Category Archives: Industry Resources

Net zero energy for retail is possible

green energy chicago
Jason Robbins, Walgreens manager of mechanical engineering, and Jamie Meyers, manager of sustainability at Walgreens, discuss the energy-efficient technologies used in the net-zero drugstore in Evanston.

Imagine paying pennies for your utility bill. Better yet, imagine paying nothing. That’s the chimera architects, scientists, and building owners have chased for decades. “Net-zero” energy is a simple enough concept; it’s the idea that a building can produce enough renewable energy on-site to cancel out its consumption. But it has taken decades for technology to catch up with such a lofty goal. High costs and inefficient hardware created a barrier to entry that few but the most idealistic attempted to overcome. For most consumers, the return on investment wasn’t worth mainstream implementation. The economics may still be a stretch for many, but a proliferation of energy-conscious projects—several of them in Chicago—suggests we may be approaching a new dawn.

In November, Deerfield-based Walgreens became the first major US retailer on record to create a net-zero energy store, in the North Shore burg of Evanston. And it heralds the arrival of Chicago as a national leader that is breaking ground not only in the retail arena, but in the educational, residential, and farming sectors as well. “The industry as a whole considers net zero for retail impossible,” says Jason Robbins, manager of mechanical engineering for Walgreens, “until the first company does and shows that it is possible.”

In that case, consider the door blown open. Thanks to solar, wind, and geothermal technologies, the Evanston store is not only scheduled to reduce its required consumption by 50 percent, it will also produce all the energy it requires. It has even recycled 85 percent of the old site’s new materials into the construction of the new one.

walgreens chicago
Cool air is delivered to Walgreens from geothermal pipes.

Walgreens engineers project that the store will consume only 220,000 kilowatt hours per year (compared to the 450,000 kWh a normal store scarfs down), while producing up to 256,000 kWh, given optimal weather conditions. Excess energy will be sold back to the utility companies.

Eight hundred and fifty roof-mounted solar panels accomplish most of this feat by covering 95 to 100 percent of the store’s needs, while two 35-foot wind turbines chip in another 10 percent and offset emissions from an estimated 2.2 passenger vehicles. Massive geothermal pipes sunk 550 feet into the ground deliver air from deep within the earth at a year-round temperature of 54.5, which means that the air conditioning unit needs to do less work than normal to bring the indoor temperature to a comfortable 72 degrees.

So why now? “The right technology is finally available, but the push over the past seven to 10 years has revolved around companies becoming more responsible,” explains Jamie Meyers, manager of sustainability for Walgreens. For Walgreens, it was the logical next step in a company philosophy that champions sustainability in more ways than just the utility bill. “We saw this as part of the mantle of leadership,” Meyers says. “If we want to [be true to our tagline] of being ‘at the corner of happy and healthy,’ what can we do to demonstrate that living well goes beyond our products?”

walgreens chicago
Solar panels provide 95 to 100 percent of the Evanston Walgreens’ energy needs.

A TV inside the store tracks wind direction and speed; the indoor and outdoor temperatures; the amount of solar gain; and the levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases.

Part of the initiative is educating customers. With Walgreens headquartered in Deerfield, there’s no question that Chicago is on the forefront of the net-zero movement. And with its fleet of 8,200 stores growing at more than 100 per year, the key benefits of this project are sure to spread across the country. Walgreens has already advised other Chicagoland companies on how to replicate its success, though Meyers declined to reveal which ones.

But is net zero becoming a way of life? “That’s certainly where it’s heading,” Meyers says. “I don’t think we’re at a critical mass yet, but customers are discerning based on the reputation of the company, and they will demand innovation.”

Backyard Greens

the plant chicago
Leafy greens are grown in an aquaponic production system at The Plant.

On the opposite end of Chicagoland from affluent college town Evanston, a revolution is underway in the form of a very different net-zero initiative. Sprouting in the Back of the Yards is The Plant, a vertical-farming operation in the defunct meat-packing facility that used to house Peer Foods. Where men with knives once tore flesh and broke bones, horticulturists now nurture leafy green life.

The Plant was founded in 2010 when John Edel and his company, Bubbly Dynamics, bought the 93,500-square-foot building for a mere $525,000 with the aim of offering a local, sustainable alternative to wasteful food production. While a new construction might have cost them thousands of dollars per square foot, this deal had the mind-bogglingly low cost of approximately $5.50 per square foot. “It was sold as a strip-and-rip because of all the valuable materials, but what we want to do instead is continue to focus on food production and take advantage of this building’s energy efficiency,” says Abigail Lundrigan, The Plant’s education and marketing coordinator, as she leads a group of curious Chicagoans past the rickety freight elevators and through the insulated passageways of the labyrinthine brick building.

the plant chicago
One third of The Plant is dedicated to aquaponic cultivation of watercress and other plants.

A third of the building is devoted to aquaponic growth in the form of live fish (tilapia, to be exact), chard, watercress, arugula, and lettuce mix. Two thirds are set aside for a community education space, a commercial kitchen (rentable by the hour when completed), and work spaces for independent food professionals like a kombucha brewery, a beer brewery, a bakery, and more.

Thanks to The Plant’s sustainability measures, it diverts 30 tons of waste per day. Mirroring the symbiosis of nature, it works like this: Fish waste feeds the greens. A giant, 100-foot anaerobic digester turns food waste into algae for the fish and a fuel called “bio gas,” which burns with 91 percent efficiency in a generator, creating electricity for the grow lights and steam for heating and cooling. All food waste—whether it’s from the fish, the breweries, the plants, or the humans—is fed back into the digester, and all loops are closed. In the process, The Plant’s operators plans to create 125 jobs and divert 10,000 tons of food waste out of landfills each year.

More will follow, but already The Plant’s tenants include Arize Kombucha; Pleasant House Bakery; Nature’s Little Recyclers, a worm farm; Greens and Gills, a fish and farm aquaponic operation; and the Urban Canopy, an organization that aims to support agriculture in cities.

the plant chicago
Fresh bread is made at Peerless Bread & Jam (PB&J) bakery, a tenant of The Plant.

As much as Lundrigan and her team aim to develop The Plant into a producer in its own right, they hope that replication is another major byproduct. Though they’re only one-third through a five-to-seven-year process, they’ve already set a precedent of being transparent and specific about the sources of funding and regulations. “It’s unheard of, and it’s the Chicago way of doing things: Apologize later instead of begging permission,” Lundrigan says, noting that the Department of Agriculture, the inspecting agency, doesn’t really have protocols set up to deal with an urban farm.

The result: sustenance for a food desert, a resource for food entrepreneurs, a source of jobs in a distressed neighborhood, and a model for repurposing the industrial skeleton left behind as Chicago transitions from Carl Sandburg’s “tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities” into a greener place.

Conservation University

Over in McHenry County, Loyola University is developing a “Retreat and Ecology Campus” that aims to become net zero within the current decade. Wayne Magdziarz, senior vice president of capital planning, says it’s part of a much larger plan to green Loyola’s campuses and to provide a laboratory for future growth. The university has reduced about 34 percent of its consumption over the past four years, saving roughly $3 million per year. “We’ve embraced building green,” Magdziarz, says, referencing developments at both its Water Tower and Lake Shore campuses over the past decade. “We’re a Jesuit institution with a strong commitment to justice issues, and we believe we should be good stewards to the environment in order to live out our mission.”

The university retrofitted insulation, windows, and mechanical systems in existing buildings, which will reduce power demands by about 34 percent. “What’s completed to date is ‘net-zero ready,’” says Don McLauchlan, one of the principals at Elara Engineering, the firm that has overseen Loyola’s green projects for more than a decade. “That means we’ve made it as efficient as practically possible. What’s left is to add the renewable energy component.”

The plan: 91 geothermal wells driven 500 feet into the earth will handle heating and cooling, while photovoltaic panels, solar thermal cells, and wind turbines will harvest energy from the elements. There is also a biodiesel lab, which will generate 30,000 gallons of fuel from food waste across the campuses of Loyola and other institutions, including Northwestern.

“Chicago is clearly a leader,” McLauchlan says of the sustainability movement. “We’re seeing it in the private sector, too. Ask any manager of a downtown office building, and they will now know their Energy Star rating.”

The Hurdle

For all the drum banging about the admittedly impressive strides these Chicago institutions are making, we’re still years away from having compelling financial incentives for the average consumer to go net zero. “You want to be energy-efficient first, because the economics of net zero still aren’t quite there,” McLauchlan says. “Renewable energy is still very expensive, but just proving that it’s possible is a first big step.”

Karen Weigert
Karen Weigert, Chicago’s first chief sustainability officer.

Certain policies, such as President Obama’s “20 by 2020” initiative (a mandate that federal buildings generate 20 percent of their energy renewably within the next six years), provide some motivation. So does Chicago’s own Sustainable Chicago 2015 project, an aggressive plan to green the city over three years led by Chicago’s first-ever chief sustainability officer, Karen Weigert. “We should be about a third of the way done, but in a number of cases, we’re ahead,” Weigert explains, pointing to signs of progress: over 10,000 annual Divvy Bike memberships; a 65 percent increase in retrofitting activity in energy efficiency zones; 75 miles of water mains replaced; and groundbreaking on the 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail (the anticipated elevated trail system that will run through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square), with its first phase opening to the public this fall. So far, though, many developing net-zero projects are doing so for philosophical reasons.

“I’m designing every home at a LEED Silver base level,” says William Scholtens, principal and founder of Elements Architectural Group, a residential design firm based in Oak Park. “I don’t see clients asking for it yet; I sense that it’s us keeping the conversation going.”

William Scholtens
William Scholtens of Elements Architectural Group designs every home to LEED Silver standards.

Scholtens recently transformed an 1880s row house in Lincoln Park into a LEED Platinum gem. Like the Loyola campus, the Lincoln Park home is currently net-zero ready and is equipped for photovoltaics, which convert solar radiation into electricity. In the few years since its completion, the architect and his client have discussed the pros and cons of taking it all the way, but to add the solar-harvesting component would be too pricey. “The cost to add photovoltaics to the home is close to $100,000,” Scholtens explains. “His energy bill is currently $100 to $200 a month. That’s a 50-year payback.” For the technology to become more widely adopted, “it needs to get cheaper,” he says. “As cost goes down and efficiency goes up, we might have a shot.”

Scholtens doesn’t believe any of this diminishes Chicago’s position at the forefront of the movement, largely because the city has become a go-to national resource. “One of the things Chicago is doing that’s leading the way is the amount of green professionals we have,” Scholtens says, as he runs through a list of places—upstate New York; Cape Cod; Marin County, California; even Hawaii—all of which have net-zero residential developments that Scholtens has been involved with. “I see us as an exporter of the [net-zero] mind-set.”

In the meantime, technological advances like fusion energy and more accessible photovoltaics in the form of shingles and window panes suggest that a financially viable net-zero future may be just around the corner—and Chicago is leading the charge.


Quick reads on variable refrigerant flow systems

1. Variable-refrigerant Flow (VRF) Systems: Weighing Benefits And Limitations

Variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) systems have been used for the better part of three decades in Europe and Asia. While clearly not as common in North America, the design has been catching on — mostly for its ability to respond to fluctuations in space load conditions. Because of this, it excels at saving money during part-load system use. VRF is appealing for reasons beyond energy savings. After all, the systems can simultaneously heat and cool separate spaces in the same building. VRF systems also can vary compressor speed to meet load condition and have quieter operation than a direct exchange system. But that’s not to say that it’s perfect for every building or every climate. Facility managers have to weigh benefits and limitations.

Affify is careful to note that a VRF system isn’t an off-the-shelf solution. It generally Ramez Affify, principal at E4P consulting engineering the assistance of a design engineer, who needs to review the load profile for the building so that each outdoor section is sized based on the peak load of all the indoor sections at any given time; then the outdoor unit can be specified.

Designing a VRF by selecting the outdoor unit first, Affify says, is a sure way to end up with an oversized system.

A VRF isn’t suitable for all applications. Limitations include:

There is a limitation on the indoor coil maximum and minimum dry- and wet-bulb temperatures, which makes the units unsuitable for 100 percent outside air applications, especially in hot and humid climates.

The cooling capacity available to an indoor section is reduced at lower outdoor temperatures. This limits the use of the system in cold climates to serve rooms that require year-round cooling, such as server rooms.

But in many cases, VRF systems work well. Affify references a recent VRF installation in the desert southwest where – shortly after installation – the area experienced a heat wave where ambient outdoor temperatures reached 120F, well exceeding the manufacturers recommended range.

“To our great pleasure, the system functioned and cooled the building during [those] hot times,” Affify says.

2.  Variable-Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Systems: Air-Cooled And Water-Cooled

Variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) systems have been gaining new attention among facility executives in the United States. The systems are energy efficient and can simultaneously heat and cool separate spaces in a building. But facility managers have to evaluate each project separately to decide whether a VRF system is appropriate. There are two basic systems, air-cooled and water-cooled, and a simple VRF system consists of an outdoor condensing unit and multiple indoor evaporators. The condenser and evaporators are connected by a complex set of oil and refrigerant pipes, all governed by individual thermostat controls.

Ramez Affify, principal at E4P consulting engineering, has worked extensively with VRF systems, including ASHRAE subcommittees addressing variable refrigerant flow, and notes that basic questions need to be asked before installing a VRF system.

“There are major decisions in the beginning of each project to choose the most suitable HVAC system for a building,” Affify says. “When VRF are considered, the very first question is: Will the VRF units be air cooled or water cooled?”

If they are air cooled, Affify says, exterior space is required for installation of the condenser unit. Furthermore, the space/site selected for installation has to be away from windows, accessible for maintenance, and able support the weight of the units.

In one case, “the height of an exterior [air-cooled] VRF units caused the neighbor, which was an adjacent restaurant, to complain because they said the unit blocked their view,” Affify says. “Lesson learned is to think ahead before installing a 6-foot outdoor VRF section, especially in low rise communities.”

He further notes that architectural enclosures can be considered; while the enclosures might not mitigate concerns neighbors have with blocked views, they can hide the condenser units.

If a water-cooled VRF system is used, Affify says, water source units that help comprise the system can be placed in small closets.

With both air- and water-cooled units, a feasible path to route the network of refrigerant pipes needs to be identified.

One challenge when specifying VRF systems is providing a separate outside air supply to each indoor unit to comply with ASHRAE Standard 62.1 and building codes. For larger buildings, that means that a separate outside air fan and control system is usually required, and in humid climates, providing preconditioned outside air to each indoor unit helps ensure good indoor air quality.

Today’s quick read came from, contributing editor for Building Operating Management.

Source: Facilities Net

Building Operators are Crucial to Energy Advancements

Energy ManageAccording to a study of energy-use behavior that focused on medium and large office buildings in California, reducing energy use in buildings requires more than isolated changes to technologies or individual behaviors.

The study, Behavioral Strategies to Bridge the Gap Between Potential and Actual Savings in Commercial Buildings, conducted by the California Air Resources Board and the University of California Davis, recommends that future building energy use research include building operators, who are in an ideal position to help shape and vet solutions.

The California researchers say it’s important to recognize the building as a social system and use real buildings and users to experiment with solutions. The researchers stress the role of building operators and recommend training and certification for the profession, with curricula including energy use and energy efficiency.

The study recommends: “Recognize and promote building operations as a green job. Building operators can have a major effect on the indoor environment and indoor air quality as well as on building energy use and sustainability. These potential contributions to environmental sustainability can help make building operations an attractive career.”

Source: Energy Manager Today

Facility Managers Can Educate Tenants To Reduce Complaints

One effective strategy for minimizing the number of complaints is to educate building occupants about the situation that is generating the complaints.

Consider this story from Joan Woodard, president and CEO of Simons & Woodard Inc. Canada geese can be pests, so you’d think a story involving them would be about complaints around the noise, their waste, or how aggressive they can be. But Woodard has the opposite problem. Her tenants love their geese and ducks, almost too much. A series of five man-made lakes at one of her properties in northern California has become a very popular stopover for migrating birds, with a pair of geese and some ducks routinely using it as a nesting ground. In their concern and exuberance for their wilderness mascots, Woodard’s tenants have had rather unusual requests. The lakes have a bulkhead that’s about six inches above the water, and the tenants get distressed that the babies will not be able to clear the barrier. One tenant even went as far as standing in one of the lakes with his pant legs rolled up, attempting to scoop the ducklings onto dry land, which of course would not do — for the ducklings, himself, or the property management firm.

One strategy Woodard uses to try to stem the seasonal requests is to issue a newsletter to the tenants educating them on the importance of leaving the wildlife undisturbed. Using the newsletter, they distributed information about little ramps and small stone steps that had been constructed for the ducks after the wading incident, so they might navigate the lakes with ease. Of course, the birds don’t actually use the ramps or the steps. “The tenants were happy we took that extra step, but then they wanted management to instruct the ducks on how to use the ramp,” she says.

Though they declined that request, Woodard says they were happy to try to accommodate the requests around the geese and ducks. “From the moment they become tenants, we’re trying to make them feel this is their daytime home and that they’re part of a community,” she says.


2.  Facility Managers Should Tackle Complaints Head-On

For facility managers, complaints are a fact of daily life. Tackling them head-on is usually the best strategy, rather than ignoring them and hoping they go away.

A good example of why that’s true comes from Larry Virts, local president of BOMA Corpus Christi and property manager with REOC San Antonio. Sometimes Virts says he feels more like a high school principal. He inherited a tenant mix with glaring differences in work and life styles. In one corner, a call center making up about 25 percent of the building’s population, filled with very young employees who are loud, brash, and often not used to working in a professional setting — at least as evidenced by their behavior. In the other corner, everybody else.

And worse, the call center was clogging the elevators. The tight scheduling typical of a call center was causing this set of employees to enter and leave the facility in large groups. Where other tenants had been always been able to get on an elevator in 40 seconds, now they were waiting two, three, or more minutes — an eternity. The complaints rolled in. When Virts hired on, he resolved to improve the situation.

“The tenant had assumed that complaints made about them were because of their appearance and their loudness, their unrestrained youth,” Virts says. “I think they just assumed that it was a personality clash, never realizing they could make it better.”

After first cultivating a relationship with the call center’s management, Virts says he approached them in a calm manner to find a reasonable solution to the issue. They were very receptive and a compromise was found in staggering start times and break times to relieve long waits for the elevator. It has helped the situation, some, he says.

3.  Report Back To Management On How Approved Facility Projects Are Performing

Facility managers should report back to top management on how approved facility projects are performing.

Getting a “yes” on a facility funding proposal is one part salesmanship, one part public relations, and one part stick-to-it-iveness. Successful facility managers are the ones who have developed a system that works consistently, and successful facility management organizations are well-funded ones. So understanding all that goes into a successful facility funding proposal — from laying groundwork to campaigning to understanding the difference between a smooth, quick presentation and one that will get you laughed out of the boardroom — is a career must for any facility manager.

One common mistake facility managers make is failing to report back on an approved project, even if nobody asked for data. “We remind everyone when we have a successful project,” says Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. “Give updates. That provides the personal touch.”

John Balzer, vice president, facility planning and development for Froedtert Hospital and Community Health, agrees: “Facility managers can make themselves more noticeable by sending quarterly reports on how their initiative is working. It’s a great way to build credibility. You’re saying, ‘Look, I stuck my neck out and I’ll report, even though you’re not asking, because I’m confident enough in this initiative.'”

Doing such voluntary reporting completes the credibility loop, which again, is one of the biggest factors in getting a “yes.” Your personal relationship with the financial folks making the decision on your proposals is just as important – perhaps more so – than the numbers themselves. As Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, puts it, “Your credibility and personal relationships are the keys.” The question to ask, he says, is this: “f I call them, will they give me the time of day?” If the answer is “yes,” you’ve got much better odds the answer will be “yes” on your proposal as well.

4.  Get Help From Finance On Proposals For Funding Facility Projects

Today’s tip from Building Operating Management: Get help from the finance department when preparing a proposal for funding facility projects.

For many facility managers, presenting a funding proposal is the bane of their professional existence. Folks with engineering or operations backgrounds often struggle not just with the soft skills, like public speaking, marketing and campaigning, but also the financial expertise required to construct a proposal in terms that will resonate with those holding the organization’s purse strings.

When it comes to actually building the meat and potatoes of the proposal, there’s no better idea than to get financial folks to help you with the proposal. That way, your numbers are vetted and in the appropriate form before upper management lays eyes on them.

Regarding the proposal itself, the exact format will depend on the organization, but again, experts suggest a few best practices. The most important thing: Keep it short and sweet. Provide two to three alternatives, e.g., the benefits of the proposal if it is accepted, the risks of doing nothing, and what would happen if the proposal is delayed for a year or two or if a less costly option is chosen.

The problem, solution and benefit to the company should be made clear in the first 90 seconds, says Alan Whitson, president, Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute.

Use PowerPoint because that’s what executives are used to, says Stormy Friday, president of The Friday Group, but dress it up a little. Use photos, or “if you’re extraordinarily clever, create a simulation model or things that move and circulate. Anything’s better than just a flat presentation.”

The actual hard copy of the presentation must be equally short and sweet. “I’d strongly recommend, and this is not easy with people with engineering backgrounds, one page or less and using bullet points,” says John Balzer, vice president, facility planning and development for Froedtert Hospital and Community Health. “That’s the only way the CFO will look at it.”

The biggest mistake to make is to assume more data, pages and spiffy charts will help your cause. “Leaders have a nanosecond attention span,” says Friday, “So so you can’t overwhelm them with blocks of text or charts and graphs that are hard to decipher.”

Source: Facilities Net

California’s First Net Zero Energy Library

Editor’s Foreword: During my college years, I used to swing by the West Berkeley Public Library on University Avenue after shopping at the nearby art stores for my studio projects. I remember its dismal entrance, dim lighting, and run-down furniture squeezed into tight quarters. I’m so excited to learn that it has been replaced with a beautiful, modern, and green building, which is the first zero net energy library in California designed to have a net zero annual energy bill. Currently the library is undergoing ZNE verification with the City of Berkeley and the commissioning agent. Verification is a year-long process in which the monthly reports from the energy dashboard are reviewed.

The new NZE West Berkeley Public Library nicely anchors the urban street frontage on University Avenue in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

The West Berkeley Public Library (WBPL) is a new 9,339 square foot structure located in a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood of Berkeley, California. The project cost is $7.5 million and was completed in October 2013, under budget. The facility is designed for a code maximum of 252 occupants. The new design gives the library a prominent position on the street, increasing its visibility in the community. The WBPL serves a diverse population and features programs for adults, teens, and children. The library’s large collections of Latino, East Indian, and Asian material reflect the cultural diversity and needs of the neighborhood.

Interior view of the NZE West Berkeley Public Library designed by Harley Ellis Devereaux. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Overall Project Goals:

In 2009, the City of Berkeley published its Climate Action Plan, seeking to reduce its Green House Gas emissions to 33% below 2000 levels by 2020. Upon auditing its building portfolio, the city quickly realized that the only way to achieve this goal would be to have all new city buildings achieve ZNE performance. The city decided to begin with a library funded by Berkeley residents under a bond issue and issued a RFP. Harley Ellis Devereaux prevailed as the winning design team due to the strength of its proposal for a ZNE design — the only ZNE proposal received by the City.

In addition to being responsive to Berkeley’s policy objectives, the proposal also addressed State of California ZNE policies, which call for all new residential and commercial construction to be ZNE by 2020 and 2030 respectively. PG&E, a large utility serving northern California, launched its ZNE Pilot Program in 2010 and selected the WBPL project as a ZNE case study. PG&E provided funding and became a partner in supporting the analytical and modeling work for the project.

Challenges included the tight urban setting and high traffic area. Through an exploration of various design strategies, the team came up with an innovative design balancing the needs of the community and site restrictions with its energy efficiency goals. The WBPL will have a net zero annual energy bill each year and a zero carbon footprint.

Site and Floor Plan of the West Berkeley Public Library. (Image courtesy Harley Ellis Devereaux)

Energy Performance Goals:

Roof Design and Natural Ventilation

The Zero Net Energy (ZNE) approach had a profound impact on the design process. The starting point for the entire design was the building’s roof. Through modeling, the design team determined the optimal roof configuration and designed the rest of the building to maximize energy efficiency. Optimizing the renewal energy production resulted in a compact volume to maximize an even roof plane for the installation of solar panels. Passive strategies then had to be developed to ensure that the energy consumption of the building would not exceed the energy production on the roof. Specific climate data was analyzed. Solar radiation would be used for photovoltaics, and wind was identified as a naturally available energy source to be used as an engine to drive natural ventilation through the building.

Diagram showing the ZNE and green design features of the West Berkeley Public Library. (Image courtesy Harley Ellis Devereaux)

Due to noise levels from a very busy front street the south façade could not have operable windows. To make the natural flow of air through the building work, a wind chimney was developed so that the steady breeze from the San Francisco Bay could be employed to blow over the extended front facade in such a way that a negative pressure behind the top portion of the front facade combined with louvers in this area would pull the air through.

A small garden forms a micro-climate to the north side of the building so that fresh air for natural ventilation can also be drawn from here.

Natural ventilation in combination with a radiant flooring system for heating and cooling as well as thermal mass are integrated into an overall system so that no conventional air handling system is needed. CO2 sensors connected through the beams to the window motors will ensure that the windows open when fresh air is needed.

Plenty of natural daylighting provides sufficient lighting in the West Berkeley Public Library. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)


In order to maximize the use of day light, the main front facade receives a large window wall over the full width of the main library space. This south facing glazing is equipped with a horizontal solar shading system. Skylights are north facing to minimize glare impact of direct sunlight. The position of large window walls on the north and south side of the main library space allows for views through the building. The finish floor is elevated several feet above street level providing a sense of safety and a comfortable view to the urban environment.

A reading nook in the children area is generously glazed towards the small garden.

Internally borrowed light through glazed walls and clerestory windows let internal spaces connect to the natural light. Artificial light sources are installed close to the areas where light is actually needed. Book stack lighting for example is attached to the top of the stacks to focus all light on the books.

Lighting for the book stacks in the West Berkeley Public Library comes from built-in energy efficient light fixtures above the stacks rather than relying on general ambient lighting. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)


The ZNE West Berkeley Public Library building far exceeds the 2030 Commitment because over the course of a year, it is expected to balance out the energy it produces with the energy consumed resulting in an annual EUI (energy use intensity) of zero. PG&E believes that based on the energy modeling and the increased efficiency of the PV panels, the building may actually be a net positive generator of electricity.

  • The project relies upon the sun to provide renewable energy through the combination of a PV system for electricity production and a solar thermal system for hot water generation for the radiant floor heating.
  • The internal electrical loads used for lighting are reduced by the extensive presence and use of daylight. Large shaded windows on the north and south elevations are balanced with smaller ones on the east elevation. The west facade is a highly insulated solid wall. The ratio of window openings to solid wall is balanced to minimize heat losses with day-lighting gains.
  • To reduce plug loads, the design team selected Energy Star rated and high efficient appliances. The service desk has a laptop charging station where the distribution of laptop computers can be controlled.
  • Since no forced air system is used and ventilation is provided completely naturally, and extensive daylight is achieved with skylights throughout the building, the building can be used even when there is a power outage.
  • Natural gas usage was eliminated from the building design; thus all thermal loads are satisfied with a solar-thermal system.

Diagram showing how the mixed-mode operating system works in different seasons at the West Berkeley Public Library. (Image courtesy Harley Ellis Devereaux)


The AIA 2030 Commitment uses EPA’s Target Finder as a reference standard and the EUI target for Libraries is 104. The WBPL’s total EUI is 25 kBtu/sf/year, a 76% reduction from the national average EUI for this type of building. The library is a net positive building, with a Net EUI of 11.1 kBtu/sf/year (Total energy generation of 36.1 kBtu/sf/year – 25 kBtu/sf/year = 11.1kbtu/sf/yr).

Interior view of clerestory windows in the West Berkeley Public Library. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Other Performance Goals:

Ecology and Water

The West Berkeley Public Library occupies over 82% of the site, presenting a creative challenge to meet and balance all stormwater management, landscape restoration, public use, and accessibility goals. On this fully developed urban site, stormwater runoff is filtered, cleaned, and detained before it gets discharged into the City’s storm drainage system and the San Francisco Bay. All roof runoff is collected in flow-through planters integrated into the base of the building. In these constructed planters, vegetation and specially designed sandy soils filter and clean the water.

At-grade planting beds also filter runoff from the paved surfaces before leaving the site while providing some ground water recharge. In addition to mechanical and biological cleaning of the water, the planters are designed to detain both routine and major flood flows before the runoff enters the City’s storm drainage system, thus mitigating serious downstream flooding problems. All plantings were selected for their drought tolerance and ability to survive in a healthy condition in the local climate with minimal water-efficient irrigation and seasonal pulses of rainwater. Potable water use is reduced by 58.2% from the LEED baseline.

The top of a Flow-Through Planter can be seen at the base of the building. Its specially designed soil and selection of planting help filter and clean stormwater. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Flexibility and Adaptability

The project was also carefully designed for long-term flexibility and adaptability. The library stacks are designed to be large and airy, in anticipation of needing less books and shelving in the future (with the advent of new media). The multi-purpose room serves as an additional reading room as well as a community meeting room, which can also be used as a stand-alone space after hours. The PV panels are mounted on stanchions as opposed to having the racks mounted directly on the roof. This design allows water flow on the roof to be unimpeded and allows for future technology without impacting the roof itself.

Interior view of the West Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Material Selection

Exterior walls of the WBPL building consist of:

  • Swiss Pearl cement composite panel rain screen system for both thermal and moisture control performance.
  • FSC DreamDex wood rain screen exterior assembly.
  • Cement plaster at remaining areas.
  • 3×8 FSC wood studs at 24” o.c. with Roxul mineral rock wool insulation.

The Roxul insulation was selected for its excellent thermal, hydrothermal, fire resistant, and acoustical performance as well as its minimal impact on the environment because of its all-natural materials. R-30 was achieved with two layers of 3.5” of rock wool in the walls and R-40 was achieved with two 6” layers of rock wool in the roof assembly.

Dreamdex, a resin impregnated pine wood exterior siding material, was selected for its durability and promise of low maintenance requirements over its life. Unfortunately Dreamdex was discontinued with barely sufficient warehouse stock available for the project duration, thus Harley Ellis Devereaux worked closely with the builder throughout construction to take great care in minimizing waste by careful selection and placement of the siding material. The rain screen details were also modified to decrease its installation complexity, which minimized mistakes, wastage and reduced the amount of required furring channels by 1/3 as well as the amount of Dreamdex wastage.

The West Berkeley Public Library at dusk. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Public Transportation and Walkability

The West Berkeley Public Library does not have any on-site parking. The library’s central location in the neighborhood offers patrons close proximity to public transportation. Bus and train lines are all within walking distance. The library also has adequate space for bike parking. Many of the patrons enjoy walking to the library and shopping in nearby stores.

Project Team:

  • Architect and MEP Engineer: Harley Ellis Devereaux
  • Audio Visual: Smith, Fause, and McDonald Inc.
  • Civil Engineer: Moran Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: John Northmore Roberts and Associates
  • Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Timmons Design Engineers
  • Signage: Bruning + Associates Design
  • Structural Engineer: Tipping Mar
  • General Contractor: West Bay Builders
  • Construction Manager: Kitchell CEM

Source: GABReport

Smart HVAC Controls Market Expected to Reach $26.60 Billion by 2020 – New Report by MarketsandMarkets

(PRWEB) April 15, 2014

According to a new market research report of “Smart HVAC Controls Market by product type (Temperature, Ventilation, Humidity, Integrated), Components (Sensors, Controlled devices, Smart Vents), Application (Residential, Commercial), Operation & Geography – Analysis & Forecast to 2014 – 2020”, published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.22% from 2014 to 2020, and reach $26.60 Billion in 2020

Browse more than 93 Market Data Tables with 55 Figures spread through 135 Pages and in-depth TOC on “Smart HVAC Controls Market”.

Download sample PDF today.

The Smart HVAC Controls market is a growing market, which includes sensors, controlling devices and Smart Vents. In future, Smart HVAC controls are expected to control the HVAC industry because of its high quality contribution to the nation and increased comfort in the HVAC ecosystem.

The overall Smart HVAC Controls Market is segmented into five major segments – product type, mode of operation, components, application, and geography. All the major segments are further segmented into sub segments. All the segments and sub segments are separately classified in the report. The Smart HVAC Controls Market is expected to reach up to $26.60 Billion by 2020, at an estimated CAGR of 8.22% from 2014 to 2020.

Early buyers will receive 10% customization on this report.

The two major driving factors for the Smart HVAC Controls Market are need for energy efficient solutions and consumer demand for remote access control. Both are expected to boost the market in coming years. The growing concept of Internet of things (IOT) is considered as well planned and is important for the Smart HVAC Controls market. In the report, different modes of operation are also discussed which includes wireless controls, remote controlled controls, programmed controls and integrated controls. Various innovations are taking place to develop the Smart HVAC Controls Market which includes the introduction and development of weather compensating controls along with the related components.

Geographical split for the Smart HVAC Controls Market is included in the report. It presents the market share of the different geographies of the smart HVAC controls. This report divides the overall market based on the four major geographical segments- The Americas, Europe, APAC, and Rest of the world (ROW). APAC is considered the market leader in the overall Smart HVAC controls market, which is followed by the Americas and Europe.

Browse Related Reports
Sensors Market [(Temperature, Pressure, Speed, Level/Position, Oxygen, Nox) For Automotive Applications (Power Train, Body Electronics, Vehicle Security, Safety and Controls, Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Telematics)] 2012 – 2022

Home Automation & Controls Market by Product (Lighting Control, Security Control, Access Control, HVAC Control, Entertainment Control, Outdoor Control, Communication Protocols, Standards & Data Distribution) & Geography (2013 – 2018)

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Today’s facility and IT managers are facing multiple challenges in managing corporate facilities. The corporate facility includes various areas such as the commercial building, manufacturing floor, warehouse, remote sites, and data center. All of these corporate facilities require different attention from the managers to meet the corporate sustainability goals set forth by the executive team. Goals that mainly revolve around reducing CapEx and OpEx costs by performing energy reduction, capacity planning, equipment life-cycle-management, and provide a productive and collaborative work environment that the manager has to deal with on a continuous basis.

These top-of-mind issues require accurate data collection, and are converted into useable information to enable smart decision-making. At the same time, the manager is asked to perform all of his or her daily activities with less staff to reduce overhead cost. This “do more with less” phenomena requires the manager to utilize the latest Information Technology to gain insights into areas that need improvement through the use of Building Automation Systems and benchmarking against industry metrics. A good Building Automation System empowers organizations to reduce operational and capital expenses, improve visibility of key operational data, and enable sustainable, energy efficient facilities.

Building Automation System describes the system of controls that has the advanced functionality to monitor, manage and control building equipment.  Types of equipment include water, gas, electricity metering, heating, ventilation, air conditioning equipment, lighting, surveillance, access control, digital signage, and fire life safety monitoring. In most cases, each system operates in silo with little or no communication to each other. Each of the systems gathers data individually and stores the data with its own format, thus requires the facility manager to compile all the data manually from several locations to gain visibility to the condition and usage of the facility. This introduces many problems with facility management in wasted resource and time, questionable accuracy of energy accounting, and inconsistency in the reporting metrics.


7 Sustainability Strategies for Commercial Buildings

The office building industry accounts for nearly 20% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International.

A key part to curbing emissions is working with local and city officials, tenants, and other groups to help make entire communities more sustainable. BOMA International shares the following strategies for greening your facility and community.

  1. Get Connected. Local utility companies often offer demand response and other energyefficiency incentive programs for both residential and commercial buildings. Reach out to local utility companies to find out what incentives and programs are offered in your city and how your building can benefit.
  2. Make a Presentation. Does your building implement great energy management strategies? Contact your local chamber of commerce and offer to share your leadership insight with the business community in your city.
  3. Benchmark Energy Performance. Measuring performance is the first step toward improving performance. Benchmark your building’s energy and water consumption through EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Managerbenchmarking tool and encourage the rest of the buildings in your company’s portfolio and throughout the city to do the same. Make it a team competition to be the city with the most benchmarked buildings.
  4. Support Incentive-Based Energy Legislation. In cities and states across the country there is incentive-based energy legislation that make it more affordable for building owners to implement energy efficiency retrofits and upgrades. Find out if this type of legislation has passed in your city/state, and be sure to support it if it has. If it doesn’t exist, lobby your elected officials to create legislation to incentivize energy efficiency.
  5. Host a Recycling Event. Host a community recycling day where tenants and community residents can drop off hard to recycle items such as batteries and LED light bulbs. Don’t stop at your building; make it a citywide campaign.
  6. Teach Your Tenants Well. Your building management team is well versed in the latest energy management strategies. Terrific. But what about your tenants? Institute a Tenant Energy Awareness Program – use your company newsletter and/or building announcements to keep tenants informed about energy management goals and offer training, education, and tips on low and no-cost energy efficiency strategies.
  7. “Green” the Commute. Fewer cars equals greener cities. Get your city on the road to green by offering bicycle storage facilities in your building.


First Fuel software aims to make energy efficiency easier, quicker

Skyscrapers in Dubai

First Fuel aims to make it easier to boost energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Photograph: Ali Haider/EPA

Swapnil Shah doesn’t have anything against cleaner-burning fuels or renewable energy. He just thinks North American businesses – and the buildings they operate in – should be using less energy, no matter the source.

“The ability to reduce consumption in those buildings can have a huge impact”, both economically and environmentally, said Shah, the CEO of First Fuel. The young software company in Lexington, Massachusetts, was founded with exactly that goal in mind.

First Fuel is built – and named – based on the notion that those interested in making energy more environmentally friendly should look first to efficiency before seeking newer, greener fuel sources. To help make energy efficiency easier, the company has created a software system that completes a remote version of a more conventional “energy audit”, a process in which trained assessors conduct an on-site evaluation of a building to identify energy-saving opportunities.

The First Fuel system uses thousands of data points about a building’s energy usage, its physical dimensions and the weather in its location to calculate where and how the structure can cut its energy use. Clients provide their energy use data and their addresses; the rest of the information comes from public records and commercially available archives.

The advantage of a remote assessment, according to Shah, is that assessors don’t need to visit each site, a time-intensive and – as he puts it – “kind of a subjective” process.

First Fuel’s process produces a final report that identifies specific areas – heating and cooling, lighting, building operations – in which there are opportunities to improve efficiency. The analysis is completed without any on-site inspections.

Shah likens the process to the way doctors can use blood tests and MRI results to diagnose patients without ever meeting them. And it seems to work: third-party studies, including one by Pacific Gas & Electric, have concluded that the accuracy of First Fuel assessments is comparable to that of traditional audits and that the software is often able to suggest energy-saving measures missed by human inspectors.

Swapnil ShahSwapnil Shah, CEO of First Fuel. Photograph: First FuelThe high performance is the result of years of tinkering and refining, Shah says. The 45-year old native of India and his three co-founders started the company in 2010, but only brought the product to market some 18 months ago after spending a year and a half making sure the software could live up to its promise.

First Fuel’s business strategy is based on a growing movement toward energy conservation in both the commercial and government sectors. Shah co-founded three previous business-to-business software companies that were acquired or went public: mValent,WebSpective and Open Environment. He wanted his newest endeavor to combine a profitable business with an effort to improve the world, he said.

“After having spent 20 years in enterprise software, I was really looking for a different challenge, something that had a broader impact,” Shah said.

About 30 US states and Canadian provinces already have regulations aimed at reducing energy consumption in buildings, Shah noted. Meanwhile, the commercial sector is responsible for approximately 20% of total energy consumption in the United States, according to the USEnergy Information Administration. First Fuel hopes to reduce that consumption: its customer base consists of utilities, government agencies, and commercial enterprises aiming to cut costs, meet legal requirements or improve their sustainability.

Still, First Fuel faces some challenges. As interest in the field of energy efficiency explodes, perhaps the biggest obstacle is the sheer number of competitors crowding the market. In a recent report, energy services company Groom Energy identified more than 200 vendors – from big players like IBM and Honeywell to innovative start-ups – selling some form of “energy management solution”.

Additionally, there is some debate about whether the push for energy efficiency will live up to its potential. Some studies have found evidence that improving efficiency can cause what is often called a “rebound effect”: Knowing their systems are more efficient, customers may feel that they can afford to leave a light on or drive more often.

First Fuel aims to avoid this problem by finding energy-saving opportunities that don’t change building occupants’ level of comfort. If they don’t notice any changes, the logic goes, they’re unlikely to crank the heat up.

“Many of the opportunities we find are about keeping the buildings at comfort level, while still keeping the efficiency,” said Indran Ratnathicam, director of marketing and strategy for First Fuel.

Among the company’s customers is Washington DC, which is trying to reduce its energy consumption by 20% from the summer of 2013 to the end of 2014. First Fuel has already helped the district make progress toward that goal, said Sam Brooks, director of energy and sustainability for the department that manages the district’s 30m square feet of building space.

In one case, the program was used to analyze a 500,000-square-foot building. The results suggested that the building’s lighting wasn’t as efficient as it could be and that the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems were running longer than was necessary each day.

“An hour and a half right there can be worth $40,000 to $50,000 to your bill,” Brooks noted. “When you target those little pockets of operational waste, you’re really able to very rapidly get rid of that waste.”

The software-driven approach is also more scalable than traditional audits, Brooks said. With roughly 400 buildings in the district’s portfolio, on-site inspections would be cumbersome and time-consuming. First Fuel, however, enabled Brooks’ department evaluate all its buildings and identify waste much more rapidly, he said.

“There’s not much downside to efficiency,” Shah said.

Source: The Guardian 

Hard results of green buildings in Colorado accelerate the adoption

Buildings are improving, becoming more comfortable but also more efficient in use of energy and water. How can this adoption of best technologies and designs be accelerated?

A panel of experts at the Rocky Mountain Green Conference held in Denver recently agreed that examples help. And Colorado has many examples.

“At the end of the day, hard results are the best education,” said Jeff Ackermann, director of the Colorado Energy Office. “If you create baselines of comparable buildings that are built to current high standards—if people can see the real benefits, that is where the conversation starts.”

While energy-efficiency has drawn much attention, he added, the conversation about sustainability should also encompass water use, indoor air quality, and proximity to mass transportation. All are criteria used in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED evaluation process.

The exterior of the NREL net-zero office building. Photo/Allen Best

Some of Colorado’s best examples are found at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, located just off I-70 in Golden. The campus has six buildings certified at the highest level of LEED certification, platinum. One of them is the world’s largest net-zero energy building. NREL uses techniques, such as maximizing use of existing daylight, to reduce need for artificial lights, and maximize solar collection. The parking spaces are covered with photovoltaics.

On hot summer afternoons, the building produces more electricity than it consumes. Other times, it must draw on the grid. As such, most net-zero buildings rely upon carbon energy for backup.

The interior of  the NREL net-zero energy office building uses judicious use of natural lighting to minimize artificial light. Photo/Allen Best

But it’s easier to hit such lofty goals in building performance when you start from scratch, pointed out Frank Rukavina, sustainability director at NREL. He noted that residential and commercial buildings account for about 40 percent of all energy use in the United States. As such, they represent a huge opportunity for potential savings.

Much is happening in Denver. Jerry Tinianow, chief sustainability officer for the city government, said that municipal buildings have become 20 percent less energy intense, with an additional goal of milking another 5.6 percent in savings as compared to the 2005 baseline.

Denver is also trying to help create other models. One is at the former Lowry Airfield, on the border with Aurora. There, a 70-acre enclave called Buckley Annex is being planned as a net-zero neighborhood, meaning the amount of electricity consumed on site in homes, businesses and other community infrastructure will be no greater than the amount that is produced there.

Another project aims for net-zero in commercial buildings downtown. It is moving forward under the auspices of Architecture 2030. “What we really like about it is it’s a voluntary association and not a city-mandated association of buildings, and it’s one in which the government plays a secondary role,” said Tinianow.

If buildings produce their own energy, they won’t rely upon utilities for outside generation, at least not in the same way. Such dispersed production is called distributed generation—and it’s worrisome to utilities whose business model for the last century has consisted of earning revenues based on the volume of electricity sold.

According to Mark Schwartz, representing Xcel Energy on the panel, “We are trying to find a way to embrace that,” he said of local, distributed energy generation.

“Through energy efficiency programs, we have been able to drive down the demand curve.” But net-zero buildings during the next 15 years “has to be something we look at from a utility perspective.”

New financial instruments that allow savings of energy efficiency to be financed will become more important moving forward, said speakers.

Ackermann noted legislation was passed last year to allow PACE programs for commercial buildings, giving building owners the ability to improve paybacks on investments to make buildings more green.

Tinianow pointed to residential energy efficiency programs that make inefficiency upgrades part of an employee benefits program, similar to a 401k benefit. When that happens, he said, “We will see massive expansion of energy efficiency improvements.”

Source: Mountain Town News