Green Building News

Green Building News August 2009

August 3, 2009

Investing in Energy Efficiency Could Cut Energy Use 23 Percent

McKinsey & Company has released a new report, Unlocking energy efficiency in the U.S. economy, outlining opportunities for consumers, businesses and other institutions to save nearly $1.3 trillion in energy costs by 2020. According to the report, America could reduce its non-transportation energy usage by 23 percent by 2020 by investing in energy efficiencies. These savings would be "greater than the total of energy consumption of Canada," Ken Ostrowski, a senior partner in McKinsey's Atlanta office, said at a forum in Washington on July 29th.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson released the following statement in reaction to the report:

“The energy that most effectively cuts costs, protects us from climate change, and reduces our dependence of foreign oil is the energy that’s never used in the first place. According to McKinsey’s report, energy efficiency improvements alone can reduce consumption more than 20 percent by 2020 and prevent up to 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases annually, helping America lead the way in averting the worst effects of climate change. The McKinsey report reveals new possibilities for energy efficiency, and will be instrumental in engaging consumers, businesses and everyone else to cut energy consumption, reduce harmful emissions and save money on electricity. EPA will continue pioneering energy efficiency through programs like Energy Star, partnership with the Department of Energy in the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency and engagement in state and local climate and energy programs.”


Rebate Program to Encourage Purchases of Energy Efficient Appliances

Nearly $300 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been made available for state-run rebate programs for consumer purchases of new ENERGY STAR® qualified home appliances.

The new funding will be awarded to states and territories, through their energy offices, using a formula set forth in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Each state or territory is required to submit a plan that specifies which ENERGY STAR® appliance categories will be included in their rebate program, the rebate level for each product type, how the rebates will be processed and their plan for recycling old appliances. States and territories must first file an initial application expressing their intent to participate by August 15, 2009, followed by a full application by October 15, 2009. Approximately 10-25 percent of each award will be spent on administrative costs.

States and territories will receive 10 percent of the funds after submitting the initial application with the balance awarded after their program plans are approved. DOE anticipates that a vast majority of funding will be awarded by November 30, 2009.

Eligible Appliances
States have the flexibility to select which residential ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances to include in their programs and the individual rebate amount for each appliance. DOE recommends that states and territories focus their program efforts on heating and cooling equipment, appliances and water heaters as these products offer the greatest energy savings potential. ENERGY STAR® qualified appliance categories eligible for rebates include: central air conditioners, heat pumps (air source and geothermal), boilers, furnaces (oil and gas), room air conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators and water heaters.

The Recovery Act appropriated funds for the program are to help achieve the national goals of spurring economic growth, creating jobs, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. States and territories can use these funds to leverage the utility companies and energy efficiency program sponsors in their area.


New National Standards Could Slash U.S. Energy Use, Cut Global Warming Emissions and Save Consumers Money

National appliance standards for 26 common household and business products planned over the next few years could slash total U.S. electricity use by over 1,900 terawatt-hours (1.9 trillion kilowatt-hours) cumulatively by 2030 while saving consumers and businesses over $123 billion, according to a report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). The new standards also could make a big contribution to U.S. efforts to cut global warming carbon dioxide pollution, eliminating 158 million tons per year by 2030, roughly the amount emitted by 63 large conventional coal-fired power plants.

The report, Ka-BOOM! The Power of Appliance Standards: Opportunities for New Federal Appliance and Equipment Standards, takes the first word in its title from a quote by Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu describing the speed with which energy efficiency can be achieved: “Appliance standards, ka-BOOM, can be had right away.” On February 5th, after only two weeks in office, President Obama made appliance standards a national priority by issuing a presidential memorandum urging the DOE to meet and beat legal deadlines for new standards.

The new standards will affect many common household and business products — ranging from furnaces to water heaters to air conditioners to fluorescent light bulbs. In many cases, standards first set in the 1980s or 1990s are due to be updated and can now be strengthened thanks to technological improvements. Cumulative savings from already existing standards total about $2,800 per household; savings from new standards due in the next few years could save an additional $1,100 per household over the life of the affected products.

The effort to combat climate change will get a considerable boost from standards. According to the report, existing standards will reduce global warming carbon dioxide emissions by about 6.5 percent by 2020 and 7.5 percent by 2030. New standards analyzed in the report would add 1.3 percent and 2.6 percent savings in 2020 and 2030, respectively. Combined, the total carbon dioxide savings from current and future standards are roughly equal to the output of 185 conventional coal-fired power plants in 2020, growing to nearly 250 coal plants by 2030.

The new report enumerates the national savings that can be achieved from new and updated standards:

  • Over 1,900 terawatt-hours saved by 2030, or roughly enough power to meet the total electricity needs of every American household for 18 months.
  • About 65,000 megawatts of peak demand savings in 2030, or around 6 percent of total U.S. generating capacity projected for 2030.
  • About $123 billion in net present value benefits from products purchased through 2030.
  • 158 million metric tons of carbon dioxide avoided in 2030, or 2.6 percent of total U.S. projected emissions in that year — equivalent to taking 30 million cars off the road.

About half the total energy savings would come from new standards for fluorescent lights, water heaters, home furnaces, furnace fans and refrigerators. However, it is the combination of all 26 standards, including the large and small ones, that packs the biggest energy savings bang.

Individual consumers stand to benefit considerably from strengthened standards. For the 26 products reviewed in the report, the average payback is 3.1 years, with an average benefit-cost ratio of 4 to 1. That is, the lifetime savings of a product are, on average, four times greater than the upfront incremental costs for efficiency improvements.

“$123 billion in energy savings is a significant amount of money for consumers to spend on other goods and services,” said Mel Hall-Crawford of Consumer Federation of America and a member of the ASAP Steering Committee. “Our economy will benefit and jobs will be created as a result. It’s a win-win-win situation for the economy, the environment and U.S. consumers.”

The federal appliance standards program, in effect since 1987, sets minimum appliance, equipment and lighting efficiency standards for products manufactured in or imported to the U.S. Savings from existing standards are projected to be about 273 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010 or more than a 7 percent reduction in projected U.S. electricity consumption in that year.


Development of Sustainable Product Index Planned

In July, Walmart announced plans to develop a worldwide sustainable product index which will establish a single source of data for evaluating the sustainability of products.

“The index will bring about a more transparent supply chain, drive product innovation and, ultimately, provide consumers the information they need to assess the sustainability of products. If we work together, we can create a new retail standard for the 21st century,” said Mike Duke, President and Chief Executive Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. at the Walmart Sustainability Milestone Meeting, July 16, 2009.

In a fact sheet produced by Walmart, the company offers three reasons an Index is needed:

  • The world’s population is increasing.
    • It is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion by 2050.
  • The world’s natural resources are decreasing.
    • Natural resources for everything we grow, eat, drink, make, package, buy, transport and throw away is outpacing the earth’s capacity to sustain it.
  • Customers want more efficient, longer lasting, better performing products. They want to know:
    • the materials in the product are safe
    • that it is made well
    • the product was produced in a responsible way

The company will introduce the initiative in three phases, beginning with a survey of its more than 100,000 suppliers around the world. The survey includes 15 questions that will serve as a tool for Walmart’s suppliers to evaluate their own sustainability efforts. The questions will focus on four areas: energy and climate, material efficiency, natural resources and people and community.

The survey is viewed as a first step toward establishing transparency in the product supply chain. The company's U.S. suppliers will be asked to complete the survey by Oct. 1. Outside the United States, the company will develop timelines on a country-by-country basis for suppliers to complete the survey.

As a second step, the company is helping create a consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and government to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products—from raw materials to disposal. Walmart has provided the initial funding for the Sustainability Index Consortium, and invited all retailers and suppliers to contribute.

The company will also partner with one or more leading technology companies to create an open platform that will power the index.

“It is not our goal to create or own this index,” said Duke. “We want to spur the development of a common database that will allow the consortium to collect and analyze the knowledge of the global supply chain. We think this shared database will generate opportunities to be more innovative and to improve the sustainability of products and processes.”

The final step in developing the index will be to translate the product information into a simple rating for consumers about the sustainability of products. This will provide customers with the transparency into the quality and history of products that they don’t have today.

New Job Calculator For Energy-Saving Stimulus Projects

ACEEE has published a new jobs calculator for estimating jobs created by state or municipal energy efficiency projects eligible for ARRA funding. The calculator can be used in applications for energy efficiency conservation block grants, state energy programs, weatherization assistance and efficient transportation programs, among others. The calculator’s general structure makes it suitable for projects in any economic sector, with energy savings in any fuel or energy form.

The new jobs calculator builds on the organization’s previous work by including inputs specifically useful in analyzing stimulus spending. These inputs include a variable level of savings, variable amount borrowed and a variable period over which efficiency investments occur.

“This spreadsheet-based tool provides a valuable analytical calculator that can help stakeholders accurately project the impact of productive investments in cost-effective energy efficiency resources. This is the type of timely information that will help get our economy moving again,” said John A. “Skip” Laitner, Director of Economic and Social Analysis for ACEEE.

The calculator along with its user’s guide can be found on the Federal Economic Stimulus Legislation section of ACEEE’s National Energy Efficiency Policy Webpage.


DOE Announces Joint U.S.-China Building Efficiency Memorandum of Understanding

After touring the "America House," a U.S. designed demonstration of cutting edge "zero energy" building technology, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Chinese Ministry of Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) to foster collaboration and partnership in the development of improved, more efficient building designs as well as sustainable communities that rely on greater use of renewable energy.

Under the agreement, the United States and China will exchange experts and technicians to learn from each other's experiences with efficient building technologies, including: high-performance HVAC, insulation, lighting, cold storage, geothermal heat pumps, building-integrated photovoltaics and solar thermal systems.

The United States and China will jointly conduct analyses of lessons learned from international experience with energy-efficient buildings and communities. They will examine options for policy incentives or regulatory reform to encourage energy-efficient development in China.

The two nations will also explore the feasibility of a joint project in China to demonstrate green buildings, building energy savings and renewable energy technologies. The U.S. Government will provide support for MOHURD's ''eco-cities'' initiative, which aims to build integrated green cities that are sustainably designed, use renewable power and have efficient and modern transportation systems. The two nations will collaborate on the development of standards and guidelines for eco-cities.

In the United States, 75 percent of all electricity generated at power plants is used to operate buildings. China is expected to build the equivalent of the entire U.S. building stock in the next 15 years. Nearly half the new floor space built in the world every year is built in China.

Buildings use around 40 percent of energy globally and account for nearly half of greenhouse gas emissions. But at least 30 percent of emissions from the building sector could be eliminated at no net cost by simply upgrading old buildings and using modern equipment in new buildings.

With this announcement, the U.S. and China recognize that improving energy efficiency in buildings will benefit both nations, and that by working together they can accelerate the adoption of new clean energy technologies.

About the America House

The America House is a zero-energy building that will send power back to the grid once regulatory approval is granted. The House is constantly monitored from the campus of Florida International University. It got its start as a DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory-sponsored Solar Decathlon project winner from Florida International University.

In 2003, China’s Ministry of Construction authorized the construction of ten demonstration homes (the “Future House Community”) that integrate renewable energy, energy conservation technologies, environmental compatibility and pollution reduction in their design. Each of the homes was built by a different country, and includes homes from: Britain, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United States. The community is expected to be open spring 2008 through 2014.

The interior of the house is 3,200 square feet, excluding the garage, and includes the following:

  • Flooring made of bamboo, cork and recycled tile and/or carpeting
  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) made from foam are used inside the walls and ceiling that will cut energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 50 percent
  • Solar panels on the back roof
  • Geothermal heat pumps to reduce heating and cooling
  • Wastewater recycling system

The industrial sponsors for America House include companies such as Whirlpool, Climate Master and Bio-Microbics.

The first phase of the Future House Community includes the ten residential homes on 16.5 acres with 32,808 square feet of construction. The second phase will expand the project to ten cities and 30 green community projects over six years with 300,000 houses or buildings in which one million people will reside.

New Home Sales Rise 11 Percent In June

Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 11 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000 units, according to U.S. Commerce Department numbers released at the end of July. Coming on the heels of an upwardly revised number for May, the gain marks a third consecutive month of improved sales activity.

“The big gain in home sales last month was reflected in three out of four regions and helped shrink the inventory of new homes for sale to its lowest level in years,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Even so, the pace of home sales in June 2009 was still more than 21 percent off the pace of sales in the same month last year, so we still have quite a way to go. The concern now is that complicating factors – particularly job losses, appraisal issues that are torpedoing more than a quarter of new-home sales and the impending expiration of the first-time buyer tax credit – threaten to stifle the positive momentum.”

The number of newly built homes on the market declined for a 26th consecutive month in June, falling 4.1 percent to 281,000 units. This marks a relatively thin 8.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

New-home sales rose by double-digits in the Northeast (29.2 percent), Midwest (43.1 percent), and West (22.6 percent) in June. Meanwhile, sales activity declined 5.3 percent in the South, which is the country’s largest housing market.


Lifecycle Building Challenge 3 - Deadline Aug. 30

Lifecycle building is the design of building materials, components, information systems and management practices to create buildings that facilitate and anticipate future changes to and eventual adaptation or dismantling for recovery of all systems, components and materials.

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Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement Conference - Sept. 14-15

Held in New York and presented by Action for a Sustainable America, the Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement conference will bring together representatives from major corporate and stakeholder groups.

  • Find out how to use social media to build sustainability credibility 
  • Understand why companies succeed and fail when engaging on sustainability issues 
  • Identify strategies for prioritizing stakeholders and their green concerns 

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21st Century Building Expo & Conference - Sept. 16-18

Building Expo & Conference held in Charlotte, NC. 21CBEC offers educational classes, seminars and an Expo floor.

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ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO 2009 -Sept. 18-21

The American Society of Landscape Architects' annual meeting and EXPO will be held in Chicago. The 2009 meeting theme is Beyond Sustainability: Regenerating Places and People. The meeting will feature more than 125 education sessions, field sessions and tours over four days.

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International Conference on Countermeasures to Urban Heat Islands - Sept. 21-23

The Second International Conference on Countermeasures to Urban Heat Islands (SICCUHI) will be held this fall in Berkeley, California. The conference will be devoted to science, engineering and public policies to help relieve the excess heat and air pollution of summers in hot cities.

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