Archive for category Energy Analysis

86% of Building Construction Expenditures Relate to Renovation of Existing Buildings

“As ASHRAE President Gordon V.R. Holness noted in the  ASHRAE Journal, “Approximately 86% of building construction expenditures relate to renovation of existing buildings, not to new construction.” Holness estimated that “over the next 30 years about 150 billion sf of existing buildings (roughly half of the entire building stock in the United States) will need to be renovated.” Historically, new construction only adds about 2% annually to the U.S. commercial building stock, so the real opportunities for reducing operating costs must be found in building retrofit and renovation.” –  Glumac Blog.

The 2030 Challenge:

Buildings are the major source of global demand for energy and materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases (GHG). Slowing the growth rate of GHG emissions and then reversing it is the key to addressing climate change and keeping global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

To accomplish this, Architecture 2030 issued The 2030 Challenge asking the global architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:


    • All new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be designed to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 60% below the regional (or country) average/median for that building type.


    • At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area shall be renovated annually to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 60% of the regional (or country) average for that building type.


  • The fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings and major renovations shall be increased to:
    • 70% in 2015
    • 80% in 2020
    • 90% in 2025
    • Carbon-neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).

These targets may be accomplished by implementing innovative sustainable design strategies, generating on-site renewable power and/or purchasing (20% maximum) renewable energy.

Please visit  Frequently Asked Questions section for more in-depth information on the 2030 Challenge.



*Note: This was stated in the January 2008 Edition of the ASHRAE Journal.  When we polled permitting for Boston, we found 75% for construction in Existing Buildings.  25% New.


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California Legislates Mandatory Energy Bench Marking : Deal With It

Yoinks, so much for market capitalism.  California with AB 1103 ( Commercial Building Energy Use Disclosure Program
Rulemaking)  legislated mandatory energy benchmarking into existence for non-residential buildings. Energy bench marking is to be done using

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager benchmarking system.

A building owner shall comply with this article according to the following schedule:

(a) On or after January 1, 2013, for a building with total floor area measuring more than
50,000 square feet.
(b) On or after July 1, 2013, for a building with a total floor area measuring more than 10,000
square feet and up to 50,000 square feet.
(c) On or after January 1, 2014, for a building with a total floor area measuring at least 5,000
square feet and up to 10,000 square feet.


What impact does this have on LEED EB?  If any?  Is anyone using LEED EB?  I was talking to an owner; raises funds, buys buildings, etc. and the general consensus of any green, LEED, sustainable, initiative, at least for him, was does it add value to his portfolio in the short term as they have a much shorter window of ownership.  However, with this mandate and benchmarking we might have something completely quantifiable to reflect the price of a building from an operational point of view.  And it’s an Energy Star rating like the one you find on your new refrigerator. While there might be plenty of flaws, as the benchmarking seems pretty rudimentary, it is a first step.  So the government mandated it and while that seems a dirty word these days, mandate; it’s here, deal with it.  I deal with the market as it exists and until I can afford to have a phalanx of lobbyists to create a market that way I want it, I deal with what’s in front of me.  And right now, it’s mandatory Energy Auditing.

How will the software makers respond, if at all, to this?  How about, can I have push button energy star rating on my building please?  Brief search turns up Melon Power, which coordinates electricity usage and your submission to Energy Star Portfolio Builder.  I have not tested it but yes, we want an app for that!  Not buried in the subscription pack of Green Building Studio.  Fact is, could be a wonderful Lead Generation Tool.  Fact is, all these companies Autodesk in particular buy these companies and stuff them into their AEC package, so although the price might stay the same, you are getting more ‘value’ per install because of everything else that’s stuffed into it. But software usage, cost per seat, software as a service?  That’s a rant for another day.

For now, there’s a new law of the land in California, and if it’s like the weather, it starts on the west side, and moves east.


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Building Energy Analysis : A smorgasbord

This is the case the more I learn about it, the less I know.  As energy analysis picks up as a real tool in the trades, not just for sustainable retrofits, but to provide the data for financing as well and people working it from combing demographic information with utilities, to engineers, and beyond the amount of tools out there starts to become staggering…and I am sure I will be missing plenty.  But half of this excercise is to get input from anyone reading this to what they are using and why.  And am encouraging smack talk to why one is better than another.  What follows is a completely non-exhaustive list of stuff I’ve been running into and in no particular order. For a more exhaustive list without editorial comments the DOE (Department of Energy) maintains this List.

  • EQuest – Straight out of the DOE, and while their website looks like it was designed in 1998, the claim is “Imagine a building energy simulation tool comprehensive enough to be useful to ALL design team members, yet so intuitive ANY design team member could use it”  And I know people out there using it.
  • BEopt –  Straight out of NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) – Now this seems to have some limitations  and uses the DOE 2.2 engine, just as eQuest does however, one thing that popped out is the fact that you cannot call out different wall types or change sill heights to windows, which seems very limiting, yet, people are out there using it.
  • EnergyPlus : ”  is a whole building energy simulation program that engineers, architects, and researchers use to model energy and water use in buildings”
  • The Autodesk Family
    • Green Building Studio – This a web based service that allows for a variety of analysis including:
      • Whole Building Energy Analysis
      • Carbon Emissions : Footprint
      • Weather Analysis
      • Design Alternatives
      • Water Usage
      • Energy Star Scoring
      • GBS uses gbXML and is interoperable with Revit and….yes the DOE 2.2 Engine.
    • Ecotect : How this is different than GBS, I don’t know, but if you buy Ecotect you get GBS along with it..but both have similar claims.
    • Vasari : More energy analysis but at the design concept stage
  • Google : Sketch Up Family
    • IES Plug In – Allows you to apply materials onto a Sketch Up model for import into an IES tool
    • Energy Plus Open Studio Plug In – All the EnergyPlus option through your SketchUp model
    • GreenSpace Modeler : Allows you to apply gbmxl textures to a sketchup model for import into a gbmxl tool for analysis like Green Building Studio

An excellent resource I found through WBDG is the a summary of Energy Analysis Tools, including DOE 2.2, BLAST, EnergyPlus, and the like.  Plus there is a whole list of BLCCs (Building Lifecycle Cost) Programs.

I guess the point is just when you think BIM is going to solve everything with a push button, no matter which ecosphere you live in, be it Autodesk, Archicad, etc. there are tool sets out there, and more importantly ‘free’ tool sets out there that get a lot of play.  What worksflows and tools are you using for building / energy analysis?



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Energy Audit Army is Well Funded and on the March : Firms Starting and Accelerating like a 16 year Old with Porsche

No sooner had I posted on Green BIM, and also flogging the sustainable retrofit business model, that friends and colleagues start bringing up firms specializing in energy audits.  Most of these firms combine the audits with consulting to provide sustainability options i.e. savings through energy efficiency.  The more you dig you’ll see that energy audits are becoming common place and even mandatory in places.  The Green Energy Act passed in Ontario, Canada mandates a seller preform and energy audit on their home.  The city Austin now mandates it.  You get the picture, regardless if you think it is a good practice, it is also being legislated into existence.  Not only that there are rebates and tax credits available for implementing retrofits.  Good business. So let me again hammer this home in bullet point format:

  • Mandated in select areas but growing
  • Audit Funded by Stimulus and Grants
  • Retrofits Paid for by Tax Rebates
  • Give me one or a dozen at that price.

    Recurve, ” a San Francisco-based provider of software and services for the home performance industry, today announced that it has secured an $8 million Series B round of financing. New investor Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (NYSE: LOW) joins existing investors RockPort Capital Partners and Shasta Ventures in the financing.”  Provides not only the energy audit and recommendations and not wanting to share much pie can do the retrofits themselves as well.

    Neststepliving, a Needham, MA announced this summer a  “$2.6 million first close of their Series B financing round.  The financing was led by local green entrepreneur John McQuillan, President & CEO of Triumvirate Environmental, who was joined by other new investors and returning Series A investors including Black Coral Capital and the Clean Energy Venture Group.”

    And these are companies that people just mentioned to me in the last couple of days and as stated on the NextStepLiving website, Most Massachsuetts Homeowners are eligible for free home energy assessment and generous weatherization rebates up to 85% of the cost of the work.   Regardless of who’s picking up the tab and maybe it’s just a lead generation tool, but free?  Can’t lower the hurdle any more than that, and then coupled with rebates to do the work, well, get on that train.

    Retroficiency , based here in Boston , “provides energy audit and energy management software and services.”

    Appogee Interactive, Enercom , and Microsoft’s HOHM Beta, are all providing tools for analyzing your home.  Why?  It leads to business, or as my dad always says, “follow the money”.  And the smart money is in sustainable retrofits and energy audits.


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    Department of Energy (DOE) Launches New Blog : Energy Blog : Yawn? : BIM

    As reported by Katherine Tweed from GreenTech Media and picked up by Wired the DOE Launched a new blog. (Man, this new media everybody ‘borrowing’ and ‘sharing’ content gets tough to footnote).   Alone, generally, this should be met with a collective YAWN.  However, as a thread of the whole fabric it adds strength to the perception and reality of the move to a sustainable future and the real investment that is happening around it.   And get this from a post on July 23.

    …Cindy Regnier (from the) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory… works on several projects, including two that are Recovery Act-funded: the new User Facility for Low-Energy Integrated Building Systems test bed and the Commercial Building Partnerships initiative)…is helping to select dozens of new and existing commercial building projects from around the country to receive technical assistance from the national labs to achieve 50% energy savings in new construction and 30% in existing buildings. Each building will have energy-savings measures validated and evaluated from energy and cost standpoints, all with the goal of developing and promoting energy efficiency measures that can be easily deployed throughout the industry.

    So not completely dull, and if you keep an eye on this project you might find out where the government might focus more efforts for existing buildings, techniques, tools, products, etc. For example, I wonder what technologies and assistance Ms. Weigner might be deploying herself.  Cindy give me a shout.

    The blog itself is available here


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    Government Green : Sustainable Retrofits Redux : #BIM #AIA #LEED

    So post yesterday was how I and I am sure everyone is starting get bombarded with this message so today in my inbox from USGBC I get these stats.

    • Much of the $787 billion in federal stimulus money supports green retrofits of publicly owned buildings at the local, state and federal levels.
    • The federal government alone owns and operates some 500,000 buildings.
    • The federal government has a 28 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for federal operations by 2020.
    • 30 percent of all LEED projects are government-owned

    And they are holding the USGBC 2010 Federal Summit, May 18-19 2010 in DC

    Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center -   Washington, DC

    Next thing I will look into are the top 10 items in sustainable retrofits.  As always input welcome.


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    Repeat after me…Sustainable Retrofits : #BIM #AIA #LEED

    Within the last week I have been called, e-mailed and gone out to discuss sustainable retrofits.  The logic for it seems unassailable and I included some quick stats at the bottom of the posting.  However, as with the rise of virtual construction this is starting to make more sense to most that this is a real economic opportunity. What’s the cause, not sure if it’s the natural progression as companies look for opportunities in this environment, a truck load of AARA and TARP funds have hit,  the Clinton Climate Initiative is creating traction, or a lot of hemp wearing hippies have hit the boardroom,  however I believe the first penguins have slid down the ice and the rest of the waddle / rookery / herd is starting to follow.

    Additionally, more hard data points are becoming available to assist. The Empire State Building has started a massive $500 million renovation and hopes to reduce its energy cost up to 38% annually or $4.4 Million.  ‘Wait, you say’ Even I know what looks like to be a 100 year payback seems insane, why spend the money.’ If you look more closely and as they point out at the website that additional improvements on already planned upgrades cost $13.2 million, so $13.2 million yields the saving and payback in less than 4 years.   The Chicago Mercantile Mart and its 4.2 million SF of showrooms, offices and and tradeshow space earned LEED -EB (Existing Building) Silver.  While a video of  Kong climbing the Empire State could be more compelling I included the promotional video as possibly more informing.

    Inside the video at about 2:05 they talk about energy modeling.  I wish they included what they used to model it, but if we start talking about scenario analysis and ROI we start talking about BIM again, and various companion products like EcoTect and IES.  One of the bigger points made is that the time to do these things is by piggybacking on top of already planned improvements.  But from low flush toilets, to new digital controls, reglazing windows, to chiller retrofits new ROI models are inviting and this strategy/offering has to be, absolutely, be in your quiver.

    Some data points I found while researching this post.

    Excerpted comments from President Obama speaking at the Brookings Institute are as follows:

    Speaking about AARA funds the President said “is put Americans back to work doing the work America needs done, doubling our capacity in renewable energy’

    ‘Clean energy projects will all be ramping up in the months ahead’

    ‘I’m calling on Congress to consider a new program to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment. And I’m proposing that we expand select Recovery Act initiatives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs which have proven particularly popular and effective.’  Full Transcript Available Here

    Buildings and Climate Change – Quick Stats:

    • Buildings Account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States —more than either the transportation or industrial sectors
    • Over the next 25 years, CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector, with emissions from commercial buildings projected to grow the fastest—1.8% a year through 2030
    • Buildings consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S.
    • Buildings have a lifespan of 50-100 years during which they continually consume energy and produce CO2 emissions.  If half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year
    • The U.S. population and economy are projected to grow significantly over the coming decades, increasing the need for new buildings – to meet this demand, approximately 15 million new buildings are projected to be constructed by 2015
    • Building green is one of the best strategies for meeting the challenge of climate change because the technology to make substantial reductions in energy and CO2 emissions already exists.  The average LEED® certified building uses 32% less electricity and saves 350 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually
    • Modest investments in energy-saving and other climate-friendly technologies can yield buildings and communities that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthier places to live and work, and that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions
    Source:  USGBC (US Green Building Council) and ASHRAE ( American Society  of Heating, Refrigerating
    and Air Conditioning Engineers), the AIA,  IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America)
    and the DOE.

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    ASHRAE Issues Grant for Interoperability: #BIM

    ASHRAE, the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers just issued a grant to Texas A&M for “ensuring that a common language of ‘energy efficiency’ is spoken by the both building information modeling software used by architects and energy analysis and simulation software”.  I have not played around with Ecotect or IES enough, but I know it had required separate 3D modeling outside of  standard BIM authoring software, getting to a point of seamless data exchange you would think would be a starting point not the end point, but glad we are moving that way.


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    40% of Energy Use Comes From Buildings : States Adopting Tougher Codes : BIM can help

    According to the EPA buildings are responsible for up to 40% of all energy usage and carbon dioxide production, because of the increasing need to decrease energy usage and the US carbon footprint more stringent building standards are being put in place based on ASHRAE 90.1-2007 with some states adopting stricter standards.    Each state energy code is available here. Massachusetts had adopted one of the stricter standards and just wading through the stuff makes your head spin, I got sidetracked researching it by a thread discussing compliance concerning a sunroom and if it had to be added to the total exterior wall footprint of the house, and then there were tables with insulation factors, etc.  To add to the madness there is the HERS (Home Energy Rater System) system developed through energy star, and the ResCheck Suite developed by the DOE that ‘helps’ with home compliance.  Maybe you’ve started laughing by now or more likely crying.  All of this is well meaning but will take even more specialists to wade through it, understand it and comply with it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were plug in components for energy analysis with BIM software..wait a sec, they got that, and then run scenario analysis so you can see what modification or additions you need to make to comply to this new and evolving standards, have the software figure it out so you can design and build.  Use a swiss army knife instead of a spoon.


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    Is green the color of recovery for architects?

    This is the title of a recent article in the Boston Business Journal.  “Once the money starts to flow, architects will be busiest retrofitting existing buildings to meet current environmental building codes and industry standards for energy efficieny, as cost effective alternatives to building from scartch,” said Nancy Jenner director of the Boston Society of Architects.


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