News Room : Archives : August 2012

 

Posts Tagged ‘green-buildings’

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Report: Energy retrofits surpass new green buildings in benefits

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Brand new green buildings are always white hot.

But experts have long been touting the environmental benefit of green buildings’ slightly less sexy cousin: Retrofitting existing buildings with green upgrades.

Now there is proof.

A groundbreaking report released earlier this year found that it is unequivocally greener to retrofit an old building than construct a new green building, no matter how many high-tech bells and whistles are in the new construction. “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse,” was commissioned by Preservation Green Lab, a project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation with support from The Summit Foundation and in partnership with four companies, including Skanska Group.

Elizabeth Heider, chair of the board of directors at the USGBC and senior vice president, green markets, for Skanska, says there has been a great interest over the past 20 years in tearing down buildings and raising new green ones.

“The thought was that in order to build green you had to build new,” she says. But the numbers don’t add up that way.

 

THE NUMBERS ADD UP IN FAVOR OF RETROFITS

 

The report states: It can take between 10 and 80 years for a new energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that come from construction. Environmental savings from re-use are between 4 and 46 percent over new construction when comparing buildings with the same energy performance level.

And it’s a huge marketplace. In any given year, only about 1 percent of the building stock in the U.S. is new. You can see the impact of green retro versus green new in the stats from the U.S. Green Building Council, which saw LEED certification for existing buildings (LEED EB) start to outpace LEED for new construction (LEED NC) in 2011. That trend has continued so far this year with LEED EB logging in 25.3 million more square feet than LEED NC.

In Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix and Portland, the Greenest Building researchers looked at two actual buildings—one a new construction and one a retrofit—in each of seven categories: commercial office, mixed-use, elementary school, single-family home, multifamily, warehouse-to-office conversion and warehouse-to-multifamily conversion. Within the retrofit category, the researchers also compared so-called base and advanced cases—the base having average energy performance and the advanced being 30 percent more efficient than that.

In each instance, the researchers looked at the environmental impact of the new construction versus that from the retrofit.

Take commercial office in Chicago. When it comes to ecosystem quality, a baseline retrofit has 20 percent less of an environmental impact compared to new construction. Look at the basic mixed-use building in Phoenix. The retrofit has a 19 percent less of an impact on climate change compared to new building. With a basic retrofit multifamily building in Atlanta, there is 9 percent less resource depletion compared to new construction.

Patrice Frey, director of sustainability for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says some of the most startling numbers came in the category of human health. Across all four cities, in almost all categories, the negative environmental impact of retro green for human health was between 12 and 38 percent less than for new construction.

“It is more clear than ever that there are human health reasons to reuse rather than rebuild,” Frey says.

The report is no surprise to Bob Best, executive vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle. In June two JLL buildings became part of a group of 14 commercial buildings that signed on to the Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative. The goal is for each building to reduce energy usage by 25 percent.

Best says the firm will analyze how best to attain that goal at its properties: the Hyatt Center at 71 South Wacker Drive and the NBC Tower at 454 North Columbus Drive. The energy audit and energy analysis is crucial, he notes.

“Too many buildings say ‘We need new windows,’ or ‘We need a new chiller plant,’” Best says. You don’t know what you need until you look. That point was made when JLL did the retrofit at the Empire State Building. JLL knew the building’s chiller plant needed work. Retrofitting the building’s windows was cheaper than a new chiller system and it saved so much energy that a chiller system retrofit was just as effective.

Likewise, Eric Duchon, manager of sustainability strategy at Cushman & Wakefield says companies are continuing to make retrofitting pay back in terms of financial incentives. Cushman & Wakefield is currently undergoing a retrofit project at its New York City headquarters with lighting upgrades. The company is also replacing the air handling units and installing variable frequency drives and doing lighting work at another building in its portfolio.

Each individual project does not net a sizable incentive from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but the agency allows firms to bundle together projects within the company’s portfolio and that package will net them a larger incentive. In C&W’s case, the incentive went from just a few thousand dollars separately to almost $30,000 bundled.

 

RETROS WIN IN PAYBACKS, TOO

 

The Greenest Building report does not address the comparative financial payback of new versus retro. However, “The McGraw-Hill Construction Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth” report does.

But, predictably, retros won the contest when it comes to ROIs, showing a 19.2 percent increase in ROI for retros versus 9.9 percent for new buildings.

 

ONE SURPRISING FIND

 

One of the more surprising findings in the Greenest Building report was that the detrimental environmental effects from a warehouse to multifamily were greater than that in new construction in terms of ecosystem quality and human health impact.

“In retrospect it makes sense,” Heider says. “When you do that, you actually have a lot of impact on the environment because you take so much material out of the building to landfill or recycle.”

 

THE CASE FOR DEMO VS. RETRO

 

There are some times when it is better to demolish, Heider admits. Say, an area is a growing community near a transit hub. You have a low-rise property and it’s zoned to accommodate three times as many people.

“If you can increase the density, then it makes sense because you have that access to public transportation and take that transit impact into consideration,” she says.

“If you can increase the density, then it makes sense because you have that access to public transportation and take that transit impact into consideration,” she says.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Duchon used a similar example, pointing to the Bank of America tower at 1 Bryant Park, where several small buildings were demolished to make way for a 55-story, LEED platinum building.

It also can make sense to demo if the existing building is simply not a good fit for the new intended use. “If you have to use more area per worker than you really need for them to do their job, that can be inefficient too,” she says.

Best, of JLL, says it would have to be a pretty extreme case for it to make more sense to demo rather than retro.

“Say a building has no market appeal and it’s also energy inefficient, then you may decide to tear it down,” he says. “But about 75 percent of the commercial building stock is more than 20 years old. What that says to me is that if we want to make buildings more efficient, sure it’s great to focus on new construction but you’re only going to attack a small sliver of the real problem. To get that existing building stock more efficient is the key.”

At the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Frey says her group is working on a follow up report that will identify barriers and disincentives to reuse from policy and marketing standpoints. They are also working with lawmakers in Seattle who are adopting new masonry regulations. Her group hopes to add financial incentives to retrofitting so that building owners can meet the new regulations.

“We want to ask what we can do to help really tip the scale in favor of building reuse,” she says.

Green Buildings are Hazardous to Your Health, Says Fox News

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

solar powered house

The buildings commonly referred to as “green” could actually be hazardous to your health, according to a new report.

That’s one of many warnings out of a new report from the Institute of Medicine, which tracked the potential impact of climate change on indoor environments.

The report cautions that climate change can negatively and directly affect indoor air quality in several ways. But the scientists behind the study warn that homeowners and businesses could also be making the problem worse by pursuing untested or risky energy-efficiency upgrades.

“Even with the best intentions, indoor environmental quality issues may emerge with interventions that have not been sufficiently well screened for their effects on occupant safety and health,” the report said.

To save costs and cut down on emissions, building owners typically find ways to seal off potential leaks and conserve energy. But in “weatherizing” the buildings, they also change the indoor environment.

By making buildings more airtight, building owners could increase “indoor-air contaminant concentrations and indoor-air humidity,” the report said. By adding insulation, they could trigger moisture problems. By making improvements to older homes, crews could stir up hazardous material ranging from asbestos to harmful caulking — though that problem is not unique to energy improvements.

The report did not dissuade homeowners and businesses from making the energy-efficiency upgrades. Rather, it called for a more comprehensive approach, urging organizations to track the side effects of various upgrades and minimize the “unexpected exposures and health risks” that can arise from new materials and weatherization techniques.

See the original post:
Green Buildings are Hazardous to Your Health, Says Fox News

Fly Ash: Green Building Material, Hazardous Waste?

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

My first legal case involved “fly ash.”  I had no idea what fly ash was so I looked it up in the dictionary.  Fly ash is a “coal-combustion by-product” (CCB) that is often used in concrete as a replacement for portland cement.  When used in massive concrete structures, like dam construction, fly ash can result in a significant cost savings.  

Despite all of my work with fly ash, I had never read or heard anyone mention that fly ash could be the “new asbestos.”  That was, until I read an ENR article titled “Fly Ash Looms as the ‘New Asbestos”:

“Concrete groups are on tenterhooks, waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publish a proposed rule that aims to designate fly ash and other coal-combustion by-products as hazardous waste. The concrete sector is concerned even about the ramifications of a ‘hybrid’ rule that would allow beneficial uses of CCBs to continue.”

But what does fly ash have to do with green building?  According to the Portland Cement Association, fly ash can be used in green buildings to achieve an innovation point:
“[T]he USGBC has issued a credit interpretation that allows for an innovation credit if 40% less cement is used than in typical construction, or if 40% of the cement in concrete is replaced with slag cement, fly ash, or both.”
A ruling that fly ash is a hazardous waste could reduce the amount of the material used in future construction.  Additionally, handling of existing structures that contain fly ash will become more complicated and costly.  

What do you think?  

 
Related Links

My first legal case involved “fly ash.”  I had no idea what fly ash was so I looked it up in the dictionary.  Fly ash is a “coal-combustion by-product” (CCB) that is often used in concrete as a replacement for portland cement.  When used in massive concrete structures, like dam construction, fly ash can result in a significant cost savings.  

Despite all of my work with fly ash, I had never read or heard anyone mention that fly ash could be the “new asbestos.”  That was, until I read an ENR article titled “Fly Ash Looms as the ‘New Asbestos”:

“Concrete groups are on tenterhooks, waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publish a proposed rule that aims to designate fly ash and other coal-combustion by-products as hazardous waste. The concrete sector is concerned even about the ramifications of a ‘hybrid’ rule that would allow beneficial uses of CCBs to continue.”

But what does fly ash have to do with green building?  According to the Portland Cement Association, fly ash can be used in green buildings to achieve an innovation point:
“[T]he USGBC has issued a credit interpretation that allows for an innovation credit if 40% less cement is used than in typical construction, or if 40% of the cement in concrete is replaced with slag cement, fly ash, or both.”
A ruling that fly ash is a hazardous waste could reduce the amount of the material used in future construction.  Additionally, handling of existing structures that contain fly ash will become more complicated and costly.  

What do you think?  

 
Related Links

New Green Construction Code Is Unveiled

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The International Code Council has released Public Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code, or IGCC, to regulate construction of new and existing commercial buildings.

The IGCC aims to significantly reduce energy usage and greenhouse gases.
It addresses site development and land use, including preservation of natural and material resources. Enforcement of the code will improve indoor air quality and support the use of energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy systems, water resource conservation, rainwater collection and distribution systems, and the recovery of used water (graywater).

The IGCC emphasizes building performance, including features such as a requirement for building-system-performance verification and building owner education to ensure the best energy-efficient practices. A key feature of the new code is a section devoted to “jurisdictional electives” that will allow customization of the code beyond its baseline provisions to address local priorities and conditions.

The IGCC initiative was launched in 2009 with cooperating sponsors the American Institute of Architects and ASTM International. The support of the AIA underscores its long-time leadership in the sustainability movement, including its 2030 Carbon Neutrality challenge, and its emphasis on the critical role of architects and designers in the life cycle of sustainable construction.

The engagement of ASTM ensures the IGCC will make use of certain voluntary consensus standards recognized by industry, code officials, and other stakeholders for their high-degree of technical quality, relevance and their suitability to contribute to more sustainable and environmentally improved buildings. Principals from the ICC, AIA and ASTM pointed out how the IGCC helps further the mission of their organizations and members.

“We talked to communities who indicate that their voluntary green-building programs reach only, but an important, 30 percent of the built environment,” Code Council CEO Richard P. Weiland said. “This means that there is a clear need for a regulatory tool to establish a baseline to help jurisdictions meet their sustainability goals.”
 
The work of the ICC/AIA/ASTM team in developing the IGCC is now joined with the
Standard developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, U.S. Green Building Council and the Illuminating Engineering Society. The IGCC will now reference the ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, as an alternative jurisdictional compliance option within the IGCC.

The first public version of the International Green Construction Code draft is now posted for comments through May 14.
Originally posted here:
New Green Construction Code Is Unveiled

First Changes Proposed to New Green Standard: Daylighting Addressed

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

ATLANTA—Members are being sought and changes proposed for the new standard for the design of high-performance green buildings published in January.

ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, is the first code-intended commercial green building standard in the United States. The standard provides a long-needed green building foundation for those who strive to design, build and operate green buildings. It covers key topic areas of site sustainability, water use efficiency, energy ef¬ficiency, indoor environmental quality and the building’s impact on the atmosphere, materials and resources.
Under ASHRAE’s continuous maintenance procedure, which allows requests for change to any part of the standard to be made at any time, changes have already been proposed.

“Given the high amount of interest in this standard, using continuous maintenance allows us to incorporate current technical information on a timely basis,” Kent Peterson, chair of the committee said. “These changes are then put out for public review and comment, which results in an industry consensus standard.”

Open for public comment are addenda a and b. Addendum a makes the daylighting definitions and criteria consistent with changes recently proposed to Standard 90.1, which sets requirements for energy efficient buildings. Addendum b reduces the space limitation for daylighting requirements. Rather than requiring daylighting in space larger than 1,000 square feet, the proposal would require it in spaces larger than 250 square feet.

Members also are being sought for the committee developing the standard with slots opening July 1. The deadline to apply is March 31. For more information on membership, contact standardssection@ashrae.org
For more information on the proposed addenda, visit www.ashrae.org/publicreviews. For complete information on the standard, visit www.ashrae.org/greenstandard.

Original post from ASHRAE

What Does a Green Building Contract Look Like?

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

In order to manage risk associated with a design and construction project, it is important to draft an appropriate contract. There are a number of standard contracts available for the construction industry. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) publishes the AIA construction contracts to manage the architect-owner relationship. The Association of General Contractors (AGC) has also created ConsensusDOCS contracts that are used between contractors and owners.

With the emergence of green buildings, new risks must be accounted for in contracts. The AIA has released AIA B214 to manage green building risks between an architect and owner:

B214–2007 establishes duties and responsibilities when the owner seeks certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®).

Among other things, the architect’s services include conducting a pre-design workshop where the LEED rating system will be reviewed and LEED points will be targeted, preparing a LEED Certification Plan, monitoring the LEED Certification process, providing LEED specifications for inclusion in the Contract Documents and preparing a LEED Certification Report detailing the LEED rating the project achieved.

Original Post by Chris Cheatham, Green Building Law Update

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