Green Building News

Green Building News July 2002

July 29, 2002

LEED Launches Pilot Program for Commercial Interiors

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched the pilot phase of its newest green building rating system: LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI).

Christine Ervin, President and CEO of the USGBC, issued an official letter of invitation to more than 2,000 U.S. Green Building Council members and affiliated organizations to participate in the pilot program of the newly developed LEED-CI. The USGBC is seeking to identify 50 projects that will shape LEED-CI by testing the newest green building rating system in real-world settings. LEED for Commercial Interiors builds on LEED 2.0, which was launched in 2000 to certify the overall environmental performance of new commercial buildings, and the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED EB) Pilot, launched earlier this year to address sustainable operation of existing buildings.

Like the LEED rating systems focused on new buildings and existing buildings, LEED for Commercial Interiors evaluates “greenness” in five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Where the new LEED-CI rating system differs is in its focus on green standards as they relate to tenant spaces located within commercial real estate -- primarily interiors in offices and institutional buildings.

“LEED for Commercial Interiors was written to address the specifics of tenant spaces primarily in office and institutional buildings,” observes Penny Bonda, LEED-CI Committee Chair. “It fulfills requests from architects, interior designers and their clients for a rating system to help them make sustainable choices with respect to the scope of work under their direct control.”

According to Keith Winn, LEED-CI Pilot Coordinator, “Applications for those interested in participating in the pilot will be posted on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site and will be accepted through August 30. We will select approximately 50 pilot projects by late September and will offer orientation and training workshops for pilot participants in the fall.”

Projects selected for The LEED-CI pilot program will be diverse in scope, geographical location, market segment, and budget in order to get the best possible feedback. “The pilot will run from July 2002 through October 2003,” says Penny Bonda, “to allow for participants to complete projects and to submit LEED-CI documentation.” The data collected from the projects will help the USGBC make any necessary adjustments to the requirements, strategies, and suggested technologies embodied in LEED-CI before it is presented for USGBC membership ballot approval and then public launch in late 2003.

“All projects that successfully complete the requirements will receive LEED-CI certification according to the scale established by LEED itself -- certified, silver, gold or platinum, based on the number of points achieved,” explains Keith Winn. Interiors that earn 40 percent of the total points available are awarded a LEED Certified plaque. LEED Certified Silver requires 50 percent, Certified Gold requires 60 percent, and Certified Platinum requires 80 percent. Five bonus points recognizing design and process innovation are also available to projects proposed for certification. No matter what level of certification a commercial interior receives, LEED standards help to significantly reduce the interior’s impact on the environment while creating a healthy environment for people to work and live in.

Pilot documents, including the LEED-CI rating system and pilot application, are available on the U.S. Green Building Council’s website.


Life Cycle Tool Allows Users to Look Under the Hood

The ultimate tool for assessing the environmentally friendliness of a product is a life cycle assessment (LCA). This cradle-to-grave (or, better yet, cradle-to-cradle) analysis attempts to collect and organize all impacts of raw materials, processing, waste generation, transportation, product use and disposal. It's a daunting task, full of assumptions and calculations. While most people are focused on the final answer, others want to look inside the evaluation tool to examine its inner workings.

The Life Cycle Explorer is a software tool that allows decision makers to look under the hood to assess the relative importance of dozens of influential parameters. The proof-of-concept software is not intended as a final tool, but a way to demonstrate methods that can be used in other LCA tools, such as product databases, modeling and decision-support software. The project is described in "A Transparent, Interactive Software Environment for Communicating Life-Cycle Assessment Results," Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 5, No. 4, p 15, by Gregory A. Norris and Peter Yost.


Energy-10 Version 1.5 Released

The Sustainable Buildings Industry Council has released the new ENERGY-10 Version 1.5 CD ROM and installation manual. ENERGY-10 Version 1.5 is the first full release of ENERGY-10 since Version 1.3 in November 1999. Among the upgrades in Version 1.5:

    Life Cycle Costs. A whole new capability is included to evaluate life-cycle costs. The year-by-year cash flow of the building is determined and discounted to the present value. The difference between Bldg-1 and Bldg-2 is determined in terms of net present value, NPV (the difference in life-cycle costs), internal rate of return, benefit-to cost ratio or simple payback.

    Up-to-date compiler. The entire program has been ported to 32-bit and (with the exception of the CNE thermal simulation engine) programmed in Visual C++ 6.0, the current Microsoft compiler. One benefit that users will appreciate is that it is no longer necessary to close ENERGY-10 before starting a new project.

    More Wall Layers. In previous versions, you were restricted to 6 layers in a wall construction. This has now been expanded by 3, giving you the opportunity to define a 7-layer wall plus two air films.

    New graphs. The graphs are programmed in a new and powerful graphing package (Olectra).

    New Reports. A Cost Summary report tabulates the results of the life cycle cost evaluation. A HVAC and EES Cost report details the components of HVAC cost and each the EES costs. A Peak Loads report identifies the peak loads and corresponding HVAC rated capacities for the AutoSize calculations and also the peak loads and consumption during the annual simulation showing when the peaks occurred.

Registered users can obtain a free upgrade to Version 1.5 from SBIC, who also offers site licenses. Energy-10 was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy.


Skylights Contribute Less Heat Gain Than Previously Thought

Energy analysis calculations generally assume that all the solar energy striking a skylight results in a heat gain to a building. Summer heat gain must be handled by some kind of cooling system, which generally means an air conditioner, heat pump or chiller. More skylights means more cooling capacity and greater energy use. New research at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab finds this assumption may be wrong.

Measurements reveal that sunlight striking the walls of skylight is absorbed by the skylight walls. The walls heat adjacent air and the warm air rises to the top of the skylight well creating a layer of stable air (a condition called stratification). Heat from this warm air layer can move downward only by radiation, which is a comparatively small effect, according to researchers.

Even more interesting, this warm air layer is hotter than the outside air even on a very hot day. Therefore, heat moves from the trapped air to the outside. Overall, the skylight and its well reject about 25 percent of the solar energy entering the skylight. About one-third of the rejected energy moves into the walls of the skylight well. Depending on the way the well is constructed, this heat may or may not enter the building.

The research was conducted by J. H. Klems in LBNL's Environmental Energy Technologies Division using the Mobile Window Thermal Test Facility (MoWiTT). Additional details appear in the EETD News #10, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Spring 2002) available from the EETD Web site.


Portland Replaces Traffic Signals with LEDs

How did the City of Portland, Oregon, manage to complete a $2.2 million energy efficiency project that will save about $400,000 each year and still maintain a neutral cash flow. The secret was careful financing.

The project involved replacing 6,900 red and 6,400 green incandescent traffic signals with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Normally, it would have cost $2.2 million to purchase the LEDs, but the City was able to find a leasing arrangement that required annual payments of only $340,000, just $5,000 more than the projected annual energy savings. Another $45,000 per year will be saved in reduced replacement and maintenance cost. Next, the City claimed utility rebates totaling $715,000. Lease financing also allowed the City to benefit from Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC). Although the City doesn’t pay income taxes, it can still benefit from tax credits through an arrangement where the tax credit taken by the leasing company can be shared with the other party. The BETC tax credit -- worth 35 percent of an energy project’s total cost -- made the lease option even more attractive. In Portland’s LED project, the leasing company gets a 35 percent tax credit taken over time, reducing the cost of the lease by about 22 percent, and saving the City nearly $500,000.

Since the completion of this project, the State of Oregon has revised its administrative rules to allow the sharing of tax credits without a lease arrangement. Today, any equipment supplier or installation contractor can provide a tax credit “pass-through” equal to 27 percent of the project’s cost.

LEDs use between 16 watts and 25 watts each and should last at least six years. By comparison, incandescent signal lights use more than 140 watts apiece and average just two years of service life. More information about the LED replacement program and other local initiatives, visit the Portland Office of Sustainable Development Web site.


Nike Commits $1 Million to Save Energy in Public Schools

A unique tax credit pass-through program will allow Nike, Inc. to direct $1 million of its Oregon income tax liability to the state's Business Energy Tax Credit program. Nike's commitment will help fund energy conservation projects at eligible public schools across the state. Over the next 12 months, Nike's $1 million commitment will help fund $3.7 million of energy conservation projects at up to 100 eligible Oregon public schools

"Energy conservation is just one benefit of the Business Energy Tax Credit program," said Courtney Wilton, Business Manager of the David Douglas school district, where three schools benefit from having Nike as a funding partner. "Over time, each of these schools will see lower overall operating costs as a result of the lighting upgrades they've already made."

Operated by the Oregon Office of Energy, the Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program began in 1978 and encourages investment in energy conservation and renewable resources by allowing Oregon businesses to claim up to 35 percent of the cost of energy conservation, renewable resource or recycling projects as a credit against state income taxes owed.

The new BETC pass-through option helps schools, tribes and others without tax liability to fund energy efficiency projects. By working with a partner, a school can transfer a tax credit in return for a lump-sum cash payment from the partner. Nike's $1 million represents 27 percent of the $3.7 million spent by the schools on energy conservation projects.

"We are honored to work with the Oregon Office of Energy and public schools across the state on what we believe is a win-win partnership for everyone involved," said Jim Petsche, Nike's Director of Corporate Facilities and company champion for the project. "This partnership represents how businesses and government in Oregon can come together to support two of Oregon's most valuable resources-our public schools and our environment."


Group Asks EPA to Send Arsenic-Treated Wood to Hazardous Waste Facilities

A national environmental group has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop the common practice of mixing arsenic-treated wood with ordinary garbage in community landfills. Instead, they want EPA to require that it be sent to hazardous waste landfills. Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based environmental and public health group, told EPA that the waste should be treated as hazardous and disposed in lined landfills to prevent leaching of arsenic.

“The disposal of arsenic-treated wood with ordinary community waste, allowed under the current exclusion from hazardous waste regulation, constitutes a warranted public health and environmental threat and is in violation of the agency’s standards,” according to Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

The petition, filed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), cites the failure of EPA to regulate arsenic in accordance with its own hazardous waste regulations. The wood fails EPA’s Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP), intended to simulate conditions in a landfill. The petition urges the agency to reverse a twenty-two year old exemption of arsenic-treated wood and wood products that was created as a “temporary” exclusion. The petition says, “The rule was promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirements. Even assuming that the rule was valid for a short-term temporary exemption from RCRA, it certainly cannot legally support the permanent exemption from RCRA regulation is has become.”

The petition points to mounting evidence of improper disposal and a dramatic increase of arsenic-treated wood entering the waste stream. Annually, over 138 million pounds of CCA are used to treat approximately 5.4 billion board feet of lumber, timbers, utility poles and other products, according to recent figures.

EPA entered into an agreement with the manufacturers of arsenic-treated wood last February that began a two-year phase-out of some uses of the treated wood.


EPA Launches Energy Star™ Hotels Program

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently launched the newest Energy Star™ performance rating tool for hotels. For the first time, hotels can benchmark their energy performance against others on a nationwide scale of one-to-100.

"Hotel companies can now compare the energy performance of their hotels to others nationwide and are eligible to earn and display the prestigious Energy Star™ label for their top performers," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Last year alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star™, saved $5 billion on their energy bills and reduced pollution equivalent to that of 10 million cars. Over 800 office buildings and schools across the country have already earned the Energy Star™ label, and thousands have used EPA's tool to compare their buildings. I look forward to working in partnership with the hospitality industry to improve upon our success and have an enormous impact on our environment," Whitman said.

Two hotels have received the Energy Star™ label for superior energy performance. They are the Courtyard Indianapolis Capital, owned by White Lodging Services Corp., and the Sheraton Boston Hotel, owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.

Among those within the hospitality sector that helped EPA test the new energy performance rating tool are Tharaldson Lodging, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, White Lodging, Meristar Hotels and Resorts, Hyatt Corp., and Servidyne Systems.

The hotel industry spends almost $5 billion a year on energy bills. If hotels improved their energy efficiency by an average of 30 percent, the annual electricity bill savings would be nearly $1.5 billion and almost six million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted.

The hotel benchmarking tool is available at the Energy Star Web site.


EPA Awards $405,000 to Support Brownfields Revitalization Efforts

U. S. EPA announced $405,000 in grants to nine communities around the country under the "Smart Growth: Saving Open Space, Revitalizing Brownfields" program. Each community will receive $45,000 to incorporate smart growth approaches into the redevelopment of properties where reuse is complicated by real or perceived contamination.

Commenting on the announcement, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said: "With hundreds of thousands of Brownfields needing attention across the country, it is clear that we must choose areas with real redevelopment potential. These communities have demonstrated a readiness to make the most of their redevelopments by embracing a smart growth approach."

This grant program supports EPA's existing Brownfields program by highlighting innovative approaches to Brownfield redevelopment that clearly integrate smart growth principles. Recipients include: Mystic Valley Development Corp., Massachusetts; Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; Baltimore Development Corp.; Des Moines, Iowa; Trenton N.J.; St. Louis Development Corp., Missouri and Illinois; Kansas City, Kan. and Mo.; Chicago; and Portland, Ore.

Activities that will be funded under the grant program include: a "Smart Sites" program to identify and market available Brownfields sites and incentives to potential redevelopers; site plans for the redevelopment of critical Brownfields sites that demonstrate smart growth features, such as a mix of uses and transportation choices; capacity-building for local officials and builders on how to redevelop suburban commercial centers using smart growth techniques; mathematical models to evaluate the impacts of smart growth redevelopment of Brownfields; and regional approaches that connect urban Brownfields reuse with suburban and rural open space preservation. Many of these activities will be replicable in other communities.

Use of smart growth principles in Brownfield redevelopments can increase the net benefits associated with reusing sites already serviced by infrastructure, reduce demand for land for development on the urban fringe, and improve the air and water quality of the regions in which they are applied. Smart growth creates healthy communities and neighborhoods and a strong economy by moving the development debate away from the question of whether new growth should occur to how and where it can be accommodated.


Canada's R-2000 Program Allows Credits for Drainwater Heat Recovery

Drainwater heat recovery devices, such as the GFX, now have a place in Canada's R-2000 program. Up to 3068 kWh in energy credits can be awarded to homes that incorporate drainwater heat recovery. A full-fledged energy model is being developed for the Hot2000 energy analysis software to evaluate energy credits, cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions. More information about GFX is available at


Report Identifies Top Markets for Residential Photovoltaics

A new report, called "Customer-sited Photovoltaics: State Market Analysis," lists the top 14 states with the best market for residential photovoltaic installations. These states are distinguished not by the amount of sunlight that falls on them, but rather their economic climate. The two key economic factors are electric rates and government policies, with the latter being the most important according to the authors.

In the last several years, a number of policy incentives have emerged:

  • 23 states now have system benefit charge funds (SBCs); 16 of the funds have renewable energy components.
  • 11 states have some form of renewable portfolio (RPS) standards; 3 states have renewable portfolio goals.
  • 36 states have net metering.
  • 3 states, CA, TX, and NY, have interconnection rules; an IEEE standard, 1547, is close to completion; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has expanded its jurisdiction to include distribution interconnection; and the Senate recently passed interconnection language.
  • 14 states have tax credits or deductions.
  • 10 states have loan programs.
  • 12 states have some form of buy-down or grant. This reflects seven new state programs and six expired state programs (the Virginia Alliance for Solar Energy in MD, NJ, NC, PA, VA and the CO program).

The report was written by Christy Herig, National Renewable Energy Lab; Susan Gouchoe and Rusty Haynes, North Carolina Solar Center; Richard Perez, ASRC, The University at Albany; and Tom Hoff, Clean Power Research Center. You can download the full report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council Web site.


BEF Buys More PV Power to Meet Demand

To meet the demand of their customers for solar energy, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) will provide incentives to install 80 kilowatts of new solar capacity.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation will pay the owners of new photovoltaic systems 10 cents per kiloWatt hour for the environmental attributes -- or Green Tags -- associated with their operation to satisfy the new sales agreements with Xantrex Technology Inc. and Schott Applied Power. Both companies have signed commitments for Green Tags requiring the installation of 80 kW of solar to meet their demand.

Both of these companies made three-year commitments specifying that 5 percent of their Green Tags come from new solar resources. This makes Xantrex the largest purchaser of solar Green Tags in the United States.

Green Tags represent the offset in emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that occur when renewable energy replaces traditional forms of power generation. BEF Green Tags, which are certified by Green-e and The Climate Neutral Network, come from new wind and solar resources endorsed by three regional environmental groups. The net revenue from selling BEF Green Tags is invested in the next new renewable energy project.

"Our commitment to green power demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable future," said Kevin Hagen, Director of Sales and Marketing for Xantrex' Distributed Power Market Unit. "We made this purchase to help stimulate the demand for renewable energy and to contribute to the growth and development of the solar industry."

Schott Applied Power, a solar electric systems company, was attracted to BEF's offer to customize their purchase, allowing them to specify extra solar Green Tags. "We look forward to working with BEF to support an expanding market for green power products, particularly those with a strong solar energy component," stated Tom Starrs, President of Schott Applied Power. "BEF is doing remarkably innovative and pioneering work in promoting the development of viable markets for new environmentally preferred power."

To provide the new solar for these customers, BEF will be partnering with the Northwest Renewable Energy Cooperative by providing incentives to install approximately 50 new small solar installations on homes and businesses.

"Solar energy, while a wonderful renewable source of power, is still somewhat expensive when compared to wind energy or polluting fossil fuels," said Harmon. "We are looking forward to supporting those individuals who need a little extra revenue to make their solar systems more affordable."

Coop Pays Above-Market Rate for Home Grown Power

The Energy Cooperative entered its purchase agreement under a residential solar energy buy-back program. The Cooperative, a Philadelphia-based competitive energy supplier, agreed to buy the electricity produced by Andy Rudin’s 2.7 kiloWatt residential solar energy system in Melrose Park, PA.  Under this program, the Energy Cooperative will pay its members who have a photovoltaic solar system twenty cents per kilowatt hour for the output from their system. The Energy Cooperative of Pennsylvania is the first non-utility competitive supplier in the country to institute a residential solar energy purchase program with its customers.
“Our goal is to change the economics of solar power,” said Nadia Adawi, Director of Operations for the Energy Cooperative and author of the program.  “The Cooperative’s financial support can reduce the payback for a typical photovoltaic system by as much as 30 percent.  We want all of our members to consider putting a system on their roof.”
The Cooperative’s goal is to purchase 100,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar power by the end of this year. To take advantage of the program, customers must be a member of the Energy Cooperative and must purchase the Co-op’s “EcoChoice 100” 100% renewable energy.  Members must install a photovoltaic system that meets specifications developed by the Sustainable Development Fund’s (SDF) solar grant program.  Members must install separate metering capability that measures the output of the photovoltaic system.  More information about the program may be found on the Energy Cooperative’s web site


ORNL Collaborates with Habitat on Energy Efficient Houses

The Lenoir City's Harmony Heights subdivision will soon have up to 20 more energy efficient homes to add to the four already built. The homes -- all with state-of-the-art energy efficient building technologies -- are a collaboration between Habit for Humanity and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

The new houses will showcase different technologies and provide living laboratories for developing integrated building systems that lead toward net-zero energy houses of all types by 2010.

Jeff Christian, director of the ORNL's Buildings Technology Center explained that the effort is part of the Department of Energy's Building America program, which has resulted in more than 14,000 homes around the country with energy efficient and affordable features, leading to zero net energy houses.

"Building America designs for this area can save from 50 to 70 percent on energy requirements and at little or no extra cost to the builder over his previous construction methods," Christian said. "The majority of the new houses in this development will be prototypes of zero net energy designs. The zero net energy houses will ultimately be equipped to export more energy produced on site than imported from off-site on an annual basis. Enabling production technologies include solar photovoltaics, biomass-microturbines, fuel cells and thermal and electric storage."

The first net-zero-energy home in the Harmony Heights Subdivision now under construction will use structural insulated panels, a raised metal-seamed roof, a biomass-fired microturbine, two kW of PV solar panels and a hydronic heating system.

Christian said the Habitat houses will integrate extensive energy saving technologies and systems now available and under development at DOE and around the country. Additional plans call for the Tennessee Valley Authority to test advanced technologies in some of the houses.

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