Green Building News

Green Building News May 2008

May 5, 2008

US DOE Implements Criteria for ENERGY STAR® Water Heaters

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced new ENERGY STAR® criteria for water heaters, the first in the history of the program.

According to DOE projections, by the end of the fifth year in effect, the new water heater criteria are expected to save Americans approximately $780 million in utility costs, avoid 4.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and achieve cumulative energy savings of more than 3.9 billion kilowatt-hours and 270 million therms of natural gas. Water heating currently represents up to 17 percent of national residential energy consumption, making it the third largest energy user in homes, behind heating and cooling and kitchen appliances.

For the first time, the following five categories of residential water heaters will be eligible for an ENERGY STAR® label: high-performance gas storage, whole-home gas tankless, advanced drop-in or integrated heat pump, solar and gas condensing.

The new criteria for high-efficiency and high-performance gas storage water heaters will take effect in two phases. The first phase goes into effect January 1, 2009, and requires gas storage water heaters to have a minimum Energy Factor (EF) of 0.62 - or they must be 6.9 percent more efficient than the Federal Standard. Energy Factor is a measurement of relative energy efficiency for a water heater; the higher the Energy Factor, the more energy efficient the water heater. A fifty-gallon high-performance gas storage water heater which meets the new ENERGY STAR® criteria, for example, is estimated to yield annual savings of 7.3 percent and save $26 using the national average gas rate. Effective September 1, 2010, phase two requires the EF to increase to 0.67 - or 15.5 percent more efficient than the Federal Standard, resulting in annual savings of 14 percent and $51 for a single high-performance gas storage water heater.

Taking effect January 1, 2009, whole-home gas tankless water heaters which carry the ENERGY STAR® label must have a minimum EF of 0.82, minimum gallons-per-minute flow of 2.5 at a 77 degrees Fahrenheit rise, or be 41.4 percent more efficient than the current Federal standard. A whole-home gas tankless water heater with a 0.82 EF is expected to achieve a 30 percent reduction in energy use and save a consumer approximately $108 in annual energy costs compared to a typical gas storage water heater.

ENERGY STAR® criteria for residential drop-in or integrated heat pump water heaters require a minimum EF of 2.0 or must be 121.2 percent more efficient than the Federal standard, and a minimum First-Hour Rating requirement of 50 gallons-per-hour, effective January 1, 2009. Under these criteria, a heat pump water heater is expected to save consumers nearly 55 percent in energy use and yield annual energy savings of approximately $277 compared to a typical electric resistance water heater.

Effective January 1, 2009, solar water heaters must have at a minimum Solar Fraction of 0.50 and OG-300 certification from the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) in order to carry the ENERGY STAR® label. The SRCC is a third-party organization that rates solar water heater systems. By earning the OG-300 rating, solar water heaters have met certain performance, durability, reliability and safety requirements set by the SRCC. An OG-300 certified solar water heater with a 0.50 Solar Fraction and a fifty-gallon electric storage auxiliary water heater would achieve a Solar Energy Factor of 1.8, saving 50 percent in energy use and annual savings of $180, compared to a typical electric storage water heater.

To qualify for the ENERGY STAR® label, residential gas condensing water heaters must have an EF of 0.80, which is 37.9 percent more efficient than the Federal standard, and a minimum First-Hour Rating of 67 gallons-per-hour. Under these criteria, taking effect January 1, 2009, a fifty-gallon water heater would save nearly 30 percent in energy consumption and result in $102 in annual energy savings compared to the conventional typical gas storage water heater.


Energy Law to Eliminate Popular Household Reflector Lamps in June 2008

Demand expected to shift to halogen and exempted incandescent lamps, preserving
opportunities for dimming while increasing energy savings.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007’s efficiency regulations aimed at 40-100W incandescent light bulbs have become well known since the Act’s passage last November. But another significant provision targets reflector lamps, and it goes into effect in June of this year. Reflector lamps are cone-shaped light bulbs that are very common in residential construction. The cone is layered with a reflective coating on the outer bulb that directs the light in a desired direction and beam pattern (spot, flood, etc.). These bulbs are typically used in downlights (ceiling-recessed “cans”) and track lighting.

The Home Lighting Control Alliance (HLCA) has published a new whitepaper for consumers, integrators, builders and architects describing the Act’s efficiency provisions that will eliminate popular consumer reflector lamp choices for millions of sockets in the United States.

Starting June 16, manufacturers will stop making lamps that do not comply with the Act’s efficiency standards, with some significant exceptions. The result is popular incandescent reflector lamps will be eliminated, shifting demand to halogen, incandescent exceptions and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

“Unlike the Act’s provisions that will eliminate general-service light bulbs starting in 2012, the provisions targeting incandescent reflector lamps enable consumers to switch to halogen choices that provide higher efficiency, excellent lighting quality, longer lamp life and easy dimming,” says Gary Meshberg of Lightolier Controls, chair of HLCA.

He adds that dimming reduces a light bulb’s average input watts by 20 percent, according to a study by Heschong Mahone Group, while increasing lamp life. “This makes dimming a significant green method for increasing energy savings and contributing to a home lighting system’s level of sustainability,” Meshberg points out.

“However, if CFLs are substituted, consumers must take note that the given bulb must be explicitly rated as dimmable if it will be dimmed. In addition, because of issues with current dimmable CFL technology, HLCA does not recommend dimmable CFLs for use with line-voltage dimming controls for consumers expecting optimal dimming performance,” he concludes.

The Home Lighting Control Alliance is a consortium of leading lighting control manufacturers, systems integrators and industry support organizations. Its sole purpose is to promote the awareness, value and benefits of lighting control in residential applications.


Studies Confirm Energy Savings Significant in LEED, ENERGY STAR® Buildings

Two recently released studies, one by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and one by CoStar Group, have validated what the green building community has known all along: third party certified buildings outperform their conventional counterparts across a wide variety of metrics, including energy savings, occupancy rates, sale price and rental rates.

In the NBI study, the results indicate that new buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED certification system are, on average, performing 25-30 percent better than non-LEED certified buildings in terms of energy use. The study also demonstrates that there is a correlation between increasing levels of LEED certification and increased energy savings. Gold and Platinum LEED certified buildings have average energy savings approaching 50 percent.

"The report also underscores that monitoring a building's ongoing operations and maintenance, as required in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance and ENERGY STAR®, is equally important," said Brendan Owens, Vice President, LEED Technical Development, U.S. Green Building Council. "Buildings are complicated systems and achieving and maintaining high performance is a process that requires the ongoing discipline and commitment to green practices. LEED and ENERGY STAR® provide building owners and operators with valuable structure to maintain high performance and deliver savings over time."

Energy savings under EPA's ENERGY STAR® program are equally impressive: buildings that have earned the ENERGY STAR® label use an average of almost 40 percent less energy than average buildings, and emit 35 percent less carbon.

But beyond the obvious implications of reduced energy use and reduced carbon emissions, the results from both studies strengthen the "business case" for green buildings as financially sound investments.

According to the CoStar study, LEED buildings command rent premiums of $11.24 per square foot over their non-LEED peers and have 3.8 percent higher occupancy. Rental rates in ENERGY STAR® buildings represent a $2.38 per square foot premium over comparable non- ENERGY STAR® buildings and have 3.6 percent higher occupancy.

And, in a trend that could signal greater attention from institutional investors, ENERGY STAR® buildings are selling for an average of $61 per square foot more than their peers, while LEED buildings command a remarkable $171 more per square foot.

The group analyzed more than 1,300 LEED Certified and ENERGY STAR buildings representing about 351 million square feet in CoStar's commercial property database of roughly 44 billion square feet, and assessed those buildings against non-green properties with similar size, location, class, tenancy and year-built characteristics to generate the results.

"ENERGY STAR® is a prerequisite in LEED for Existing Buildings, signaling our strong commitment to the energy savings component of green buildings," said Owens. "Add to that the additional performance enhancements in LEED around intelligent site selection, water conversation, improved indoor air quality, waste reduction and smarter materials selections, and it's easy to understand why owners and tenants are placing a premium on green buildings."

AIA Announces the 2008 COTE Top Ten Green Projects

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) have selected the top ten examples of sustainable architecture and green design solutions that protect and enhance the environment. The projects will be honored at the AIA 2008 National Convention and Design Exposition in Boston.

The project descriptions highlight both the design innovations and sustainable strategies, along with the metrics achieved in terms of reduced carbon emissions, reduced energy consumption and improved building functionality.

"These projects were judged against a rigorous set of criteria to determine the best examples of sustainable design concepts and intentions," said Henry Siegel, FAIA, chair of the AIA Committee on the Environment. "In addition to examining their architectural innovation, the buildings had to have shown design elements within their regional/community context, land use and site ecology that benefits surrounding ecosystems, resource conservation through bioclimatic design and the health benefits associated with improved lighting and indoor air quality."

The 2008 COTE Top Ten Green Projects program celebrates projects that are the result of a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems and technology. They make a positive contribution to their communities, improve comfort for building occupants and reduce environmental impacts through strategies such as reuse of existing structures, connection to transit systems, low-impact and regenerative site development, energy and water conservation, use of sustainable or renewable construction materials and design that improves indoor air quality.

Siegel added, "All of the projects succeed in all the measures. Some projects demonstrated true innovation in one or more measures, and all of them help illustrate how much farther the design and construction community will need to go in the coming years to reach truly sustainable design."

Members of the jury include: Glenn Murcutt, Hon. FAIA, Glenn Murcutt Architecture; Jason McLennan, AIA, CEO of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council; Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA, Polshek Partnership Architects; Gail Brager, PhD, University of California at Berkeley; Marvin Malecha, FAIA, North Carolina State University; and Rebecca Henn, AIA, PhD candidate at the University of Michigan.

The 2008 Top Ten Green Projects (listed in alphabetical order):

Aldo Leopold Legacy Center
The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc., Cedarburg, WI

Cesar Chavez Library
Line and Space, LLC, Tucson, AZ

Discovery Center at South Lake Union
The Miller/Hull Partnership, Seattle, WA

Pocono Environmental Education Center
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Garthwaite Center for Science and Art, Cambridge School of Weston
Architerra, Inc., Boston, MA

Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life
VJAA, Minneapolis, MN

Macallen Building Condominiums
Office dA Inc. and Burt Hill Inc., Boston, MA

Queens Botanical Garden Visitor & Administration Center
BKSK Architects, New York, NY

The Nueva School, Hillside Learning Complex
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Francisco, CA

Yale University Sculpture Building and Gallery
KieranTimberlake Associates LLP, Philadelphia, PA

Honorable Mention 2008 Top Ten Green Project:

Internal Revenue Service - Kansas City Service Center
BNIM / 360 Inc., Kansas City, MO

New SafePaint Mixes Style and Environmental Safety

There's a new product on the market called SafePaint. The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company, trying to perfect a formula for painting interior walls, has come up with a paint product that is both environmentally as well as personally safe.

Thirty-four years ago the company developed a successful formula for historic milk paint. "We rediscovered a milk paint formula that had fallen out of use since the middle of the 19th century," said Charles Thibeau, founder of the company. "Our original formula varies little from that used for centuries before the coming of commercial paints in the 1840s. The
company designed the paint to capture an antique look on porous surfaces such as bare wood."

Today, we have many types of surfaces that did not exist in the past. The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company has developed a second formula that will maintain the same adhesion and the same lustrous beauty on these new surfaces as their historic paint has done on the more porous ones. And they have always felt it has been necessary to retain the environmentally friendly aspect of their traditional milk paint.

In 1970, before starting the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company, Thibeau founded The National Foundation for Environmental Control, which was involved in the first Earth Day celebration in Boston. "Few people paid attention to that sort of thing back then," he says. When the company later developed their powdered version of the old milk paint formula there was as much emphasis placed on making an environmentally friendly product as there
was on the historical accuracy of the paint.

SafePaint was developed because so many people wanted a milk paint that adhered well to an already painted surface or to a nonporous surface. The company has given the new product the name SafePaint to accentuate one of its most important qualities, that it is safe for people who may have adverse reactions to chemically-based paints. According to the company's MSDS, the ingredients in SafePaint are all-natural and bio-degradable, with
zero VOCs. It contains no unsafe materials, has no paint odor and is water soluble.


Oikos Library

Check out the three new additions to our Library:

Less Can Be More With Insulated Headers and Corners

Less Can Be More for Wall Framing

Mastic Gives Ducts the Treatment


Ecobuild America/AEC-ST- May 19-22

Held in Anaheim, CA, two unique events combine for a showcase on green building, practice management, sustainable design, environmental planning, renewable energy, construction technology and building information modeling. Also includes 11 co-located conferences including: The National BIM Conference, The National Specifiers Conference, Bentley & Autodesk user training, P3:IT Innovation for the Process Power & Plant Project Lifecycle—and more. Register at or

AEC Technology Strategies Conference - June 12-13

The 9th annual information technology conference for business and IT leaders in architecture, engineering and construction. Themes: virtual collaboration, sustainable performance, integrated practice and infrastructure strategy. Register at

LOHAS 12 Forum - June 18-21

Held in Boulder, CO, this annual gathering of business leaders focuses on the expansion of conscious business practices, market awareness and strategic business partnerships with a goal of educating and influencing consumer purchasing decisions while promoting healthy and sustainable lifestyles. Register at

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