Month: January 2015

10 Smart Building Myths Busted

May 6, 2014 by Lee O’Loughlin

View the original article here

Smart buildings are a no-brainer and more affordable than most building owners and investors realize.

Smart buildings have been proven to save energy, streamline facilities management and prevent expensive equipment failures. Yet, to many property owners and investors, the value of smart buildings remains a mystery. The fact is, in most buildings, we can demonstrate a strong business case for strategic investments in smart building systems and management technologies.

Not everyone is aware that the tremendous advantages of today’s affordable smart building management technologies easily justify the cost. The following are 10 myths about smart buildings, along with the facts:

Myth #10: Smart Building Technologies Are Expensive.

Myth Debunked: Smart building technology investments typically pay for themselves within one or two years by delivering energy savings and other operational efficiencies. One smart building management pilot program we worked on, for example, generated a positive return on investment within several months.

Myth #9: Smart Buildings are Only About Energy.

Myth Debunked: A smart building management system often can detect when a piece of equipment is close to failure and alert facilities personnel to fix the problem. Knowing the right time to repair or replace equipment extends machinery life, and reduces facility staff, operations and replacement costs. More dramatically, smart building management systems can prevent full-scale building system failures—potentially embarrassing to a Superbowl stadium host, but life-threatening in a hospital or laboratory.

Myth #8: Smart Buildings and Green Buildings are the Same Thing. Myth Debunked: Smart buildings maximize energy efficiency from building systems and ensure air quality, while a complete “green” sustainability program includes strategies beyond building automation systems. So, while “smart” and “green” features may overlap, they are not identical concepts. The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) explains the difference in Bright Green Buildings: Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings, a comprehensive report authored with Frost and Sullivan.

Myth #7: Industrial Facilities or Laboratories Can’t Become Smart Buildings.

Myth Debunked:  All types of buildings—whether residential or commercial—can be built or retrofitted to become highly automated and smart. Even highly specialized facilities such as laboratories can be outfitted with smart building technologies.

Myth #6: Smart Buildings Can Only Be New Buildings.

Myth Debunked: Some of the smartest buildings in the world are not new at all, but have demonstrated the return on investment in smart technologies. The Empire State Building, for example, has exceeded projected energy savings for the second consecutive year following an extensive phased retrofit begun in 2009.

Myth #5: Smart Building Technologies are Not Interoperable.

Myth Debunked: In the past, building automation equipment and controls were designed as proprietary systems. However, affordable new technologies, such as wireless sensors, now make it possible to gather data from disparate systems produced by any manufacturer.

Myth #4: Smart Systems Don’t Make a Building More Attractive to Tenants.

Myth Debunked:  Anything that improves energy efficiency, reduces occupancy cost and improves productivity is valuable to tenants, as numerous studies and surveys attest. Tenants and their advisors increasingly expect smart building features such as zoned HVAC, sophisticated equipment maintenance alert systems, and advanced security systems. As reported in JLL’s October 2012 Global Sustainability Perspective, smart systems provide benefits for tenants—and tenants recognize the benefits.

Myth #3: Without a Municipal Smart Grid, a Building Can’t Really Be Smart.

Myth Debunked:  It’s true that smart buildings gain functionality when supported by advanced electrical grids installed by municipalities and their utility company partners. But even without a smart grid, owners and investors can draw a wide range of benefits from smart buildings and a smart building management system that can monitor entire property portfolios.

Myth #2: Smart Buildings Are Complicated to Operate.

Myth Debunked: Combined with a smart building management system, a smart building is often easier to operate and maintain than a building that lacks automated systems. A smart building management system can integrate work-order management applications; pull equipment repair and maintenance data into performance analytics; and pinpoint equipment issues to a degree not humanly possible. For example, a smart building management system can diagnose a programming problem that has been undetected for 15 years, enabling facility managers to resolve a recurring equipment malfunction.

Myth #1: Smart Buildings Are a No-Brainer.

Myth NOT Debunked: This myth isn’t a myth at all — it’s actually true. As affordable new technologies are adopted, tenants are beginning to expect smart building features—and owners and investors are beginning to realize the return on investment in smart systems.

Leo O’Loughlin is senior vice president of Energy and Sustainability Services at JLL, the global professional services and investment management firm offering specialized services to clients that own, occupy and invest in commercial real estate. With 20 years of energy and sustainability management expertise, Leo helps clients incorporate energy and sustainability concepts into operations and project management, reducing energy consumption, utility expense and carbon emissions. He specializes in creating and analyzing project structures for energy efficiency, central utility plant and energy services outsourcing programs, managing the multi-disciplinary development of energy infrastructure assets and retrofit projects. He also manages business development, commercial structuring, financial and technical analyses and implementation of energy-related projects. Previously, Leo was an executive at several leading California energy companies. He holds an MBA from San Diego State University and a BS in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.

Energy Efficiency Saves Billions

May 5, 2014 By John Finnigan

John Finnigan, Senior Regulatory Attorney, EDF

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Energy efficiency is a proven value. In Ohio alone, energy efficiency programs have saved people a total of $1 billion since 2009. What’s more is that these savings far outweigh the costs to implement Ohio’s energy efficiency programs, which amount to less than half of the total savings. Yet Ohio utilities and large industrial companies want to kill it. Why? Because they lose when customers use energy efficiency programs.

One would think that the billions in customer energy savings would easily trump the utilities’ and large industrial companies’ efforts to kill energy efficiency. But we live in challenging times. The utilities and large industrial companies are spending big money on this issue, and they might win the day unless we can convince our elected leaders to save energy efficiency.

Since 2009, Ohio law has required utilities to meet energy efficiency goals by offering  energy savings programs, which have proven to be wildly successful.  A recent study from Ohio Advanced Energy reviewed all Ohio utility energy efficiency programs since they began in 2009. The study found that these programs have saved customers $1 billion to date and will save a total of $4.1 billion through existing programs. Much greater savings will be available if utilities continue to introduce new programs.

These energy savings are happening not just in Ohio, but all over the country. A March 2014 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reviewed 1,700 energy efficiency programs in 31 states over a three-year period (including 170 Ohio programs). The researchers found that the average cost for procuring the energy efficiency savings was 2.1¢ per kilowatt-hour – five times less expensive than the 10.13¢ per kilowatt-hour customers pay for electricity. The programs cost $5.2 billion and will save 353,585 gigawatt hours of electricity, valued at over $25 billion, as illustrated below:

Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, The Program Administrator Cost of Saved Energy for Utility Customer-Funded Energy Efficiency Programs, page 20 (March 2014).

Utilities and large industrial companies have a strong motive to kill these programs, just as horse and buggy makers might have wished to kill the automobile. Utilities make money by selling more electricity, so when customers use energy efficiency programs to lower their electricity bills, the utilities lose revenue. Large industrial companies can afford to hire full-time engineers to design custom-tailored energy savings programs, so they don’t want to pay for the utility programs. These large companies have a powerful competitive advantage over smaller companies, who can’t afford this and rely on utility energy efficiency programs to save money.

The utilities and large industrial companies are throwing big money at this issue and working in several states across the US with well-funded corporate interests, such as the Koch Brothers, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council to overthrow these energy efficiency programs. They won in one state, when Indiana repealed its energy efficiency goals in March, and a similar bill, SB 310, which would freeze any additional energy efficiency mandates after 2014, is being debated in the Ohio state legislature right now.

The irony is that when Ohio utilities file their annual energy efficiency reports with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, they wax eloquently about energy efficiency’s benefits. AEP said its 2015-2019 energy efficiency plan will save customers “approximately $1.5 billion and create over 4,000 new jobs.” DP&L said that “[f]rom 2009 through 2012, DP&L’s residential and business programs helped customers save 659,605 megawatt hours of energy, or enough energy to power 54,967 homes for a year.” And FirstEnergy reported that its customers save two dollars for every one dollar the company spends on energy efficiency programs.

If the utilities were acting in their customers’ interests, they would issue public statements of support for the current energy efficiency goals. But the utilities are simply acting in their own self-interest and so they are working behind the scenes to kill energy efficiency.

Hopefully common sense will prevail in Ohio and energy efficiency will remain intact.

This article was republished with permission from EDF.

John Finnigan is a senior regulatory attorney with the EDF.

This 19-Year-Old Is Ready to Build an Ocean Cleanup Machine

By Caroline Winter, Bloomberg Business Week, 6/10/2014

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The world’s oceans contain millions of tons of trash, much of it collected into vast gyres of plastic and debris. Even if humanity stopped putting garbage in the water today, researchers project that these garbage patches would continue growing for hundreds of years. One such trash vortex, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, already spans hundreds of miles.

How do we get all that garbage out? Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old Dutch aeronautical engineering student, is raising $2 million to build an ocean cleanup contraption he designed to passively funnel garbage to specific collection points. Working with a team of over 100 people, he recently released a 528-page feasibility study (PDF) detailing how the complex technology works and grappling with questions of legality, costs, environmental impact, and potential pitfalls.

Slat’s plan, expressed simply, is to deploy several V-shaped floating barriers that would be moored to the seabed and placed in the path of major ocean currents. The 30-mile-long arms of the V are designed to catch buoyant garbage and trash floating three meters below the surface while allowing sea life to pass underneath. “Because no nets would be used, a passive cleanup may well be harmless to the marine ecosystem,” he writes in the feasibly study.

Over time, the trash would flow deeper into the V , from which it would then be extracted. The report estimates that the plastic collection rate would total 65 cubic meters per day and that the trash would have to be picked up by ship every 45 days. Slat hopes to offset costs by recycling the collected plastic for other uses.

One limitation is that the Ocean Cleanup machine won’t pick up tiny plastic particles, which tend to distribute over greater depths and pollute the entire ocean, including the Arctic. “Particles smaller than 0.1 mm are not caught whereas all particles larger than 1 mm are estimated to be caught,” wrote the cleanup team via e-mail. Still, many of these tiny particles have been and will be produced by the breakdown of larger bits of plastic. “In that view,” wrote the team, “we will greatly reduce the number of microscopic particles over time.”

The money to build a pilot version is already trickling in. Barely seven days into a 100-day crowd funding campaign, the Ocean Cleanup already has more than 3,300 backers who have contributed nearly $200,000.

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come


MARCH 31, 2014

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YOKOHAMA, Japan — Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty.

Panel on U.N. Climate Change Report

Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Christopher Field, the co-chairman of the group that wrote the report, discuss its warning.

In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference here on Monday presenting the report.

The report was among the most sobering yet issued by the scientific panel. The group, along with Al Gore, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to clarify the risks of climate change. The report is the final work of several hundred authors; details from the drafts of this and of the last report in the series, which will be released in Berlin in April, leaked in the last few months.

The report attempts to project how the effects will alter human society in coming decades. While the impact of global warming may actually be moderated by factors like economic or technological change, the report found, the disruptions are nonetheless likely to be profound. That will be especially so if emissions are allowed to continue at a runaway pace, the report said.

It cited the risk of death or injury on a wide scale, probable damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations.

“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared.

The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”

The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just a problem of the distant future, but is happening now.

Studies have found that parts of the Mediterranean region are drying out because of climate change, and some experts believe that droughts there have contributed to political destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa.


In much of the American West, mountain snowpack is declining, threatening water supplies for the region, the scientists said in the report. And the snow that does fall is melting earlier in the year, which means there is less melt water to ease the parched summers. In Alaska, the collapse of sea ice is allowing huge waves to strike the coast, causing erosion so rapid that it is already forcing entire communities to relocate.

“Now we are at the point where there is so much information, so much evidence, that we can no longer plead ignorance,” Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said at the news conference.

The report was quickly welcomed in Washington, where President Obama is trying to use his executive power under the Clean Air Act and other laws to impose significant new limits on the country’s greenhouse emissions. He faces determined opposition in Congress.

“There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

Amid all the risks the experts cited, they did find a bright spot. Since the intergovernmental panel issued its last big report in 2007, it has found growing evidence that governments and businesses around the world are making extensive plans to adapt to climate disruptions, even as some conservatives in the United States and a small number of scientists continue to deny that a problem exists.

“I think that dealing effectively with climate change is just going to be something that great nations do,” said Christopher B. Field, co-chairman of the working group that wrote the report and an earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. Talk of adaptation to global warming was once avoided in some quarters, on the ground that it would distract from the need to cut emissions. But the past few years have seen a shift in thinking, including research from scientists and economists who argue that both strategies must be pursued at once.

A striking example of the change occurred recently in the state of New York, where the Public Service Commission ordered Consolidated Edison, the electric utility serving New York City and some suburbs, to spend about $1 billion upgrading its system to prevent future damage from flooding and other weather disruptions.

The plan is a reaction to the blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy. Con Ed will raise flood walls, bury some vital equipment and conduct a study of whether emerging climate risks require even more changes. Other utilities in the state face similar requirements, and utility regulators across the United States are discussing whether to follow New York’s lead.

But with a global failure to limit greenhouse gases, the risk is rising that climatic changes in coming decades could overwhelm such efforts to adapt, the panel found. It cited a particular risk that in a hotter climate, farmers will not be able to keep up with the fast-rising demand for food.

“When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the new report. “When some people don’t have food, you get starvation. Yes, I’m worried.”

The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.

The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during an editing session of several days in Yokohama.

The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations were private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

Two decades of international efforts to limit emissions have yielded little result, and it is not clear whether the negotiations in New York this fall will be any different. While greenhouse gas emissions have begun to decline slightly in many wealthy countries, including the United States, those gains are being swamped by emissions from rising economic powers like China and India.

For the world’s poorer countries, food is not the only issue, but it may be the most acute. Several times in recent years, climatic disruptions in major growing regions have helped to throw supply and demand out of balance, contributing to price increases that have reversed decades of gains against global hunger, at least temporarily.

The warning about the food supply in the new report is much sharper in tone than any previously issued by the panel. That reflects a growing body of research about how sensitive many crops are to heat waves and water stress. The report said that climate change was already dragging down the output of wheat and corn at a global scale, compared with what it would otherwise be.

David B. Lobell, a Stanford University scientist who has published much of the recent research and helped write the new report, said in an interview that as yet, too little work was being done to understand the risk, much less counter it with improved crop varieties and farming techniques. “It is a surprisingly small amount of effort for the stakes,” he said.

Timothy Gore, an analyst for Oxfam, the antipoverty group that sent observers to the proceedings in Yokohama, praised the new report as painting a clear picture of the consequences of a warming planet. But he warned that without greater efforts to limit global warming and to adapt to the changes that have become inevitable, “the goal we have in Oxfam of ensuring that every person has enough food to eat could be lost forever.”

Correction: March 31, 2014

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified a station with flooded tracks. It is the South Ferry subway terminal, not Grand Central Terminal.

Extend Service Life for a Sustainable Roof


The greenest roof is improving the one you already have

By Jennie Morton | View the original article here

An existing roof doesn’t need solar panels, vegetation, or a certain membrane color to be environmentally friendly. A truly sustainable roof has the best possible performance for the longest period of time.

“Thermal properties and service life are key attributes for a sustainable roof system,” says Jim Kirby, vice president of sustainability for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing. “These directly affect energy efficiency and longevity. Fewer replacements are better from a material, energy, and waste perspective.”

Poor drainage, deferred maintenance, and infiltration issues can cut your roof’s service life in half and significantly increase your energy bill. Stay on top of repairs and strategic improvements to extend the life of your roof, avoid unnecessary replacements, alleviate grid demand, and conserve resources.

Perform Preventive Maintenance

The best way to extend your roof life is to keep its condition in good shape. “With routine inspections and repairs, you can easily get 20 years or more out of your roof,” says Ted Michelsen, president of Michelsen Technologies, a roof consulting firm. “But if you defer maintenance, your roof’s life could drop to only 10 to 15 years.”

Let’s say your building is expected to last 80 years. With good maintenance, you will have three roof replacements. But if the service life is shortened to 15 years, you will end up reroofing five times during the same period – a 40% increase in replacement costs over the building’s life simply because you’ve been lax about upkeep.

Roof construction can have serious environmental impacts as well. Excess replacements consume raw materials that could be conserved otherwise, thereby increasing your carbon footprint. Each premature demolition also adds thousands of pounds of bulky, potentially hazardous waste to landfills. Reports vary by region, but construction and demolition materials can account for up to 36% of solid municipal waste, finds the EPA. And not all roofing materials can be salvaged through recycling programs.

Durable roofs keep their integrity through routine repairs. These yearly maintenance costs pale in comparison to the price of a replacement – a matter of investing pennies vs. wasting dollars.

“Annual maintenance costs are about 1% of the cost of new roof,” Michelsen estimates. “You could be spending 10 cents per square foot on yearly upkeep rather than $10 per square foot for a replacement.”

Regardless of system type, any maintainable roof should have proper drainage, good access, control of rooftop traffic, and a design that enables repairs, says Michelsen. It should also have supporting documentation whenever possible, such as original design specs, a complete leak and repair history, and the warranty.

A proactive maintenance plan includes ongoing inspections to evaluate the roof’s condition. The purpose of these assessments is to uncover failure conditions and repair them before they become a reality, Michelsen explains. You should also evaluate existing repairs to ensure the fix hasn’t lost its viability. A good rule of thumb is to inspect twice a year, such as before and after winter, as well as after major storms.

You should also look for damage whenever there’s been work done on rooftop equipment, he adds. Contractors may inadvertently cause damage by leaving debris, such as leftover screws and nails. Poor detailing from installation or repair work may also compromise the assembly, and even heavy foot traffic can result in wear and tear.

Other issues to look for include holes, flashing defects, animal activity, and organic debris such as leaves and sticks. If your roof is on a newly acquired property, make sure to evaluate existing repair work. If your maintenance history is incomplete, be on the lookout for temporary patches or evidence of former repairs.

You may also encounter damages that are specific to your roof type:

BUR – Blisters are common in these systems and can’t be ignored as they only worsen over time. Displaced or damaged surfacing may also occur.

Modified Bitumen – These roofs also suffer from blisters. This issue is often seen in pre-2004 roofs, says Michelsen, because manufacturers at the time weren’t recommending high enough temperatures to achieve a good bond. If they lack proper surfacing or the surface layer has been worn away, the membranes could become exposed.

Single Plies – Look for open seams, displaced ballast materials, splits, or cuts. You may also find surface damage caused by UV degradation. Raised fasteners are another issue. Causing the membrane to be worn away by foot traffic or working their way loose, they can penetrate through the membrane.

Metal Roofs – These systems are subject to seams popping open as well as backing out fasteners. For those with a galvanized finish, corrosion can be a big problem, cautions Michelsen. The condensate from copper coils rapidly strips off the finish, leaving the steel exposed and prone to rusting quickly. Adequate piping is needed to carry away air conditioner condensate.

Ballasted Roofs – Ballast holds the roof down and protects against wind movement, but it’s not uncommon for it to shift over time. It’s important to have ballast in its proper place so the roof maintains even loads, Michelsen notes. Otherwise the system is at risk of collapsing if the ballast drifts to one spot and the load weight exceeds structural capacity. PageBreak

As repairs are called to your attention, it’s critical to address them in an appropriate time frame. Sitting idly on an active repair or corrective measure only leads to deferred maintenance and more costly problems down the road. Any leaks or defects allowing water into the building should be addressed immediately, stresses Michelsen. If you find a vulnerability that has the potential to fail or cause a leak before the next inspection, take care of it within six months to a year. Flaws that aren’t leaking but are too difficult or expensive to fix, such as ponding water or slope issues, should be reserved for when you reroof.

Repairs should also take precedence over patches, which are only temporary measures that don’t address the root issue. Duct tape, for example, can help stop an immediate leak in a membrane tear, but it certainly won’t keep water at bay permanently.

“Repairs, however, remove wet and damaged materials and ultimately restore the roof to its original condition,” Michelsen says. “Depending on the type of defect, you may make a corrective repair to prevent a vulnerability from reoccurring or improve a defect to prevent a future failure.”

These proactive approaches can include adding water barriers under expansion joints or two-part counterflashing. If drainage is an issue, modifications may be necessary for piping. Equipment supports should also provide enough space for repairs and inspections, notes Michel-sen. A proper flashing job, for example, should have penetrations that are spaced apart by at least 12 inches.

Also be conscious of your warranty, which may limit who is allowed to perform repair work. It can also restrict what revisions are permitted on the system in the first place. Even if your proposed repair qualifies under the warranty, make sure you are able to provide proof of maintenance to maintain your coverage.

Conduct Leak Testing

The source of leaks is one of the most difficult issues to track down. Moisture intrusion can occur on an ongoing basis without any visual clues until a major failure occurs, such as the classic case of water pouring on an employee’s desk.

The pathway of the leak can also be challenging to establish without tearing into the roof itself. And as moisture seeps into the building, it comes in contact with wood, steel, and other materials, resulting in damage that can compromise structural integrity.

“Ponding water can also pose a real problem, as sunlight hitting the standing water can degrade the membrane,” explains Kirby. “Getting moisture off your roof is fundamental to the longevity of your membrane.”

In addition to regular roof assessments, leak inspections are a valuable way to address this vulnerability. These inspections should be done whenever water infiltration has occurred or soft areas in the membrane appear, says Matt McElvogue, P.E., associate principal for Building Exterior Solutions (BES), a building envelope consulting firm. The goal is to determine the source of the water infiltration, how much propagation has occurred through the roof system, and whether penetration has reached into the deck or compromised any other structural components.

“Even if there isn’t any evidence of water issues, a leak inspection should be conducted every five years as a precaution and after any storm damage that may have caused or worsened leaks,” recommends Russ Raymond, associate principal and registered roof consultant with BES.

Roof replacements are also the perfect time to schedule a leak inspection, he adds, particularly as some testing can be done more easily when parts of the assembly are exposed. It’s an opportunity to uncover hidden moisture issues or take the time to address existing ones. Otherwise you could be covering up problems that may shorten the life of your new roof down the road.

Due to the technical nature of leak testing (see sidebar at left), these inspections are typically performed by a contractor, consultant, or even your roof system manufacturer. To support the process, be prepared to provide supporting documentation of the roof’s past and current condition. Records should include repair history, inspection data, tenant complaints, and overall property condition assessments. Particularly with warranties, this evidence will help you prove that the roof has been maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

“Any leak reports that facility managers collect are also valuable,” McElvogue notes. “We can often correlate those to weather reports and see what kind of conditions occurred when a leak started. Some leaks only occur in certain instances, such as when wind is blowing one direction or if there’s ponding or wind-blown rain.”

If the leak inspection hasn’t been conducted properly or thoroughly, however, you could be pushed into a premature reroof. Unless you have a catastrophic failure, there are many repair options for leaks that will restore the roof’s integrity.

“Our philosophy is to preserve as much of the existing roof as possible. Don’t be pressured into an unnecessary roof replacement when there’s plenty of undamaged assembly that could be reused,” cautions Raymond. “Retrofits such as coatings, liquid flashings, overlays, and one-way venting allow wet or damaged materials to be resurfaced instead of replaced.”

Such was the case for a recent roof renovation of a hospital building in Texas, which had a modified bitumen roof over a concrete deck. During the renovation, it was discovered that moisture coming through the roof deck was causing blistering and delamination. Other parties involved with the project recommended full replacement, but Raymond’s firm found that the roof could be salvaged with a venting system.PageBreak

This was determined by using an IR survey to detect moisture content. The test cuts also revealed delamination between plies, as well as between plies and the cover board. Only isolated moisture was detected during plastic sheet tests.

The venting system was mechanically attached to the structural deck through installed base and cap sheet. New plies were mopped and a cap sheet with limited vents was installed. The solution preserved the existing assembly while allowing the blisters to be repaired and trapped moisture to release over time. The owner was also able to avoid replacement costs, as well as the associated demolition waste.

Insulate for Energy Savings

While maintenance preserves the existing condition of your roof, you may need to take additional measures to improve its thermal performance if it’s subpar to begin with.

According to Kirby, the ideal installation includes a double layer of insulation with adhesive or fastener attachment of the bottom-most layer. If your roof wasn’t designed with this in mind, there are a variety of retrofit opportunities to increase your roof’s R-value.

“Insulation is the main driver of efficiency in roofs and ultimately trumps roof color,” Kirby says. “Once you have the right amount of insulation, roof color doesn’t have much impact on internal energy use.”

He uses the analogy of winter coat colors. A thin black jacket may absorb a little solar heat but still lacks adequate insulation to keep you warm. Conversely, a well-insulated white coat won’t absorb much sunlight but will nonetheless keep the cold at bay. If both jackets are properly insulated, however, the color will have little bearing on comfort.

When evaluating the thermal performance of your roof, look for areas that enable heat transfer through convection or conduction. Metal fasteners and gaps larger than a quarter inch in board joints are common culprits that reduce insulation value. To minimize thermal bridging, use non-metal fastener plates.

“You can also install a cover board over fasteners. It doesn’t provide much insulation, but it will separate the metal fastener from the underside of the membrane,” Kirby explains. “Spray foam insulation is another option that eliminates fasteners altogether.”

Air infiltration can also wreak havoc on your energy consumption because it’s laden with moisture that carries heat energy.

“Air leakage is as important to thermal resistance as insulation,” notes Kirby. “Air infiltration and exfiltration make up 25 to 40% of total heat loss in a building in a cold climate and 10 to 15% of total heat gain in a hot climate.”

Adding air barriers along penetrations and transition locations can help both thermal and moisture issues. It’s also important to adjust your ventilation system after sealing measures to avoid sick building syndrome or any other ventilation issues. You can even use a blower door test to determine if the building meets code requirements for tightness.

“The insulation layer should be designed as a system and account for skylights, drain sumps, roof hatches, and HVAC units,” Kirby stresses. “The mechanical system in the building should be sized appropriately based on the roof’s actual R-value. This is critical because mechanical systems are designed based on the expected thermal resistance of the envelope. If it’s less than anticipated, then equipment could be undersized and subsequently stressed.”

Keep in mind that commercial buildings consume approximately 20% of all energy in the U.S. As heating and cooling remain the top drivers of energy efficiency, the roof can make or break your thermal performance.

“There are roughly 2.5 billion square feet of roof replacements each year,” says Kirby. “By increasing the energy efficiency of roofs to current code-mandated levels, we could potentially save over 700 trillion BTUs in energy.”

Jennie Morton is senior editor of BUILDINGS.




Earn Points for Your Roof

Are you considering green certification? Beyond obvious roof credits like heat island effect, there are many other creative ways to secure points with your roof system while improving energy efficiency and reducing environmental impacts.

Living Building Challenge
Under this certification, the roof is considered a holistic opportunity to improve building performance. These credits fall under renewable energy (rooftop solar panels or wind turbines), net-zero energy (daylighting, thermal performance), and water conservation (rainwater harvesting). It also rewards efforts to address chemicals of concern, material sourcing, embodied carbon footprint, waste management (construction and demolition waste), and beauty (such as a vegetated roof).

This program offers roofing-related credits for heat island effect, energy performance, renewable energy, construction waste management, and materials reuse. With the right system, you may also be able to make the case for recycled content, stormwater management, VOC limits, daylighting, and thermal comfort.

Green Globes
This rating system offers criteria for energy performance, renewable energy integration, watershed features, low-impact materials and systems, heat island effect, daylighting, minimal consumption of resources (reuse of existing buildings), material durability and disassembly, waste management, thermal comfort, and air and vapor barriers.

This certification is focused solely on roofs. It places a heavy emphasis on energy management, such as high R-values, thermal practices, durable insulation, hygrothermal properties, roof surface thermal contribution, and air barriers. It also looks at energy systems such as solar and wind turbines, as well as daylighting opportunities. Another key component is durability and maintenance, including drainage and moisture management, traffic protection, wind uplift resistance, and installation quality.

Leak Testing Methods

On your own, leaks can be difficult to fully explore. You may see ponding water or have a drip on an employee’s desk, but tracking down the path of moisture intrusion through the assembly requires expert help. A contractor or consultant may use the following methods to test for leaks.

Destructive – Takes apart portions of the roof system to see how it is constructed and what its current condition is. Like removing drywall to find a leak or mold, it is sometimes necessary to physically confirm moisture intrusion through sight and touch. This is typically reserved for small areas of the roof or cores and is one of the more expensive analysis options.

Non-Destructive – Looks at water signatures using indirect methods, including thermal imaging, radio frequency/dielectric, electrical potential/resistance, and nuclear/radioactive. These options provide a visible or audible indication of suspect areas and some can cover large sections of the roof. While the nature of this testing generally avoids damage to the roof, it also limits how far into the assembly problems can be detected.

Direct (Water Testing) – Replicates leak conditions by spraying water on suspect areas, which provides direct feedback about leak sources. Watching water interact with drains, flashing, and expansion joints can provide valuable clues. Infiltrating water, however, can cause disruptions and further damage.

Matt McElvogue and Russ Raymond, Roof Moisture Surveys and Leak Investigation

A Multi-Pronged Approach to Building Efficiency

December 11, 2013

Part 1: Five Years of Advancing Deep Retrofits

View the original post here


Since 2009, RMI’s work to advance deep energy retrofits has focused on a multi-pronged approach to scaling: 1) collaborate with project teammates, owners, and other fast movers who learn from and copypioneering deep retrofit projects, 2) engage entire portfolios and campuses of buildings to impact more than scattered singular building retrofits, and 3) develop new, better, and more comprehensive ways of assessing risk and value associated with deep green buildings, to drive greater investment by financial decision makers.

In today’s part one of a three-part series, we take a look at RMI’s work advancing deep retrofits. (Read parts two and three.)

Five years ago RMI embarked on a body of work to advance what we call deep retrofits, energy-efficiency retrofits that save 50 percent or more of a building’s energy consumption. Half a decade later, it’s time to reflect on how far we’ve come with our Retrofit Initiative … and how far we still have to go.

First, though why a focus on such profound energy efficiency? For starters, we care a lot about eliminating wasted energy, and that’s what most building energy consumption is: waste. But this is about more than simple waste. Done well and timed right, eliminating that waste makes good money. Further—and maybe most importantly—a highly efficient building (whether new or upgraded) is more comfortable, healthier, enables higher productivity, and generally entices people to stay in it longer. Finally, it’s increasingly important for employers and institutions alike to be able to say, and show, that they occupy high-quality, green buildings that perform both financially and environmentally. Real estate markets, especially in certain regions, are waking up to a new and powerful competitive dimension that RMI is helping create!

Our Buildings Practice is working on all these dimensions, mostly in commercial buildings. Five important examples form the core of our retrofit work on individual buildings; work aimed at “Making Old Buildings Better Than New (Ones).” They are:

  • Empire State Building (New York City)
  • City-County Building (Indianapolis)
  • IMF Headquarters 1 (Washington, D.C.)
  • Byron Rogers Federal Building (Denver)
  • The Clark Museum (Williamston, MA)

And while our initial engagement on such projects was funded by the projects themselves, everything that followed, including educating the buildings industry and scaling solutions, comes form donor-funded dollars. Buildings work is often slow to show results. The work only just starts with the conceptual and system-level interventions that RMI has pioneered. Several years often pass before the physical work is done and the “verdict” is in with real measurements showing results. Fortunately for RMI, some of our focus has also been on helping advance the role of sophisticated modeling tools that give a very good sense of what to expect. For some of our fab five examples, the full story is still not in, but the answer is pretty clear. And the change we expect in the world is beginning to happen because of these results.

The Empire State Building

As one of the most famous buildings in the world, the Empire State Building (ESB) is well known, and so is its deep retrofit, one of the first ever in the world on a commercial building. While not yet completed in all tenant space, it is already clear that the retrofit will save more energy than the 41 percent modeled—and command far higher rents.

But the project was notable as well for what followed—RMI’s subsequent work crafting a replicable methodology for deep energy retrofits, sharing lessons learned, building free tools for service providers, and meeting with government officials about the economic benefit of promoting deep energy retrofits. This follow up profoundly moved the market. Over the past two years, ESB design team members alone have begun the process of replicating their own versions of the deep retrofit model in close to 100 large buildings across the country, many in New York. Inside sources say the Empire State Building energy retrofit was a key factor in launching New York City’s groundbreaking Local Law 84: Commercial Building Energy Benchmarking. New York’s benchmarking efforts have spurred eight more municipal and state building energy disclosure policies in major U.S. cities, with more emerging. And RMI helped shape other city and New York state programs aimed at energy savings in buildings.

The City-County Building

Our next project after ESB was a famous—but infamously inefficient—government office building in Indianapolis. Many had tried to fix it. But both money and ideas were limited, and it was still a potential gold mine of energy waste when RMI was invited to help. That was in 2009. One year later, Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard announced energy-efficiency upgrades for the building expected to reduce energy consumption 35 percent annually. Design-build firm Performance Services executed the retrofit under a performance contract that guaranteed $750,000 in energy savings per year for 15 years, completing the $8 million project at no cost to taxpayers. By 2012, the City-County Building had reduced its annual energy use by 46 percent and earned prestigious ENERGY STAR certification.


The Byron Rogers Federal Building

The Byron Rogers Federal Office Building followed on the heels of our City-County Building work. RMI teamed up with a major contractor, Mortenson, in 2010 and presented an aggressive plan to aim for net zero. This mid-century modern office building renovation—largely completed, but not yet fully re-occupied—is a powerful case study for dramatically improving performance of existing buildings through integrative design, regardless of barriers such as misaligned government mandates, historic designation, multiple tenants, hazardous materials, and poor orientation. This project work also formed the foundation of donor-funded focused studies and educational material on managing plug loads.

Building upon the Byron Rogers project, RMI worked further with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to better understand tenant issues. Working on another important accelerator—the service industry that executes the work—RMI teamed again with the GSA to prove that energy service companies (ESCOs) can be primary drivers and implementers for achieving deeper energy savings in buildings. Funded partly by donors, this effort intervened with sixteen of the largest ESCOs in the U.S. with a goal to introduce them to strategies for deep energy retrofits and to identify and overcome barriers to achieving the deepest efficiencies. Over the course of our partnership with GSA, average projected energy savings from the deep program’s ESCO engagements at GSA has already more than doubled to 39 percent from 18 percent. This marks a significant positive change in the “MUSH” institutional and government market that seldom achieved more than shallow savings and has in recent years been using ESCOs largely for lighting and equipment finance only—a case of leaving barrels of money on the table!

IMF Headquarters 1

At the same time as Byron Rogers, RMI had an opportunity to reshape how things are done in the nation’s capital, a sea of opportunity in the form of large, inefficient office buildings crowding the streets around the government buildings on the Mall. The client was the International Monetary Fund. Once again, RMI played a different role, not as a bidder for a project, but as part of a team to shape the brief for those bidders—to tell them what to do, in other words. After extensive option and life-cycle cost analysis the pre-bid team came up with a doozie: a winning project would need to cut energy use in half and meet other explicit financial and performance targets. Here is how the proud client talks about it: “The improvement under way will provide a more modern and energy-efficient setting. Energy bills will fall by nearly half—saving between $2 million and $2.5 million per year…”

The project is under construction now, to be completed in 2016. Importantly, the execution team, led by architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and engineer WSP Flack and Kurtz, will drive the insights and processes into the Washington real estate world and beyond.

The Clark Museum

One final test project was a real challenge: the Clark Museum on the campus of Williams College in Massachusetts. The opposite of the IMF project, where RMI helped shape what bidders would be asked to do, at Clark RMI was brought in after a design for a significant addition and retrofit was already almost complete. Way too late, we thought. But we wanted to test what was possible in this “worst case” situation where the key was a motivated owner (supported by a significant donor).

The problem in a building such as a museum—as in a laboratory as well—is achieving energy savings while maintaining a strictly controlled internal environment that protects art and artifacts in a curatorial environment. RMI identified and recommended opportunities to double HVAC energy savings compared to the design team’s energy model. Needless to say, the Clark (and RMI) donor backing the work was very happy … and recently sent a note saying so. The results are in, and the energy savings are rolling in as expected.

Scaling Our Impact

These exemplary projects are commendable, but the real goal is to spread their lessons and ideas far and wide. That’s why we created the RetroFit Depot as an extensive and compelling Web-based resource for building owners and professionals considering energy retrofits, including our acclaimed Deep RetroFit Guidelines. One consulting firm in Chicago says they used our guidelines as a foundation for twenty deep retrofit roadmaps within the Retrofit Chicago – Commercial Buildings Initiative. Our Buildings Practice staff members have presented over 100 educational sessions on how to plan for and conduct deep energy retrofits to a total combined audience in the tens of thousands in the past four years.

RMI also worked closely with the American Institute of Architects to develop Deep Energy Retrofits: An Emerging Opportunity, a guide for architects. The guide was launched during AIA’s annual conference in June in conjunction with a well-attended all-day seminar on deep energy retrofits. This industry intervention was donor-funded. RMI also teamed with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to help produce a set of retrofit guides for different buildings categories (office, retail, healthcare, etc). Finally, RMI has shaped an educational agenda, one where we play specific roles to help all others understand the learning available, and the major holes still left to fill. Based on this agenda we have conducted half a dozen deep training sessions, focusing largely on a specific leverage point: engineering firms and ESCOs.

We’ve also testified to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight on the impact and importance of fossil-fuel reduction targets and green building rating systems, and written almost 100 blog posts and web articles on energy-efficient buildings and campuses. Deep retrofits are one area of innovation and promise in driving greater building efficiency in order to enable a fantastic, sometimes better-than-new building, and even more importantly, foster a vibrant clean energy economy. We cannot lay the path nor spread that message without donor funding. If you believe that efficiency and clean energy must be priorities globally, and that organizations like Rocky Mountain Institute are critical catalysts, please consider supporting our work or joining our team.


Part 2: RMI Scales Deep Retrofits Through Portfolios and Campuses


Since 2009, RMI’s work to advance deep energy retrofits has focused on a multi-pronged approach to scaling: 1) collaborate with project teammates, owners, and other fast movers who learn from and copy pioneering deep retrofit projects, 2) engage entire portfolios and campuses of buildings to impact more than scattered singular building retrofits, and 3) develop new, better, and more comprehensive ways of assessing risk and value associated with deep green buildings, to drive greater investment by financial decision makers.

Engaging portfolios and campuses and better assessing risk and value are both new and challenging topics, and our donor-funded work to advance them is by no means complete. But we believe we must aggressively accelerate the nature and quality of retrofits of all sorts in most commercial buildings—and it is imperative that we do so in order to rapidly drive down energy use and CO2 impact.

In today’s part two of a three-part series, we take a look at RMI’s work on portfolios and campuses. (Read parts one and three.)
Portfolios and Campuses

Deep energy retrofits are not for every building, and cannot be efficiently or economically done at random. Our portfolio and campus work—a significant thrust for four years now—has been revealing insights into this area and helping major players shape plans, standards, and processes. We have continually moved the bar higher on expectations for energy savings in a well-run portfolio or campus of buildings, especially when taken as a whole. Universities and corporate campuses are now leading the way toward zero carbon emissions—in fact, they can be re-envisioned as renewably powered microgrids.

Car Dealerships

Shortly after we wrapped up our work on the iconic Empire State Building, we began another influential—if less sexy—project focused on car dealerships. These are small buildings, not very valuable or appealing, metaphorical islands in seas of parked cars under powerful lights.

Working with Ford Motor Company and a big energy services company (ESCO), we selected three dealership facilities and executed our standard deep energy retrofit diagnosis and whole-system design effort. The resulting build-outs saved 60–80 percent of the energy with good economics. Despite three different geographies, RMI identified a common package of energy-saving measures focused on indoor and outdoor lighting, mechanical controls, commissioning, weatherization (plugging leaks), and when-it-fails HVAC equipment upgrades. This package saved the vast majority of the energy and could be scaled up—a lot.

There are currently more than 17,500 new-car dealers with total energy use exceeding 50 trillion BTU/year. Only a handful have been upgraded for energy efficiency. Many ESCOs and several financing players have discussed this opportunity with us, and some players have recently begun their own rollout of dealership retrofits complete with financing options, all taking advantage of relatively short paybacks available because of the heavy role lighting plays in the car sales business. The ball is rolling, though it could use a big push.

Malls, Retailers, and Supermarkets

Car dealerships represented a huge portfolio of reasonably similar buildings, but they comprised a portfolio with many (many!) owners. What about other large portfolios, but with fewer owners?

We realized that retailers and the mall owners that housed them presented another opportunity. The largest players in this arena had thousand of buildings, huge energy demands, and well-structured processes for setting standards and driving change. And, we had already worked with two big names: SuperValu, a northeastern supermarket chain, and WalMart, back when it was first beginning to consider what a more energy-efficient store might look like.

We quickly found and executed two more projects with large supermarket chains, Kroger and HEB, where tiny margins make energy savings a very, very big deal. In both cases we helped develop designs—now built and running well—for new test bed stores. These not only formed the new standard for all new stores, but, on a component basis, serve to pre-qualify equipment for retrofits or upgrades. Energy upgrades are one of the most profitable investments available to both store chains, and an RMI speech on the topic at the Food Marketing Institute in 2011 confirmed that these examples and their value are now well understood by the supermarket industry. Finding capital for projects remains a challenge, however.

A Focus on the Owner-Occupant

We then reached out to other retailers and major office building owner-occupants to look into more diverse (and less energy intensive) buildings portfolios. After discussions with many, The Exchange, which runs department stores, quick-service restaurants, and convenience stores on military bases, answered our call. So did Kaiser Permanente, one of the country’s largest and best-regarded health care organizations with a fleet of hundreds of office buildings and dozens of hospitals. As did telecommunications giant AT&T, which boasts a huge portfolio of more than 60,000 structures, courtesy of its Bell System heritage.

In all cases, our scope was research, planning, and limited testing focused on a central question: How to save the most energy from a large set of buildings, over time, with the most compelling economics?

RMI found that AT&T had huge opportunities requiring multiple strategies integrated carefully with workplace upgrades and equipment replacement cycles. Given corporate capital allocation requirements, it was also vital to bundle many projects together to leverage external, efficiency-focused capital to speed impact. At Kaiser, it became clear that efficiency provided a fantastic path toward meeting the company’s goals of a 30 percent absolute reduction in its carbon and energy footprints, but new governance, funding, and other mechanisms had to be created to capture it. Work at The Exchange, still underway, has revealed deep and broad savings opportunities, but economics, even in very similar buildings, vary widely. Project returns are best when linked with equipment upgrade cycles; much poorer when they are not.

These findings are among many that are universally applicable in larger owner-occupied portfolios, including almost all the large retailers like Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, and WalMart, as well as mall owners like Simon Property Group, with which we have built relationships over the last few years. These insights, and other practical advice, are integrated into RMI’s tools sets and frameworks on RetroFit Depot. It is clear that the impact potential in these large portfolios is huge but challenging to plan and capture.

Working with the Nation’s Largest Landlord

In 2010, RMI partnered with the largest and most influential office owner of them all: the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Long a real estate leader—and well recognized as such within the industry—the GSA’s 80-million-square-foot portfolio must become net zero by 2030 and three percent more efficient every year, according to Executive Order 13514.

The GSA does not have the capital to do this, however. So RMI has teamed with GSA leadership to define how performance contracting can be optimized, in order to drive broader and deeper retrofits. Rallied by a Deep RetroFit Challenge Summit in Boulder, Colorado, in 2011, energy service companies (ESCOs) have already roughly doubled the amount of savings (39 percent vs. 18 percent) they expect to deliver to GSA, though projects are not yet completed. We expect continued GSA leadership in expanding the potential of ESCOs.

State governments are another institution with significant building portfolios. In a still-evolving effort, we have advised government staff that are shaping, or practitioners serving, no fewer than six states planning or executing energy saving programs in state buildings. For instance, we contributed ideas and experiences to planners designing Governor Cuomo’s New York State program to improve energy efficiency in state buildings 20 percent by 2020. Meanwhile, the contractor supporting Missouri’s highly effective two percent (additional) savings per year program approached RMI to consider how to learn from and expand the Missouri program to other states.

After the 2011 release of Reinventing Fire, our book highlighting the longer-term fossil-fuel-free potential of the U.S. economy, it became clear that “what to do Monday” was a key question, so we executed the first (we hope) of a number of smaller “Reinventing Fires.” This first one was with the state of Connecticut. Connecticut’s leading state building efficiency program became a key part of the resulting 2013 comprehensive energy strategy focusing on efficiency, natural gas, and renewables.

University Campuses

RMI has a long history of studying universities as many are perfect test beds, and properly led, are capable of moving quickly. They have high diversity of buildings, but half or more of the energy use is often centered in three key areas: labs and hospitals, dining facilities, and data centers. All three are areas where RMI has done design work for new facilities, thus providing insights relevant to retrofits.

Some of our early work with campuses set the scene. Our Accelerating Campus Climate Initiative study and book with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) dug into the challenges and opportunities of setting aggressive climate strategies, and gave us significant insight into the complexities of university campus decision making.

At Penn State, we learned of the vast gulf often present between facilities, research, and teaching in larger universities. At the University of British Columbia, we discovered potential solutions to bridging those gulfs, using very clear and active governance mechanisms. With Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina system, we have learned about the huge differences in campuses within large public university systems, and the benefits from shared learning like the annual UNC Energy Summits we co-host. At the University of Southern California we have learned that with patience, the sources of value and drivers of change can be found even for universities where sustainability and climate are not shaping important agendas. And our long-time links to our local university, the University of Colorado at Boulder, helped us realize that there was a timing opportunity. Many of the key academic buildings in this country were built during a boom time—part of the reaction to Sputnik—in the 1960s and 70s, and now constitute one of the “ripest” sets of buildings for retrofit anywhere.

These all have led to our current, capstone university project: a partnership with Arizona State University and Ameresco to develop an explicit roadmap to deliver a net-zero carbon university by 2025, one of the most aggressive climate commitments from any major university. Initial details of the program were released in October, but results will not be made public until summer 2014 when ASU, Ameresco, and RMI finalize the university’s climate neutrality implementation plan.

RMI has very high hopes and has made initial plans on how to rapidly spread insights from ASU and other leading universities because of a simple fact: universities are not only great test beds; they also shape and execute research. And the research opportunities in the areas of efficiency and renewables are tremendous, as we have found when serving as reviewers for government research grants and as judges for commercial real estate management company CBRE’s recent million-dollar research grant program. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, universities shape the knowledge, attitudes, and careers of their boards, alumni, leaders, students, and staff. They in turn shape the cities and regions in which they live and work. Universities are one of the most powerful leverage points we have in driving energy transformation, and we are launching programs to do just that.


Part 3: RMI Scales Deep Retrofits Through Deep Retrofit Value


Since 2009, RMI’s work to advance deep energy retrofits has focused on a multi-pronged approach to scaling: 1) collaborate with project teammates, owners, and other fast movers who learn from and copy pioneering deep retrofit projects, 2) engage entire portfolios and campuses of buildings to impact more than scattered singular building retrofits, and 3) develop new, better, and more comprehensive ways of assessing risk and value associated with deep green buildings, to drive greater investment by financial decision makers.

Engaging portfolios and campuses and better assessing risk and value are both new and challenging topics, and our donor-funded work to advance them is by no means complete. But we believe we must aggressively accelerate the nature and quality of retrofits of all sorts in most commercial buildings—and it is imperative that we do so in order to rapidly drive down energy use and CO2 impact.

In today’s part three of a three-part series, we take a look at RMI’s work on risk, value, and decision making. (Read parts one and two.)

Risk, Value, and Decision Making

In our earliest work on the Empire State Building and car dealerships, much of the key analysis and decision-making about whether and how to execute was financial. In those efforts, we used relatively simple life-cycle costing models, and since few good ones were available, we built better ones and made them available for all on our website.

But we also realized that life-cycle costing was the tip of the iceberg. If the goal was to dramatically improve the economics of retrofitting existing buildings and driving far more capital into the attractive opportunities that resulted, we had to do a lot more. Reviewing all the levers for improving retrofit economics, it became clear that RMI could add the most significant value in reducing the risk and cost of executing the complex design and build process of a retrofit. With that we set to work.


The Role of Building Energy Modeling

The first step was to develop and host the first-ever workshop for all the leaders of the U.S. building energy modeling (BEM) community. Called the BEM Innovation Summit, this two-day workshop sought ways to capitalize on the biggest opportunities for building energy modeling to support widespread solutions for achieving low-energy buildings. RMI has been involved in advancing how energy modelers can help improve confidence in efficiency investments. Most recently, RMI teamed with two research facilities to demonstrate methods for quantifying uncertainties, and thus risks, of modeled performance estimates.

RMI is also addressing owners’ needs to understand risk, which allows them to manage it. For instance, through DOE-funded work, RMI authored Building Energy Modeling for Owners and Managers, a guide to specifying and securing services. Equally important, these efforts have made RMI a go-to source for key thinking about risk reduction and access to less-expensive capital. In the end, our work on finance is about risk reduction and value increase to enable far more money to flow into making buildings better and more efficient; to “making older buildings even better than new ones.”

With 80 billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and an ongoing new-build market equaling the best one to two percent of that, this is essential and must happen on a massive scale. We are determined to overcome the nontechnical barriers with the same drive as the technical ones.

Overcoming Split Incentives

Encouraged by a donor who had his own real estate portfolio, RMI teamed up with the influential Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA) to develop a practical new report, Working Together for Sustainability: The RMI-BOMA Guide for Landlords and Tenants. The report detailed the conclusions of a workshop on how to overcome the classic split incentive issue, which inhibits owners from making efficiency improvements that a tenant benefits from but will not pay for, and vice versa. Owners, landlords, tenants, and brokers all contributed and detailed ways to work together to overcome this hurdle. The free report has been aggressively and broadly distributed by BOMA and other channels (BOMA is a 100-year-old organization with 114 active branches in the U.S. and Canada) and RMI continues to work with BOMA to get new messages and ideas out today.

Small But Important: Retrofits in Smaller Commercial Buildings

Encouraged by BOMA, and cohosted with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), RMI in 2011 also took a first look into the challenges of planning and financing retrofits in smaller commercial buildings, those under 50,000 square feet. This represents the vast majority (90 percent) of all commercial buildings and more than 50 percent of the space in the country. These buildings are considered too small to study extensively, with owners or managers too busy to navigate the complexity of any but the most urgent retrofit projects, much less the challenges of utility rebate and government tax credit paperwork.

The workshop found that 75 percent of these buildings are zombies whose owners cannot afford or have no interest in investing in their upkeep, even though rents, comfort, and longevity would all go up if they did. This is a massive opportunity for cities and local utilities to encourage, and local entrepreneurs to serve, ideally with turnkey solutions. The results have been leveraged in RMI’s community and electricity work and Reinventing Fire projects ever since.

Identifying Comprehensive Deep Retrofit Value

The small buildings Retrofit finance work also provided the final stimulus to look not just at risk and its links to financing, but more broadly at value. Good, deep green buildings such as those resulting from a deep retrofit are more comfortable, productive, marketable, attractive to recruits, supportive of corporate sustainability-linked brands, and many other great things. Many such values are hard to quantify. But since the real estate industry has very well established techniques for handling other hard to quantify but still vital factors—such as location, or marble lobbies, or fast elevators—why not get these value drivers into the decisions? Everyone would be better served if we did: owners, brokers, tenants, and the planet.

Scott Muldavin, who literally wrote the book on this topic, joined RMI in 2011 to help us and now serves as an advisor and collaborator. Our RetroFit Value Model, in a first version aimed at owner-occupants (half of the market), is due out in January 2014. Thoroughly reviewed and very well received by those in the field of sustainability and real estate finance, it lays out the logic, research, insight, and clear methodologies for capturing all the value components of a highly efficient building, to enable better and wiser deals to be made. RMI is of course using the framework in its own real estate planning. And we plan to share the work broadly with the help of friends like Urban Land Institute, BOMA, CoreNet Global, and many others. We also hope to find support to expand this approach to investors and brokers and specialty markets like universities and the GSA, where the tools will need some adjustment.

We are by no means done with the process of driving more capital, more portfolio strategy, and more aggressive campus goals and progress into the U.S. energy system. The stakes are huge and the timing is critical. Without strong savings in buildings, U.S. electricity and gas use will continue to grow, and new, long-lasting but regrettable investments in fossil-fueled electricity and natural gas distribution systems will be made. Those would be investments we do not need, because less money can bring permanent savings via efficiency, with no inflation or risk. Such fossil-fuel investments would likewise be ones the planet cannot afford, because the unnecessary electric plant WOULD of course be used, to the detriment of all who could have been richer, more comfortable, and more productive without it.

7 Factors Driving High Performance Buildings


View the original article here

In a world faced with an evolving array of challenges – economic, environmental, security, and social – the bar for building performance is continuing to rise. High performance buildings go beyond the basic requirements of codes and standards to significantly reduce energy consumption, increase use of renewables, have a minimal environmental impact in material use and site selection, enhance human comfort and safety, and improve occupant productivity.

High performance buildings also create the flexibility necessary for open-plan space and respond efficiently to inevitable changes within the building. High performance buildings achieve these performance objectives in a cost-effective manner throughout the lifetime of a facility.

According to Legrand, a provider of infrastructure solutions, a host of factors are driving a paradigm shift in performance expectations within the built environment. Key factors include:

  1. Market and Economic Forces: In recent years, institutional investors and building owners have sought out energy and other efficiencies in building portfolios to reduce risk and improve asset value.
  2. Homeland Security & Natural Disasters: Today’s buildings are faced with a more diverse and rising number of man-made and natural threats, ranging from terrorism to flooding and earthquakes.
  3. Energy Security and Climate Change: In the United States, buildings consume nearly 40% of all national energy and significant amounts of natural resource, putting the sector under increasing pressure to become more energy and resource efficient.
  4. Social Equity: The aging of the American population and the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act are driving building owners and managers to redefine and redirect the traditional understanding of design for accessibility.
  5. Changes in Building Design, Delivery, and Management: New information management and modeling tools, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), have created the ability to simulate and manage building performance across a wide array of attributes.
  6. Information Technology: The Internet, with all its associated devices and applications, is changing the functioning of the building and the activities of its occupants. This creates demand for new levels of embedded intelligence, communications, and interoperability of systems and products.
  7. Codes and Standards: A new generation of building codes and standards are a reflection of new market expectations, and they have become a driving force for higher levels of building performance.

The federal government formally defined high performance buildings in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but in practice, it is building owners and managers and the design teams they commission who define and embody high performance on a day-to-day basis.

Solar Roadways ‘Could Power America’

May 27, 2014 by Leon Walker
View the original article here

An Idaho couple is using the Internet to fund their Solar Roadways project that would convert roads and highways into photovoltaic arrays, which they say could produce enough energy to power the entire US.

Scott and Julie Brusaw are using crowd-funding website Indiegogo in an attempt to raise $1 million to manufacture the product commercially, reports SingularityHub.

The product (artist’s impression pictured) previously received two rounds of funding from the Federal Highways Administration, buy that contract is set to expire in July.

Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of hexagonal solar panels that can withstand up to 250,000 pounds of pressure. These panels can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks and bike paths, and the panels contain LEDs that road managers can light up to display lane lines and other road features that would traditionally be painted.
The surface of the panels, which are about the size of a car tire, is covered with hexagonal bumps that SingularityHub reports offer better traction than asphalt.

According to the crowd-funding website, panels pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and businesses connected via driveways and parking lots. A nationwide system could produce more renewable energy than a country uses as a whole, the website says.

The roadways also have the ability to treat stormwater. Currently, over half of the pollution in US waterways comes from stormwater, according to Solar Roadways. The company has created stormwater treatment and storage areas in the pipelines used for housing cable.

Earlier this month, the Energy Department announced plans to use crowdsourcing in an attempt to spur innovation in the US solar marketplace.

‘Green’ Federal Facilities Save $42M

Environmental Leader, 05/27/2014

More than 400 federal facilities achieved $42 million in cost savings and environmental benefits last year as part of the Federal Green Challenge (FGC).

A national effort under the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program, the FGC allows federal offices or facilities to pledge participation in reducing the federal government’s environmental impact and recognizes outstanding efforts that go beyond regulatory compliance and strive for annual improvements in selected target areas (waste, electronics, purchasing, water, energy and/or transportation).

Within these areas, additional accomplishments by participants included: diverting more than 500,000 tons of municipal solid waste and construction and demolition waste from landfills, and reducing fleet distance traveled by 16.5 million miles.

Data collected from the challenge show that FGC participants sent 1,765 tons of end-of-life electronics to third-party certified recyclers, minimizing environmental impacts — including water and energy use, releases to air and water, greenhouse gas emissions, and land use impacts.

The US General Services Administration’s new standards for its federal buildings, published in March, focuses more on outcomes, or performance, and less on technology.

The Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service, also known as the P100, is a mandatory standard that outlines how facilities will be managed, designed and built to achieve higher performance levels and save energy in the 9,200 buildings the GSA owns and leases across the country. The P100 applies to all new construction projects including additions to existing facilities.

Incentives Aim to Green Up New York, Reduce Operating Costs for Building Owners

By Joshua Ayers, Senior Editor, 5/20/2014
View the original article here

New York—A recent study found that 75 percent of greenhouse gasses in New York City are being generated by buildings, a majority of which are multifamily residential buildings. The alarming figures have prompted an assortment of companies and organizations, ranging from major utility companies to the mayor’s office, to develop programs that incentivize green upgrades in an effort to entice multifamily building owners to curb emissions.

A panel of industry experts explored the fiscal perks of these programs at FirstService Residential’s Third Annual Green Expo & Symposium May 15 in New York, stressing the importance of participating in the programs before they are no longer available.

“What’s packaged inside of this is not only trying to operate your building more efficiently, cleaner, greener, but also as a major opportunity to save money,” said FirstService Residential President Dan Wurtzel as he opened up the discussion. “Ultimately if at the end of the day that’s where we end up then we’re all in a better place. We save money, we’re contributing to a greener environment and probably our property values are going to go up because of the reputation of the building. So it’s a win-win all the way around.”

One of the largest incentive programs currently available to New York building owners is NYSERDA’s flagship program, the Multifamily Performance Program (MPP), which allots building owners $500 to $1000 per unit to help reduce energy usage by 15 percent. To qualify, owners must work with one of about 90 NYSERDA-approved partners, which include engineering firms, energy consultants and non-profit organizations. That chosen partner then assess and recommend improvements that will help them achieve the reduction. Owners become eligible for an additional $300 per-unit bonus if they are able to meet the criteria.

“The good news is that the way that all this is calculated and the way that electricity rates work, 15 percent energy reduction is about a 15 percent cost reduction,” says Michael Colgrove, director of NYSERDA’s New York City office, who directly oversees the multifamily programs. “If you know how much you spend annually on energy usage, you take 15 percent off of that, and that’s about what the program [can do to] assist you.”

Colgrove said that most buildings in the program end up reducing usage by 20 to 25 percent and that there have been some buildings that have cut energy use by as much as 40 percent. In addition to the initial incentives, owners can qualify for an additional $300 per unit if they are able to reduce usage.

But the panelists stressed the importance of taking advantage of these programs, as most of them do have set term limits.

For example, Con Edison has created a new program aimed at curbing peak summer demand energy uses. The program, called the Demand Management Program, provides a certain amount of money for every kilowatt of energy saved via a variety of methods such as lighting upgrades, While owners can potentially save thousands of dollars through these incentives, the program will end promptly in June 2016.

Con Edison also has other programs that reward energy reduction such as the four-year Commercial and Industrial Program, which features components that provides rebates for energy efficient equipment and other incentives that can help fund up to 50 percent of a green capital improvement project.

“Some programs have quadrupled the amount of programs and funding available,” said panelist John Skipper, business development for Energy Efficiency & demand response, Con Edison

While these incentive programs allow for building owners to save thousands of dollars in operating costs and give buildings a greener footprint, proper research in rare cases can lead to an additional source of income.

Panelist William C. Ragals, Jr., board president of The Strand Condominium in Manhattan says his board took advantage of now-expired NYSERDA and Con Edison oil-to-gas conversion incentives to help fund the installation of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) that has allows the building to produce energy at below Con Edison rates.

“With the money that they gave us and the efficiencies that we received in operating expenses by switching from oil to gas, the balance of our out-of-pocket was recovered by us in about five months,” Ragals said.

Despite all of the available programs, qualifying for incentives does not come without a set of challenges. Ragals says that researching the program and educating board members or property managers is the first step to addressing these challenges.

“I had to educate my board and that is something you have to face,” he says.

Another key step to reeling in incentive money is to identify what upgrades need to made and which ones will have the best effect on operating costs.

This can be determined several ways. One way is to utilize information collected through annual benchmarking reports (a requirement of Local Law 84) to identify how much energy a building uses and how that figure compares to other similar buildings in order to determine whether an upgrade is warranted. The second involves conducting an Energy Efficiency Report, something that is already required every 10 years for larger building thanks in part to Greener, Greater Buildings Plan efforts, specifically Local Law 87, which that mandates such an inspection for “covered buildings” with 50,000 or more gross square feet.

“Basically you have a qualified contractor come in and analyze the system that’s in your building and tell you where you can save energy,” said Jenna Tatum, NYC Carbon Challenge Director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

Tatum says that the building owners can get credit for the audits up to four years in advance of the 10 year deadline, and that while the audit does cost money, there are no requirements necessary to commit to any projects.
Colgrove clarified, however, that work has to already have started before NYSERDA incentives will be paid out.
“NYSERDA won’t actually give you an incentive until you’ve installed at least 50 percent of that work,” he said, adding that “NYSERDA’s MPP program has a clause in it that says ‘we will recognize any work that a building has done up to a year of applying to the program,’ and that can qualify toward your 15 percent target.”