Green Building News

Green Building News December 1, 2010

Commercial Building Energy Codes Changes Will Drive Energy Efficiency and Emissions Reductions

Local and state building code officials recently approved a package of revisions to the commercial section of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that represent the largest single-step efficiency increase in the history of the national, model energy code. The changes mean that new and renovated buildings constructed in jurisdictions that follow the 2012 IECC will use 30 percent less energy than those built to current standards.

Attendees voted nearly unanimously on a series of proposals to effect the change at the International Code Council’s (ICC) final action hearings held in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 27-31, 2010. The improvements were part of a major comprehensive proposal submitted jointly by New Buildings Institute (NBI), The American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that addresses measures such as cooling, lighting, quality assurance and renewable energy standards. Several other key proposals that contribute to the savings were approved independently.

The comprehensive proposal is largely based on NBI’s Core Performance protocol, a direct approach to achieving energy savings in commercial buildings. Utilities and public benefits administrators in six states and two Canadian provinces have adopted Core Performance as part of their voluntary efficiency program offerings.

Computer modeling of the 2012 IECC shows more than 30 percent better energy efficiency on average than the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 model code, and payback periods on the new code measures are estimated at less than seven years depending on climate and building type. The energy savings in the 2012 IECC meet national calls from Congress, the Secretary of Energy and industry leaders to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings by 30 percent. In addition, the 2012 IECC will serve as the baseline standard for the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) currently under development.

The 2012 IECC contains many important, first-ever technical features including a new section on commissioning, pathways to use daylighting and options for the use of on-site renewable energy. It will be published in April 2011 for adoption by state and local agencies.


Builders and Consumers Perceive Green Homes as Affordable to Live in – Expensive to Build

New Survey From Whirlpool Corporation and Habitat for Humanity International Also Find Consumers Believe Savings may be Worth the Expense

Green homes offer a wide variety of benefits from reducing carbon footprints to saving money on utility bills to even improving the health of children. However, a recent Whirlpool Corporation and Habitat for Humanity survey conducted by the NAHB Research Center (a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders), polled home builders, as well as consumers, and found many believe there's a disconnect between living in a green home and purchasing one. Yet, the majority of respondents (64 percent) indicated that savings from green home features were sometimes worth the added costs and efforts. This finding was consistent across all income level groups for both renters and homeowners.

It's a particularly difficult position for the majority of homeowners in the United States. The consumer survey, fielded in August 2010 by the NAHB Research Center to gauge perceptions of affordable and green housing, found that the majority of High (67 percent), Upper Middle (65 percent), and Middle (59 percent) income respondents, as well as nearly half of low income respondents (48 percent), indicated they believe a completely green home would be affordable to live in or maintain. Yet only high-income respondents were more likely to indicate that a completely green home would be affordable to purchase (71percent).

"The health benefits, low utility costs and other factors make green homes ideal for all homeowners. However, it takes a united front of manufacturers, builders and organizations to help builders and consumers understand that building green can be affordable," said Tom Halford, general manager, contract sales and marketing, Whirlpool Corporation. "There's a need to bridge the perception gap between green-building and affordability, so that builders and families understand that options exist to improve their footprint in the long-term, while saving money and resources in the short-term."

The builder survey, fielded July-August 2010 to members of the Research Center's Online Builder Panel, found that 87 percent believe green homes are affordable for middle income families to live in, while 30 percent felt green homes were too expensive for the segment to purchase or build. For low-income families, 70 percent of home builders believe green homes are affordable to live in, and nearly 60 percent of builders thought green homes were too expensive for low-income families to purchase or build.

"Under Habitat's nonprofit construction model, Habitat affiliates across the United States are incorporating sustainable materials and energy-efficient products in Habitat homes, as this is both a responsible building practice and it improves the affordability of homes for Habitat partner homeowners," said Larry Gluth, senior vice president of U.S. and Canada for Habitat for Humanity International. "The challenge is to help people understand that building green doesn't mean it can't be affordable too."


The builder portion of the study surveyed 304 respondents and was conducted from July 23 - Aug. 4, 2010, using an online format. Members of the NAHB Research Center Online Builder Panel were invited to take the survey and respondents were required to be an active homebuilder or general contractor. The consumer portion surveyed 1,092 homeowners from Aug. 23-25, 2010, using an online format. Consumers nationwide were invited to take the survey through email invitations.


GSA Moves to LEED Gold for All New Federal Buildings and Major Renovations

The U.S. General Services Administration’s upgraded requirement for LEED Gold certification as a minimum in all new federal building construction and substantial renovation projects will move the government’s federal inventory into a more sustainable future. By using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System established by the U.S. Green Building Council, GSA can evaluate and measure achievements in sustainable design.

With a portfolio of more than 361 million square feet of space in 9,600 federally owned and leased facilities, GSA’s goal is to provide sustainable, healthier, more productive workspaces for the federal workforce, while being a responsible asset manager using taxpayer dollars wisely.

For projects funded prior to FY 2010 that are in design, GSA is requiring that LEED Gold be incorporated into ongoing designs where possible, after considering budget and schedule constraints on the current design and construction contracts. GSA's Facilities Standards will be updated to reflect these changes by the end of calendar year 2010. For GSA's leased properties, the requirement remains at the LEED Silver certification for new construction lease projects of 10,000 square feet or more. For leases in existing buildings, LEED for Commercial Interiors is optional, at the request of the tenant agencies.


OSRAM SYLVANIA and Lowe's to Introduce Brightest LED Light Bulb

OSRAM SYLVANIA and Lowe's have announced plans to introduce the brightest LED replacement for America's most popular light bulb, the 60-watt incandescent. The SYLVANIA Ultra A-Line 12-watt LED bulb provides 810 lumens of light.

The company says this A-Line 12-watt LED bulb uses 80 percent less energy and lasts 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and is part of a complete line of energy-efficient LED bulbs designed for household lamps and lighting fixtures. The new, A-line bulb will be available on this month and in all Lowe's stores by second-quarter 2011.

The SYLVANIA Ultra A-Line 12-watt LED bulb features a high-performance OSRAM LED module and boasts a color temperature of 2700 Kelvin and high color quality, with a color rendering index of 90. The complete line of SYLVANIA Ultra LED bulbs also includes MR16, PAR20, PAR30, PAR38 and G25 types. All of the lights are dimmable and mercury free, unlike standard compact fluorescent bulbs. 


BuildingGreen Announces 2010 Top-10 Green Building Products

BuildingGreen, Inc., publisher of the GreenSpec® Directory and Environmental Building News™, recently announced the 2010 Top-10 Green Building Products. This ninth annual award, announced at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Conference in Chicago, recognizes the most exciting products drawn from recent additions to the GreenSpec Directory and coverage in Environmental Building News.

“Our selections of the Top-10 Green Building Products represent a wide range of product types in many different application areas,” noted BuildingGreen founder and executive editor Alex Wilson. This year’s list is particularly diverse, ranging from decking made out of recycled carpet decking, to an ultra-high-efficiency toilet using a unique passive-vacuum-assist technology to achieve superb performance with just 0.8 gallons per flush, and a glazing material that has a UV-reflective pattern that is highly visible to birds yet largely transparent to humans and helps prevent bird collisions.

Five products among this year’s Top-10 selections save energy: a cellular glass insulation that has excellent compressive strength and no flame retardants; a high-performance modular wall system insulated with cellulose, a line of variable-frequency-drive pumps with ECM motors, a heat-recovery ventilation system for commercial kitchens, and an advanced LED lighting module that offers remarkable light quality matching that of halogen (up to a CRI index of 98), yet using a quarter the electricity and lasting more than 20 times as long. Rounding out the selections are a line of commercial furniture that comes standard with FSC-certified wood at no up-charge or delivery delay and a new fast-connect wiring and cabling system that is made with no heavy metals or halogenated plastics.

The 2010 Top-10 Green Building Products are listed below. More complete descriptions and contact information are provided on the BuildingGreen website:

  • NyloDeck composite decking from Nyloboard, LLC
  • FoamGlas building insulation from Pittsburgh Corning
  • Ornilux bird-safe glass from Arnold Glas
  • FSC-certified office furniture from Knoll
  • Bensonwood OBPlus Wall System
  • Stealth toilet from Niagara Conservation Corp
  • Wilo variable-frequency-drive “smart” pumps
  • Halton Heat Recovery Unit for commercial kitchen ventilation
  • Xicato LED Spot Module
  • Electec halogen-free EZ-Wiring and EZ-Cabling systems