CT Zero Energy Challenge (Part 2) – An Alphabet Soup of Certifications

Earlier this week, we posted a video about the CT Zero Energy Challenge’s first-place winner, the Benker/Wegner Residence. Today we bring you the story of the third-place winner in this year’s challenge, the Taft School’s Residence. Aside from housing faculty members, the home is serving as a teaching aid for Taft students to study the design details of a high-performance home, and to understand the experience of living in one.

After installation of a 13kW photovoltaic (PV) system, the home achieved a HERS Index of -14! The SWA team is providing certification support for a slew of exciting green building programs including the stringent Passive House US™ Certification, LEED for Homes, Living Building Challenge™, and ENERGY STAR v3.1.

Check out the video featuring the project team members: Architect, Elizabeth DiSalvo from Trillium Architects; Builder, Chris Trolle from BPC Green Builders; and SWA’s Maureen Mahle.

Question? Comment? Submit it below; we would love to hear from you!

CT Zero Energy Challenge (Part 1) – How Low Can You Go?

There were 11 projects entered into this year’s CT Zero Energy Challenge, sponsored by EnergizeCT.  The single- and multi-family homes taking part in this competition are designed and constructed utilizing innovative techniques in order to try and reach the illustrious goal of net-zero energy-use.

I’m excited to report that SWA worked with 4 of the homes entered into this year’s competition, including the first- and third-place winners! For each of the three winning projects, EnergizeCT has created a video to showcase the story behind the homes, and to highlight some of the most notable features.

Today’s video is about the first-place winner, a single-family home in South Glastonbury, CT, constructed by Glastonbury Housesmith. The owners, Carl Benker and Elizabeth Wegner are first-time homebuyers who wanted to be able to live as close to “off the grid” as possible. Check out SWA’s HERS-rater extraordinaire, Karla Donnelly, discussing the competition, and how this home came to achieve an amazing HERS Index Rating of a -23!

(Right-click and select “run this plug-in” if you cannot see the video below)

 

The project also won the 2015 RESNET Cross Border Challenge for lowest HERS score with photovoltaics (PV)!

You can read more information on SWA’s project here. 

Greening the Emerald Isle: A Three-Leafed Approach to Sustainability?

Three-pronged approach to sustainability?.. How about a three-leafed approach? In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re serving up a shamrock’s worth of green facts on the Emerald Isle.

Environmental..
Renewable energy covered nearly 8% of final energy demand
According to a February 2015 energy report published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, 7.8% of Ireland’s energy demand is met using renewable sources [2013]. This amount represents a 500% increase since 1990, and the halfway-point of Ireland’s 2020 binding target (16%) under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. The shift towards renewables has helped avoid 3 million tons of CO2 emissions and displace €300 million in fossil imports annually.

Economic..
Ministry for Energy announces boost to grants for residential energy efficiency improvements
The Irish Green Building Council reports a 25-50% increase in cash value for residential energy upgrade grants offered through the national incentive program, “Better Energy Homes Scheme”. Since the program’s launch in 2009, over 165,000 homes have undertaken efficiency improvements amounting to a total Government investment of €172 million. It’s estimated that the program has delivered CO2 emissions savings of 214.7kt, along with spawning (direct/indirect) 2,120 green jobs annually.

Social..
Guinness “Storehouse” recognized by Sustainable Travel International for environmental commitment
As the average pint contains 20 gallons of embodied water, breweries seek efficiency in operation and distribution to offset manufacturing impact. Sustainable Travel International, an authority on eco-tourism, accredited Ireland’s most popular visitor-attraction with a three-star rating for their improved policies in responsible sourcing, building energy usage, and lean packaging.

…slàinte!

Recalculating Solar Savings

Ten years ago, seeing a solar electric system on a building was noteworthy. Now they’re popping up everywhere. Lower cost is obviously a big driver of this solar surge; photovoltaic (or PV) system costs have dropped 50-70% in the past 10-15 years. Over the past decade, SWA has helped developers and owners install PV systems on hundreds of buildings. The systems are reliable, they have no moving parts, and they will convert sunlight to electricity for decades.

The cost effectiveness of PV, however, is not always clear. In fact, SWA has seen a concerning trend where the cost benefits of PV are exaggerated. Although costs vary with region and application, installed costs of PV are usually $3,000 – $6,000 per kWSTC.

Then there are incentives, including two key federal programs:

Photovoltaic Panels

  • 30% Federal tax credit
  • Accelerated depreciation (for businesses)

Other incentives vary greatly from region to region:

  • State, local, and utility rebates or credits
  • Sale of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

The Database for State Incentives for Renewable Energy (dsireusa.org) has a good summary of these regional incentives. Federal and regional incentives can easily lower PV system costs by 50% — often more.

The final piece in assessing cost effectiveness of PV is the electricity savings. With PV generating electricity for your building, you’ll obviously be paying less to the utility. But how much less? Read more

Fannie Mae Favors Green Multifamily

Fannie Mae recently reinforced their commitment to growing the green multifamily sector with the announcement of a reduction in interest rates for mortgage loans used to finance properties certified through a recognized green building rating system. There’s detailed information available on their website, but here’s a simple breakdown of the initiative using the 5 W’s:

Who: Fannie Mae Multifamily borrowers, developers, designers, and occupants

What: 10 basis point reduction in mortgage loans for multifamily properties certified through a recognized green building rating system (LEED, ENERGY STAR®, Enterprise Green Communities, etc.)

Where: Multifamily projects nationwide

When: Immediate implementation. Through existing green initiatives, Fannie Mae has already financed $130 million in Green Loans to properties with a Green Building certification

Why: Strengthens market for high-performance building design; Reduces financial risk for property owners; Raises property value with high performance upgrades

Visit the overview page for detailed information on Fannie Mae’s entire portfolio of Green Initiatives