Inhabitat’s Kristine Lofgren reports that the order form and website for Tesla’s new solar roofing system is now live. In a previous article, Inhabitat had the following to say:

The seamless look of the new technology is thanks to “integrated front skirts and no visible mounting hardware” according to Tesla’s website. Electrek said these features come from Zep Solar, a mounting equipment company SolarCity acquired before Tesla’s acquisition. Zep Solar engineers designed the rail-less system Solar City employed to slash solar installation times in half.

(more…)

Britain has a problem. Chances are, the problem that Britain is facing also affects many jurisdictions in the US. What is this problem?

Energy modeling — the process of using sophisticated software to predict future building performance — isn’t as accurate as some industry professionals would like to believe. In other words, the supposed energy efficiency gains that should be realized by implementing specific strategies are not matching real world performance results. And since energy modeling is often tied to various financial and other incentives, as well as driving major design decisions affecting thousands of recently constructed buildings, this is causing quite the controversy, and should be a real cause for concern here in the US.

The Telegraph has more on a study by researchers at the University of Bath:

The researchers found that the building modelling professionals could not agree on which aspects were important and which were not, or how much difference to the energy bill changes to them would make. A quarter of those interviewed were judged to be no better than if a member of the public had responded at random.

[…]

Co-investigator and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Dr Ian Walker added: “Given our findings about how the level of relevant education and experience don’t separate the good modellers from the bad, we are calling on the government for educational and policy change to work with industry and universities to increase efforts in improving building physics education.

The UK Green Building Council, the British counterpart to the USGBC, added the following:

John Alker, Director of Policy & Campaigns at the UK Green Building Council said: “ “There is no doubt that the majority of buildings do not perform as they were designed to do. This is widely known in the construction sector, and it is something that the industry needs to get to grips with.

“The so-called ‘performance gap’ occurs for a variety of complex reasons, and needs action by all those involved in the property life cycle – such as architects, engineers, contractors and facilities managers – not just building modelling professionals.

Business Insider’s Danielle Muoio on Friday provided the following update regarding Tesla’s ambitious and potentially disruptive photovoltaic glass roof tiles:

CEO Elon Musk tweeted in March that the company would begin taking orders for its four solar roof shingle options this month. But during a TED Talk Friday, Musk said that two of the tile options won’t be available for purchase until early 2018.
(more…)

As California continues the transition to renewable energy, practical issues sometimes create unforeseen complications. One example: California requires that ALL residential buildings constructed after January 1, 2020 produce at least as much energy as they used. By 2030, all new nonresidential buildings must meet zero net energy requirements.

Additionally, the state is requiring that 50% of existing nonresidential buildings meet the zero net energy requirements by 2030, although some details obviously need to be worked out as far as deciding which 50% of those buildings must comply. (more…)

Besides aesthetic considerations, maintaining a clean facility has numerous benefits including prolonged useful life of building components, improved indoor environmental quality, reduced exposure to pathogens, and it can even mean improved efficiency lowering energy costs. So it should come as no surprise that “green cleaning” practices are integral to more sustainable operations and maintenance of various buildings. (more…)

Life Cycle Assessments, also known as Life Cycle Impact Assessments (abbreviated as LCA and LCIA, respectively), provide objective measurements of the environmental impact of a given product from the procurement of its constituent raw materials, through production and manufacturing, all the way through to decommissioning and end of life (recycling or disposal).

In my mind, an LCA or LCIA is similar to looking at Total Cost of Ownership or TCO. Whereas TCO helps stakeholders understand the complete financial impact of a purchase decision, an LCA/LCIA helps stakeholders understand the total ecological impact of a purchase decision.

Writing for Triple Pundit, Harnoor Dhaliwal and Pete Dunn put together a fairly detailed look at what goes into a proper life cycle impact assessment study and why it matters. Here is an excerpt:

In LCIA, impacts are modeled in three distinct phases: fate, exposure and effect, as shown in Exhibit 1 below.

  • Fate modeling accounts for the characteristics of an emission and the environmental concentration it forms once released. This tells us where in the environment the emission ends up and its final concentration.
  • Exposure modelling looks at the intake level of the emission by considering various routes and modes of intake. In other words, how much of the emission gets eaten, drunk, inhaled, absorbed, etc. For ecosystems, exposure models consider the amount of the emission that becomes bioavailable (i.e., able to be taken up by organisms).
  • Once exposure is assessed, effect models link this information to known toxicity data at those intake levels. This allows us to assess the relative danger of exposure.

Life Cycle Impact Assessment is more and more factoring into sustainable design and construction, but as we continue to understand more about the health and other impacts of various products in the built environment, it is safe to assume that LCAs and LCIAs will only continue to influence our industry.

For some, green building and sustainability are aspirational goals. For those of us that have been working in sustainability on a professional level, we are always on the lookout for the next evolution in third party standards and certification to take our projects to the next level.

Beyond “net zero” energy and water — in which a project produces as much, if not more, energy and or water than it will use — the next step in sustainability is a concept known as regenerative design. Described as a process-based approach to design, the goal is to “restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials, creating sustainable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature.”

To that end, Martin Brown has authored a book called FutuREstorative, Working Towards a New Sustainability. In an excerpt from the book, published at GreenBiz, Brown advocates for the establishment of a new third party standard for regenerative design:

While challenging traditional sustainability standards is now urgent and vital, it is important to remember that new regenerative standards start from different perspectives. The established certification standards (BREEAM, LEED, Green Star) emerged from an energy-environment-economics paradigm whose key driver was, and remains, energy performance and prevention of damage to the environment, within economic boundaries.

New restorative standards such as the Living Building Challenge and WELL Building Standard are, foremost, philosophies based on a set of ecological or health values. Secondly, they are advocacy tools for promoting a better way of addressing the design, construction and operation of buildings. Thirdly, they are a building certification or recognition-of-achievement scheme…

But it is a disruption that is necessary. And in many ways the scene is set, with the digitalization of design, construction and operation through Building Information Management approaches, the increase in smart, Internet of Things technologies in buildings, the popularity of the LEED Dynamic Plaque and other real-time sustainability monitors. All of which have the potential, individually or more rapidly through converging, to disrupt sustainability standards.

Well worth a read, if for no other reason than to catch a glimpse of where sustainability in the built environment is headed to next.

Water efficiency is the next major issue impacting the built environment after energy efficiency. (Not that we’ve necessarily solved the issue of energy efficiency…) Despite the fact that our planet’s surface is 2/3 water, protecting this natural resource is of utmost importance to human survival.

The best way to reduce water usage is to reuse water through reclamation. One obstacle to further implementation (including mandatory requirements) of water reclamation systems is a lack of peer-reviewed research including life cycle assessments (LCAs) of such systems.

Until now, that is. Phys.org reports on a new study based on the decentralized water system implemented by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes:

“Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings,” published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03879), is the first-of-its-kind research utilizing life-cycle assessment (LCA). Co-authored by Melissa M. Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), collaborators at Phipps included Richard Piacentini, executive director; and Jason Wirick, director of facilities and sustainability management. Pitt PhD graduate student, Vaclav Hasik, and Pitt undergraduate, Naomi Anderson, were first and second authors, respectively…

Dr. Bilec noted that while the research found that a decentralized water system operates well for a facility like the CSL, the environmental benefits or trade-offs for such systems are dependent upon their lifetime of use, and may not necessarily be practical or environmentally preferable. For example, a similar system might be more environmentally and economically efficient for a development of multiple homes or buildings, rather than one structure.

Conversely, the relative impact of a decentralized system built in a water-scarce region may be more beneficial than its environmental footprint. The decision of what water system to build and its scale, she says, should be evaluated within the context of the entire life of the structure or site it supports.

(Via Construction Dive)

Sanjoy Malik, writing for Green Biz, discusses an issue that is something most building owners, developers, operators and other stakeholders aren’t too familiar with. However, for those of us with experience in improving/optimizing existing buildings, the issue can be a real deal breaker.

What’s the problem? Since de-regulation of the energy utilities, the data produced by rate-payers is now proprietary. Without readily available access to both quantitative and qualitative data regarding the energy usage of existing buildings of certain sizes and use types, it is extremely difficult to develop new strategies for improving efficiency. (You can’t improve what you can’t measure…)

Malik proposes a new business model mirroring the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that many technology providers have successfully exploited in the past decade or so:

The Energy-data-as-a-service (EDaaS) model holds great promise for the industry. There are various firms providing services within the energy industry that could benefit from a single source of energy data, including:

  • Accounting and finance. Many firms provide energy budgets, pay utility bills and forecast future costs and progress towards reduction goals. These activities require significant process-oriented operations and analysis capabilities. Adding the acquisition of energy data may be too much effort for these firms.
  • Energy optimization. Energy performance in many buildings can be improved using more detailed data, analyzing it and creating statistical models that include other variables such as weather and occupancy. Firms that provide such analytics products can scale their operations by using a standard energy data provider.
  • Energy procurement and supply. Energy purchasing decisions are complex and firms that provide these services typically invest in analysis of historic bills and bidding and negotiating capabilities to find and secure the best prices on energy. By using a third-party for the raw energy data, they can more quickly make decisions about the procurement strategy for their clients.
  • Sustainability and compliance. Many firms are investing in greater transparency around energy performance, using sustainability reports and other public information disclosures. Many large cities are starting to mandate that building owners get Energy Star scores to benchmark their properties. Both of these processes can be expedited by more quickly and systematically collecting energy data via a third party.