Green News


Monday, December 28, 2009

Pollutants lurk in South Florida tap water

Pollutants lurk in tap Water.

Report finds pollutants lurking in S. Florida tap water
An environmental group's report found that dozens of chemicals show up in tap water, but utilities and regulators defended the safety of South Florida's drinking water.


More than 100 pollutants, from farm herbicides to factory solvents, have shown up in Florida tap water during the last five years -- many barely detectable, but more than a quarter exceeding federal standards at least once, according to a report compiled by an environmental group.

Miami-Dade, among the largest utilities in the country with 2.1 million customers, recorded no violations. Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and four other utilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties reported only a handful of violations in thousands of tests since 2004.

But all the systems also detected from 11 to 17 chemicals -- some repeatedly and others occasionally -- at levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health guidelines. Those aren't legal limits, but more-stringent benchmarks that would virtually eliminate any risk of cancer or other illness over a lifetime of drinking a system's water.

The most common:disinfectants used in water treatment, followed by assorted other toxicsubstances such as cyanide, arsenic, radium and barium.

Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist for the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, said because most EPA standards are based on annual averages, formal water quality violations are rare and mask wider unreported concerns, such as unregulated chemicals and seasonal spikes that could pose public health risks.

``What they are saying to you is they are in compliance, and they usually are,'' said Naidenko, one of the lead researchers for the report, which EWG posted online this month in a comprehensive data base. ``We feel like this is giving a more complete picture of what is happening in Florida and what is happening in the country.''

The database shows that 316 chemicals have been detected in drinking water nationwide. There are no federal or state standards for more than half of them.

The number of chemicals detected in South Florida was roughly triple the national average but better than two North Florida utilities the EWG ranked among the worst of the 100 largest municipal systems nationwide: JEA in Jacksonville at No. 91 and, dead last, Emerald Coast in Pensacola, with 45 chemicals detected overall, 21 topping EPA guidelines. Neither recorded water quality violations.


Utilities and state and federal regulators don't dispute the numbers, compiled from some 20 million regular tests that 47,677 water plant operators filed to state water and environmental agencies.

But they called EWG's report and rankings misleading and skewed to overstate potential risks.

Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which monitors drinking water quality, said utility customers in Pensacola and Jacksonville had nothing to worry about and that Florida has ``some of the highest quality and safest drinking water in the United States.''

``To imply these utilities are supplying unsafe drinking water is both irresponsible and simply not true,'' she said in a written statement.

Rafael Terrero, assistant director of Miami-Dade's Water and Sewer Department, which ranked No. 46 on the list of 100 ``big city'' systems serving more than a quarter-million people, said the county water beat EPA standards by a wide margin.

``To me, it's excellent water,'' he said.

The EPA and DEP have been at odds over a court-ordered plan by the federal agency to impose nutrient standards for Florida surface waters, but both defended oversight of tap water.


They said EWG, which campaigns for tougher toxicity standards, crunched the numbers to suggest the widest number of problems -- placing too much weight on the number of chemicals, including many at trace levels, and the EPA guidelines that aren't intended as legal limits.

For most carcinogens, the guideline to eliminate any health impact is close to zero. That goal, said Terrero, is too expensive to justify.

``How the hell can you get zero? You'd have to go to something like a bottled water and pay $4,000 for it,'' he said. ``If we're going to treat something to get rid of all this, we'll be to a point where people couldn't afford water.''

Overall, 22 different chemicals were detected in Miami-Dade, about average for South Florida utilities.

About half were by-products of chlorine and ammonia treatment to remove bacteria and pathogens. Most of them are suspected carcinogens at high levels or linked to other illnesses. Miami-Dade's tests on average detected only a third of the amount allowed under EPA's legal standard -- based on a 1-in-10,000 chance of developing cancer from drinking two liters a day for 70 years -- but periodically exceeded no-risk guidelines.

The trade-off of reducing disinfectants, the EPA said, would be less protection from the pathogens they kill.

Most remaining chemicals such as barium, an unregulated mineral that can occur naturally but also in mining and industrial waste, showed up sporadically and at levels some 50 to 100 times below no-risk EPA guidelines.


Miami-Dade has had other issues that didn't show up in the report, most recently a plume of benzene, typically associated with blasting or fuel spills, found in rock pits near the county's largest well field. The contamination, detected in 2005, forced the county to shut down several wells for years.

In 2003, the department, in negotiations with the DEP, also agreed to spend $400 million to fix persistent leaks from an underground sewage injection in South Miami-Dade that threatened to taint drinking water supplies.

Four South Florida utilities -- Florida City, Coral Springs, Dania Beach and Pembroke Pines -- ranked among 20 in the state with the highest number of chemicals.

Florida City, which supplies only about 10,000 people, had the third largest number -- 38 -- but 30 were detected only once in 2005, all below EPA legal limits but above the lifetime risk-free guidelines. The array suggests some sort of agricultural pesticide spill.

Jacksonville's JEA and Emerald Coast, the two utilities ranked in the bottom 10 nationally, both dismissed the EWG report.

Kevin Holbrooks, JEA's director of compliance, said the analysis penalized utilities for testing frequently and for a wide array of chemicals.

The average utility conducted 420 tests. JEA ran 17 times more tests and detected 23 chemicals -- some naturally occurring in the Floridan Aquifer that the utility draws from, he said.

``That's 23 hits out of 7,000 test results,'' he said. ``Percentage-wise, our numbers are better than most.''

However, in annual reports, both utilities cautioned that some contaminants could pose heightened risk to people with health problems, especially illnesses that suppress the immune system -- a boilerplate warning repeated by most utilities.

The EPA said it will decide by 2014 whether to write legal limits for up to five new contaminants in addition to the 114 it already regulates. If is does, it would be the first update since 2000.


Environmentalists, saying the data exposed holes in water-quality reporting and enforcement, argue more needs to be done and faster.

Naidenko said with chemical detections rising, regulators need to be considering the impact of exposure to more than one contaminant at a time, and one-day or seasonal spikes that could harm newborns and children.

``The issue we see is being really proactive about what is in the water and how we can protect it,'' she said.

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The one who moved a mountain began by carrying away small stones.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

21st Century Sustainable School Designs

Energy-efficient schools help educate students on sustainability and save on the bottom line for school districts

Energy-efficient schools don’t just happen. They follow a plan. If you’re a school district official who doesn’t have much experience with facilities management – but you’ve been charged with that responsibility anyway – you must:

* Reach out to peers, professionals, and organizations to review lessons learned or successful case studies from other districts.

* Tap staff, students, and community members to learn tips from those who are passionate about the cause.

* Collaborate with experienced design professionals, including architects and engineers, to set measurable goals, action items, roles and responsibilities, and overall budget to determine level of commitment.

Once a sustainable plan is set, share it with staff and students. Their buy-in is essential to establish a culture of sustainability within a school. Typically, districts with the most success in decreasing energy costs have energy leadership, such as a sustainable czar or energy champion, to implement programs and strategies throughout the district.

The local community is also a key audience; don’t be bashful about promoting sustainable features and cost savings. When you do, community members will realize that their district is acting responsibly in terms of spending public money and lessening environmental strain.

A No-Cost Approach

There are no-cost or low-cost changes you can make that result in fewer dollars spent on energy usage.

Follow a simple rule of thumb: “If it isn’t needed, turn it off or turn it down.” Your district can save thousands of dollars and reduce energy consumption by simply turning off lights when a room isn’t occupied. In addition, close doors when the heating or cooling system is operating, and adjust thermostats – even if only by 1 or 2 degrees.

The responsibility for this no-cost approach typically defaults to the staff. Facilities managers can adjust building temperatures or program heating and cooling systems to run mainly during peak hours of building use. Teachers can turn energy lessons into life lessons by assigning students responsibility for turning off lights and computers, or taking recyclable materials used in the classroom and lunchroom to recycling bins.

Although simple modifications can add up (see A No-Cost Approach), physical location of your district, as well as regional climatic characteristics, plays a significant role in energy consumption and how you go about it. Each region of the country poses unique, localized challenges for sustainable school design.

Districts considering renovations can experience significant improvements in indoor air quality and energy efficiency by replacing roofs, windows, and HVAC and lighting systems.

An innovative lighting design in the recently renovated Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, TN, includes occupancy sensors that control classroom lighting so that lights are turned off when the room isn’t in use. In addition to these sensors, teachers and students have the option of selecting from three light levels, in one-third increments, so users can tune the lights accordingly.

A second element allows approximately two-thirds of all corridor lighting to automatically shut off while classes are in session. Corridor lighting, which is typically on for up to 10 hours per day, is only on during periods of high corridor traffic, or about 3 hours per day.

These solutions are possible using Oak Ridge’s master clock, which is part of the intercom system and controls the bell system. The master clock interfaces with the relay panel system that controls the corridor lighting circuits and sends signals to turn lighting on and off.

Oak Ridge High School also features a hybrid geothermal mechanical system and water-source heat pump that’s expected to use 40-percent less energy than an ASHRAE 90.1 baseline facility. These systems use the relatively stable earth temperature to heat or cool a building by circulating water through a continuous loop of buried pipes. Geothermal is a wise choice for a school if the site and sub-soil conditions can accommodate geothermal wells. At Oak Ridge, 200 geothermal wells were installed more than 300 feet below ground to utilize the earth as a heat sink.

When community members and district officials decided to build Woodland Elementary School in Alexandria, MN, they felt it was critical to be efficient with taxpayer dollars.

The school design creates a dynamic learning environment that’s expected to consume 44.5-percent less energy than an average school in the area, which projects an annual savings of $61,705 using current energy prices.

Several strategies were used to achieve these significant energy savings, including a hybrid ground-source heat pump system that decreases the amount of energy used to heat and cool the building. In response to below-freezing winter temperatures, displacement ventilation was used to reduce the amount of outdoor air required by up to 40 percent. In Minnesota, less outdoor air during the winter equates to significant energy reductions.

Increased insulation on the walls, roof, and windows saves energy year round. The building is 100-percent electric, enabling the district to go off-grid once it establishes its own energy source. Occupancy sensors (similar to Oak Ridge High School’s) for lighting and ventilation systems, a solar shading device to maximize daylighting opportunities and minimize heat gain, and a reflective white roof to minimize cooling costs were all incorporated into the design.

Districts have multiple options to support their energy-efficient initiatives: grants, district operations budgets, bond referendums, and other government programs.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation awarded Indian Prairie School District No. 204 in Aurora, IL, a grant for its new high school. Metea Valley High School received $135,000 to incorporate energy-efficient, sustainable features.

To qualify for the full grant, a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing system was designed over the competition gym, and a portion of the roof is a green roof.

Translucent fiber glass panels and clerestory glazing limit the use of artificial lighting in public corridors and student life spaces. Other energy-efficient design features at Metea Valley:

* An energy model design maintains its target of being 19-percent more efficient than required by ASHRAE 90.1.

* A daylight harvesting system automatically turns lights off in public spaces as exterior lighting levels change throughout the day. This system is projected to save the district $21,032 annually, with a payback of 6.6 years.

* Demand-control ventilation is part of the mechanical system in the gymnasiums, auditorium, and other large lecture spaces. These systems have an initial cost of $10,000, with estimated annual savings of $5,000.

* Energy-recovery wheels are designed into the air-handlers over the classrooms. The initial cost of $70,000 is projected to save the district $15,000 annually, paying for itself in 3 to 4 years.

* High-efficiency boilers, which cost $10,000 initially, provide $5,500 of savings to the district each year.

In the Southwest, solar gain of west-facing elevations can be addressed by minimizing the number of windows on west-facing walls and placing more windows on north- and south-facing elevations. Shading devices added to these north- and south-facing windows can block the high midday summer sun, while highly efficient, dual-pane, low-E glass can let in solar rays during cooler winter months. Clerestory windows and semi-translucent wall panels also allow light into a school with minimal effect to thermal comfort.

Landscaping is another important geographic element of schools in the Southwest. The new Sandra Day O’Connor High School campus site in Phoenix is a beautiful, hilly, natural desert that features drought-resistant desert landscaping and a preserved desert wash within the courtyard. The design minimized site grading to allow for rainwater retention on campus.

In addition to site orientation and sustainable landscape elements, the design also features canopied pathways that minimize the heat-gain factor in the already-intense desert heat.

Steilacoom Historical School District No. 1 in DuPont, WA, received a $350,000 grant as part of the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol (WSSP) program, a continuation of the state’s commitment to developing sustainability in schools.

Six workshops, including an eco-charrette, were led with the district and patrons to develop design goals and a sustainable program for the new school. The project team also collaborated with educators over a span of 8 months to develop specific sustainability curricula and means to incorporate Pioneer Middle School as a tool in the educational experience.

“We get a lot more ‘Ah-ha!’ moments because we can physically point to elements in the building and relate that back to our lesson,” says Laura Lowe, Pioneer Middle School teacher. “Students are more excited when they can actually see, up close and personal, the lesson teachers are trying to explain.”

Educating students, staff, and the community about energy conservation about the impact of routine activities and individual habits on energy use – was a priority of the district and design team. The design solution is an interactive, “green touchscreen” that’s prominently positioned at the main public entrance. A network of energy sensors throughout the building continuously stream energy-consumption data to the touchscreen display, which is accessible to students, staff, and visitors. A graphic readout of energy consumption allows teachers to conduct hands-on coursework and experiments so students can learn about responsible energy use within the context of a building designed for maximum en­­ergy efficiency.

Measuring Success

Obviously, these various pathways all lead to energy-efficient school design, but how is success truly measured? ENERGY STAR and ASHRAE 90.1 are two benchmarking tools that districts can use to judge the energy performance of their schools.

Energy benchmarking can raise red flags when facilities don’t operate the way they’re intended. If benchmarking data shows that one or more buildings are not consistent with regional and national averages, districts can study building operation and control strategies, like retro-commissioning, to determine causes of the performance discrepancies.

Special Thanks to the author, Jim French, a senior principal and K-12 practice leader with Overland Park, KS-based DLR Group.

For more information about Greening your School, please contact :



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The one who moved a mountain began by carrying away small stones.

The Risk of Doing Nothing Green : Big 3 Automakers’ Lessons Learned ?

Mychele Lord outlines the potential parallels between the automotive industry and the real estate industry

As I witness the fate of Detroit automakers, I can’t help but see potential parallels between the automotive industry and the real estate industry. It would have cost U.S. automakers more money – and cut into their profits – to make more energy-efficient vehicles that were better for the environment, but Detroit believed it wasn’t what their customers wanted.

Most of the real estate industry and its capital sources are waiting on “enough” quantifiable data to build new or retrofit existing buildings to high-performance green buildings that are healthier for occupants and better for the environment. Most are still unsure whether it’s what customers want, or whether customers (tenants) will pay enough to justify the added investment. Foreign automakers made the switch and made money.

It’s time to shift our thinking from seeking to quantify green returns to assessing the risk of not making sustainable choices.

Waiting on the Numbers to Value Green Buildings

The luxury of waiting on enough numbers to make a risk-free change is no longer. The risk is not in going green, but in failing to go green. Detroit’s big three automakers failed to make difficult but necessary changes.

Studies of first-cost green premiums consistently hover in the 0- to 2-percent range. Post-occupancy studies support reduced operating costs and higher absorption, occupancy, rents, and sales prices; however, there’s not enough quantifiable data to draw statistical conclusions to be inserted in traditional valuation models. Yet, data and common sense tell us that these studies are directionally correct.

Implementing green practices that improve efficiency and the environment is a sound business strategy. Move from looking for the value-add of a green building to underwriting the added risk of a non-green building.

A comprehensive report titled Globalization and Global Trends in Green Real Estate Investment (prepared by Andrew J. Nelson, vice president at Chicago-based RREEF Research, September 2008) identifies at least three major types of risk for investors:

* Market risk: Rising standards will make inefficient buildings obsolete over
* Regulatory risk: Governments may quickly alter the playing field and
cost/benefit calculators.
* Environmental risk: Physical damages attributable to climate change may alter
risk profiles.

According to Nelson’s report, global trends in green real estate investment hold the following implications for investors:

* Rapid transformation will move the market toward green-only construction.
* Studies uniformly conclude that green buildings command higher rents and
occupancy rates, lower utility costs, and lower capitalization rates.
* Urban infill sites will be increasingly valued.
* Markets will flip from a green premium to a discount for obsolete construction.
* Immediate risks are to older, inefficient buildings whose obsolescence will be
reflected in lower rents and occupancy.
* The greatest opportunities for green building investments will be in the
United States due to its large stock of aging investible real estate and
sizeable population growth.

Market Dynamics

The global market dynamics driving sustainability are undeniable. Consider the following:

* Worldwide population growth, particularly among developing nations.
* Increasing demand for energy in the United Sates despite mounting concern
about energy security and independence.
* The need for large capital investment in new infrastructure, including energy,
transportation, water, and communication infrastructure.
* Air pollution and the economic development and air quality impacts it has on
America’s metropolitan areas.
* Global climate change.
* Stakeholders pressuring companies to be more responsible – environmentally
responsible, socially responsible, and fiscally responsible.

Each one of these factors is already impacting the built environment through tenant space requirements, local building codes, land-use policy, and the surge in green buildings, as well as higher prices for energy, water, insurance, and construction materials.

Is It What the Customer Wants?

In a tenant’s market, there is always a flight to quality. Green buildings are the new Class-A. The cost of electricity will rise. Budget-conscious customers will seek energy-efficient buildings.

Green may or may not achieve higher rents, but a tenant will choose a green building over a non-green building. As non-green buildings face greater absorption risk, they also face risk of lower rents.

Yet, many landlords continue on the same old path, not making changes to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of buildings by arguing the case that tenants do not want green buildings. It’s both economically rational and environmentally responsible for a corporate real estate executive to choose a green building over a non-green building.

Benefits of green buildings include the following:

* Green buildings improve productivity.
* Green buildings are a visible message to customers, clients, and shareholders.
* Employees are attracted to green companies and want to work in green buildings.
* Green buildings are a “plug-and-play” solution for corporate social
responsibility reporting, and the price of admission for landlords to be
competitive in a tenant’s market.
* Green buildings can significantly reduce utility expenses for energy, water,
and waste.

Fundamentally, sustainability is about becoming more efficient with the use of energy and natural resources, eliminating waste, removing toxins, improving indoor air quality, and supporting occupant well-being. There is tremendous business value in becoming more efficient and more sustainable.

That being said, it’s not solely up to the landlord to green a building. While landlords need to take leadership roles, green buildings require equal contributions from all their players – ownership, building management, vendors, suppliers, and tenants/occupants.

Wait Until We’re Forced to Change?

The U.S. Department of Energy tracks energy consumption and CO2 emissions by sector. The sectors are industry, transportation, and real estate. Real estate is contributing more CO2 emissions than the other two contributing sectors: transportation at 29 percent and industry at 32 percent. Of real estate’s 39 percent, 18 percent of emissions is attributable to commercial real estate and 21 percent to residential real estate. To reduce environmental impact of vehicle emissions, the transportation industry has been mandated to adopt CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.

The urgent need to reverse climate change has spurred numerous studies to determine the most immediate, low-cost solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. These studies consistently identify increasing the energy efficiency of real estate – new buildings and existing, residential and commercial – as the greatest opportunity for cost-effective CO2 reduction. As a result, anticipate government intervention at all levels to improve the energy efficiency of the real estate sector. Under the Obama-Biden plan, greater focus on the efficiency of existing real estate is promised. As government regulation increases and more and more buildings are green, non-green buildings will face greater and greater challenges.

Real estate is already being impacted through:

* Green building codes and more stringent energy codes.
* Land use policy aimed at reducing vehicle miles traveled.
* Incentives to increase the energy efficiency of buildings.
* Tax credits for new energy technologies and on-site power generation.

Just as the automotive industry is required to report the fuel efficiency of the cars we purchase, the real estate industry may soon be required to know and report the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of real estate, much like the European Union, California’s Assembly Bill 1103, and the District of Columbia’s Clean & Affordable Energy Act of 2008. Know the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of your real estate, and have an energy plan.

The evidence is clear. We cannot ignore the forces calling upon us to live more sustainably. If we acknowledge the presence of these forces, then it’s illogical and imprudent not to extend our better judgment to our real estate. Let us learn from others’ mistakes.

A 21-year veteran of the commercial real estate investment community and president of LORD Green Real Estate Strategies, Mychele Lord, a LEED® Accredited Professional, provides her clients practical, cost-effective approaches to greening real estate portfolios.

For more information on how your Commercial Property can save money by " Going Green ", please contact:



Reducing Energy and Water Bills with Green Technologies and Tax Incentives.

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The one who moved a mountain began by carrying away small stones.

What's In Your Tap Water ?!

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000.

Other recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974.

All told, more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available.

In some cases, people have been exposed for years to water that did not meet those guidelines.

But because such guidelines were never incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act, the vast majority of that water never violated the law.

For the complete article :

For information about Clean Drinking Water for your home and business, please contact:



Reducing Energy and Water Bills with Green Technologies and Tax Incentives.

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We welcome worldwide Import-Export inquiries.
We pay Referral Fees.

The one who moved a mountain began by carrying away small stones.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Water Conservation for Your Landscaping

Water Conservation for Your Landscaping

Sustainably maintaining landscaping conserves water and saves money

By Eric Santos

A certified irrigation specialist can analyze which areas of a landscape use the most water, and create a customized plan that achieves the highest level of water conservation through improved scheduling and reduced maintenance.

Cisco System’s San Jose corporate campus is surrounded by 68 acres of landscaping. Landscape management plays a critical role in creating an environment that is conducive to conducting business and pleasant to experience for the 20,000 employees and visitors on the campus each day. COURTESY OF HORST STASNY View larger

An extensive water-management program for Cisco System’s campus is achieving a 21.2-percent water savings

The Best Ways to Conserve Water

Commercial real estate industry leaders who operate large portfolios, corporate campuses, or even single assets must examine all aspects of their budgets to find ways to maximize value while achieving the highest standards of property performance. Landscape-maintenance programs can help with this – they create value, improve the environment, and produce impressive results for the bottom line. One area of potential high impact and significant ROI is a landscape plan that’s grounded in water efficiency.

For owners and managers in arid regions, water conservation is a fact of life. But, for some owners and managers, water may not be perceived as a precious resource simply because it seems to be plentiful. Even though water is relatively inexpensive, it is a limited natural resource. As the population increases, the earth’s available fresh water remains constant; thus, as demand increases, so will the price. Adopting a smart water-management program now is a critical part of operating a building at peak efficiency at all times – not just when drought conditions or irrigation restrictions exist.

Cutting costs through sustainable practices makes financial sense as well. Companies throughout the country are learning that landscape management can enhance the bottom line in a number of ways, including making the grounds more aesthetically pleasing and more sustainable, which plays a role in improved corporate citizenship, employee satisfaction, and tenant retention.

Water-Conservation Pointers

Switch from overhead irrigation to a more efficient drip system with the installation of smart, weather-based controllers that measure precipitation, solar radiation, and wind, and adjust systems automatically as needed.

Maintain landscapes that are in harmony with the environment by reducing green waste, nurturing healthy soils, creating wildlife habitats, and reducing stormwater runoff.

Analyze water-usage trends and develop a water-management plan to ensure that irrigation systems operate efficiently, irrigation runoff is reduced, and reclaimed water is used.

Practice hydro-zoning or grouping plants with similar water requirements on the same irrigation valve to reduce overwatering.

Install flowering perennial plants to provide a sustainable, cost-effective replacement for seasonal color changes.

Implement a rotation schedule for water features so that fewer operate at one time, reducing energy costs.

Retrofit the landscape with sustainable, water-efficient landscapes and native, drought-tolerant plant materials to reduce the use of natural resources and decrease the amount of maintenance required.

Optimize the placement and health of trees around your buildings to increase shade and reduce energy costs.

Maintain the landscape in a natural fashion by using pruning techniques that highlight the individuality of each plant.

Explore public programs offered by water districts, cities, or other entities that provide rebates or credits for upgrades on controllers, efficient irrigation, drip conversions, or rain shutoff sensors.

An example of a smart water-conservation program is at Cisco Systems in San Jose, CA, which, over the past decade, has adopted a more ecologically friendly landscape program and, at the same time, reduced operating costs for its landscaping.

Cisco’s landscape-management plan focuses on three components:

1. Horticultural improvements. Initially, the landscaping company working with Cisco determined the water consumption and maintenance costs required to sustain the current level of landscape, identified plants that required the most water, and determined fertilizer needs – all of which revealed opportunities for improvement. The landscape program encompassed a plant-density reduction plan that resulted in the removal of some plants that required significant amounts of water. Plants that required watering 5 days a week were replaced with shrubs requiring only 2 days of irrigation a week.

2. Reducing water consumption. Water-conserving drip irrigation systems were systematically installed, and all 48 buildings on the campus were retrofitted with smart, weather-based controllers that lower irrigation water usage by 24 percent a year on average. In California alone, Cisco saves more than 81 million gallons of water from its water-conservation efforts as reported in its 2007 Corporate Citizenship Report.

3. Sending less waste to landfills. Bagging and dumping grass cuttings is labor intensive (not to mention the water needed to maintain a vivid green appearance and the fuel used to cut and transport them); recycling tree clippings and composting onsite reduces landfill waste. Turf-reduction programs on parts of Cisco’s 98-acre campus helped produce less green waste. In the turf areas that remained untouched, using specially designed equipment to mulch the grass clippings onsite resulted in water and fertilizer reductions.

The strategic landscape program at Cisco serves as a nationwide model for integrating landscape services into a building’s operating plan. Procedures and processes have been tested for more than a decade, resulting in a smoothly running program. Perhaps because the San Francisco Bay Area has long focused on issues concerning the environment and sustainability, it features a number of additional examples of smart water-management programs that are yielding positive results.

10 Smart Irrigation Tips

Irrigation can account for more than 50 percent of a facility’s water consumption. Here are some ways to water smarter:

1. Water early in the morning, right before dawn. It reduces losses to wind and evaporation.

2. Water only when needed.

3. Adjust sprinklers to avoid waste and ensure uniform distribution.

4. Test the spray patterns of sprinkler systems; check for clogged lines and mixed nozzle sizes of sprinkler heads, and be sure to repair leaks.

5. Use drip irrigation for ornamental shrubs to reduce water usage.

6. Install rain shutoff devices or in-ground moisture sensors.

7. Set lawnmower blades higher to increase ground shade and water retention in soil.

8. Mulch around shrubs and planters to reduce evaporation and cut down on weeds.

9. Use a broom vs. a hose to clean driveways or sidewalks.

10. Use a hose with an automatic shutoff nozzle.

One landscaping company helped institute a water-management program for Equity Office Properties’ operations throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. This large property management company serves multi-tenant retail, commercial, and industrial clients. It has incorporated water conservation and sustainability programs into its budgeting process, and holds educational seminars with property managers on landscape water conservation. The company has combined sustainability and water conservation in its marketing and leasing approaches, too.

Between 2007 and 2008, Equity and its property managers worked diligently with its landscape provider to save approximately $90,000 in water costs on landscapes in its large building portfolio. To accomplish this, 70 ET (evapotranspiration) irrigation controllers were installed at 90 buildings in the Bay Area. The company also installed subsurface drip irrigation on 86 stations and converted nearly 163,000 square feet of high-input plants to sustainable native plants.

Lastly, a water-con­servation program im­­plemented at Bayshore Technology Park in Redwood City, CA, over the past several years allowed the owner, Harvest Properties, to achieve measurable aesthetic and financial results. This was accomplished by installing nine ET irrigation controllers, practicing hydro-zoning, converting onsite tree trimmings into natural mulch, converting shallow-rooted groundcover into drought-tolerant shrubs with a drip vs. a spray irrigation system, and reducing turf areas under canopy trees. The investment and commitment to water conservation and site sustainability have allowed Harvest Properties to reduce landscape water costs by 29 percent, and has prepared the site for conversion to use reclaimed water in the future.

The result of smart landscape-management programs: owners and managers maximizing every dollar spent. Water management must be done in a way that makes sense for companies; it must be efficient, it must be collaborative, it must be simple, and it requires participation by all.

It might even involve integration of the landscape team into a building’s overall green planning initiatives. The landscape is one of the primary areas companies can look at to achieve LEED standards. Existing buildings that are undergoing LEED certification must score a minimum of 34 points out of a total of 92. With 14 points potentially coming from the landscape, it’s just plain smart to incorporate advanced water technologies, sustainable plant material, and renewable resources. These efforts include landscape retrofits, new technologies to reduce water usage, and recycling tree clippings and composting onsite to reduce landfill waste.

By working directly with building owners who are designing new buildings, a landscape maintenance representative can recommend a plant palette that doesn’t increase water costs. If you’re seeking LEED certification for your buildings, tapping into deep horticultural and maintenance experience can provide a plan in terms of how many points could be earned in the landscape category. The plan can be laid out so you know what perennial plants should be used, how you can qualify for waste reduction, how many points you could earn by converting irrigation to drip irrigation, and which trees to plant to generate savings in heating and cooling costs.

These tips and examples show that positive results occur when building owners and managers treat landscape as an asset and practice sustainable principles, such as water and waste reduction. The value of the landscaped asset increases, spending on maintenance decreases, less water is used, and more environmentally friendly processes are integrated into standard operations. Ultimately, a smart water-management program can help a building run more efficiently, and that’s good news for the environment and bottom line.

Eric Santos, a division irrigation advisor with Calabasas, CA-based ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance, has his Irrigation Association certification, and is an EPA WaterSense partner.

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Saving Water - Common Costly Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing leaks can come from a variety of sources. Hidden and visible leaks can easily waste thousands of gallons of water a year – not to mention the higher utility bills and the repair costs.

Toilet leaks are very common, but can be hard to diagnose. Leaks may occur from several sources. The most common tank toilet leak is the flapper or tank ball, which holds the water in the tank until the flush lever is activated.

The tank contains two valves: a flush valve and a refill valve. One type of refill valve is commonly called a ballcock. When the flush valve fails to seat properly, water is leaked from the tank into the bowl. The leaked tank water is replenished by the refill valve, causing a continuous flow of wasted water. A simple test for this leak is putting 8 to 10 drops of food coloring in the water tank. After 5 to 10 minutes, if you find food coloring in the water bowl, this indicates the possibility that the flapper/tank ball needs to be replaced. A good rule is to replace these parts every 2 years.

Some of the reasons for a leaky faucet:
Loose nuts.
Worn-out washers.
Poor-quality washers.
Improperly installed washers.
Wrong washer size.
Disc, cartridge, and ball faucets with worn-out O-rings.
Disc faucets with worn-out inlet and outlet seals.
Disc faucets with sediment build-up in the faucet inlet.
Cartridge faucets with a worn-out O-ring cushioning the cartridge stem.
Worn-out inlet seals in ball faucet due to broken/worn-out O-rings.

The second possible source of a tank toilet leak could be the fill valve or ballcock. This part turns on the water when the toilet is flushed and shuts off the water when the tank is refilled to its proper level. If this part fails and water doesn’t shut off, the tank will fill to overflow tube level, and all running water will go down the drain. In this situation, the fill valve needs to be replaced or rebuilt with new parts. Generally, it’s more cost effective to replace the fill valve. You should always use quality brand names. A flapper/tank ball will range from $4 to $7, and the fill valve/ballcock will range from $12 to $20. This will save money over the part’s lifetime in water saved.

Water fixtures that drip usually have worn-out parts and need to be repaired or replaced. Always remember to turn off the water and relieve the water pressure before attempting to disassemble the plumbing fixture.

Leaking faucets are manageable and can be repaired. Pressurized water is distributed to your property, and a faucet turns off by making a watertight seal strong enough to neutralize that pressure. A simple washer and seat assembly achieves this job; if your faucet is dripping, one of these two items probably needs to be replaced. You’ll first need to shut off the water and pull out the faucet. You’ll then see the washer. If replacing the washer doesn’t fix the leak, then the problem is probably in the brass seat, which is located behind the washer. You can fix it yourself if you have the proper seating wrench, but you can also call a professional plumber.

Although plumbing leaks can be costly if neglected, there are ways to prevent them by applying some simple prevention techniques. The most important part of avoiding huge plumbing-repair costs due to leaks is to take preventive measures and immediately address any leaks.

Dale Zager is the owner and founder of Zager Plumbing & Solar Inc., located in Deerfield Beach, FL.

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Use Less. Produce More. That's The definition of Green.

Water Conservation Protocols - Saving Water Saves Energy

Low-consumption fixtures, submetering, and water harvesting drive water efficiency
By Robert Benazzi

This article is part of Strategies for Success in LEED, a series of articles and webinars produced by the U.S. Green Building Council that satisfies GBCI credential maintenance requirements for LEED Professionals

Water consumption in the United States increased by an estimated 12 percent between 1990 and 2000 – an increase of over 5 billion gallons per day. Of the water consumed, only about 14 percent is lost to evaporation, transpiration, or use in products or crops; most water is used, treated, and discharged into the nation’s water bodies. Discharged water contaminates the receiving waters by increasing solids, nitrogen, bacteria, and toxic metals. Much has been done to help protect our rivers, lakes, and streams, but we have only begun. This article explains how water is used and produced in buildings and how to conserve it.

In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct 1992), which set a benchmark for water consumption and prohibited the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, or installation of plumbing fixtures that exceeded this mark. In creating LEED, USGBC took a cue from EPAct. Under LEED for New Construction and LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance Water Efficiency (WE) Prerequisite 1, all commercial toilets, urinals, lavatories and faucets must meet the water efficiency benchmarks set by the 1992 EPA Act.

The legislation was tightly written and effective in eliminating the manufacture and use of high-consumption fixtures, but it preceded proven technology. Users soon found that the new plumbing fixtures did not function, water closets were inadequate on a single flush, and drain lines were becoming clogged. As a result, water use increased.

Saving Water Means Saving Energy

Today, technology has caught up with the 1992 EPA Act and LEED Water Efficiency requirements. High Efficiency Toilet (HET) fixtures consume only 1.28 gpf. Also available are single-flush, pressure-assisted 1.0 gpf water closets; dual-flush water closets (1.6 gpf full-flush and 1.1 gpf low-flush); foam-flush closets consuming 0.05 gpf; and non-water toilets consuming 0.0 gpf.

In the offices of mechanical and electrical engineering consulting firm Jaros Baum & Bolles (JB&B), engineers who work on projects seeking LEED certification installed and tested 1.28 gpf water closets. In the JB&B tests, the 1.28 gpf fixtures outperformed the 1.6 gpf fixtures with a metered savings of greater than 20 percent. This means that in an existing commercial building with older fixtures consuming 3.5 gpf or more, conversion to the newer water closets with electronic flush could result in water savings greater than 60 percent. The engineers found that the 1.28 gpf fixtures not only use less water, but also the fixtures’ flushing performance is as good, if not better, than the 1.6 gpf fixtures necessary to meet WE Prerequisite 1.

New urinal designs also save water. Older urinals require upwards of 2 gpf or more per flush. Urinals that perform better than 1 gpf, which include waterless urinals, must be used in order to achieve maximum water-use reduction and meet the baseline of 1 gpf required by WE Prerequisite 1 in both the LEED for New Construction and LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Use of waterless urinals may also take a project one step closer to achieving WE Credit 3: Water Use Reduction.

Waterless urinals utilize a chemical that seals off the trap while allowing waste to pass through. Concerns that low-flow or waterless urinals may crystallize or not carry waste at adequate velocity can be alleviated with good installation. For example, placing water closets at the beginning of the run with urinals closer to the stack allows wastelines with non-water or ultra low-flow urinals to be cleared every time water closets are flushed.

In New York City’s One Bryant Park, a 1.8 million-square-foot commercial building that is the first skyscraper to receive LEED Platinum Certification, non-water urinals resulted in a savings of over 5.5 million gallons of water over a year. After almost a year of occupancy, the only complaint seems to be “Where is the flush button?”

New technology and LEED evolution have increased the efficiency of faucet fixtures, enabling projects to save water and achieve LEED WE requirements. The EPAct 1992 mandates that lavatory fixture faucets pass no more than 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). Earlier versions of LEED rating systems (v2.0, v2.1, and v2.2) awarded points to projects for meeting the baseline set by the EPAct 1992, but projects were not required to meet this baseline as a prerequisite. In LEED 2009, all faucets and aerators must meet 2.2 gpm for private facilities and 0.5 gpm for public facilities at a flowing water pressure of 60 pounds per square inch (psi) under WE Prerequisite 1. Electronic metering faucets may increase water savings further by limiting water to 0.25 gallons per cycle (gpc). In the case of One Bryant Park, this results in a water savings in excess of 1.5 million gallons per year.

Low-consumption fixtures also reduce the energy needed to bring potable water to occupants and heat it. In One Bryant Park, electronic metering faucets resulted in an energy savings in excess of 8,000 therms annually. When looking to implement strategies that meet LEED WE prerequisites and credits, the following requirements should be taken into consideration: Energy & Atmosphere (EA) Prerequisite 2: Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance, EA Credit 2: Existing Building Commissioning, and EA Credit 3: Performance Measurement.

Submetering of large users within buildings is another strategy to save water and achieve WE Credit 1: Water Performance Measurement (Option 2). Areas and systems where submetering is recommended include cooling towers, kitchens, landscape irrigation systems, and health club areas. The purpose of this metering is twofold: first, to help gather more information about the quantities of water being consumed within a building; and second, to allow the building engineer or manager to observe unusual water consumption and correct a potential problem (e.g. a float valve that might be stuck in an open position). Submeters should be connected to an electronic data gathering system (such as the building management system) in order to create trend logs and alert building personnel in the event of unusual consumption.

Cooling Towers – The Biggest Culprit?

Depending on the climate, a building’s cooling tower may consume more water than any other use. Blowdown – the process of removing water to reduce mineral concentration and scaling – is a necessary process within a cooling tower. As water evaporates, minerals left behind become more concentrated. This concentration can lead to scaling, fouled chiller tubes, lower heat transfer rates and increased energy usage for cooling. Cooling towers with constant blowdown will generally consume more water because evaporation rates are linked to heat loads.

To control blowdown, conductivity meters can be used to measure the water’s electrical conductance, adjust the bleed rates on the basis of evaporation rates, and thus ensure a higher concentration ratio or cycles of concentration. Using conductivity meters along with automatic controls is one option to achieve WE Credit 4: Cooling Tower Water Management through Option 1: Chemical Management.

Because the blowdown has the same chemical concentration as the recirculation water, the cycles of concentration are a comparison of the dissolved solids in the blowdown vs. those of the makeup water. More cycles result in less blowdown and less makeup water. For example, in a 2,000 TR cooling tower circulating 6,000 gpm with a 10ºF ΔT, the makeup water reduction would be 18 gpm (from 90 gpm to 72 gpm) or a savings of 20 percent.

Once-through cooling systems, in which potable water is used as the cooling medium, must be avoided in order to save water and meet LEED requirements. Both the new LEED 2009 Guidelines, as well as the proposed ASHRAE standard 189.1, prohibit the use of once-through cooling systems.

Harvesting Water within Buildings

Stormwater harvesting, or collecting the rainwater that falls on a building’s roof, is a proven strategy that can save potable water use and help achieve a number of LEED credits, including WE Credit 1: Water Efficient Landscaping, WE Credit 3: Water Use Reduction, and Sustainable Sites requirements related to stormwater management. Stormwater requires minimal filtration and perhaps minor sterilization depending on its future use. Stormwater is typically used for cooling tower makeup, but it can also be used for irrigation and the flushing of plumbing fixtures. At One Bryant Park, stormwater harvesting from a roof area of approximately 80,000 square feet resulted in a potable water savings of 2.3 million gallons per year.

Buildings produce water as well as consume it. In the case of buildings in New York City, both cooling coils and Consolidated Edison’s steam produce condensate during a building’s normal operation. At One Bryant Park, steam condensate was harvested to save approximately 3.5 million gallons of water annually. The harvesting of the steam condensate also saves energy by passing it through a heat exchanger that preheats domestic hot water in the building.

Wastewater from fixtures within a building can also be captured and reused. “Gray water” is untreated wastewater from bathroom sinks, bathtubs, showers, clothes washers, and laundry sinks. Depending on its assumed or measured contaminants, this water should be filtered and sterilized for cooling tower makeup, flushing toilets, or irrigation. Gray water can help a project achieve WE Credit 1, WE Credit 2: Innovative Wastewater Technologies, and WE Credit 3.

Gray water harvesting saves approximately 2.1 million gallons of water annually at One Bryant Park. It does require some additional piping systems, and the added cost for this piping must be weighed against the potential savings. The cost of this piping was minimized by working with the architect on One Bryant Park’s core toilet room design.

Groundwater can be harvested for some buildings with high water tables that require pumping to protect the foundation,. Typically, this water is pumped through a silt basin and then to the storm sewer, but it can instead be harvested and, depending on its quality, used for cooling tower makeup, fixture flushing, and irrigation.
Black water – or the wastewater from toilets, urinals, dishwashers and kitchen fixtures – can also be captured and reused. However, treatment is much more detailed and costly. Nevertheless, it may be justified by a rate-of-return analysis for some buildings, particularly high-rise residential buildings.

Other areas that consume water within buildings are landscape irrigation and building cleaning. In order to meet WE Credit 1, native and drought-tolerant plant species must be used to limit the water required for landscaped areas. For building cleaning, non-potable water is encouraged through use of mechanized cleaning tools and “dry” cleaning equipment.

Robert Benazzi is a consultant and a former partner with Jaros Baum & Bolles, an electrical and mechanical engineering firm.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Importance of Roof Insulation for Saving Energy

If asked what the most exciting or important feature of a building is, few people would answer: “the insulation in the roof.” You can’t see it, and it’s certainly not one of the items highlighted (like the marble entryway ) when the building is promoted; however, as three new research papers indicate, insulation is, through its consistent and persistent performance, one of the most important components in a building when it comes to reducing energy costs and reducing carbon footprints.

According to the management consulting firm of McKinsey and Company, the product that can provide the greatest return and offer the most carbon abatement is insulation. Not only will insulation help improve the energy efficiency of a structure, but it can also reduce the cost of heating and cooling the structure.

Today’s rush to promote solutions for climate change and the related energy security issues often attract the lion’s share of attention. But, unassuming insulation boardstock that no one sees is working 24/7 to ensure that your building measures up to 21st-century performance standards.

Special Thanks to Jared Blum, who is president at the Bethesda, MD-based PIMA, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association.

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Big Bang, Little Buck - Insulation is Cost-Effective Energy Savings

According to McKinsey, the product that can provide the greatest return and offer the most carbon abatement is insulation. Not only will insulation help improve the energy efficiency of a structure, but it can also reduce the cost of heating and cooling the structure.

Today’s rush to promote solutions for climate change and the related energy security issues often attract the lion’s share of attention. But, unassuming insulation boardstock that no one sees is working 24/7 to ensure that your building measures up to 21st-century performance standards.

Jared Blum is president at the Bethesda, MD-based PIMA, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association.

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The one who moved a mountain began by carrying away small stones.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cool Roofing Information for Home and Building Owners

What is a Cool Roof?

A cool roof is one that reflects the sun’s heat and emits absorbed radiation back into the atmosphere. The roof literally stays cooler and reduces the amount of heat transferred to the building below, keeping the building a cooler and more constant temperature. Imagine wearing a white or a black T-shirt on a hot day. By wearing the white T-shirt you will remain cooler than if you wore a black T-shirt because it reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat. Cool roofs, like a white T-shirt, keep the internal temperature of the building cooler.

However, a cool roof need not be white. There are many “cool color” products which use darker-colored pigments that are highly reflective in the near infrared (non-visible) portion of the solar spectrum. With “cool color” technologies there are roofs that come in a wide variety of colors and still maintain a high solar reflectance.

The two basic characteristics that determine the ‘coolness’ of a roof are solar reflectance (SR) and thermal emittance (TE). Both properties are rated on a scale from 0 to 1, where 1 is the most reflective or emissive.

The CRRC measures these two properties for roofing products, both for the product’s initial values and after three years of weather exposure. The CRRC publishes the results on the online Rated Products Directory. The online Directory is available to the general public at no charge, and it allows you to compare the rated values of various product types and brands.

What are the Benefits of a Cool Roof?

There are numerous benefits in having a cool roof:

Increase ecological sustainability factor, or make your house “greener” by:

Reducing your utility bills associated with air conditioning.

Increasing occupant comfort and avoid installing an air conditioner where there is not already one in use.

Decreasing the size and prolong the life of your air conditioning system.

Lowering roof maintenance costs and extend roof life, avoiding re-roofing costs, tear off and dump fees.

Assist your home in meeting building codes and " Green " Certification.

Mitigate your community's Urban Heat Island Effect.

Maintain aesthetics with a roof that performs and looks good.

Receive utility rebates in some locations.

Indirect benefits

In a nut shell, a cool roof can significantly reduce your cooling energy costs and increase your comfort level by reducing temperature fluctuations inside your home. Average energy savings range from 7%-15% of total cooling costs.

When people think about making their home more “green” or ecologically sustainable, cool roofing isn’t always the first thing to come to mind. However, certain green building programs, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED, give credit for installing a cool roof. So if you are trying to save energy or make your home more environmentally-friendly, a cool roof is one way to achieve that goal.

Special Thanks to The Cool Roof Rating Council

Sources :

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Energy Management Reduces Operations and Maintenance Costs

Portfolio Manager Overview

Portfolio Manager is an interactive energy management tool that allows you to track and assess energy and water consumption across your entire portfolio of buildings in a secure online environment. Whether you own, manage, or hold properties for investment, Portfolio Manager can help you set investment priorities, identify under-performing buildings, verify efficiency improvements, and receive EPA recognition for superior energy performance.
How can Portfolio Manager help me?

* Manage Energy and Water Consumption for all Buildings
* Rate Building Energy Performance
* Estimate Your Carbon Footprint
* Set Investment Priorities
* Verify and Track Progress of Improvement Projects
* Gain EPA Recognition
* Related Tools

Manage Energy and Water Consumption for All Buildings

Portfolio Manager helps you track and assess energy and water consumption within individual buildings as well as across your entire building portfolio. Enter energy consumption and cost data into your Portfolio Manager account to benchmark building energy performance, assess energy management goals over time, and identify strategic opportunities for savings and recognition opportunities. EPA has developed a Benchmarking Starter Kit to help you get started quickly.

Any building can efficiently track and manage resources through the use of Portfolio Manager. The tool allows you to streamline your portfolio’s energy and water data, and track key consumption, performance, and cost information portfolio-wide. For example, you can:

* Track multiple energy and water meters for each facility
* Customize meter names and key information
* Benchmark your facilities relative to their past performance
* View percent improvement in weather-normalized source energy
* Monitor energy and water costs
* Share your building data with others inside or outside of your organization
* Enter operating characteristics, tailored to each space use category
within your building.

Rate Your Building’s Energy Performance

For many facilities, you can rate their energy performance on a scale of 1–100 relative to similar buildings nationwide. Your building is not compared to the other buildings entered into Portfolio Manager to determine your ENERGY STAR rating. Instead, statistically representative models are used to compare your building against similar buildings from a national survey conducted by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. This national survey, known as the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), is conducted every four years, and gathers data on building characteristics and energy use from thousands of buildings across the United States. Your building’s peer group of comparison is those buildings in the CBECS survey that have similar building and operating characteristics. A rating of 50 indicates that the building, from an energy consumption standpoint, performs better than 50% of all similar buildings nationwide, while a rating of 75 indicates that the building performs better than 75% of all similar buildings nationwide.

EPA’s energy performance rating system, based on source energy, accounts for the impact of weather variations as well as changes in key physical and operating characteristics of each building. Buildings rating 75 or greater may qualify for the ENERGY STAR label.

Special Thanks to

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Monday, December 7, 2009

What Happens When Green Becomes Code?

Do buildings get better, or are lawsuits inevitable?

According to Liberty Building Forensics Group, the inevitable is about to happen – and most people don’t even know it’s coming. Green buildings are going to become, by codification, the law of the land. For some firms, this will mean business as usual. For other firms, this change will be cataclysmic.

ASHRAE produces standards that are adopted by most model building codes, and the ASHRAE Draft Standard 189.1P is the new Standard for the Design of High Performance Green Buildings except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. This new standard (currently in its final draft) is written in code language and will mandate that all new buildings be green buildings, thus eliminating the option of constructing anything less robust. Even if this standard isn’t adopted by all model codes, it will become the de facto standard of care. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing – mandating better-performing, more energy-efficient buildings – and it certainly does have many redeeming aspects.

But, according to Liberty Building Forensics Group, there could be a downside:
Lack of Experience Will Increase Design and Construction Deficiencies. Many of the optional aspects of the current USGBC LEED guidelines will now be mandatory for designers and contractors. This means that, even if your designer or contractor doesn’t fully understand the key technical issues (e.g. envelope air barriers), they’ll still be required to use them. This practice of forcing designers and contractors to implement building features that they don’t fully understand creates a dilemma in the industry: either represent yourself as technically savvy or face certain extinction. Given these as choices, failure becomes more inevitable as firms design and construct buildings with components they don’t understand in an effort to keep the work coming in.

Standard of Care Will Be Elevated. These new code requirements will automatically raise the required standard of care for the design and construction industry. This will increase the risk profile of their projects, and may (at least initially) trigger some exclusion clauses in their current insurance policies. What are now considered best practices will soon be considered the minimum standard of care.
Regional Issues Not Addressed. The new standard mandates national green building requirements throughout the country with very little regard for the unique regions of the country where certain concepts may not be appropriate. This is almost always a problem when national standards are uniformly imposed on climates with unique requirements (e.g. hot and humid, very cold, or very rainy climates).

The inevitable result is that everyone will quickly morph into a green practitioner, and the true marketplace differentiators (those with experience and unique technical expertise) will become difficult to discern. While codes can dictate that the industry follows certain standards, it cannot mandate that they get correctly implemented – with an increase in design and construction deficiencies, and lawsuits being the inevitable result.

Recognizing that this new standard (due to be issued in final form in 2010) could be a game-changer in the building marketplace, what’s the path moving forward?
Review a copy of the current draft version of ASHRAE 189.1P and begin to understand the impact of the new requirements on your firm’s business, insurance, risk management, and technical expertise.

Identify what requisite skills and knowledge your firm will need once this new standard is implemented.

Special Thanks to and

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