Physical Benefits

Exploring Permeable Pavement Options for LEED Projects

By Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, Principal
Emerald Skyline Corporation

As business owners and designers of our renovation project in Boca Raton, there are many decisions and variables involved in the design of both the building and the site. This project is a LEED registered project which impacts our design decisions and materials selected to incorporate sustainable goals. It gave us the opportunity to explore sustainable pavement options rather than the traditional blacktop used in most projects. The size of the project, location, cost, financial incentives to explore alternatives, and local city requirements all impact decisions to be made. When a pervious pavement is used in building site design, it can aid in the process of qualifying for LEED Green Building Rating System credits.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) is a rating system developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building. LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.

LEED provides a framework for evaluating building performance and meeting sustainability goals through five credit categories: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It should be noted, however, that LEED points are not gained directly by the use of a product but by meeting a specific sustainability goal of the rating program.

Pervious pavement options can contribute to many LEED categories including: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Materials and Resources, and Innovation in Design. Pervious pavement choices are unique and innovative ways to manage storm water and as a method of delaying roof runoff from entering city sewers. Considering these gives environmentally conscious business owners options to use in parking lots and walkways. When they are used in the building site design they function like storm water retention basins and allow the storm water to infiltrate the soil over a large area and recharge the groundwater supplies.

Why consider pervious pavement options?

Storm water is polluted

  • Oils and greases
  • Metals
  • Sediments
  • Fertilizers

Sustainability Factors

  • Low-Impact Development
  • Pollution Treatment
  • Recharging Ground Water
  • Tree Protection
  • LEED Requirements
  • Cool Communities

Meets LEED Requirements

  • Reduce Storm Water Runoff
  • Improve Storm Water Quality
  • Reduce Urban Heat Islands
  • Recycled Materials
  • Regional Materials

Description of specific credits where pervious pavement can aid the business owner or designer include:

 LEED Credit SS-C6.1 Storm Water Design – Quantity Control

LEED Credit SS-C6.2 Storm Water Design – Quantity Control

The intent of these credits is to limit disruption and pollution of natural water flows by managing storm water runoff, increasing on-site infiltration and eliminating contaminants. Pervious pavement can contribute to this credit by reducing storm water flow by allowing water to soak through and infiltrate to the ground below. Pervious choices can also reduce the pollutant loads by filtering contaminants as the water is transferred through the pavement.

 LEED Credit SS-C7.1 Heat Island Effect- Non-Roof

 Pervious pavement acts to reduce the heat island effect by absorbing less heat from solar radiation than darker pavements. The relatively open pore structure and the light color of pervious pavements store less heat, therefore, reducing the heat reflected back into the environment and helping to lower heat island effects in urban areas. The heat island effect can be further minimized by the addition of trees planted in parking lots. The trees offer shade and produce a cooling effect for the paving. Pervious pavement is ideal for protecting trees in a paved environment (many plants have difficulty growing in areas covered by impervious pavements, sidewalks and landscaping, because air and water have difficulty getting to the roots). Pervious pavements or sidewalks allow adjacent trees to receive more air and water and still permit full use of the pavement.

LEED Credit WE C1.1 Water Efficient Landscaping

 The intent of this credit is to limit or eliminate the use of potable water, or other natural surface or subsurface water resources available on or near the project site, for landscape irrigation. The gravel sub-base under pervious pavements can be used to store storm water for irrigation, helping to satisfy this credit. If no irrigation is required for a project, two points may be earned.

LEED Credits MR-C4.1 and MR-C4-2 Recycled Content

The intent of this credit is to increase the demand for building products that have incorporated recycled content material reducing the impacts resulting from the extraction of new material. Almost all ready mixed concrete contains recycled materials in the form supplementary cementitious materials (SCM) such as fly ash, slag, or silica fume. The use of SCMs or recycled aggregate in pervious concrete or base material contributes to recycled content needed for this credit.

LEED Credit MR-C5.1 and MR-C5.2 Regional Materials

The intent of this credit is to increase demand for building products that are extracted and manufactured locally, thereby reducing the environmental impacts resulting from their transportation and supporting the local economy. The majority of materials in pervious concrete and pavements are considered regional materials. In addition to aiding in gaining LEED certification points, pervious concrete can provide a safe and durable surface for most pavement needs. Light colored pervious pavements require less site lighting to provide safe night-time illumination levels, whether on parking lots, driveways, or sidewalks.

Types of Pervious Pavements

  • Porous Asphalt (Blacktop)
    • Low Cost
    • Effective Porosity
    • High Maintenance – Biannual cleaning to prevent clogging
    • Does not allow for plant growth
    • Contributor to heat island effect but better than standard ashphalt
    • Alternative for large projects
  • Pervious Concrete
    • Same concept as porous asphalt, except it is concrete
    • Easy to order and have installed
    • Light in color and not contribute to heat island effect
    • Higher Cost than Asphalt
    • Request use of local or reclaimed aggregates
    • Use highest amount of Fly Ash and/or Slag (both are reclaimed waste products)
    • Requires cleaning to prevent clogging
    • Can serve as a retention basin for storing rainwater during a storm
  • Pervious Block Pavers
    • Many different types on the market
    • Can look like traditional pavers for aesthetics
    • Filled in with grass or gravel
    • Allows for plant growth
    • Pavers are pricey
    • Installation requires laying of individual small blocks
    • May settle or become misplaced after use
  • Drivable Grass
    • Unique product
    • 2” x 2” mats that are more affordable individual pavers
    • Good infiltration for grass growth or ground cover
    • Plants remain cooler and receive uniform watering
    • Greener parking surface than other plantable systems
    • Low maintenance
  • Plastic Grid Systems
    • Made of recycled plastic and fully recyclable themselves
    • Low maintenance
    • Easy installation
    • Can provide a fully sodded surface if desired
    • Use only appropriate for light or occasional use parking lots

Decision making is a critical process for any project. Well informed choices and decisions can help keep a project timeline on track. Decisions in all areas including design and specifications need to be clearly and fully described. There should be at least three options to choose from that include how, what, where and how much? All the implications and impact of each option must be considered. Will it delay the project? Will it increase the cost?   A LEED project also needs to incorporate the analysis of products and design and their sustainable impacts. We are considering 3 categories of pervious pavement products for our project; pervious concrete, pervious block pavers, and drivable grass. With the ever evolving development of sustainable products, there may also be a hybrid solution available that will meet all of our project goals.

http://www.epa.gov/region02/njgiforum/pdf/08justice.pdf

http://www.perviouspavement.org/benefits/leed.html

http://www.100khouse.com/2010/12/08/permeable-pavement-options-for-leed-projects/

Renovation Versus New Construction – Choosing the Right Path

Julie

By Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, ASID, Director, Emerald Skyline Corporation

As both the owners and the designers of a commercial building in Boca Raton it was essential that we examine the pros and cons of renovation vs. new construction and the impact on our project. When considering renovation vs. new construction for any project, it is important to understand that both paths lead to different and unique results. Comparing the merits and challenges of each against the needs of a project is crucial in determining what the best options are. Our design team collaborated and brainstormed to determine the issues involved, document the issues and prioritize them. This process helped us to determine that a major renovation will make the most sense for our building and our sustainable goals.

The building is an unoccupied auto body shop located on a former brownfield. Whether to save or demolish an old building has always been a question for owners, developers and cities. We are applying the concept of adaptive reuse to this project. It is the idea of “twice green”, not just repurposing an older building, but also making it even more environmentally friendly in its new life. This project will convert an existing eyesore structure into a rehabilitated sustainable building.

How green is adaptive reuse?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation published a report on the environmental benefits of adaptive reuse. The Greenest Building: Qualifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, demonstrates through case studies that reusing buildings can save from between 4 to 46% over new construction.

These findings include:

  • Reuse Matters. Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction.
  • Scale Matters. Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts.
  • Design Matters. The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.
  • The Bottom Line. Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock.

The U.S. Green Building Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) strongly encourages reuse of an existing site and building. By using LEED principles during design and construction points toward LEED accreditation can be achieved. The incorporation of sustainable solutions into our design and materials will create a healthier building, reduce negative impacts on the environment, and utilize the economy of reuse. Every material has an impact, the fewer building materials used in a rehab project, the less environmental impact there will be.

The decision to renovate rather than build new has many challenges. Key factors typically considered in this decision could have easily sent us in a different direction if sustainability was not important to our project. The budget to accomplish a major renovation for this project may not cost less than new construction but the sustainable benefits are significant. The condition of the current structure will require many changes and improvements. The building needs updated technologies, energy efficiencies, and time challenges to complete. By renovating we are diverting waste from being placed in landfills, we are disturbing less native vegetation and contributing less erosion and adverse effects on the land. The decision to renovate this older structure will provide a safer and healthier environment for its users while creating an enhanced appearance.

The existing footprint allows only so much floor space. To overcome this, we are going vertical and building a partial second floor. Building above is less expensive than building outward. A key consideration in many designs should be on how to best utilize the building while using smaller spaces.

The age old question of whether to build new or renovate has become even more complex as we seek to determine which has the least amount of impact on our environment. While the ease of new construction may be preferred, the greater potential for reducing your carbon impact during renovation compared to a new construction is apparent over a 75 year life span of a building. As The National Trust for Historic Perseveration recently stated that the greenest building may be the one you already own – and this is the reason we selected to renovate rather than build new.

 

http://www.preservationnation.org/information-center/sustainable-communities/green-lab/valuing-building-reuse.html#.VehletJRFMM

Beauty and Function: Landscaping for Sustainability

KG Resize
By: Kendall Gillen, Biologist, LEED Green Associate
Associate LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

Many building owners and managers take into account the interior and exterior of a building itself when considering sustainable initiatives, but just as important is the area surrounding the building. Landscaping can make a tremendous difference in the sustainability and qualification for LEED certification of a project. Sustainability is certainly an integration of many different factors, and landscaping is a significant one.

Through employing different strategies, landscaping can be practical, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. There are different factors that affect the level of landscape sustainability. Two of the most important are the types of vegetation chosen and the amount of potable water required to keep the plants healthy, otherwise known as irrigation. Not only can efficient landscape design provide noteworthy credit toward achieving LEED certification, but it can also provide substantial water-energy savings. This should be a great motivator for owners and managers to look to their landscaping for improvements to their bottom line.

As stated in a study conducted by the California Sustainability Alliance, water is a necessary resource for any landscape to survive and function[1]. However, not all landscapes are created equal. Climate, weather conditions, and vegetation grown can all impact the amount of water required to sustain life. Typically, if non-native plants are chosen, irrigation will be needed because they cannot survive on local precipitation levels alone. Thus, researching plants with a low water need specific to the project’s local climate is of the utmost importance.

Many states have online databases for irrigation friendly plants. Since we are located in the tropical climate of South Florida, here are just a few of the many trees, plants, flowers, and grasses that are ideal for reducing irrigation demand as found by the Florida-friendly Plant Database:

  • Silver Palm
  • Scrub Palmetto
  • Cocoplum
  • Seagrape
  • Jamaica Caper Tree
  • Gumbo Limbo
  • Fiddlewood
  • Crinum Lily
  • Blanket Flower
  • Beach Sunflower
  • Purple Love Grass

All of the above vegetation has a medium to high drought tolerance. There is also a resource listing the Plant Hardiness Zones for the entire nation available through the USDA. Once a project’s Plant Hardiness Zone is found by zip code, one can search for plants that thrive within that particular zone.

Choosing native vegetation is a step in the right direction, however without active management of landscape irrigation with adjustments to precipitation levels, the savings of native vegetation alone could potentially be nominal. To fully benefit from using indigenous and drought-resistant vegetation, the irrigation system must be managed. This is why the integrated process of landscape operation, management, and maintenance is so crucial.

  • Low-volume irrigation systems are a broad classification of systems that provide water more directly to the ground instead of spraying in the air where water can be lost to wind or evaporation.
    • This is a great starting point when choosing a system that fits a specific sustainable project need. By slowly releasing moisture, these systems greatly reduce runoff1.
  • Rainwater collection and re-use for landscape irrigation is another method to decrease water-energy expenditures. This harvested water can also be used for non-potable purposes such as toilet flushing.

The benefits to native vegetation and water efficient landscaping are plentiful. As previously stated, huge savings in water-energy can be achieved as well as the following:

  • Reduces the heat island effect which occurs when dark building and paving surfaces absorb the sun’s energy and re-radiates it throughout the day and night raising the ambient air temperature
  • Conserves natural resources and provides a habitat for native wildlife
  • Improves HVAC efficiency which is achieved through the shade generated by the proper selection and placement of trees and shrubs
  • Minimizes landscape maintenance requirements allowing the building owner to save on labor and materials

Undoubtedly, landscaping can play a huge role in the overall sustainability of a project, whether that is a retrofit or new construction. The take-home message should be to plan ahead and strategize when it comes to landscaping and irrigation. Also, having a water efficient landscape does not necessitate elimination of beauty. Use the abundant resources available online or through a professional and be responsible with water use. Water is in fact our most precious natural resource and it is our obligation to conserve.

[1] California Sustainability Alliance. Water-Energy Savings from Efficient Landscape Design in California. July 2015.

Sustainable Building Design

Julie
By Julie Lundin, LEED AP ID+C,
Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation

Our project in Boca Raton is being designed to become a LEED certified building. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green certification system is a tool for evaluating and measuring achievements in sustainable design. LEED consists of a set of perquisites and credits with specific requirements for obtaining points in order for a building to become LEED certified.

Many people are not familiar with the concept of sustainable design and how it relates to building construction and ongoing building operations. The built environment impacts our natural environment, our society and our economy. This concept is often referred to as the 3 P’s, people, planet and pocketbook. Sustainable design attempts to balance the needs of these areas by integrating design solutions.

EPA

EPA 2004

The main objectives of sustainable design are to reduce or avoid depletion of natural resources such as energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental damage caused by buildings and their infrastructure; and create livable, comfortable and healthy interior environments.

Sustainable design does not just apply to new construction; retrofitting of existing buildings should be an option and can be more cost-effective than building a new facility. With our project, we opted to retrofit as well as reposition an existing building rather than allowing further decay of the property or demolishing it and building new. My future posts will focus on specific details and products that we will utilize in our sustainable design process.

While the definition of sustainable building design continues to evolve, according to the Whole Building Design Group (WBDG) Sustainable Committee there are six fundamental principles that persist. References to some of our sustainable design solutions that will be written in upcoming posts are included below in the fundamental principles.

 

Optimize Site Potential

Creating sustainable buildings starts with proper site selection, including the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings.

  • We chose a contaminated site and remediated the property.
  • The project is an abandoned auto body garage that will be repurposed rather than demolished.

Location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use.

  • A south facing orientation will enable us to harness solar energy and utilize the sun for daylighting within the structure.
  • Proximity to major bus and train lines provides alternative transportation.
  • The use of native plants and rainwater collection

Optimize Energy Use

It is essential to find ways to reduce energy load, increase efficiency, and maximize the use of renewable energy resources.

  • Solar energy via solar panels
  • LED lighting
  • Daylight Harvesting
  • Energy efficient windows, appliances, and HVAC

Protect and Conserve Water

Fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource; a sustainable building should use water efficiently, and reuse or recycle water for on-site use.

  • Cistern and water collection
  • Low flow toilets, sinks, and appliances
  • Grey water use where allowed

Optimize Building Space and Material Use

Available resources are stressed to due demands for additional goods and services. A sustainable building is designed and operated to use and reuse materials, environmentally preferable materials have a reduced effect on human health and the environment.

  • Shared uses for small building space
  • Low VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Use of reclaimed wood

Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

The IEQ of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. A sustainable building maximizes daylighting, has appropriate ventilation, moisture control, optimizes acoustic performance, and avoids the use of materials with high-VOC emissions.

  • Low VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Flush out building before occupancy
  • Thermal Comfort Control
  • Provide quality views

Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

Encourage optimal operations and maintenance systems during the design and development phases, specify materials and systems that simplify and reduce maintenance requirements; require less water, energy and toxic chemicals. Include meters to track sustainability initiatives, reductions in energy and water use and waste generation.

  • Energy and water metering
  • Recycling Waste Plan
  • Building Envelope Commissioning

 

Utilizing a sustainable design philosophy encourages decisions at each phase of the design process that will reduce negative impacts on the environment and the health of the occupants, without compromising the bottom line. It is an integrated, holistic approach that encourages the balance of people, planet and pocketbook. An integrated approach of sustainable design should positively impact all phases of a building, including design, construction and operation.

Sources:

http://www.wbdg.org/design/sustainable.php

 http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104462

LEED Project Update

4/19/15

Julie

 

By Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management 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 distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

Existing

Existing

Proposed

Proposed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed LEED Certified Building

For general information on this project please Click Here to see our last post.

We have been busy working on the design and drawings in preparation for submission to the City of Boca Raton Development Services Department. The design of the building has taken many twists and turns over the last few months. Since we are doing a major renovation and constructing a second floor, the design and location of the stairs and an elevator have been instrumental in our building’s design. As with any project, the site plan and its setbacks limit the building footprint that will be utilized.

Based on our site plan, we do have the space to bump the front of the building out to accommodate our new staircase. This allows us to construct the stairs without having to penetrate the existing building ceiling membrane. In addition, it creates an interesting design element that does not deduct precious square footage for the stairs construction.

We have also decided to locate the elevator on the outside of the building. Again, an exterior location will not deduct square footage from the base building plan. Since the elevator shaft will be located on the exterior, building fire codes will be different than if the elevator was located internally. We are anticipating that the elevator will be a prominent design feature and contribute to the aesthetics of our project.

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. Our initial design utilized solar rooftop panels to generate power for the building even with the hopes of generating enough power to sell back to the grid. Florida’s large utility monopolies and lawmakers have worked successfully to block and control who can generate solar energy and what it can be used for; thereby restricting its use by homeowners and businesses. The Florida legislature, at the direction of the utility companies, have gutted the state’s energy savings goals and entirely eliminated Florida’s solar-rebate program. Due to this situation, we are now exploring alternative methods of energy including fuel cell technology powered by natural gas.

There is a pro-solar group in Florida, Floridians for Solar Choice, that is seeking to make solar more accessible in the state. Their ballot petition seeks to expand solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and chose who provides it to them. Please visit their website to learn about this initiative and sign the petition. www.FLsolarchoice.org.

Ugly Duckling to Become LEED Certified Building

2/4/2015

Julie

By Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management 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 distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

Existing-Building

Existing Building

Proposed-Building-11-x-17-Perspective-

Proposed LEED Certified Building

We are in the process of renovating a 1,950 square foot warehouse located in Boca Raton, FL.  The building was previously used for a towing company so the property is currently a brownfield which will require that we remediate the contamination. This building is a major renovation/new construction project. We will be demolishing the existing interior space and adding a second floor and green terrace.  Our building renovations will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification.  Here are just a few of our intended design elements:

  • A tank used for rainfall and condensate collection to flush toilets and irrigate native Florida landscaping
  • A green terrace
  • A metal reflective roof
  • Use of low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives for building improvements
  • Occupancy sensors and photos sensors that monitor daylight and reduce energy needs
  • LED or CFL Lighting
  • Pervious Paver Parking Areas
  • Low Flow Toilets and Faucets
  • Daylight Harvesting to lower Lighting Costs
  • Impact Windows

LEED Certification provides third-party validation that our building was designed and built to improve energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, resource conservation and indoor environmental quality.

We look forward to showcasing the progress of our much anticipated sustainable renovations.

 

Hotel Continues Sustainability Efforts

Boston’s Westin Copley Place upgrades its HVAC system and reaps savings.

By Paul Lin
View the original article here

February 14, 2014

Excluding labor, energy is typically the highest cost that hoteliers face and is the single fastest-growing operating cost in the hospitality industry.[1] According to Flex Your Power and ENERGY STAR statistics, the hospitality industry spends approximately $4 billion per year on energy, with electricity accounting for 60 to 70 percent of the utility costs. And the HVAC system accounts for more than 50 percent of a lodging property’s energy costs.[2] All of which significantly affect the bottom line.

The Environmental Protection Agency has calculated the associated cost savings and concluded that even a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency is equivalent to increasing average daily room rates by 62 cents and $1.35 for limited-service and full-service hotels, respectively.[3]

Energy Efficiency and Hotels’ Bottom Line

In the hotel sector, reducing energy costs while continuing to meet the diverse needs of guests, owners and corporate requirements is challenging but by no means impossible. Energy efficiency provides hotel owners and operators cost savings that benefit the bottom line. Efficiency also improves the service of capital equipment, enhances guest comfort and demonstrates a commitment to climate stewardship. Environmental friendliness can be a market strength for a hotel brand, which can lead to a better reputation among consumers.

A report by Deloitte, “Risks and Rewards for Building Sustainable Hotels,” cites that both financial incentives and consumer demand are likely to encourage the hospitality industry to continue developing more environmentally friendly hotels, resorts, spas and convention centers. According to the report, “Travelers are increasingly considering sustainability in making travel plans. Business travelers increasingly consider a hotel’s sustainability in making their selections, and 40 percent of those surveyed are willing to pay a premium for it.”[4]

Companies in the lodging industry have realized that environmentally sound practices not only help the environment but can also lead to cost reductions, business expansion and profit growth.

Westin Copley Place

One such company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, is dedicated to integrating enlightened environmental practices and sustainability principles into all aspects of its business strategy. By collaborating with hotel owners, franchisees, suppliers and business partners, the company actively works to reduce the environmental impact of hotel operations. The company recently set a target of reducing its energy consumption by 30 percent and reducing its water consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. The goals are company-wide and apply to Starwood-owned and managed hotels.

Westin, one brand of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, incorporated a number of sustainable elements during a renovation of Westin Copley Place in Boston. This 803-room, 37-story hotel is not only determined to provide guests with a phenomenal stay, but the management also understands its responsibility to the environment. The hotel is a recipient of the prestigious Green Key Award in 2010 and one of four hotels in Massachusetts to be recognized as a Green Seal certified hotel.

Glenn Ralfs, Westin Copley Place’s director of engineering and an industry veteran, is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve energy efficiency. He recently participated in an upgrade to the hotel’s HVAC system by installing energy-efficient motors to the heating and cooling systems in the guestrooms. This entailed replacing existing motors with Regal Genteq Eon 42 ECM motors in all 803 guest rooms as a way to provide improved guestroom temperature resulting in a more satisfying guest experience.

Hydronic fan coils are heating and cooling devices that utilize hot and/or cold water as a thermal source. That water is typically provided by a central system, consisting of a boiler, chiller and other ancillary equipment. Fan coils are extremely quiet and reliable, have low operating costs and remarkably long life cycles. The Westin Copley Place utilizes a two-pipe system which circulates chilled water to provide cooling and an electric strip for heating.

“The benefits of this system are threefold: increased guests’ comfort, energy savings and motor controllability,” says Mike Rosenkranz, Gexpro energy specialist. Gexpro, an electrical distribution company, specializes in energy efficiency solutions which range from lighting, power quality, solar, energy management, drives and motors. Gexpro teamed up with JK Energy Solutions, a provider of energy efficiency services, to engineer a turnkey solution to help the Westin Copley Place achieve its energy efficiency goals.

The designers expect the guestroom energy management system is 80 percent more energy-efficient than the previous HVAC system and plan on saving the property an estimated 400,000 kWh annually. Additionally, due to the high kWh savings, the property expects a return on investment in approximately 2.3 years.

“In a hospitality property, unlike in some other commercial buildings, updated HVAC systems must be achieved with a high priority on quiet operation and good air quality to complete the guest experience,” says Ralfs. “Additionally, as the director of engineering, I need to be knowledgeable of ways to reduce our energy costs and consumption; ECM motors are an excellent way to meet all of these objectives.”

 

  1. www.cpr-energy.com/energy-awareness
  2. Joel Hill, “Boosting HVAC energy efficiency,” Lodging, February 13, 2013.
  3. www.energystar.gov/ia/business/EPA_BUM_Full.pdf (accessed 10/10/13).
  4. The Staying Power of Sustainability, Deloitte Publication, 2008.

Is Your Building Conducive to the Installation of a Green Roof?

Any reason for installing green roofs on a building—whether it’s to save money or the environment—is a good reason.

By Richard Heller and Chris Psencik
View the original article here
February 4, 2014

 

According to the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) association, the North American green roof industry grew by a remarkable 24 percent in 2012. Part of this growth was spurred on by more cities recognizing the public benefits of green roofs and taking various policy measures to encourage their widespread installation. However, according to GRHC there is still enormous potential for growth of new green roofs on billions of square feet of buildings across North America.

Despite the potential, installing a green roof is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are several structural and site/location considerations to take into account. The most recent news of a probable green roof collapse at a Latvian supermarket should give one pause. Before allocating the time and resources, facility owners and managers should weigh the pros and cons of a green roof and what to keep in mind during the planning stages.

The Mental Checklist

First, you need to consider the load capabilities of the building. The space that is designated for the green roof: Is it able to sustain the weight for the items that will be designed and placed on top of the roof? If the live weight load (after snow, for example) is less than 35 pounds per square foot, it will be harder to establish a green roof.

Second, consider the design intent of the green roof. Is the space going to be an area that individuals will be able to visit and enjoy up close, or is the green roof only to be viewed from a window, door, patio, etc?

Third, take into account the location and climate of the intended green roof. A common misconception about green roofs is that they must always be green and vegetative, but there are several possibilities. However, one needs to consider the climate and the exposure. For example, the west side of a building is going to have a tremendous amount of sun and heat, so plant materials will need to be suited to sustain themselves in this environment. The north side will receive colder northern winds and can be more heavily impacted by freezing temperatures.

In many instances the natural environment is not the only factor to consider when designing a green roof environment. Microclimates will also be created from the structure surrounding the space. For instance, radiant heat will increase exponentially when planting next to mirrored glass. Overhangs will create opportunities for shade gardens. Planting soil depths and soil material makeup will determine how quickly or slowly a space will dry out in rainy or dry seasons.

Fourth, consider irrigation and drainage. Drainage is key in making sure that rooftop gardens do not become pools. Rock gardens are commonly used in situations where irrigation cannot be provided and temperatures are determined to be too extreme in a green roof environment. Draining and irrigation issues can be solved with construction, but this will add costs to any budget.

Finally, one must ask if a green roof is the best choice for achieving goals. Many of the functions of a green roof can be achieved through other means. For example, rainwater from roofs can be recycled for irrigation. Heat can be mitigated by shade trees, which are the backbone of the ecology and support far more beneficial insects than most green roofs ever will.

In an urban environment, where there is almost no ecology and nature has been paved over, green roofs can play a vital role. In a suburban environment, however, the functionality of green roofs may become harder to justify when one looks at other alternatives.

Green Roofs Expand Green Spaces

According to the Environmental Health Research Foundation, each day a 50-foot by 50-foot green space releases enough oxygen to support a family of four, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to the positive mental health benefits of being exposed to parks and green spaces.

Green roofs offer various opportunities for owners and employees to experience a little bit of nature. For example, the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas developed a vegetable garden green roof, which allows the kitchen to provide fresh, locally grown herbs, spices and seasonal vegetables that go straight from the garden to the plate.

 

At the University of North Texas (UNT) Business Leadership building, a series of outdoor green roof spaces created by Southern Botanical and Lindsey White of Caye Cook and Associates allows students and faculty an opportunity to leave the classroom and office to take a break to reflect and study.

These spaces also help with the conservation of energy for the facility by increasing natural lighting within interior rooms and corridors. In turn, the increased natural light offers an opportunity to save on energy and lighting costs for the facility.

But there are also some concrete reasons for installing a green roof.

Green roofs can protect the roof membrane from elements that can be destructive, such as extreme heat and cold, water, mechanical damage and ultraviolet rays. In some cases, a green roof can double or triple the life of the membrane when properly installed and maintained.

Additionally, there are energy savings since a green roof acts as an insulator. Green roofs can also mitigate the heat island effect, reduce rainwater runoff, and to some extent, replace the flora that was destroyed by the footprint of the building.

For many cities, a compelling reason for green roofs is to offset the underlying, weak urban infrastructure that is overwhelmed by rainwater runoff.

New York City, for example, has an antiquated sewage system which, when overwhelmed by rainwater, forces the city to dump raw sewage into local bodies of water and makes New York beaches unusable for several days thereafter. In this instance, green roofs absorb 80 percent of the water that lands on them, so they can be a strategy to reduce the amount of water that reaches urban infrastructures.

Expecting Positive Growth for Green Roofs

The USGBC and its LEED certification program are spurring on the design and installation of green roofs all over the country. There are some regional variations, but that is often tied to climate. In Texas, for example, extreme temperatures can be somewhat of a limiting factor.

The increase in green roofs is often a matter of education, cost and technology, but signs indicate that they will become more productive and/or habitat-oriented. Green roofs will become popular as a site for food production, a habitat for beneficial insects, a way station for migratory birds and so on. This is a trend that is already happening in some cities and will continue to expand as food prices rise, and natural habitats continue to be reduced by population pressure.

And green roofs will continue to grow as a market segment as they establish track records and are supported by legislation.

For example, New York City gives a tax rebate for green roofs more than a certain square footage because the city recognizes that every square foot of green roof means less money it will have to spend upgrading the sewer and rainwater infrastructure.

In the end, consider function first and make sure your building and location are amenable to a green roof, or be clear on the extent of changes that need to be made and costs that need to be incurred for it to function properly and safely. Then be clear on the “why.” If the “why” is that you want to reap the qualitative benefits for employees and the environment, that is okay, too.

Extend Service Life for a Sustainable Roof

01/24/2014

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).

LEED
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.

RoofPoint
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.