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

McKinsey report: Invest $50 billion, save $1.2 trillion

A recently released McKinsey report (McKinsey & Co., Washington), sponsored by USGBC, Washington, and several other organizations, indicates that investing $50 billion in the energy efficiency of buildings and other non-transportation initiatives throughout the next 10 years could reduce the nation’s energy consumption by 23% by 2020, save the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion, and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 gigatons. This level of investment is also projected to generate 900,000 jobs.
   “This confirms a critical path forward that we have long championed. Harnessing the engine of green, energy-efficient buildings can cost-effectively drive tremendous improvements in our economy and environment,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chairman of USGBC. “Green building can stimulate the economy at a level one and a half times larger than the federal stimulus bill. In terms of climate change, a commitment to energy efficiency would be the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger cars and light trucks—more than 200-million vehicles—off the road.”
The energy efficiency potential cited in the report is divided across three sectors of the U.S. economy:

  • industrial, 40% of the end-use energy efficiency potential
  • residential, 35%
  • commercial, 25%.

The report calls for an integrated national plan guided by five principles:

  • Recognize energy efficiency as an important energy resource that can help meet future energy needs, while the nation simultaneously develops new no- and low-carbon energy sources.
  • Formulate and launch, at both the national and regional levels, an integrated portfolio of proven, piloted, and emerging approaches.
  • Identify methods to provide the significant upfront funding.
  • Forge greater alignment among utilities, regulators, government agencies, manufacturers, and energy consumers.
  • Foster innovation in the development and deployment of next-generation, energy-efficiency technologies to ensure continuing productivity gains.

To download the report, click here.—Gary L. Parr

Why don’t we fix our lights?

“Lighting is the single largest user of electricity in commercial buildings. It accounts for 38% of the electric bill—more than cooling, heating, and equipment. If you walk around a commercial building, you see why: The lights are too bright, they’re on for too long, and they illuminate vacant spaces.”
   Those two sentences are the opening paragraph of the Building Power feature that appears in our September issue, mailing Tuesday. I’d be willing to bet the $10 in my pocket that that paragraph describes 90% of the commercial buildings that are in use on any given day.
   Our concept of commercial building lighting is so antiquated, so ineffective, and so wasteful, that essentially all of it should be scrapped. We have lighting technology available to us today that will chop chunks of money out of our energy bills and do it with a rather short ROI, but we aren’t using it. Why don’t we see a nationwide effort to improve workspace lighting and cut energy costs?.—Gary L. Parr

Tweeting with Ole Miss

“If these walls could talk.” Well, now they do. More or less.
   Here’s what the Lyceum at the Univ. of Mississippi, Oxford, MS, said earlier this month: “(10.46 kWh usage, 0.15 kWh peak) Bad day all around. Usage up 7.93% and peak up 6.67%.
That comment appeared on the building’s Facebook page. Yep. Social media has come to buildings.
   Throughout the Ole Miss campus, building are broadcasting their energy consumption via updates on Facebook and Twitter. Smart-grid company SmartSynch, Jackson, MS, added IP technology to energy management equipment. Building managers are testing the idea that they can “alter behavior to reduce electricity consumption and carbon emissions,” according to a report by John Gartner, editor in chief of Matter Network, San Francisco, and an industry analyst at Pike Research, Boulder, CO.
   The project will study consumption from lighting, temperature controls, and appliances. The organizations have created an online application to monitor and report the energy draw so that building operators can learn where energy is being wasted and implement new conservation strategies.
   The only thing missing is a voice application that nags students to: “Close the door. Do you think your old man is made of money?”—Jim Carper

Do we need a better LEED?

One of the questions posed in my July/August issue editorial:

Do we need a better LEED?
We all know that LEED isn’t perfect, but it’s the accepted “standard” and, for many, the best that we have. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen several “green” buildings, but two LEED “Choose Your Metal” buildings stand out for what was missing. In both instances, after a formal tour to see all of the wonderful energy-saving, sustainable features, we had a small lunch. In both cases, I looked in the kitchenette area for a place to recycle my soda can and came up empty. In the first building, the recycle bin was in the hallway. In my most recent experience, I asked one of the tour guides where the recycle container was located. I got that “look.” There wasn’t one. For me, that moment shot a gaping hole in the building’s LEED story—Gary L. Parr

At what sustainability level is your company?

The good people at Siemens Building Technologies, Buffalo Grove, IL, recently issued their first corporate sustainability report. I won’t drag you through it. If you’re interested, click here to download and read the report.
   What was of interest to me was the way they broke down sustainability so they could figure out where they fit and where they needed to go. Their starting point was to identify five stages of sustainability progression. Stages one and two view sustainability as a cost; stage three begins to see sustainability as a lever of economic advantage; stages four and five embrace sustainability as part of organizational strategy.
   “We view[ed] our company as a solid stage three, and then set our goal to become a stage four to stage five organization,” said Brad Haeberle, Siemens vice president and sustainability committee chair. “With that in mind, the committee’s first task was three-fold: to learn from other industry leaders in corporate sustainability, and to gather information on what we were doing today, and to brainstorm what we could and should be doing as a company.” This led the sustainability committee to interview a number of leaders and pioneers in corporate sustainability, many from industries unrelated to Siemens, to provide a fresh perspective of the role that sustainability can play across the enterprise and its people. From this work, they were able to define four pillars of success against which they could measure their corporate efforts (quoted from the Siemens report):

  • Pillar One―Products: Reduce the negative environmental impact of our products, specifically in manufacturing, packaging, and labeling. Siemens Building Technologies now includes an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) on every product released, which identifies all materials used in the manufacturing of the product
  • Pillar Two―Operations: Minimize the environmental footprint of Siemens Building Technologies’ operations. For example, emissions associated with fuel consumption by the company’s vehicle fleet were reduced, and the company introduced a water-reduction plan that [reduced] water use by 8.4% in FY2008, [compared with] FY2007, and 15%, [compared with] FY2005. The company also reduced air travel directly associated with our business activities and similar downstream activities, [such as] parcel shipping. The company also worked hard to [decrease] electricity consumption at the Buffalo Grove campus and manufacturing facilities, reducing it in FY2008 by 5%, [compared with] FY2007, and 13%, [compared with] FY2005 levels.
  • Pillar Three―Solutions: Develop industry-leading solutions that generate a positive impact on the environment for our customers. Since 1994, Siemens has been involved in more than 1,300 energy-efficiency projects, saving some $2.1 billion in energy costs while reducing the amount of CO2 released by 700,000 tons per year. In addition, we have negotiated more than $3 billion in energy supply contracts on behalf of our customers.
  • Pillar Four―Transparency: Siemens Building Technologies understands that the company’s sustainability initiatives and activities are relevant to many different audiences, both inside and outside the organization. In 2008 the company publicly announced its Sustainability Committee to employees and published “Sustainability Initiatives,” an eight-page e-brochure outlining key aspects of the program to select customers. Since 2007, we have institutionalized a number of communications tools, including webinars, internal blogs, email and newsletter updates, to ensure that all employees understand our mission and objectives, as well as our commitment to making sustainability an intrinsic part of our company’s DNA.

   If your company is serious about reducing its impact on the environment and being able to market your products/services without resorting to “green wash,” the Siemens approach appears to provide a good starting point.—Gary L. Parr

DOE needs to lead by example

Often mentioned as part of the Obama Administration’s economic-stimulation program is a plan to invest money to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings. Based on a recent AP story, the President needs to have a meeting with the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) management personnel. Clearly, the organization charged with implementing our energy policies has the wrong concept of what we’re trying to do with that energy. According to the story, DOE auditors reported that they waste enough electricity to power more than 9,800 homes a year by failing to turn down the heat or air conditioning when workers leave for the day. “In spite of its energy-conservation leadership role, we found that the department and its facility contractors did not place adequate emphasis on reducing energy consumption” by adjusting their after-hours thermostats, wrote inspector general Gregory Friedman.
The auditors found temperature “setback controls” lacking, broken, or unused in 35 of 55 large buildings at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee; the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state. That’s roughly two out of three buildings sampled, including some of DOE’s newest buildings in Oak Ridge.
The Oak Ridge Y-12 plant’s $154-million, privately financed, LEED certified, Jack Case Office Building and New Hope Visitors Center, wastes energy because no one bothered to buy software to make its setback system work.
The auditors, using DOE’s own energy-saving formulas, projected that enforcing temperature setbacks on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning throughout DOE’s more than 9,000 buildings could save more than $11.5 million on the energy agency’s $300-million annual electric bill.
Why is this happening? Wayne Roquemore, spokesman for owner-developer Lawler Wood LLC, Knoxville, TN, said the Oak Ridge buildings actually came with manual setback controls and Lawler Wood has purchased $2,200 in software for automatic controls in response to the audit. “But the setbacks are still not being used because the occupancy policy has not changed,” he said. “The operating policy has been to keep those buildings suitable for occupancy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
If we had that kind of energy policy in our house, my wife and I would both have to get second jobs. If this kind of waste continues, we may have to anyway, just to pay the tax bill.—Gary L. Parr

Cherokees to light town with Lumec LEDs

Philips Lumec, Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada, has announced that members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of western North Carolina have chosen LED lighting solutions to illuminate  their downtown streetscapes. In doing so, they clearly place Cherokee, NC, a town of 14,500 residents located on the south end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in a select group of communities choosing environmentally responsible LED lighting technologies.
   The Band chose the LifeLED product, manufactured by Philips Lumec, as the light source for their downtown streetscapes.
   “We’re dramatically upgrading both the technology and the overall look of our community,” said Damon Lambert, transportation planner, Cherokee Dept. of Transportation.  “Most importantly, we’re estimating a savings of about $23,000 annually with the LED system.  So, in spite of some additional front-end cost, the estimated payback is well within the expected life of the system. We felt the investment to be a wise one for now and the future.  We considered 250-W metal-halide lamps initially, but when we saw the performance of the LED system it quickly became the preferred option.”
   Working in concert with Proctor Hodge Architecture, Cherokee, NC, and Hodge & Associates, Knoxville, TN, to upgrade the community’s 40+ year-old existing lighting system, the first three phases of the LED lighting system are to be installed by late summer, 2009.—Gary L. Parr

Tweeting from Energy Summit 09

Tweeting from Energy Summit 09 today. Follow us at cbpmag to get energy tidbits.–Gary L. Parr

Partnership opens new doors for Convia system

The Dashboard is the most recent addition to the Convia system, which is expected to benefit from a new partnership with Wiremold/Legrand.

The Dashboard is the most recent addition to the Convia system, which is expected to benefit from a new partnership with Wiremold/Legrand.

Office furniture designer/manufacturer Herman Miller Inc., Zeeland, MI, took a huge step when it recently formed a strategic partnership between its Convia Inc. (Buffalo Grove, IL), company and Wiremold/Legrand, West Hartford, CT. This partnership helps Convia expand its portfolio of forward-thinking building technologies and energy-management solutions for the commercial building industry. “With key influencers both in and beyond the architecture and design industry taking great strides to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings, and increasing amounts of federal money pouring into energy projects, there is rich market opportunity for solutions that manage and reduce energy consumption,” said Randy Storch, president of Convia.
As part of the agreement, the Convia technology—which encompasses a facility’s power delivery and other infrastructure and applications, including lighting, HVAC, and occupancy and daylight-harvesting sensors, into an energy efficient, easy-to-manage platform—is integrated into Wiremold wire and cable management systems (modular wiring systems, floor boxes, poke-through devices and architectural columns) for a true end-to-end power application. In an industry first, the enhanced “Conviaenabled Wiremold” systems add control and monitoring of office plug loads (the amount of energy drawn by devices from an electrical outlet) and lighting loads.
Leveraging the advanced plug load monitoring and control capabilities made possible through the alliance, Convia introduced its Energy Dashboard application at the NeoCon show, held June 15 to 17 in Chicago. The Energy Dashboard provides real-time  energy-consumption figures for a given space, allowing users to instantly measure, monitor, and track savings. Powered through Convia’s Global Gateway, the Energy Dashboard allows users to quickly create reports that illustrate energy consumption and actual voltage use of total power, plug loads, lighting, and occupancy as it is occurring. To learn more about the Convia system, read “Renovate Buildings with Flexible Platforms,” originally published in our April issue.—Gary L. Parr