More Companies Join Better Buildings Challenge

Department of EnergyThe Obama Administration announced recently that six new major U.S. companies are joining President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, which encourages private sector leaders across the country to commit to reducing the energy use in their facilities by at least 20 percent by 2020.  Starbucks Coffee Company, Staples, and The J.R. Simplot Company will upgrade more than 50 million square feet of combined commercial building space, including 15 manufacturing facilities. Financial allies Samas Capital and Greenwood Energy will also make $200 million in financing available for energy efficiency upgrades through this national leadership initiative. Utility partner Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has also committed to offering expanded energy efficiency programs for its commercial customers, who are responsible for 30 million square feet of commercial building space.

The Better Buildings Challenge is part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive strategy to improve the competitiveness of American industry and business, by helping companies to save money by reducing energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings.  Under the Challenge, private sector CEOs, university presidents and state and local leaders commit to taking aggressive steps to reduce the energy used in their facilities and sharing data and best practices with others around the country.  With the addition of today’s partners and allies, nearly 70 organizations have now joined the Better Buildings Challenge.  Together, these organizations account for more than 1.7 billion square feet of building space, including more than 300 manufacturing plants, and have committed almost $2 billion to support energy efficiency improvements nationwide. For more information, please visit the Better Buildings Challenge website.

The energy to operate the buildings where we work, shop, and study costs the U.S. approximately $200 billion annually. Last year, commercial and industrial buildings consumed more than 40 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy.  The goal of the Better Buildings Challenge is to support building upgrades to make America’s buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade, while also reducing energy costs for American businesses and local governments by more than $40 billion and creating jobs for U.S. workers.

DOE Updates High-Efficiency Parking Structure Lighting Specification

Dept. of EnergyA CBEA Project Team has updated the High-Efficiency Parking Structure Lighting Specification. First released in 2009, version 1.1, released on February 15, 2012, has updates related to IES TM-21 and anticipated RP-20 requirements. In addition to focusing on the efficiency of each of these technologies, the Project Team investigated how the role of controls and the specific use of each technology can lead to even greater energy savings. The maximum allowed installed power density within the specification is 40% below ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2007. Additional energy savings are possible from the use of lighting controls and daylighting.

Questions on this specification should be sent to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) at

DOE guide can help you save energy

Department of EnergyThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released the third installment in a series of four 50% Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDGs). This latest guide will help architects, engineers, and contractors design and build highly efficient retail buildings, helping to save energy and cut store operational costs. The 50% AEDG series provides a practical approach for designers and builders of retail stores, and other major commercial building types, to achieve 50% energy savings compared to the building energy code used in many parts of the nation. These commercial building guides support President Obama’s goal to reduce energy use in commercial buildings 20% by 2020. The Advanced Energy Design Guide for 50% energy savings in retail buildings is now available for download.

Beyond helping builders achieve efficiency exceeding the current energy code, the AEDGs also provide climate-specific recommendations to incorporate today’s off-the-shelf energy efficient building products. These recommendations help designers and builders choose advanced building assemblies, highly efficient heating and cooling systems, and incorporate other energy-saving measures such as daylighting and associated control systems. Additionally, efficiency measures found in the guides can be used in the development of future commercial building energy codes.

The 50% Advanced Energy Design Guide series is being developed through a partnership with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), American Institute of Architects (AIA), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). The Retail Buildings guide is the third installment in the 50% series, and follows the guides for small and medium office buildings and K-12 schools released in 2011. The final 50% savings guide for major commercial building types—large hospitals—is also in progress.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about EERE’s support of building technologies. Additional information on DOE’s efforts to support the development and adoption of building energy codes can be found on the Energy Codes website.

Sika Supports Solar Decathlon Teams

SikaSika Corporation has donated building materials to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 in support of EMPOWERHOUSE and ENJOY House. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges 20 collegiate teams from around the world to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. This year’s college teams displayed their homes on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from September 23 to October 2.

ENJOY House by Team New Jersey members Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and New Jersey Institute of Technology incorporates a new way of approaching high-performance, energy-efficient residential design. The house utilizes precast, concrete insulated panels and passive solar strategies to reduce heating and cooling loads. Sika Corp. donated G410 roofing membrane and adhesive, along with accessories and metal to waterproof the precast concrete deck. The Precast Concrete was produced utilizing Sika’s Viscocrete technology, Air Entrainment and a new product – Sika Watertight Concrete Powder. This combination resulted in a High Performance and Waterproof concrete structure. All of the precast panel joints, windows and doors were sealed utilizing various Sika sealants. The team effort included precast concrete produced by Northeast Precast, the applicator/installer Dumar Services, LLC with Martin Dubois leading the team, and the General Contractor Skanska Construction.

EMPOWERHOUSE is a community-based approach to building affordable, net-zero housing that addresses all aspects of domestic life. This superefficient, solar-powered house was designed and built by architecture and engineering students from Parsons The New School for Design, the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy. In addition to technical support, Sika AG subsidiaries donated G410 roofing membrane and adhesive, sealants for windows and concrete, admixtures that included a high range water reducer and air entrainment, and a new product – Sika Watertight Concrete Powder. The Sika Sarnafil applicator/installer was Delta Contracting Services led by Chris Dubois.

ENJOY House’s design was aimed at creating an affordable, functional, energy-efficient precast concrete house suited to the climate of New Jersey and intended for a couple that retires to the New Jersey shore. In addition to being ADA accessible, the house incorporates evacuated solar thermal tubes that heat domestic hot water and provide pre-heating for the hydronic radiant floor; high-performing, energy-efficient windows; a photovoltaic system with a daily output of 36 kWh, and energy recovery ventilators and dehumidifiers that keep cool air inside the house while providing fresh air from outside.

The EMPOWERHOUSE team is working with community partners, including Habitat for Humanity Washington D.C. and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, to bring EMPOWERHOUSE beyond the National Mall. The team is constructing a second house in the D.C. neighborhood of Deanwood. After the Solar Decathlon, the two houses will be joined together to create a two-family home, and will be a model for affordable, net-zero housing that can be replicated around the globe.

Entrants must create a house that is affordable, attractive, and easy to live in; maintains comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions; supplies energy to household appliances for cooking, cleaning, and entertainment; provides adequate hot water; and produces as much or more energy than it consumes

This is the second participation in such an event for Sika Corporation. In 2009, Sika Sarnafil sponsored a team from the University of Florida, one of only two U.S. participants in the biannual global competition.

DOE updates national reference standard for commercial buildings

ASHRAEThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a ruling that establishes the ASHRAE/IES’s 2010 energy efficiency standard standard as the commercial building reference standard for state building energy codes. In an announcement in the Oct. 19 edition of The Federal Register, DOE notes that ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2010, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, offers significant energy savings over the 2007 standard – 18.2 percent source energy savings and 18.5 site energy savings.

With the Oct. 19 ruling, Standard 90.1-2010 serves as the commercial building reference standard for state building energy codes under the federal Energy Conservation and Production Act. As a result, states are required to certify by Oct. 18, 2013, that they have updated the provisions of their commercial building code regarding energy efficiency to meet or exceed 90.1-2010.

The DOE noted that the newer version of the standard contains 19 positive impacts on energy efficiency. These impacts included changes made through the public review process in which users of the standard comment and offer guidance on proposed requirements. Specifically the positive impacts include:

  • Requirements for daylighting controls under skylights and commissioning of daylighting controls; increased use of heat recovery; cool roofs in hot climates; lower illuminance in certain exterior zones; skylights and daylighting in some building types; reduced ventilation energy; supply air temperature reset for non-peak conditions; efficiency requirements for data centers; lower lighting power densities; control of exterior lighting; occupancy sensor for many specific applications; daylighting control requirements for side-lighted spaces; and daylighting controls in more spaces.
  • Updated chiller efficiency requirements.
  • Extension of VAV fan control requirements.
  • Expansion of new lighting power densities to more retrofits and automatic damper requirements and use of economizers.
  • Minimizes exceptions to switched receptacle requirement.

The ruling comes on the heels of a July announcement that established the 2007 standard as the as the commercial building reference standard for state building energy codes. The DOE noted that because the 2010 determination was published prior to the two-year deadline states have to demonstrate that their energy code meets or exceeds the stringency of the 2007 standard, states are allowed to file just one certification to address both determinations.

Since being developed in response to the energy crisis in the 1970s, Standard 90.1 now influences building designs worldwide. It has become the basis for building codes, and the standard for building design and construction throughout the United States. ASHRAE and IES publish a revised version of the standard every three years.

DOE Awards $13 Million to Owens Corning, Solexel to Develop Solar Technology

Owens CorningThe Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $13 million to Owens Corning and Soloxel for projects that will help shape the next generation of solar energy technologies. The funding is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative which seeks to make solar energy systems more affordable and sustainable for homeowners. With the DOE funding, Owens Corning plans to integrate Solexel’s technology into solar roofing solutions that are affordable, aesthetically beautiful, and easy to install.

Secretary Chu Announces First Better Buildings Challenge Partners

From the Energy Blog on Energy.Gov:

Department of EnergyIn February, President Obama outlined his plan to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent in the next decade through the Better Buildings Initiative. As part of the initiative, the President started a “Better Buildings Challenge” to encourage private companies, universities, local governments and others to lead in building efficiency.

And today, Secretary Chu announced the first 14 partners to join the Better Buildings Challenge while at the Clinton Global Initiative America Conference in Chicago.

These companies, cities and financial institutions have committed making their facilities more efficient – a move with the added benefit of saving them money on their utility bills each month. The Better Buildings Initiative aims to save companies about $40 billion a year. A recent report also found the initiative could create 114,000 clean energy jobs!

In total, these Better Buildings partners will make more than 300 million square feet of building space more efficient. The Secretary also noted that several financial organizations have shown their support for the initiative by providing more than $500 million to help finance energy efficiency projects.

Among the partners announced today:

  • Portfolio Partners: Lend Lease, a fully integrated property solutions provider, committed to a 20 percent energy-reduction by 2020 through the Military Housing Privatization Initiative portfolio. Representing about 40,000 homes, offices and community centers, it will improve 65.3 million square feet.
  • Financial Allies: Citi agreed to continue offering financial solutions for property energy efficiency projects totaling at least $250 million over the next 18 months. Existing and planned structures target both public and private sector clients and range in size with a minimum $50 million for each transaction.
  • Community Partners: The City of Los Angeles set a minimum goal of 20 percent savings by 2020 through the LA Commercial Building Performance Partnership. The partnership will provide energy audits and creative financing solutions to support commercial property owners in energy upgrades. They expect 22 million square feet of commercial building space to be audited through the program.

The bottom line is simple. Like the Secretary says, saving energy saves money. It’s the right thing to do for our economy, our security and our environment.

Appraisal Foundation and DOE to Collaborate on Green Building Valuation

Appraisal FoundationThe Appraisal Foundation, the Congressionally authorized source of appraisal standards and appraiser qualifications in the United States, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, to collaborate on a series of activities focusing on energy efficiencies and the valuation of green buildings.

A principal component of the MOU is that the generally accepted standards of the appraisal profession, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), are applicable to green valuations. Collaborative activities between The Appraisal Foundation and the Department of Energy will include:

  • Engaging the appraisal community on energy efficiency and green valuations.
  • Development of additional guidance from all three of the Foundation’s independent Boards relating to applicability of the existing standards to the valuation of green buildings. This guidance could take on a number of forms such as USPAP Frequently Asked Questions or Advisory Opinions from the ASB, and voluntary guidance from the APB on recognized valuation methods and techniques.
  • Development of one or more databases, through the Department of Energy, to provide data on energy performance for specific building types and upgrades, to the valuation arena. Data of this type has historically been sparse and/or difficult to collect, whereas this new initiative is intended to be of great assistance to the valuation community.
  • Development of educational course curriculum, through the Department of Energy and based on the guidance of the Foundation’s APB, relating to energy performance and sustainability in commercial buildings.

The importance of energy efficiency is gaining traction throughout the marketplace. On June 13, the issue was raised with President Barack Obama as part of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness meeting and is a component of his Better Buildings Initiative.

Examples of the importance of education on energy efficiency and green valuations in the appraisal community include:

  • Energy efficient items result in lower operating costs for commercial properties, thereby increasing the net income potential for the property. Since income potential is the primary factor considered by investors when buying commercial properties, this translates into a higher value potential for the property.
  • Some municipalities and local jurisdictions are starting to require a certain level of energy efficiency for their commercial properties. Because many existing buildings do not meet the new standards, investors are likely to place a premium on those properties that do comply, thereby resulting in higher values for properties of these types.
  • The increasing costs related to energy consumption make less efficient properties less desirable to many potential buyers, including owner occupants. Because the appraiser’s job is to “mirror the marketplace,” any premiums placed on properties due to their energy efficiency should be recognized by appraisers when providing opinions of value.

In the fall of 2011, The Appraisal Foundation will post an informational video introduction to green buildings and their valuation on the eLibrary section of its website.

For more information on the Foundation’s collaboration with the Department of Energy or upcoming work in the area of green valuations, please visit The Appraisal Foundation’s web site.

NIST grants $1.5 million to develop energy-efficient buildings

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Gaithersburg, MD, has awarded a grant of $1.5 million over 3 years to the Delaware Valley Industrial Resources Center (DVIRC), Exton, PA, and the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NJMEP), Morris Plains, NJ, to encourage expanded manufacturing of energy-efficient building technologies.
The grant complements a larger U.S. Dept. of Energy, Washington, project announced August 24, 2010 that provides as much as $122 million to the Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, for an Energy Innovation Hub. To be located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard Clean Energy campus, the Hub will focus on developing energy-efficient building designs that will save energy, cut pollution, and position the U.S. as a leader in this industry.
According to MEP, this project represents the first time that federal, state, and local public and private resources will be pooled to create a formal applied research/manufacturing cluster that spans from the lab bench, through production to implementation.
“Expanding the capabilities of U.S. manufacturers to respond to the market opportunities resulting from the development of new energy efficient building technologies is key to ensuring the linkage between R&D and commercial application,” said Roger Kilmer, director of NIST MEP.
DVIRC’s and NJMEP’s role will be to connect manufacturers, specifically small- and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), to the project at all levels, including R&D; design and testing of new products, materials, technologies, and systems; and, more importantly, commercializing those opportunities for business growth and job creation.
The Energy Innovation Hub will pursue a research, development and demonstration program targeting technologies for single buildings and district-wide systems. These new building systems and components will need to be manufactured, presenting a unique opportunity for businesses in the area to get in on the ground floor.
The DVIRC, in collaboration with its sister-center NJMEP, will leverage their knowledge of and relationships with region companies to identify technologies such as sensors, new building materials, and computer-simulation tools developed by the Energy Innovation Hub, and translate them into components they can license, develop and manufacture.
“Our region is home to a significant asset and essential resource to innovate new products and technologies,” says Joe Houldin, CEO of DVIRC. “SME manufacturers are true innovators and contribute substantial value to the region’s economic prosperity, and will play a vital role in taking energy research and applied technology to market.”
“We hope that this effort will be a model for public-private collaborative partnerships across the nation,” said Aimee Dobrzeniecki, deputy director of NIST MEP.—Gary L. Parr

DOE Retrofit Ramp-Up program going fishing

Maybe it’s my cynical mood today, but the recently announced $454 million DOE Retrofit Ramp-Up program, even though it’s in its information-gathering phase, seems to be little more than a fishing expedition. The program is described as being designed to “catalyze a nationwide upgrade that experts estimate could save $100 million annually in utility bills for households and businesses.” That part sounds good. What makes me wonder how well thought out this effort is are vague phrases such as the “program will pioneer innovative models for rolling out energy efficiency,” and “will support large-scale models that can open new energy efficiency opportunities to whole neighborhoods, towns, and, eventually, entire states.”
   The announcement is, technically, a Request for Information, designed to generate ideas/feedback for how to spend this money. The announcement was made on Sept. 14 and the feedback period ends Sept. 28. In that timeframe, if you want to provide legitimate input, you either have to already have a plan cooked up or be willing to burn a lot of midnight oil.
   According to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, “The aim of the ‘Retrofit Ramp-Up’ program is to jump-start an industry that makes energy efficiency savings easy to access and available to everyone. By encouraging partnerships between local governments and effective private enterprises, we hope tune-ups for buildings will become as accepted as tune-ups for cars.”
   We’ll see. Sounds to me more like putting $454 million worth of baited hooks in the water and hoping we hook something bigger than a bluegill.—Gary L. Parr