Could Your Building Pass This Passive House Exam?


The Montgomery Primary School in Exeter is the first passive house building built in the UK by a big contractor.

If this school were sitting a zero-carbon design exam it would get a very good mark. Take a look at its answer paper. Use of proven low energy design methodologies: tick. Use of robust construction techniques: tick. Use of renewable technologies with very generous government grants: tick. Potential to form a standardised design for use in other schools: tick. Future-proofed against climate change: tick.

Passivhaus school design | iPHM international Passive House Magazine – 100% hand picked news

Cool Roofs Critical To Defeat Global Warming

Sean Fitz of Kenn for Green has an article about cool roofs featuring the Menlo Park Green Ribbon Committee’s Alex Cannara’s crusade to get us all to install or retrofit cool roofs in Menlo Park and around the world:

Painting your roof white your cause this process to be greatly reduced, which in turn reduces the heat and infrared energy produced. This in turns keeps structures and areas cooler causing less energy to be expended in cooling.

But Mom, I Don’t Wanna Be LEED!

But Its Delicious!
But It's Delicious!

Remember when you were a kid and your Mom told you to do something “just because I said so.” Didn’t that make you not want to do it? But when she said “if you do it, I’ll get you some ice cream!” you were much more motivated, weren’t you?

Don’t tell me what to do; instead, make it worth my while to do the right thing – and then I’ll probably do it.

There was an interesting post a few days ago on the Consilience blog about local incentives and mandates for green buildings around the country:

I particularly like the Portland “feebate” program, which:

… allows the city to assess a fee against developers who have constructed buildings that only meet the state building code. But this fee is waived for buildings that achieve at least a Silver LEED certification. Buildings which achieve LEED Gold or Platinum certification will receive rebates for their accomplishment. This will be a self-sustaining program by using the fee revenues collected from those buildings which are not LEED certified to finance incentives for the green buildings.

The fact that the program is self-sustaining is critical in these cash-strapped times.

There are other approaches to incentives – for example, Sunnyvale’s new green building program includes FAR (floor area ratio) and building height incentives for achieving goals above the base mandate; for residential buildings, the bonuses include height and density, for multi-residential, and additional lot coverage for single-family homes.

What green building mandates and incentives are you particularly excited by? Answer in the comments section.

McKinsey & Co: Energy Efficiency is Like Free Money

Reflection
We're leaving money on the table by not improving energy efficiency (image by pfala, CC 2.5 licensed)

Would you spend $520 to save $1,200? That’s the choice McKinsey & Co is offering to the U.S. about energy efficiency. In their new report on energy efficiency, released last week, McKinsey shows how the U.S. can reduce its non-transportation energy use by 23%, eliminate the emissions of 1.1 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually, and save $1,200 billion, for a cost of about $520 billion.

They do recognize that achieving these results requires some new thinking on our parts:

Such energy savings will be possible, however, only if the United States can overcome significant sets of barriers. These barriers are widespread and persistent, and will require an integrated set of solutions to overcome them – including information and education, incentives and financing, codes and standards, and deployment resources well beyond current levels.

The report not only provides the conclusions, but also the steps we can take to address barriers and achieve the desired results. They suggest an overarching strategy, including the key point that “energy efficiency is an important energy resource to help meet future energy needs…” and the need for an integrated portfolio of different approaches to unlock the full potential of energy efficiency.

Link

We Must Reduce Energy Use, Not Just CO2 Emissions, To Prevent Catastrophic Global Warming

playing with fire
Playing With Fire (image by charles chan, CC 2.0 license)

An article in Sunday’s Science Daily reports on research showing that more than half of the Earth’s warming since the dawn of the industrial age is due to the heat released from our energy use, not atmospheric warming due to the greenhouse effect.

While the greenhouse effect is still a significant contributor – and will become more so as GHG levels in the atmosphere rise – simply the heat released when burning fuels is also being stored in the atmosphere, as well as in the earth, sea, and arctic ice.

The researchers have calculated that the heat energy accumulated in the atmosphere corresponds to a mere 6.6% of global warming, while the remaining heat is stored in the ground (31.5%), melting ice (33.4%) and sea water (28.5%). They point out that net heat emissions between the industrial revolution circa 1880 and the modern era at 2000 correspond to almost three quarters of the accumulated heat, i.e., global warming, during that period.

Their conclusion is that simply capturing our CO2 emissions, will not prevent global warming. We have to actually reduce the amount of heat we are releasing into the world via our energy use – which mostly involves burning things, and therefore generating waste heat.

The good news is that solar photovoltaics, wind power, even solar thermal generate much less, or even negative, waste heat than either conventional energy sources, or nuclear energy. And of course energy efficiency is the cheapest and most cost-effective mitigation we have at our fingertips.

Link

Australian solar and geothermal cheaper than coal and nuclear within 15 years

According this this analysis, from New Energy World Network, within 15 years the cost of concentrating solar power will be less than the cost of “clean” coal, at least in Australia. The analysis is based on the rates of change in cost between the two energy sources. With the cost of coal increasing, relatively, and CSP decreasing, the cost lines eventually cross, leaving CSP cheaper.

In addition, the article mentions offhandedly that connecting the Queensland and South Australian electricity grids would “likely pay for itself quickly just in increased efficiencies brought to the existing grid.”

The average Australian household could pay up to 30 per cent more per year by 2025 for electricity generated from coal and nuclear power than from concentrating solar and hot dry rock geothermal power, according to clean energy organisation DESERTEC-Australia.

This idea illustrates the kind of synergies that we need to find throughout the energy economy.

Link

(H/T to Benjamin Chambers for the link to the article.)

China’s Coal Plants Getting Less Dirty, How To Rebuild The Built Environment, Who To Follow on Twitter

industry
Smokestacks (image by shoothead, CC 2.0 licensed)

Some good news from China this week, and a blueprint for addressing the huge amount of energy used, and GHG’s generated, by the built environment:

Structural Problems In The Economy, and How Britain Can Go Renewable

lasso
Roundup Time! (image by williac, CC 2.0 licensed)

Some more roundup links. These pages have been hanging around in my browser for weeks, waiting for me to blog about them. As with the links I posted earlier this week, I consider these “go to” articles and sites – continuously interesting and relevant.

Let me if you have a chance to read any of these pages or sites. I’d love to hear what you think.

AIA 2009 Conference Handouts Online – A Great Resource

2009 AIA Convention Registration, Moscone Center, SF (image by F.J., CC 2.0 licensed)
2009 AIA Convention Registration, Moscone Center, SF (image by F.J., CC 2.0 licensed)

I got my first issue of GreenSource magazine a few days ago (a gift subscription from my daughter – well done Julia!) and it’s filled with good stuff.

One of the many fun features is a page on “GreenSource Top AIA Convention Picks” – referring to the American Institute of Architects convention which was held last week in San Francisco. They list twelve sessions, from the dozens on the program, that they think would be of the most interest to their readers. Well, even though I live in the Bay Area, I missed the convention, but on the AIA convention site I found they have handouts from many of the sessions, including a number that GreenSource recommended.

On the AIA 2009 National Convention Education Seminar Materials page you can find such presentations as:

Obviously, just having the materials is not as good as attending the sessions themselves, but they often do allow you to get a sense of the topic.

I hope the AIA keeps this page up and open to the public – it’s a great resource!

German Solar PV Manufacturer Stakes a Claim in the U.S.

Top of Mt. Hood, Oregon
Mount Hood, Oregon (image by Tony the Misfit, CC 2.0 licensed)

The New York Times on Sunday reported about Solar World‘s new solar panel plant in Oregon. The Germany company is making a big ($300 million) bet that the United States is the place to be if you are a solar panel manufacturer.

The message for solar companies, Mr. Pichel says, is “get your butt over to the U.S. if you want to participate and get some of that stimulus package money.”

Solar photovoltaics still account for less than 1% of the electricity generated in the U.S. today. However, the article reports that in various markets, including California, the number of solar panels installed is doubling every year. At that kind of growth – even if it slows down slightly due to the current recession and credit crunch – in five to ten years solar electricity could account for a much more significant share of the electricity supply.

I’ve been focused lately in the blog on energy efficiency, and not so much on alternative energy sources, so it’s good to see that there’s still a lot of momentum going on there!