Archive for the ‘LEED’ Category

Programmable Wifi Thermostats

The Nest

When most of us think about a HV/AC system, we usually picture an older furnace- rarely would we picture a sleek thermostat that connects to a wifI system. However, this seems to be the future of energy controls for commercial and residential buildings.

Since 2008, manufacturers have offered thermostats that can connect to a wifi system, thus allowing control and access to the system via the internet. This has been a great upgrade, but until now many of the programmable thermostats have been confusing to use. In fact, the US Dept of Energy realized that most people who purchased programmable thermostats, actually used more energy than before, because they were too complicated to use.

So in an effort to make programmable thermostats more user friendly, several companies have begun to create systems that can be controlled by a computer using a program like Microsoft Outlook set set room temperatures.  Other companies, have also begun to make intuitive thermostats that create a pattern of use based on how you adjust the temperature over a period of a few weeks.

With heating and cooling systems accounting for 16% of the electricity in the USA, and more than half of the energy consumed in a house, HV/AC systems will continue to be a focus for utility companies as they try to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. This trend will likely also become a focus of more and more churches, facility managers, and home owners as the cost of energy continues to rise.

After all, the less money that people and organizations are forced to pay for utilities, operations, and energy, the more money they have to support the mission and programs that they value. For more information about changing HV/AC systems, please read the following articles:

Blog notes: Several of the stats given in this blog were pulled from these  two articles. The picture above comes from several sources and is provided by the company and can be found on their website- http://www.nest.com

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As cities continue to grow and add building and parking lots,  storm water runoff is becoming a big issue.  Many urban areas have combined sewer and storm water systems, and when it rains, they easily can be overwhelmed and cause raw sewage to enter local rivers and streams.

In Indianapolis, for example, it only takes 1/4 inch of rain to cause the sewer system to over flow, and thus, more and more cities are looking for ways to reduce the amount of storm water that enters the sewage system.  Cities like Chicago are creating ‘green roofs,’ rain gardens, and they are using porous pavement to allow water to seep back into the ground.

Curious to show the benefits of these techniques, I took a tour of the new Nature Conservancy office in Indiana.  The facility was built last year, and using the USGBC LEED rating system, the architect added a ‘green roof’ and a two phase rain garden (see pictures below). These systems helped the building achieve points in the areas of Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency (SS5.1, SS6.1, SS7.2, WE1), which were used toward achieving their overall LEED certification.

The first picture shows the roof of the facility,  and how the conservancy used local and native plants to create a green space on their roof.  My tour guide said that this roof has helped to lower the cost to cool the facility in the summer, reduce storm water runoff, provided added protection to the roof’s membrane, and created a new habitat for birds and insects.

Plants on a roof (more…)

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In much of my energy and environmental consulting work with congregations, I am constantly being asked, “How can we make our very old church building energy efficient?”

It is a great question, because sometimes a large and historic facility can be very overwhelming when you start to think about projects, costs, and the motivation needed to accomplish such a large project.

However, just like the wise sage once said… “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.”

Retrofitting a historic structure is not rocket science.  You just need a little more patience and creativity to accomplish your goals.  For example, you can still insulate your building, it is just a little harder to insulate a building already built, than to add insulation as you do new construction.

To prove this point, I wanted to pass along the success story of Virginia Theological Seminary.  A friend recently shared this article with me and it shows how you can combine 19th century architecture with modern trends in green building and energy retrofitting.

The article was published by Builderonline.com and it is title, “An Episcopal Seminary brings LEED into the 19th Century”

Blog Notes: Special thanks to Ed Walsh for sharing the article with me.

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Friends, I wanted to share with you the launch of the ‘Green Chalice’ program and network.

Symbol of Green Chalice

Green Chalice

The Green Chalice is a growing ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and it is designed to empower local congregation to take action in their church and community.

The Green Chalice program originally started as a ministry of the Christian Church of Kentucky (CCKY) in 2007, and since then the program has grown to include both churches, ministers, and lay leaders.  The new program will expand the Green Chalice program and network to the entire denomination (USA & Canada), and it is a joint sponsorship by Disciples Home Mission (DHM) and the region of Kentucky.

Rev. Carol Devine, of Republican Christian Church  in Cynthiana, KY will be the lead coordinator for the program, and already her work has been recognized by the KY chapter of Interfaith Power and Light.

Earlier this year, Rev. Devine was awarded the 2011 KIPPE award for her leadership and the work of CCKY in creation care.

For more information about the Green Chalice program, visit these sites:

Blog Note- Republican Christian Church is not affiliated to the national Republican political party. The church was founded in 1809, in Cynthiana KY.

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Last year I wrote a post about how Parkhill Christian Church and how they were able to save money and increase their ministry by making several energy upgrades to their facility. 

The blog was entitled, “The Power of Knowledge…Literally,” and it has served as a great success story about how churches can improve their facilities, increase ministry, and save money- at the same time. This blog is a follow up to that post, and it is designed to see if these initial results continue. 

I recently called Rev. Chris Franklin to interview him about how the church was doing and if the church was still seeing great results from their participation in an energy audit and ministry planning session with Church Extension.  Here is a snapshot of the conversation:

John: Chris, so tell me, how are things going at the church?

Chris: I think we are in the midst of what we would have to call dynamic change, in part stimulated by the analysis of the Green Church building report.  The most startling was the the high relative cost of maintenance and utilities in comparison to the low utilization of the building for ministry.  The change in the model of ministry to use the building for community and those outside the church and to be welcoming in doing so is transformational and challenging.  Our numbers of visitors have skyrocketed, and the congregation is thrilled to see prospective visitors in church on a regular basis, but surprised they don’t join after a few weeks of visiting.  We did not have the mentality of having active visitors.

J: What have been the savings that you have seen over the past year?

C: We have started seeing the savings as we replaced lights as they failed and insulated in the most cost effective locations.  The financial chair thinks we will save up to $12,000 this year in electricity and gas.  (more…)

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Photo: Toyota

I am not sure if you have read the Freakonomics book (link), or if you listen to the Freakonomics podcast on Market Place (NPR), but recently I read one featured story about the effect that a hybrid vehicle has on your life.

In short, the researchers found that if you drive a Toyota Prius, you are more likely to make other lifestyle changes that include (Read or listen to the link by clicking on the link below):

“You make new friends; you get new business opportunities. In an especially “green” place like Boulder, Colo., the effect could be worth as much as $7,000. *

Beyond hearing these benefits (Yeah, that is right… choosing a hybrid, may save you an additional $7,000), it also got me thinking about the effect of attending a “Green Church.”

By attending a Green Church, it is likely you would be more aware of the idea of environmental stewardship and that you would be involved in a larger community that is like minded. It may also encourage you to make other green choices in your life and in your home.

It was just a thought to share, as we celebrate Spring and Eastertide.

* Freakonomic’s Article & quote from http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/04/21/conspicuous-conservation-and-the-prius-effect/

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Source: Arch. Record

A friend of mine is working to ‘green’ a local library in Indianapolis, and one suggestion I had was to add a lightshelf.

A what?

A lightshelf, which is used to reflect natural daylight up towards the ceiling of a facility (see picture).  This reflected light then mimics the normal lighting of the facility, with one big exception:

It’s Free!

In many buildings, lighting accounts for over 20% of the total energy use in a facility.  By using Daylighting, and techniques like a lightshelf, a building can save hundreds of dollars each year.


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>Have you ever sat in a building and felt a cold rust of wind?

If so, I bet you were sitting in a building that didn’t have a vestibule.

A “vest-a-what,” you may ask?

The easiest way to describe a vestibule, is to have you imagine your last visit to a large shopping center or department store. As you entered the store, you may remember that you had to go through two sets of doors.  One set that were external doors to the outside of the building, and another set of doors that let you into the store.

Now remember the small space between those two sets of doors?  That is a vestibule.

Vestibules are a great feature in architecture, because they act as a wind lock and temperature break.

As someone enters a facility from the outside, they open the first set of doors, and outside air enters with them.  However, this air doesn’t immediately flood into the building, because there are a second set of doors that the person must then open to enter the facility.

Thus, if you are looking for ways to better insulate your facility, consider adding a vestibule (or an additional door) to prevent internal air from escaping, as outside air enters your building.

Photo Credit: madabandon

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We all know that heat rises, but often we forget the importance of adding enough insulation in the attic.

During a recent energy audit, I was reminded of this fact because I was literally walking around in an attic sweating (in a t-shirt) when it was 27 degrees outside.

The attic did have around 6 inches of ‘blow in’ insulation, but for their climate zone the attic should have had approximately 12- 15 inches of insulation (R 38-R55). 

As a model, I though the above picture would be helpful to demonstrate the importance of adding insulation to the attic, when compared to the heat loss of a facility through its floor, windows, and walls.

This picture was created by the Smarter Homes, and it can be a great resource for explaining why the investment of insulation in an attic can be a smart way to save money.

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>This past week, I attended the US Green Building Conference in Chicago, IL, and while I was there, I learned a lot of cool new stuff about modern building design and energy.

One quick fact that I learned, was that most architects and building contractors believe that a building has a life-cycle of around 40 years. This doesn’t mean that after 40 years a building will collapse, but rather a building has a ‘useful life’ of about 40 years, before it needs a complete remodeling to upgrade the facility to match new socio-cultural standards, building code (for entrances, accessibility, safety, and fire), and functionality (utilities, technology, etc).

Related to this fact, was a chart that the speaker showed to illustrate how much energy a building consumes during this 40 life-cycle (click on the graph for a larger version):

This chart shows that Construction of the facility accounts for 10% of a building’s total energy consumption, while Alterations are 10%, Maintenance is 20%, and the largest, System Operations, equals 60%.

This is helpful information for any organization that is considering whether or not to invest in initial ‘green’ technology, as any initial investment will lower the cost of System Operations.  This information may also be helpful for any facility managers or nonprofits who are trying to plan for future building maintenance and facility remodeling.

I hope to share more about what I learned at the conference in a few blog posts, but this one seemed like a great entry point for conversation.

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