiPORTM – High Pressure Oil Return removes efficiency losses and Smart Oil return eliminates timed oil recovery cycles.
  • Greater Elevation Difference – Owners can reach extra zones with an enhanced reach of 131 feet indoor unit to indoor unit and 360 feet elevation between outdoor and indoor units. This allows for more effective piping on one system and saves on installation.
  • Compact and Lighter – More indoor zones, less outdoor space. When space or access is at a premium, this equates to significant cost advantages for the owner on large projects.

LG Multi V IV systems are available now in the United States. Additional information about these current systems can be found online at www.LG-VRF.com.

Webinar to address building safety

nibsKeith A. Porter, PE, PhD, a research professor with the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Principal with SPA Risk LLC, will deliver the first in a series of webinars to be held by the National Institute of Building Sciences Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC). Entitled, “Safe Enough? How the Building Code Protects Our Lives but Not Our Cities,” the webinar will be held Wednesday, April 23, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm EDT.

Conventional wisdom holds that greater seismic resilience of the building stock is impractical; that the public would be unwilling to pay for it; that the public has no proper role in setting seismic performance objectives; and that current seismic provisions encode the proper measures and goals of seismic performance.

However, recent projects cast doubt on these conventionalities. In light of performance expectations for new buildings expressed in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) P-695: Quantification of Building Seismic Performance Factors and embedded in the International Building Code, current design objectives leave open the serious risk that future, large, but not-very-rare, earthquakes would damage enough buildings to displace millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses from a major metropolitan area. Such a catastrophe would have a more severe impact than Hurricane Katrina because it could affect larger, and more economically critical, metropolitan areas.

Projects such as the San Francisco Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) Soft Story Project; the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE)-California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Woodframe Project; and the construction of buildings that exceed code-minimum seismic performance at marginal additional cost all suggest that better seismic resilience is practical, affordable and actually desired by the public. The way the public interpreted the 2008 ShakeOut scenario, an earthquake drill hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), suggests that Americans think about seismic performance differently than do structural engineers, and they expect better performance than building codes provide.

Dr. Porter will discuss how it is necessary to reconsider how to measure earthquake risk, how to properly balance risk and construction cost, and how to reflect that balance in code objectives.

A licensed professional engineer, Dr. Porter received degrees in civil and structural engineering from University of California, Davis; University of California, Berkeley; and Stanford University. He specializes in second-generation, performance-based earthquake engineering, seismic vulnerability and societal risk from natural disasters. Porter helped lead the MMC’s Mitigation Saves study, which estimated that FEMA’s natural hazard mitigation efforts save $4 per $1 spent. He served as the engineering coordinator for the USGS Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) scenarios, ShakeOut earthquake scenario, ARkStorm severe winter storm scenario, SAFRR tsunami scenario and the in-progress Haywired earthquake scenario. He also performed risk analysis for the CAPSS Soft Story Project and the CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project.

To access the webinar, “Safe Enough? How the Building Code Protects Our Lives but Not Our Cities,” sign in on April 23 at 11:45 EDT and select the “Enter as a guest” option to join in. For audio, call 800-689-7800 and enter code 430588. Don’t be late. Only the first 125 participants will be admitted.

USDA announces partnership to promote the use of wood

usdaUnited States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service program to provide training for architects, engineers and builders in the use of advanced wood materials. The Wood Products Council’s WoodWorks initiative will be a partner in this program.

The program is part of the president’s goal of preserving the role of forests in mitigating climate change and meets an objective of the recently-signed 2014 Farm Bill to create rural jobs. In particular, it will create a new Made-in-Rural America export investment initiative, whose goal is helping rural businesses and leaders gain new customers and develop new markets, both at home and abroad.

Using wood from sustainably managed forests helps keep carbon out of the atmosphere because wood products require less fossil fuels to manufacture than other major building materials, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions, and because wood continues to store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere while the tree was growing. In the case of buildings, this carbon remains stored for the lifetime of the structure—or longer if the wood is reclaimed and re-used or manufactured into other products.

To encourage further advancement, the announcement also includes plans for a prize competition to design and build wood high-rise demonstration projects.

PNNL and PPG to develop dynamically responsive IR window coating

pnnlThe Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and PPG have been awarded up to $750,000 to design a coating that can “switch” from a solar IR-reflecting state to a solar IR-transmitting state while maintaining high levels of daylight transmittance in either condition. PPG will provide an additional $78,000 in cost-sharing.

The development of such a coating would represent a major advance compared to current thermochromic window technology, which involves coatings that darken and block visible light when exposed to high volumes of IR energy, and existing electrochromic window technology, which relies on external power sources such as electricity to balance tinting and light transmittance.

The new PPG/PNNL coating technology also has the potential to be inexpensive, which will help ensure that dynamically responsive IR windows are an economical option for use in residential and commercial retrofit applications.

The two-year project is designed to develop dynamically responsive IR window coatings on a laboratory scale. If development is successful, the product could be scaled up and potentially commercialized within several years. PPG also collaborated recently with PNNL to develop and study waste-heat recovery technologies to save energy in the glass manufacturing process.

Institute, DOE to develop Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines

Natl Inst of Building ScienceToday, the National Institute of Building Sciences (Institute) announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to coordinate an industry-driven process to develop voluntary national guidelines for commercial building workforce credentials, known as the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines.

Improving the operational performance of commercial buildings requires highly skilled and qualified workers, particularly as building technologies become more advanced. Yet the lack of national guidelines for energy-related professional credentials represents a major barrier to the quality, consistency and scalability of this workforce. The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines will initially address commercial building workforce training and certification programs for five key energy-related jobs: energy auditor, commissioning professional, building/stationary engineer, facility manager and energy manager.

The purpose of the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines is to reduce the confusion and uncertainty around workforce credentialing; lower costs; and support better credentials, better workers and better buildings. The guidelines will set an industry-validated Job Task Analysis (JTA) for each job title, as well as certification schemes (blueprints) and learning objectives for training programs.

The Institute established the Commercial Workforce Credentialing Council (CWCC), which will consist of private and public sector industry stakeholders, to lead development of the Guidelines. By spring of 2015, the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines are scheduled to be available to the U.S. commercial building industry, including professional certification bodies, labor union training funds or apprenticeship program sponsors; private training providers; and career and technical higher education programs.

Get Involved in the CWCC
The Institute invites industry stakeholders, including building owners, industry trade associations, credentialing bodies, energy efficiency advocates, utility program administrators, labor unions, the real estate community, and state, local and federal officials to join the CWCC. If you’re already a member of the Institute, you may join the CWCC by emailing us at nibs@nibs.org with “Join CWCC” in the subject line. Non-members may join the  Institute and the Council using the discount code “CWCCJ13″ for a free one-year membership. Sign up now to become a CWCC member.Register for the Informational Webinar

DOE will host a live webinar on October 17, 2013, from 2:00 – 3:30 pm EDT, for industry professionals to learn more about the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines and the CWCC. A live question and answer period will occur at approximately 3:00 pm, following the presentation. Space is limited. Register now. For those unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and made available on the CWCC website.

Learn about the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines
For more information on the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines, visit the DOE website.

Architect Testifies: Contracting Laws Hurting Small Architectural Firms

AIACurrent federal contracting laws are harming the livelihood of small architecture firms and costing the government money by increasing the number of firms competing, while discouraging small firms from entering the market, according to recent AIA testimony.

Testifying before the House of Representatives Small Business Committee, AIA First Vice President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, called for reform of the design-build contracting process so that design and architectural firms can bid on federal contracts without fear of bankrupting themselves in the process. The federal market has been a key for architecture firms’ survival in the recession, and increased competition has forced many small players to stop participating in federal contracts.

“When teams are shortlisted in two-step design-build, an architecture firm spends a median of $260,000 to compete for a design-build project, by making plans, models and other materials,” Dreiling testified. When approximately 76% of firms make less than $1 million annually, this creates a “Hobson’s Choice” on spending limited capital for the chance to win a federal contract.

“In almost 87 percent of federal design-build competitions, there are no stipends provided to the architectural firm,” she said. “The firm must hope that they win to make up the costs they expend in competing for the job.”

Dreiling said there is a great need for Congress to reform federal contracting laws so that small businesses can both survive the bidding process and bring quality work to the federal government. “We ask the Committee to look at tightening the statute so that all firms can accurately determine the risks and rewards of participating in this market,” Dreiling said.

Consultative Council releases recommendations to advance building industry

Natl Inst of Building ScienceThe High Performance Buildings Caucus, recognizing the unique nature of the publication, recently announced the National Institute of Building Sciences Consultative Council 2012 Report, “Moving Forward: Findings and Recommendations from the Consultative Council.”

The Consultative Council, a representative council of the nation’s building community, prepares the report annually, as required by the Institute’s enabling legislation. This year’s report is a pathway toward high-performance buildings. It offers specific recommendations, implementable in the near term, which can serve as the basis for a national buildings policy.

Representatives David McKinley (W.Va.) and Peter Welch (Vt.), co-chairs of the High Performance Buildings Caucus, hosted the briefing on Capitol Hill May 13, 2013, as the kickoff event for High Performance Building Week.

Ron King, immediate past chair and National Insulation Association representative for the Consultative Council, moderated the event, which included presentations by Pete DeMarco, chair of the Council’s Energy and Water Efficiency Topical Committee and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ Council representative; Richard Wright, chair of the Council’s Sustainability Topical Committee and a representative of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Sara Yerkes, Consultative Council vice chair and the International Code Council’s representative; and Ryan Colker, director of the Consultative Council.

Findings & Recommendations
Key findings and recommendations from the report are as follows:

  • The building industry and policymakers should identify baseline metrics to measure the achievement of high performance and coordinate existing efforts in this area.
  • The building community must engage with climate and weather scientists to help identify the information required to adapt buildings to climate change, and to develop the practices, standards, codes and guidelines needed to implement that adaptation into the built environment.
  • All stakeholders should work to identify areas for streamlining the regulatory process and finding and applying solutions that eliminate overlap, duplication, inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the application of regulations, processes and procedures applied to the built environment.
  • The building industry and regulatory community should identify ways to improve the current process of code compliance, as well as look for alternative processes—particularly as state and local governments are faced with shrinking budgets.
  • Building owners must recognize the value of retro-commissioning and the importance of well-qualified retro-commissioning authorities.
  • Policymakers should support the building industry in quantifying the impact of retroactive application of requirements on the existing building stock.
  • Policymakers, foundations and research institutions should provide financial, political and technical support for multi-disciplinary research that supports achievement of high-performance buildings.
  • Utilities, policymakers, code developers and the industry at large should focus on developing an approach to time-dependent valuation of energy, conducting research to support guidance on proper pipe sizing to save resources and protect human health, and determining how thermal insulation on potable and other hot water delivery systems impacts both energy and water use.

The Institute’s 2012 Annual Report, which is submitted to the President of the United States, contains a summary of the Consultative Council Report.

View the briefing agenda.

Download the Consultative Council Report.

Learn more about the Consultative Council.