Let There Be (Natural) Light

Photo credit: Solatube

There is a huge movement afoot that, unless you are in the building industry, might pass right under your nose without you even noticing it. If you walk into a newly built home, office building, or by some off-chance a Macy’s warehouse, and happen to notice the great lighting that has been installed—the probability that the sun is beaming through those light fixtures is steadily increasing. Designed to look like normal commercial ceiling lights (unbeknownst to the average person), Solatube’s “Tubular Daylighting Devices” (TDD’s) are gradually becoming the norm for high-performance green buildings. From research alone that continually shows how beneficial natural daylight is for humans, it wouldn’t be crazy to think all new construction in 10 years will come equipped with some form of TDD’s. As Michael Sather recently told Verdical Group at a Lunch & Learn held in our office, “For us, energy savings is just the ice on the cake. The cake is really human performance.” Read more

Your Smartphone & the Future of Energy Management

Photo credit: Chai Energy

By now, everyone has heard of the “smart home.” Just in case you missed out on this buzzword, a home is considered “smart” if it is connected to the internet. This usually means that the appliances within a home are all wirelessly gathering data online via your Wi-Fi. They can then convert this data stream into useful information for you to use (i.e. your oven telling you the best temperature to cook a pizza). There is another interesting perk about smart home connectivity (the list keeps growing) that has just recently come to light. Through the power of smartphone apps, users can now gain information about and control certain smart appliances while they are away from their house. What is even more interesting, is that when these appliances are also connected to smart energy meters via Wi-Fi (there are about 52 million installed in the U.S. residential sector), the exact amount of energy that each one is consuming can be sent right to your phone in real-time. How can this data help the consumer in ways that traditional utility-provided energy consumption information doesn’t? What consumer-based smart energy management platforms are pushing us into a new age of energy awareness? Read more

Building Product Manufacturing Done Right

Photo credit: Mohawk Group

If you’re creating sustainable building products for some of the most progressive green buildings in the world, it makes sense for your own company office or studio to be certified in an equally ultra-green rating system. Surprisingly, there is only one building product manufacturer in the world that has received Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal Certification. Mohawk Group, a leader in the sustainable commercial flooring industry, has recently announced that their Light Lab—a renovated design studio in Georgia—achieved the prestigious Petal Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). This specific type of certification requires that a project fulfill the requirements in at least three categories of the Living Building Challenge, with at least one being from the water, energy, or materials category.

Read more

How is Biomimicry Inspiring Sustainable Design?

Photo credit: Inhabitat

Every year, about 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere from concrete production alone. As cities continue to grow (according to the UN, world urban populations are expected to increase by 84% by 2050), the amount of polluting building materials being created will increase right along with them. And it isn’t simply the materials that are causing problems. A study and report titled “Buildings and Climate Change,” completed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), revealed that “over 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions take place during the operational phase of buildings, when energy is used for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, and other applications.” The main problem with a building’s lifetime of energy consumption is that the energy is most likely coming from a fossil fuel-powered plant. How are we going to design buildings with harmless materials, both for our planet and the people occupying them? What can we utilize in our buildings to make sure their annual energy needs are kept to a bare minimum? Read more

Energy Modeling is Worth Every Penny

Photo credit: Michaud Cooley

“Energy modeling is a no-brainer for HOK…It’s like reading the MPG (miles per gallon) rating before you buy a car. It’s basic performance information every building investor should know.” Anica Landreneau, director of sustainability consulting at the global architecture firm HOK, was quoted saying this at a presentation she gave during the Better Buildings Summit in Washington, D.C.. The presentation covered—you guessed it—the benefits of energy modeling. But, just how important is this expensive, fancy computer software service? Won’t the engineers create an energy efficient building just fine without it? Read more

Building Commissioning Continued: CALGreen, Title 24, and LEED v4

                          Photo credit: Michaud Cooley

The commissioning (Cx) activities required for your project will vary depending on the certifying or regulatory agency. Most, if not all types of commissioning will require: Cx Specs, a Cx Plan, a review of the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) and the engineer’s Basis of Design (BOD), and verification of proper installation and performance of commissioned systems such as HVAC, lighting controls, and renewable energy. CALGreen goes a bit beyond LEED v4 Fundamental Commissioning by requiring irrigation system commissioning, a systems manual, and training for the building engineer. Title 24 goes even further by requiring design review and site built fenestration (windows built or assembled on-site) commissioning. If project teams wish to achieve the extra points in LEED v4 by pursuing Enhanced Commissioning, the Commissioning Agent (CxA) will have to include a post-occupancy review and either envelop commissioning (option 1) or a Measurement and Verification (M&V) plan (option 2).
Read more