Green Building News

Green Building News October 2003

October 23, 2003

Aerosol Duct Sealing Comes to Large Commercial Buildings

Duct sealing is important, but painting mastic by hand is time consuming and tedious. Now a system for injecting sealant into the air stream of small residential duct systems has been enhanced to work with the much larger ducts found in commercial and industrial buildings.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have invented an aerosol-based system called MASIS for sealing the ducts of large commercial buildings. The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

A new atomizer prevents nozzle clogging by using high-velocity heated gas (through outer orifice), which will mix and dry the liquid sealant (center orifice), to cool an insulating layer of ambient-temperature air (middle orifice).

MASIS, which stands for "mobile aerosol-sealant injection system," is based on the aerosol duct-sealing device developed by Berkeley Lab researchers for sealing ducts and reducing energy loss in residential and small commercial systems. However, it incorporates two new patented technologies that permit effective sealing in the larger, more complicated duct systems of commercial buildings.

Duo Wang, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, developed the technology, with assistance from Mark Modera, the scientist who developed the original sealing system for residences. Carrier Aeroseal has licensed the system for exclusive use in sealing ducts in commercial buildings.

Modera and colleagues developed the aerosol-based technology for sealing the ducts of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in residential and small commercial buildings in the 1990s. Their research showed that homes with ducts in contact with outside air in the United States wasted on average 20 percent of all heating and cooling energy because of leaky ducts. They pioneered a system that could seal these ducts remotely and inexpensively, using an aerosol that is injected into the ducts through the heating register in a home. The aerosol flows through the system, gradually building up a flexible seal at holes, tears, and other duct leaks.

The team successfully tested the technology in the field and licensed it to a start-up company called Aeroseal, which was eventually acquired by Carrier Corporation. Residential duct sealing that uses the Berkeley Lab technology is available through contractors trained by Carrier.

The research by Modera and his colleagues also suggested that energy losses in the ducts of large commercial buildings are probably as large in scale as those in homes. Although research continues at Berkeley Lab to quantify the losses in commercial buildings, scientists here estimate that sealing ducts in these buildings could potentially save billions of BTUs of natural gas and billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Large commercial buildings present special problems that the residential sealing technology cannot address. "The HVAC duct system in large buildings typically has a large trunk duct system, and a number of smaller sub-duct systems connected to it," says Wang. "Trunk duct systems are longer and have a larger cross-section than residential systems, and they are connected to many branched duct systems. One problem is that large aerosol particles from a residential-scale duct sealer would fall out of the air stream too quickly to seal leaks effectively in these larger commercial ducts. Another problem is that the branch systems often contain heating or cooling coils that cannot be exposed to aerosol sealants.

"To increase the flow of aerosol sealant in larger ducts, we designed a sealing system that uses a number of compact aerosol injectors," Wang continues. "Several of these are installed along the trunk line of a commercial building duct, injecting aerosol simultaneously. This substantially increases the sealing rate of leaks in the duct system."

MASIS consists of a sealing-process monitoring system and portable injectors. In one design, each unit contains an air compressor and a cart that carries an aerosol sealant injector wand, a liquid sealant tank, a peristaltic pump, a control box and a dedicated toolbox. In another design, the injectors are all fed by a central station and are daisy-chained via umbilical cords.

To seal the trunk system, injectors are installed along the duct and are run simultaneously. To seal the branch duct systems, injectors are installed downstream of the heating and cooling coils, which are usually located in variable air volume (VAV) boxes. Each branch seals independently, and all of the injectors can operate simultaneously.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.


LEED Seeks Pilot Projects

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is currently accepting pilot applications for the newly developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Core and Shell Rating System. The new product, crafted by a committee of leading experts around the country, is designed to address special market needs of real estate developers. Pilot projects are designed to provide on-the-ground testing of the rating system for refinement before formal release to the market place. The pilot program will be tested for approximately one year at which time the Council will send the program to ballot through the Council membership.

The LEED Green Building Rating System™ for Core and Shell Development (LEED-CS) is a set of performance standards for the sustainable design and construction of speculative and core and shell buildings. LEED-CS will apply to building projects where the owner does not control the interior design and fit-out of individual space. LEED Core and Shell aims to evaluate design and construction projects solely based on the performance of those aspects of the project that the owner controls.


Newburgh Project Shows Energy Efficiency Works for Rehab

To the applause of local residents and community leaders, two new Habitat for Humanity rehab projects broke ground on September 20, on their way to demonstrating smart, energy efficiency strategies that enhance affordability.

The two single-family homes, located Newburgh, New York, will be energy efficient with low first costs and the affordable life-cycle costs. The projects are unique because derelict, abandoned houses will be transformed into high performance, affordable units, showcasing some of the latest ideas in energy efficiency.

One property is a semi attached two-story row house, will feature double-pane windows; 2x6 wood framing with R-19 wall insulation; R-40 insulated ceilings; 80 percent AFUE atmospheric gas furnace; a .56 EF atmospheric gas tank water heater; and a Panasonic Whisper Lite Series fan and timer switch, specified in the New York ENERGY STAR Program. This home will earn certification by New York’s Energy Smart program, which offers a $1000 incentive to the builder and an additional $500 to the homeowner, helping to offset some of the initial cost of energy-saving measures. Similar energy-smart technologies are planned for the other property.

Habitat’s Greater Newburgh chapter is working with Steven Winter Associates to develop strategies that can apply to all its future rehab projects. Given the diversity of Habitat’s work, these results will act as a guide to help weigh the benefits of each recommendation on a case-by-case basis.


Loans Available for Energy-Saving Improvements

Homeowners in the Puget Sound area may now add $4,000 in resource- efficient improvements to their mortgages with MORE™ (Mortgage Options for Resource Efficiency), a new program offered through Efficiency Services Group (ESG) in cooperation with HomeStreet Bank.

The program is designed to help homeowners reduce water and energy consumption and lower their utility bills by making resource-efficient improvements to their homes.

Customers may choose from energy-efficient refrigerators, front-loading washers and dishwashers, and high-performance toilets and showerheads. They can also finance other efficiency measures such as insulation, duct sealing, caulking, high-efficiency lighting and sealing of air leaks.

Participants in this program will receive a custom home energy analysis, including a home visit by a MORE specialist to determine which upgrades make the most sense for efficiency and cost savings. The customer then chooses from a menu of recommendations. Although actual savings will vary, a typical borrower can save several hundred dollars a year on utility bills, over and above what the improvements add to their mortgage. Reduced utility use also benefits the environment.

The program is available for both purchases and refinances of all homes, regardless of their energy sources, as long as the applicant qualifies for the loan and the energy analysis determines that the home improvements should result in an overall savings to the participant.

“We’re very happy to pilot this program with Efficiency Resources Group,” said Kyle Roaf, vice president and regional manager for HomeStreet Bank. “Most homeowners typically don’t have cash available for these kinds of cost-saving improvements after buying a home. The MORE program gives them a cost-effective way to finance these projects.”


Timbergrass Adopts a New Name

TimberGrass LLC, manufacturer of bamboo flooring and panels, changed its name recently to Teragren LLC. The company plans to expand its product offerings over the next several years, while maintaining the TimberGrass brand. The Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based company introduced its first TimberGrass-brand flooring in 1994. Its product line has expanded to include prefinished and site-finished floors, wide plank floating floors, stair parts, panels, veneer and flooring accessories.

Company executives plan to offer a wider range of price points and new products made out of bamboo and sustainably harvested hardwoods. TimberGrass will continue to be marketed as Teragren’s flagship flooring brand, targeting the architectural and design communities, custom builders, and mid- to upper income homeowners through floor covering distributors.

“Bamboo flooring, as well as our panels and veneer, has become very popular with architects and designers who like the material for its distinctive look, durability and renewable properties,” said David Knight, Teragren’s president. “No matter what we offer, all Teragren products will fall within the parameters of our mission: ‘Building a company that is environmentally, socially and economically responsible.”

Bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource. Unlike hardwood trees requiring 40 or more years to mature, bamboo is a grass that grows to maturity in less than six years and is harvested over and over from the same plant. The company’s flooring is manufactured with a high-grade bamboo called Moso to ensure quality and maintain a consistent look.

The factory in China’s Zhejiang Province is ISO 9001 certified for its management practices. Teragren has virtually eliminated formaldehyde from its manufacturing process to further reduce its environmental impact.

The products contribute to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification as “Rapidly Renewable Materials” and “Low-Emitting Materials.”


Geothermal Heat Pump Now Uses Ozone-Friendly Refrigerant

WaterFurnace International has converted its general residential line of geothermal heating and cooling units to R-410A -- an environmentally safe refrigerant that does not harm the environment.

R-410A is a chlorine-free, ozone-safe refrigerant that does not contain the CFCs present in other commonly used refrigerants. CFCs have been linked by scientists with the degradation of the earth’s ozone layer.

In complying with global treaties, the United States has issued restrictions on the future production of refrigerants with ozone-harming CFCs. This has forced companies to replace the R-22 refrigerant used in most of today’s heat pumps, air conditioners and refrigerators with an environmentally safe refrigerant. WaterFurnace responded by making its residential products -- the WaterFurnace E Series -- available with R-410A. The company plans to convert its entire line of geothermal heating and cooling systems by 2006.


Metropolis Offers Prize for Big Ideas

The Metropolis Next Generation Prize was established to recognize and encourage the talent of today's rising stars in design. The cash prize of $10,000 will be awarded to an enterprising individual or office who's Big Design Idea will benefit people and the environment, and will challenge design professionals to create human-centered products, environments and communication systems. The deadline for entries is December 15, 2003. Late entries will be accepted until December 31, 2003 with a late fee of $25. Details and an application can be found at the Metropolis Web site.


Big Business Buys Green Power

Twelve large U.S. corporations recently signed deals to buy 97 megawatts of green power from fuel cell and wind generators.

The Green Power Market Development Group (The Green Power Group) is a unique commercial and industrial partnership dedicated to building corporate markets for green power. Its members are Alcoa Inc, Cargill Dow LLC, Delphi Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, General Motors, IBM, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, Kinko's, Pitney Bowes, and Staples.

"The Green Power Group is beginning to make green power markets work for corporate buyers," said Charles O. Holliday, Jr., DuPont chairman and CEO. "WRI has helped us find cost effective green power and proven that the marketplace has products to meet corporate energy and environmental goals."

The 97 MW announced today, enough to power 73,000 homes, represent purchases made in the past year by 250 facilities in 22 states and the District of Columbia. This brings the total amount purchased by The Green Power Group to 112 MW since it started identifying green power options in 2001.

The purchases announced today include a wide variety of green power technologies and products to match corporate interests. From on-site solar power and landfill gas to electricity from wind farms, the projects offer the companies the best economic and environmental value. The 97 MW announced today include the following purchases:

Renewable energy certificates (36 MW) : Members of The Green Power Group purchased 36 MW of renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind, biomass, and landfill gas resources. This is the largest corporate purchase of RECs in the US. RECs represent the amount of pollution avoided when electricity is generated by renewable resources instead of by fossil fuels. DuPont and Staples were joined in this purchase by Alcoa, Cargill Dow, Delphi Corporation, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, Kinko's, Pitney Bowes, and the World Resources Institute.

Hydrogen fuel cells (35 MW) : The Dow Chemical Company is purchasing 35 MW of hydrogen fuel cells from General Motors. This is the largest corporate fuel cell purchase in the world.

Wind (15 MW) : Johnson & Johnson is now one of the largest corporate users of wind power in the US, purchasing 11 MW of wind in Texas and the East Coast. Kinko's and IBM increased their use of wind power by 4 MW over the past year.

Landfill gas (5 MW) : Interface and General Motors will be using landfill gas as a green energy source at several manufacturing facilities.
Other renewables (6 MW) : Kinko's is using electricity generated from biomass in Pennsylvania and from geothermal resources in California. Johnson & Johnson has expanded its on-site solar photovoltaic panel installations and is purchasing small-scale hydropower.

"We joined this partnership in 2003 to help us diversify our energy purchasing," said William S. (Bill) Stavropoulos, president and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company. "By working together, these twelve businesses can have a tremendous impact on supporting and developing renewable energy markets."

Green power can present an opportunity for companies to lower their exposure to fluctuating fossil fuel prices. On-site projects like fuel cells or solar power can help companies protect themselves against grid disruptions. In addition, purchasing green power reduces the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of business activities.

"From hydrogen fuel cells to solar panels on rooftops, new green power products are emerging for corporate markets," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute. "These purchases help bring down prices, reduce pollution, and build a robust market to deliver a clean energy future."

Convened by the World Resources Institute and Business for Social Responsibility in 2000, The Green Power Group's goal is to create 1,000 megawatts of new cost-competitive green power for corporate markets by 2010.

For more information on each company's purchases, suppliers, and projects please visit the Web site of the Green Power Market Development Group.

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