Do green buildings really save energy? A look at the facts

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

There isn’t enough data available to indicate that, on average, “green buildings” save more energy than conventional buildings.

At best, these green buildings perform no better and no worse on primary energy savings, making government policies requiring their construction a questionable mandate and raising questions about effective methods to reduce energy consumption in buildings.

Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of United States primary energy use (PDF). As such, improving the energy efficiency of buildings is a key source of reducing energy use.

Organic Waste Nourishes EPA Roof Garden

Read the full post from U.S. EPA.

Five floors up, we started a little garden. EPA New England’s Green Team planted two pots each of bean, onion, sunflower and corn seeds. One pot of each seed was filled with half commercially sold compost and half backyard dirt and one pot had just dirt. Our idea was to see how compost-enriched soil fared against plain soil. We thought the results might help motivate co-workers to compost more at the office.

EPA Recognition for Commercial Buildings Survey

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ENERGY STAR program is considering offering a new recognition based on improvement over time. All types of buildings would be eligible for earning this new recognition, whereas the existing recognition is based only on top performance. EPA is seeking feedback by Sept. 30.

How to find energy-efficient commercial space

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

In 2014 and 2015, RMI published a series of Deep Retrofit Value Guides for commercial building owners and occupants and real estate investors. RMI developed these to provide real estate decision makers a comprehensive methodology to make the full suite of benefits that energy-efficient buildings deliver beyond energy cost savings more tangible by tying them to dollar values and real estate metrics.

These guides show that a sustainable office space can save about $6.18 per square foot from employee recruiting, health insurance and productivity-derived cost saving — and offer a process by which decision makers can conduct a detailed assessment for building spaces they are considering.

Now, IMT and RMI are arming the industry with a new set of tools that enable tenants to more effectively seek out and secure high-performance spaces that are in line with the tenant’s organizational goals, objectives and budgets.

The Green Lease Questionnaire and Calculator — both launching in September on IMT’s website — can be used by tenants in the early stages of “house hunting” to implement green leases that save companies money on energy, and to better assess general overhead costs related to healthcare issues (due to poor indoor air quality, for example) or worker productivity loss.

4 reasons net-zero energy should start with schools

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Can we afford to teach our children? In the U.S. we generally can agree that educating our children is important. Consensus stops there.

Whether the U.S. education system is broken, and if so, how to best fix it, is an increasingly politicized debate. Current discussions on how to improve education have focused on better teachers, better technology and more funding (which deepens the debate on who should pay for it).

But consider that each year K–12 schools spend more than $8 billion on energy — more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined. Too commonly overlooked is the opportunity to cost-effectively improve our nation’s schools and enhance student performance by tackling the performance of the very buildings in which children, faculty and staff spend more than eight hours each day.

Cooling Down Chicago: How Green and Cool Roofs Could Impact Urban Climate

Read the full story from University of Notre Dame.

More than 50 percent of today’s population lives in cities. According to the United Nations Development Programme, that number is predicted to rise to 70 percent by 2050. Growing urbanization increases the overall temperature of a city as buildings, roads, parking lots and other infrastructure absorb heat, creating an urban heat island (UHI). A UHI causes areas like Chicago to be significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas, which threatens urban sustainability and can lead to high mortality rates and scarcity of resources as well as high electricity demands.

Newly published University of Notre Dame research found that the use of roofs with vegetation or reflective surfaces on top of Chicago’s current infrastructure could reduce UHI by lowering roof temperatures by a range of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The study, part of a collaboration between Notre Dame and the City of Chicago, examined the efficacy of green or cool roofs using a regional climate model to simulate various real-world urban rooftop conditions.

The Next Feature of Portland City Hall? It Might Be an Eco-Roof

Read the full story at Willamette Week.

The Portland mayor’s office may soon get a garden on top.

Portland officials are considering replacing City Hall’s outdated roof with an eco-roof.

City of Portland’s senior management analyst Jen Clodius tells WW in an email that the city is exploring the options in accordance with the city’s Green Building Policy, which requires “eco-roof coverage on new and replacement roofs.”