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New and Notable

January 27, 2008
January/February 2008
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Toward a North American Building Performance Protocol

A milestone in international energy efficiency cooperation was reached on July 7, 2007, when the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Canadian home energy rating system, Canadian Residential Energy Services Network (CRESNET). The agreement between RESNET and CRESNET aims to harmonize the methodology used to determine how buildings are rated for energy performance in North America. The goal of the partnership is to create a consistent standard that will serve as a North American protocol for home energy efficiency. This will make it easier for home performance businesses to trade savings from building performance in the growing international carbon market.

CRESNET, like the American organization RESNET, seeks to set standards of practice and accreditation, provide a network for its members, and introduce the HERS index to Canada, among other services. If this all sounds familiar, it should. CRESNET states on its Web site, “CRESNET is associated with the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), based in San Diego, California. This relationship enables CRESNET to build upon the successful standards of RESNET.”

The elements of the agreement areas follows:

CRESNET becomes a formal international affiliate of RESNET. This will include ex-officio representation on the RESNET board of directors and the   creation of a Canadian rater category of RESNET membership.

CRESNET adopts the RESNET HERS Index methodology, where “0” represents a net zero energy home and “100” represents the standard Canadian new home, including all home energy uses.

CRESNET adopts RESNET rater certification, quality assurance, codes of ethics, and standards of practice procedures.

CRESNET and RESNET adopt common methods of calculating carbon emission savings from energy efficiency improvements.

CRESNET and RESNET will work together to aggregate carbon emissions reduced through increased building performance for the greenhouse gases emission trading market.

The agreement was signed by Steve Baden, RESNET executive director, and Bruce Gough, CRESNET president, at a ceremony held in conjunction with the World Green Building Council’s International Congress on July 8, 2007, in Toronto, Canada.

The agreement with the Canadian home energy rating system is the first international affiliation that RESNET has entered into. The agreement sets an important precedent for other organizations and for governments in other countries to create similar international agreements. Already RESNET is engaged in dialogues with the European Union and with the city of Shanghai, China, exploring how to partner with their respective building energy performance programs. This demonstrates that RESNET’s standards are highly regarded outside the United States, and that they are beginning to be emulated on the international stage. The agreement with CRESNET and future agreements with other nations will open up whole new windows of opportunity for the building performance industry.

The agreement further demonstrates the growth that has taken place in the global energy efficiency market. As organizations from different countries cooperate in their efforts to create efficient, healthy, comfortable, affordable, and sustainable homes, the international market for building performance will expand. A protocol for energy efficiency that is common to many nations will make savings from home energy efficiency an attractive option for international emissions trading. This, in turn, will lead to economic opportunities for the building industry and to a better environment for the world.

—Steve Baden

Steve Baden is the executive director of RESNET.

To find out more about the agreement between RESNET and CRESNET, go to http://cresnet.ca.



Building Materials Rescue

The nation is catching on to the practice of reusing building materials for residential building. This is a good reason to think about the future life of the building materials we are working with. When, once upon a time, buildings were constructed of materials such as old-growth redwood that never rots (and the likes of which we won’t see again), sturdy and stout beams of oak, and other timbers, who knew that these buildings’ members could be reshuffled into other buildings? For some houses, 85% of their components can be reused!

Builders and homeowners alike know that it’s a luxury to be able to rescue a building’s parts.  It takes time and effort to carefully pry apart studs with the intention of reusing them—and grading them before reuse, sometimes. In the past this would be done less for economic and environmental value than for the aesthetic value, charm, and funkiness that these wooden un-pressure-treated framing members, floors, doors, and windows provide. But the market is changing the economics of building materials reuse. With landfill prices increasing, and more people learning about the benefits of reuse, more people are looking into this practice. On October 18, 2007, The New York Times reported that “some 245,000 houses in the United States are razed each year, generating nearly 20 million tons of debris,” according to EPA data for 1996, the most recent year for which data are available. The article states that with the higher costs of dumping materials, deconstructors are seeking out more creative directions for their building parts, a practice I call materials rescue.

The article describes shopping for a used house part-by-part as an activity for the retired, who have more time than the working homeowner to research and wait for the perfect parts. But the author  also cites the popularity of building reuse professionals, building reuse supply stores (such as the Reuse People of America), and contractors who specialize in the careful deconstruction of a building with the intention of preserving usable materials. What’s refreshing about the change in attitude toward reuse is that it approaches the subject from an environmental and economic standpoint, rather than casting a trendy light on a hippie practice. The fees for dumping building materials are increasing at landfill sites, encouraging people to reuse those materials—by building retaining walls from urbanite—broken-up concrete—for example. But that’s only part of the story. There is a warm funkiness to reused materials such as well-worn hardwood floors, and hardware such as doorknobs and drawer pulls with a soulful patina. Homeowners and remodelers are setting this trend, reducing pressure on landfills and pocketbooks both, while increasing aesthetic value. If it’s being written up in The New York Times, it must be de rigueur.

For a listing of just a few of the many building materials reuse stores in the nation, go to www.buildingreuse.org/directory/lists.

For information about the Reuse People go to www.thereusepeople.org.


Affordable Housing in the Bronx

Morrisania Homes, a 64-unit affordable housing development in a once-forgotten suburb of the Bronx, was celebrated as the first of its kind in New York State.  At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer celebrated the cutting-edge design of the buildings and their LEED for Homes certification.

The project,  built by Blue Sea Development, received funding from New York State’s Affordable Housing Corporation. It consists of 64 units within 16 three-family and 8 two-family houses, all reserved for families of four earning less than $42,000. Steven Winter Associates (SWA) was the LEED for Homes and Energy Star provider. According to SWA’s newsletter, Party Walls, “the homes meet LEED criteria for water efficiency, sustainable site planning, energy efficiency, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and design process.” All of the homes meet the criteria of the New York State Energy Star-Labeled Homes program, which requires that energy consumption in these homes be at least 30% less than energy consumption in standard construction. These buildings include high-efficiency sealed-combustion boilers, Energy Star lighting fixtures, and recycled-content flooring.

For more information, go to www.swinter.com.


Software Helps Rate Home Performance

Architectural Energy Corporation’s REM:Rate  software has been accredited by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) as a performance path compliance tool for the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Architectural Energy Corporation creates software and hardware solutions to support the design of energy efficiency systems in both residential and commercial construction. This accreditation makes it easier to show compliance with the performance path of the IECC and makes it more likely that houses will be built using the performance path. The software’s whole-house approach models heating and cooling loads, mechanical equipment, and duct systems, and faithfully implements the IECC’s rules for performance-based compliance. It has passed RESNET’S rigorous testing policy for software to demonstrate accuracy.

As Dave Roberts of Architectural Energy Corporation says, “I’ve been involved with residential code compliance software for many years–supporting those involved with energy-efficient home design. As far back as the 1980s there have been performance-based paths in the model codes, but until now, there has never been a good way to demonstrate to code officials that software is accurately following the rules spelled out in the codes.”

For more information, go to the Architectural Energy Corporation Web site: www.archenergy.com.


NESEA’s Building Energy Conference & Trade Show Returns to Boston, March 11 – 13, 2008

Last year, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s (NESEA) Building Energy Conference, drew record attendance for three days of workshops, speakers, networking, a public forum, and a trade show for renewable energy and green building professionals.  This year, it is expected to draw over 3,500 participants with the same incredible leadership it has featured in the past with such luminaries as F.L. Andrew Padian of Steven Winter Associates, Incorporated. Alex Wilson, President, Environmental Building News (EBN) will give the keynote address for the plenary session on Wednesday morning. Wilson has been an expert in energy-efficiency and environmentally responsible design and construction for over 25 years. He is a former Executive Director of NESEA and a former board member of the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Tools, Actions, and Solutions,” the theme for BuildingEnergy08, will be highlighted by over 180 experts in various workshops and sessions. Topics will focus on: enclosures and energy; renewable energy systems for architects and designers; carbon foot-printing; measurement and verification in high performance buildings; offshore wind; wind and solar-powered buildings; super-insulated homes; innovative policy solutions for states and municipalities; multifamily updates including benchmarking, retrofits, rehab, and new construction; climate change; residential renovation; and air tightness versus ventilation among others.

Half-day and full-day workshops, to be held on Tuesday March 11, are designed to offer in-depth training for professionals and students who are entering this field, as well as experienced professionals seeking a deeper understanding of new issues and technologies.

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) advances the practical application and adoption of sustainable and low-carbon energy practices in the Northeast United States. NESEA accomplishes this through a number of ongoing programs and annual events including the Building Energy conference and trade show, professional education workshops, K-12 Education programs, the Green Buildings Open House Tour, and the Sustainable Green Pages.

For more information about BuildingEnergy08, “The Practice of Sustainability: Tools, Actions, and Solutions,” go to:
www.buildings.nesea.org, or call (413)774-6051.


“We’ll Leave the Light on For You” Gains New Meaning

We sometimes forget that dwellings include hotels and motels (as well as friends’ couches). An alarming number of frequent travelers—60% according to a Westin Hotels survey—drop some of their good conservation habits when they hit the road. Many travelers expect to have their sheets and towels cleaned each day, and many leave lights, energy-intense room heaters, and air conditioners on when they are gone from their rooms. One trend of strategically placed signage for the rooms invites guests to conserve energy by using the same towel more than once. But perhaps a more certain way for the hotels to reduce energy use is to install motion sensors to turn off the appliances for the guests, who though they may conserve at home, may feel the resources are already paid for.

In October 2007, Honeywell Utility Solutions won a $4.7-million contract with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to install sensors in hotel and motel rooms within PG&E’s Northern and Central California service areas. Sixty-six Motel 6s have signed up for the Cool Control Plus program, receiving motion sensors in 7,530 rooms at no charge to Accor Hotels (who operate Motel6). The sensors shut off lights, heaters, and air conditioners while the room is unoccupied. This can save up to $140 per room annually. Motel 6 could change its slogan from “We leave the light on for you” to “We turn the light off for you.”

For more information on Cool Control Plus, visit www.coolcontrolplus.com.

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