Being Green – Modeling and Monitoring

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  Before I get started, last week’s post included a shout out for Steve Satow and a group of dedicated people in the Victoria area who are working to develop the Alternate Solutions Resource Initiative.  They’re still looking for support from interested parties.  On a more personal note, Steve is currently in the process of building his own home using ‘rammed earth’.  If you’d like to keep up to date with his progress, you can find out more at: the Natural Building project: a model for sustainability.

Now then: since one of the attributes of many if not all green building certification systems is the integration of a building’s different systems (heating/cooling, energy and water use, etc.), it’s very helpful to be able to model a building’s performance as part of the design plan.  Anyone who has done energy modeling (and I haven’t) will tell you that getting this exactly right is impossible.  Too much depends on the number of occupants of a building at any given time, their activity and resulting energy use, local weather conditions…  Still, an approximation can be made.

Once a building is completed and in operation, it’s also very important to determine whether or not the building is performing to specification, and if it isn’t, to be aware of it, determine the source of the problem and rectify it.

Modeling comes first, and there two software packages available that I’m aware of  that can be used for this.  One of them has been in existence for some time now, and that is ‘Retscreen International‘ from Natural Resources Canada.  From their website:

“The RETScreen Clean Energy Project Analysis Software is a unique decision support tool developed with the contribution of numerous experts from government, industry, and academia. The software, provided free-of-charge, can be used worldwide to evaluate the energy production and savings, costs, emission reductions, financial viability and risk for various types of Renewable-energy and Energy-efficient Technologies (RETs). The software (available in multiple languages) also includes product, project, hydrology and climate databases, a detailed user manual, and a case study based college/university-level training course, including an engineering e-textbook.”

The second is EnergyPlus Energy Simulation Software from the US Dep’t of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Program.  From their website:

“EnergyPlus models heating, cooling, lighting, ventilating, and other energy flows as well as water in buildings. While originally based on the most popular features and capabilities of BLAST and DOE-2, EnergyPlus includes many innovative simulation capabilities such as time steps of less than an hour, modular systems and plant integrated with heat balance-based zone simulation, multizone air flow, thermal comfort, water use, natural ventilation, and photovoltaic systems.”

Both are available free of charge, and both are currently being used to design buildings around the world.  I admit I don’t know enough of the details of either of them to be able to compare and contrast the two packages; my recommendation would be to download them both and see what works best for your projects.  Both sites have tutorials and videos that explain their use.  There’s also a good webinar archived on the EERE website called, ‘Getting to Net Zero Energy Through a Performance-Based Design/Build Process‘.

Speaking of webinars, yesterday was part three of a three-part series on ‘The Keys to Green Affordable Housing: A Guide for Existing Multifamily Properties‘, offered by the USGBC.  All three webinars have been archived and are available for viewing.  Yesterday’s session was on ‘Data Collection and Analysis of Green Affordable Housing’, and one of the topics included was on monitoring energy and water use in multi-family residential properties.  One of the differences between the Living Building Challenge and other green building specification programs is that certification for Living Buildings isn’t assessed until one year of occupancy has passed, whereas other certifications are granted based on the design of the building.  There have sometimes been disconnects between the building’s design and the actual construction.  In yesterday’s webinar, one of the presenters (Yianice Hernandez, Senior Program Director, Green Communities, Enterprise Community Partners) mentioned that during remodeling, criteria found in plans and specs were found in the buildings 97% of the time, wherease criteria not found in plans and specs were found in the buildings 37% of the time.  She also suggested that every building being constructed to green standards have a sign posted such as this:


12. The following sign is to be made and prominently posted on the job site.  It is the responsibility of the general contractor to ensure that his labour force, all subcontractors and their labour forces, all suppliers, and other visitors be made aware of these rules and follow them at all times.  Sign to be posted:

a) This building house is being constructed as a healthy building.  Only specified products and procedures may be used.
b) Alternatives to specified materials must be approved in writing by the owner and/ or architect prior to use.  If in doubt, contact the general contractor.

Seems like a good idea to me.  Yesterday’s webinar also made mention of some of the different products available for energy use monitoring.  They are:

Every little bit helps.  Okay, before I get to the links for this week (and I haven’t been online as much this week so the list will be a little shorter than usual), I wanted to mention some good news items.  I try to avoid endorsing specific products or services as much as I can, but sometimes it’s worth knowing what’s happening out there.  First of all Royal Philips Electronics recently unveiled their EnduraLED light bulb, the industry’s first LED replacement for a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb.  Costs aren’t yet available, but the EnduraLED bulb is expected to last 25,000 hours in normal household use, provides just over 800 lumens of light while only using 12 watts of electricity, and unlike CFL bulbs, this LED bulb contains no mercury and can be used with standard dimmer switches.  From the website:

Every year more than 425 million 60-watt incandescent light bulbs are sold in the United States, representing approximately 50% of the domestic incandescent light bulb market. According to calculations by Philips, this LED replacement has the potential to save 32.6 terawatt-hours of electricity in one year, enough to power the lights of 16.7 million U.S. households or 14.4% of the total number of households in the entire US. It would also eliminate the generation 5.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

Assistant architecture professor Ginger Krieg Dosier recently showed off a new brick that is ‘grown’ from bacteria and common materials, which means these ‘better bricks’ can be made without the use of a kiln.  This is great news, since brick manufacture currently creates more pollution than all of the airplanes in the world.  From the website: “…if the Better Brick replaced each new brick on Earth, it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year!

Although it received the awards a year ago, I just heard that a house designed and constructed by Simon Baston of Vancouver, BC has been awarded Canada’s first LEED Gold for Homes certification.  It also passed R2000 and Built Green certification.  Simon Baston is the man behind Leading Homes, a company that will be building all of its new homes to LEED Gold standard or better.  In one interview, Mr. Baston mentioned that we need to do away with the word ‘green’.  As he mentioned, when we start seeing ‘green building’ as the norm for all construction, we’ve won.

Closer to home (for me), Cowichan Recyclists is taking the ‘cycling’ part of recycling to a whole new level.  If you have a small business, apartment or strata, they’ll come to you, by bicycle, and manage your recycling and food waste/compost stream!

That’s enough for now.  The links for this week include:

Okay folks, that’s it for now.  Have a great week!


I’ll leave the last word today to Seth Godin: All you need to know… is that it’s possible.

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