Green building

Techniques evolve for sustainable construction

Read the full story in Finance & Commerce.

In the sustainability world, the discussion has largely focused on renewable power and improving architecture and building infrastructure to reduce energy use.

A quieter part of the sustainability story is the evolution in construction techniques and materials acquisition that reduce waste, energy and various inefficiencies at building sites.

Building toward sustainable, resilient cities in 2050

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

This article originally appeared at Ensia and is part 2 of the 2050 series.

By 2050, seven out of every 10 people on Earth will be an urban dweller. What the cities of the future look like depends largely on decisions we make today.

Will we design a future where driverless cars zip around under skyscraping vertical gardens in hyperconnected, energy-efficient “smart cities”? Or will we be trapped in endless traffic jams while pollution overwhelms remaining green spaces and infrastructure crumbles?

More than 5,500 buildings to compete in EPA’s Fifth-Annual Energy Star Battle of the Buildings

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the 2014 Energy Star Battle of the Buildings: Team Challenge. More than 5,500 buildings nationwide are going head-to-head to reduce their energy use. In support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for businesses to cut in half the amount of energy they waste over the next 20 years, the competition specifically targets wasted energy in commercial buildings, and will motivate businesses to improve energy efficiency, reduce harmful carbon pollution, and save money.

“The competitive spirit is alive and well among the building teams working to improve their energy efficiency in this year’s Battle of the Buildings,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “After four successful years, we’re excited to see the innovative ideas that will emerge from the competitors as they find new ways to save energy and money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the environment.”

In the only coast-to-coast competition of its kind, dozens of different types of commercial buildings are facing off in this year’s Energy Star Battle of the Buildings. This year’s theme, “Team Challenge,” features teams of five or more buildings who will work together to reduce their collective energy use as much as possible over the course of a year. For example, “Team Staples” includes 17 Staples stores, while 15 Whole Foods stores will support each other as part of “Team Whole Foods Market.” In New Castle County, Del., 13 elementary schools will compete as part of a team, and they’re going up against their county’s five middle schools and six high schools. In Hillsborough County, Fla., fire stations will team up to compete against libraries.

This year marks the fifth year that EPA has hosted the Battle of the Buildings. The competition—and positive environmental impacts—have grown exponentially since that time. Altogether, last year’s competitors saved an estimated $20 million on utility bills. Nearly 50 buildings in the competition demonstrated energy use reductions of 20 percent or greater.

Commercial buildings in the United States spend more than $100 billion in annual utility bills and are responsible for approximately 20 percent of both the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. By improving the energy efficiency of the places they work, play, and learn, the competitors will save energy and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Competitors will measure and track their buildings’ monthly energy consumption using EPA’s online energy measurement and tracking tool, Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Building teams will work to optimize or upgrade equipment, retrofit lighting, and change occupants’ behaviors—all with help from Energy Star. The team that reduces its buildings’ average energy use the most, on a percentage basis over a 12-month performance period, will be declared the winner. In addition to the team competition, 700 individual buildings are also competing in a special water reduction category, and will work with EPA’s WaterSense program to apply best practices for commercial building water management.

EPA will maintain a website devoted to the competition, featuring a list of the competitors and their starting, midpoint, and final standings, a live Twitter feed where competitors will post updates on their progress and an interactive map of the competitor’s locations. Midpoint results will be posted in October, with the winner announced in April 2015.

Products, homes and buildings that earn the Energy Star label prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency requirements set by the U.S. EPA. From the first Energy Star qualified computer in 1992, the label can now be found on products in more than 70 different categories, with more than 4.8 billion sold. Over 1.5 million new homes and 23,000 buildings have earned the Energy Star label.

More information on the competition: http://www.energystar.gov/BattleOfTheBuildings

Cool roofs offer a salve for hot cities — and the climate, too

Read the full story at Grist.

From his office in the Berkeley hills, Art Rosenfeld looks out on the heart of California’s Bay Area. The 87-year-old scientist keeps a pencil and a small notebook in his breast pocket, ready to jot down a quick note or make a calculation. With these simple tools he has been able to influence state and national energy policy over the years. But for now they stay tucked away as he enjoys the scenery. “I get a pretty good view of San Francisco,” Rosenfeld says.

While his vantage point has remained unchanged since beginning his career at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1955, the view outside his window has changed considerably. The buildings are taller and more densely packed in on all sides of the bay. And from Rosenfeld’s bird’s-eye view, he sees that many of these buildings now boast noticeably brighter rooftops than they did even a few years ago.

NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

Read the full story from NIST.

The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter’s best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.*

Residential Energy Use Disclosure: A Guide For Policymakers

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A growing number of local and state governments are adopting policies requiring residential energy rating and/or disclosure, the practice of evaluating the energy efficiency of a home or building and making the information known to consumers. The option helps policymakers to enable energy reduction goals for buildings, and to increase transparency and consumer information around the home buying process. Policies requiring disclosure of energy use and benchmarking of commercial buildings are in place in nine large U.S. cities and one county, helping building owners understand where the greatest opportunities are for energy savings.[1] However, efforts targeted at the residential sector are less common and less uniform. Commercial and residential energy disclosure requirements share some characteristics and are sometimes implemented simultaneously, but this toolkit contains guidance most relevant to residential energy use disclosure. The toolkit provides an overview of existing residential disclosure efforts, and instructions on tailoring strategies to meet local policy objectives. It’s organized by these design and implementation steps:

  1. Confirm scope of local authority and gauge available resources
  2. Secure support from local stakeholders
  3. Decide on key components of a residential energy rating and disclosure policy
  4. Implement policy and track results

Lighting Research Center Issues New Report: LED Lighting in a Campus Building

Read the full story from  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center.

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently evaluated a newly constructed building at Siena College—Rosetti Hall, a 25,000 square foot, 3-story, contemporary brick building that includes classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded funding to change the lighting specification from the originally specified conventional fluorescent lighting to all light emitting diodes (LEDs), designed by Engineered Solutions of Clifton Park, N.Y., and to have the project evaluated as a DELTA demonstration project by LRC. The 20-page full color, illustrated report, “LED Lighting in a Campus Building” detailing the project evaluation and findings, is available for free download from the LRC website.

Cool Policies for Cool Cities: Best Practices for Mitigating Urban Heat Islands in North American Cities

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The urban heat island (UHI) effect is a global phenomenon in which dark, impermeable surfaces and concentrated human activity cause urban temperatures to be several degrees hotter than those in surrounding areas. Urban heat islands impose negative effects on local and global public health, air quality, energy consumption, resilience, quality of life, stormwater management, and environmental justice. Cities across North America experience and mitigate the impacts of UHIs. We conducted a review of the UHI mitigation activities of 26 North American cities and distributed a questionnaire to local government contacts to gather information.

This report profiles the causes, impacts, strategies, and social and institutional context of city action in the sampled cities. We found that heat waves and other disasters are motivating cities to implement heat-mitigation strategies. In planning, cities embed their mitigation strategies and actions in a broad set of documents and activities. Most cities set UHI-related goals, implement voluntary programs and mandatory policies to reduce excess heat, and track progress towards those goals. All sampled cities developed one or more strategies that include UHI mitigation and 25 adopted at least one policy. Overall, we found that more can be done in every city. Cities should develop strategies, set goals, and track progress. Local governments should establish policies and lead by example to catalyze community action. Cities should engage institutions and citizens to build public support. Finally, cities should engage with state, regional, and national levels of government to encourage cool standards.

Energy Department Invests More Than $10 Million in Efficient Lighting R&D

The Energy Department today announced nine research and development projects that will receive funding to support solid-state lighting (SSL) core technology research and product development. The projects will help accelerate the development of high-quality light-emitting diode (LED) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) products that can significantly reduce energy costs for American families and businesses and ensure that the U.S. remains competitive globally. LEDs are intense sources of light consisting of inorganic materials, where OLEDs are diffuse light sources that consist of organic materials.

SSL technologies based on LEDs and OLEDs are about ten times more energy-efficient than conventional incandescent lighting and can last more than 25 times longer. In total, the nine selected projects will receive nearly $10.5 million and will make a cost-share contribution for a total public-private investment of more than $13.7 million. The projects selected to receive funding will help to further reduce the cost and improve the quality of SSL products:

  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)—Improving the heat-conducting properties of the phosphor used in LEDs, which will increase light output and reduce costs.
  • Cree, Inc. (Durham, North Carolina)—Developing a new low-cost, high-efficiency LED structure by modifying the manufacturing process to reduce processing time and waste.
  • Momentive Performance Materials Quartz, Inc. (Strongsville, Ohio)—Developing next-generation LED package structures using transparent encapsulants that allow for higher drive current, resulting in increased light output.
  • OLEDWorks, LLC (Rochester, New York)—Developing cost-effective manufacturing technologies necessary to make high-performance, low-cost OLED panels.
  • Philips Lumileds Lighting Company, LLC (San Jose, California)—Reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of LED lighting products by developing a high-voltage LED light engine with a built-in driver.
  • Philips Research North America, LLC (Briarcliff Manor, New York)—Developing an innovative, energy-efficient LED lighting system for hospital patient suites that takes into consideration health and wellbeing as well as visual needs.
  • Pixelligent Technologies, LLC (Baltimore, Maryland)—Improving the efficiency of OLED lighting by using nanocrystals to increase the light extraction.
  • Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)—Increasing the efficiency of OLED lighting on flexible substrates by enhancing the light extraction and removing costly materials.
  • University of California (Los Angeles, California)—Improving energy efficiency and reducing the manufacturing cost of OLED lighting through the use of an integrated plastic substrate instead of the usual glass with indium tin oxide.

This is the ninth round of the department’s investments in solid-state lighting core technology research and product development. These efforts are meant to accelerate the adoption of SSL technology through improvements that reduce costs and enhance product quality and performance. For more information on the selections, visit the DOE Selections webpage on the DOE SSL website.