Building Electrification: The Key to A Net Zero Future

What is Building Electrification?

In the effort to decarbonize future energy use, building electrification has been highlighted as one of the key ways to achieve the country’s carbon zero goals. The process of building electrification involves either new buildings being built with a completely electric infrastructure or retrofitting old buildings to rely solely on electric power. This includes not only applications such as light, heat and water, but also the installation of electric equipment such as electric cook tops and boilers.

Benefits to Building Electrification

A recent Urban Land Institute article makes the business case for building electrification. All-electric equipment powered by renewable energy is one of the first steps to reducing carbon emissions. This is crucial for both government and private real estate owners aiming for their net-zero goals because of the significant amount of fossil fuels used to keep commercial and residential real estate properties running.

From the initial building process to long term use, all-electric buildings have the potential to save significant amounts of money. Building all-electric from the start has less upfront costs and prevents having to spend money to integrate electric systems with the power grid later on.

In the city of San Francisco’s New Building Electrification ordinance, building electrification is cited as a solution to public health concerns as well. Unknown to many, the burning of fossil fuels indoors through gas cook tops and boilers can have a significant effect on the health of occupants who use them for everyday tasks. The fumes given off are detrimental to indoor air quality and can increase the risk for respiratory disease.

Current Progress in Building Electrification

There are already a few properties in the US turning towards building electrification by either retrofitting older buildings with all-electric equipment or using all-electric from the start. 30 Van Ness in San Francisco, California, is Lendlease’s first all-electric mixed-use development in the United States. E-commerce website Etsy’s 200,000-square-foot headquarters in Brooklyn, New York is powered solely by renewable energy. There is even a border entry center in Columbus, New Mexico that runs on solar power and harvests rainwater through recycled concrete “sponges”. You can see all of this project’s sustainability attributes here. A net-zero emissions future is possible, and building electrification is a necessary piece to make this vision a reality.

Doo Consulting has been ahead of the curve, focusing on the construction of greener buildings since 2007. Contact us if you are also interested in joining the effort to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in buildings.

In a New Infrastructure Plan, Biden’s Department of Energy Focuses on Cleaner Building Development

The Biden administration has proposed many plans to reduce the United States’ carbon footprint since coming into office. This is becoming more concrete as the Department of Energy has released a comprehensive plan and an announcement of $30 million dollars in funding to pivot into the construction of greener buildings. What exactly does the plan consist of and does it look promising as an effort to increase energy efficiency?

An Extension of the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative

This new plan is built upon the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative, which was launched about a decade ago. It was announced recently that the initiative had a sizeable impact by helping save $13.5 billion in energy costs and more than 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions through reduced energy and water consumption in the last year. 

To boost this initiative’s influence, the department aims for there to be an even heavier focus into cleaner buildings. Among the new partnerships with local governments are a low-carbon buildings pilot with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, efforts to increase market adoption of grid-connected heat pump water heaters in residential and commercial buildings, and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade program aspiring to improve efficiency in residential households that normally would not have access to greener solutions.

Why The Shift?

Both the Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and President of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) Paula Glover agree that the key to cutting the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions is in the energy usage of the country’s buildings. According to ASE, buildings make up about 40% of U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This fact is the reasoning behind the administration’s increased funding into greener infrastructure. 

The DOE’s report finds that one of the new aspects of the initiative, grid-interactive buildings, could decrease power sector emissions by 6% annually by 2030. These energy efficient buildings use smart technology that optimize energy use according to the needs and preferences of the grid services and its occupants. They also cite high goals such as tripling 2020’s levels of energy efficiency and demand flexibility, of the buildings sector by 2030.

Doo Consulting has been ahead of the curve, focusing on the construction of greener buildings since 2007. Among our specializations is Green Building Certification for a multitude of rating systems such as LEED, Green Globes, the International Green Construction Code, and the National Green Building Standard.  Contact us if you are also interested in joining the effort to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions in buildings. 

USGBC Maryland Wintergreen Award Winners!

Doo Consulting is proud to have contributed to two winning design teams at USGBC Maryland’s Wintergreen Awards for the innovation in LEED® sustainable building design.

The Wintergreen Awards recognize businesses and local projects that demonstrate exemplary performance in sustainability. They focus on the key attributes of sustainability: high performance building, healthy design, environmental stewardship, and community impact. They highlight these green building initiatives and achievements within the USGBC Maryland community.

JP2 Architects LEED® Certified Gold interior fit-out for their Dillon Street office won the Wintergreen award for commercial interiors. Their adaptive reuse of a long-existing building combined with their focus on occupant health highlights all of the attributes a Wintergreen Award winner should exemplify. They used only low impact materials, installed Energy Star® rated equipment and appliances, and incorporated daylighting opportunities through the installation of Solatubes – tubular daylighting devices that offer high-performance lighting and bring daylight into interiors spaces. These features helped to create an inspiring open office plan and optimal work environment.

The Richard and Virginia Holt Center in Chestertown, MD, converted a historically designated 1865 church into a new, state-of-the-art learning center for the community. With innovation in sustainable design being a primary goal, the foundation transformed the building into their office headquarters, an education center, and schooner project shop. The Holt Center is LEED® Certified Platinum, featuring a rooftop solar array that offsets 18% of the building’s total energy cost, and a 48% water-use reduction with the installation of low-flow, high-efficient plumbing fixtures. What is most impressive is how the Holt Center serves as a teaching tool for all who enter, making it the ideal winner for the Wintergreen Community Leader Award for innovation in New Construction.

Both Baltimore’s JP2 Architects and Chestertown’s Sultana Education Foundation are both owners that value a holistic design approach to construct efficient, high-performance buildings. Through their work they will continue to inspire the sustainable design community here in Maryland. Congratulations to both teams!

Living Heroes from Doo's crew receive Medals

Living Heroes from Doo’s crew receive Medals!

Living Building Challenge Heroes!

Peter and Lorraine Doo were both honored at the 2016 “unconference” of the Living Future Institute as Living Building Challenge Heroes (http://living-future.org/living-building-challenge/about/people/living-building-challenge-heroes) for their efforts in inspiring change in the way buildings are designed, built and operated. Their work on the Gaddy House in Maryland and the Charlotte Lovejoy Conservation Residence Hall in Florida,  both Living Building Challenge projects, have been opportunities to assist in exploring and finding creative solutions as these projects pursue Living Building Challenge certification. Read more

Harvard-Syracuse Demonstrate IAQ Improves Occupant Performance

Harvard-Syracuse Demonstrate IAQ Improves Occupant Performance

Where do you feel your best at work? Do you ever feel the need go for a walk outside to clear your head? If you answered those questions with, “I feel best in a room with fresh air” or “Yes, I enjoy getting out, the air helps me to think,” you are in lock step with researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health who recently issued a report confirming their findings that indoor air quality (IAQ) improves the performance of individuals in buildings.

In 2015, Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Syracuse University Center of Excellence issued a report on a double blind study providing results that indicate improved human performance measures among individuals placed in environments with better indoor air quality.

What is interesting about this study is the amount of control in the experiment’s protocols. The study included the creation of identical office environments with the ability to control air quality. Participants performed their normal work activities in these spaces. Air quality mimicked that in normal office conditions on both the lower and higher end of the spectrum. At the end of each day participants were subjected to a series of cognitive and performance tests. Neither the subjects nor the test administrators knew what air quality conditions had been provided for the day.

The results were dramatic. Cognitive performance of those who were exposed to better air quality was 60% greater than that of participants in the alternative environment!  When subjects were exposed to additional conditions simulating a higher ventilation rate, the cognitive scores were 101% higher.

Statistics such as 60% improvement and 101% improvement, when replicated over time, would give one cause to rethink the cost benefit of increased ventilation.  This enhancement is often rejected as a possible LEED credit to pursue because of its negative impact on energy performance.  While technology is providing solutions to the ventilation/energy balance initial costs and perceptions remain a factor in decision-making.  Given this study data, the formula for the cost benefit analysis when considering the potential impact on wellbeing, occupant performance and productivity, may bear a recalculation.

What of the building developer to whom direct benefits of occupant performance do not accrue? It would be unwise to advertise performance benefits of locating in such a building. A tenant whose productivity did not improve could justify a legal claim if a building developer advertised such benefits. Experiments and published results such as the Harvard/Syracuse study provide the evidence needed to make a case that is more than anecdotal. While a developer may not advertise that her building yields a more productive staff for its tenants, a tenant may seek a building with documented air quality with an understanding that such an environment could improve staff retention, worker satisfaction and performance. This could in turn improve occupancy rates, reduce vacancy durations, provide opportunities for higher rent or other benefits to building owners.

The implications of this report are significant. Its effect on the market is likely to be small for now. It is the first of many such studies that need to be done and whose results need to be broadcast. We encourage you to share this study and comment on this blog.

Lorraine Doo, LEED AP, is a partner at Doo Consulting and holds a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The firm has used its projects in a study on the relationship between green buildings and wellbeing. Contact us if interested in exploring the relationship between buildings and health.

Healthy Ground for a Healthy Environment

Healthy Ground for a Healthy Environment

Two articles on the benefits of cover crops to soil health crossed my desk this month. The simultaneity of these articles piqued my curiosity. One article, “A Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past,” was in the New York Times and the other, “Healthy Ground, Healthy Atmosphere,” was in Environmental Health Perspectives’, a National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences online publication.  The crux of these cover crop articles is that by maintaining plant cover in fields intended for cash crops, farmers are able to rejuvenate the soil, prevent erosion, reduce fertilizer use, decrease the fuel consumption (by not having to till or fertilize), retain moisture, increase yields while also sequestering carbon, recharge the aquifer, and protect the watershed. Whew! The economic benefit is substantial. Mr. Rulon, a farmer in Indiana estimates net annual economic benefit from using cover crops is more than $69 per acre. Read more

Imagine Bowie,” an “Appreciative Inquiry

“Imagine Bowie,” an “Appreciative Inquiry”

Doo Consulting participated in an Appreciative Inquiry workshop, led by Kauser Rasvi, of UPD Consulting, one of our partners on the creation of a sustainability plan for the City of Bowie, Maryland. Appreciative Inquiry is a technique of questioning and exploration (inquiry) to uncover the best ideas and talents within an organization or entity to realize a common goal. The approach focuses on “what do we want?” and “What are our strengths?” (appreciative) rather than “What’s the problem that needs solving?” or “What are our weaknesses?” With nearly one hundred participants, Ms. Ravsi, assisted by Doo Consulting partners and staff, led the group in a full day workshop to “Imagine Bowie” as a more sustainable city in the future. Specific goals and tactics were developed during a “design” phase of the workshop. The products of the day are being used to develop the City’s sustainability plan

Doos New Year Innovation Blog

Doos New Year Innovation Blog

THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE RED FIRE MONKEY!  We all know that the monkey is a clever and playful animal who can be an effective problem solver but also a trickster.  Year of the monkeyAs we celebrate 2016’s Year of the Red Fire Monkey, there should be exuberance, entertainment and time for devoted entrepreneurs to carry on their innovative ways.  However, those looking for quick and easy solutions could get duped as some monkey spirits will be on the ball, and quick to have their fun and games.

Doo Consulting wishes all of its colleagues, clients and friends the very best in 2016. Though it is the year of the Fire Monkey, according to Chinese Five Elements Horoscopes, Monkey also contains Metal and Water. Metal is connected to gold. Water is connected to wisdom and danger. Therefore, we will deal with more financial events in the year of the Monkey. Metal is also connected to the Wind. That implies the status of events could change very quickly. Think twice before you leap when making changes for your finance, career, business or personal relationships in 2016. Your individual prospects for the year can be found here.

DOO’S NEWS

We want to thank everyone who is a part of our ever expanding network. Our portfolio grew in geographic and economic breadth. We returned to our consulting roots with the opportunity to work on the development of sustainability plans for the City of Bowie, Maryland, and the Broadmead Retirement Community. A new accreditation in the WELL Building Standard

Read more

What’s the Buzz about Buildings being WELL

What’s the Buzz about Buildings being WELL™?

WELL Buildings are suddenly the rage among designers! Once upon a time, you could barely get LEED from their lips.  So this is good news in some ways; and a little odd in other ways.  Are you part of the movement to incorporate health and well being in your design and development decisions? Are you getting questions from your clients and tenants and potential partners about wellness initiatives? Engagement in personal health issues is popular with the millennial and the “Z” generations, and the boomers are interested in fitness, nutrition, food quality, and transparency (show me).
outdoors
This is a nation of amazing contradictions, paradoxes and ironies. In the United States, there is an extreme hyper consciousness about allergies to foods and food groups that did not exist 40 years ago – for example, Read more

Is our consumerism “Green-Washing” Out Earth Day? Not anymore…

Is our consumerism “Green-Washing” Out Earth Day? Not anymore…

By: Leyla Balimtas

When it comes to saving the environment, a single person can feel pretty powerless in making a change, but partnering with a group of people can make anyone feel like a lot is actually possible, even when everyone has not adopted the same opinion about conservation or environmental issues.

Earth day will be celebrating its 45th year in 2015. And over the years, it has come to represent a day to foster awareness and appreciation for environmental issues.

Earth day was inspired by a horrific oil spill in 1969, when US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin witnessed the accident when he visited site. Soon after, a bill was passed, designating April 22nd as a national day to “celebrate the earth.” At the time, Americans were driving huge cars that used leaded gas and allowing industries to belch out smoke and sludge with impunity. With the foundation of this national holiday, Earth Day quickly became an “environmental teach in” day that inspired a much needed response to environmental problems at a grassroots level. In fact, more than 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated in that first Earth Day 45 years ago. While the US honors Earth Day in April, the United Nations picked up the cause in 1971, and started the first UN Earth Day on the equinox, which occurs in March.

The tenets of Earth Day are certainly not new when looking at simple examples, such as recycling and up cycling during the Great Depression. Before the 1960’s, re-use and re-purposing were practiced by necessity, and very effectively. As the economy improved, and manufacturing expanded, those “shiny new things” replaced the useful and functional jewels of the family hearth because of the status they provided, and Americans adopted a disposable economy.

 

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Ultimately, we are all enrolled in the same, “school of Life” and have discovered that there is no “away” where we can throw our “shiny things” when they are no longer shiny. There has in fact been no answer to the question of, “where exactly is away?” So Earth Day began to have an impact, along with other programs and emerging information.

Recycling is one small example of how Earth Day has changed behavior. For example, after Earth Day’s first year, 3,000 voluntary recycling centers were established in the US; after 10 years, more than 200 cities began operating municipal recycling programs. Besides this, there are hundreds of other examples and opportunities for individuals and groups. And all of these will make a difference. Want some ideas?  Start here:

Earth day is promoting its Billion Acts of Green® (BAG), the largest civic action movement in the world. Since they’ve already EXCEEDED the billion mark with over 1.12 billion actions to date, the new goal is 2 billion Acts of Green by April 22nd.

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Here are some things YOU can do:

  1. Just learn more about the environment. Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about some aspect of the environment and what you can do to protect it. Borrow some library books (or an ebook or audio book) and read about something that you are curious about. Become a kid again and start asking questions:
    • Who are all the endangered species? Why are we running out of water if the ocean is so vast? What makes pollution anyway?!!
    • Discover a region of the earth you don’t know much about, such as the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, the deserts, or the rainforests.
  2. Join a local group that is involved in activities working on issues related to the environment– like foraging, planting a community garden, cleaning a steam… find a Meet Up that is interesting in your area.
  3. Challenge yourself to “shop around the edges of the grocery store” – Buy as little as possible from the middle aisles, and avoid items that are sold in packages. Consider writing a letter to manufacturers and ask them to try to find more sustainable ways of packaging their items. Start a challenge or contest in your own company and see what happens. Blog about it. Try it at your local school.
  4. Take your drink container with you during the day; avoid disposable plates and cutlery. Challenge your co-workers to do the same.
  5. Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Use a cloth bag for carrying things and recycle your plastic bags.
  6. Go through your home and find things that you have not used or worn for more than a year. Either make something with those items, or give them away.
  7. If you have children, and they have things they have not played with for more than a year, do the same thing with them. By giving their old toys and games to someone else – either a sibling who is younger, or to someone another person, children learn about giving to others and about reusing and recycling instead of throwing things away.
  8. Research product exchange communities in your area like Freecycle or other similar options.

If you want help getting a re-use/re-purpose or other social good program started in your company, contact our office at info@dooconsulting.net

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