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

Energy forum shows how far we’ve come

I’ve just returned from our nation’s capital, where the U.S. Energy Assoc. held its annual Energy Efficiency Forum, co-sponsored by Johnson Controls. It’s the 20th anniversary of the event and there was a gala Hall of Fame induction last evening. But the highlight of my trip was sitting at the National Press Club listening to the sheer collection of brainpower and vision displayed among the speakers today. Highlights: Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, former head of Turner Construction and a real leader who is pushing the real estate and construction communities in Dallas to go green, but fast. Then there was Anthony Malkin, head of the firm that owns the Empire State Building. Malkin talked about the once-in-a-lifetime confluence of companies and groups that came together to take on the challenge of giving the ESB an energy efficiency makeover of historic proportions. More about what these visionaries have in store for the built environment–and a lot more about the future of energy/utilities in the U.S. If you use electricity or natural gas, you need to watch our blog and check out Building Power within our pages.  The accelerator is being pushed to the floorboard—Melissa Larson

XCT technology drives Lutron Radio Powr Savr occupancy sensor

The Lutron Radio Powr Savr occupancy sensor advances motion-sensing technology.

The Lutron Radio Powr Savr occupancy sensor advances motion-sensing technology.

When I visited the Lutron booth (Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, PA) at the Lightfair show in early May, I was told about an upcoming occupancy sensor that would use new technology and overcome many of the shortcomings of conventional sensors. Namely, this sensor would be able to detect small movements, such as typing, and keep the lights on. Conventional sensors would turn the lights off after the programmed period, leaving the person in the dark.
   Today, Lutron introduced that sensor, calling it the Radio Powr Savr occupancy/vacancy sensor. The unit is a wireless device that is installed on the ceiling and paired with a compatible Lutron dimmer or switch. The sensor doesn’t require any wiring.
   The exciting part of this introduction is the company’s XCT Technology which uses algorithms that enable the device to detect small motions and reliably distinguish them from background noise or interference that typically cause false ons/offs with conventional sensors. This enhanced signal-processing ability enables Radio Powr Savr to keep the lights on when someone is typing, writing, or flipping pages and to turn the lights off only when the space is truly empty.
   Occupancy sensors typically generate an annual energy savings of $85. That savings is great until you’re the person sitting in a room having to wave your arm in the air every 10 min. to keep the lights on. This new introduction overcomes that problem. Obviously, if you couple the sensor with a dimmer, additional energy savings can be realized. According to Lutron, depending on the overall system configuration, Radio Powr Savr can take 25% to 40% off of the lighting electricity used in a given space.
   It’s these kinds of developments that, bit-by-bit, are helping commercial building designers, builders, and owners put more “green” in their facilities. The “green” part is a feel good. The money savings make a difference to the bottom line, which, ultimately is what matters.—Gary L. Parr

“Green” a school, make a difference

I attended an event this week sponsored by the Grainger (Lake Forest, IL) organization. One of the seminars involved discussion of work done to inject “green” into the facilities operated by the Scottsdale (AZ) Unified School District. The overall effort involved the usual lighting changes, white roofs, better HVAC, recycling, etc. While telling the story, the presenter offered some rather startling general statistics about the savings that can be realized when schools implement “green” policies. According to the presenter,  when compared with conventional education facilities, green schools:

  • use 50% less energy
  • use 32% less water
  • produce 74% less solid waste

Note that the terms conventional schools and green schools involve use of some rather broad brushes, but, by any definition, those are some significant numbers. My personal test for these kinds of loose statements is, if we cut the numbers in half, are we still talking about making a significant difference? In this case, the answer is yes. The trick to realizing these kinds of savings is to get enough money into the hands of school districts and then to effectively spend that money.—Gary L. Parr

A rare, and enlightening, trip to Walmart


Walmart's new logo to go with it's new, fresh look.

Walmart's new logo to go with its new, fresh store look.

It’s a rare day that I set foot in a Walmart store. Truth be known, when it comes to shopping, I have a disappearing act that makes David Copperfield look clueless, so it’s really not a Walmart thing. Nonetheless, I was in a Walmart the other day that was in the process of a complete overhaul to incorporate their new fresh look—colors, logo, no hyphen in the name.
   It works.
   My wife was with me and we were in the store to get one thing, which was at the back of the facility. While there, we decided to pick up some paper goods, cleaning supplies, etc., which necessitated my walking all of the way to the front to get a cart, and say hi to the greeter person for the second time (If you’re a Jeff Dunham fan, a joke comes to mind at this point). While strolling through the store, I started to realize that the lighting was very pleasing, more so than any store I’d been in recently. It created a crisp, clean look and felt good, i.e., I didn’t mind being in the store.
   I looked up. Much to my surprise, I saw rows and rows of skylights. Yes, other than around the edges and a few places where artificial lighting made sense, the entire store was lit by daylight. Fluorescent lights were up there, too, but those irritating tubes were turned off, for the most part. I stopped and just took in the lighting and the very pleasing effect it was having on the store environment. I saw first hand why studies keep telling us that daylighting in retail, healthcare, and education facilities has a positive overall effect. It really does work. A tip of the cap to Walmart’s store designers.
   However, as nice as the experience was, I’ll still avoid shopping like the plague.—Gary L. Parr

Parterre participates in green effort


These six wind turbines combine with solar panels to help power Parterre's headquarters.

These six wind turbines combine with solar panels to help power Parterre's headquarters.

It’s always good to hear that companies who tout the “greenness” of their products practice what they preach. Parterre Flooring Systems, Brooklyn, NY, is one of those companies. The flooring manufacturer makes its headquarters in the, now converted, Brooklyn Navy Yard. The recent  $250-million Navy Yard renovation project has the facility on track to receive LEED Gold certification.
   The focal point of the project is the first use of roof-mounted wind turbines in Brooklyn. The six wind turbines, along with numerous rooftop solar panels, provide electricity for the building’s lobby and other common areas. Other green aspects of the renovation include reflective roofing and pavement to reduce surface temperatures, recycled rain water for toilet flushing, recycled building materials, high-efficiency lighting fixtures, and natural ventilation.
   “At Parterre, we take environmental responsibility seriously,” said president T. Fred Roche. “So, of course, we are extremely enthusiastic about the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s offices receiving power from the rooftop wind turbines and solar panels and being a part of this development’s impressive sustainability initiatives.”
   The city also announced plans for other projects at the Navy Yard, including the Duggal Greenhouse, which involves turning a one-story 30,000-sq.-ft. building into “a 60,000-sq.-ft. LEED Platinum facility that will be used to manufacture eco-friendly products and will become a laboratory for new sustainable products.” It is expected that the facility will also create 1,700 jobs.—Gary L. Parr

Merck goes solar


The Merck photovoltaic system consists of 7,000 moving solar panels that generate 2.5 million kWhr/yr.

The Merck photovoltaic system consists of 7,000 moving solar panels that generate 2.5 million kWhr/yr.

Solar energy generation is gaining a significant foothold in the commercial market as the technology gets more approachable and as companies work to cut their energy costs and reduce their ecologic impact. One of the newest and largest solar efforts was recently put into service at the world headquarters of Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ. The ground-mounted solar tracking system consists of nearly 7,000 sun-tracking solar panels that generate 2.5 million kWhr/year of energy.
   “Supporting the use of clean, reliable solar power is good for our environment and makes good business sense,” said Merck chairman, president, and CEO Richard T. Clark. “This project is consistent with Merck’s ‘going green’ efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and to promote greater efficiency in our use of natural resources.”
   As a member of the U.S. EPA (Washington) Climate Leaders, Merck is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12% by 2012 from a 2004 baseline. A solar project of the size at Whitehouse Station will avoid the annual emission of more than 1,200 tons of CO2 emissions annually, which is about the same as taking 200 cars off the road per year.
   The solar array is spread out over 7.5 acres and the panels move to track the sun’s movement throughout the day. Power generated from the system will produce about 7.5% of the Merck site’s electrical needs.
   Through novel arrangements that are making the installation of large solar systems more feasible, the Merck system is owned and operated by Dome-Tech Inc., Edison, NJ, a subsidiary of Carrier Corp., Farmington, CT, a unit of United Technologies Corp., Hartford, CT, which will supply solar power to Merck under a 20-yr. purchase agreement. The project was made possible through financial initiatives offered under the New Jersey Clean Energy Program, tax credits issued by the U.S. Federal Solar and Renewables Tax Credit Program, and support from the Readington Township (NJ) Planning Board.
   Merck received the Green & Sustainable Energy award from the Hunterdon County (NJ) Planning Board in recognition of the solar project. Merck also recently was recognized by the U.S. EPA, Washington, with a 2009 Energy Star Sustained Excellence Award for continued efforts to protect the environment. Merck is also a member of the EPA’s Climate RESOLVE program.
   “I applaud Merck’s responsible environmental efforts,” said New Jersey governor Jon S. Corzine.  “New Jersey has one of the strongest solar programs in the nation and this private sector project is a fine complement to our own energy master plan initiatives that are securing and strengthening the Garden State’s energy future.”—Gary L. Parr

Cree leads LED lamp movement


Cree's LR6 LED prototype lamp.

Cree's LR6 LED prototype lamp.

This blog entry continues my series of answers to the eternal question: What did you see that was new at (insert trade show name)? The trade show of the moment is Lightfair 2009, held May 5 to 7 in the Big Apple. The subject of this posting is LED “lamp” units.
   One of the prevailing product-introduction categories at the show was LED-based replacements for conventional lamps. While there has been much talk and excitement in recent years about LED technology, I have always believed that talk about the technology itself was irrelevant to the specifier/end user and really only of interest to research scientists and manufacturers. It has been my opinion that the only thing that will matter to the specifier/end user is what form factors the manufacturers will be able to deliver to the marketplace and how well will they be able to produce “lamps” that fit into existing fixtures. Based on what I saw at Lightfair, it looks like the manufacturers are finding great success delivering LED-based lamps that will function in existing fixtures. Heat dissipation is clearly still a major issue, but design innovation seems to be overcoming that hurdle and I heard one mention of progress developing heat-resistant LED packages.
   One standout example of an LED lamp that will function in existing fixtures was the prototype LR6 LED recessed downlight, shown by Cree LED Lighting Solutions Inc., Durham, NC. The prototype delivers 665 lumens while consuming 6.5 W of electricity with an efficacy of 102 lumens per watt and a power factor greater than 0.9. The lamp features the company’s TrueWhite technology, which produces a 92 CRI (color-rendering index) and a 3500 K color temperature. The memorable part of the demonstration I saw was the lamp’s ability to render true reds, an important feature for the retail industry.—Gary L. Parr

Big energy payoff for NY Times building


The New York Times building was designed to maximize light usage and be as energy efficient as possible. Light-level tuning in the building sets the appropriate target light level for each space. Occupancy sensors turn off lights when no one is in a space, and dim lights when enough daylight is present.

The New York Times building was designed to maximize light usage and be as energy efficient as possible.

In the October 2008 premier issue of Building Power, our every-issue supplement that addresses energy issues in commercial buildings, we highlighted the, now famous, New York Times building (read the article here) in New York City. The systems designed into the building to save energy and improve occupant comfort and indoor-air quality are quite impressive, on paper. As with any energy-saving system, what’s on paper and reality can be vastly different. That’s the case with the New York Times building. The difference is huge and it’s very positive.
    According to information provided by Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, PA, this week at Lightfair 2009 in New York, the lighting-control systems installed in the building are “achieving a ‘stunning’ 70 percent energy savings compared to the ambitious energy-efficiency benchmark the building was designed to meet.” The lighting-control systems are Lutron’s EcoSystem and Quantum products.
   “We designed our building to use 1.28 watts per square foot of lighting power. With Quantum, it’s using only 0.38 [W/sq. ft.]—that’s 70% less,” said Glenn Hughes, director of construction for the New York Times Co.
   The lighting control strategies employed in the building include:

  • level tuning (setting the appropriate target light level for each space)
  • daylight harvesting (automatically dimming electric lights when enough daylight is present)
  • occupancy sensing (turning lights off when space is vacant).

It is estimated that the reduced lighting energy usage will result in an annual savings of about $315,000. In addition, about 1,250 metric tons of CO2 emissions will be prevented each year.—Gary L. Parr