The following post is by James Jenkins:
There’s been a lot of controversy over the expense and effectiveness of LEED certification. The controversy is affecting the perception of LEED, driving governments to remove laws requiring certification for publicly funded projects and pushing organizations that used to pursue Gold at a minimum to pursue Silver as a maximum. It’s a disturbing trend that is ill-informed.
Many projects achieve LEED certification without any impact to their construction budget. Of course there are registration and certification fees that cannot be avoided but those costs are generally inconsequential. The costs to achieve LEED that do get noticed are the ones that change the design. Often times the contractor is not expected to change the outcome of LEED certification as many of the decisions and features were included during design. However, the contractor can contribute significantly by taking an active and educated role in the LEED process.
Design Document are not Absolute: Work with and educate your entire team and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
On a project we recently completed for Celgene we were able to achieve 30% Recycled Content, well beyond the initial 10% that was indicated on the LEED Scorecard. By identifying all scopes of work that could contribute Recycled Content and working directly with our subcontractors to help them understand what we were looking for and the documentation we needed to support it we were able to substantially increase the recycled content and contribute an additional 2 points to the project. Collaboration and education were key to accomplishing this.
Know the Intent of a LEED Credit and Get Creative: Many LEED Credits are achieved using one of few technologies or methodologies but sometimes simple, creative solutions can be used with little added cost.
At Northeastern University’s Seattle Campus we initially dismissed achieving LEED CI EA Credit 1 for HVAC Zoning because two private offices shared a single VAV box and the cost was determined to be prohibitive to add an additional one. The fact that we were so close to meeting the criteria kept nagging at the team. One day someone asked why we couldn’t control a damper using the occupancy sensors already installed for the lighting. It turns out that we could! While, not a typical way to achieve the credit the USGBC agreed that this simplified occupied/unoccupied status of providing ventilation to the space sufficiently met the zoning criteria.
Understand the Goals, Build it Effectively: If you understand the end goal, not the specific technology, you can find better solutions at a lower cost without affecting the project.
Plymouth Housing’s LEED Platinum Williams Apartments included a solar thermal system in the design. Initially, the project assumed that evacuated tube collectors would be used on the project, indeed the attractiveness of this newer technology and the capacity to produce higher temperature water appears to be the best option. However, looking at total cost combined with efficiency led us to a different conclusion. In our research, on a flat roof where the angle we could set the collectors was infinite the efficiency of the two systems were nearly identical and the costs roughly the same for the same heating capacity. However, the evacuated tube collectors needed twice the roof area, twice the racking, more connection points in the roof and longer piping. The flat plate collectors were the lowest first and life-cycle cost. The savings between these two systems allowed us to include upgrades elsewhere that further enhanced the sustainability of the project.
As you can see, these examples did not involve spending large amounts of money but raised the certification level for each project. There are more than enough examples of LEED by addition and these are the projects that give opponents of LEED something to argue. These projects prove that LEED can be a tool of inspiration, when used as such pushes everyone on a team to do more with the same, or less, resources.
James Jenkins is the in-house Sustainability Manager and Net Zero Specialist for BNBuilders in Seattle. James has completed dozens of LEED projects and three Living Building Challenges.
The following post is by Silicon Energy:
Two Washington-based companies said they are joining forces to make solar systems easier to install and more flexible than traditional roof- or ground-mounted modules.
Silicon Energy, a solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer, and CrystaLite, a skylight and sunroom manufacturer, will create pre-engineered, integrated-PV systems. The new structures — including patio and carport coverings, electric car charging ports, and picnic shelters — will let solar contractors offer customizable, durable PV systems.
Silicon Energy said the modules are strong enough to withstand harsh weather and were recently rated the most durable among competitors by the federally funded National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
They were introduced at the recent Living Future's unConference in Seattle.
Silicon Energy said its double-glass design allows light transmission through the PV module with a mounting system that fully encloses and protects the system wiring, delivering an aesthetically pleasing and practical shelter. The open-framed, shingle-like mounting of the Cascade Series PV Module and Mounting System maximizes shedding of snow, dirt and debris from the modules, which optimizes performance.
Silicon Energy’s modules come with a 30-year power warranty, a 125-psf load rating and Class-A fire safety rating.
"A paradigm shift is needed in how we look at PV,” said Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver. “We need to think beyond the roof and fields and integrate PV even more into our local communities, bringing the beauty and benefits of distributed generation of PV into our built environment.”
The systems will be available starting in July.
Silicon Energy was founded in 2007 and is located in Washington and Minnesota. More information is at www.silicon-energy.com.
Founded in 1982, CrystaLite is a Washington-based manufacturer of roof glazing, sunrooms and railing systems that are built by local employees. Primary vendors are in Portland and Hood River, Ore., and the company says 80% of its raw materials are from Washington and Oregon. For more information about CrystaLite, Inc., visit www.CrystaLiteInc.com.
In this week's DJC, I've got a story on the replacement of a school in Kirkland called Finn Hill Junior High that has a number of interesting elements to it.
First, the project will have a 400-kilowatt photovoltaic system that will produce almost half of the school's energy. Second, the school is "net zero energy ready," meaning it could produce all its own
Oftentimes when little things go wrong on a project, nobody notices. The benefit of a post occupant study is that it looks at how a building performs once it is actually in use, allowing the team to go back and fix any problems that may have come up. Unfortunately, post occupancy studies are not always (or often in some cases) required on projects. Meaning something tiny - the wrong setting or a switch that was never flipped - can waste energy for years. It can also be unclear who pays for post occupancy studies, though many firms in the Seattle area are using them more and more.
But most firms won't tell you when something's gone wrong. However Mahlum has spoken publicly about failures a previous project - Benjamin Franklin Elementary - had meeting its energy goals. The failures were fixed but the really cool thing is that the firm is willing to talk about what it did wrong
Anjali Grant, project manager with Mahlum, said the school lost a lot of heat at Ben Franklin through its ventilation system. At Finn Hill, heat recovery units will capture heat in the ventilation system. There will be a mixed-mode system, allowing it to be naturally cooled when it is warm out and mechanically ventilated when it is cold to preserve heat.
It will do a post occupancy study of Finn Hill about a year after it has been occupied. “I think its really important to go back and check out the numbers after a project is done and occupied, otherwise you don't really know anything. It's really a good value for everybody,” Grant said.
For the new year, I wish other firms would tell you, easily and simply, what they've done wrong and what they've done right. A tough wish I know but like Grant says, it's a good value for everybody. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or comment here if want to share your Seattle area experiences.
I've been through about an eighth of the GreenBuild Exhibition floor so far and wanted to share two of the things I've seen with you.
These are the Sanyo bifacial panels that will be on the Bullitt Foundation's Living Building on Capitol Hill. The collect energy from both sides while letting some light in at the same time. Bullitt was attracted by the transparency of the panel.
And this is the BioNova Natural Swimming Pool. The swimming pools use natural systems (meaning plants in gravel) instead of chlorine and other chemicals to treat water. That means the water color is darker, looking more like a lake than a traditional pool. It also means that people that use them need to get used to the idea of sharing their pool occasionally with frogs or other critters. James Robyn, CEO of the company, said the pools aren't for everybody. "Whoever doesn't like that sort of thing shouldn't do this."
Robyn said the pool technology came from Europe, where it has been used for 20 years. He said it has a low carbon footprint, is all natural and is "perfectly healthy." Robyn, who is based in New Jersey, said he's being asked about the pool system all across the country. In fact, he was in Seattle giving a lecture last month though he said there are not yet any of his pools in process in the Seattle area.
There are basically five ways to build the pools but each involves about 1 square foot of treatment space for 1 square foot of pool. That means if you want an 850-square-foot-pool, you need 850 square feet of treatment space. It's more expensive but it certainly looks cool!
For more on BioNova, check out its Web site.
Cast architecture, a Seattle firm that focuses on using renewable energy, sustainable construction and innovative design to improve urban life, has an idea it says could lead to a network of solar-powered pocket parks that generate energy.
Cast said it is working with two community groups, Groundswell NW and the Sunset Hill Community Association, to turn a decommissioned electrical substation on 65th Street in Ballard into a park with photovoltaic solar canopies.
Matt Hutchins of Cast said the idea surfaced when Seattle City Light began the process of selling surplus land, including a substation in Sunset Hills. Neighbors wanted more open space rather than a new development, he said.
The proposal shows a 32-kW solar canopy, a large play area, plantings and a sculptural landscape element nicknamed the “Wedge.”
It would provide a gathering place as well as demonstrating renewable energy. Stormwater collected off the panels would feed a water feature, irrigate plants and could be filtered for potable use during an emergency.
Solar panels and equipment would be made in Washington to take advantage of new incentives to create green-collar jobs. Cast estimates the canopy would generate about 35,000 kWh a year. Revenue from selling the electricity would help maintain the park.
Hutchins said the group has finished a feasibility study and is starting to raise funds, expecting a mix of grants, public money, and private donations. The parkscape would be funded by private individuals.
Based on current estimates, the hard and soft costs would total around $996,000, Hutchins said. Land acquisition could add another $570,000.
He said construction is tentatively slated for 2011.
More information about the project is at www.SunsetSubstation.org.
In June, the Seattle Aquarium installed its first solar hot water demonstration system. The system preheats water used in the second flood cafe by way of five solar panels that are located on the building's south facing wall.
A press release from A&R Solar Corp., the company that installed the system, says the solar system isn't just doing well. It says the solar collectors are offsetting almost double their expected amount. Reeves Clippard, president and co-founder of the company, said if solar works this well in Seattle, "the rest of the country has no excuse not to act now."
Honestly, I don't really know what to make of this. It's a good thing that the system is performing so well. But a system that produces double what the models said it would makes me wonder what exactly that baseline was. Then again, we have had an amazingly hot, bright and sunny summer.
The system has a monitoring device that will eventually allow visitors to see how it is performing in real time. It uses Heliodyne Gobi flat-plate solar hot water collectors.
BigBelly trash compactors that is. What's that you say? You don't know what a BigBelly is, other than the thing that seems to sit on your father in law's middle? Well friends, a BigBelly is a trash compactor that holds five times the trash of a normal can. And Seattle - which had three in March of 2008 - is about to be getting 20 more.
First, some history. I wrote about the BigBelly in March of 2008 here in the DJC after meeting
In 2008, Poss said the cans cost between $3,000 and $4,000 but pay for themselves quickly. Poss also said Seattle is a great climate for these things, because they work on ambient light, which exists when it is cloudy or rainy.
In Seattle, the 20 BigBellys will be placed along Third Avenue between Stewart and University streets by the Metropolitan Improvement District and Seattle Public Utilities. There will supposedly be a celebration at the first installation tomorrow (Saturday) from 10:30 to 11 a.m. at the west side of Third Avenue near the Stewart Street intersection.
Now, 20 BigBellys (which at $3,000 a pop totals $60,000) may seem like a big deal. But it's not. Not when you compare it to Philadelphia, that is, which has replaced 700 downtown garbage cans with 500 BigBellys, according to the AP story which ran in the DJC last week. The story says the cans cost between $3,195 and $3,995 each (do the math, even at the lower end, it cost Philly about $1.6 million) but should save $875,000 per year, basically paying for itself in two years and then continuing to save money after. A press release for the MID says Philly plans to save $13 million over the next 10 years from the compactors
The story says the cans in Philly will be emptied five times a week as opposed to 19 times for a regular trash can. The cans also have a wireless monitoring system to tell the city when they are full.
But here's the interesting part: how many cans has Seattle been testing for over a year now? Three. How many cans did Philly test for a year before ordering 700? Three. I'm sure part of that difference has to do with the fact that Philly got some sort of a grant (the story doesn't say what) for installations. But I think it still underscores how cautious Seattle is about making big decisions. Is Seattle too cautious here or is it smart not to jump into something like this too quick? (If you want to read the negative perspective of BigBelly, check out EcoMetro here.)
The AP story says Philly's not the only one with BigBelly fever. Boston has 160, says they aren't concentrated enough and wants more. Entities in New York are using 100. Chicago has 60, and they are being used in parts of Australia, Israel and France.
Seems like somebody at least thinks they're a good concept.
And even if if weren't a good concept, the BigBelly sure inspires some great quotes. When I spoke with Poss for the 2008 article, he described BigBelly as "carpooling for trash."
And the AP story says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter inititially asked, "What? Who's got a big belly?" when he was introduced to the devices.
What do you think? Is there enough of a payoff for Seattle to invest in more of these or is our system just fine the way it is?
Some keynote speakers leave you satisfied, some leave you disappointed and some leave you angry that you just wasted two hours of your time. Then, there are keynote speakers like Janine Benyus that leave you wanting more.
Benyus spoke last night at the Living Future Conference in Portland. Her talk was warm, personal, funny
and informative. Having never heard Benyus speak before, I now understand why she's considered such a big deal. The talk was pretty amazing.
The talk began with Sam Adams, Portland’s mayor (who is funny!!!), welcoming people to Portland. He was pretty straightforward about the general fear that you can’t make any money being green. Not true, he said: “If you take nothing else away from your trip to Portland, take this away: you can make money being very, very green.” Portland, he said, keeps millions in its economy because of its public transportation and green business.
Jason McLennan, Cascadia’s CEO then glowingly introduced Benyus, saying “I think you’re one of the most important figures in the planet today, period… I think you represent our species really well.” Not every day you hear that!
Then Benyus took the stage. She said the uncertainty in today's financial markets can be used to the benefit of biomimicry, building design and creating a better world. When cultural certainties disappear, she said, so does arrogance. She said the recession is creating a similar attitude that happened after the World Trade Center attacks – where “the world is open to listening to the next question ... As long as they’re listening, let’s make the vision as big as we can."
In this same vein, she said building models for a place can be created by looking at how natural organisms in a location treat things like fire, wind etc. “Our buildings could have general organisms as their models.”
Benyus said she hopes we will be able to fly over cities in the future, and have them be functionally indistinguishable from the natural environment. That, she said, would be sustainability.
Benyus also plugged a tool she has been working on for the past year called asknature.org. The tool, she said, allows designers to ask how nature would fix a problem and learn from it. She also discussed how future areas of technology can be inspired by animal organisms. She and Paul Hawken, for example, are working on a new solar cell that is inspired by photosynthesis.
But in the end, she said, new technology or new laws aren't going to save us from ourselves. She said the only thing that can save us is "a change of heart and a change of stance towards the rest of the world."
These are just a few of the items she discussed. For more, stay tuned to a future story in the DJC. If you attended the talk, please comment below and tell me what you thought of it – or what you’ve thought about Benyus’ previous talks. If you didn’t attend the talk, I'd love to hear your comments. Is mimicking nature the future of building? How important is it compared to meeting netzero energy or netting zero water?
Wired magazine's Wired Science blog had a great post recently about Solyndra, a three-year old company that makes very out of the ordinary solar panels indeed. Instead of the typical panel we know and love (or hate) that are flat and mounted up towards the sun, these solar cells are cylindrical and look like a long tube. They also contain no silicon.
The panels are marketed towards offices. According to Solyndra's Web site, wind blows through the tubes so no rooftop anchoring is required, making them a cost-effective business solar solution (wow, what a mouthful!) So far, the company says it has $1.2 billion in multi-year contracts in Europe and the U.S.