Mandatory Energy Benchmarking.. Coming to a City Near You?

Measurement enables Management; Transparency enables Accountability… The quintessential concepts driving adaptation of mandatory energy benchmarking legislation.

Commercial_Benchmarking_Policy_Matrix (cities) - 8.1.14 (2)

Mandatory energy benchmarking represents a pivotal step towards reforming energy usage in American cities, as it galvanizes populations through collective reduction. Like any immature “innovation”, the practice faces barriers and static hindering widespread adaptation and dissemination into the mainstream.

What factors influence proliferation?

Unique building stock and varied regulatory needs necessitate city-specific reporting plans. Until there is a scaleable model of best-practices, development will continue to be resource and time intensive for administration.

Complexity in execution threatens data integrity and program usefulness. Unintentional errors, difficulty in obtaining information, and unfamiliarity with ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager all weaken database strength. The remedy lies in educating elected reporters. Program handlers must be well versed with the operations and techniques necessary to perform their role effectively.

Stakeholder push-back during implementation deters participation and damages program reputation. Greater visibility of post-retrofit results will dispel doubts of program usefulness, while increased availability of financial incentives will quiet claims of marginalization [under-performers stigmatized as poor living options] and unfair penalization [fining of historic buildings or financially underserved properties].

Notes from Abroad: A SWArrior in Sweden

In October, NESEA awarded SWA’s Heather Nolen with a travel scholarship through the Kate Goldstein Fund for Emerging Professionals (you can read the announcement here). Heather joined four other scholarship recipients for a two week  journey to Denmark and Sweden to explore  innovative sustainability methods being used in their buildings. The following is blog entry written by Heather, describing her experience at a location outside of Stockholm. (This entry was reblogged from NESEA’s blog; you can find the original post here.)

We met with Björn Cederquist who was kind enough to tell us about Hammarby Sjöstad, a new sustainable district, which he is quite proud of.

Stockholm is a growing city, with a population of 1.5 million and a serious lack of housing. The city central is quite developed, outside the city there are the typical suburbs, it is the area between the city proper and the suburbs that Stockholm is looking to develop in a planned, sustainable manner. To meet the city’s housing needs Stockholm plans to construct 8,000 units per year, mind you they have only been building at 5,000 units/year of maximum. This is a large undertaking for the city which is being planned in a thoughtful way.

Despite the need for more units of housing there is a strong tradition in Stockholm of midrise buildings which accounts for the reluctance to build higher. Hammarby Sjöstad is mostly mid-rise with one exception, a single 12 story building.

Located in this prime area between the city and suburbs, Hammarby Sjöstad is located at an old harbor and landfill turned Brownfield site. To convert this piece of land into a residential community public transportation had to be extended, both the subway and train lines. The presence of transit shows a commitment to the area, a feeling of permanence which is required to build the community. 80% of residents commute by public transit.

To meet sustainability goals in a comprehensive way the district aimed to be a healthy place for people to live that stimulates the body and soul with opportunities for exercise, sports and culture. Design began in 1990 to construct an “Environmental and Ecological City District,” which includes 11,000 units housing over 25,000 people; an additional 10,000 are projected to work within this area. In addition to the housing and transit systems, power plants were constructed to provide district heating and cooling, waste removal including organic waste, public water supply and wastewater treatment.

Renewable energy sources, harvesting of energy from the areas wastewater system, burning of waste combustibles along with harvesting energy from the sewage system allow Hammarby Sjöstad to operate their CHP plant free of fossil fuels. Central heat pumps at the district plant operate year round to extract energy which allows for district cooling, planned for 10 years the plant is the largest in the world. The wastewater treatment plant harvests both bio-gas and bio-solids. Bio-gas is used to power buses, taxis and some individual stoves. Bio-solids are used as fertilizer in forest, filling mines and soon to be used for agriculture purposed. Combined with advanced waste collection and energy efficient construction Hammarby Sjöstad is a unique community which is a product of long-term planning and collaboration. Sites underdevelopment are learning from Ham Hammarby Sjöstad to further advance eco-districts for long-term success.

P1160311_web

Energy Codes: Who Needs ‘Em?

Energy Code. We could use that term for many things: how you feel after a cup of coffee, before a dreaded workout, or even at 2am when you’re staring at your bedroom ceiling knowing you have to be up in 4 hours. But here we’re talking about buildings, specifically in NYC.

Apparently, nine out of every 10 buildings have failed to meet the energy code, a set of standards that have been in place for a whopping 30 years. Crain’s New York published an article about it, featuring the NYC DOB’s audit results of thousands of architectural plans for new and renovated office and residential buildings.

Worried that your building might fail? Don’t fret, SWA’s in-house energy code expert, Michael O’Donnell, answered a few questions for us. Get the low down on what the energy code is all about and what these results mean.

Party Walls: So tell us, what is the energy code? And what (or who) brought about the need to enforce an energy code?
Michael O’Donnell: The energy code contains the minimum requirements that buildings must meet with regards to energy efficiency measures. According to the Department of Buildings, to meet the City’s goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 30% by 2030, the New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) sets energy-efficiency standards for new construction, alterations, and changes to existing buildings. All new building and alteration applications filed on or after December 28, 2010 must comply with the 2011 edition of the NYCECC. The need to for an energy code has been around for many years but it is only really being enforced relatively recently.

PW: What are the benefits of a building meeting the energy code?
MO: Buildings that effectively meet the energy code will be better insulated, have better HVAC systems, and better lighting systems. As these systems are designed, implemented, and optimized, reduced operating costs for both owners and tenants will result. There are also environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions achieved by utilizing less electricity and/or heating fuel.

PW: What are the potential risks of not meeting the energy code standards?
MO: Potential risks of not meeting the energy code include tenant comfort complaints, higher operating costs for electricity and/or heating fuel, and, more recently, action by the Department of Buildings. Energy code audits of building plans have the potential to stop a project in its tracks as well as impose fines for constructed buildings that are not meeting the code.

PW: What are the biggest reasons buildings fail to meet the energy code?
MO: There are a few reasons buildings fail to meet the energy code. Specific details are often missed or not included in the construction drawings and specifications. If details are not included, the contractor will not incorporate these items into what actually gets built. Even if specific energy related items are incorporated, the contractor may not have the knowledge to properly install or execute what is shown. Finally, it takes a trained inspector to know what to look for to ensure buildings are compliant with energy code. NYC requires the large majority of projects to file a “TR8: Technical Report Statement of Responsibility for Energy Code Progress Inspections” form through which a licensed architect or engineer takes the responsibility of inspecting for energy code compliance. This form is required in NYC, but other jurisdictions, which do not require the progress inspection run the risk of having items overlooked or missed since there is not a third party inspecting specifically for energy code items.

Read the Crain’s New York article here:
http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140818/REAL_ESTATE/308179994/9-of-10-building-plans-fail-basic-test

Greenbuild Recap: Steven Winter Talks Building Science

As part of Hanley Wood’s Vision 2020 Sustainability Council, Steven Winter presented his thoughts on how building science can have a big impact on meeting 2020 energy efficiency targets.  The presentation took place on the first day of Greenbuild 2014 (10/22) in NOLA. (I should write out the city’s proper name, but it’s a fun acronym that I don’t often get to use!)

Some great themes to watch for: Thinking about large-scale impacts, the role that new technology will play, how to motivate change.

 

So, carrots or sticks? What do you think’s more effective?

Engineering – It’s Not Just a Job, It’s a Lifestyle

Having been in the energy efficiency industry for over a decade, it was always a sore point when SWA’s senior engineer, Srikanth Puttagunta, talked about his own home.  Built in 2003, the townhome was energy inefficient and uncomfortable. With the thermostats set at 70°, temperatures in individual rooms could be 5-10° colder or warmer than the setpoint.

What was the best solution?

Moving. This past year Sri purchased an older split-level home with upgrades to the kitchen and bathrooms. But, it was still energy inefficient. With the help of trusted SWA collaborators Preferred Builders Inc. and Controlled Temperatures Inc., Sri followed the same advice he’d been giving all these years.

Steps to Energy Efficiency

The first step was to insulate and air seal the building shell.  The  old fiberglass batts were removed from the exterior walls (a) prior to dense packing  the wall cavities with cellulose (b), taping all seams in the sheathing (c), installing a drainable housewrap (d), and re-siding (e) with fiber cement siding. After that came air sealing of the roof deck with closed cell spray polyurethane foam (f).

The Perks of Natural Gas

Taking advantage of the availability of natural gas, the old heating system – an oil boiler with an immersion coil for domestic hot water – was replaced with a natural gas, condensing tankless combi-boiler that feeds the existing baseboard radiators and provides domestic hot water.

Keeping it Cool

Cooling was previously provided by a through-wall air conditioner in the kitchen area and window air conditioners in the bedrooms. These were removed and a multi-head mini-split heat pump was installed that provides cooling and supplemental heating. Finally, a 5.2 kW  solar PV system was installed on the roof (g).

The Results

Based on the previous homeowners’ oil and electric bills, energy modeling and testing of the home (73% reduction in air leakage), and initial utility bills since moving in, the upgrades that were performed on this home should result in a nearly 70% reduction in annual energy costs. With about $3,850 per year in savings, the simple payback is less than 15 years. Now that is a home that anyone can be proud of!