Thursday, December 5, 2013

Key Energy Saving Tips in Facilities Management

By: April Brown

Through a recent federal government grant with the General Services Administration (GSA), the Institute for the Built Environment summarized the current state of research on effective strategies to reduce the carbon footprint, resource use, and costs of operating existing buildings. By utilizing research from academia, national laboratories, and professional associations, we have identified key low-cost opportunities in 5 high impact areas for energy conservation: plug and process load management, water efficiency, daylighting, behavior engagement, and operational efficiency. Our findings elevate the conversation in facilities management by clarifying the role of energy efficiency, occupant behavior, building maintenance staff and organizational leadership, and sustainability. Additionally, our findings prioritize high impact energy saving tips and best management practices based on return on investment data for operational sustainability in buildings. April Brown, co-author of the research for GSA, answers 4 frequently asked questions related to energy efficiency and facilities management of existing buildings based on recent studies.

1.  What if I want to improve the energy use at my office, but don’t have a lot of money or don’t have control of the major mechanical systems or building envelope.  Can I make meaningful changes on a limited budget?

Yes, actually, there several operations and maintenance activities that have significant energy savings with little upfront cost and require little control over building systems.  In fact, low cost operations and maintenance measures realize the same energy savings as equipment retrofits and cost 20 times less. The first place to start is with implementation of a few simple and straightforward building operations and maintenance best practices. It may sound unlikely that such savings can be achieved through these simple changes, but studies have shown that developing and implementing best practices has significant impact.  For example, after 4 years of operating with definitive best practices, a Spain university reduced energy costs by $676,750, annually, which had a 2.5 year return on investment. Key best practices in saving operational energy costs include the following:

  • Planning and goal setting – Develop energy management plan with energy efficiency as a key strategic goal of the organization and incorporate goals for energy efficiency into the business plan. Encourage proactive actions and keep senior management regularly informed and engaged in the progress toward achieving goals.
  • Appoint an energy manager –Designate an individual responsible for managing energy and promoting energy-efficient building operation. Often the cost savings generated by an experienced energy manager can easily cover his or her salary. Usually buildings/portfolios over 300,000 square feet would require a certified energy manager; otherwise assigning energy management tasks to a qualified staff person may be sufficient.
  •  Perform operations and maintenance assessments – Operations and maintenance assessments seek to understand why the building is operated and maintained in a certain way.  To be clear, an O&M assessment is not an energy audit, rather, the assessment evaluates the current O&M program and practices, including the management structures, policies, and user requirements that influence them. Assessments are critical to understanding where opportunities exist and what documentation is lacking. For more information on O&M assessments see Operation and Maintenance Assessments for Energy Efficient Building Operation.
  • Whole building energy accounting – Track and analyze past and current energy use, demand (electricity), and cost using a convenient and reliable methodology (e.g. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager). Be sure to share energy accounting information with facilities staff as they are often the most involved with operating and maintaining the building, yet they know the least information on energy use. Distribute report to both senior management and facilities staff and show how you are meeting the organization’s strategic goals for energy reduction. 
  • Documentation – Buildings systems and operating plans are invaluable to properly maintaining your building.  With operating documentation, such as written sequences of operation or control strategies, provide a reference to check against when changes occur and ensure that changes in sequencing are continually documented.   These resources eliminate energy waste by providing confidence in whether the operations schedules are intended or off track.  Videos and photographs can complement written documentation.
  • Appropriate equipment scheduling – Equipment schedules should meet occupant needs but not exceed. The easiest way to waste energy is to leave equipment and lights on when they could be off. Equipment schedules are often adjusted to meet the need of a special program but not reverted back to normal operations. Therefore, continual review of scheduling eliminates waste. The payback for improved scheduling is almost immediate because of the little cost, including labor.
2.  What are key best practices for reducing plug loads in an office building?

Office equipment can make up as much as 30% of electricity consumption in an office, making this a great target for reducing wasted energy and paying closer attention to office schedules and occupancy needs. Key best practices are:
  • Procurement – Purchase ENERGY STAR equipment when it’s time to replace office equipment. Once study found that ENERGY STAR equipment resulted in 18% energy savings. When purchasing computers, prioritize laptops over the desktop computers as laptops typically use a third of the energy of desktop computers. If you still have CRT monitors, it is high time to replace those with LCD monitors, which use less than half of the power draw of CRT monitors. Additionally, adjust brightness to the dimmest setting that the ambient lighting in the room will allow or consider automatic brightness controls, which change the brightness based on the ambient light levels. Institutionalize the use of centralized printers where several workstations use one printer. Also, consider inkjet printers when possible as they use significantly less energy than other printers.
  • Power management settings – Enable aggressive power management settings before distributing equipment to staff. Low power modes include setting computers and laptops to sleep mode after 15-60 minutes of inactivity – the shorter the better. Also, educate staff on how to activate even lower power modes and why it’s important.
  • Shutoff interventions – Other plug load reduction strategies seek to shutoff plugs through load or occupant sensor plug strips (27% energy savings), schedule-based controls (40+% energy savings), and email reminders (6% energy savings). In one GSA study, schedule based plug strips were installed after enabling low power settings and reduced plug loads at workstations by an additional 26%. Payback must be evaluated as the cost of these advanced power strips can be prohibitive.
3.  What about indoor water use reduction?  Do you suggest retrofitting fixtures with dual flush toilets and automated faucets?

Well, while both are well intended, research shows that dual flush toilets and automated faucets use more water than expected from the flush and flow rate specifications. Depending on what type of fixture they are replacing, they can actually increase indoor water use.  Dual flush toilets typically use more water than projected because the flush mechanism is not aligned with user behavior, meaning the dual flush handle is designed to pull up for a low-flow flush and down for a full flush.  As we toilet users are already conditioned to push the handle down, our primary behavior decreases the efficiency of the toilets. The appropriate use of the handle can be increased through the education of building occupants; however some building owners have elected to reverse the handle design to align with user behavior.  Also, the type of building occupant must be considered; for example, if the building primarily serves visitors then education is not effective. Furthermore, dual flush fixtures never make sense in bathrooms where urinals are present, as the toilet is typically used only for the full flush in this instance. There is a great resource available, called Maximum Performance (MaP), that shows the performance specifications of many toilets available on the market, comparing performance of waste removal (grams per flush) and flow rate.  For example, many toilets flush 1,000 grams per flush with 1.28 gallons of water per flush (20% water savings compared to code). In summary, single low-flush toilets are the best at sufficiently eliminating solid waste and guaranteeing water savings.

Research also shows that automatic faucets – though hygienic – use more water than they should, due to incorrectly installed sensors, phantom uses (turning on without being triggered by an intentional hand), and always operating at full flow (instead of the variable flow of manual fixtures).  Aerators are likely a more effective, and less expensive, retrofit for reducing water consumption. If installing automatic faucets, pay careful attention to product specifications to ensure the sensor calibration is noted and accurate and the cycle time is aligned with the design intent.

4.  What are some in-house activities that we might be able to do to reduce energy consumption without needing outside contractors?

For larger, more complex buildings and/or portfolios, there are two primary operations and maintenance strategies that encompass many of the known and documented best management practices – building re-tuning and energy information systems.

Re-tuning is a comprehensive set of activities that evaluate a buildings’ energy management and control systems to ensure that schedules and controls are appropriate and operating correctly. Re-tuning seeks to identify and correct building operational problems that lead to energy waste, ensuring maximum energy efficiency and occupant comfort year after year. Essentially, re-tuning is a scaled-down version of retro-commissioning.  A key difference between re-tuning and retro-commissioning is that, once properly trained, re-tuning can be done with in-house staff, whereas retro-commissioning typically requires an outside contractor. Furthermore, because re-tuning is done in-house, building operators and owners take ownership of the faults and corrective actions, ensuring persistence with energy savings. Re-tuning and Energy Information Systems are complimentary to each other, as re-tuning relies on energy analysis to evaluate the economic impact of corrective actions.

Energy Information Systems (EIS) are advanced energy tracking software, hardware, and communication technologies used to store, analyze, and publish building energy information. EIS are not energy management and control systems (EMCS) or building automation systems (BAS), as these systems control the energy consuming systems in a building. Instead, EIS connect with the buildings’ EMCS or BAS to gather and track the energy data, then analyze the data against weather files, baselines and benchmarks and send alerts to managers. Additionally, EIS are not information dashboards, batch analysis tools, greenhouse gas footprint calculators, or environmental monitors. EIS pertain more specifically to efficient building operations by offering a proactive approach to energy management using meters and sophisticated software to read, analyze, and alert based on readings.  In essence, EIS supports real-time detection of energy waste, allowing staff to identify the cause and determine the appropriate response. EIS are a promising solution for building managers to continuously reduce energy use and costs. EIS may be too sophisticated for some building owners but the concept is scalable.  Small building owners can start small with whole building benchmarking and energy accounting. Studies show that simple benchmarking and tracking still result in energy savings, concluding that just by monitoring we notice simple opportunities for improvement. EPA analyzed the ENERGY STAR portfolio manager buildings and found that during the years 2008-2011 buildings had an average annual savings of 2.4%. The more sophisticated the accounting and tracking program, the more energy savings potential. One study found that permanent metering and continuous monitoring saved 9% in energy use.  Other studies show that buildings with sophisticated EIS save up to 25% energy costs.
Re-tuning and EIS focus on the operational efficiency of building operations.  Often operations and maintenance best management practices focus on improving maintenance procedures and equipment efficiency, however, facilities staff should equally consider how their building is wasting energy because no matter how efficiently your equipment is running, if it’s running when it doesn’t need to be you are wasting precious money and resources.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Technology Backing Traditional Wisdom in Sustainable Construction

People often think of sustainable construction as if it was a new concept, when in reality it is the concept of wastefulness in construction that is novel. Throughout much of history people built their homes with environmentally benign materials that were locally sourced and readily available out of necessity.  Over time, it was discovered that using certain designs, orientations, material choices, and construction methods could lead to homes that maximized comfort and functionality for residents.   

For example, Ancient Syrians discovered that they could construct beehive shaped mud huts that would keep them cool in their hot, arid desert climate.  The mud used to build these huts has a relatively high thermal mass so it is slow to absorb or release energy. Few or no windows prevent radiant heat gains in the huts. A small hole in the center of the elevated ceiling allows for hot air to rise and escape the structure. This leads to these structures staying cool during the day and somewhat warm at night. 
Cliff dwellings constructed by the Pueblo Indians are another great example of using natural surroundings and passive design strategies to maximize comfort.  Entire villages constructed out of stone have been discovered built into southern facing cliffs and nestled underneath natural rock overhangs.  These overhangs effectively minimize unwanted direct solar heat gain during the summer months while allowing for much needed heat gains the winter months.  The rock overhang also provides residents with protection from rain and snow.  

While it is not practical for everyone to have a stone house built into the side of a cliff, nor do most westerners want to live in a mud hut, it is possible to use a higher percentage of locally sourced materials and take advantage of passive design strategies to optimize the performance of your building.

As written by the ancient Greek philosopher Aeschylus, “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun.”  

But as I walk through my neighborhood it seems as though houses were dropped on their site with no consideration of the buildings orientation. 

So has the technological “advancement” of the human race somehow caused us to revert primitives and barbarians without enough sense to even attempt to take advantage of the free energy from the sun? Are we content relying on the brute strength of our HVAC systems to regulate our comfort instead of taking advantage of the synergistic opportunities of good design and construction.

Sure, technology certainly has the potential to enhance the comfort and functionality of homes but it often comes with negative impacts on the environment and consequently, our health.

I assert that technology must not take place of previously developed designs & construction methods that we now refer to as “sustainable,” rather it should be used to optimize and build upon these previously established construction principles.

In the past, building designs were refined and optimized from the process of trial and error over many years.  Now software exits capable of running building performance simulations to give us a better idea of they will perform before we construct them.  These simulations allow us to better understand how a variety of factors such as climate, building orientation and design, material selection and construction methods impact a building’s ultimate performance. 

In addition, advancements in windows, air sealing techniques, and insulation have made building more efficient houses even easier than ever before. 

Even something as simple as landscape considerations can positively impact the performance of your building. 

Passive design, when done properly, can reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling and allow for HVAC systems to be scaled down.

In conclusion, there is no denying that technology is here to stay; however, we should not solely rely on technology for our comfort.  Past cultures have proven that thoughtful design can produce structures that make the best out of natural surroundings.  Technology should build upon passive design strategies instead of being use in lieu of passive strategies. Thoughtfully designed and constructed houses do not have to cost more than an average house and will use considerably less energy. To me, this is an obvious choice. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Software to Help Make New Buildings Greener

By Molly Armbrister September 6, 2013  Northern Colorado Business Report

A team of Colorado State University researchers is developing a software tool that will allow architects to shrink the carbon footprint of a building while it’s being designed, reducing future greenhouse gas emissions and costs.

The research, called the Carbon Footprint Metric Project, was made possible by a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation awarded Aug. 1 and eventually will allow the team to create a software tool that will work in concert with software already used by architects to design buildings.

To read the full article, visit the Northern Colorado Business Report website

Monday, October 28, 2013

City of Fort Collins – Civic Campus Blocks 32 & 42

By: Allison Smith, Sustainable Building Associate

City of Fort Collins – Civic Campus Blocks 32 & 42
The City of Fort Collins desires to create a better civic center near Old Town Fort Collins on Blocks 32 & 42 (the blocks bordered by Maple, Mason, Laporte, and Meldrum streets). Fort Collins City Hall, the municipal court, City Manager’s office, and assorted city offices are housed in a hodge-podge of buildings on these blocks. 

Brian Dunbar and I facilitated a 3-day Design Charrette with participants from RNL, [au]Workshop architects+urbanists, Logan Simpson Design Inc., Integral Group, Architectural Energy Corporation (AEC), Ambient Energy, City of Fort Collins, Adolfson & Peterson Construction, and other project stakeholders. The morning of September 23, more than fifty people gathered in a meeting room on Block 42. For the next ninety minutes, the participants listened to brief presentations on the process, context, vision plan, sustainable concepts, and site analysis. After a break, most stakeholders participated in a small group activity to establish Guiding Principles for the project wherein LENSES was used to identify Flows that influenced the Guiding Principles. Groups of eight reviewed the problem, held a dialogue, and brainstormed their vision for Fort Collin’s Civic Center. Each small group presented their ideas and visions to the full group. 

This dynamic discussion centered on issues related to transportation, employees, citizens, and energy. Project stakeholders were drawn to principles surrounding the notion of World Class, Resilient Design, and having a Civic Heart. Through this process the stakeholder’s thoughts were incorporated into the Guiding Principles that framed the later design discussion. 

Key Issue Identification
The Institute for the Built Environment facilitates design charrettes by making sure all participants and all perspectives are heard. The Guiding Principles went through several iterations until the whole group came to consensus on the language and intent of the principles. Furthermore, IBE began the charrette by establishing rules for the charrette process which frequently includes “listen well to others”, and “no cell phones”, but can also include issues specific to the project. Throughout the process the facilitation team encourages the participants to think systematically. Having representatives from each area of the design team, the construction team, and the user group helps to keep systems thinking active throughout the discussion. By the end of the charrette’s third day, City employees and the architectural team had narrowed the civic center block plans from 9 proposed schemes down to 2 plans.  Without the charrette process, I believe it would have taken over a month to arrive at 2 plans that all of the stakeholders would be pleased with.

IBE will be facilitating charrettes in November and January - I am excited to continue honing my skills in this valuable tool in the Integrated Design Process (IDP). Charrettes can be an important tool to engage all stakeholders and expedite the design process. More can be learned about charrettes by looking at various projects on our IBE website and by visiting the National Charrette Institute’s website.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Green construction focus of new publication

 A new publication on green construction features contributions from authors with ties to Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Buildings are the nation’s greatest energy consumers. Forty percent of all our energy is used for heating, cooling, lighting, and powering machines and devices in buildings. Constructing Green: Social Structures of Sustainability looks beyond the technological and material aspects of green construction to examine the cultural, social, and organizational shifts that sustainable building requires, examining the fundamental challenge to centuries-long traditions in design and construction that green building represents.

The contributors consider the changes associated with green building through a sociological and organizational lens. The essays offer uniquely multidisciplinary insights into the transformative potential of green building and the obstacles that must be overcome to make it the norm.

Five of the 40 contributing authors have ties to Colorado State University and the Institute for the Built Environment.  Jeni Cross, Brian Dunbar, and Lenora Bohren are IBE directors, Bill Franzen, is an IBE Advisory Board member and green school advisor.  Clayton Bartczak is a CSU Department of Construction Management alumnus and former IBE intern.

More information on Constructing Green: Social Structures of Sustainability, published by The MIT Press, is available at the following website

Friday, August 16, 2013

Support CSU Sustainability Programs at the 5th Annual Ram Bicycle Classic!

By: Becky Moriarty, IBE Sustainable Building Associate

This year, the Institute for the Built Environment has proudly partnered with fellow sustainability enterprises on campus to host the 5th Annual Ram Bicycle Classic (RBC).   The non-competitive ride is a fundraiser to support CSU student efforts to build world-class sustainability programs including IBE, the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, the Warner College of Natural Resources Conservation Leadership program, and the College of Business Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA.

Nancy Nichols, the local Safe Routes to Schools coordinator, giving
a presentation to kids who came out for the 2012 Ram Bicycle Classic.
It is expected that over 800 participants will come out to ride the RBC which starts and ends on the Colorado State University campus.   This year’s one day event will offer four fully supported cycling options ranging from the 11-mile family fun ride to the 100-mile century ride for the more seasoned riders.  Registration includes a ride t-shirt and post-ride festivities including a complimentary lunch, beer garden with two free beers for riders 21 and up, live music, and a bike expo. Additionally, each participant will be entered into a drawing to win either a Panda bike, a New Belgium cruiser or an Aluboo bike! The family-friendly event will also include a kid’s bike rodeo and bike safety clinic from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. by Bike Fort Collins and the City of Fort Collins Safe Routes to School Program.

About the Courses 

100-Mile Century Ride - Challenging
This ride climbs to Masonville and Carter Lake in Loveland before coming back around Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins, then north on relatively flat roads to Owl Canyon and then finishing at CSU.

65-Mile Ride - Challenging
Same hilly south roads as the century ride, but without Horsetooth Reservoir and Owl Canyon.

35-Mile Half-Metric Ride - Moderate
North to Owl Canyon road on a relatively flat route and then looping back to CSU.

11-Mile Family Fun Ride - Easy
This is a flat and easy ride, winding along the beautiful bicycle paths on the Poudre River and Spring Creek bike trails around Fort Collins.

Riders tackling the hills at Horsetooth Reservoir at the 2012 Ram Bicycle Classic.
Multiple aid stations fully-equipped with food, water, restrooms, as well as, mechanical and first aid support are provided along all the routes.

Visit to get more information on the event or to register for the ride.  If you are interested in helping along the route, there are many great opportunities to volunteer.  Contact if you are interested in learning about the volunteer opportunities.  And don’t forget to ‘ like’ the event on Facebook where you can check out photos from previous years and receive up to date information on the ride.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Mason UniverCity District Urban Lab

By: Colin Day, Sustainable Building Associate

The Institute for the Built Environment is very proud to announce that grant funding has been secured from CSU's School of Global Environmental Sustainability and UniverCity for the establishment of an Urban Laboratory on the CSU campus in Fort Collins. Temporary space has been secured at The Institute for the Built Environment on campus near the corner of Mason and Laurel streets, with the aim to eventually secure permanent space on or near the Mason Street corridor. The UniverCity Urban Lab steering committee is in the process of defining the UniverCity Urban Lab, with the aim of the establishment of a 501c3 non-profit organization to embody the values of community members and stakeholders that it draws upon for the generation of ideas and input.
Mason Street Corridor, Fort Collins

But what exactly is an Urban Lab?  An Urban Lab is an adaptive forum that includes a variety of stakeholder input, which can include community members, professionals, academics, policy-makers, designers, artists and developers.  Interested parties collaborate to brainstorm solutions and interventions for issues and opportunities that the urban community shares.  The platform ideally acts as a think-tank to propose ideas and visions and to propose, test, design and implement collaborative urban planning projects that answer to a variety of community desires and needs. It is, quite simply, a laboratory to test ideas that will be applied at an urban level.

The mission statement of the lab at this juncture is simple: “The Mason UniverCity District is a dynamic area ripe for redevelopment. The district and its multi-modal transportation focus models a robust and eco-friendly mix that supports residents, business, retail and entertainment. It is vibrant and draws people from throughout the community and University to come live, work and play. It is a connector inviting exploration of the eclectic District as well as adjoining neighborhoods and nearby destinations. It is another of Fort Collins’ jewels”.

The aim of The Lab is to guide the Mason Street Corridor toward vibrant and regenerative infill projects. This initiative dovetails with the proposed 2014 opening of the MAX bus mass rapid transit system. The studies and projects will focus on urban design at various scales, urban morphology, neighborhood planning and design, and health and the built environment, all with a particular focus on walkability, bike-ability and an ethos of urban biodiversity and ecology.
MAX Transit Station Rendering, Mason Street Corridor
City of Fort Collins

Of course, other relevant urban design and development topics are likely to arise with the eclectic mixture of the stakeholders, community members, professionals and educators that The Lab is bringing together and drawing from. With the continued support and evolution of The Lab, the development of catalytic projects along the Mason Street corridor will grow a more robust physical, virtual and philosophical connection between the CSU campus, Old Town Fort Collins, and the communities therein. The implementation of our goals will enhance pending development and transportation projects and, with luck, creativity and application, will positively affect the fabric of the Fort Collins community.

To see the work of a small selection of other Urban Labs, please follow the following links:

The Carnegie Mellon Remaking Cities Institute
The Dallas Urban Lab
The California College of the Arts Urban Lab

Friday, July 5, 2013

New CSU Research Study: The Impact of Charrettes on LEED Certification

Author:  Michael Knox, Graduate Student in the Department of Construction Management at CSU

Charrettes have gained in popularity in recent years as a tool to increase collaboration and communication among building stakeholders, and to efficiently focus the time and attention of design team members in order to achieve greater synergy and sustainability.  However, little research exists documenting outcomes of the charrette process and its role in the overall success of sustainable building projects. To learn more about this relationship, we conducted a research study surveying LEED-NC 2009 project contacts and asked what characteristics were present during the charrette process.

The study’s results showed that implementing charrettes in LEED projects increased the amount of points a project received by 7 on average compared to projects that did not use charrettes. 

In addition to this finding, three separate characteristics were found to negatively impact the the number of LEED points a building received. We consider these three characteristics constraining factors, since they limit what happens during a charrette. The characteristics which were found to negatively impact LEED achievement included:

  • using a charrette as a LEED strategy or checklist meeting,
  • having a defined structured agenda, and 
  • having pre-defined project goals before the charrettes take place. 

Results of the study suggest the charrette process has the potential to provide significant benefits, regardless of what characteristics are implemented.  But to fully realize these benefits, a charrette should not include factors that limit a group’s ability to produce creative ideas, goals and innovative solutions. Thus, charrettes are best conducted to encourage open-ended dialogue, brainstorming and creative solutions to problems as vetted thoroughly and rapidly among many people with interdisciplinary backgrounds.

This research project was conducted as part of the Masters thesis of Michael Knox, graduate student in the department of Construction Management at Colorado State University.  Michael’s thesis committee included, Caroline Clevenger, Ph.D., Brian Dunbar, and Katharine Leigh, Ph.D.  To learn more about this research project, please download the full research document here. You can also contact the author on LinkedIn.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is Sustainability Just a Buzzword?

Brody Hatch, IBE Sustainable Building Associate

Sustainability may seem more like a buzz-word than an actual concept or way of doing business.  Words like green, sustainable, renewable, earth-friendly, etc. have become taglines that lead to varying reactions by different people.  I often talk with people that believe that sustainability in business, economic development, and energy production are just passing fads. They are unaware of the impact, influence, and prominence of these concepts in the world.  So how big is sustainability anyway?  The following are some simple facts about the growth of the sustainability movement in various forms.

LEED in the World
Green building materials demand has grown exponentially over the past several years and is expected to continue to grow by 11% annually through 2017.  As the cost of green building materials has fallen, demand for said products has increased due to the undisputed advantages of green building.  In many cases, green building has been shown to be just as cost effective as traditional building, with the additional benefits of significantly lower utility and maintenance costs.

Renewable energy sources account for almost 20% of global energy production.  Obviously, some countries are doing more than others.  The following countries and regions are the top ten renewable energy producers in the world (ordered from highest producer to lowest): China, EU, USA, Brazil, Canada, Russia, India, Germany, Norway, Japan, and Spain.  The amount of renewable energy produced is growing rapidly.

Wind capacity has grown by over 25% annually for the last five years.  It’s hard to drive anywhere (at least in the western US, but I imagine elsewhere as well), without seeing huge wind farms.   With the technology improvements, and costs decreasing, wind power is becoming more and more profitable.

Solar power production has grown 50% annually for the last five years.  This rapid growth, again, is due in large part to the decreasing cost of production and installation of solar panels.  Panels are also becoming ever more efficient in their energy production.

Biofuel (including ethanol and biodiesel) production has increased by 20% annually for the last ten years.  For some countries, this is nothing new.  I lived in Brazil for a couple of years between 2004 and 2006.  I was surprised to find that ethanol was not only common, but in certain areas, used more often than petroleum fuel in cars, buses and trucks.  Several decades ago, when many parts of the world were uncovering petroleum oil deposits, Brazil was unable to discover any within their borders.  Rather than become dependent on other countries for their energy needs, Brazil invested heavily in the research and production of sugarcane ethanol.  Today, the industry is booming and provides a large quantity of the fuel that is consumed in the country and exported outside its borders.

Sustainability in construction and energy production are more than theoretical concepts, they are here to stay.  In a lot of cases, people are unaware of the rapid growth of sustainability that is occurring in construction and energy production as it is happening behind the scenes.  We still have a long way to go but I am optimistic that given the current trends and projected growth, eventually sustainability will cease to feel like a buzz-word and become an everyday way of life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Army National Guard Windsor Readiness Center Earns LEED Platinum Certification

The Army National Guard just completed construction of their new Windsor Readiness Center that houses the 1157th FSC (Forward Support Company) of the Colorado Army National Guard. The building is LEED Platinum certified, a first in the nation for National Guard facilities. LEED consists of five main categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Along with these five categories, projects are also eligible for Innovation in Design and Regional Priority credits.
Army National Guard Windsor Readiness Center.
Photo Courtesy of RB+B Architects

The Colorado Army National Guard takes pride in its facilities blending into the communities in which the units are based. “The addition of the readiness centers and the infantry battalion increases the value of the National Guard to the community and enhances our ability to assist in a time of need,” said Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the Adjutant General of Colorado. The Guard has a longstanding relationship with community in Windsor, the unit responded when a destructive EF3 tornado devastated the town on May 22, 2008.  A state of emergency was declared prompting the Guard to send helicopters with medics and provide security patrols to ensure that looting and theft didn't ensue in local neighborhoods.

The new 17-acre site and facility will be the home of approximately 130 soldiers from the 1157th Forward Support Company of the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment.  This new facility is 30,715 square feet and includes an assembly hall, a maintenance training work bay, a kitchen, a recruiting office, a family support office, supply storage, locker areas, classrooms and administrative offices.

Army National Guard Windsor Readiness Center,
Beetle-Kill Pinewood Hallway
Photo Courtesy of RB+B Architects
Proper building orientation allowed the project to have daylighting in 89% of the regularly occupied space, reducing energy use for lighting and for cooling. The facility is projecting a 70% energy cost savings from the combination of a high-performance building envelope, a ground-source heat exchange HVAC-system and photovoltaic (PV) arrays.  91% of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill through recycling and reuse programs.  Both Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood and beetle-killed pinewood can be found throughout the interior of the facility. Through the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures, a 43% interior water use reduction was calculated.  Furthermore, the project utilizes no sprinkler irrigation on native grass which provides a 58% reduction use in potable water.

Graduate student interns with the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University were directly involved in the LEED coordination and documentation process. Students gained valuable project experience by participating in and guiding the LEED certification process. In addition, the building continues to teach every day. Informative panels are hung on the walls to educate staff, students, guests and visitors about the green design elements of the building.

For more information about the project, check out this page on the RB+B Architects website.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Report Review - "The Business Case for Green Building" by the World Green Building Council

By: Angelina Howard, IBE Student Intern

The Business Case for Green Building: A Review of Cost and Benefits for Developers, Investors, and Occupants from the World Green Building Council is now available. The report provides detailed information and case studies on Design and Construction Costs, Asset Value, Operating Costs, Workplace Productivity and Health, and Risk Mitigation. The following is a brief summary of  some of the key topics in the report.

Design and Construction Cost

According to research, green buildings do not cost more than conventional buildings that are built to code. Program management, environment and cost strategies help make building green cost effective, and increased upfront costs in green buildings are often offset by a decrease in long-term life cycle cost. Based on findings from various research studies, actual design and construction cost premium of green buildings have been documented to range from -.4% to 12.5%.  These studies included buildings from the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, and Israel for projects completed in 2000-2012.
The Perception Gap, The Business Case for Green
Building © 2013, pg. 26

There is a major perception gap but when it comes to design and construction cost. 
Some people believe that building green increases design and construction cost by approximately 10-20% (with some estimates as high as 29%) compared to the cost of conventional code-compliant buildings. However, design teams are challenged to deliver green buildings with conventional budgets. Figure 1 illustrates this perception gap. 

Asset Value

The Asset Value for green buildings is increasing. Green buildings have begun to attract tenants and command higher rents and sale prices and investors and occupants are becoming more knowledgeable regarding the environmental and social impacts of the built environment. A lot of this is due to a building’s asset value. A building’s asset value has different meanings for the various stakeholders. Figure 2 illustrates stakeholder perceptions that affect the value of the buildings.

Based on information gathered from studies conducted over the past decade, primarily on LEED certified office buildings in the US, green buildings tend to have higher asset values than conventional code-compliant buildings, which have led to higher sale prices. The benefits of this are higher rental/lease rates, lower operating expenses, higher occupancy rates, and lower yields. Sub-market price premiums were found to be in the range of 0-30% when comparing certified green buildings to non-certified green buildings. Evidence also shows that higher levels of LEED certification also achieve higher sales premiums. 

Operating Cost

Documenting annual energy savings is fundamental to building green. It is estimated that energy savings from code-compliant buildings range from 25% - 30% in U.S. LEED certified buildings to 35% - 50% in New Zealand green buildings. See Figure 3 for energy savings of 2003 LEED certified buildings.

There are energy savings from green building retrofits, improved maintenance standards, and refurbishment. Energy savings for green building retrofits are not as high as those for new builds, but they are still substantial. As energy prices continue to grow, benefits of energy efficiency will become important, strengthening the business case for energy efficiency retrofits. When it comes to maintenance, there can be a significant decrease in maintenance requirements and replacements if sustainable building systems are used. With refurbishment, green buildings provide adaptability, insuring that the building will be a valuable asset presently and in the future. 

Even with these best practices in energy efficient design, there are still challenges that can prevent a green building from performing as expected. However, these are most often resolved through building commissioning, leadership committed to green building management practices, effective and transparent communication of successes and lessons learned, and tenant awareness programs.

Workplace Productivity and Health

Productivity & Health Benefits,The Business Case for
Green Building  © 2013, pg. 67
According to the report, healthy work environments are a prominent agenda item for the building industry. Green buildings positively impact the employees working inside of them. Employees productivity and health are improved due to the healthy indoor environments that green buildings provide. Healthy indoor environments include high levels of natural daylighting, appropriate levels and types of artificial light, use of materials with minimal toxins, appropriate outdoor air ventilation, thermal comfort and open and inviting spaces that increase interaction and physical movement. The improved ventilation has helped reduce the cases of “Sick Building Syndrome.” Healthy indoor environments have also reduced stress in the workplace. A 1998 study, cited by Heerwagen, states that stress and frustration levels declined and patience increased when employees had views of nature through windows. Those with a window view are typically less stressed than those constantly viewing a screen or working in a viewless room. 

Please check out the full report here and the Executive Summary here

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

LEED v4 Materials & Resources: Building Product Disclosure & Optimization -- In Layman's Terms

Samala Hartley, Sustainable Building Associate

There are three Materials and Resources credits that focus on the disclosure and optimization of materials used on a project. The intent of these credits is to encourage the use of products where manufacturers are forthright with all the material and chemical ingredients used and their practices to procure raw materials.

LEED v4, MRc4, “Building product disclosure and optimization – sourcing of raw materials” places preference on manufacturers who publicly report information about their raw material suppliers and on responsible harvesting and extraction. In the point system, these two ideas are not exclusive to one another.

In addition to specifically emphasizing the sourcing of raw materials, this credit also combines a variety of other v3 materials credits into one. The following credits from v3 show up within v4 MRc4:
  • MRc3 - Materials Reuse 
  • MRc4 - Recycled Content
  • MRc5 - Regional Materials
  • MRc6 - Rapidly Renewable Materials
  • MRc6 - Certified Wood

Now, let’s dissect that credit title.

Building Product Disclosure & Optimization: Sourcing of Raw Materials

Building product: the permanently installed products of a building, separate from the installation costs. 
Disclosure: exposing information about a manufacturer’s products and processes. The rationale behind this is that when companies start disclosing this information they are held accountable for their practices and will be incentivized to improve.  This will result in greater, and faster, positive change in the marketplace.
Optimization:  Optimizing informed and sustainable decision making.
Sourcing of raw materials: “Sourcing” not only refers to the location of raw material extraction/harvesting, but also the use of recycled content and even the use of salvaged materials.

What are the options?

Option 1: Raw material source and extraction reporting 

This option requires the use of materials from manufacturers that publicly disclose information about their product’s raw material suppliers and their commitment to ecological and environmental responsibility.

1 point is earned by specifying 20 products that meet the requirement (from at least 5 different manufacturers).
  • Products from manufacturers who disclose their practices through a third party verified corporate sustainability report qualify as 1 full product.
  • Products from manufacturers who create their own, unverified, report qualify as ½ a product.

Option 2: Leadership extraction practices

This option is a compilation of all the MR credits from version 3. In combination you must show that at least 25% of the materials cost has some sustainable value, including:
  • Extended producer responsibility (50% of the product value can contribute)
  • Bio-based materials: Meet Sustainable Agriculture Network’s Sustainable Agriculture Standard (verifies sustainable harvesting)
  • Wood products: Meet FSC certified
  • Materials Reuse: salvaged, refurbished, & reused products
  • Recycled Content: sum of post-consumer plus ½ pre-consumer recycled content
Regional location of a material becomes a valuation factor that can add value based on the proximity of the source material. The distance has decreased from 500 miles in v3 to 100 miles from the project site in v4.

USGBC is taking a new approach to the materials credits by emphasizing the greater transparency of manufacturers. Thus the new credits award more points for this disclosure, and less for the material content.

Friday, April 26, 2013

TEDx FrontRange: ELEVATE!

Josie Plaut
The theme this year for Tedx FrontRange is “Elevate.” In the spirit of the pioneering west, a group of fun and engaging speakers (and performers!) will share the ways that they are exploring new frontiers, guiding and inspiring others, and driving innovation.  IBE’s Associate Director, Josie Plaut, will share her ideas on how to go beyond notion of sustainably and toward future that is powered through regeneration.  Simply stated, regeneration is about investing in our future by creating and restoring natural, social and economic capital.  We achieve this through expanding health, vitality and equity in our personal and professional lives. 

Date: May 31, 2013, 1-5pm
Location: Rialto Theater Center, Loveland, CO


More on regeneration….

In recent years, the green industry has introduced a myriad of new tools, products, and standards that help to reduce environmental impacts and encourage more sustainable practices – important steps in the right direction.  Unfortunately, current economic models still rely heavily on depleting natural capital.  Further, the burden to process, manufacture, and sell products is often at the expense of human health and wellbeing.  Here, at a pivotal moment in society, we have the opportunity to change course.  If we are to solve the looming environmental and social crises in time, we must move from using less to creating more. Regeneration is the practice of aligning human activities to give new life, strength and vigor to natural, social, and economic systems. It goes beyond green or sustainable thinking, generally focused on reducing harm, toward a model built on renewal and revitalization.

Regeneration means rebuilding depleted ecosystems, like the Mississippi river delta, or simply riding your bicycle.  It can be a vitalizing urban redevelopment project or the renewal of soils and farming practices in your own garden. Regeneration has many faces, but one purpose: finding what’s broken and creating solutions that are additive, positive and contributive. By shifting mindsets from sustainability to regeneration, we can secure a thriving future for many generations to come.  This paradigm shift is not only necessary, but it is inspiring, refreshing and positive.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Celebrate! CSU: Brian Dunbar, 30 Years

CSU is honoring faculty and staff who have reached service milestones during the 2012-2013 fiscal year at the annual Celebrate! CSU Milestones event, 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, in the Lory Student Center Theatre.
Brian Dunbar
Brian Dunbar
Brian Dunbar, executive director of the Institute for the Built Environment, grew up surrounded by a family of architects.

I thought going on vacation meant going to see buildings under construction, because it seemed like every time we went on vacation, my dad wanted to see something that was being built,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar grew up in Monroe, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan for his undergraduate and master’s degrees in architecture. He moved to Fort Collins with his wife, Karen, before landing a job.

Continue reading this article from Today at CSU by Katie Salvato here.