New approach to energy code compliance clears major hurdle

nibsOwners and design teams working toward high energy performance buildings have a potential new ally in the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). The development committee reviewing new proposals for enhancing the IgCC voted 8-5 on May 4 to approve a proposal that would add a first-ever outcome-based compliance path in a model energy code.

The IgCC, which is updated every three years, defines the requirements that need to be met to be considered green. Local governments can then adopt the IgCC for new construction and deep renovation projects in their jurisdictional area.

Building energy codes by nature are prescriptive, but architects and engineers are finding that prescriptive requirements can limit their ability to use integrated systems and innovative technologies that are necessary to lower a building’s energy needs. The outcome-based compliance path would solve that problem, setting targets for the actual energy use of a building and determining compliance through the building’s achievement of that target once in operation. Unlike existing pathways to address energy use—prescriptive or modeled performance options—the outcome-based pathway allows the design team the greatest flexibility and relies on measured energy-use data that can help communities and building owners meet their energy and carbon emissions reduction goals.

The IgCC is developed by the International Code Council, a group of code officials and local government representatives that will meet for a final vote on the outcome-based compliance pathway and other proposals Oct. 1-5 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. However, this recent approval by the IgCC committee is extremely important because it means a much higher likelihood of ultimate adoption. With the committee’s approval, the proposal (GEW-147) needs only 50% of the voting body to approve.

Testimony submitted by an assortment of industry representatives, including the National Institute of Building Sciences, New Buildings Institute (NBI), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Grundfos, Target Corporation and the Colorado Chapter of the ICC, was enough to convince the committee to favor the proposal.

Paper connects green infrastructure, health and resiliency

Green Roofs for Healthy CitiiesGreen Roofs for Healthy Cities has published a research paper, “Exploring Connections Between Green Infrastructure & Healthy & Resilient Communities” that discusses the connections between green infrastructure, health and community resiliency. The paper reviews a growing body of literature which illustrates that how we design buildings and communities has profound consequences for our health and happiness.

The paper is part of Grey to Green, A Conference on the Economics of Green Infrastructure – Designing for Health on August 25th-26th, 2014 in Toronto. The Conference will discuss design and policy practices, and will include more than 75 leading thinkers and doers at the intersection of health and living green infrastructure. The multi-disciplinary program will cover project case studies, useful design and analytical tools, and cutting edge research.

Innovative method for implementing green construction code proposed

nibsRepresentatives from across the building industry, including code officials, building owners, manufacturers, designers and energy efficiency advocates, have come together under the leadership of the National Institute of Building Sciences to develop a new approach to meeting energy efficiency requirements. This “Outcome-based Pathway,” which the group submitted as a proposed code change to the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), appears in the monograph of IgCC proposed changes that the International Code Council released this past Friday, March 15, for public review.

The Institute’s Consultative Council highlighted the “Outcome-Based Pathway” in its 2010 Moving Forward Report submitted to the President of the United States. The approach focuses specifically on the actual energy used in the building. The report notes:

The building community needs a better baseline of actual building performance against which to measure progress. More importantly, the application and use of prescriptive criteria must be eliminated in favor of stated performance goals or expected outcomes (although, after setting those goals or outcomes, prescriptive guidance to achieve them can be developed).1

The industry group specifically focused on an outcome-based approach to address a number of challenges facing the building industry:

  • Code departments have limited resources available to enforce building codes (particularly energy codes, which are not usually seen as a life safety issue).
  • Energy use is highly measurable, yet current code pathways anticipate results from designs; they do not assess actual building performance.
  • Designers do not have the flexibility to use some of the latest technologies or practices to achieve energy efficiency requirements.
  • Not all energy-saving strategies, such as building orientation, are effectively captured in codes.
  • Energy efficiency goals increasingly rely on reductions in energy use at the systems level, but the IECC has primarily focused on a component approach.
  • A growing percentage of energy uses associated with buildings are not currently covered within the existing code framework (i.e., plug loads).

The proposed code change will be heard by the IgCC Energy/Water Committee during the International Code Council’s Committee Action Hearings, to be held this April 27 through May 4, in Memphis, Tennessee.

In addition to the Institute, a number of organizations, including the New Buildings Institute, The Institute for Market Transformation and the Colorado Chapter of the International Code Council, support the proposal.

View the proposal, a section-by-section summary and reasoning statement. For questions, or to provide additional organizational support for the proposal, contact Ryan Colker.

————

1. Moving Forward: Findings and Recommendations from the Consultative Council. National Institute of Building Sciences 2010 Annual Report to the President of the Unite States, 2010. 43-49.

MCA publishes two new EPDs

mca-epdTwo Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), one for Metal Composite Material Panels and one for  Roll Formed Steel Panels for Roofs and Walls, are now available free of charge from the Metal Construction Association (MCA) on its website. These documents are the second and third EPDs to be released by MCA, an organization of manufacturers and suppliers whose metal wall and roofing components are used in buildings throughout the world. In October 2013, MCA developed an EPD for Insulated Metal Panels.

Environmental Product Declarations provide LCA-based information and details about the environmental impacts of products and assist purchasers and users in making informed comparisons. As more members of the design community use EPDs, which are now included in the new LEED V4 green building rating system, MCA is responding by issuing industry-wide EPDs that report the environmental impact of members’ products and related assemblies.

MCA’s EPDs contain valuable information about product definition, building physics, the basic material and its origin, product manufacture and processing, in-use conditions, life cycle assessment results, and testing results and verifications. Environmental impacts were assessed throughout the lifecycle of metal composite material panels and roll formed panels, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing packaging, use, and disposal at the end of a building’s useful life. The product configurations in the EPDs use ranges representative of all types of panels based on specific products from the primary producers that were used in the assessment and testing.

To obtain a copy of any of the MCA EPDs visit www.metalconstruction.org or contact MCA at 847-375-4718 or mca@metalconstruction.org

Slash Geothermal Costs With Free Money

Couple inherent energy cost savings with incentive dollars to make a huge dent in the cost of a geothermal system.

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

The economics of purchasing and operating a geothermal HVAC system are not solely reliant on paying notable upfront costs and then counting on energy-cost savings to recoup those costs in the first few years of operation. In fact, much of the upfront costs can be quickly offset by taking advantage of a variety of available incentives.

To start the discussion, let’s simply list the various incentives that are available to residential and commercial consumers. Residential options are included for comparison purposes. Here is a list of the most readily available options:
Residential:

  • 30% Federal tax credit, uncapped.

Commercial:

  • 10% Federal tax credit, uncapped
  • Maximum Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS)–benefit as high as 38%, uncapped.

Commercial and residential:

  • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding funds entire geothermal HVAC projects for property taxpayers
  • State and local government incentives (varies by region)
  • Utility incentives and funding (On-Bill financing)
  • Geothermal utility services (ORCA Energy).

Many of the incentives/benefits cover the entire cost of a new geothermal HVAC system or retrofit/improvements to an HVAC system. These improvements can include the following:

  • Geothermal source (ground loop/pond loop/Class V well system or standing column well
  • Geothermal (water sourced) chiller/heat pump equipment
  • Ductwork, distribution piping, and specialties
  • 100% fresh-air equipment (geothermal water sourced)
  • Controls and indoor air quality (IAQ) items
  • Electrical service connections
  • Excavation & recovery costs
  • Engineering drawings, permits, and fees.

Federal incentives for geothermal HVAC systems that are currently in effect through the year 2016 include different criteria for commercial and residential.

If the project is residential, all that is required is that the client be a taxpayer and fill out IRS form 5695. The customer will realize 30% of the entire cost of the geothermal HVAC system in direct tax credits. The credits can be rolled over from year-to-year until the full incentive is earned. For example, a $30,000 HVAC system, purchased in 2014, will generate a $9,000 tax credit on the very next tax filing, through 2016.

The reason I included residential is for comparison. If the customer is a commercial entity who owns the commercial property, that entity receives a 10% Federal tax credit. That doesn’t appear to be favorable until the rest of the story is considered. When MACRS is applied, the geothermal HVAC system is depreciated in an accelerated manner from 27 yr. down to an abbreviated 5 yr. A 50% bonus depreciation is also applied to the first year. This 50% bonus has been extended and modified several times since 2008, most recently in January 2013 by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

By taking advantage of the commercial/corporate geothermal HVAC tax credits and incentives, an expenditure of $1 million for a geothermal HVAC system will net tax incentives amounting to $480,000 over 5 yr. under current program guidelines. A 48% tax incentive for corporate clients is clearly favorable to the 30% tax credit for residential clients.

PACE is a Federal program, currently available in 31 states, designed for residential and commercial consumers. The program works best for commercial customers in participating areas. PACE is arranged by local government and pays for 100% of the project’s costs. Payback is accomplished through property-tax assessments. Though PACE is also available for the residential sector, the housing market reverses in 2010 brought that funding to a halt. Commercial PACE programs have accelerated and, as of February 2013, 16 commercial PACE programs in seven states are accepting applications to fund geothermal HVAC and other energy-efficient projects.

On-Bill financing provides a way for consumers to repay the capital costs of retrofit geothermal HVAC systems as part of their monthly electric bill.

Electrical service providers have made energy-efficiency retrofits available to consumers for years. The utility companies use their reserves or third-party capital providers to cover the cost of the efficiency upgrade projects. Consumers/businesses are then obliged to pay the costs back over a period of 20 yr. on their electric utility invoice. These programs seem to be gaining favor and continue to grow, as shown by House Bill 1428, MD., “Public Utilities-Geothermal Heating and Cooling On-Bill Financing-Pilot Program,” initiated in February, 2013.

Third-party capital providers have emerged with programs such as “In-Electric Rate Funding,” introduced in January 2013 by Constellation Energy.

Geothermal Utility Services are a promising program that has been party to a market penetration of almost 40% of heating system replacements in Canada in 2011 according to the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition. Geothermal Utility Services, such as Canadian based GeoTility, and its US sister company, OrcaEnergy, cover the cost of the exterior geothermal ground heat exchanger/well system. The consumer then pays a one-time connection fee and a predetermined monthly utility charge to the geothermal utility. The consumer is then only concerned with the cost of the geothermal heat pump/chiller upgrade and is still eligible for many of the other programs mentioned, including the federal tax incentives (U.S.).

But, how much more do geothermal HVAC systems cost than standard HVAC systems? That subject is covered in the Commercial Conversation podcast, “Breaking New Ground With Geothermal.”

Briefly, standard HVAC systems may cost about $3,000/ton, compared with geothermal HVAC systems that may cost $5,000 to $6,000/ton at the lower range tonnage (less than 500 tons). As the tonnage goes up, the cost per ton goes down until, in many cases, a geothermal HVAC system can have a competitive first cost comparable to a standard HVAC system.

In other words, when a commercial entity takes advantage of federal incentives for geothermal HVAC systems, they are realizing essentially a 48% cost reduction benefit on the entire mechanical system. One can be reasonably assured that the resultant first cost of the system can actually end up being substantially less than the first cost of a standard HVAC system.

However, the federal incentives and energy efficiency of a geothermal HVAC system, though compelling, are secondary to some of the other tangible benefits of going geothermal. Consider the following advantages that can be attained only with geothermal:

  • Elimination of outdoor equipment
  • Storm proofing (geothermal equipment is sheltered from storm events)
  • Longevity of system (a result of all indoor equipment)
  • Elimination of fresh water consumption (from commercial cooling towers)
  • Elimination of fossil-fuel consumption (on-site)
  • Superior comfort in heating and cooling modes (more on this in future columns)
  • Enabling thermal load sharing (swimming pools, domestic hot water, HVAC re-heat)
  • System efficiency, as high as 40 EER.

You can see that we are in a favorable market with the many incentives for the implementation of commercial geothermal HVAC technologies. It does take a little legwork on the part of the contractor, engineer, and consumer. Construction professionals that up-sell to geothermal HVAC have all of these resources available to them.

Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer, and the owner of EggGeothermal, Kissimmee, FL. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com.

Geothermal a leader in the second green movement?

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

What’s the real essence of “going green?” What are we really trying to do? Is it for the environment? How about saving money? Is it to create jobs? Help the economy? Is it about looking “Green”? Or is it about just wanting to “do the right thing”?

If you remember the energy crisis of the 70s, you’ll likely remember the 50-mpg Volkswagen Rabbit diesel. When gasoline was abundant and cheap again, we entered the age of mammoth SUVs, because supply went up and prices stayed down. Now look at us.

With natural gas prices recently at an all-time low ($2.75/million Btu), heating and related costs for commercial buildings has reached an all-time low. Geothermal HVAC systems used to be clearly cost effective against natural gas—and they still are against other fuel sources.

But history has shown us that we should not be fooled by artificially low energy prices. In a 2012 article, Sustainable Plant reports, “Low natural gas prices won’t last, because way too many folks are making far too many plans to cash in.” When energy prices do increase, many of us will have no choice but to pay the increased costs until we can afford to upgrade to a better standard.

In a report that came out from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington on Dec. 10, 2013, the Short-Term Energy Outlook is that the “EIA expects that the Henry Hub natural gas spot price, which averaged $2.75 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2012, will average $3.68 per MMBtu in 2013 and $3.84 per MMBtu in 2014.” That’s a 34% increase between 2012 and 2013 followed by an additional 4% increase between 2013 and 2014.

Green movement number two is on the way, and for more reasons than just increasing energy costs.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems continue to appear everywhere. Electrical production through wind generators is becoming a more common sight in certain areas. Hydropower has been used for generations. Geothermal “hot rock” power generation is growing.

Geothermal HVAC systems don’t get much press. You can’t see them, because equipment is all inside. You can’t hear them; the classic “out of sight –out of mind” scenario. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear much about the technology.

Geothermal HVAC systems remove as much as four times the energy consumption from the electrical grid per dollar spent than photovoltaic systems can add to the electrical grid per dollar spent.* Businesses desiring the elusive “net zero” status come closer to making that a reality by first implementing geothermal HVAC technologies. When considering a reduction in energy consumption costs, geothermal needs to be the first choice. The real hero in net-zero applications is summed up by the statement, “Giant arrays of solar panels produce power, while tankless hot water and geothermal air conditioning reduce demand.” from the news report, “Downtown St. Pete boasts new, ‘net-zero’ building.” You’ll find that the majority of buildings boasting a “net zero” energy goal are employing geothermal HVAC systems.

The number one reason for going green might be reduction of energy consumption of any type. The more peak load we can take off of the electrical grid, the fewer power plants we need. But are people buying into it? According to a new McGraw-Hill Construction study released on November 13, 2013 at the International Summit at the Green Build Conference and Expo, San Francisco, “Green building has become a long-term business opportunity with 51% of study firms planning more than 60% of their work to be green by 2015, up from 28% of firms in 2012.”

Another point in the study is that in 2008, the motivating factor of green building was “…doing the right thing (42%)”. Now the top reasons for doing green construction are “…client demand (35%) and market demand (33%)—two key business drivers of strategic planning.” With green building projected to double between years 2012 and 2015, there can be no doubt that “green movement number two” is underway. The question is, what green/sustainable technologies are going to be increasingly employed?

On November 11, 2013, a press release by Carrier (a subsidiary of United Technologies, and the largest manufacturer of HVAC products in the world) in the Wall Street Journal said, “Carrier Plans Joint Venture with Bosch to Strengthen Geothermal and Water-Source Heat Pump Offerings.” By all appearances, Bosch and Carrier see geothermal HVAC as the next big thing in “green.”

Let me know your plans – are you planning geothermal HVAC projects in the future? Why or why not? I’ll be sure to address your comments in future columns.

The Author
Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer, and the owner of EggGeothermal. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems, published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com.

*Based on installed cost of $5.90/Watt from the report “Tracking the Sun VI, An Historical Summary of Installed Price of Photovoltaics, July 2013 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory” when compared with the installed cost of electrically powered geothermal heating and cooling ($6,000/ton) with a coefficient of performance of 4.0.

SBIC Recognizes High-Performance Building Leaders

nibs

The National Institute of Building Sciences’ Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) recognized the 2013 Beyond Green™ High-Performance Building Awards winners at Building Innovation 2014: The National Institute of Building Sciences Annual Conference and Expo.

The SBIC Jury selected six winners ranging across four categories. Each of the six award-winning projects, products, initiatives and innovations demonstrate leadership in advancing the production of high-performance buildings.

The top prize in the High-Performance Buildings Category went to DPR Construction’s Phoenix Regional Office. During this project, the team transformed an abandoned, distressed building in a redeveloping community of Phoenix into a modern sustainable facility that achieves net-zero energy use. Their efforts earned the building an Honor Award, First Place.

In the High-Performance Products Category, SageGlass earned an Honor Award, First Place. The electrochromic or electronically tint-able, dynamic glass provides architects, building owners, glazing contractors and homeowners with an energy-efficient glazing solution that controls the sun without blocking the view to the outdoors.

RDH Building Engineering’s Enclosure Renewal approach, which lowers a building’s energy consumption at low incremental capital cost, earned it recognition as an Honor Award, First Place recipient in the Innovations for High-Performance Buildings Category.

The SBIC Jury also recognized three Merit Award winners. In the High-Performance Buildings Category, a Merit Award went to Chemeketa Community College, Salem, Oregon for its new Health Sciences Complex.

CertainTeed leads gypsum board industry in environmental claim validations

CertainTeedCertainTeed is the first manufacturer to complete the UL Environmental Claim Validation (ECV) process for its full line of gypsum products. Specifically, UL Environment provided third-party verification for environmental claims including Recycled Content, Regional Materials and Mold Resistance. Additionally, the company secured Permanent Formaldehyde Absorption Capacity validation for its industry-only AirRenew®, which features VOC-scavenging technology that helps improve indoor air quality. The independent, third-party validation process involved rigorous audits conducted at 13 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and Canada.

CertainTeed gypsum building materials are now listed in applicable categories on UL Environment’s Sustainable Products Database. The online tool allows users to identify sustainable products by product category, company name, product name or evaluation type. The validation process has been completed at all of CertainTeed Gypsum’s manufacturing facilities.

Volunteers improve local schools

USGBCOn Saturday, Sept. 28, the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) brought together thousands of volunteers to participate in nearly 2,100 service projects in all 50 states and more than 30 countries for the second annual Green Apple Day of Service.

The Green Apple Day of Service, launched by the Center for Green Schools last year, is an initiative that brings together volunteers and green schools advocates around the world to take action in their communities through service projects at local schools. The Day of Service provides an opportunity for students, teachers, parents, elected officials, organizations, companies and more to transform all schools into healthy, safe, cost-efficient and productive learning environments.

Examples of 2013 projects included:

  • The Center for Green Schools hosted the Day of Service flagship event in Washington, D.C. at Payne Elementary School. Volunteers from USGBC and the local community came out to participate in activities such as planting a garden, painting rainwater barrels and making crafts from recycled materials.
  • The Utah State University USGBC student chapter partnered with the university’s sustainability council to host a booth at the Open Streets Festival. The club distributed flower bulbs in packages that provided information about USGBC, Green Apple Day of Service, and how to learn more about the organization and sustainability.
  • The students of Mohammadpur Preparatory Higher Secondary School of Dhaka, Bangladesh observed the Green Apple Day of Service by planting flowering trees and painting posters.
  • Fifth grade students of Atholton Elementary in Columbia, Md. partnered with the local non-profit Patapsco Heritage Greenway to conduct stream studies, complete a stream clean-up, and participate in a nature scavenger hunt of the clean-up area.
  • Woodland Primary School in Gages Lake, Ill. celebrated their recent LEED Silver certification.

Many of today’s schools are beset by a host of challenges that compromise our children’s health and wellness, causing everything from asthma to headaches and concentration issues. The Green Apple Day of Service is helping transform schools into sustainable and healthy places to live, learn, work and play while educating a new generation of consumers and leaders – sustainability natives – capable of driving global market transformation.

For more information on the Green Apple Day of Service, visit mygreenapple.org.

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.