Gobble Up Energy Savings This Thanksgiving

November 24, 2015 by

Energy tips for the holidaysThanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday season. While it is a time for family, friends, and home cooking, there are still a few things building owners and property managers can serve up to reduce energy use — and costs — over the holiday breaks.

Here are a few tips (courtesy of BOMA) to be thankful for when it comes to holiday energy conservation:

  • Send tenants a reminder to turn off all task lighting and power down electronics when leaving for holiday weekends
  • Turn down your HVAC systems during the last few hours of the day before the break, as many tenants leave early before a holiday
  • Set up a “by request only” policy for HVAC services during a long holiday weekend, otherwise systems will be scaled back to account for fewer occupants
  • Put in place an automatic building “lights out” at 7:00pm with a tenant override mechanism
  • Turn off hot water heaters or reset hot water thermostats to the lowest possible setting while your building is unoccupied
  • Make sure your janitorial contractor knows that your office will be closed for the holiday to avoid unnecessary energy use

Here’s to an energy efficient Thanksgiving!

Green Buildings Do Make You Smarter!

November 21, 2015 by

More proof! Green buildings do help occupants think smarter! At least that’s what a new study by researchers at Harvard University T.H.Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, Syracuse University Center of Excellence, and SUNY Upstate Medical School supports.

The study — titled The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function — found improved indoor environmental quality positively impacts cognitive performance. In fact, it more than doubled participant’s scores on cognitive function tests!

The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function study overview. (PRNewsFoto/United Technologies)

Credit: United Technologies

According to a recent article in Facility Executive, the study evaluated the cognitive performance of participants who experienced conditions in a laboratory setting that simulated those found in conventional and green buildings, as well as green buildings with enhanced ventilation. Researchers measured cognitive function for basic, applied and focused activity levels; task orientation; crisis response; information seeking; information usage; breadth of approach; and strategy.

The study found scores were better in green building conditions compared to the conventional building conditions across all nine functional domains. On average, cognitive scores were:

  • 61% higher in green building conditions
  • 101% higher in enhanced green building conditions

The largest cognitive improvement occurred in crisis response, with response scores 97% higher for the green environment and 131% higher for the enhanced green environment. Information usage and strategy were also greatly improved.

“This study suggests that indoor environments can have a profound impact on the decision-making performance of workers, which is a primary indicator of worker productivity,” said Dr. Joseph Allen, Assistant Professor of Exposure Assessment Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School, and Principal Investigator for the study.

“These results are provocative for three reasons,” he continued. “First, they suggest that the levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds that we commonly encounter in conventional office buildings are associated with decreases in worker performance compared to when those same workers are in green building environments. Second, when we enhance ventilation and optimize indoor environmental conditions, we see improvements in the cognitive function of workers. And third, these results fill important knowledge gaps in existing research about the relationship between green buildings and occupant health.”

The study was conducted in the environmentally controlled, world-class Total Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory at the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems in Syracuse, NY, and took place over the course of six workdays spread across a two-week period.

For more details, check out the complete Facility Executive article or download The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function study.


U.S. Manufacturers Realize $2.4B in Energy Savings Under Better Plants Initiative

November 14, 2015 by

DOE Better PlantsThe manufacturing industry is one of the largest consumers of energy in the U.S. economy. Manufacturers spend almost $230B on energy every year, which represents almost 25% of our total domestic energy use. Because of this, the sector has a huge opportunity for energy reduction.

And U.S. manufacturers are starting to do just that. Highlighted in a recent Cleantechnica article, the latest U.S. Department of Energy Better Plants Program update reveals the industry saved 457 trillion BTUs and $2.4B in energy savings over the past five years. However, the data they collected represents only 11% of the manufacturing businesses in the U.S. — meaning the potential for savings is much greater and this is only a drop in the bucket of possible energy reduction to come.

Better Plants is a multi-sector initiative created to improve the energy efficiency of America’s commercial, residential, and industrial buildings. It is part of the Obama Administration’s broader Better Buildings Challenge, which targets improving energy efficiency in all U.S. commercial and industrial buildings by at least 20% over the next 10 years.

Under the program, the manufacturing sector set its own specific goal to reduce operational energy by 25% over 10 years with assistance from DOE. To date, 157 companies have joined the Better Plants partnership. This equals approximately 2,400 manufacturing facilities and 11.4% of America’s manufacturing energy footprint participating in the program.

Some other Better Plant highlights include:

  • 21 new Better Plants partners joined in the last year alone
  • Better Plants partners are found in all 50 states and nearly every manufacturing sector — from chemicals to metals to paper
  • Participation is not affected by if the state is a traditional energy efficiency leader or laggard — California and Illinois have as many facilities as Georgia, Indiana, and Texas
  • Partners span all sizes — including 3 of America’s 10 largest corporations by gross revenue to 20 companies who spend less than $1M per year on energy
  • To date partners have saved the equivalent to the annual energy use of 3.7M U.S. homes or taking 5.6M passenger vehicles off the road for a year

So far, 25 Better Plants partners have met their energy savings goals through the challenge, with 9 reaching the mark this year alone. Beyond adding new members, Better Plants is also adding new focus areas. The effort expanded into pilot programs to improve supply chain efficiency and water efficiency in 2014, and plans on rolling out combined heat and power and cooling/refrigeration programs by 2016.

“When companies save energy, they also save money and reduce harmful carbon pollution,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “This is especially true in the manufacturing sector, where energy costs are often a significant contributor to total operating costs.”

For more on these impressive results and how the Better Plants partners are doing across the country read the complete Cleantechnica article.

DOE Publishes Common Definition of Zero Energy

October 28, 2015 by

zero energy buildings“Zero-energy” (also referred to as “net zero energy” or “zero net energy”) has been in the green building lexicon for years. However, there has always been a lack of clarity as to what exactly constituted a zero-energy building.

This uncertainty has created confusion in the market and hindered zero energy building efforts and achievements. Now, according to a recent Energy.gov article, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has finally cleared up the confusion with the release of A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings!

The publication is a culmination of an 18-month stakeholder study conducted with the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), and it offers a standard definition for zero energy buildings as well as provides important guidelines for measurement and implementation. The study states a zero-energy building is “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.” The definition also applies to campuses, portfolios, and communities.

Beyond establishing industry-wide clarity, providing a standard definition will help states anZero Energy Buildingsd private sector partners speed the pace and expand the success of zero energy construction.

“While we are making significant progress to save energy in buildings, this zero energy building definition developed by DOE helps increase expectations and orient the building industry towards even greater achievements,” said Brendan Owens, chief engineer at the U.S. Green Building Council. “USGBC applauds DOE’s effort to define zero energy buildings and we look forward to continuing to champion the cause of building efficiency and renewable energy applications to meet the ambitious goals of this definition.”

“These consistent definitions will contribute to the growth of zero energy building construction across the country,” said Ralph DiNola, CEO of New Buildings Institute (NBI). “NBI supports the definitions as a federal position and will promote this effort through the work we do leading programs, practices, and policies to get to zero across North America.”

Simply put, a zero energy building produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thus reducing the use of non-renewable energy in the building sector. The long-term advantages of this includes reduced environmental impact, lower operating and maintenance costs, better resilience to power outages and natural disasters, and improved energy security.

Reducing building energy consumption in new building construction or renovation can be accomplished through various means, including integrated design, energy efficiency retrofits, reduced plug loads, and energy conservation programs. Reduced energy consumption makes it easier and less expensive to meet the building’s energy needs with renewable sources of energy.

By clarifying what it means to be a zero energy building, more building owners will be able to determine if developing a zero energy building is right for them. By creating this common definition, building owners and project teams can now better focus their effort on implementing strategies to improve the performance of their buildings.

Read the complete story at Energy.gov for more details and reactions to the DOE’s new zero energy building publication, A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings.

BrandsMart’s $2M Energy Retrofit is the Largest PACE Funded Project in the Southeast U.S.

October 15, 2015 by

BrandsMart Energy EfficiencyKnown for helping shoppers find deals on home appliances and electronics, retailer BrandsMart USA got the best deal this time when it secured low-cost PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing for a comprehensive energy-efficiency retrofit of its West Palm Beach, Florida store.

Facilitated through the Florida Green Energy Works Program, BrandsMart received $2.25M from a private investor for the project. It’s the largest PACE project on the East Coast this year and the largest ever in Florida and the broader Southeastern United States.

Not only will BrandsMart increase energy efficiency and net operating income of its store without having to tap into their own capital, they will also improve the value of the property and help create green jobs in Florida.Florida PACE Loans

The PACE model is a simple and effective way to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades for commercial and residential buildings. In areas with PACE legislation in place, municipal governments offer a specific bond to investors who then loan the money to property owners to put towards an energy retrofit that can make the buildings more sustainable and valuable. The loans are repaid over an assigned term (usually between 10 to 20 years) via an annual assessment on the property tax bill.

PACE loans help property owners pay for the upfront costs of their green initiatives and immediately begin saving on energy costs while they are still paying for the retrofit. This usually provides net gains, even with the increased property tax.

The City of West Palm Beach was one of the first cities in Florida to join a PACE program, along with other forward-thinking cities and counties to create the Florida Green Energy Works Program. It is Florida’s only “open market” PACE program and is managed by EcoCity Partners. The program currently serves 13 communities throughout the state and has been approved to operate statewide.

“I want to commend BrandsMart for their leadership,” said Jeri Muoio, Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach. “Their commitment to our environment is a testament to the opportunity for our private sector partners to step forward and join us as we continue to takes steps to preserve our planet. Bravo BrandsMart!”

“This project represents a major step toward fulfilling the program goal for commercial enterprises of promoting cost-savings through higher energy-efficiency,” said David Thatcher, Chair of the Board of the Florida Green Finance Authority and sponsor of the PACE program. “This is our largest commercial project to date and we look forward to many more…”

This newest BrandsMart project will include new HVAC systems, energy-efficient lighting, and a new roof. ABM, one of the largest facility management services providers in the U.S., will manage the upgrade.

For more details, read the complete story in Energy Manager Today.