Tag Archives: green building

Zero Electric Homes Get Charged Up in 5 States


Shea Homes Ardiente development features homes that have zero electricity costs. Shea developments in four other states offer the same feature. (Photo Courtesy Shea Homes)
Shea Homes' Ardiente development features homes that have zero electricity costs. Shea developments in four other states offer the same feature. (Photo Courtesy Shea Homes)

SolarCity®, a national leader in clean energy services, and Shea Homes, one of the country’s largest privately-held home builders, have partnered to make a “no electric bill” home available to homebuyers in all Shea Homes Active Lifestyle® and Trilogy® communities in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Washington.

Branded as SheaXero the no electric bill home™, the partnership with SolarCity will make net-zero the standard offering at all ten of Shea’s Active Lifestyle and Trilogy Communities. SheaXero homes aim to achieve net-zero electric bills by generating Continue reading Zero Electric Homes Get Charged Up in 5 States

Consider the SRI When Choosing Cool Roofing Materials

Cool roofs feature very reflective material to keep the heat from building up. This one was installed on Kemper Hall at the Missouri State University in late 2011. (Courtesy Kirberg)
Cool roofs feature very reflective material to keep the heat from building up. This one was installed on Kemper Hall at the Missouri State University in late 2011. (Courtesy Kirberg)

The principle behind cool roof technology was no doubt born when humans noted the difference between how dark colored substances gathered and held heat compared to light colored substances.  Today, the scientific measurement applied to roofing that relates to this principle is called the Solar Reflectance Index, or SRI. Basically, the index states that a rating of zero defines how black deals with heat, and a rating of 100 defines how white does. When it comes to picking roof coverings, the SDI is one factor to consider when you want to minimize heat gain to help with cooling costs.

Late last year, Kirberg Company announced it had completed the installation of a new “Cool Roof” System at Missouri State University’s Kemper Hall,  in Springfield, Missouri.  The system specified was a Johns Manville product called DynaGlas® FR CR, (fire rated, cool roof). This roofing material has an SRI of 93 right after installation and one of 74, three years later.

According to Kirberg,  cool roof systems like the one installed for Kemper Hall are among the fastest growing commercial roofing systems in the industry. They’re a three-layer product with a cool roof, ceramic coating over top of a layer of fiberglass and a bottom layer of asphalt waterproofing. They are exceptionally resistant to wind and fire, as well as ultraviolet, ozone, and chemical exposure.

The Kemper Hall project is not the first roofing project that Missouri State has hired Kirberg Company to complete. The roof consisted of a total replacement, amounting to 400 squares. Earlier in the summer of 2011, Kirberg replaced the roof on the Plaster Student Union, the gathering and learning center for the students. The materials used for both roofs were Derbigum, a type of roof system that works to save and produce energy.  The student union roof took two weeks to complete, and amounted to 100 squares.


Gee, An Energy Efficient Hot Water Heater

The GeoSpring(TM) will save an average consumer $325 a year on their utility bills and curb costs related to the second biggest energy drain in the home. (Photo: GE)
The GeoSpring(TM) will save an average consumer $325 a year on their utility bills and curb costs related to the second biggest energy drain in the home. (Photo: GE)

It looks like General Electric has made headway in the battle to get electric hot water heaters to be more efficient. The company claims the average homeowner can save about $325 a year by installing its new hybrid hot water heater that uses a heat pump in conjunction with a standard electric resistance element. Gee.

Nearly all Americans (96 percent) think improved appliance efficiency is important for personal financial reasons, yet many homeowners don’t realize the water heater is the second single-biggest, energy-consuming appliance in homes, behind the HVAC system.

GE’s GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater combines energy-saving heat-pump technology with traditional electric heating systems used in most conventional water heaters on the market today. This hybrid technology is designed to absorb heat in ambient air and transfer it into the water. Since this requires much less energy than the energy used to generate radiant heat – as used in a conventional electric tank water heater – the GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater is more economical to operate.

Besides saving money, GE’s product general manager for water products, Stephen Downer explains the environmental benefits this way:

Approximately 50 percent of U.S. households use a standard electric water heater. If 25 percent chose a GeoSpring instead of a standard 50-gallon electric water heater, more than four billion pounds of CO2 emissions on the U.S. grid could be avoided annually – equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 360,000 cars on U.S. roads. That’s a powerful way consumers can help the environment.

Other features of the GeoSpring include:

  • It has same footprint and electrical connections as the standard electric water heater, making it easy to install.
  • It provides the same amount of hot water as traditional 50-gallon standard electric water heaters.
  • Its integrated electronics on the control panel offer exclusive features, such as Vacation mode, which will lower the water temperature to 50 degrees for the duration of a trip, and then automatically reenergize itself on the day before the homeowner’s return.
  • It offers more control over water temperature, allowing you to adjust in one degree increments from 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

State and local tax credits and utility rebates for purchasing the ENERGY STAR-qualified energy-efficient water heater may also be available to benefit consumers.

Pricing and availability

GeoSpring will be available at national retailers in March such as Lowe’s and Sears and national plumbing distributors such as Ferguson as well as many local retailers and distributors. Estimated retail price: $1,199-$1,299. More information on features and availability is right here.

Home Energy Management Program Takes Its Cue From What’s Happening Right Outside Your Window

How about turning over the management of a home’s heating and cooling to a super smart web-based entity? That’s more or less what’s coming down the pike for Texans this summer with implementations planned across the country as more utilities sign on.

Earth NetworksSM the operator of the largest weather, lightning and climate observation networks, andEnergyHub, Inc., a leading provider of home energy management software and systems, announce a new home demand response and energy efficiency program called e5SM. The patent-pending e5 program, which stands for ease, energy, efficiency, environment and earth, incorporates for the first time live, neighborhood-level weather conditions and forecasts into demand response programs that aim to reduce peak consumer demand to better manage grid load during extreme weather. According to Dave Oberholzer, products and business development director for Earth Networks Energy:

“Many utilities are interested in rolling out demand response programs, but user adoption is limited because consumers want to retain control of their thermostat and remain comfortable while saving both energy and money”

The program is designed to provide home energy efficiency without sacrificing comfort, while putting the consumer in control.

Utility Company Opportunities

The e5 program takes the burden off utilities to supply, install and maintain home thermostats because consumers play an active role in the program. When consumers choose to join, they select and install a program-compatible Internet-enabled thermostat that is available at major home improvement retailers and online. The program is launching with the 3M Filtrete™ Wi-Fi-enabled programmable thermostat, which includes EnergyHub’s user-friendly software that guides the consumer through the setup process and provides them with ongoing remote HVAC control.

Based on the consumer’s own selections, the e5 program maintains desired comfort level while optimizing energy use by pre-cooling or pre-heating in response to local weather, and when a demand response event is anticipated by forecasted conditions. Further, the e5 program provides homeowners with a home energy audit, which ranks the efficiency of the house using local weather conditions including temperature, wind and solar fluctuations. From the rankings, e5 provides a customized and prioritized list of recommended steps consumers can take to save energy and reduce costs for their home energy systems, which drive the majority of consumer demand during peak periods.

Uses Local Weather Information

Weather is the largest variable impacting home energy demand. To maximize effectiveness, the e5 program integrates data from more than 8,000 state-of-the-art Earth Networks weather stations installed at schools and public buildings around the country to provide live, hyper-local weather data for a customer’s location. In contrast, other approaches rely on weather data from an often distant location, such as an airport, with delayed reporting that may not represent actual current local conditions.

In developing the e5 program, Earth Networks and EnergyHub sought to overcome a major factor overlooked by many existing demand response programs – occupant comfort. Unlike existing demand response programs that turn off or cycle home thermostats on a pre-defined schedule regardless of the actual indoor temperature, e5 puts the consumer in control. With e5, users dynamically adjust their comfort settings using EnergyHub’s website and mobile apps.

The e5 program is available to all utilities, whether they have existing demand response programs or want to replace their current programs with a more consumer-oriented offering.

Utilitarian Municipal Structures Can Be Functional, Sturdy, Earth-Friendly AND Pretty

Sonoma County transit shelter manufactured by Tolar Manufacturing and designed with the help of Autodesk Product Design Suite (Photo: Business Wire)
Sonoma County transit shelter manufactured by Tolar Manufacturing and designed with the help of Autodesk Product Design Suite (Photo: Business Wire)

Contractors who are building out and improving the country’s metropolitan landscapes don’t have to settle for off-the-shelf transit shelters, street furniture and advertising kiosks. That’s because companies that design and manufacture those fixtures are increasingly turning out custom products that fit the local environment and climate.

One example is Tolar Manufacturing which uses Autodesk Gold Partner KETIV Technologies to design and make more than 500 shelter types within the company’s four main product lines, each designed and engineered to be long-lasting, attractive and environmentally friendly. This includes complying with a wide range of building code requirements across North America and community design requirements from economical transit shelters to high volume bus rapid transit facilities. Tolar client expectations for purpose- driven design range from hurricane-resistant bus shelters for Florida communities to solar-powered transit displays for agencies in California.

On a typical project, Tolar begins by creating 3D models of the proposed shelter using Inventor software. To further communicate design intent to customers, Tolar can create a near-photorealistic image of the model in Showcase software, and then superimpose it over an actual streetscape from the customer’s town, enabling customers to see exactly what Tolar’s product will look like when installed in the community.

Next, the Inventor manufacturing models are used to fabricate the multiple components that make up the shelter. These models provide clear, concise and comprehensive communications, resulting in fewer errors on the shop floor.

Additionally, Tolar uses Vault software to centrally store and manage its digital data, making it easier for the company to access and reuse drawings of specific parts for multiple projects rather than having to start each time from scratch — significantly reducing project turnaround time. Tolar also uses Inventor Publisher software to create installation instructions for customers.

Autodesk named Tolar its Inventor of the Month for January 2012 for how it used Autodesk software to create custom products matching the needs of municipalities throughout North America.

Building Energy-Use Management On The Rise

According to a new report from Pike Research, worldwide revenue from building energy management systems will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 14 percent through the rest of this decade, reaching just under $6 billion a year by 2020.

BEMS include software, hardware, and services associated with the intelligent  monitoring, management, and control of energy, specifically for reducing overall energy consumption and lowering energy costs. It’s no wonder BEMS are on a growth trend as the U.S. Department of Energy, reports that 18 percent of all the energy produced in the United States is used to cool, heat, light, or accomplish other functions within commercial buildings. Eric Bloom, research analyst with Pike also credits advances in these systems for the rosy outlook, saying:

Over the last year, the convergence of building equipment and IT has advanced at a rapid pace, enabling a higher degree of control over building energy and operations than ever before.  The BEMS market is evolving rapidly and is enjoying a burst of innovation, leading to an explosion in the amount of data that is available on the energy performance of commercial buildings.

North America continues to lead the global market for BEMS, but Pike Research expects growth to accelerate worldwide, particularly in Asia Pacific.  While interest in BEMS and energy efficiency is high in Western Europe, Asia Pacific will take its place as the second largest market in coming years, due to the extremely rapid pace of construction in the region as well as the challenge of meeting soaring energy demand with limited supply.  Outside of these three regions, the BEMS market will generally experience single-digit growth and modest levels of overall spending over the forecast period.  In every region, the existing building stock is a large market for BEMS sales – particularly buildings constructed or modernized within the last 30 years with moderately sophisticated building management systems.

Pike Research is a market research and consulting firm that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets.

Getting To Know LEED: The Basics

By Erik Braunitzer, and courtesy of Douglas Elliman Real Estate Company, agents for New York City Apartments. 
Gold LEED Plaques (Courtesy Douglas Elliman Real Estate Company).
Gold LEED plaques are just one perk for going for the gold. (Courtesy Douglas Elliman Real Estate Company).

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a rating system used for construction, operation and design of green homes, buildings and entire neighborhoods. It was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council so operators and owners would have a framework to guide them in green construction and design methods.

The LEED accredited professional program currently has 10 different rating systems that correspond to types of buildings and types of construction. There are separate scales for new construction, schools, retail, core and shell, healthcare, commercial interior, retail commercial interior, existing building operations and maintenance, neighborhood development, and a separate category exclusive for homes. The system is also integrated with and used as a basis for other well-known rating systems such as the Labs21 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rating system consists of 100 different possible points that can be distributed across five major categories including energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, sustainable sites, water efficiency and indoor environmental quality. A score of 40 to 49 classifies a building as certified, 50 to 59 is silver, 60 to 79 is gold and 80 or above earns platinum classification.

LEED buildings are known for using materials more efficiently and for promoting healthier work and living environments, which in turn boost both productivity and comfort levels. A LEED strategy includes a listing of beneficial behaviors that improve both air and water quality while reducing solid waste and benefitting owners and society as a whole.

It’s important to note that LEED is not intended to be used as a way to measure performance. It is a tool that uses its standards and rating system to measure design, which will hopefully lead to better performance and results.

LEED certification does certainly have its benefits in some areas. Some local, state and even the federal government have given incentives to those with gold LEED status. Some areas have given construction materials to the companies, while others provide tax exemptions for being LEED Certified. Other benefits of the status include tax breaks, density bonuses, faster permits and processing and low-cost or even free technical assistance when necessary. It may also increase chances of qualifying for grants or low-interest loans, making it more than worth the effort to go for the gold LEED status.

Why Not Use Hot Water to Cool Buildings?

Mitsubishi Adsorption Chiller Product_image (Photo: Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc.)
Mitsubishi's adsorption chiller enters US test-market in February. (Photo: Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc.)

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc., in collaboration with Union Industry Co., Ltd., has developed an easy-to-install compact adsorption chiller with an integrated cooling tower (cooling capacity of 10 kW). The chiller, which uses the zeolitic water vapor adsorbent AQSOATM, can work with a solar water-heater, making it possible to significantly reduce electricity use and save energy. Mitsubishi Plastics will start test-marketing the chiller to the U.S. market beginning January 23, 2012.

Since 2008, Mitsubishi Plastics (Headquarters: Chuo-ku, Tokyo; President: Hiroshi Yoshida) has been manufacturing parts, such as heat exchangers, coated with AQSOATM, a zeolitic water vapor adsorbent that is able to efficiently release water vapor – even at relatively low temperatures (140?-176?). Since heat exchangers coated with AQSOATM are able to reduce the consumption of energy, the parts are already being used in many adsorption chillers (cooling capacity of 9-350 kW) in Japan and Europe, with the product performance being praised around the world.

Why adsorption chillers?

For economic reasons, air conditioning units using compressors, not adsorption chillers, have traditionally been used in small facilities. However, there is a growing demand across the globe for energy efficient air conditioning units that can reduce CO2 emissions.

To address such issues, Mitsubishi Plastics and Union Industry have developed a compact adsorption chiller, featuring an easy installation process. This compact adsorption chiller can be used for cooling data centers or domestic houses through the use of hot water from solar water heaters and cogeneration systems, or by waste heat from small factories.

When combined with a solar water-heater*, the cooling performance of this product throughout the day will be superior by 50% from that of traditional silica gel adsorption chiller. (The temperature of recycled water is assumed at 149?.)

When the product is combined with a cogeneration system, the system is expected to reduce electricity consumption by up to 20% from that of coolers with compressors (based on Mitsubishi Plastics research). In addition, the superior durability of AQSOATM reduces running costs due to fewer maintenance requirements.

Easy Installations

Furthermore, with the technology of the adsorption chiller developed by Union Industry and the knowledge of cooling towers that Mitsubishi Plastics has long cultivated, for the first time in the world, the adsorption chiller and cooling tower have been integrated, making it significantly easier to install the system in comparison with traditional products.

Mitsubishi Plastics will exhibit this easy-to-install compact adsorption chiller with an integrated cooling tower at the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR EXPO) to be held in Chicago from January 23–25, and additionally, will conduct various marketing activities to sell the product to the U.S. market. In certain cases, this enables federal and states tax credits for energy efficiency.

How It Works (For You Technophobes)

Mechanism of the Adsorption Chiller (Graphic: Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc.)
Mechanism of the Adsorption Chiller (Graphic: Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc.)