Five Myths of Tubular Daylighting Devices

Are these myths preventing you from specifying/purchasing tubular daylighting devices for your commercial facility?

Michael Sather, commercial marketing manager at Solatube International Inc., Vista, CA

Michael Sather, commercial marketing manager at Solatube International Inc., Vista, CA

Many people are familiar with the concept of tubular daylighting devices (TDDs), often generically referred to by more informal names such as solar tubes, sun tunnels, light pipes, or tube lights. The general concept is simple: A dome, attached to a roof with a self-mounted flashing or mounted on a curb, captures sunlight, transfers it into the building through a highly reflective tube, and delivers it into the interior space through a diffuser lens mounted at the ceiling level or at the end of the tube in an open ceiling.
   In the past 13 years, TDDs have revolutionized the way buildings are illuminated. When applied correctly, a building can be fully daylit using only the natural light supplied by the TDDs for 90% or more of the occupied hours of the year, relying on electric lights only as a backup during extremely overcast days or at night.
   That said, how do you know if TDDs are the right choice for daylighting your project? What key aspects should you consider when selecting the best TDD for a specific application? To help answer these questions and give you a better understanding of this product category, let’s explore five myths of TDDs.

When applied correctly, a building can be fully daylit using only the natural light supplied by the TDDs for 90% or more of the occupied hours of the year, relying on the electric lights only as a backup during extremely overcast days or at night.

When applied correctly, a building can be fully daylit using only the natural light supplied by the TDDs for 90% or more of the occupied hours of the year, relying on the electric lights only as a backup during extremely overcast days or at night.

Myth 1: Tubular daylighting devices are only for residential applications or small spaces.
The original TDDs that appeared in the U.S. market in the early 1990s were strictly designed for residential spaces. In the past two decades, the TDD category grew to rival and eventually surpass traditional skylights for residential applications.
   Building on that residential-market success, the world’s first commercial-grade TDD appeared on the scene in the year 2000. This new technology boasted a 21-in.-dia. tube and a transition box for a grid ceiling system, which allowed a round tube to accommodate a square diffuser, simply by replacing a 2 x 2-ft. ceiling tile. Open-ceiling models also debuted at this time and featured a diffuser lens attached directly to the tube bottom. As a result, the approach to daylighting commercial buildings was greatly simplified and the daylight fixture concept was born.

Specular reflectance, which refers to a concentrated bundle of light transferred down the tube through the diffuser, is the key factor in determining how effective a TDD is at delivering light to an interior.

Specular reflectance, which refers to a concentrated bundle of light transferred down the tube through the diffuser, is the key factor in determining how effective a TDD is at delivering light to an interior.

Myth 2: Tubular daylighting devices are only for the top floor.
Specular reflectance, which refers to a concentrated bundle of light transferred down the tube through the diffuser, is the key factor in determining how effective a TDD is at delivering light to an interior. It is often confused with total reflectance, which refers to scattered light that is reflected in every direction. Total reflection is not an indicator of throughput since this would include light reflecting back up the tube.
   When daylight moves through a TDD, it reflects (or bounces) off the tubing surface. With each bounce, a small amount of that light is lost. For each 90-deg. turn, only about 5% of the light is lost. This makes possible tube runs of great distances, spanning multiple floors, running down chases in the walls, and using multiple 90-deg. turns to be able to deliver daylight deep into the interior of multistory buildings.

When daylight moves through a TDD, it reflects (or bounces) off the tubing surface. With each bounce, a small amount of that light is lost. For each 90-deg. turn, approximately only 5% of the light is lost.

When daylight moves through a TDD, it reflects (or bounces) off the tubing surface. With each bounce, a small amount of that light is lost. For each 90-deg. turn, approximately only 5% of the light is lost.

Myth 3: Tubular daylighting devices are only effective at certain times of the day or year.
Factors affecting seasonal consistency are a combination of specular reflectance, dome optics, spectral selectivity, color temperature maintenance (CTM), and solar heat gain. Lower end TDDs will have a greater difference in daily and seasonal variation due to a lack of the above mentioned properties.
   Advanced TDDs offer daily and seasonal consistency by incorporating dome technologies with passive internal reflectors or Fresnel-lens optics to help efficiently collect low-angle sunlight. This can greatly increase performance in the early morning or late day. During the winter months, when the sun is low in the sky, this is an especially important consideration in Northern latitudes.

Myth 4: Tubular daylighting devices are unpredictable.
While dome optics and tubing material will play a major role in the predictability and consistency of a TDD, you must also take into account the overall design. Even the most advanced TDDs can be designed incorrectly into a space. If you use too many units, the results can be overwhelming; if you use too few, the results can be disappointing. Most TDD manufacturers offer daylight dimming devices that provide total control over the amount of daylight entering the space.

Myth 5: All tubular daylighting devices are the same.
This statement is equivalent to saying all cars are the same. To ensure you select the right TDD for your particular project needs, there are three main considerations: the manufacturer, the product, and the partner:

  • The manufacturer. Significant differences exist in the product offerings and core focus of companies manufacturing TDDs. Some manufacturers specialize in TDDs as their sole business, whereas other companies may only offer TDDs as a small part of their overall product line.
  • The product. Be sure to specify a product that meets the needs of the space. Most TDD manufacturers will offer a wide range of models and component options to create the right configuration for the specific application and climate.
  • The partner. Once a manufacturer is selected, it is probably best to make sure there is a factory-trained distributor or representative to assist with the project. Most TDD manufacturers will have a partner who works with you at a local level from project conception through completion to help you meet your daylighting goals and stay within your budget. These companies typically offer installation services as well as installation training for subcontractors to ensure your project is a success.

Michael Sather is the commercial marketing manager at Solatube International Inc., Vista, CA.

Ask Questions, Then Design Lighting

Lighting design should be part of the initial facility design phase to ensure effective illumination and energy savings.

Cheryl Ford, marketing manager for OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA.

Cheryl Ford, marketing manager for OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA.

The intended use for a building and the owner’s design goals not only affect the layout, finishes, and furnishings, but have a significant impact on lighting needs and energy costs. Unfortunately, lighting often is not discussed in the early design stages for new and major renovation projects. If lighting is a part of the early discussions, it is much more likely that the best possible luminaires will be chosen to fit the style of the building and its intended use.
   Discussing lighting early will also help ensure the building’s design can accommodate the desired luminaires and controls to achieve the lowest energy and maintenance cost without sacrificing lighting quality. Before specifying lighting, answer the following questions.
   Who is the end user?
   Is the building owned by a company for its own use or is the space being leased to multiple tenants? For businesses, branding by way of unique building design and layout plays a part in establishing that brand. In addition, exterior and interior lighting are equally important for the safety and well being of workers, customers, and clients. If a building is to be occupied by a single company, it is easier to minimize the number of luminaire types. For leased spaces, tenants often want the space constructed to meet their requirements, and this includes lighting. Lease agreements vary, but tenants often are required to pay utilities on the leased space, so work with them to install the most energy-efficient lighting possible.
   What is the desired style or look?
   Aesthetically pleasing lighting can be modern, contemporary or traditional, and there is a variety of luminaires from which to choose. For an unobtrusive modern look, recessed flat-panel, recessed indirect, or architectural recessed 1×4, 2×2, or 2×4 luminaires can provide a very clean look and uniformly lit spaces. For a more contemporary look, single pendant-mount luminaires can be geometrical, adding an artistic look to the space. There are also more traditional long linear runs of indirect/direct pendant-mount luminaires with an up-light and down-light component providing extremely low-glare lighting. In addition, these luminaires light the ceiling, brightening the look of the space.
   You do not need to sacrifice on the aesthetics of a luminaire just to save energy. State-of-the-art high-efficiency, long-life fluorescent lamp and ballast systems are available in many styles, providing energy savings as high as 40%, compared with standard T8 fluorescent units. Luminaires using LED systems that offer energy savings as high as 50% when compared to conventional fluorescent systems are available.
   How will spaces be used?
   How a space is to be used determines required lighting levels. In the past, however, many interiors have been over lit. Fortunately, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), New York, has established recommended lighting levels for specific tasks, and following these guidelines will reduce over-illumination and wasted energy.
   The type of space will also dictate the need for additional lighting controls, and this may influence your luminaire choice. Many LED luminaires come with integrated controls for installation ease. Also, layers of light, especially for hospitality and classroom lighting, provide the flexible lighting typically desired. For office environments, the use of task lighting allows overhead lighting levels to be scaled back, reducing energy usage.
   What are the latest energy code requirements?
   ASHRAE 90.1 and California Title 24 have maximum power-density requirements (W/sq. ft.) and mandatory control provisions for interior and exterior applications. The latest versions of each have additional mandatory control requirements. Alterations affecting more than 50% of the lighting load must conform to the codes.
   ASHRAE 90.1-2010 requires space control for enclosed areas with at least one control step between 30% and 70% of full power. Exceptions include corridors, public lobbies, restrooms, stairwells, storage rooms, and electrical/mechanical areas. Various auto-off requirements also are established, particularly for parking garages.
   California Title 24 2013 has added more multi-level control requirements, specified by space type for areas greater than 100 sq. ft. Auto-off requirements are also established for interior and exterior spaces and parking garages. There also are specific requirements for daylighted zones and use of occupancy sensing or auto scheduling. Demand response is now required for all non-residential buildings of more than 10,000 sq. ft.
   When does daylighting make sense?
   There is trend in commercial buildings to use more natural light and provide occupants with outdoor views for health and well-being benefits, as well as to save energy. However, to make daylighting effective, the building design and window selection are extremely important. North/south-facing windows and windows with the proper glazing to minimize glare need to be incorporated into the design. In new-building construction, light shelves and skylights improve daylight use. A window-shading system can effectively control the amount of sun that enters a space. Light sensors and 0- to-10-V dimming is the best way to reduce the luminaire light level in response to available daylight.
   Which lighting technology?
   The cost to install LED lighting instead of conventional fluorescent and high-intensity-discharge technology has decreased immensely in the past several years. LED luminaire performance, controllability, and color quality is equivalent to many fluorescent systems, so for new construction LEDs may be the best choice. For retrofit projects, high-efficiency, long-life fluorescents may be the least expensive option, but do not rule out LED retrofit solutions that use the existing luminaire housing. Utility rebates are available for DLC-qualified (DesignLights Consortium, Lexington, MA) LED luminaires and for high-efficiency and supersaver fluorescent systems, reducing the cost to install the most efficient lighting.
   Lighting can help shape a business and its outcomes in very subtle ways. When done correctly, it can dazzle people, provide comfort, and improve productivity. Quality lighting does not need to break the budget, and it can be very energy efficient. In evaluating lighting options, look at the total cost of ownership. Hire a lighting designer to make sure the best lighting system is designed for the facility.

Cheryl Ford is a marketing manager for OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, MA. She has
more than 30 years of lighting experience; has held various positions in engineering, marketing, and sales; and is a NCQLP lighting certified professional. Watch for regular lighting columns from Cheryl at cbpmagazine.com/blog.

Load Share to Heat Pools, Water

Instead of exhausting building heat generated during daily activity, a thermal-load-sharing system can direct that heat to pools, spas, and water heaters.

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Jay Egg, Egg Geothermal

Spring is here, and the cooling season is quickly approaching. Pools around the country that have been decommissioned during the winter are likely to stay that way well into June, unless some type of pool heating is implemented.

But heating open bodies of water with conventional HVAC heat sources can be a rather expensive undertaking, particularly in northern climates, forcing designers and owners to look for a relatively inexpensive heat source. Let’s look at the options.

Solar-thermal is the most energy efficient and renewable source for potable water and pool heating, but solar depends on cooperative weather. Cloudy and cool days can mean a cold pool, necessitating the need for backup heating sources much of the year.

Fossil fuel heating of potable water, pools, and spas is an old favorite. First cost is relatively low, but that comes at a higher price environmentally and monetarily as you move forward. In addition to high costs for propane and other fuels, safety issues are involved when fossil fuels are used as a heat source.

Electric-resistance heating uses raw electricity to warm heating elements over which the water passes, providing a clean and safe water-heating alternative. But it can be extremely expensive. Using the coefficient of performance (COP) rating system (used internationally) for heating equipment, electric heating has a COP of 1.0, meaning that 1 unit of heat is provided for each unit of electricity, a one-to-one ratio, or 100% efficient in the COP rating system.

Air-source heat pumps, designed for pool and potable-water heating, are environmentally friendly and pump outside air into a pool or hot-water tank. However, they too rely somewhat on cooperative weather conditions, i.e., air temperatures being warm enough to facilitate efficient heat extraction. Air-source heat-pump efficiencies are in the 3.0 COP (300% efficient) range.

For swimming pool and spa heating, the best scenario is attained with geothermal-sourced water-to-water heat pumps, pulling heat from a dependable, steady, and renewable energy source; the earth. Geothermal heat pumps can be about 5.0 COP (500% efficient).

Outside temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, but underground temperatures don’t change nearly as dramatically, thanks to the mass of the earth. Some 4 to 6 ft. below the ground, the temperature remains relatively constant year round (about 50 F to 75 F in the U.S.).

A geothermal-sourced water-to-water heat pump, which can work in tandem with a geothermal HVAC system, typically consists of water-sourced heat pump and a buried system of pipes called an earth loop, and/or a pump to send fluid to a reinjection (Class V thermal exchange process) well. This geothermal source can be shared between the building’s HVAC and water-heating systems.

Think of it like this: While providing power to run your building’s HVAC cooling system, you are also providing the energy to run computers, lighting, servers, copiers, and domestic water heating. Then the building’s HVAC system must use power to remove the heat created by all of these internal gains, on top of the occupant loads (one occupant presents a load of 1,200 BTU each hour). You pay for energy twice to remove this waste heat through the process of cooling your building. Why not channel that heat to where it’s needed?

Among the benefits that you can realize from a geothermal HVAC system is the ability to channel and use this waste heat energy. That’s because, unlike widely used cooling towers and air-sourced cooling equipment (those that have an outside condenser that discharges waste heat), geothermal systems discharge the heat through a liquid heat exchanger (such as with a chiller-cooling tower combination). The heat is entrained in the discharge water line. Most manufacturers of geothermal heat pumps even have a factory installed hot water generator available. This option gives you two extra connections, labeled DHW (Domestic Hot Water) “In” and “Out,” that may be connected to almost any hot-water tank.

There are thousands of geothermal heated pools around in the US. There is a good chance that the local YMCA, hotel, health club, or community pool near you already has geothermal sourced pool heating. Surprisingly, many of these still have air sourced cooling systems that could be converted to geothermal (and likely will be) during the normal course of HVAC equipment attrition and upgrade. When specifying a geothermal HVAC system, consider including a thermal-load-sharing system to make maximum use of building heat.

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.

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.

Igniting Creative Energy (ICE) Student Competition Marks 10th Year

Igniting Creative Energy ChallengeThe Igniting Creative Energy (ICE) Challenge, a national competition for kindergarten through twelfth grade students to share ideas about wise energy choices and environmental stewardship, is celebrating its tenth year. To mark this milestone, Johnson Controls and Kohler Co., the competition’s sponsors, announced the addition of ICE Water, a new category for the competition that aims to also educate student about water conservation.

Water efficiency is a growing concern. According to a 2008 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 36 states expect water shortages within the next five years. Accordingly, ICE Water will encourage teachers to include water into their classroom discussions about energy and natural resources.

A total of five Grand Prize winners, four student winners and one teacher will travel to the 2011 United States Energy Efficiency Forum (EEF) where they will share their winning projects with national leaders and energy policymakers. In addition to the national winners, the highest scoring student in each qualifying state or province will receive recognition as the State or Province winner.

The ICE Challenge is administered by the National Energy Foundation (NEF) on behalf of Johnson Controls and Kohler. NEF has served as the ICE education partner over the life of the competition and continues to help create awareness about the competition among teachers and students throughout the nation.

All ICE Challenge entries must be postmarked by March 4, 2011; submissions postmarked by February 18, 2011 will qualify for additional early bird prizes. ICE Challenge winners will be announced in late March 2011.

Kohler Rental powers, cools Gulf bird cleaners

Kohler Rental, part of the Kohler Co. (Kohler, WI) Global Power Group,  is providing temporary power and air conditioning services to wildlife rehabilitation centers located across several Gulf Coast states. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, a bureau in the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Washington, established wildlife M*A*S*H units following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill that has been occurring in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana since April.
   Included in Kohler Rental’s support effort is Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Buras, LA, an epicenter of bird rescue and cleaning operations located in Louisiana’s fringe coastal area, south of New Orleans. The center plays a crucial role in the effort to rescue, clean, and save the lives of hundreds of brown pelicans and other native bird species exposed to the crude oil that is polluting the Gulf of Mexico.
   Helping wildlife caretakers combat Louisiana’s summer heat and humidity, Kohler Rental has brought in portable air conditioning equipment and power generators to run the units and power the equipment used to clean the birds. Including additional wildlife rehabilitation centers and temporary housing for volunteers and workers located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, Kohler Rental has been called upon to deploy nearly 30 high-capacity air conditioners and power generators in support of the oil cleanup efforts.
   “The men and women rescuing, cleaning, and nursing pelicans and other birds back to health in Gulf Coast states may not know Kohler Rental is onsite. And we’re not running the wildlife rescue camps. However, the people who do operate the rescue centers reached out to Kohler Rental and it’s our mission to climate control the rescue camp and deliver additional power. By providing a more comfortable working environment, Kohler Rental helps keep workers at their best throughout the countless hours spent caring for the helpless birds,” said Mike Nasif, general manager, Kohler Rental. “Kohler Rental is involved in something a lot bigger than Kohler and fortunately what we do—providing for temporary climate control and power needs—can make a difference. It has been awe-inspiring to see the passion and dedication of the people we support as they save wildlife affected by this environmental disaster.”

The Fort Jackson Center’s role in the crisis
Brown pelicans and similar bird species get oiled as they float on the surface of Gulf of Mexico waters or when diving for fish. Once oiled, the pelicans can lose the ability to fly, dive for food, or even float on the water. In some cases, an oiled bird will die of hypothermia or become ill as a result of ingesting oil while grooming themselves.
   If found and rescued in a timely manner, oil-coated birds have an extremely high survival rate after receiving care at bird-cleaning camps. Upon arrival, each bird is given a physical and time to de-stress. Removing a bird’s oil-coat involves meticulous scrubbing with household dishwashing detergent, followed by a rinse and dry. Prior to being released into wildlife refuges located away from the Gulf, birds at Fort Jackson are placed in outdoor aviary pens, referred to as Pelican Island, for observation, recovery, and rehabilitation.—Gary L. Parr

Trane recognizes six for energy efficiency

Trane Inc., St. Paul, MN, recently presented its Trane Energy Efficiency Leader Award to six customers. The customers, located in six countries, were recognized for doing dynamic work to link the physical environment of their buildings and assets to their business outcomes. The award is presented to customers across all sectors, including healthcare, education, retail, grocery, government, industrial, and commercial real estate.
   Award recipients leverage improvements in building design, renovation, construction, and operations to achieve real business outcomes, such as lowering energy and operating costs, reducing tenant turnover, creating better learning environments, and achieving improved patient outcomes.
   Award recipients were:

  • Ivory Properties Group and GH Consultants Sdn. Bhd., Penang, Malaysia, for development of the Penang Times Square shopping mall. The mall was initially designed to include a conventional air conditioning system. Ivory Properties Group, with support and advice from GH Consultants Sdn. Bhd., instead opted for a more energy efficient Trane chilled-water system. The system is expected to achieve 0.63 kW/ton system efficiency on an annual basis and will be 30% more efficient than conventional chiller plants found in typical commercial buildings in Malaysia.
  • Macalester College, a private college in St. Paul, MN, with 163 full-time faculty and nearly 2,000 students, was recognized for a campus-wide dedication to efficiency and sustainability. This effort led to significant energy saving upgrades on campus. Upgrades included a chilled-water system plant, an Eco House (on-campus green living experience), and the construction of LEED Platinum-certified Markim Hall. Markim Hall, which opened in July 2009, is a $7.5 million, 17,000-sq.-ft. facility housing the college’s Institute for Global Citizenship. The building is the first higher education facility in Minnesota, and one of the first nationwide, to receive the highest level of LEED certification. Energy simulation models predict that Markim Hall will use nearly 80% less energy than a standard building in an equivalent climate.
  • Monterrey Tec is a private, independent educational institution with more than 8,500 teachers serving more than 90,000 students at the high school, undergraduate, and post-graduate levels at its 31 campuses in Mexico. Based in Monterrey, Mexico, the school is recognized for recent infrastructure improvements that significantly reduce annual energy consumption. As a result of the upgrades, the university has created a more comfortable teaching and learning environment while also reducing energy consumption by 13% to 15% year.
  • The P.P. Porty Lotnicze Terminal at Warsaw Chopin Airport, Warsaw, Poland, serves nearly half of the passenger air traffic in Poland. The P.P. Porty Lotnicze Terminal features high-performance infrastructure systems that make the state-of-the-art terminal operationally and energy efficient, while at the same time providing visitors and workers with a comfortable environment. It is estimated that during the first 10 years of operation the infrastructure systems will save enough energy to power a city of 11,000 people for one year.
  • Tishman Speyer received an award for development of the Castelo Branco Office Park in São Paulo, Brazil. Because of the investments in efficiency, the 1.1 million-sq.-ft. site provides the same quality and technology of premium areas of the state capital, but at less cost. The office park encompasses a 27-acre site that includes six towers, a horizontal corporate space for parking and services, and state-of-the-art buildings using the latest technologies in climate-control solutions.
  • Transitions Optical, Galway, Ireland, the optical industry’s top photo-chromic lens manufacturer, recently completed upgrades to its plant that are generating €144,000 in annual energy savings and reduced the energy required to produce each lens by 50%. Automation has saved Transitions Optical €432,000 over the past three years, saving enough electricity to run the plant for three additional days every month.

   This group of recipients makes a total of 25 Trane customers who have received the Trane Energy Efficiency Leader Award in the past year.—Gary L. Parr

Tool predicts building energy use

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, announced a tool that predicts a project’s energy use and project modeling. “This tool is a valuable resource for architecture firms and will be used on their entire portfolio, not just for projects seeking green building certification,” said AIA president, George H. Miller, FAIA. “The tool was specifically developed to be simple to use and to be used by firms of all sizes on a variety of building types, large and small.”
   The tool is available by participating in the AIA’s voluntary 2030 Commitment Program. The program asks architecture firms, and other entities in the built environment, to pledge to develop multi-year action plans and implement steps that will advance the AIA’s goal of producing carbon-neutral buildings by the year 2030.
   The Excel-based reporting tool requires the user to enter project use type, gross square footage (GSF), and predicted energy use intensity, in addition to answering some basic yes/no questions such as, Is project Interior only? Is the project modeled?. Based on that information, for modeled projects, the tool will automatically calculate the national average site energy usage index (EUI) for that project type and the project’s percentage reduction from the national average EUI toward meeting the firm’s 2030 goal for the current year (currently 60%). For non-modeled projects, users enter the design standard or code and the sheet will calculate the project’s contribution toward the firm’s 2030 commitment.
   The Excel tool will generate three easy-to-decipher graphs that aggregate the individually listed active projects within the spreadsheet. These three graphs will constitute the report that firms will forward to the AIA under the 2030 Commitment Program. The three charts will show a snapshot of the firm portfolio including the percentage of GSF:

  • of active projects meeting the current reduction goal
  • being modeled
  • for which the firm will gather actual energy performance.

   Firms are asked to track all active design projects for the reporting year, not just those that are seeking green-building certification. Reports developed with the tool are meant to provide a year-to-year summary of a firm’s work. Firms of all sizes and building type expertise will use the same tool and report in the same manner.
   The tool can be used for any type of building project and was developed through a collaboration between members of the AIA Committee on the Environment, AIA Large Firm Roundtable, AIA Chicago Chapter Working Group, and individuals from AIA member firms.—Gary L. Parr

GE, Lithonia Lighting want better school lighting

GE Lighting, Cleveland and Lithonia Lighting, Atlanta, have combined efforts to help schools improve their classroom lighting quality and cut energy costs by as much as 50%. The information-delivery vehicle for this new effort is a website at www.BetterLightingBetterSchools.com.
   According to the press release: “Better quality, more controllable and efficient lighting is an investment that ought to be on the radar screens of school districts across the U.S. this year. Superintendents, business managers, and school boards can take a meaningful step toward extraordinary, lasting lighting energy savings—and improved, more flexible learning environments—by visiting www.BetterLightingBetterSchools.com.”

GE and Lithonia's www.BetterLightingBetterSchools.com website is a new resource aimed at helping schools improve lighting and cut energy costs.

   The site provides a spectrum of information about how schools can improve lighting energy efficiency. It features a lighting audit request form tied to the introduction of energy-efficient Class Pack Lighting Systems from GE Lighting and Lithonia Lighting. By installing Class Pack Lighting Systems, schools can reduce annual lighting-related energy costs as much as 50%.
   “We want to help school districts across the country understand the significant opportunity that today’s energy-efficient lighting systems can provide,” said Jason Raak, a marketing manager with GE’s lighting business. “Recent new product advancements make current high-performance lighting far superior to systems installed just five years ago, and payback periods are shorter than ever.”
   Qualified school representatives can use www.BetterLightingBetterSchools.com to request a school or district-wide energy audit (restrictions apply). Visitors to the site will see a host of supporting statistics and details on how school executives can reduce the cost to renovate facilities by using NEMA premium ballasts and CEE qualified HPT8 lamps which, in many regions, can defray initial costs through utility rebate eligibility.
   The Class Pack Lighting Systems combine high-light-output, full-spectrum fluorescent lighting with a ballast system that delivers customized lighting levels on a two-lamp platform. With fewer, longer-life components, it minimizes maintenance and lamp replacement costs. It’s designed for fast, easy installation after school is out for the day or during summer renovations.
   “We think BetterLightingBetterSchools.com provides school districts with many of the resources needed to make smart financial decisions about lighting and energy savings,” said Monik Mehra, director of marketing, Lithonia Lighting. “It’s a vital tool at a time when school districts have to do more with less, while striving to improve the quality of their students’ learning experience.”—Gary L. Parr

DC power: Coming soon to an office near you

There’s a movement underfoot to bring DC power to commercial building interiors. Members of the EMerge Alliance agreed upon a standard, but the announcement last month didn’t make much of a splash in the press. To tell you the truth, I put the press release aside until this week when I spoke with alliance chair Brian Patterson of Armstrong World Industries. He filled me in on the year-old organization, the work it is doing, and the implications of this standard. EMerge Alliance Standard Flow Chart For instance, building owners soon could find it easier to reconfigure space for new tenants.  Instead of rewiring a floor, owners can plug light fixtures into the ceiling grid. They’ll move fixtures around as easily as furniture. Facility managers will be able to integrate native wind energy into their buildings without first converting it to alternating current.
The statement from the alliance said the standard establishes a more efficient means of powering digital, DC-powered devices, such as sensors, lighting, and IT equipment. It creates an integrated, open platform for power, interior infrastructures, controls, and peripheral devices to facilitate the hybrid use of AC and DC power within buildings.
EMerge Alliance members favor the use of 24-V DC power, which allows for a “plug and play” approach to rewiring, said Patterson. He added that low voltage no longer equates to low performance.
Founding members are Armstrong World Industries, Johnson Controls, Nextek Power Systems, Osram Sylvania, and Worthington Armstrong Venture. Convia, Creston Electronics, Herman Miller, Lutron Electronics, Southern California Edison, Steelcase, and Tyco Electronics are among the participating members. The not-for-profit organization seeks additional members.
The alliance is establishing a third-party registration and evaluation program for labeling products based on the standard. The program is scheduled to begin this fall. Standard-compliant devices will be branded with the EMerge designation.
Check out the EMerge Alliance website for more informational, including a 3-minute instructional video. If you are attending Greenbuild in Phoenix next week, stop by the Alliance’s booth 2252. — Jim Carper