Earth Hour – Businesses raising awareness for energy conservation

Earth Hour

I think businesses like Google are doing an excellent job in raising awareness for energy conservation.  The Google home page is “blacked out” as they have “turned out the lights” as symbol to raise awareness for Earth Hour 2008.  It’s quite striking to see the normally white background on the Google home page suddenly go black.  While its not saving any energy doing this, it certainly is going to raise a lot of awareness to everyone that goes to Google to do a search.  I checked the other top search engines and I don’t see any reference to Earth Hour on their sites.  I admire Google for taking a strong stand and reaching out to their entire customer base.

Buildings represent the greatest opportunity for considerable reductions in CO2 emissions.

 On March 13th, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) issued a report stating “buildings represent the greatest opportunity for considerable reductions in CO2 emissions”.

“Every year, buildings in North America cause more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent’s total CO2 emissions.  In the United States alone, the total built floor space covers over 27 billion square meters, or more than five and a half times the size of Grand Canyon National Park.  According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, buildings represent the greatest opportunity for considerable reductions in CO2 emissions, with net economic benefit.”

If buildings are the greatest opportunity to reducing CO2 emissions, then what are the barriers?  The report stated “The barriers to doing improvements to existing buildings is understanding the lifecycle costs of the building.  Understanding the life-cycle costs of a building is still a significant challenge.”  Another barrier is split incentive.  “Often the one paying the bill and the one capturing the benefits differ.  A developer may not be interested in paying for green features when the benefits will be passed on to the new owners or tenants.”

“Green building will help ensure North American competitiveness in the global market for products, technologies, and practices essential to North America’s future. Such products, technologies, and practices include heating and cooling systems, advanced building materials, water-reclamation systems, high efficiency appliances, energy efficient lighting, construction and demolition debris recycling, and many more.”

I would highly recommend that you download the entire report from the CEC.

Furniture made from soft drink cans

Emeco StoolWe have selected furniture for the Thinkspace office and the one piece that I’m most excited about is the Phillippe Starck designed Emeco stool.  We have purchased these in bar stool height (14″ W x 14″ D x 30″) for the cyber cafe.

The stool is produced in the United States and is environmentally friendly.  80% of the aluminum is recycled.  Half is post consumer (soft drink cans) and half is postindustrial (manufacturing scrap).  The Emeco craftsman grind each weld flush to give it a seemless appearance.  The aluminum is three times stronger than steel and has a estimated life of 150 years.  It also comes with a life-time warranty.  Emeco started their business designing chairs for the U.S. Navy and one of the design requirements was that it be torpedo proof!  If you have the time, you should check out the video on YouTube that shows someone taking an Emeco chair and catapulting it into a brick wall 50 times.  It pretty much survives with very little damage!

By selecting environmentally sound product choices we expect it to provide us credit toward our LEED certification.  Also, there’s no off gassing because aluminum does not emit VOCs or aldehydes in any measurable concentration.  The things that I really like about this stool is the excellent craftsmanship, modern, elegant, attractive design and the fact that it costs about the same price as a nice stool made of plastic or wood.

It Pays to be Green – Conservation Grant Awarded to Thinkspace

Save Energy

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has awarded a $13,000 conservation grant to Thinkspace for energy efficient lighting retrofits.  Thinkspace’s plan calls for a reduction in energy consumption by approximately 21,106 KWH.  Annual energy cost savings are estimated to be a little over two-thousand dollars per year.  Our discussions with PSE have been on-going for three months.  It is much more difficult to qualify for a grant that I would have thought.  In the end I’m glad that it was not handed out so easily as I got to have a much better understanding about what it really takes to save energy.  A lot of hard work and analysis by the architect and electrical contractor have made this possible.  Read about the first post regarding “Incentives for Going Green“.

Freecycle or Craigslist – Keeping stuff out of landfills

I have five office chairs and a desk which a previous tenant had left behind when they moved out.  I knew that these items need to be given away so I decided I would give “freecycle” a try and see how it compares to Craigslist.  I’ve used Craigslist a lot in the past, as I tend to give away a lot of stuff which tenants tend to leave behind.  When I set up a “freecycle” account, I really did not like the fact that I had to use a Yahoo account.  While I already had a Yahoo account, it seemed silly that I had to use one in order to join a “freecycle” group.  The next thing that I did not really care for was when I posted on freecycle, I could not add a photo of the items directly to the posted entry.  I had to separately add the photo to an album else where on the site and make reference to it.  I did get immediate response from the posting and it was nice to get an email from someone in the neighborhood that was will to pick up a chair.  After a week, I only had one chair get picked up.  I’m going back to Craigslist and posting over there as it is way easier to get the posting listed.  I think the net result really is the same, free on Craigslist or free on freecycle, both keep things from going into the landfill.

Incentives for Going Green

Energy Efficient BulbOver the past few months, I have been searching for companies, organizations, government agencies that encourage other companies to go green with their tenant improvements.  One of the first places that I called was PSE (Puget Sound Energy).  I talked with an Energy Management Engineer and he was happy and willing to meet me at the building to discuss my goal of finding a way to reduce the building’s energy consumption by at least 30%.

I found out that PSE offers many different incentives to increase a commercial building’s energy efficiency.  One of the most attractive programs is their energy efficient grant which can pay up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and may fund up to 70 percent of the installed cost.  Grants often range from several hundred dollars to over a hundred thousand dollars.  While that might sound really great it’s not easy to eligible for a grant.  I have been going back and forth with my electrical contractor, architect, and PSE Energy Management Engineer to come up with an optimal plan.  This has been an exciting process for me as I look at all the possible ways to reduce energy in the building and do so in a cost effective manner.  I think it’s much easier for a building to go green from the ground up than for a building that is only seven years old and retrofitting green.

One area of focus is using energy efficient light fixtures and lamps.  My research uncovered that many older buildings use T12 lamps (the diameter is 1 ½” lamp and use 40 watts).  They are cheap and reliable and approximately 58% of the buildings out there still use them.  One of the big drawbacks is that they draw approximately 6.5 watts of power even when the lamps are burned out.  The PSE Energy Management Engineer stated it’s much easier for a building that is using T12 lamps to replace or retrofit those fixtures with T8 lamps (the diameter is a 1” lamp and use 28 watts) and obtain a energy grant.  The space that Thinkspace will occupy is in a building which is only seven years old.  The building is already equipped with T8 lamps which is part of the challenge of identifying ways to be even more efficient.  A key metric that PSE uses is the ratio of KWH energy saved versus the total cost of the upgrade (materials and labor).

The architect has been focusing on ways to make sure we are optimizing as much daylight as possible.  The electrical contractor is focusing on reducing our watts per SF, calculating our total KW consumption with various light fixtures, and recommending the use of higher performance ballast and lamps.  We’ve submitted our plan to PSE Energy Management Engineer and are now waiting to find out if our latest plan will be eligible for a energy grant.  I will report back once I hear from PSE.

How to Maintain Air Quality during the Demolition Stage (Part 2)

HVAC Return Duct

In addition to using HEPA air purifiers to maintain air quality during the demolition of the existing space, we also took a close look at the existing HVAC system.  Inside the space we have existing VAV (variable air volume) boxes.  VAV boxes are used to zone areas in large commercial buildings and also contribute significantly to the efficiency of the HVAC system.  On our existing VAV boxes we added additional filter media to ensure that we were not redistributing dust and other particulates in the air to other areas of the floor space.  We also used box filters and an extra layer of filter media on all return ducts.  This ensures that we were not bringing poluted air back into the HVAC system and redistrubuting the air to other areas of the building where other tenants would be impacted.

Filter Media

Energy Efficient Commercial Light Fixtures

Commercial Light FixtureElectricity is one of the largest expenses in a commercial office building.  Whether you’re the building owner or a tenant that is occupying a large space, it is good business to look for ways to reduce your energy consumption.  For a building owner it means lower utility costs, a more energy efficient, and desirable building.  For a tenant, if you have a triple net lease (NNN), that means lower operating costs.  For our project, we are looking to reduce our electricity consumption by at least 30%.  In addition to receiving the benefits listed above, we will also earn LEED points toward our certification.

One way we are reducing energy is by using energy efficient commercial light fixtures.  Initially, I thought that energy efficient light would be poor light quality with an ugly commercial looking lense cover.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this is not true.  The light fixture we selected is attractive with a contemporary appearance.  The smart design uses both a high performance ballast and lamp which provides a combination of direct and indirect light.  What I really like about the light fixture is that it looks great, the fluorescent lamps are not visible, and feels like more comfortable light with no glare.

Our LEED Recycling Goal

Demolition Chute

One of the LEED Certification goals is to divert construction, demolition, and packaging debris from landfill disposal.  Our personal demolition goal is to recycle 95% of all materials.  We started off our project with the Site Foreman telling all of our subcontractors that we don’t use the word “dump”.  All of the existing materials in the space that is removed will be recycled.  At the time of demolition we pile up similar types of materials into large piles.  All of the wood, cardboard, metal, plastics, low voltage wiring, sheetrock/gypsum, are stacked into individual piles.  Each of these items are then put into the debris chute which leads down to a container.  Each container is given a ticket number for tracking purposes.  We ensure that no garbage like McDonald’s trash is mixed up with our demolition debris.  The debris container is then taken to a recycling company which dumps out the contents of the container on a large warehouse floor.  The contents are then sorted out again and weighed.  A report will be issued with a detailed breakdown of how many tons of material were collected and a recycling rate will be determined.  Once I have received my first Recycling Rate Report, I will post the results.