The Office of State and Community Energy Programs is issuing this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) titled Energy Improvements at Public K-12 School Facilities – Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – Renew America’s Schools.
The activities to be funded under this FOA support BIL section 40541 and the broader government-wide approach to support projects that enable replicable and scalable impacts, create innovative, sustaining partnerships, leverage funding and economies of scale, focus on disadvantaged communities, improve student, teacher, and occupant health, enrich learning and growth, assist schools that serve as community assets (e.g., neighborhood cooling centers or disaster recovery shelters), and are crafted thoughtfully within the context of public school facilities (e.g., procurement restraints, construction windows, etc.).
Topic Area 1 – High-Impact Energy Efficiency and Health Improvements
Proposals contemplated under this topic area will include energy improvements that result in direct reduction to school energy costs, increase energy efficiency, and lead to improvements in teacher and student health, including indoor air quality. Energy cost savings may be realized by reduced loads and/or by demand flexibility and demand response approaches.
Topic Area 2 – Innovative Energy Technology Packages
Proposals contemplated under this topic include innovative energy technology packages. Applicants may include any improvement, repair, or renovation to a school that incorporates two or more of the following energy improvements:
Energy efficiency measures
Installation of renewable energy technologies
Alternative fueled vehicle infrastructure on school grounds
Purchase or lease of alternative fueled vehicles to be used by a school
DOE expects to make a total of approximately $80,000,000 of federal funding available for new awards under this FOA, subject to the availability of appropriated funds. DOE anticipates making approximately 20-100 awards under this FOA. DOE may issue one, multiple, or no awards. Individual awards may vary between $500,000 and $15,000,000.
Insulating the lofts and cavity walls of existing UK housing stock only reduces gas consumption for the first year or two, with all energy savings vanishing by the fourth year after a retrofit, according to research from policy experts at the University of Cambridge.
The latest study is the first to track in detail household gas use across England and Wales for at least five years both before and after insulation installation.
Embodied carbon, or the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with building materials from extraction through end-of-life and disposal/reuse, makes up more than 11% of global emissions. Embodied carbon emissions are not part of the energy efficiency regulated by the energy code. However, there has been a wave of embodied carbon actions at the local, state, and federal levels—most recently an allocation of many billions of dollars in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 for federal procurement and industry support of low-carbon building products.
With light being shone on the lifecycle impacts of building products, consumers—including government purchasers—are requesting manufacturers to share product information and deliver low-embodied carbon solutions. Procurement policies (also known as “Buy Clean” policies) are springing up across the county. Momentum is building for embodied carbon policies and initiatives that will make low-embodied carbon products one of the fastest growing markets of the next decade.
A new proposed rule from the Biden administration would cut emissions from new federal buildings 90 percent from 2003 levels in the next two years.
Under the proposed rule, new or renovated federal buildings would be required to reduce emissions from the 2003 baseline by 90 percent beginning in 2025. Beginning in 2030, the rule would make new buildings and major renovations fully carbon-neutral, according to the Energy Department.
Our previous blog post presented the financial sector’s opportunity and obligation to lead the way in decarbonizing the built environment in the United States. But what does that mean? After all, the financial sector is multifaceted, and there are many potential intervention points in real estate.
It is not technological breakthroughs we need. For the most part, buildings already have all the tools they need to decarbonize. What we need is a common framework for building decarbonization and an understanding of the ways in which new technology has historically displaced the old. Then, we can illuminate the way forward for finance to accelerate that displacement in order to rapidly and efficiently eliminate the 13 percent of US emissions that come from building operations today.
Firms providing green building technologies and services received record levels of venture capital investment in 2022, with investment reaching $2.2 billion so far this year.
That is according to a new report [The Future of Building in a Low Carbon World] from building venture capital firm A/O PropTech, which found that overall investment in green construction tech over the past five years reached $4.5 billion across more than 450 deals.
Venture capital raised by companies involved in green building design, building materials procurement and lower carbon construction methods has been steadily increasing over the five-year period, the research showed.
Almost all buildings today are built using similar conventional technologies and manufacturing and construction processes. These processes use a lot of energy and produce huge carbon emissions.
This is hardly sustainable. Perhaps the only way to truly construct sustainable buildings is by connecting them with nature, not isolating them from it. This is where the field of bioarchitecture emerges. It draws on principles from nature to help solve technological questions and address global challenges.
Take desert organisms, for example. How do they survive and thrive under extreme conditions?
One such desert species is the Saharan silver ant, named for its shiny mirror-like body. Its reflective body reflects and dissipates heat. It’s an adaptation we can apply in buildings as reflective walls, or to pavements that don’t heat up.
There are so many aspects of nature we can drawn on. Picture cities with shopping centres based on water lilies, stadiums resembling seashells, and lightweight bridges inspired by cells.
Water lilies can teach us how to design large buildings efficiently with smooth pedestrian circulation. Seashells can inspire the walls of large-span buildings without the need for columns. Cells can show us how to develop lightweight suspending structures.
Bioarchitecture works with nature, not against it
Bioarchitecture can reinvent the natural environment in the form of our built environment, to provide the ultimate and somehow obvious solutions for the threats Earth is facing.
Most industry-led and research-based approaches focus on the “technology to save us” from climate change. In contrast, bioarchitecture offers a more sustainable approach that aims to develop a positive relationship between buildings and nature.
Living organisms constantly communicate with the natural world. They move around their environment, employ chemical processes and undergo complex reactions, patterning their habitat. This means living systems constantly model and organise the environment around them. They are able to adapt and, in doing so, they change their environment too.
Can buildings do the same in cities? If buildings could grow, self-repair and adapt to climate, they might ultimately become truly sustainable.
Early examples of bioarchitecture can be found in traditional and early modern buildings. Their architects observed nature to copy its principles and design more habitable, locally made and environmentally friendly buildings. For example, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, is inspired by natural shapes that give the church its organic form.
More recent works showcase bioarchitecture that learnt from nature coupled with technology and innovation. Examples include using bio-based materials such as wood, hemp and bamboo, applying biophilia through using greenery on external walls and plants indoors to boost our connection with nature, and restoring the environment by making buildings part of it.
Considering the climate emergency, we should strengthen buildings’ coherence with nature. Bioarchitecture can do this.
So what can a butterfly teach us?
The blue Menelaus butterfly offers another striking example of design solutions from nature. Despite its radiant blue colour, it is not actually blue and does not have any pigments. Producing and maintaining pigments is expensive in nature, as it requires a lot of energy.
The Menelaus butterfly has an ingenious way to achieve its unique colour without pigments. Its brilliant blue shine comes from scattering light, similar to soap bubbles glimmering in rainbow colours under the sun, despite being completely transparent. The light is scattered by micro-grooves on the butterfly’s wings – so small that they can only be seen with an ultra-high-resolution microscope.
This is nature’s way to achieve high performance with cheap forms instead of costly materials. Learning from the Menelaus butterfly, we can have windows with climate-adaptable properties – changing their colour and scattering light according to the position of the sun. Butterfly wings have already inspired the development of new materials, and the next step is to use these on buildings.
In this way, we can design biobuildings that reflect excessive radiation and reduce cooling needs and glare. And the beautiful part is that this may all be done without obstructing views and without the need for shading devices or tinted windows.
And what does a pot plant have to do with buildings?
Then there is Monstera, a sought-after indoor plant that climbs up the walls. It’s also called the “Swiss cheese plant” for the holes on its leaves. Have you ever thought about how it thrives and grows like no other plant indoors?
Monstera simply needs to sustain fewer cells to maintain extra large leaves because of their holes. This enables it to capture more of the sunlight it needs to grow and spread out over a bigger area.
Now imagine if we designed hollow building structures such as columns and beams. This could help minimise the need for materials and cut carbon emissions by reducing the embodied energy that goes into making these materials.
Nature offers a vast design catalogue
We can look at nature as a catalogue of designs and solutions to be reimagined as bioarchitecture. So, we could have shiny silver pavements like the silver ant, metallic-coloured but transparent windows like the Menelaus butterfly, and buildings that use the minimum of materials like Monstera’s leaves.
Nature is wealthy, nature is generous. Through bioarchitecture, buildings can dive into that wealth and become a part of the generosity. Truly sustainable biobuildings can be constructed that work with nature and reverse the harm our conventional building technologies have done to the planet.