Tag Archives: Green building

Why the White House Is Spending Millions to Promote Wood Structures


The Department of Agriculture doesn’t usually meddle in architecture, but this week at an event at the White House, it announced an unusual project: A $1 million competition for high-rise buildings built out of wood—and another million that will go to educating architects about it.

You might remember that President Obama signed a new $956 billion Farm Bill in early February. A big focus of the new bill is “Made in Rural America,” an initiative designed to help rural farmers find and take advantage of economic opportunities. Like, say, helping lumber companies develop and market high-tech wood products to architects who might otherwise spec steel and concrete in taller buildings.

Let’s back up for a second, though: Skyscrapers made from timber?? Is there really a market for wood that can be used in tall buildings? In fact, there is—though it’s very young.

Lighter, Faster, Almost Stronger

In 2009, a nine-story apartment building in London became the tallest all-timber building ever, thanks to a relatively new technology: Prefabricated, cross-laminated wood panels. In simple terms, these panels are made in a factory by stacking up dozens of pieces of natural wood in alternating directions, then pressing them into a single timber beam. The alternating grain directions make the timber super-strong:

And as to fire protection, it turns out that these timber columns could actually be better than steel in a fire. While the panels will burn, they won’t fail catastrophically like steel does when it gets very hot. Timber stays stable for longer because it forms a layer of insulating char when it’s exposed to flame. And while it’s not fireproof, it’s far harder to burn than raw wood, since it’s industrially treated and is rarely left exposed. “In Europe, cross-laminated timber has been around long enough that standards for issues like fire protection and acoustics are being incorporated into building codes,”explained The New York Times in 2012.

But it must be harder to build with, right? Nope. Because they’re lighter and take less work to actually assemble, these panels are way faster to build with. At London’s Stadthaus, a team of four put the first eight floors of structure together in less than a month. The entire building was finished in less than a year.

Clamor for more research into high-rise timber has been growing ever since: Swedish architects C.F. Møller proposed a 34-story timber skyscraper for Stockholm last year. Their design would build a timber apartment building around a concrete core:

And other architects have followed—which brings us back to this week’s event at the White House. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement about the forthcoming design competition at the White House included an appearance by a team of Chicago-based architects from SOM, who have been working on timber high-rise research for a few years now.

SOM’s Timber Tower Research Project is more of a study than a design. It’s a comprehensive structural system that aims even higher than 34 stories—thanks to a combo of timber panels and concrete:

The hybrid system combines the benefits of both systems: The lightness and carbon storage of timber and the strength of concrete, which reinforce the connecting joints. SOM says the system would reduce buildings’ carbon footprints by up to 75 percent, but be strong enough to support buildings over 40 stories.

Can an Old Industry Learn New Tricks?

So American architects are thinking about timber construction. The problem the White House wants to solve is where they’ll get it from. The London tower’s timber was sourced from a company in Austria called KLH, which pioneered the manufacturing of the stuff. But the US government would like that wood to come from the US, not Europe—hence its partnership with WoodWorks, a nonprofit that aims to connect architects with stateside suppliers.

There are plenty of other things standing in the way of timber towers, as The Oregonian explains: Building codes that don’t allow the use of wood in buildings over a certain height, for example, not to mention shifting the longstanding public perception that wood buildings are weaker, more dangerous, and less durable. There’s also been a surge in lobbyists hired by chemical and plastics companies, which are waging a war against LEED and other sustainable building initiatives—which they see as legislation that harms their businesses.

So as President Obama promises to spend billions helping rural America, he’s also looking at the lumber industry—which, from the Federal Government’s perspective, could be growing the next big building material in our own back yard.

Focus On Building Core, Common Areas To Sell Owners On LEED-EBOM In Multi-Tenant Facilities

When starting a LEED-EBOM project in a multi-tenant facility, focusing on the core areas of the building offers opportunities to building owners. First is the obvious monetary benefit to the building owner through things like more efficient lighting in common areas, more water-efficient landscaping and starting the building later and shutting it down earlier, if possible. Second, LEED certification is certainly a nice selling point for a building, especially as sustainability becomes a more regular requirement for companies looking to lease space.

Another benefit is the ability to turn the situation around: If the building is sustainable on its own, then when tenants are looking to do their own LEED projects, the building can help them achieve certification.

“In many instances, we’re finding that our buildings provide upwards of three-quarters of the points necessary for a tenant to reach or achieve a base-level LEED certification for their office space,” says Jay Black, director of sustainability, SL Green.

Black’s team has done base building projects as part of LEED-EBOM initiatives. When SL Green was pursuing Gold certification for one of its buildings in White Plains, N.Y., Heineken USA, one of the building’s major tenants, was looking into renovating its space at about the same time.

“Because of our discussions with them about our pursuit of the LEED certification,” Black says, “we were able to work with them to help offer information as they were redeveloping their space that also convinced them to say, ‘We’re going to go after a LEED certification for our own commercial interior office space.'”

As it turns out, Heineken’s project ended up qualifying for Gold certification itself, in large part due to the extra points earned from the base building being Gold certified.

By: Casey Laughman, Managing Editor: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/

Why the caulking gun (and the thermal imager) are the best weapons in the war against energy waste


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We have said it many times: sealing your house gives you the best bang for your buck. Take a tour of my house with a thermal camera for a real demonstration of what I mean. We’re planning a renovation, downsizing and subdividing our hundred year old Toronto house and don’t want to rip out the plaster and the lovely old windows, but do want to tighten it up a bit. Our contractor, Greening Homes, brought in a Flir thermal camera and the results were shocking. In the photos above, you can see that the single-glazed bathroom window isn’t too dark, 11.9 degrees (all in celsius). But look around the window casing: air is pouring out around it, with some parts of it below freezing. No wonder we get out of that bathroom fast.

Greening homes/CC BY 2.0

It’s often cool in the bay window with the piano; sometimes too cool for my wife to even practice.

Greening Homes/CC BY 2.0

You would think it is coming from the bay windows themselves, and it is true that there is quite a bit of hat loss there,

Greening Homes/CC BY 2.0

But the real killer is at the baseboards, where cold air behind the brick wall falls down the space between the lath and plaster and the floor and spills out there. It’s zero celsius, the freezing point. Inside the house.

greening homes/CC BY 2.0

The insulated steel door is doing a fairly good job of insulating, but look at what is leaking on top of the frame, it is actually blowing upward. That’s why replacing windows and doors is pointless or even counter-productive if the trades don’t do a good job of installing the frame and sealing it properly.

Greening Homes/CC BY 2.0

If this was the ceiling of the top floor, you might expect this kind of leakage around an electrical box. In fact, there is another occupied floor above this. The cold air is travelling from the brick wall at the end, between the joists, and falling through the electrical boxes.

Greening Homes/CC BY 2.0

The electric and cable outlets here might as well just be holes in the wall.

Greening Homes/CC BY 2.0

This is a great shot, you can see the cold air pouring out and oozing down between the floorboards.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Now the wind isn’t normally blowing through our house as if we were in a canvas tent; there is a giant blower putting the whole house under negative pressure. They are trying to figure out how many air changes there are per hour at 50 pascals of pressure differential. They never got there; the house was so leaky that the fan didn’t have enough punch, and it only got to 45 pascals, at which point there were18 air changes per hour.

What’s the point?

A lot of people have been convinced that there is nothing they can do to reduce their energy costs other than gut the joint and insulate everywhere, or change their windows. The fact of the matter is that most of the heat loss is through leakage, and if you can cut that down with effective use of caulk and minor repairs, you can save a bundle with an investment with a payback period that you can measure in months. This exercise with the thermal camera showed that the windows were performing almost as well as the eight inch thick brick walls!

But the biggest shocker for me was the fact that I have been ritually caulking my windows every fall for a decade, but because I didn’t have the camera, I didn’t know that the leaky window trim was a far bigger source of heat loss. If you don’t know where the heat is going, you don’t know what to fix.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

That’s why I thought the Flir One, introduced at CES, was so exciting. I don’t know how renovators and architects lived without these things.

Read more here: http://www.treehugger.com/

The Coppertree Ethos

The Coppertree Ethos

For more than 30 years CopperTree’s parent companies Delta Controls, one of the largest independent Building Automation System manufactures and ESC, one of North America’s largest building system integrators, have been at the forefront of creating SMART buildings.

This heritage means we combine an implicit understanding of the technology that controls buildings with practicalities of maintaining them – so you get a solution that delivers genuine energy savings.

CopperTree works to make a difference to our customers. Everything we do is aimed at enabling you to take control, identify and solve your issues and to help you make the most of your time, budget and your building. By making them easier to manage and eliminating inefficiency, we are doing precisely that.

Want to learn CopperTree_Corporate_Brochure_V3

Do you want to maximize your buildings potential?

Let’s Connect: info@setpointsystems.com

Bumps In The Road To Sustainability: One Hospital’s Story

The future was supposed to be brighter for the Modesto (Calif.) Medical Center. When the 670,000-square-foot complex opened in 2008, it was intended to be a green laboratory for future green-building projects for Kaiser Permanente, the health care organization with more than 600 medical facilities.

So far, the center’s medical facilities and full-service hospital have not quite lived up to expectations.

“One of the most valuable lessons we have learned over the past six years is that just because you are handed over a beautiful, brand-new building, don’t assume that everything is going to run as designed,” says Ed Gonzales, the medical center’s chief engineer. “My team and I have discovered that new isn’t perfect, and that once you figure out how to work out all the bugs, there are always more creeping around.”

Many of the medical center’s issues relate to the ongoing challenge facing most maintenance and engineering managers to push the energy efficiency of institutional and commercial facilities.

“We’ve had issues regarding maintaining efficiency with many of our systems,” Gonzales says. “Energy conservation is now a top priority locally and at a regional level. We’ve discovered that from the original build, there were many systems that were value engineered, which means two things. One, sometimes things look good on paper when in reality, it’s the end user that has to find ways to keep a system running. Two, saving money at the beginning will always cost you more in the end.”

When the medical center opened, it was the organization’s most environmentally responsible facility, boasting a range of energy- and water-saving materials, low-emitting interior products, and design elements aimed at improving the health and well-being of patients and staff.

“It’s really difficult to pinpoint one system that has been the most challenging,” Gonzales says. “However, if I had to choose one, I would have to say maintaining proper humidity levels in our operating rooms. When this building was designed, the designers failed to take into consideration that this style building works great in the San Francisco bay area. But when you take the same template building and place it right in the middle of the Central Valley, where the temperatures can reach upwards of 115-120 (degrees) in the summer, it can be very difficult to maintain the humidity levels.

“One of the reasons is that all of our air handling units are 100 percent outside air. We as a facility team have to get very creative with our building automation system in order to maintain the state-mandated humidity levels.”

By Dan Hounsell, Editor- http://www.facilitiesnet.com/

LEED In Motion Reports Help Support Case For Sustainability

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released a series of three LEED in Motion reports aimed at equipping green building professionals and advocates with the insight needed to make a strong case for sustainable building activity.

Each of the reports, available exclusively to USGBC members, examines a different facet of LEED’s effects, from its international growth to legislative action promoting green building to the development of innovative new technologies.

The first report, People and Progress, looks at the individuals and organizations that are driving and benefiting from green building. Released in August 2013 and featuring a foreword from Hines President and CEO Jeffrey C. Hines, it revealed that more than 4.3 million people live and work in LEED-certified buildings, while more than 6.2 million people experience a LEED-certified project every day. The report also examines the nearly 13,000 USGBC member organizations, ranging from Fortune 100 corporations to small neighborhood businesses, representing 13 million employees and $1.8 trillion in combined revenue. People and Progress also details the community of more than 186,000 LEED credential holders who are actively applying their specialized knowledge of LEED to advance the green building rating system while adding value to the firms that employ them.

The second report, Places and Policies, was released in October 2013, detailing the global, regional and local growth of LEED and outlining the policies and mechanisms supporting it. Featuring a foreword from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the report notes that there are nearly 60,000 LEED green building projects across the globe, spanning 10.6 billion square feet. The report showcases in-depth statistics and graphics on LEED projects and areas of growth, examining domestic and international policies and partnerships that support the framework of LEED and drive global progress. Currently, more than 400 localities have LEED-specific policies in place, and there are nearly 100 green building councils in various stages of development as well as a LEED International Roundtable with members from 30 countries.

The final report, Impacts and Innovation, was released in November 2013 at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Philadelphia. The report details key impact areas and results of the thousands of projects that are utilizing LEED, as well as innovation highlights related to LEED and green building technologies. With a foreword from Bridges to Prosperity Executive Director Avery Bang, the report looks at the impacts of LEED through the lens of both business and human health.

Notably, Impacts and Innovation also features new LEED project energy data, revealing that 450 LEED projects that reported data experienced an energy use intensity (EUI) that was nearly 31 percent lower than the national median source EUI over a 12-month period. Additionally, 404 LEED projects indicated an Energy Star score of 85 in the same period, well above the level required for the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Top Performer” designation.

The green building movement has made tremendous progress in the last 13 years, and the LEED in Motion report series stands as a powerful testament to those achievements. However, rather than being merely celebratory, they also impel action to spur further transformation. As USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi notes in his foreword to People and Progress, “Though its end result is better buildings and communities, LEED is really about not settling for a passive status quo, but delivering with intention a built environment that actively partners with us on our health and well-being and our future. It’s about leadership.”

By: Jacob Kriss: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/

Building Information Helps Drive High-Performance Operations

When it comes to high-performance operations, one of the first places to start is with building information. This information can help drive better operations and better building performance.

As demonstrated in a recent energy management study conducted by the NRDC at three buildings owned and operated by The Tower Companies — a real estate development and management firm in Washington, D.C. — those smarter approaches at the core of the BOMI International High-Performance Program (see “BOMI’s High-Performance Program” on this page.) can produce tangible, sustainable results. The study showed how a better-informed building operations team could work together to provide actionable recommendations that optimize energy use.

The initiative, which involved three large, multitenant commercial buildings Tower owns and operates in Washington, D.C., focused on operational improvements — measures that do not require construction, disruption to occupied buildings, or substantial capital investment. The goal was to discover what could be gained by a closer examination of the building automation systems in real time. What resulted, as detailed in a recent case study released by NRDC, was a model for building owners, tenants, efficiency programs, and others to conduct their own energy management initiative.

Two outside firms were brought in to help analyze the buildings’ automated systems, pinpoint problems, and recommend fixes and improvements. Note Phillip Henderson and Meg Waltner, authors of the study, “The three buildings in this case study were high-performing buildings before the energy management initiative began — the buildings had high Energy Star scores and were good facilities.”

In fact, 1707 L Street had an Energy Star score of 71, 1828 L Street had a score of 78, and 1909 K Street had a score of 86 in September 2011. Yet, at the end of the study period, the scores for all three buildings had improved substantially — to 91, 87, and 88, respectively. The fact that these already high-performing buildings realized substantial savings during the initial 12-month study period suggests that even greater gains can be achieved in typical buildings. In fact the buildings have continued maintain and even improve performance as Tower approaches the end of the second year of this initiative.

What the building operations team realized through the analysis and improvements was significant electricity savings: 23 percent in 1707 L Street, 7 percent in 1828 L Street, and 17 percent in 1909 K Street. Electricity use was reduced by 13 percent across all three buildings during the study period. The reduction in electricity expenses averaged $72,901 per building ($218,703 across all three buildings) in 2012.

A key element of the initiative was detecting and correcting operational stray. When a building is well managed, there’s an assumption that stray is not happening. But, as the study revealed, in even the best-managed buildings, building systems stray from optimal; Tower’s initiative showed how better information can minimize stray and reveal it quickly. For example, the review of electricity use in 1909 K Street uncovered an unusual pattern. Both of the building’s chillers were cycling on for a few minutes at a time, then shutting off. The building engineer was alerted and, working together, the team found and corrected faulty variable air volume controls that were signaling the chiller to turn on even though the building management system called for the chiller to remain off. Write Henderson and Waltner, “While this problem might have been discovered eventually without the comprehensive energy-use analysis, it could have continued undetected for months. This delay would have resulted in wasted energy, wear and tear on the building equipment, and possible disruption to tenants when equipment failed.”

At the same time, recommendations were made to implement best practices, such as regularly auditing controls to confirm that the temperature deadband is set at 4 degrees. This means the HVAC system would cool the building to, say, 72 degrees, then remain off until the temperature rose to 76 degrees. A larger deadband allows the HVAC system to remain off while the building is in the “comfort zone,” resulting in energy savings and reduced wear and tear on equipment.

Another important element of Tower’s initiative was creating a detailed alarm service for building systems. Procedures were established to remotely monitor certain system settings, such as chilled water temperature, and to send messages to the building engineer if system conditions were outside defined parameters.

The total cost of the project for the three buildings was $144,320, and the electricity use savings was $218,703. And because the costs in 2012 included the installation of the new systems and procedures, the annual operating cost to achieve those same electricity savings going forward will be significantly lower: $65,520. The assumption that these improvements are expensive to implement was refuted by the study’s conclusion that they can be a profitable venture for the owner or operator.

Article By: David Borchardt