The Importance of an Energy Assessment for Commercial Buildings

By John Losey, Owner and Founder The BP Group, Energy Manager Today, 9/1/2016

View the original article here.

Building owners and property managers that take on the responsibility of limiting energy consumption can be looked at as environmental leaders. While energy management adds extra tasks to everyday lists, the benefits outweigh the time and money spent, which is usually returned in savings.

There are numerous areas to take into consideration when it comes to commercial buildings, and being that commercial buildings are generally large, the impact can be large as well. These areas include the HVAC system, chillers, windows, lighting, electrical equipment, and any other factors that may be contributing to the building’s energy consumption.

While there are various ways to be involved with bettering the environment outside of where you live and work, starting in a place that you occupy everyday has the potential of having long term results if the actions are carried through as often as you’re there.

Consider creating an outlined approach for managing the building’s energy with these areas in mind:

Identify Sustainable Alternatives Where Energy is Being Used:

  • Are there upgraded, energy-efficient versions of the equipment you can be using instead?
  • Could you use different settings on the equipment?

Assess the Purpose of Every Area:

  • Is the lighting being utilized in every room?
  • Is the size of the HVAC system an adequate fit for the building and its purpose?

Evaluate Maintenance Plans:

  • How frequent are the utilities maintained?
  • Do the maintenance technicians practice with energy efficiency in mind?

Look for Possible Areas of Energy Loss:

  • Are the building’s windows sealed properly?
  • Is the equipment too old for efficient functioning?

These are questions you should ask yourself if you’re trying to assess energy consumption and find that alternative route to save not only energy, but money as well.

After addressing these questions, you may find yourself planning to make some changes. Here is the information you should know for doing so:

Energy Efficient Equipment: Whether it’s the HVAC system, the utility lighting or the other various appliances being used in the building, there are energy-efficient options to consider. This includes ones with ENERGY STAR ratings, which match the standards set by the government.

Settings & Thermostats: Just by being knowledgeable about specific settings and the different types of available thermostats, you can be saving a substantial amount of energy. Depending on the type of building and the function(s) of the building, settings can be applied to use less energy in an area that doesn’t need it. The same idea goes for thermostats. Programmable thermostats allow for precise regulation of energy consumption. This means making sure the temperatures aren’t set too high or too low when the building or part of a building isn’t in use. Programmable thermostats keep the location comfortable when needed, but help save energy when it’s not.

Lighting: It’s better to be the building that turns its lights off when it isn’t being used, than a building that keeps them on 24/7. It’s also important to consider energy-saving types, such as LED or solar. With these kinds, you can also invest in timers and dimmers.

HVAC Size: According to ENERGY STAR, “at least 25% of all rooftop HVAC units are oversized, resulting in increased energy costs and equipment wear.” Determining what size HVAC system the building needs is a job for a professional technician, and it’s an important part of the overall building assessment.

Maintenance: Building maintenance is not only important for saving energy and money, it’s important for the building’s health and those occupying it. This includes electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc. While there are tasks you can manage on your own, there are specific tasks that are recommended for the hands of a professional technician. Whatever the area, it’s important to have maintenance scheduled. Having a definite schedule helps to prevent sudden issues, which prevents sudden energy loss as well.

Technicians: Certain companies know the importance of offering energy-efficient services. This means that they practice in ways that are beneficial for the environment. Research the companies in your area and look for the ways they’re working to save energy and you money. This is an important quality, and more companies are beginning to realize that.

Windows, Replacements & Other Areas of Loss: Other ways to assess energy is by looking into the not so obvious. This includes windows, old systems that don’t show signs of stress until it’s too late, and too many running appliances and pieces of equipment causing heat. If windows aren’t sealed properly, especially in summer and winter, your HVAC system may be working harder than it has to in order to reach the desired temperature. Leaks of hot or cold air will cause this. Another concern are systems that don’t show signs of stress. If the system is old, it’s definitely recommended to have it maintained, even if you think otherwise. The inside has moving parts that may be working very hard to keep it running, and the machine giving out might be the first sign if you wait too long. Lastly, there may be too much heat. Too many heat producing appliances or pieces of equipment may cause the air conditioner to work harder, similar to an open window on a hot summer day.

Commercial buildings don’t function alone, they need the help of energy, and all building owners and property managers can help conserve it.

John Losey is the owner and founder of The BP Group, a leader in Commercial HVAC Services

Floridians Overwhelmingly Support Solar In Primary Vote

A ballot measure approved Tuesday improves the economics of solar in the Sunshine State.

View the original article here.

Orlando Fernandez places a sticker on his shirt after casting his primary vote, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Hialeah, Florida. Voters approved a pro-solar measure by 70 percent. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALAN DIAZ

Orlando Fernandez places a sticker on his shirt after casting his primary vote, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Hialeah, Florida. Voters approved a pro-solar measure by 70 percent. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALAN DIAZ

Solar advocates finally got a win in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, as voters approved a measure to get rid of property taxes on solar equipment.

With more than 1,970,000 Floridians checking ‘yes,’ the measure, known as Amendment 4, received more support than the state’s two U.S. Senate primary winners, Marco Rubio (R) and Patrick Murphy (D), combined.

It’s not surprising that the measure passed, although the overwhelming support was a morale boost for the industry, which has faced hurdles in Florida. Amendment 4 received 72 percent approval overall — and needed only 60 percent to pass.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses” — Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R)

The amendment was the culmination of a bipartisan effort from the state legislature to make solar more affordable, especially for big box stores and for solar companies that offer leased equipment. While homeowners themselves were already exempt from paying property tax on solar equipment that they owned, businesses were on the hook.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses,” State Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R) said in a statement. “Floridians will benefit from lower taxes, reduced energy costs and the increased security of a diversified energy portfolio.”

Rodrigues cosponsored the bill putting the amendment on the ballot, along with fellow state representatives Lori Berman (D) and Dwight Dudley (D). The amendment had broad support from solar industry groups, environmental groups, and traditional business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the Florida Retail Federation. The amendment will now go back to the legislature to be enacted into law.

“With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved.” — Ragan Dickens, Walmart

Supporters are hoping the tax break will spur companies such as Walmart, IKEA, and Costco, which have made massive investments in solar elsewhere in the country, to install solar panels on their Florida stores. It will also allow solar leasing companies such as SolarCity to improve their margins.

“While we don’t have any onsite solar installations at our stores in Florida right now, we’re always looking at opportunities to add solar at stores across the country where it makes economic sense,” said Ragan Dickens, director of sustainability communications for Walmart. “With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved, and we’ll certainly evaluate our opportunities there.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, Florida has the third-most potential for solar in the country, but it is only 14th in amount of installed solar — even while installing 90 percent more solar in the past year. Massachusetts, Colorado, and North Carolina all have more installed solar.

“It’s clear Floridians want better access to affordable, clean energy options and this vote is a significant step in the right direction,” SEIA vice president Sean Gallagher said in a statement. “Now it’s time to keep the momentum going. To ensure a bright solar future for Florida, customers should vote NO on Amendment 1, the anti-solar amendment that will be on Florida ballots this November.”

Amendment 1 was certainly the dark cloud on the horizon during the Tuesday’s Amendment 4 party.

If Amendment 1 passes, it will prohibit Floridians from selling their electricity to third parties. In effect, it would do away with Floridians’ rights to lease solar panels, since, in that situation, the owner of the panels generally sells the electricity to the homeowner. Leasing solar systems has been an effective and popular way to allow homeowners to go solar without paying for the system up front.

Opponents have argued that the measure is designed to limit rooftop solar in Florida, and, as written, is intentionally confusing to voters, who might not understand what they are voting for.

“[Tuesday’s vote] is a big step forward for Florida, removing a longtime barrier to solar adoption, and the wide margin shows voters want rooftop solar,” said Will Craven, a spokesman for SolarCity. “But Amendment 1 in November could be three steps back, as it aims to trick these voters into supporting something that sounds pro solar, but would actually put a thriving solar industry further out of reach. Only monopoly utilities will benefit from a Yes on 1 vote, everyone else will lose.”

The state Supreme Court ruled against that argument in March and allowed the measure to go to voters during the general election.

Amendment 1 will also face a 60 percent threshold for approval, but there is expected to be a significant media campaign encouraging people to vote yes on 1.

Vote YES on Amendment 4 in August to Lower the Cost of Energy for Floridians

Solar Power: the Sunshine State Needs Your Help

JulieBy Julie Lundin, LEED-AP, Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation

Vote Yes Amendment 4In April 2015, I wrote an article for our newsletter entitled “How you can help make Florida the Sunshine State again.” At the time, Floridians for Solar Choice, a coalition of solar advocates was seeking signatures on a ballot petition to expand solar power in the State of Florida. I volunteered and participated in obtaining these important signatures. The petition’s focus was to increase solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and choose who provides it to them.

To get the initiative on the ballot, Florida required the coalition to first collect over 68,000 signatures of registered voters, and then have the initiative language approved by the state Supreme Court. This amendment failed to get on the November 2016 ballot due to being stymied when the utilities conducted a price war over petition gathering and they ended up in federal court suing their petition gathering vendor over billing practices. This proposal is now intended for the 2018 ballot. If passed, it will allow property owners to sign lease agreements with solar companies to finance and install equipment, a financing vehicle available in most states. Solar owners would then be allowed to generate and sell solar electricity to contiguous property owners as well as to area utilities.

Currently, there are two solar power amendments that will be part of our Florida elections this fall. Even as a person involved in sustainable building and design as well as a solar power supporter, I was unclear about the content and ramifications of Amendment 4 and Amendment 1. My hope is that this article will help clarify the amendments and lead to informed voter choices.

Amendment 4 will be on the August 30th Florida 2016 Primary Election Ballot. It is officially titled “Solar Devices or Renewable Energy Source Devices; Exemption from Certain Taxation and Assessment.” Explanation: If you were to install solar panels on your property, the value would be exempt from both the tangible personal property tax and the real property tax.

  • It also creates a new exemption for businesses, appraisers would exempt the renewable- energy from the ad-valorem tax levied on the tangible personal property of a business. Amendment 4 was put on the ballot by the Legislature, with unanimous votes in both the Florida Houseof Representatives and the Senate.

Amendment 1 also known as “The Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative” will be on the November 8, 2016 Election Ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment. According to BallotPedia, for a constitutional amendment to be enacted in Florida, it must win a supermajority vote of 60 percent of those voting on the questions. Amendment 1 was created by an organization with a grassroots sounding name, Consumers for Smart Solar. In reality the organization is financed by the state’s major electric utility companies. This measure qualified for the ballot in late January after getting nearly 700,000 signatures from Floridians. The competing measure that I referenced above, Floridians for Solar Choice, a group backed by the solar industry, did not get enough signatures and was derailed by the petition gathering price war. For in depth information on Amendment 1, read the following article titled “Are Big Power Companies Pulling a Fast One on Florida Voters?”

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/florida-solar-amendment-utility-companies-electricity 

Solar Panel Installation
The following is an editorial by the Miami Herald Editorial Board printed on August 9, 2016. This editorial will help to understand the history and issues of solar power in the State of Florida and perhaps provide clarity for your vote.

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article94707982.html

Amendment 4: Vote Yes on this beneficial solar proposal on Aug. 30

This is the Sunshine State. However, the use of solar energy — dependent on sunlight, which we have in abundance, and not on nuclear or fossil fuel — is still sporadic and contentiously debated.

Cost and who profits almost always play central roles. But unlike the controversial solar consumer-rights amendment on November’s ballot, in the primary on Aug. 30, Florida’s voters can approve an almost universally supported constitutional amendment that will reduce the cost of installing solar panels — more incentivizing, less punitive.

The biggest barrier to solar panels is the upfront cost. Even though the cost of solar-panel installation has been dropping, it still is an expensive endeavor for many property owners. Amendment 4 would provide a tax exemption that makes it less costly to go solar.

It would extend a tax break for residential property owners who have installed solar or equipment for other renewable energy since Jan. 1, 2013.

In addition, the amendment would establish a new exemption for businesses. Right now, if a business installs solar panels, it gets hit with a “tangible tax,” an assessment for equipment, fixtures and furniture that an enterprise or rental property uses. But as the ballot language says, the constitutional amendment would authorize the state Legislature to “exempt from ad valorem taxation the assessed value of solar or renewable energy source devices subject to tangible personal property tax, and … prohibit consideration of such devices in assessing the value of real property for ad valorem taxation purposes.”

This measure will allow Florida to get closer to realizing the full potential of solar energy. Consumers can trim energy costs; encourage energy independence and tamp down on fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Floridians use 40 percent more electricity than the national average. No surprise there, with air conditioners running almost year-round. So, yes, we can do much better.

Unlike other constitutional amendments, placed on the ballot through petition drives because state lawmakers preferred to punt rather than take legislative action, Amendment 4 reached the ballot via a unanimous vote in the Legislature.

The state cannot abate local taxes without going through the Florida Constitution. Lawmakers, this time, were following mandated process. And Amendment 4’s backers are a wide-ranging bunch, including, according to the League of Women Voters of Florida — itself a supporter — The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Tea Party; The Sierra Club and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Amendment 4 not only would expand the use of clean energy, beneficial for Florida’s singular environment, it would add to the 6,500 solar jobs currently in the state and strengthen the economy while lowering solar consumers’ energy costs.

The Miami Herald recommends YES on Amendment 4.

Below are links to organizations that have information on Amendment 4 and Amendment 1 so that you can be an informed voter.

http://www.yeson4.org/

Support-solar http://www.flsolarchoice.org/

  1. Spread the word on Amendment 4; Urge people to vote YES on August 30th! As a result of our collective efforts, lawmakers and other coalition partners helped place a solar tax abatement amendment on Florida’s 2016 Primary Election ballot.  This initiative would remove a barrier to solar by exempting the panels and other renewable energy equipment from property taxes for 20 years. If passed in August, this policy will lower the cost of solar, increase clean energy jobs, and greatly expand solar development across the state! Vote YES on August 30th!
  2. Say NO to the utility-backed ‘solar’ petition this fall: Amendment 1 is an effort by big monopoly utilities to choke-off rooftop solar and keep a stranglehold on customers by preventing them from generating their own power. In March, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled 4-3 to allow the utility-backed petition on to the November ballot.  The utilities may have more money, but they are on the wrong side of this issue. We need you to fight alongside us and urge your friends, family and neighbor: VoteNO in NOvember!

https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Solar_Energy_Subsidies_and_Personal_Solar_Use,_Amendment_1_(2016)

Solar Technology Update: New Device Does the Work of Plants

KG ResizeBy Kendall Gillen, LEED Green Associate

ARTIFICIAL-LEAFThe latest in solar technology is unlike what you would expect. Traditionally, solar cells harness sunlight and convert it into electricity, which is then stored in batteries. This is one of the cleanest forms of renewable energy that can be used to power your home or business. This type of solar cell isn’t going away any time soon, but a different type engineered recently by researchers at the University of Illinois is capable of doing the work of plants. This new solar cell could be a game-changer as it “cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel” according to Solar Daily. The process is powered entirely by sunlight and requires no battery storage.

What does this new solar cell mean as far as real world problem solving? The benefits are two-fold. If entire solar farms were made up of these so-called artificial leaves, it could greatly reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere while simultaneously generating energy-rich fuel. Essentially, we can reverse some of the climate change damage done from burning fossil fuels and decrease the concentration of atmospheric CO2.

The product of this process is synthesis gas or syngas, which can be burned itself or converted into other hydrocarbon fuels. The artificial leaves convert carbon dioxide into fuel at a cost comparable to one gallon of gasoline. Read below for an explanation of the chemical process that made this possible as explained by Solar Daily:

“The new solar cell is not photovoltaic – it’s photosynthetic,” says Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and senior author on the study.

Chemical reactions that convert CO2 into burnable forms of carbon are called reduction reactions, the opposite of oxidation or combustion. Engineers have been exploring different catalysts to drive CO2 reduction, but so far such reactions have been inefficient and rely on expensive precious metals such as silver, Salehi-Khojin said.

“What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties,” he said.

Salehi-Khojin and his coworkers focused on a family of nano-structured compounds called transition metal dichalcogenides – or TMDCs – as catalysts, pairing them with an unconventional ionic liquid as the electrolyte inside a two-compartment, three-electrode electrochemical cell. The best of several catalysts they studied turned out to be nanoflake tungsten diselenide.

“The new catalyst is more active; more able to break carbon dioxide’s chemical bonds,” said UIC postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Asadi. In fact, he said, the new catalyst is 1,000 times faster than noble­metal catalysts — and about 20 times cheaper.

solar farm panelsThis is truly a breakthrough in the field of solar technology that can have large and small-scale applications. This is the first solar cell that could render fossil fuels obsolete based on its affordability and efficiency. Fuel could be produced locally as opposed to relying on unstable regions. Scientists have been working since the first ‘artificial leaf’ was produced last year to find a cost-effective process that uses only sunlight and carbon dioxide to mimic the natural process of photosynthesis in plants to produce fuel, and it appears they finally have something that will stick.

Emerald Skyline is always looking for ways to provide superior products and services to meet our client’s needs. My bachelor’s degree in biology allows me to bring a unique perspective on sustainability and mimicking the biological processes found in nature within the built environment. This allows us to provide our clients the latest technologies and largest and most open network available today.

Information on Emerald Skyline is available on our website: www.emeraldskyline.com.

Growing a circular economy: Ending the Throwaway Society

PJ Pictureby Paul L. Jones, CPA & LEED Green Associate

recycleIn our February issue of Sustainable Benefits, Kendall Gillen introduced the concept of a Circular Economy (see “The Changing Face of Waste Management and the Shift Toward a Circular Economy“) by contrasting it with “today’s linear consumerist society. Once a material of substance is no longer considered useful, it is discarded and left in the hands of waste management….”

“Circular Economy” is defined as “a generic term for an industrial economy that is producing no waste or pollution, by design or intention, and in which material flows are of two types: biological nutrients, designed to reenter the biosphere safely and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate at high quality in the production system without entering the biosphere as well as being restorative and regenerative by design.” (Wikipedia)

In its report published in July 2014, “Growing a circular economy: Ending the throwaway society,” Great Britain’s House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says, “The current way our economy consumes resources is not sustainable. A ‘linear approach – where materials are extracted, made into a product, used and discarded – wastes valuable resources and damages the environment. In addition, increasing levels of consumption in developing countries will put ever more pressure on the prices of materials and subsequent costs for businesses and consumers. A ‘circular’ approach of re-using resources, maximizing their value over time, makes environmental and economic sense. There are potentially billions of pounds (or dollars) of benefits for businesses across the economy by becoming more resource efficient.”

An early concept introduced way back in September 2009 was the circular nature of sustainability as practiced in society represented by the Ricoh Cornet Circle reproduced below.
Comet Circle

In a 2015 report, Jennifer Gerholdt, environmental program director of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, wrote: “If we continue with the business-as-usual approach, companies and society will witness a probable surge in price volatility, inflation of key commodities, and an overall decline — and in some cases, depletion — of critical material inputs.” In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, commodity prices rose more than 150 percent between 2002 and 2010.

In her June 23rd article, “The Evolving Ton and the Circular Economy, “Elizabeth Comere, Director of Environmental and Government Affairs for Tetra Pak, reports: “At the Sustainability in Packaging Conference held in Chicago this past April, a surprising number of presentations focused on packaging recycling topics. Increasing consumer access to recycling, changing recycling behavior through labeling and better linking brand owners with recyclers were among the topics covered. Five years ago, recycling took a backseat to topics such as sustainable design and life cycle analysis.   A primary reason for this shift in emphasis is the growing realization of the importance of having an effective post-consumer materials recovery and recycling system, and secondly, concern over the fact that the current system in the United States is falling short of meeting this objective.”

Many companies, including Google and Dell, are already implementing a circular economy model. They are partnering with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on closed-loop initiatives. These firms see the circular economy not only as a way to reduce waste and improve sustainability performance, but also increase competitiveness, new product development and overall sales. Between January 2014 and August 2015, Dell used more than 4,500 metric tons of post-consumer recycled plastics in its products. Cumulatively, the company has used closed-loop recycled-content plastic across 34 products globally through its closed-loop supply chain, turning waste into a resource.

Analysts have showed that there is considerable financial opportunity, as well as environmental benefit, associated with a scaled-up circular economy. In particular, in the electronics sector, precious metals recovery represents a significant business opportunity. Trucost estimates that if recovery of gold, silver and platinum increased from current rates to 100 percent, the financial and natural capital benefits would increase by $10 billion.

“A shift from a linear to a circular economy could unlock an estimated $4.5 trillion in additional economic growth by 2030,” Gerholdt is quoted by Environmental Leader in an article by Jessica Lyons Hardcastle published 11/19/2016. “The circular economy has captured the imagination of many companies that see the economic innovation opportunities of this more restorative model to tackle sustainability challenges, drive performance, competitiveness and innovation, and stimulate economic growth and development.”

When it comes to burnishing your organization’s or your building’s brand and cleaning its footprint, the efforts center on reducing, reusing and recycling nearly every material used – regardless of whether it is in production, operations or management  According to Dan Gilbert, Head of global sustainability for international facilities management company, ISS, the ultimate aim, is to create “zero waste,” which can mean eliminating anywhere from 90% to 100% of the waste your company is putting into landfills. The last 10%, he emphasized, is where the real work is. To get there, organizations need to measure and manage their waste streams, and report their progress at least on a quarterly basis.

“What is the cost of recycling versus putting it in the trash,” Gilbert tells us; “If you save money, your corporate leadership is more likely to get behind the initiative.” For commercial real estate, your tenants will recognize it and value efforts to achieve zero waste.

While many sustainability efforts do require an upfront investment in time and resources, they build a positive community image as well as among potential tenants. Some examples include:

Computers would be the worst thing to toss in the landfill, says Gilbert. That’s because they have an “encyclopedia of metals” that can leach into the ground water system.

Other things that businesses can recycle include office supplies, office equipment, boxes, shelving and racks. Furthermore, cement, asphalt, wood, carpet, pellets and drywall can be recycled or reused.

The companies that accept those items might pay the corporate donor for the materials that will ultimately go into new products. If a mobile phone is built from recycled parts, it prevented waste from going into the landfill and it has created a perfectly good use of still viable parts. Similarly, recycling LCD screens, computer and medical equipment would have the additional benefit of preserving significant amounts of raw materials, such as Gallium in LCS screens and integrated circuits, Beryllium, Niobium and Helium in medical equipment and increasing the affordability of new medical equipment.

Buildings with in-house cafeterias can compost their food waste rather than ditch it in the trash. “Food waste is heavy and it breaks down and creates methane,” says Gilbert. Instead, it can be composted and that enriches the soil.  Things like plastic scraps, tableware and coffee cups can also be eco-friendly — meaning they are biodegradable and can be turned into compost.

  • Reported today by Environmental Leader. “Dozens of major companies including ABC Disney, Whole Foods and Anheuser-Busch with offices in New York City have diverted at least half of their waste from landfills and incineration, responding to Mary Bill de Blasio’s Zero Waste by 2030 challenge. The 31 business participants collectively diverted 36,910 tons of waste by increasing recycling, composting more than 24,500 tons of organic material and donating 322 tons of food, according to the mayor’s officer”

Every building owner and every business can take steps to be more environmentally friendly. One of the quickest ways to do so is to create separate bins for the recyclables and the real trash — but not to mix the two. Doing so, says Gilbert, could taint the bottles, plastics and papers. And a “single-stream” deposit in which everything goes into one bin is better than having different ones for different items.

As for the businesses that have to invest in the bins: “It’s hard enough to get them to buy one, much less four or five of them,” says Gilbert. A central place to put all recyclables is therefore the best solution. Having trouble finding a vendor to pick up such items? Start with the company that picks your trash, Gilbert said. And if that doesn’t work, get on line and look for one.

He points to a Utah State University audit that found 20-40 percent of the stuff that goes into the trash could be recycled.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says the circular economy concept is gaining traction in the US because of the opportunities it offers businesses willing to capture new value from existing operations and resources, for example by redesigning products and business models, building new relationships with customers, harnessing technology to increase the utilization of assets, and switching to renewable energy.

Given the 7.4 Billion people who now roam this earth and the fact that our natural resources are not unlimited, The linear “take, make, dispose” model is not sustainable. We can no longer afford to throw away materials that can be re-used or recycled.

According to Nichola Mundy, senior consultant at Axion Consulting, “The circular economy aims to develop closed-loop business systems that enables economic growth whilst decoupling it from resource consumption. Circular economy business models, such as leasing, allow full traceability of materials and enables the business to keep hold of its resources.”

As Ms. Gillen, LEED Process Manager at Emerald Skyline, noted in her February article, “Since construction and demolition waste constitutes one-third of all waste, it is necessary that the (commercial real estate) industry be methodically directed toward a circular economy, minimizing waste and maximizing value.

Emerald Skyline Corporation, whose principals include real estate, sustainability, resiliency, architecture and biological science professionals is uniquely qualified to advise you on how your organization can be a good corporate citizen and begin reaping the sustainable benefits of a circular economy. We can provide you with the tools and guidance you need to save money by being resourceful.

Remember the old adage “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” It’s time for us to realize, it is a treasure for all of us.

This 21-Year-Old May Have Found The Way To Clean Up The Plastic In Our Oceans

by Alejandro Davila Fragoso Jun 28, 2016 8:00 am ThinkProgress.org
View the original article here.

plastic ocean cleanup
CREDIT: The Ocean Cleanup

Boyan Slat wants to start the largest ocean clean up ever with the help of nets and ocean currents. He began testing his prototype this month.

Boyan Slat was just 16 when he realized he wanted to rid the oceans of plastic. It all happened after he dove into the problem in the most literal way while snorkeling in Greece and finding more drifting plastic than fish swimming.

“I thought, that’s a real problem. How can we come up with a solution for that?” Slat recalled during an interview with ThinkProgress.

Indeed, the problem is real and large. Around eight million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, according to a 2015 study. In addition, recent research found so-called garbage patches in every major ocean. Plastic is so pervasive that it’s been found in sea ice, and also inside 50 percent of all species of seabirds, 66 percent of all species of marine mammals, and all species of sea turtles.

Once back in his native Netherlands, Slat delved into the topic as people told him that cleaning up the ocean was impossible. Still, Slat, a young inventor who by then already held the world record for most high-pressure rockets simultaneously launched, persisted until he found what he was looking for.

“I saw this animation where they used computer models to show that plastic actually moves” through ocean currents, Slat, now 21, said. “And then I thought, why should you move through the ocean if the ocean can move through you.”

Slat, chief executive officer of The Ocean Clean Up, has taken his eureka moment and turned it into a collection system based on floating barriers attached to the sea bed that use the ocean’s energy to gather plastic waste. After obtaining over $2 million through crowdfunding and more from Dutch government financing, Slat unveiled the first prototype last week in the North Sea, just off the coast of Netherlands.

ocean plastic cleanup 2
Less than a mile in length, this prototype is but 10 percent the size of the actual Slat wants to build to conduct what he describes as “the largest clean-up in history” on a large mass of marine debris floating in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The prototype will be in the North Sea for a year as the foundation tests if the system can withstand corrosion, storms, and more in the open sea.

“The question that we are trying to answer with this prototype is: can we build a floating barrier which is able to survive at sea for years,” said Slat. In the next twelve months, sensors will track the prototype’s every move and gather data to inform the development of the larger system. The North Sea’s minor storms are actually worse than the most powerful storms in the Pacific Ocean, Slat said. “It’s pretty safe to say that if it survives here it will survive anywhere, and certainly in the [area] of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where we intend to deploy it.”

The Ocean Cleanup’s cleaning technology uses long floating barriers creating a v-shaped artificial coastline that catches ocean debris in its center. There, a solar-powered hydraulic pump and conveyor system scoop up waste that boats then collect and take to landfills or recycling centers. This suggests a massive logistical effort depending on how far from shore the system is placed, and the sorting of trash or other bycatch that would follow. Right now however, testing the floating barriers is crucial, so for the next year, they are focusing solely on the barrier. Therefore, plastic collection is unlikely. But “if that goes well we should be ready to deploy the first operational pilot system late next year, and that should put us on track to start the largest clean up in history by 2020,” Slat said.

Slat’s plan has received some criticism, however. One worry is that the barriers will cause too much by catch — where marine life gets accidentally caught and dies, normally in fishing nets — though the foundation’s preliminary impact statement study found a low risk of that happening. “There shouldn’t be any impact because the barrier is 1.5 meters deep (roughly 4 feet),” Slat said. “It’s really small when compared to the Pacific Ocean, and the current flows underneath it.” Still, he said this test is part of making sure the system is safe. “We are not only testing the technology,” Slat said.

Chelsea M. Rochman, a marine ecologist at the University of Toronto who’s studied the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, welcomed the clean up plan, though she favors preventing plastic from reaching the sea in the first place. “I personally think that preventing it before it goes into the ocean … is better than placing something that large in the middle of the ocean where it’s very hard to monitor,” she said. “Putting things like what he’s doing at the mouth of a river may also be more effective.”

One example of a comparable system placed in a river is Baltimore’s inner harbor water wheel, also known as Mr. Trash Wheel. This device uses the Jones Falls River current to turn a water wheel which picks up debris into a dumpster barge. When the current is weak, a solar panel is in place to provide the necessary power. Since 2014, the cartoon-looking Mr. Trash Wheel has collected 420 tons of trash, including hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles, polystyrene containers, plastic bags, and millions of cigarette butts, according to the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.

mister trash wheel

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel, or “Mr. Trash Wheel” to locals, combines old and new technology to harness the power of water and sunlight to collect litter and debris flowing down the Jones Falls River. CREDIT: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

But whether the plastic collection happens in rivers or oceans, Rochman said solving ubiquitous plastic pollution requires “people like Boyan, who are doing it on their own.” At the same time, she said, more top-down solution like the federal ban on micro-beads approved in December or plastic bag bans need to happen. Furthermore, developed countries have to help emerging countries in creating better waste management, she said, since emerging nations are increasingly contributing to plastic pollution. In fact, more than half of all plastic reaching the oceans comes from China, Indonesia, the Phllipines, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

“I don’t think there is one solution to plastic debris, I really don’t,” said Rochman. “I think it’s like hundreds of little things and the more that we have that are out there and that are highlighted, I think the greater chance that we have.”

The rapid growth of electric cars worldwide, in 4 charts

The article below puts a spotlight on the swift growth of electric vehicle use worldwide. So speedy in fact, EV use has tripled since 2013. This is one of the few areas that the world’s nations are on track to keep climate change below 2 degrees celsius. Let this be a reason to keep up the good work with EV deployment, and highlight the other energy initiatives that could use improvement. With every electric vehicle that hits the road, the demand for places to charge up increases. What if I told you there was a way to not only install a charging station, but an independently owned business that can set its own pricing, access settings, and much more? Keep reading to find out…


The rapid growth of electric cars worldwide, in 4 charts

electric vehicle parking

An increasingly common sight

Written by Brad Plumer on June 6, 2016

One million down, another billion or so to go.

In a new report, the International Energy Agency estimates that 1.26 million electric cars hit the world’s roads in 2015, passing a nifty (if symbolic) milestone. Here’s a chart showing the very rapid growth of both battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV):

evolution global electric car stock

(IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016)BEV = battery electric vehicles; PHEV = plug-in hybrid vehicles, which typically have both an electric motor and a conventional engine.

The United States now has 400,000 electric vehicles on the road — a massive increase since 2010, though well short of Obama’s goal of 1 million by 2015. Meanwhile, China has become the world’s largest market, overtaking the US in annual sales last year.

Is 1 million a lot? It depends how you look at it. It’s jaw-dropping growth given that there were only a few hundred electric vehicles on the entire planet back in 2005. And the total number of electric vehicles worldwide has tripled just since 2013.

But to put this in perspective, there are more than 1 billion gasoline- and diesel-powered cars on the world’s roads — and demand will keep soaring in the decades ahead as China and India’s middle classes expand. So we have a long, long way to go before electric cars take over the world.

In order to avoid more than 2°C of global warming, the IEA calculates, we’d likely need to see about 150 million electric cars on the road by 2030 and 1 billion by 2050 as part of a broader climate strategy. The good news, the agency says, is that this ambitious electric vehicle target seems much more feasible than it did just a few years ago.

Two big reasons for the rapid growth of EVs: public subsidies and falling battery prices

For starters, more and more countries are enacting policies to build up charging infrastructure and incentivize vehicle purchases. The table below details some of those policies, which include everything from tax breaks to tailpipe emission standards (which favor cleaner electric cars) to HOV lane access:

Electric vehicle uptake

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

“Ambitious targets and policy support have lowered vehicle costs, extended vehicle range and reduced consumer barriers in a number of countries,” the report says.

As a result, electric vehicles now make up more than 1 percent of sales in China, France, Denmark, and Sweden. They make up 9.7 percent of sales in the Netherlands, and 23 percent of sales in Norway, which offers some of the most generous tax incentives around, worth about $13,500 per car.

The other huge driver here is falling battery costs, which have fallen by a factor of four since 2008. Since batteries make up around one-third of the price of electric vehicles, getting this number down even further is crucial for widespread adoption.

evolution battery energy density cost

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

The Department of Energy estimates that battery costs need to fall to $125 per kilowatt-hour by 2022 to achieve cost-competitiveness with conventional vehicles. The IEA says this “seems realistic” given current rates of technological improvement, and points out that manufacturers like Tesla and GM have set even more ambitious cost targets.

The amount of energy that batteries can hold (known as energy density) has also improved significantly. The IEA cites various reports that electric cars will soon be able to travel more than 180 miles on a single charge — also critical for boosting consumer adoption and alleviating “range anxiety.”

Meanwhile, electric cars get all the attention, but the IEA points out that the electrification of other modes of transport, including motorcycles and buses, is just as important. Particularly in countries where these vehicles are widespread:

The electrification of road transport modes other than cars, namely 2-wheelers, buses and freight delivery vehicles, is currently ongoing in a few localised areas. With an estimated stock exceeding 200 million units, China is the global leader in the electric 2-wheelers market and almost the only relevant player globally, primarily because of the restriction on the use of conventional 2- wheelers in several cities to reduce local pollution. China is also leading the global deployment of electric bus fleets, with more than 170 000 buses already circulating today.

To help solve climate change, electric cars need to do much, much more

Here’s one last chart from the IEA, showing what electric car deployment would have to look like to help meet the emissions-reduction promises put forth at the Paris climate talks last year (around 100 million electric cars by 2030). It also shows the even faster deployment that would be needed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (about 150 million):

deployment scenarios electric cars

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

We’re on track now, but it’s early. In fact, as the IEA points out elsewhere, electric vehicle deployment is basically the only area where the world’s nations are on track to hit the targets needed to stay below 2 degrees Celsius.

One final caveat: As David Biello recently explained at Scientific American, electric cars aren’t inherently greener than their gasoline-powered counterparts. If you use coal-fired power plants to charge all those electric cars, the climate benefits are minimal (or, worse, negative). The IEA is well aware of this, although it also notes that electric car deployment can help support the rollout of cleaner renewable energy, too:

The climate change-related benefits of EVs can be fully harvested under the condition that their use is coupled with a decarbonised grid, an additional challenge for countries that are largely dependent on fossil fuels for power generation. Investment in EV roll-out can support this transition, e.g. increasing the opportunities available to integrate variable renewable energy.

Cleaning up the grid is a sine qua non for electric cars to help ameliorate climate change, although this hardly seems like a deal breaker for the technology. Think of it this way: If we don’t clean up the world’s electric grid, we have little chance of stopping global warming either way. The two have to go hand in hand.

End article.


Following Emerald Skyline’s recently announced partnership with ChargePoint, we have realized more and more the importance of the growth of electric vehicle use worldwide. Equally important as these EVs are the charging stations and infrastructure needed to support them. This rapid growth necessitates installation of charging stations. The industry standard for functionality and aesthetics are ChargePoint stations which are independently owned businesses that set their own pricing, access settings and much more.

To find out more information about the installation of a ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Station at your home, office building, shopping center, hotel or transportation hub and join the EV revolution for a greener tomorrow, please contact us at 305.424.8704 or info@emeraldskyline.com

LEED Project Update

JulieBy Julie Lundin, Founder, LEED AP ID+C, NCIDQ, ASID
Director of Sustainable Interior Design for Emerald Skyline Corporation

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This building was formerly an auto garage that stood vacant for several years and was environmentally contaminated. Our renovation includes many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

The above paragraph still holds true months later. However, we have had to re-think the project scope and move forward on a smaller scale. We spent months working on the design and drawings in preparation for submission as a development project. In our original design concept we envisioned a larger building footprint and a second floor addition. Vision often becomes qualified by reality, and our project is no exception. The property size cannot accommodate a larger building footprint and the FAR (floor area ratio) requirements limit the building size allowed. An addition of a partial second floor (FAR compliant) was our solution to the lot size and FAR restrictions. Although only a partial second floor was now being considered it would still require stairs and ideally an elevator. Also, the limited first floor square footage available to accommodate the new stairs and an elevator almost negated the second floor addition. Our conclusion was that adding the partial second floor was not adding the square footage desired, and the cost of construction and engineering did not make economic sense.

In January we made the decision to proceed with the project as a renovation of the existing building only. No additional square footage is being added. Our intent is to repair and replace what is there. The building will visually retain the auto garage industrial look but will be transformed into a sustainable, repurposed space.   As a sustainable consulting firm, it makes sense for us to not increase the size of the building. Our society often believes that bigger is better and we briefly fell into this way of thinking. Now we are committed to working within a limited space and we are re-focusing on creative design and the best use of that space.

As stated in our previous post, this project is a proposed LEED certified building. A key component of a LEED project is its reduced energy use. We have replaced the existing flat roof which was old and leaking with a new roof that has a high SRI (Solar Reflectance Index). We are also designing a high efficiency HVAC system and building envelope to optimize the energy performance of the building. All of the existing windows are being replaced with product that exceeds the Florida Code and are High Velocity, Hurricane Zone approved for Miami-Dade as our project is located in South Florida. In addition, to optimize energy performance in a hot climate our windows have a high VT (visible transmittance) and low SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) to ensure adequate daylight is being admitted while still blocking significant quantities of solar radiant heat gain.

window radiation

LED lighting fixtures designed with specific task usage will be installed on both the interior and exterior of the building. The existing concrete floors of the auto garage are going to be polished and used as they are. The specifications of the interior finishes are just beginning and as an interior designer, this is the fun part. Low VOC products, adequate air ventilation, and controlled air temperature and humidity will be utilized to protect the buildings IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). Low flow toilets and faucets, and Energy Star appliances will all be specified to reduce the amount of water and energy that is consumed.

We hope to be in our new location by early fall. Once our building is completed we will post descriptions of the renovation details and photos. This project has been a long journey. We are proud that it is a shining example of a correct decision to repurpose a building that might have otherwise been overlooked.

The future in automotive transportation is available now: The Growing Market for Electric Vehicles and ChargePoint Charging Stations

PJ PictureBy Paul Jones, Director, Emerald Skyline Corporation

plugged in electric vehiclesFive years after the first mass-market electric car hit the market, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) have not met with the success expected, but they are pacing the rate of hybrid cars. Numerous challenges are being overcome in the evolution of the electric vehicle – not least of which is the automakers approach to the production and marketing of the cars, the range EVs travel on one charge and the availability of charging stations.

The new generation of electric vehicles began with the introduction of the first Tesla car in 2008 and began its embryonic growth in 2010 when mainstream electric cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt went on sale. Throughout this time, plug-in car (PEV) buyers have repeatedly complained about poor consumer experiences. Last year, Consumer Reports published the results of a secret shopper study of 85 dealerships in four states, finding that staff at 35 of those dealerships (over 40%) attempted to steer buyers toward internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles instead of the PEV in which they had expressed interest. Thirteen of those dealers tried to entirely discourage shoppers from buying an EV. Legacy profits from on-going maintenance of ICE vehicles, most of which are not required for an EV, is considered a major incentive for dealers to steer customers away from EVs. Increased demand from consumers will be the key driver in forcing manufacturers and dealers to change their perception of EVs from a necessary regulatory evil to a new product category.

Range anxiety is the fear that a vehicle has insufficient range to reach its destination and would thus strand the vehicle’s occupants. The term, primary used in reference to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), is considered to be one of the major barriers to large-scale adoption of EVs. The main strategies to alleviate range anxiety are the development of higher battery capacity (Tesla S now sports a model with a 265-mile range and other manufacturers are working to follow suit with over 200-mile range EVs), battery swapping technology, and the deployment of charging station infrastructure.

Despite the obstacles in creating a new market, the fleet of plug-in electric vehicles in the United States is the largest in the world with over 400,000 highway legal plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) sold in the country since 2008 when Tesla introduced its first car through 2015.EV-sales-growing

As of March of this year, there are 26 highway legal plug-in cars available in the American market from over a dozen manufacturers plus several models of electric motorcycles, utility vans and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs). The number of EV drivers has increased ten times in the past four years and EVs are expected to comprise over 8% of all car sales by 2020. New EV cars with increased range are being developed by many auto manufacturers – and some new entrants like Apple which has its first car, code name “Project Titan” planned for release in 2019.

However, consumers have been cautious about putting the car before the charging station. “Infrastructure for EVs is crucial to the adoption of use of electric cars. You’re not going to buy a car if you don’t know where and how to charge it,” says Erin Mellon, Director of Communications with ChargePoint, which operates the world’s largest EV charging network. The first place drivers need to be able to charge is at home. Being able to charge at work is second most important.”where-drivers-charging-chargepoint

Equally innovative but decidedly less exciting is what is happening with the growing infrastructure of EV charging stations, a stimulant for expansion of the market for plug-in electric vehicles. As of January 2016, the US had 12,200 charging stations across the country, led by California with nearly 3,000 stations. In terms of public charging points, there were 30,669 public outlets available across the country by the end of January 2016, again led by California with 9,086 charging points (29.6%).

The following excerpt from an article published last September by Jones Lang LaSalle (“JLL”), a premier international commercial real estate brokerage, property and investment management firm headquartered in Chicago, entitled “Charging into the future: The rise of electric cars,” reflects cutting edge planning and action – much like being an innovator at the turn of the 20th Century who invested in gasoline stations rather than livery stables:

Sean McNamara, General Manager for JLL Property Management, began looking at electric charging stations for an office building in San Francisco several years ago. “In the beginning of the discovery process, there was just not enough demand or infrastructure,” he says.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu initiated the “Workplace Charging Challenge” in 2013 to increase the number of US employers offering EV charging stations – tenfold – by 2018.

“The proliferation of electric cars, has made these stations much more relevant over the past two years,” McNamara says.

Trophy and Class AA office buildings, such as the Georgia Pacific Center in Atlanta, were among the first to respond to Chu’s challenge. “Ownership and JLL are compelled largely because it’s the right thing to do for our environment. We are a LEED-certified building and our objective is to maintain the highest status possible,” explains Michael Strickland, a VP & Group Manager for JLL in Atlanta.

Strickland says that the Building’s 10 EV reserved parking spaces plus two public parking spaces equate to about one percent of the total parking spaces. “The Building has immediate access to public transport, which plays a role in how many building tenants drive and utilize the parking garage,” Strickland says. “It’s definitely a growing trend. But it’s not currently on par with having a sundry shop or a dry cleaner – yet….”

Today, McNamara is the General Manager of Southeast Financial Center, a Class A trophy office building in Miami. He oversees an 1,100-space parking structure with valet services and two EV charging stations. “In a Class A building, if the demand is there, the spaces will be added. Once the setup is done, sealing the delivery is even easier. Ultimately for landlords, it is not a matter of cost, it is a matter of appropriateness.”

Porsche Latin America, for example, a tenant in the Southeast Financial Center, installed two electric charging stations with special adapters, as a unique term of their lease. Then again, Porsche is not the average tenant. Earlier this month (September), the car manufacturer unveiled its first all-electric Mission E concept car at the Frankfurt Auto Show. It looks like a futuristic 911.

The Mission E, along with Audi’s e-Tron Quattro (scheduled to be launched in 2018), a hybrid SUV, would challenge Tesla’s Model S in the luxury category. Like Apple’s Project Titan, though, these models will take years to develop.

Until then, drivers can take their pick from available models such as the Nissan LEAF all-electric car, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, the all-electric Tesla Model S and the Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid, and a growing public infrastructure in which to park and charge them.

For buildings being designed and built, or undergoing a major renovation, to achieve LEED certification under the 2009 rating system, providing one of the following earns up to three points in the SS Credit 4.3, Alternative Transportation for Low-emitting & Fuel-efficient (LEFE) vehicles category:

  1. Preferred parking (closed spot or price discount of ≥ 20%) for LEFE vehicles for 5% of site’s Parking Capacity (parking discount must be made available to all who drive LEFE vehicles and must be available for a minimum of two (2) years) OR
  2. Alternative refueling stations for 3% of site’s parking capacity OR
  3. LEFE vehicle and preferred parking for 3% of FTE OR
  4. One (1) shared LEFE be provided for 3% of FTEs with a minimum of one per 267 FTE for at least two (2) years (minimum one LEFE required)

Further, projects may be awarded one point for EP for instituting a transportation management plan that demonstrates a quantifiable reduction in the auto use through implementation of multiple options.

Even at this stage in the development of the market for EVs, which represents the future of automobiles, an EV driver plugs into a ChargePoint station every five seconds, saving over 12.5 million gallons of gas and over 41 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, Emerald Skyline is proud to announce that it has partnered with ChargePoint to provide for a greener tomorrow – for an emerald skyline!

“As a sustainability and resiliency consulting and LEED project management firm, this partnership allows us the latest technologies and largest and most open network available to provide our clients,” reports Abraham Wien, LEED AP O+M, Director of Architecture & Environmental Design for Emerald Skyline. “We are always looking for ways to provide superior products and services to meet our clients sustainability and resiliency needs.

With almost 28,000 charging stations, ChargePoint is the world’s largest network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the US, Europe and Australia. ChargePoint stations set the industry standard for functionality and aesthetics and their innovative, cloud-based software gives station owners flexibility and control of charging operations. Stations on the ChargePoint network are independently owned businesses, which set their own pricing, access settings and much more.

demand-for-charging-stationsBeyond the workplace, EV charging stations are a distinctive and value-add amenity for hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and entertainment facilities – and a growing necessity for communities serving an ever-increasing demographic demanding an alternative to fossil-fuel driven vehicles.

An electric car will have to be able to travel long distances for EVs to break into the mass market. Like few other parts of the plug-in ecosystem, this has been demonstrated by Tesla Motors, which has built out its network of sites not only in the US, but in all their major markets. An 80% recharge that provides 200 miles or more in less than an hour enables Tesla owners to travel coast-to-coast with recharging breaks every three hours. And, despite the reticence of many in the industry about the prospect of being stationary for a half hour to hour break every three hours, Tesla drivers seem entirely satisfied with the network, to the point that congestion is an occasional problem while range anxiety is not.

The availability of a charging station will attract that additional guest or customer who will pay extra for the charge (yes, EV-charging stations can be an additional source of revenue by monetizing an EV-enabled parking spot). It will attract new customers to your business and encourage loyalty from a growing customer base of EV drivers.

Emerald Skyline Corporation will be providing ChargePoint EV Charging Station services and installations for corporate, municipality, and private entities. Together, we’re transforming the energy industry by developing intelligent energy management solutions to help people and businesses shift away from fossil fuels. impact-chargepoint-drivers

ChargePoint stations set the industry standard for functionality and aesthetics and their innovative, cloud-based software gives station owners flexibility and control of charging operations. Stations on the ChargePoint network are independently owned-businesses which set their own pricing, access settings and much more.

To find out more information about the installation of a ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Station at your home, office building, shopping center, hotel or transportation hub and join the EV revolution for a greener tomorrow, please contact us at 305.424.8704 or go to www.emeraldskyline.com

Segregating the cost components of a “real” property allows for optimal cost recovery to increase after tax income

PJ Pictureby Paul L. Jones, CPA, Director, Emerald Skyline Corporation

In the fourth quarter of 1985, Philip Morris Inc. agreed to buy General Foods for an estimated $5.6 billion. At the time, it was the largest food company acquisition in history. Pursuant to this acquisition, Philip Morris had to allocate the purchase price among cash and cash equivalents, real estate, tangible personal property, identifiable intangible assets and, finally, goodwill.

In conjunction with this cost allocation, Kenneth Leventhal & Company, a CPA firm that specialized in real estate, was hired to value the property, plant and equipment and segregate them into real, personal and land improvement assets to establish basis for its tax returns. I was a leader on the team that completed the study and valuation. The project involved hundreds of properties on six continents, the expertise of an untold number of real estate, engineering and accounting professionals – and over a year – to complete.

The reason we segregated the personal property and land improvement assets was to shorten, to the extent possible, the time required, and maximize the deductions from taxable income, to recover the cost of the assets through depreciation resulting in reduced income tax obligations. Accordingly, the primary goal of a cost segregation study is to identify all construction-related costs that can be depreciated over a shorter tax life (typically 5, 7 and 15 years) than the building (39 years for non-residential real property). Personal property assets, consisting of non-structural elements, exterior land improvements and indirect construction costs which are found in a cost segregation study generally include items that are affixed to the building but do not relate to the overall operation and maintenance of the building.

The investment strategy for every rental residential apartment complex and commercial building, including office buildings, shopping centers, industrial facilities, hotels, restaurants, entertainment complexes and all other commercial properties that are being acquired, constructed and/or sustainably renovated to be “Green” should include accelerated depreciation realized from a cost segregation study.

cost-segregationBy increasing the depreciation deduction, current income taxes are reduced and after-tax cash flow increased during the initial years of ownership or completion of substantial sustainable renovations – when their net present value and positive impact on the investor’s internal rate of return is the greatest.

A cost segregation study, in a nutshell, is the process of identifying any personal property and land improvement assets that are grouped with real property assets, and accounting for them separately, in particular, for Federal income tax purposes. The determination of what property components qualify for shorter depreciable lives as personal property is ultimately based on asset-specific facts and circumstances. However, consultants rely heavily on precedents existing in both case law and IRS guidance.

The law, rules and procedures relied upon in cost segregation studies have been around since the enactment of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in 1962 which established the legal rationale used to distinguish personal from real property for purposes of the ITC and provides the framework for the same classification process in cost segregation studies.

While the ITC was repealed through the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a landmark tax court decision in the case of Hospital Corporation of America (“HCA”) vs. Commissioner, 109 TC 21 issued in 1997 upheld the application of cost segregation for differentiating the depreciable basis of real, personal and land improvement assets. The HCA case is the seminal case for cost segregation studies and the IRS has agreed that a taxpayer can use a cost segregation study to segregate building costs. Critical to the Tax Court’s analysis was that in formulating accelerated depreciation methods, Congress intended to distinguish between components that constitute IRC section 1250 class property (real property) and property items that constitute section 1245 class property (tangible personal property). This distinction opened the doors to cost segregation.

Armed with this victory, taxpayers have increasingly begun to use cost segregation to their advantage. The IRS reluctantly agreed that cost segregation does not constitute component depreciation (action on decision (AOD) 1999-008). Moreover, cost segregation recently was featured in temporary regulations issued by the Treasury Department (regulations section 1.446-1T). In a chief counsel advisory (CCA), however, the IRS warned taxpayers that an “accurate cost segregation study may not be based on non-contemporaneous records, reconstructed data or taxpayers’ estimates or assumptions that have no supporting records” (CCA 199921045).

Real property eligible for cost segregation includes buildings that have been purchased, constructed, expanded or remodeled since 1987. A cost segregation study is typically cost-effective for buildings purchased or remodeled at a cost greater than $750,000. These studies are most efficient for new buildings recently constructed, but they can also uncover retroactive tax deductions for older buildings, which can generate significant short benefits due to “catch-up” depreciation.

Property owners should consider using a cost segregation study if they:

  • Acquired property in the last 15 years
  • Recently completed or started a construction project
  • Inherited property from an estate and received a stepped-up basis
  • Purchased a partnership share
  • Expect to pay income taxes
  • Plan on holding the property for at least five years

Examples of assets that may qualify to be reclassified as Section 1245 property (tangible personal property) which have shorter depreciable lives include:

  • Land improvements (drainage and irrigation systems, fencing, outdoor lighting, landscaping, parking lots and walkways, etc.);
  • Ornamental fixtures;
  • Wall and floor coverings;
  • Security systems;
  • Cabinets and millwork;
  • Data and communication cabling;
  • Decorative lighting;
  • Window treatments;
  • Production machinery;
  • Electrical and plumbing service to specific equipment;
  • Energy management systems;
  • Equipment, machinery and equipment that meet the “sole justification test” (i.e., building system components the sole justification for the installation of which is the fact that such equipment….are essential for the operation of other machinery or the processing of materials or used in connection with research of experimentation); and
  • Moveable wall partitions, catwalks and mezzanines

According to IRS Publication 544: “The fact that the structure is specially designed to withstand the stress and other demands of the property and cannot be used economically for other purposes indicates it is closely related to the use of the property it houses. Structures such as oil and gas storage tanks, grain storage bins, silos, fractionating towers, blast furnaces, basic oxygen furnaces, coke ovens, brick kilns, and coal tipples are not treated as buildings, but as section 1245 property.”

In distinguishing between a building’s tangible personal property and structural components, Jay Soled and Charles Falk in a 8/1/2004 article entitled “Cost Segregation Applied” in the Journal of Accountancy, “CPAs, engineers and consultants will find the courts to be a final source of guidance. In Whiteco Industries, Inc. v. Commissioner (65 TC 664 (1975)), for example, the Tax Court set forth the following six questions that can use to determine whether property is inherently permanent and thus a structural component excluded from the definition of tangible personal property:

  • Can the property be moved? Has it been moved? (For example, a shed with a concrete floor vs. a shed with a wooden floor.)
  • How difficult is removal of the property, and how time-consuming is it? (For example, a wine cellar vs. a prefabricated photo-processing lab.)
  • Is the property designed or constructed to remain permanently in place? (For example, a wooden barn vs. a wire chicken coop.)
  • Are there circumstances that tend to show the expected or intended length of affixation—or that the property may or will have to be moved? (For example, permanent concrete pilings vs. floating docks that can be removed in the winter.)
  • How much damage will the property sustain upon its removal? (For example, a steel-encased bank vault vs. an easily removable lighting system attached by bolts.)
  • How is the property affixed to the land? (For example, permanently glued bathroom tile vs. removable billboard.)

Even with ample regulatory, legislative and judicial guidance, making the distinction between tangible personal property and a building’s structural components remains a challenge for CPAs. No bright-line test exists. What is fortunate, however, is that many of the factual issues involving properties of different sorts have been litigated, and their outcomes illuminate the direction a court confronted with similar facts is likely to take.”

The primary property recovery periods are:

  • Buildings = 27.5 years for residential and 39 years for commercial
  • Land Improvements = 15 years
  • Furniture, fixtures & equipment = 7 years
  • FF&E, Retail & service = 5 years
  • Information systems = 5 years

Cost segregation consultants generally employ one of two methods, or a combination of both, that have approved by the IRS:

The first approach is to obtain and examine actual cost data records and construction documents in conjunction with a site visit to identify assets for potential reclassification. This approach is typically used when the property has been recently constructed and documents are readily available. The consultant assigns costs to each component based on any information provided, analysis of the documents and site visit.

The second approach, applicable when the original construction documentation is not available, is typically performed when a study is performed in conjunction with the purchase of the property. This alternative is also performed when the cost segregation study is conducted several years after initial construction. In applying this approach, an engineer or consultant will analyze architectural drawings, mechanical and electrical plans and other blueprints to segregate the structural and general building electrical and mechanical components from those linked to personal property. Using standard construction cost estimating tools, the property is “reverse-engineered” into its separate components. The consultant will also allocate “soft costs,” such as architect and engineering fees, to all components of the building. Total actual property costs are then allocated to the components on a proportional basis.

The information and documents typically required for a cost segregation study include:

  • legal description of the property
  • Date placed in service
  • Building and land area
  • Survey
  • Architectural and building plans
  • AIA documents 702 & 703
  • Other construction documents and accounting records
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Fixed asset listing
  • Construction loan documents, if available
  • Settlement statement
  • Appraisal

The consultant provides a self-contained cost segregation report, certified by the study’s authors, that will satisfy IRS requirements.

The benefits can be significant. BKD LLP, CPAs calculates that “Each $100,000 in assets reclassified from a 39-year recovery period to a five-year recovery period results in approximately $16,000 in net-present-value savings, assuming a 5% discount rate and a 35% marginal tax rate.

By reclassifying an asset from building (1250) to personal property (1245) property, the magnitude of an additional allowance in the first year can be enormous. For example, a shift of $1 million from 39-year property to 5-year property can augment first-year depreciation deductions by a whopping $575,000 ($25,000 vs. $600,000). Note: The application of the alternative minimum tax may reduce some of the tax savings associated with cost segregation.

Cost segregation studies should be performed by consulting firms with expertise in engineering, construction, tax and accounting. The IRS’ underlying assumption in determining what constitutes a quality study is that the study is performed by “personnel competent in the design, construction, auditing, and estimating procedures relating to building construction.”

Emerald Skyline Corporation, whose principals include real estate, sustainability, resiliency, architecture and accounting professionals is uniquely qualified to provide cost segregation advisory services to building owners, investors, managers and accountants in conjunction with your sustainability and resiliency project. Each cost-segregation study prepared by Emerald Skyline includes an identification of any available Green Building Tax incentives. Often overlooked, these valuable tax credits can amount up to 30% of qualified expenditures and increase the tax benefits of a cost segregation study.