Green Building News

Green Building News July 1, 2010

Insurance Company Offers Discount for ENERGY STAR® Labeled Buildings

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, the first property and casualty insurance company to offer green insurance to the U.S. commercial marketplace, announces that policyholders with ENERGY STAR® buildings are eligible for a five percent discount. More than 10,000 buildings have earned the ENERGY STAR® and typically use 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than average buildings.

Building types eligible to earn the ENERGY STAR® label include offices, bank branches, financial centers, retail stores, data centers, courthouses, hospitals, hotels, K-12 schools, medical offices, supermarkets, dormitories, houses of worship and warehouses.

“This program is groundbreaking in its recognition of the greater value and lower risks of energy-efficient buildings,” said Alyssa Quarforth, Program Manager for ENERGY STAR® Commercial Properties at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “The discounts provide another tangible financial benefit to owners and operators of top-performing buildings, in addition to the reduced energy costs that they are already realizing.”

In addition, Fireman’s Fund risk services consultants can help property owners benchmark their buildings’ energy and water consumption with ENERGY STAR®’s Portfolio Manager tool. With the tool, Fireman’s Fund risk services consultants can identify under-performing buildings and work with policyholders to set related investment priorities, develop energy management goals and track performance and savings over time.


Dow Corning Receives DOE Funding to Improve Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

The United States Department of Energy has awarded $1.2 million to Dow Corning Corporation to develop an insulating facade system that may significantly increase the energy efficiency of commercial buildings.

The funding will assist Dow Corning in the development of a silicon-based high-efficiency building insulation system which could be used in retro-fit and new construction applications. The insulation project is focused on achieving thermal resistance values of R-40 or greater for exterior insulation and finish systems, which would make building facades as many as eight times more energy efficient.

Dow Corning's energy efficient insulation material is one of 58 projects awarded more than $76 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding by the DOE to support advanced energy-efficient building technology projects and the development of training programs for commercial building equipment technicians, building operators and energy auditors.


ACEEE Reports On Need to Go Beyond “Smart Meters”

Consumers could cut their household electricity use as much as 12 percent and save $35 billion or more over the next 20 years if U.S. utilities go beyond simple “smart meter” initiatives to include a wide range of energy-use feedback tools that get consumers more involved in the process of using less energy, according to a major new report from the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

ACEEE based its findings on a review of 57 different residential sector feedback programs between 1974 and 2010. The new report concludes:  “Advanced metering initiatives alone are neither necessary nor sufficient for providing households with the feedback that they need to achieve energy saving; however, they do offer important opportunities. To realize potential feedback-induced savings, advanced meters must be used in conjunction with in-home (or on-line) displays and well-designed programs that successfully inform, engage, empower and motivate people.”

ACEEE found that three of the most promising approaches in the short- to medium-term include enhanced billing, daily/weekly feedback and “off line” and Web-based real-time feedback. However, far-reaching programs that go beyond “smart meters” are few and far between. According to ACEEE, no U.S. utilities are currently providing the full range of needed services.

John A. “Skip” Laitner, director, Economic and Social Analysis, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said:  “The bottom line here is very simple:  Smart meters in and of themselves are just not ‘smart’ enough to get the job done for consumers and our economy. While advanced metering provides a useful tool, to save energy, cut consumer electric bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, utilities need to use these advanced meters to provide consumers with information on their consumption in ways that grab consumers attention and encourage them to take action.”

Beyond a short-term move to enhanced billing programs, households could see even greater levels of savings through the application of more sophisticated programs that integrate utility-based advanced metering initiatives with on-line or in-home energy displays and tailored guidance regarding the highest-impact means of reducing energy waste. Utilities across the country are investing in new electricity meters that provide two-way communications between the meter and the utility, and that monitor and collect household energy use data on an hourly basis (or even more frequently).

When paired with an on-line program, households can increase their knowledge about how they are using energy. When combined with an in-home display, electricity consumers can witness the amount of energy that they are consuming in real-time, calculate the month-end impact of their current consumption patterns, and assess the impact of adopting new practices and more energy-efficient technologies. The average electricity savings associated with online services providing daily/weekly feedback (the Google PowerMeter is one example) is about 8 percent while real-time feedback has witnessed an average savings about 9 percent per participating household. 

Study Highlights

Key findings of the ACEEE report are as follows:

  • Energy-use feedback can help households gain control over their energy use practices, reduce the amount of wasted energy, and reduce electricity consumption by 4 to 12 percent.
  • Depending on how feedback programs are implemented by all of the nation’s electric utilities, consumers might enjoy a cumulative net savings of $2 to $35 billion or more over the next 20 years.
  • Advanced (or “smart”) metering initiatives alone are neither necessary nor sufficient for providing households with the feedback that they need to achieve energy savings, however they do offer important opportunities. To realize potential feedback-induced savings, advanced meters must be used in conjunction with in-home (or on-line) displays and well-designed programs that successfully inform, engage, empower, and motivate people.
  • Utilities and policymakers should act now to ensure that U.S. households receive needed feedback by providing all households with: enhanced billing in the short term and real-time feedback (in conjunction with smart meter deployment) in the medium term.
  • Providing households with persistent feedback has resulted in sustained savings over time.
  • Since 1995, feedback-induced savings have been higher in Europe than in the United States suggesting important differences in European policies and culture.


DEQ Approves Plan for Oregon Paint “Take Back” Program

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has approved a plan that sets in motion the first paint product stewardship “take-back” program in the nation. The PaintCare program, which officially begins July 1 and is funded by paint manufacturers, allows consumers to return unused paint to participating retailers and other sites for proper disposal. The pilot program is expected to collect as much as 600,000 gallons of leftover paint annually in Oregon, and is expected to be rolled out nationally.

The program stems from the Oregon Paint Product Stewardship law, passed by the 2009 Oregon Legislature. The law directed manufacturers of paints sold in Oregon to set up and run “a convenient, statewide system” for the collection of post-consumer latex and oil-based paint. The new program is the result of a national agreement facilitated by the non-profit Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. (PSI), which convened paint manufacturers, retailers, contractors, recyclers and government officials to jointly develop an environmentally sound and economically efficient solution to the leftover paint problem.

The American Coatings Association, a trade organization for paint manufacturers, created the non-profit organization PaintCare to administer the program. Consumers will pay for the program by paying a surcharge on paint and stain containers. PaintCare, in turn, will provide a series of depots statewide where people can drop off unused paint. PaintCare pays an administrative fee to DEQ ($10,000 for submittal of the program plan and $10,000 annually thereafter) on behalf of manufacturers for plan approval and program enforcement/oversight.

The complete, approved Oregon Paint Stewardship Pilot Program Plan is available on DEQ’s paint product stewardship webpage. The page also lists participating retailers and brands in the PaintCare program. While statewide paint collection services will be available July 1, additional collection locations will be phased in over the next six months. Manufacturers of covered products may not sell their product in Oregon unless they are participating in the PaintCare program.


2011 EVHA Application for Existing Homes Available

Brought to you by the NAHB Research Center and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the EnergyValue Housing Award Existing Home competition is designed to recognize builders and remodelers who successfully integrate energy efficiency improvements into the retrofit of existing structures. 

Through educational programs and national media coverage, the award promotes an increased awareness of the value of energy efficiency improvements in existing homes among builders/remodelers, homeowners and others.

The NAHB Research Center site lists the benefits of applying as:

  • Winners are recognized with an award at the 2011 EnergyValue Housing Award Banquet during the 2011 International Builders Show held January 12-14, 2011, in Orlando, Florida.
  • Each applicant can request up to TWO (2) complimentary tickets to the 2011 EVHA Banquet.
  • Each applicant will receive a summary of the judges' scores and comments that are intended to help the builder/remodeler improve building, business and customer service practices.
  • Selected winners are featured on the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America website, NAHB's Nation's Building News, the NAHB Research Center website, the 2011 EVHA Winner Magazine, and other selected national publications.
  • Winners receive EVHA award logos and customized press releases for local promotion and marketing.
  • Selected winners may be invited to share their success stories at workshops, educational programs, or conferences.

Application Deadline: Postmarked by Friday, July 30, 2010.

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Green Building Focus Conference & EXPO - Aug. 24-26

Held in Birmingham, Alabama, the conference offers 32 practical, case-study based presentations and breakout sessions complemented by an exhibition of more than 200 green building products and services. Green Building Focus provides valuable content whether your focus is on commercial or residential, new construction or retrofit.

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First Annual Women In Green Forum – Sept. 1-2

A sustainable development conference and expo highlighting women’s achievements in the environmental arena, held at the Pasadena Convention Center. Topics include green building and energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation, waste diversion and recycling, among others.

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