Webinar: Strategies for Implementing a Green Revolving Fund

Jun 23, 2022, 2 pm CDT
Register here.

Competing priorities in primary and secondary school systems mean there is rarely enough money to fund capital building projects which improve efficiency, health and the bottom line. There are ways to overcome this funding barrier. One is a proven model of internal capital financing referred to as a Green Revolving Fund (GRF).

During this webinar, presenters will explore the virtuous cycle of the revolving fund and showcase stories from K-12 schools that are using the GRF model to support sustainability programs on their campuses, including successes and pitfalls. Attendees will see first-hand the various tools designed specifically to help institutions implement and manage a fund, from simple spreadsheets to the GRITS software.

We welcome all school leaders and community advocates interested in financing sustainability programs with a revolving fund to join us for this free webinar.

Presenters

  • Cameren Cousins, Director of Sustainability & Faculty, Fenn School
  • Dan Schnitzer, Director of Construction & Sustainability, Durham Public Schools
  • Mark Orlowski, Executive Director and Founder, Sustainable Endowments Institute

Webinar: Clear the Air: Healthy Indoor Air for Businesses and Tenant Spaces

Jun 28, 2022 10 am CDT
Register here.

This webinar will discuss ways small business owners and building managers can ensure healthy indoor air quality for staff and customers.

Speakers

  • Scott Williams, Williams Building Systems Engineering
  • John Zai, University of Colorado, Boulder

As storm season begins, White House building code initiative aims to cut energy waste, build resilient homes

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The Atlantic hurricane season began Wednesday and the White House seized the opportunity to launch a National Initiative to Advance Building Codes, aiming to encourage adoption of new construction standards, reduce energy waste and make communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Through the initiative, the Biden administration plans to provide incentives and support for state, local, Tribal and territorial governments to adopt updated building codes and standards. The federal government will also “lead by example” and require its own new, large construction and modernization projects to have net-zero emissions.

Adopting stronger building codes can help the U.S. meet decarbonization targets while saving consumers money, say advocates. “This is exactly what the federal government needs to be doing to start the modern building transition,” Building Decarbonization Coalition Executive Director Panama Bartholomy said in an email. 

The Wall of Wind can blow away buildings at Category 5 hurricane strength to help engineers design safer homes – but even that isn’t powerful enough

The Wall of Wind can create Category 5 hurricane winds for testing life-size structures. Margi Rentis/Florida International University

by Richard Olson, Florida International University; Ameyu B. Tolera, Florida International University; Arindam Chowdhury, Florida International University, and Ioannis Zisis, Florida International University

In an airplane hangar in Miami, engineers are recreating some of the most powerful hurricane winds to ever strike land. These Category 5 winds can shatter a test building in the blink of an eye.

Yet they aren’t powerful enough to keep up with nature.

When engineers built the Wall of Wind test facility 10 years ago at Florida International University, it was inspired by Hurricane Andrew, a monster of a storm that devastated South Florida in 1992.

The facility was designed to test structures’ ability to withstand winds up to 160 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour). Now, we’re seeing the likes of Hurricane Dorian, which shredded neighborhoods in the Bahamas with 184 mph (296 km/h) winds in 2019, and Hurricane Patricia, with winds clocked at 215 mph (346 km/h) off the coast of Mexico in 2015.

A person jumps over debris next to what remains of a home. Its roof is missing, and the walls are askew.
Hurricane Dorian’s Category 5 winds tore apart communities in the Bahamas. AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

Studies show tropical storms are ramping up in intensity as the climate changes and ocean and air temperatures rise. Designing homes and infrastructure to withstand future storms like Dorian will require new test facilities that go well beyond today’s capabilities – for what we believe should be called Category 6 storms.

The Wall of Wind

There is currently only one life-size test facility at a U.S. university capable of generating Category 5 winds, currently the most powerful level of hurricane. That’s the Wall of Wind.

At one end of the facility is a curved wall of 12 giant fans, each as tall as an average person. Working together, they can simulate a 160 mph hurricane. Water jets simulate wind-driven rain. At the other end, the building opens up to a large field where engineers can see how and where structures fail and the debris flies.

The powerful tempests that we create here allow us and other engineers to probe for weaknesses in construction and design, track failures cascading through a building and test innovative solutions in close to real-world storm conditions. Cameras and sensors capture every millisecond as buildings, roofing materials and other items come apart – or, just as important, don’t fail.

Ten years of research here have helped builders and designers reduce the risk of damage. That’s helpful when forecasters warn, as they do for 2022, of a busy hurricane season with several major hurricanes.

Lessons from hurricane testing

We’ve found in destructive testing that a structure will often rip apart in less than a second. All it takes is the wind penetrating the weakest point.

When Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, many less-well-constructed homes turned into shrapnel, creating another problem. Once a building fails, even nearby homes built to withstand higher winds are in trouble because of the flying debris. Our testing has shown how debris from one building, under continuous winds of 130-140 mph or more, can take out the next building, and then that takes out the next building.

Roofs are often that weakest link. A roof is subjected to uplift force during a storm, so wind hitting the surface of the building needs to be able to escape. When wind runs into objects in that path, it can cause damage.

New designs are improving how buildings stand up to extreme winds. For example, storms can create powerful vortices – winds that swirl almost like a corkscrew at a building’s edge – that can strip away roofing material and eventually lift the roof itself. One innovation uses a horizontal wind turbine along the edge of a roof to diffuse the wind and generate power at the same time, a double benefit.

When wind blows up the side of a building it can create vortices that strip off roofing materials. Horizontal wind turbines attached to rood edges can suppress these vortices, as shown here using smoke, and can also generate power. FIU

The shape of buildings can also either create weaknesses or help deflect wind. You’ll notice that most modern high-rises avoid sharp corners. Testing shows that more trapezoidal or rounded edges can reduce wind pressures on buildings.

And better safety doesn’t have to be costly. One experiment showed how just US$250 in upgrades was the difference between a small, shed-size building standing up to a Category 3 storm – or not. Hurricane straps attach a roof truss to the perimeter of the house. Ring shank nails, which have threads around the shank to grasp the wood, can resist wind forces better than smooth nails. Hurricane shutters also block entry points where the wind can penetrate and trigger catastrophic failure.

Installation also matters, and helps explain why roofs that appear to meet building code requirements can still fail and go flying in hurricanes.

Experiments we conducted have shown how an edge system – the metal elements between walls and the roof – that is installed just half an inch too high or low can prematurely fail at low winds, even though the system was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Roofers installing asphalt shingles and roofing tiles may need to go beyond the current code when sealing edges to keep them from failing in a storm.

A neighborhood of homes with shredded roofs, some missing most of their roof tiles or shingles, others with parts of the roof missing entirely.
In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida with sustained winds as high as 165 mph. AP Photo/Mark Foley

Expanding testing: 200 mph winds + storm surge

While engineers have been gaining knowledge through testing, the nature of storms is changing as the planet warms.

Warmer temperatures – fueled by increasing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities – enable the air to hold more moisture, and warmer oceans provide more energy to fuel hurricanes. Research shows that bigger and more intense storms that are heavier with water and moving more slowly are going to hammer the areas they hit with more wind, storm surge, flooding and debris.

Storms like these are why we’re working with eight other universities to design a new facility to test construction against 200 mph winds (322 km/h), with a water basin to test the impact of storm surge up to 20 feet (6 meters) high plus waves.

Computers can model the results, but their models still need to be verified by physical experiments. By combining wind, storm surge, and wave action, we’ll be able to see the entire hurricane and how all those components interact to affect people and the built environment.

Disaster testing is finding ways to make homes safer, but it’s up to homeowners to make sure they know their structures’ weaknesses. After all, for most people, their home is their most valuable asset.

Richard Olson, Director of the Extreme Events Institute, Florida International University; Ameyu B. Tolera, Research Assistant at Florida International University – College of Engineering & Computing, Florida International University; Arindam Chowdhury, Professor of Civil Engineering, Florida International University, and Ioannis Zisis, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, Florida International University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate change is blowing down houses. This could save them

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Winds are becoming more destructive, and most buildings aren’t ready for it. A recent analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that 38 states in the U.S. have a worryingly low rate of adopting hazard-resistant building codes. In the face of threats like extreme wind, hurricanes, and tornadoes, less than a quarter of cities in states like Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Massachusetts have building codes that account for the increasing risks.

Global engineering firm Arup sees this as a design problem. The company has just released a set of resilience-based design guidelines to help designers and building owners prepare homes and businesses to better withstand extreme windstorms. With a warming atmosphere and rising sea levels, buildings will be faced with major storms and hurricanes even more often.

DOE’s manufactured home efficiency rule disappoints conservation advocates, manufacturers

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday adopted new energy efficiency standards for manufactured homes, also known as mobile homes, setting different conservation requirements for single- and multi-section structures to balance up-front affordability against long-term cost savings.

The rules, including new insulation and sealing requirements, could save residents up to $450 annually on utility bills, DOE estimated. About 17 million Americans live in manufactured homes, which are constructed off-site as opposed to traditional stick-built homes.

DOE’s new rules have been criticized by both efficiency advocates, who argue the tiered standard is too lax, and home manufacturers, who say it will drive up costs.

Circular Buildings Toolkit

The Circular Buildings Toolkit will help designers and planners create a better future in the built environment sector. Arup and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the toolkit in a bid to bring a circular economy for buildings into the mainstream, and future-proof assets in the face of a rapidly changing policy landscape.

The toolkit has taken the principles of the circular economy and translated them into a prioritised set of strategies and actions relevant for real estate projects. Alongside circular building guidance are real-life examples of how building design and operation can utilise the principles of the circular economy, there are case studies from recent projects around the world, including:

  • the use of material passports in a leading Sydney development 
  • hired building materials in a temporary structure in the Netherlands
  • a modular lighting system in Seoul
  • prefabricated timber structures in London.

To date, the building industry has predominantly been focused on energy efficiency in buildings, but in order to reach net zero the industry will need to address the embodied carbon of buildings – the emissions associated with materials and construction processes.

The toolkit adopts a high level framework – build nothing, build for long term value, build efficiently, and build with the right materials – which breaks down into strategies and detailed actions so that designers and planners can embed circular economy principles into the very beginning of new projects.

The Circular Buildings Toolkit is free to use and open to all, and will remain a live, constantly updated resource, showcasing practical learnings from the latest circular projects around the world.

Reuse Ecosystem Map

All For Reuse, a network of building professionals committed to the reuse of commercial building materials, created this map to connect the dots across the design and construction industry to move toward an inclusive circular economy in the building sector.

Collaborating on zero energy homes could help meet utility climate goals and grow affordable housing

Read the full story from Utility Dive.

Whether driven by new data on the severity of climate change, a growing ESG movement, or regulatory requirements to meet energy reduction targets, utilities nationwide are seeking proven program approaches to help them meet their goals. At the same time, inflationary pressures and low housing stock have underscored the critical need for affordable housing across the country.

Over the past five years, VEIC, the clean energy nonprofit I lead, has developed a way to meet both goals through Zero Energy Modular, or ZEM, homes. We’ve proven this model in four states, showing that this approach can transform low-income housing, make progress toward climate goals, and spur economic development — if partners work collaboratively to achieve economies of scale. 

EPA Recommended Metrics and Normalization Methods for Use in State and Local Building Performance Standards

Download the document.

This 12-page document outlines EPA’s recommendations for metrics and normalization methods for us in state and local building performance standards (BPS). Contents include: recommended metrics for use in a BPS; recommended method for normalizing site EUI in a BPS; EPA’s next steps; aalternative normalization approach for buildings eligible to receive a 1-100 ENERGY STAR Score.