Personal Benefits

Adaptive Reuse Project Auto Body Shop Transformed into Live-Work Gem in Sunny Boca Raton

By: Julie Lundin, LEED AP ID+C, IIDA

So, what does adaptive reuse mean in real life?

Adaptive reuse is when you go to an art gallery… in a former church, when you attend a community event… in an old barn, when you book a Costa Rican vacation and your hotel is made out of shipping containers!  With the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of repurposing the built environment has become even more important. Vacant office space becomes a healthcare facility.  Hotels turn into healthcare worker housing. A shopping mall is suddenly a medical center.

As an interior designer, I have always been intrigued by adaptive reuse projects.  Projects where a design team has expertly executed a vision for a forgotten run-down building or interior space and brought it back to life. They hold a special place in my heart. When the opportunity arose to purchase, design, and renovate an abandoned auto garage in Boca Raton to use as a live/work space, it was a dream come true.  As an adaptive reuse project, the most important initial points of consideration begin with safety, accessibility, and compatibility. These basic points are relevant no matter what is being considered, from energy to building materials to assessing current building code requirements.

Keeping the form or structure of a building intact while changing its function is challenging. However, it can provide significant environmental and economic benefits. Adaptive reuse projects have utilized sustainable design concepts long before LEED and green building became popular.  Adaptive reuse is one of the most maximized uses of recycling.  The value of reuse, recycle and repurpose is intrinsic to these projects. 

Benefits of Adaptive Reuse

  • Adaptive reuse is sustainable
    • Greenest building is one that already exists
    • Reduction in building materials needed to transform a space
  • Environmental Stability
    • Reduces energy consumption associated with demolishing a structure
    • And building a new one to replace it
  • Economic Stability
    • Potential cost benefits associated with greenfield development
      • Legal issues
      • Zoning problems
      • Finance
      • Design and Construction Costs
      • Environmental Impacts
  • Spaces may be useful for fledgling businesses
    • 16% less costly than other forms of construction
    • Results in lower leasing rate
  • Faster than new construction
    • Renovated existing building ready for occupancy sooner
  • Preservation of local identity
    • Older buildings add and establish the character of local built environments
    • Preserves a local sense of place and authentic experience
  • Utilization of a previously developed site
    • Avoids development of greenfields
    • Utilizes existing utility infrastructure
    • Minimizes impact on watersheds and stormwater systems
  • Reusing existing building elements
    • Cost savings
    • Embodied energy savings
    • Construction waste savings
    • Time savings
  • Utilize the character of existing spaces and materials

Below is my adaptive reuse project story.  I hope you enjoy it!

Auto Body Shop Transformed into Live-Work Gem in Sunny Boca Raton

AFTER (Continue reading for Before…)

Boca Raton, Florida is well known for its affluent gated golf communities, manicured landscapes, and pristine beaches. Unlike cities such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati where industrial is synonymous with the name, Boca’s industrial area is inconspicuous.  That is why the unexpected location of this industrial section is the perfect setting for a hidden gem, a distinctive live-work studio. What was once a run-down auto body shop with ground contamination was transformed into an office, studio, and residence. With a commitment and passion for design, the built environment, and sustainability, this industrial property has been repurposed into a warm, inviting, and environmentally friendly enclave.

Auto garage office BEFORE

The base footprint of the building is 1,950 square feet. The front of the building houses the residential space which includes a kitchen, bathroom, open living space and a cozy loft which provides an additional 240 square feet. This portion of the building was designed to be self-contained with a separate entrance and electric meter should future usage needs change. A peek inside the space shows a metal spiral staircase leading to the loft. The spiral stairs were kept intact from the original body shop but painted a soft metallic gold as a nod to the design firm’s name Golden Spiral Design.

AFTER

The small footprint of 1,950 square feet required creative design solutions to maximize the multi –

functionality of the space. The live work concept had to become truly integrated based on the building size.  The residential component made sense to be in the front portion of the building which allows a separate entrance.  The main auto garage became the office/studio but is designed as a flex space to accommodate large meetings or entertaining on the weekends. To delineate areas of the open space, furniture placement, lighting and plants were utilized.

Auto garage BEFORE

The back portion of the building was originally an auto painting stall and allows for privacy once the large, colorful barn door is closed.  High gloss cabinetry was added for much needed storage and includes a murphy bed. This space also contains an added ADA bathroom, free standing glass shower, and washer and dryer.

 The walls are painted a crisp white which showcase the concrete block walls, their inherent imperfection, and years of use.  A modified exposed interior was created with galvanized metal soffits that hide electrical and air conditioning components.  The three original overhead garage doors are still intact and used as metal shades for privacy and sun control.  The garage concrete floors were polished and sealed still showing the shapes, imperfections, and natural patina of the building. Old Chicago brick was added to both the interior and exterior walls to emulate the character of old industrial buildings. 

AFTER

The grounds were designed to visually create an inviting enclave.  Sustainable fencing was installed which offers privacy and security. The front apex, once an eyesore, is a green oasis with bronze trellises, jasmine vines, orchids, and a custom mosaic.  Sustainable, resilient and energy efficient principles were applied throughout the design and specifications of this building.

Building BEFORE

Below are key sustainable concepts that were utilized for this project.

  • Site Remediation
  • Construction Waste Recycling
  • Adaptive Reuse of Undesirable Property
  • Highly Reflective Roof and added Insulation
  • No additional Building Footprint added
  • Solar Panels and Battery Storage
  • Energy Efficient HVAC
  • Energy Efficient Windows
  • Energy Efficient LED Lighting
  • Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures
  • Energy Efficient Appliances
  • Recycling and Composting
  • Low VOC Paint and Finishes
  • Daylighting
  • Interior Plantscapes
  • Exterior Drip Irrigation System

Converting this building to a multi-use habitable space was both challenging and rewarding.  It was important to design the space using the existing building footprint (bigger is not better), to remediate the undesirable brownfield, to take advantage of the industrial character, and to promote sustainability throughout the entire design process. 

With the arrival of the COVID pandemic it has never been more important to have a healthy and safe place to work.  For questions about the adaptive reuse of this building – or the potential of a building you own – please contact me, Julie Lundin, at (561) 866-4741 or jlundin@emeraldskyline.com.

Why COVID-19 Raises the Stakes for Healthy Buildings

by Kristen Senz
View the original article here

Like it or not, humans have become an indoor species, so buildings have a major impact on our health. That’s why the Healthy Building Movement is gaining momentum, say John Macomber and Joseph Allen.

Will you ever again step onto a crowded elevator without hesitation? Reach for a doorknob without concern (or gloves)?

Easing social distancing restrictions might reopen businesses, but as long as memories of COVID-19 lockdowns are still fresh in people’s minds, the experience of being inside an office building most likely will not return to “normal.”

Even before the pandemic struck, there were plenty of reasons to be concerned about air quality and ventilation in the buildings where we live and work. After all, healthier indoor environments don’t just keep us from getting sick—they also enhance cognitive performance.

“OFFICES WITH THE PREMIER HEALTH STORY WILL GET THE PREMIUM RENT AND GET THE TENANTS, AND THE OFFICES WITH A LAGGING HEALTH STORY WILL LAG.”

To convey to managers the benefits of the healthy building movement, John D. Macomber, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, recently wrote a book about it: Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, to be published April 21.

Although facilities managers might think they’re saving a few dollars on electricity and air filters, “There’s just no reason anymore to economize on airflow and filtration,” Macomber says. “That just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a cheap way to help people be healthier.”

Together with co-author Joseph G. Allen, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Macomber explores “nine foundations for a healthy building” and studies how simple tweaks to increase air flow and quality can have dramatic effects on workers.

But the economic benefits don’t stop there. Macomber expects that a growing public focus on health measures will drive major changes across a variety of industries, but especially in travel and hospitality. Increasingly, Macomber postulates, savvy business leaders and landlords will begin to leverage healthier indoor spaces as recruitment tools and sources of competitive advantage. Anxieties over COVID-19 are likely to accelerate these trends, he says.

“I think awareness is heightened, and in this economy there’ll be a drop in demand for space, both for apartments and offices,” he says. “With those two things together, I think that the offices with the premier health story will get the premium rent and get the tenants, and the offices with a lagging health story will lag.”

Many elite companies already use their building’s efficiency or grandeur to send a signal to customers and workforce talent. As a result of the global pandemic, Macomber expects an emphasis on indoor air quality and other healthy building measures will diffuse through the rest of the economy.

As the country begins to return to work, concerns about the spread of infectious disease will “make it easier than ever to invest in the basics of a healthy building, notably around ventilation, air quality, water, moisture, and security,” says Macomber. “Those aren’t expensive to begin with. So, I think those will propagate through pretty quickly, and they’ll be must-haves, because the cost is not relatively very high, and the benefit is extremely high.”

As anyone who has ever felt sleepy on a stuffy airplane can attest, poor ventilation impedes cognition. “Casinos figured this out a long time ago, pumping in extra air and keeping the temperature cool to keep you awake at the gaming tables and slot machines longer,” Allen and Macomber write.

But through scientific, double-blind studies of workers in offices with various levels of air quality and flow, in which the workers were compared with themselves to gauge differences in personal performance, the authors of Healthy Buildings can quantify these effects.

Across all nine dimensions of cognitive function, which include things like “strategy,” “focused activity level,” and “crisis response,” performance was dramatically improved when study subjects worked in the optimal conditions (with high rates of ventilation and low concentrations of carbon dioxide and other harsh compounds).

“Think about that for one second—simply increasing the amount of air brought into an office, something nearly every office can easily do, had a quantifiable benefit to higher-order cognitive function in knowledge workers,” Macomber and Allen write.

Macomber is careful, though, not to make the leap from enhanced performance to increased productivity, because productivity involves so many different factors.

Among the nine foundations for a healthy building (see graphic) is “security,” a term the authors expect will take on a broader meaning in a post-pandemic world. Building security will involve monitoring not just who enters and what they are physically carrying, but also what they might be carrying internally. In addition to metal detectors, infrared scanners at building entrances will take visitors’ temperatures, to help prevent the spread of viruses and other pathogens, similar to technology already in place at some airports.

As people begin to internalize the collective nature of public health, sharing of personal health and air quality metrics—using wearables and smartphones—could lead to new applications that provide real-time information about the conditions inside buildings. Imagine an app that does for public health what WAZE has done for traffic congestion, Macomber says.

“There is going to be substantially more awareness and interest on the part of the public, in terms of the quality of the spaces that they’re occupying, and they’ll be selective about their airplanes and about their cruise ships,” he predicts. “And pretty quickly they’ll be selective about their apartments and their offices as well, and they’ll share that information with other people.”

COVID-19: The Wake-Up Call The Energy Sector Needed

By: Jemma Green
View the original article here

Perhaps Henry David Thoreau was onto something when he set out solo for a cabin in the woods with the aim of becoming completely self-sustainable – for one, he wouldn’t really need to stress about a contagious pandemic. 

Thoreau’s experience would later shape the 19th century literary classic Walden; or, Life in the Woods, detailing how he was able to rely solely on himself, including growing his own food and sourcing firewood for heat and light at night. 

Whether he knew it or not Thoreau was excelling at social distancing and we could all take a leaf out of his book. 

Because, while most of us have got the idea of self-isolation down pat, I bet few are likely to pass the self-sufficiency test.

You only have to look at recent purchasing trends to see some of the panic stemming from a lack of self-sufficiency to see this ‘test’ in action. 

First it was the toilet paper and tinned food, before spreading to plants, with a nursery’s months-worth of vegetables and seedlings stock sold over one weekend. 

Next up: renewable energy infrastructure, as demonstrated by one solar retailer experiencing a 41 percent jump in PV sales and a 400 percent increase in battery enquiries over the past two weeks. 

But where were these eco warriors, cultivating their own veggie patches and living ‘off-grid’ before the apocalyptic hysteria hit? 

If history is any proof, crises are often the perfect kindling for igniting change, especially when standards of living are threatened. 

And the COVID-19 crisis has certainly given the energy world a wake-up call when it comes to sustainability.  

Mother nature gets a well deserved break 

Amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns, shutdowns and working from home, air pollution has significantly dropped worldwide.

In New York, carbon monoxide levels, largely produced from cars, have fallen by nearly 50 percent compared with the same time last year. 

Greenhouse gas emissions in China have also plummeted with NASA releasing images where you can see the country’s reduction in nitrogen dioxide from space. 

Nitrogen dioxide emissions over China – Copyright NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens, using modified Copernicus Sentinel 5P data processed by the European Space Agency  – NASA

According to one analysis, the slowdown of economic activity in China led to an estimated 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions in just four weeks. 

The restriction on air travel, or any travel at all, has also clearly played a role in reducing pollutants.

And whether you choose to believe the stories of wildlife returning to cities, like dolphins and swans returning to Venice canals, coronavirus has certainly given mother nature a well-deserved moment of respite. 

However, this has been at the expense of economic development, of jobs and livelihoods – and it’s certainly not going to be long-term. 

Air pollutants will likely jump once day-to-day normalities resume. 

However, if we’re smart about it, we can use this period to re-evaluate our energy systems to help flatten the emissions curve and keep our air clean.

Energy systems under pressure 

Aside from the closure of factories and reduction in fuel-consuming transport, we can’t forget that data centers and server-farms are also huge energy-intensive industries. 

Collectively, these spaces represent approximately two percent of the United State’s total electricity use. 

In the UK, there’s been reports of home-working intensifying pressure on the electricity network, instead of being in the office where lighting, heating and cooling are shared. 

Now everyone’s either working from home, or just at home, internet use and streaming is peaking. 

A study by SaveOnEnergy estimated energy generated from the 80 million views on Netflix’s NFLX thriller Birdbox was equal to the equivalent of driving more than 146 million miles and emitting just over 66 million kilograms of CO2 – what it takes to drive from London to Istanbul and back 38,879 times. 

Beyond the environmental impact, coronavirus has brought more attention to the question of whether our current energy systems and frameworks can actually keep up with increasing demand pressures.  

Several country-appointed energy councils have met to discuss electricity demand pressures related to COVID-19, with renewable energy a popular topic. 

In a meeting between Australia’s federal, state and territory energy ministers, the transition towards a genuine two-sided market was emphasized – where consumers become prosumers by contributing excess rooftop solar and battery electricity to the grid.

This would play a large role in forming a ‘day-ahead’ market, to “address concerns that managing challenges like system strength is becoming increasingly difficult with only a real-time market”. 

On top of this, the Australian Government’s Economic Response to the Coronavirus actually includes tax deduction incentives for commercial and industrial solar PV, in a bid to help alleviate financial pressure through reduced electricity bills. 

Digital transformation is underway across the energy sector, with significant advancements in renewable energy technologies and the ways in which energy is distributed. 

For any real change to occur, you need people to switch perspectives.

Powering new mindsets

Tough times spark innovation. Now is as good a time as any to test new energy systems and processes, and it starts with a shift in thinking. 

Energy networks, retailers and operators have delivered services in much the same way for a century – driven by fossil-fuels. 

New technology is making it easier, more effective and affordable to use renewable energy, and the costs associated with installing those technologies, such as solar and batteries are decreasing.

And most industry players recognise the need to change and evolve in order to remain relevant, or are at least are starting to, with a little nudge from COVID-19. 

Self-generating renewable energy infrastructure gives people the power to become self-sufficient for their electricity needs, with some even going ‘off-grid’ altogether. 

National Energy Market retailer Powerclub is one company already trialling new technology to help alleviate demand pressure on the grid via a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) in South Australia and is currently calling for more households to join. 

The VPP enables Powerclub households with batteries to sell their stored, excess solar back to the grid during peak demand periods and price hikes, via peer-to-peer energy trading technology. 

There is a huge benefit to the broader community in that the VPP gives those who may not be able to afford solar panels, or those who are renting, the opportunity to access clean energy. 

As great as it is to think of only the environmental benefit that comes with using clean energy, a monetary incentive certainly makes the proposition more appealing. 

Not only does a VPP provide renewable energy infrastructure owners with a passive income, it can also provide an incentive for others to install solar panels – knowing they’ll be able to pay back their investment faster. 

Pair a VPP with home grown vegetables and you’re a little closer to achieving Thoreau’s vision for self-sufficiency. 

Where to from here? 

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t take a pandemic for people to reconsider their impact on the environment – but it has. 

We’re now being given a chance to press reset on many areas of our lives and reconsider what it takes and what choices to make in order to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Energy regulators are on the right track with numerous initiatives and policy changes currently underway.

But you could make a change right now – how we return to normal life post COVID-19 could lay the foundations for a cleaner and more resilient energy future.

Why does that matter? Well, as Thoreau said; “What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?”

All the things carmakers say they’ll accomplish with their future electric vehicles between now and 2030

By Tim Levin
View the original article here.

2020 Nissan Leaf SV Plus 
  • Last year saw numerous developments in the electric-vehicle space, from manufacturers like Tesla, Ford, and Porsche. 
  • In addition to the developments, carmakers made claims about how fast they’ll be introducing new electric and hybrid vehicles over the next few years — partially in response to tightening efficiency and emissions standards. 
  • Some manufacturers have revised their earlier estimates and are planning to reach electrification targets sooner than expected. 

The electric-vehicle market made big gains in 2019, across multiple car manufacturers — and the industry has even bigger plans for the years to come. 

Rivian, for example, closed out the year with an extra $1.3 billion in investments. Tesla turned a profit, debuted the Cybertruck, delivered the first Model 3s built in its Shanghai plant, and announced a boosted range on its Model S and Model X. On the luxury end of the spectrum, the Audi E-Tron went up for sale, Porsche started production on the Taycan performance car, and Lamborghini announced its first hybrid supercar.

While plenty of tangible EV-related developments happened in 2019, it was also a year of promises made. As of late last year, auto manufacturers had pledged to spend a total of $225 billion developing new EVs in the near future, via The Wall Street Journal. 

Increasingly restrictive emissions and fuel-efficiency regulations around the globe — but not so much in the US — are compelling carmakers to roll out vehicles more able to fit within those restrictions. Accordingly, in recent years, manufacturers have advertised a whirlwind of plans and timelines for bringing more EVs to market. 

Scroll down to read more about what automakers see in their EV future. 

Toyota

The Lexus UX 300e. 
Toyota

Toyota — whose cars currently make up more than 80% of the global hybrid vehicle market, according to Reuters — announced plans to generate half of its sales from electrified vehicles by 2025, five years earlier than it previously estimated. Despite having its own battery-making operation already, Toyota will partner with Chinese battery manufacturers to meet demand. 

Volkswagen Group

Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.3. 
Volkswagen

Last year, Volkswagen said it will spend more than $30 billion developing EVs by 2023. The manufacturer also aims for EVs to make up 40% of its global fleet by 2030. Not to mention, Volkswagen plans to reach its target of 1 million electric cars produced by the end of 2023, two years ahead of its prior predictions.

General Motors

The design for Cadillac’s first fully electric vehicle. 
GM

In 2019, General Motors said Cadillac will be its lead brand when it comes to electric vehicles. Cadillac’s president said the majority of the brand’s models would be electric by 2030, and left open the possibility that the lineup would go entirely electric by then. He also confirmed that Cadillac would roll out a large Escalade-like electric SUV, which it expects to begin manufacturing in late 2023.

Ford

The Ford Mustang Mach-E. 
Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Last year, Ford unveiled the Mustang Mach-E, an electric crossover that gets its name from the company’s iconic sports car. But that wasn’t the only EV Ford had plans for. In 2018, Ford’s CEO said an increased investment in electric-car initiatives would result in a 2022 model lineup that includes 40 electric and electrified vehicles. 

In 2019, Ford Europe said it will offer an electrified option for all of its future nameplates and announced at the Detroit Auto Show that a fully electric F-150 would launch in the coming years. The Blue Oval also showed off a lineup of 17 hybrids and EVs — both family haulers and commercial vehicles — it plans to bring to the European market by 2024.

Volvo

The Volvo XC40 Recharge. 
Volvo

Last year, Volvo released its first electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge, which it expects will go on sale in the US in the fourth quarter of 2020. The brand also doubled down on its pledge to generate 50% of its global sales from EVs by 2025 and promised that, by the same year, it will reduce the total carbon footprint of each vehicle manufactured by 40%.

Plus, Volvo said it will release a new EV every year for the next five years. This is all part of the Swedish company’s plan to become fully climate neutral by 2040.

Honda

The Honda E. Honda

Honda revealed its Honda E city car in 2019, and also said every model it sells in Europe will be at least partially electrified by 2022. That’s a big jump from Honda’s earlier projections of a full lineup of electrified cars by 2025. The fully electric Honda E and hybrid Jazz, known as the Fit to US consumers, will jumpstart the initiative.

BMW Group

The Mini Cooper SE. 
MINI

In 2017, BMW Group projected that electrified vehicles — a term that doesn’t necessarily equate to fully electric vehicles — would account for 15% to 25% of its sales by 2025.

In working toward that projection, BMW Group unveiled the electric Mini Cooper SE last year, targeting it toward “urban mobility.” In June, the Bavarian brand said it will offer 25 electrified vehicles by 2023, two years earlier than it had initially planned. One of those new models — an electric version of the 1 Series hatchback — may arrive as early as 2021.

BMW also projects a twofold increase in electrified vehicle sales by 2021, as compared with 2019, and a 30% growth in those sales year over year through 2025. 

Nissan

The Nissan Ariya Concept. 
Nissan

Nissan launched the Leaf Plus with a longer range last year, and plans to introduce eight new electric cars by 2022.

At last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the brand unveiled the concept version of its new Ariya EV, and Car and Driver reported late last year that a production version could make it to the US by 2021. Nissan claims the high-performance crossover will travel 300 miles on a single charge and go from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The Jeep Renegade plug-in hybrid. 
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

In 2018, Fiat Chrysler announced it would invest $10.5 billion in electrification through 2022. By that year, FCA plans to offer at least 12 hybrid and all-electric powertrain options and launch more than 30 electrified nameplates. As part of that effort, the company announced a $4.5 billion investment in new and existing plants last year that would allow it to produce at least four plug-in hybrid Jeep models.

FCA began making good on that promise when it displayed plug-in hybrid versions of the Compass, Renegade, and Wrangler at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. 

Daimler

The Mercedes-Benz EQC. 
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

In 2017, Daimler, the parent company to Mercedes-Benz, unveiled plans to plunge more than $11 billion into developing its EQ series of electric cars, with the aim of introducing more than 10 EVs by 2022. The company also plans to offer at least one electric option in every Mercedes-Benz model series. Last year, Daimler confirmed that an all-electric G-Wagen is in the works. 

Net-Zero Energy Homes Pay Off Faster Than You Think—Even in Chilly Midwest

By Dan Gearino
View the original article here.

As solar and heat pump prices fall, these highly energy-efficient homes are paying for themselves faster. Here’s how they work and why they’re spreading northward.

Home-builder Bill Decker explains some of the techniques used to create highly energy-efficient homes in chilly southeast Michigan. New research shows that the extra cost of making a home net-zero energy can pay for itself in under a decade in Detroit and 11.4 years in Chicago. Credit: Dan Gearino

Home-builder Bill Decker explains some of the techniques used to create highly energy-efficient homes in chilly southeast Michigan. New research shows that the extra cost of making a home net-zero energy can pay for itself in under a decade in Detroit and 11.4 years in Chicago. Credit: Dan Gearino

 

LAMBERTVILLE, Mich.—On a drive down a country road, builder Bill Decker gives an off-the-cuff seminar about energy efficient homes.

He shifts from carpentry to electrical engineering, and then to theology—his belief that his faith compels him to take care of the earth. Every few minutes, he pauses and points out a house his family-owned company has built.

He has been in business since 1981 and only now is his industry beginning to grasp something he has been arguing for a while: Net-zero-energy homes—homes that are so efficient a few rooftop solar panels can produce all the electricity the home needs—can be built almost anywhere, even in places with brutal winters.

His case is bolstered by a recent report from the Rocky Mountain Institute showing net-zero energy houses can make financial sense in much of the Midwest as costs for some of the key components fall. The initial extra costs of making a new home a net-zero energy home pay for themselves through energy savings in less than a decade in both Detroit and Columbus, Ohio, and in less than 14 years in most of the 50 largest U.S. cities, the report says.

At the forefront are custom builders who specialize in efficient houses and helped to create this market, people like Decker, 79, whose southeastern Michigan company, Decker Homes, is just across the state line from Toledo, Ohio.

“It isn’t just energy efficiency we’re talking about here,” he says. “It’s the whole world. We’re talking about climate change.”

Indeed, housing is responsible for about 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, including its share of power plant emissions.

Yet his sales pitch is largely about comfort. An energy efficient house doesn’t have chilly drafts, and the temperature varies little from room to room, and those are things that appeal to most people, he says.

‘It’s the Little Things that Add Up’

Decker parks on the dirt driveway of a house in progress as a light rain turns to snow flurries. In a living room that is studs and bare wood floors, he notes the features that make this house highly energy efficient. The key is making insulation an essential part of construction.

Decker walks to the corner of the room and points out an opening of several inches between studs to allow for easy placement of insulation. Builders call this a “California corner,” which is an alternative to a typical corner design that is much more difficult to insulate.

“It’s little things that add up,” he says.

NZ 2

Zero-energy homes start with well-sealed and well-insulated attics, walls and basements or slabs. They often use triple-pane windows, especially in places with cold winters. Inside, energy-efficient appliances, highly efficient LED lighting and smart thermostats help avoid energy waste.

Their designs often take natural lighting into account, too, and position windows and overhangs for additional solar heating in the winter and shade in summer. Since the homes are sealed to avoid letting cold or hot air in—and cool or warm air out—they also have ventilation systems customized to maintain comfortable circulation.

Decker recently completed his first house with an air-source heat pump, which is less expensive than geothermal heat or other electric options. In cold weather, the system extracts heat from the outside air and uses it to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. In warm weather, the process is reversed, with the system gathering heat from inside and transferring it outside.

He is starting to use air-source systems because newer models work well in below-freezing temperatures, which was not the case just a few years ago. Heat pump advancements are one of the main factors making highly efficient homes more affordable in many colder climates.

This is in addition to a cost factor that affects all climates: Rooftop solar prices have plummeted in recent years and are projected to continue doing so. That is true of battery power storage as well.

In Detroit, Net-Zero Pays for Itself in 9 Years

The costs and benefits of building net-zero houses vary widely in major cities, ranging from San Francisco, where the benefits would cover the costs in eight years, to Philadelphia, where it would take about three times as long, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The largest savings tend to be in cities with high electricity rates and older building codes.

NZ 3

The key point is that energy efficiency pays for itself, which is not the case for many other major expenses in a house, said Jacob Corvidae, principal at Rocky Mountain Institute, a research nonprofit that focuses on clean energy.

“Zero-energy homes are actually affordable,” he said. This is important because many consumers, builders and policymakers are reluctant to consider zero-energy homes because of the perception that costs are prohibitive, he said.

In Detroit, for example, a 2,200-square-foot net-zero energy house would cost $19,753 more than the same house with no solar and typical efficiency. The energy-bill savings would be $2,508 in the first year, and the solar and efficiency costs would pay for themselves in about nine years with inflation and other changes taken into account.

Bill Decker's son, Dale, shows some of the construction methods used to insulate and seal a highly energy-efficient home against air leaks and energy waste. Credit: Dan Gearino

Bill Decker’s son, Dale, shows some of the construction methods used to insulate and seal a highly energy-efficient home against air leaks and energy waste. Credit: Dan Gearino

The Midwest is well represented among cities with short payoff periods. Detroit is second in the report. Columbus ranks fourth, with a payoff of less than 10 years. Chicago ranks 10th and Indianapolis is 12th, with payoffs of about 11 years and 12 years, respectively.

Detroit has high annual savings in part because the city has some of the highest electricity rates, Corvidae said. Columbus’ high savings are in part because the city has an older building code, so standard houses do not have high efficiency standards.

A home with all the energy efficiency attributes of a net-zero energy house but not the solar panels will save customers money even more quickly, the report notes, though it doesn’t provide all of the climate benefits. In Detroit, a “net-zero-energy ready” house without solar would cost $1,574 more than a typical house and would pay for itself in less than two years. After that, the investment means hundreds of dollars in savings for the homeowner every year.

New California Mandate Gets Close to Net-Zero

Net-zero energy homes are a fraction of 1 percent of new housing being built, but their share is growing. Builders completed 13,906 net-zero housing units last year in the United States and Canada, a 70 percent increase from the prior year, according to a report by the nonprofit Net-Zero Energy Coalition.

California was the leader with more than 5,000 units, five times more than runner-up Arizona, where the Rocky Mountain Institute report shows net-zero homes in Phoenix can cover their costs in 11 years.

California’s lead is likely to grow because of a state building code update that takes effect in 2020 and will require solar panels on most new housing and have strict efficiency standards, the first state to do so. The code falls short of a mandate for net-zero energy housing, but it comes close.

Meanwhile, some of the country’s largest home builders, such as PulteGroup and Meritage Homes, are taking steps to offer net-zero energy options. In Cortez, Florida, Pearl Homes is building a zero-energy community that also incorporates energy storage and electric vehicle chargers.

The corporate moves are tied to consumer demand and because energy efficiency is becoming more affordable, said Ann Edminster, a consultant and architect who works with the Net-Zero Energy Coalition.

“We’re starting to see the tip of that iceberg, and when it really hits, it’s going to be huge,” she said.

Bill Decker thinks many more people would want an energy efficient house if they only had someone to explain the benefits. In his part of the world, that someone is him.

“It’s creating value, saving money, helping the environment,” he said. “In the end, you say to yourself, ‘Why would you do anything else?'”

Promoting Elder Wellness with Artificial Light

Rod Smith

By: Rodney Smith
Director of Energy Independence for Emerald Skyline Corporation
Inventor of Bio-Light

 

Humans evolved on Earth over thousands of years before the invention of artificial light, under natural light 1conditions of sunlight, moonlight, and a relatively little bit of fire light. These natural light conditions are reflected inthe physical structure of the eye, with cones being tuned to daylight and rods to night time light conditions. Humans are diurnal (daytime) beings, while some other animals are nocturnal, so our normal pattern of wakefulness and activity is during the daytime.

There is another form of light sensor in the eye discovered more recently that does not contribute directly to sight yet plays a role in secretion of melatonin: the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (pRGC).

During the past ten years brain scientists have discovered that in addition to patterns of light being transmitted via the optic nerve to the visual center in the brain, there is also a branch that transmits data regarding light conditions to a command center in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).

Light and the Endocrine System

2

The SCN processes the light data and sends command signals to several glands in the endocrine system to either secrete or suppress secretion of certain hormones critical to normal body function. The pineal gland, in the hypothalamus in the brain, suppresses secretion of melatonin in the presence of bright white light, specifically when the SCN has identified a narrow 10 nanometer band of light spectrum (out of 330 nanometers of human visible light spectrum) from 450 to 460 nanometers.

 

 

3

Action spectrum for melatonin regulation in humans

When melatonin secretion is suppressed we become more alert. Melatonin secretion normally occurs when exposure to the bright white light diminishes, e.g. at sundown, but only does so if the trigger has been set by bright white light exposure earlier in the day. Melatonin also serves as a powerful antioxidant which floods the body with natural anti-cancer agents while we sleep.1

The adrenal gland is also largely controlled by the SCN based on light conditions in an opposite way from melatonin. Cortisol secretion is stimulated in the presence of bright white light and suppressed normally at night. Cortisol serves as a wake up call to the body, raising our core body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure from a sleep state, and is also a factor in normal digestion. If the SCN does not signal the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol, we may be tired and listless. Changes in our digestive system could cause abnormal processing of foods especially carbohydrates and can be a factor in hypoglycemia associated with diabetes.3

Light and the Elderly

4People that lack exposure to natural sunlight are the most prone to have issues with mental and physical well-being resulting from abnormal hormonal secretion. Many elderly people lack adequate sunlight exposure. Furthermore the lens of the eye thickens and yellows with age, resulting in a 75% reduction in light passing through the lens by age 75. The yellowing of the lens reduces the blue end of the light spectrum where the circadian rhythm spectrum is found. The result can be sleep deprivation and the many issues that accompany it, including depression and circulatory issues, among others.

 

 

Spectral Power Density of GE "Natural Light" Fluorescent tubes

Spectral Power Density of GE “Natural Light” Fluorescent tubes

Unfortunately, traditional lighting does not provide the specific spectrum of light required between 450 and 460 nanometers for normal secretion and suppression of melatonin. Even with specialized “natural” light fluorescent tubes, the required light spectrum actually is at a low point in providing the critical spectrum while there are peaks on either side of the narrow band. The problem of proper light exposure cannot be solved by simply increasing the level of fluorescent light.

 

Spectral Power Density of LG 5630 LED at 6,500 Kelvin

Spectral Power Density of LG 5630 LED at 6,500 Kelvin

 

Fortunately, LED lighting is far more controllable in terms of light spectrum as well as in terms of dimming and low glare if well designed. Light being emitted from a source can be measured in spectral power density (SPD) at specific light spectrums measured in nanometers. It is possible to utilize LEDs in a fixture that has a perfect score of 100% SPD at the desired light spectrum. This is important, as the critical light spectrum can be passively delivered at reasonable levels of light in the ambient environment. Previously, light therapy devices required a patient to actively stare into a bright light box for two hours – which is an unpleasant experience to say the least – and not something many elderly residents can be expected to do. Delivery of the needed light spectrum passively will help assure all residents receive the desirable light and do not require active therapy.

If the LED fixture is designed as a side-lit panel, the light is indirect light and a pleasant glow to the eye, even at the higher light levels recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) for elder care facilities. With traditional lighting it is very difficult to even achieve the recommended light levels in a tolerable manner, and impossible to provide the critical light spectrum for circadian light. Assuring that elderly residents have adequate light levels to enjoy their interests and hobbies will raise their activity levels and mental engagement.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 5.21.19 PM

Spectral Power Density of LG 5630 LED at 2,700 Kelvin

There is a second part to the required light. While it is critical to have the bright white light especially in the morning, it is equally important to have warmer light with less blue light later in the afternoon and in the evening. If there is only bright white later in the day, melatonin secretion will continue to be suppressed.

LED lends itself to control so with modern wireless radio frequency control systems such as ZigBee, which is an IEEE telecommunication standard widely deployed by electrical power utilities to communicate wirelessly with smart meters and appliance among others, that facilitates implementation of automated lighting controls on a facility-wide basis for such functions as circadian light scheduling. By using an LED light fixture with both bright white and warm diodes, it is possible to control the light so the bright white is provided in the morning when needed and the warm light later in the day.

This is similar to how the light from the sun changes as the evening arrives. Furthermore, a ZigBee telecommunications platform can also connect with low cost light sensors to provide ambient light data to the control system that can adjust the level of intensity of the light as well as provide the capability to control other devices such as window blinds to further reduce energy consumption. The lighting system can also be linked through ZigBee to other automated sensor and control systems, such as fire detection and security systems.

In addition to the host of wellness benefits described above, LED lights can deliver up to 85% reduction in electricity consumption as well as providing maintenance-free lighting for up to 100,000 hours. For a light fixture on 24 hours per day, such as in a hallway, 100,000 hours of operation equals approximately 12 years. Light bulb maintenance is a significant component of facility maintenance and can free-up valuable employees to perform other maintenance tasks.

Recommendations

The flexibility of control of LED technology is arriving at a time when we can put it to good use for those living primarily indoors, as the elderly do. Opportunities now exist to deploy lighting designed to promote healthy endocrine system function. New eldercare facilities should be designed from a lighting perspective to IES standards, and they can also promote wellness of residents. The improved health can delay transition from Independent Living, to Assisted Living, to Skilled Nursing or Memory Care. In addition to the benefit to residents, making the most of LED capabilities can also reduce hospital transports, resulting in healthier bottom lines for operators.

For more information contact Rodney at rsmith@emeraldskyline.com 

 

 

Footnotes:

1 The American Cancer Society www.cancer.com

2 Brainard, G.C. et al, Action Spectrum for Melatonin Regulation in Humans: Evidence for a Novel Circadian Photoreceptor, Journal of Neuroscience 21 (2001) 16, pp 6405-6412.

3 The Cortisol Awakening Response-applications and implications for sleep medicine, G.J. Elder, M.A. Wetherell, N.L. Barclay, J.G. Ellis, Sleep Medicine Review 2014 June; 18(3):215-24.

Additional Reading:

Light and Human Health: An Overview of the Impact of Optical Radiation on Visual, Circadian, and Neurobehavioral Responses, Illuminating Engineering Society, M.C. Figueira, G.C. Brainard, S. W. Lockley, V.L. Revell, R. White, TM-18-08, 2008

Lighting for Health: LEDs in the New Age of Illumination, United States Department of Energy, 2014 The Impact of Light in Outcomes in Healthcare Settings, A. Joseph, The Center for Health Design, 2006

CircadianDisturbanceinPatientswithAlzheimer’sDisease,D.A.Weldemichael,G.T.Grossberg, International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2010

Lighting and the Visual Environment for Senior Living, Illuminating Engineering Society, ANSI/IES RP-28-07, 2007

SIRT1 Mediates Central Control in the SCN by a Mechanism that Decays with Aging, H.C. Chung, L. Guarante, Cell 153, 1448-1460, 2013

The Cortisol Awakening Response in Context, A. Clow, F. Hucklebridge, L. Thorn, International Review of Neurobiology, NIH, 2010; 93: 153-75.

IoT, LEDs, lighting, and the future of workplace planning

In the real estate industry, understanding how our buildings are used is critical to understanding how to manage our buildings.

View the original article here.
By Brad Pease

blueprint

What is IoT and why is it useful to workplace planning?

IoT = Internet of Things: The interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data via the internet.

In the real estate industry, understanding how our buildings are used is critical to understanding how to manage our buildings. Buildings may be built of brick and mortar, but they are not static; they constantly evolve based on the needs of their occupants. People change their schedules and their locations within a building; and the people and technology that they need access to change too.

For building owners, understanding how your second highest investment (your real estate) interacts with your highest investment (your people) is critical to your company’s long-term financial success. Do you have too much space? Not enough? The right type of space? The right quality of space? These are all questions that you need a good source data to understand, and the dataset should allow you to trend how your building is used. This trending data empowers your workplace planning team to spot opportunities to make meaningful changes.

A new data source for workplace planning: IoT-connected lighting

Workplace planners need a device to collect data. Rather than adding a ton of sensors to a building – or worse, to people – designers need something that is in every room, and that indicates how the space is used. The answer is likely above you right now. It is indicating that you are present, and is tuned to the needs of your current task. The answer, of course, is the lights.

IOT lighting data can help owners establish a workplace design strategy. While this isn’t the typical use-case for lighting system data, it can be used to understand space utilization and adds a powerful dimension to workplace planning and decision making.

As every space in a building requires lighting, and the only reason we have lights is for people, lights are the ideal candidate to use as a data source; and lights don’t need a lot of added intelligence to be a great data source.  Here are three useful ways to track lighting data for workplace design:

  • Whether a light is on or off indicates if the room is occupied.
  • The number of fixtures or lighting scenes that are used in a room will indicate the type of function that is occurring in that room.
  • The total hours of fixture use can indicate the utilization of the space and, in the case of multi-use spaces, the most frequent activities that users engage in.

When all the above is tracked, trended, and analyzed, you will understand: which spaces in your building are used the most; which spaces don’t get used at all; and what type of spaces are over-used, potentially leading to resource constraint that your employees need to do their work. Trending the data across a building or campus will allow you to optimize your investment in changes to your real estate, perhaps allowing you to invest in a new way of using your space based on the best data sources available: your employees. That’s better than investing in a new building!

2

Powering LEDs through the Ethernet

The cost to implement an IOT lighting system can be reduced through the advancement in LED technology. Using LEDs reduce power consumption plus LED lights offer more options as to how to power those lights. LEDs are so efficient that it is possible to power them using an ethernet cord, eliminating a traditional power cord. Called Power Over Ethernet (POE), you can both control and power an LED light with one cord instead of two.  The cost to install a power cord is the same as the cost to run Ethernet, and it eliminates the need for wireless or additional control wires in the fixtures – which results in a lower cost of installation. And using POE, light fixtures are suddenly accessible for IoT uses because they are connected to a two-way data line.

Once you have Ethernet connectivity to every fixture, the controllability and data collection opportunities sky rocket. You don’t need smart fixtures – you need just one centralized smart controller that sends, tracks, and trends fixture use. Once connected to a cloud-based interface, facility managers and building owners are granted instant information on their building utilization. Simply add POE technology to your next lighting upgrade, and you’ll open a whole new data source for your workplace design strategy team.

3

The wellness connection: how a POE- and IOT-connected lighting system contributes to an optimal work environment

POE- and IOT-connected LED fixtures can be used to increase health and wellbeing along with optimized energy performance. LEDs can modify the spectrum of light being supplied, which in combination with dimming capability, allows a lighting designer to optimize a space for human cognitive performance.

Humans evolved outdoors for thousands of years before moving inside to work under artificial lighting. People perform better, feel better, and enjoy their surroundings more when connected to nature. And natural light has thousands of permeations a minute, and constantly changes to reflect the time of day, weather, and surrounding surface reflections.

LEDs can be tuned to match the natural cycles of daylight, with blue hues in the morning giving way to red hues in the evening. This circadian lighting pattern allows interior spaces to mimic the natural rhythms of the outdoors. Programming artificial lighting to match natural light, has proven to improve cognitive performance. It can also help building occupants to wake up, fall asleep quicker at night, and stay refreshed longer.

4

The future is bright

IoT-connected lighting is more than a technology trend; IoT-connected lighting allows us to find new uses for old things and reframe our understanding of items that were once viewed as static. Lights, their power, and their controls can provide a rich data source that will allow you to optimize your real estate and your people, which improves the future of your business. IOT-connected lighting takes the guesswork out of many real estate needs, contributing to sustainability and wellness.

Want a healthy building? Follow this primer on two new wellness standards

This article is republished on Sustainable Benefits for educational purposes.
View the original article here: Perkins+Will’s Ideas + Buildings

By Kate Kerbel

WELL

While our industry’s focus on wellness may seem like just the latest trend, occupant health has been an important goal of the built environment for centuries. In the 1800s, urban infrastructure allowing access to fresh water, natural light, and clean air significantly reduced the number of deaths from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, and yellow fever. Additionally, in the 1900s, doctors consulted on the design of school gymnasiums, advising on how the environment could help support human health.

Today, with individuals spending on average over 40 hours a week at work, health and wellness are taking center stage. Labor and healthcare spending also comprise the bulk of operating expenses—making happy and healthy employees a smart investment.

Since its development in the 1990s, the LEED rating system has been applied to over 19.1 billion total commercial square feet. Along with other systems like BREEAM, Energy Star, and the Living Building Challenge, green building design and operations work to conserve energy across the globe. A serendipitous byproduct of green design has become apparent: people like working in green buildings better. Green buildings ensure access to daylight, incorporate biophilia, provide clean air, and leverage healthy materials; it’s no wonder people like spending time in them.

In recent years, two new wellness rating systems have emerged. Both use research-based strategies to evaluate buildings not by how much energy they save or how they impact the environment, but by how they can directly contribute to occupant health.

WELL was developed by Delos and has a somewhat similar framework and documentation process to its “cousin,” LEED. Both certifications are administered by the Green Business Certification (GBCI), which continues to improve and streamline the synergistic documentation processes.

Fitwel, developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), and administered by the Center for Active Design, aims to identify the most impactful strategies for space and does not require a technical design background to administer.

Perkins+Will is well versed in both systems. We’ve committed to achieving Fitwel certification for all our North American offices, and we have a handful of WELL-certified projects, including the ASID Headquarters—the first space in the world to earn both both LEED and WELL Platinum Certification.

ASID

The ASID Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was WELL Certified at the Platinum level under WELL v1 in June 2017.

As a Fitwel Ambassador and our firm’s first WELL Accredited Professional, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the two systems. In just one year, I have seen a huge increase in interest, especially from developers. In response, here are my answers to two of the most frequently asked questions from those considering these emergent systems.

HOW DOES WELL DIFFER FROM LEED?

Impact Categories

As opposed to LEED’s Location & Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality categories, WELL divvies up its 100 Features (credits) into: Air (Quality), Water (Quality), Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. There are naturally some synergies between the categories: For example, an automated daylight sensor that dims overhead lights when sufficient daylight is present saves energy, but it also reduces glare and allows people to work in a naturally lit space. Conversely, some of the categories prioritize occupant health over energy savings . For example, WELL requires that paper towels be provided in restrooms because automated hand blowers are less sanitary. Through the LEED lens, the additional use of material would be discouraged.

On-Site Testing

LEED requires thorough documentation for the majority of credits, including annotated floor plans, measurements, manufacturer documentation, etc. WELL, on the other hand, requires signed letters of assurance from the architect, contractor, MEP engineer, or owner for many Features. Then, the GBCI sends their own WELL Assessor to the site to visually observe that all the policies are in place, and to conduct rigorous testing to confirm air and water quality standards.

Recertification

Unlike LEED, WELL requires project recertification for construction/major renovation projects as well as interiors projects every three years, which means a WELL Assessor will come back to the site to make observations and rerun quality tests. Projects may either meet the same level of certification they originally earned, be awarded a higher certification than their original level, or lose certification. Core and shell projects, however, do not need to be recertified.

Preconditions

There are more preconditions in WELL (called prerequisites in LEED) than you might expect. For certification or compliance to be awarded, all applicable WELL preconditions need to be met. The number of preconditions that must be met depends on the project typology. For example, new construction/major renovation projects have 41 preconditions, while core and shell projects have 26.

Levels of Certification

Certification starts at silver and consists of Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Meeting all of the preconditions earns a silver certification. Gold level certification is achieved by meeting all WELL preconditions, in addition to between 40 to 80 percent of the optimization features. Platinum level certification is achieved by meeting all preconditions, as well as 80 percent or more of the optimization features.

WHICH STANDARD IS BEST FOR MY BUILDING?

There are several compelling reasons to use each system. For instance, if a client comes to us with a large real estate portfolio and is interested in tracking hundreds of locations, Fitwel would be the best choice. Fitwel is relatively quick and straightforward for facility managers to use themselves to find out if their buildings earn zero, one, two, or three stars. Furthermore, with a large portfolio, facility managers would be able to benchmark all of their locations and set company goals. For example, they may want to bring all of their locations up to two stars over a certain number of years. Fitwel gives the user feedback regarding what changes the building/operations can make that will have the most impact on improving their workplace.

WELL, because of the more substantial effort and cost, realistically would be ideal for a few featured locations of a large portfolio at this point in time. The process of achieving WELL looks similar to that of achieving LEED: It should be discussed early in the project design process and will require members of the architecture, engineering, and operations team to work together to submit documentation.

Lastly, a client could also pursue both Fitwel and WELL for a building, as we are doing with our own Perkins+Will Dallas office, since there are unique benefits to both. Also, keep in mind that certifications are not necessary to ensure the design of a healthy space. Similar to designing green buildings, it is completely possible to design the healthiest of spaces using thoughtful design concepts that great architects have pursued throughout history without completing a formal documentation system.

 

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

Solar Power: the Sunshine State Needs Your Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Miami Herald recommends YES on Amendment 4.

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

http://www.yeson4.org/

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

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

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

The rapid growth of electric cars worldwide, in 4 charts

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


The rapid growth of electric cars worldwide, in 4 charts

electric vehicle parking

An increasingly common sight

Written by Brad Plumer on June 6, 2016

One million down, another billion or so to go.

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

evolution global electric car stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric vehicle uptake

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

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

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

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

evolution battery energy density cost

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

deployment scenarios electric cars

IEA, Global EV Outlook 2016

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

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

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

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

End article.


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