Tuesday, December 02, 2008

GreenBuild 08, Boston MA: Highlights – part 5

By Sonja Persram, BSc., MBA, LEED® AP
Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.


Jerry Yudelson noted
[1] the increasing representation among solar companies. It would be good to see this expo segment grow, along with wind turbine providers and e.g. chilled beam manufacturers.

Suntech aims to have 1000 MW of solar PV production capacity by 2010. Their solar PV cells are at 20% efficiency; some products include Suntech See Thru™ PV glazing that can be used e.g. in curtain walls, skylights or atria; and Suntech Just Roof™ is BIPV that can be substituted for tiles, with weatherproofing, water channels. For case studies of a retrofit in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and new construction in Hokkaido, Japan click here.

I found
Accoya interesting. It is acetylated wood, i.e. treated with acetic anhydride (derived from acetic acid, or concentrated vinegar) to change the water molecules to acetyl groups. This process hardens the (FSC certified) wood and the resulting product has been tested for ‘dimensional stability, durability, UV resistance, paint retention and in-ground conditions,’ as well as strength and hardness. Uncoated, it emitted a vinegar odour.

Airvac fascinated me. A case study of a vacuum sewer system installed in Holden Beach, North Carolina, an island community with a high water table and failing septic tanks and drain fields, indicates the benefits include the alternative to gravity-flow lines, and prevention of sanitary sewer overflows during storm surges or power outages since it runs pneumatically in comparison to gravity sanitary sewers. Small town Hooper, Utah also addressed their challenge of septic systems leaking into groundwater this way. This technical data sheet from EcoSan notes benefits of vacuum sewer system/sanitary installations (which must be separate from stormwater systems). They provided: water savings of as much as 80% since a vacuum toilet used 1 litre of water per flush; capacity for blackwater collection for biogas; 20-25% cost savings over conventional methods; and protection against nutrient and pathogen discharges due to the closed system.

ecoScorecard system is paid for by manufacturers and free to users. It is a tool intended for architects and designers at the spec process, that translates manufacturers’ data (including designer’s product lines, percent post-consumer recycled content, percent rapidly renewable materials, and environmental ratings) to provide the necessary documentation for certification.

I’ve been aware of the merits of North America’s
Island Press and New Society Publishers, and found I also liked several books by Earthscan Publications out of the UK.

I would also find value in seeing:
· Energy storage companies
[2] given: their capacity to smooth out variations and enable dispatchability; and the focus on renewables expansion in the new economy.
· A significantly greater complement of finance/insurance as well as reinsurance companies, given the mutual market transformation potential – since green buildings can enhance portfolio value and reduce risk.
· Biogas companies and closed-loop food security systems that provide solutions at neighbourhood and individual building scales.
· More Consulate/Government quasi-catalogues like the displays from the Netherlands and the Canadian governments.

As a market research analyst, I was puzzled by the number of booths that didn’t clearly identify key benefits or competitive advantages of their products and services – even those with site demos. As the expo grows, it becomes even more necessary to capture attention of visitors quickly so they stop for that sound byte that could make a sales or outreach difference.

Overheard at the conference:
· A need for sessions addressing code and regulatory barriers, possibly prior to GreenBuild, which could feed findings and conclusions into the conference. After co-authoring a project on code, regulatory and systemic barriers
[3] it is clear that there are key issues and best practices in both countries in regards to these – often significant – challenges, and this would be a useful adjunct, in my opinion.
· Opportunities for youth to engage in the conference, possibly via a separate but concurrent part-stream.

On the systems side, it also would be helpful to have a larger expo map, a hard copy of the index by booth number, and each booth’s number clearly marked.

It would be useful to hear reader feedback on the above suggestions and booths.

GreenBuild 08: an excellent event. Thanks for your hospitality. Boston, Cambridge, Concord: I’ll be back.

Green Syndicated Columnist Sonja Persram is co-author with DCAT’s David Eisenberg of a forthcoming publication on code, regulatory and other systemic barriers affecting Living Building projects, for Cascadia Region Green Building Council. She has conducted several research projects for
Yudelson Associates, and is lead author of ‘Marketing Green Buildings to Owners/Tenants of Leased Properties’ for the Canada Green Building Council (2007) with co-authors Nils Larsson (MRAIC) and Mark Lucuik (P.Eng, LEED AP). Ms Persram wrote ‘Green Buildings: A Strategic Analysis of the North American Markets’ for Frost & Sullivan (2006) addressing Energy, Water and Facilities Management; and the USA portion of ‘International Sustainable Building Policy Initiatives,’ a 2007 study for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation whose project lead was Nils Larsson. She is a member of the CaGBC Greater Toronto Chapter’s Business Development Committee and the USGBC’s Social Equity Task Force.
Contact: sonja@sustainable-alternatives.ca
Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.

[1] Yudelson, Jerry, personal communication with Sonja Persram
[2] See Peters, Roger with O’Malley, Lynda, Storing Renewable Power Primer, June 2008, The Pembina Institute, http://pubs.pembina.org/reports/StoringRenewablePower-jun17.pdf .
[3] Eisenberg, David & Persram, Sonja, Code, Regulatory & Systemic Barriers Affecting Living Building Projects, for Cascadia Region Green Building Council, 2008, Forthcoming.

GreenBuild 08, Boston MA: Highlights – part 4

By Sonja Persram, BSc., MBA, LEED® AP
Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.


Measuring embodied carbon impacts in commercial and industrial buildings was the topic of
dcarbon8’s Andrew Marris’ and Tony Siantonas’ presentation. CEO Marris noted the ratio of embodied to operational carbon is 20:80, however given the scenario where buildings are low energy the ratio becomes 40:60 based on benchmark data from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)’s carbon buzz website. Their UK carbon consultancy firm developed their Planet Positive mark which requires measuring carbon footprint of direct (operational) and indirect (embodied) activities, and of products based on life cycle analysis, committing to reduce this footprint significantly, and offsetting the balance by a minimum of 110%. Siantonas stated that 1 tonne CO2 equivalent is:
· about 2 months of an average home’s emissions from energy (gas and electricity)
· $3.50 on
CCX, $10 on VER (Voluntary or Verified Emission Reduction), $20 on regular markets, and $40 shadow cost of carbon

Some findings:
· Analysis of embodied carbon by lifecycle in one study resulted in 85% coming from manufacturing processes, 7% from delivery to site and 8% due to fuel combustion. Their conclusion in this case, which may be applicable to others: focus on where materials are from and how they are manufactured, not necessarily the delivery to site.
· In analysing carbon by building component, they found the building envelope contributed 42%.
· In steel production
[1] over 90% of GHGs were from direct emissions i.e. blast furnace energy. Less than 10% of emissions came from: feedstock GHGs (mining ore, limestone), infrastructure (tools e.g. making the blast furnace), and a small amount came from what they call ‘infrastructure squared’ or the tools for tools. Siantonas noted the latter component was hard to control, and the size of the contribution meant including such data wouldn’t add much to the analysis.

Client projects include:
· A carbon footprint analysis for Lend Lease Retail project
Somerset Central in Singapore.
· The Masdar city carbon footprint analysis: the headquarters building is energy positive, and is 103,000 m2. The building envelope was targeted for major reduction approaches.
Prologis - the largest global owner, manager and developer of distribution facilities with $40.8 billion real estate assets under management representing 548 million sf in 22 countries.

Prologis Manager of Sustainability Drew Torbin described his corporation’s rationale for carbon measurement: he “thinks of carbon as waste,” and found that value was from an embodied carbon study via the following:
· Low carbon = high efficiency. ‘Less’ is used: less energy, resources…
· Strengthening of customer relationships
· Attraction for customers and investors: ‘A’ quality assets attract ‘A’ quality customers


In discussing how to achieve sustainability and happiness, the speakers called for changing the system, not the mindset. Jim Hartzfeld, Managing Director of
InterfaceRAISE noted that personal sustainability practices were key: ‘green your routine,’ since ‘order begets order’… use a ‘practice placement’ (a re-working of ‘product placement’) since ‘every little green practice breaks down inertia and at some point they all add up to break the status quo.’ He said we could get caught up in catastrophes, when maybe what we need to do is consider ‘how could you live your best life every day.’ He uses this tactic to achieve enormous change: ‘get peoples’ stories of what they have been the absolute proudest of being associated with. Two-thirds of these memories are memorable examples of what they thought was impossible.’ Analyse – ‘what made that happen? Big goals? Not taking ‘no’ for an answer? Unbelievable planning and execution? Then they think it’s not quite as impossible (as before). He goes on to suggest that we ‘focus on what LEED buildings can do, and the power of buildings to affect the mindset of occupants.’

Dayna Baumeister of the
Biomimicry Guild foresaw that society in future would be free of white noise, and we would be wondering at times not at what we did, but what we put up with in that regard. An interesting viewpoint, especially given we often have to go ‘out into nature’ to achieve needed peace from urban noise, and noise can be considered as wasted energy.


The closing plenary presentations are available
online. Some key messages:

E.O. Wilson stated ‘four-fifths of animals on the planet are nematode worms,’ of which most species are unknown. There are ‘5,000-6,000 species of bacteria in a handful of soil – all unknown to science.’ There is great tragedy in that ‘human action is destroying countless species before even knowing what they are.’ Later in their collaborative ‘armchair’ discussion, Wilson noted the need for addressing worldwide water shortages, such as via dry land agriculture, and that we use too narrow a band of species given that ‘50,000 species of plants could be adapted to crops.’

Janine Benyus described her childhood adventures in the ‘micro-wilderness outside (her) house;’ how as a ‘dinner-bell kid’ in the morning she would ‘squirm out of my mother’s embrace to go outside,’ investigate all day in the field by her house, and her mother ‘would have to ring and ring the dinner bell to get me to dinner.’ Later, she watched from the bushes as her childhood idyll was ‘scalped’ with the incursion of bulldozers in phase II of a new subdivision, and noted: ‘if they knew differently (about the natural world there) they would treat that settled land differently’…. We ‘all have to get to know our places very well.’

Through the massive knowledge gaps they spoke of and damage incurred given those gaps, I nevertheless found the presentations rather relieving and engendering of hope, because of the announcement of two websites. They are:
· The
Encyclopedia of Life (launched by a global consortium of key museums and research organizations) with a goal of having one webpage on each of the estimated 1.8 million species on earth. Wilson observed that this arose out of a perceived to link ‘science and the enlightened future-oriented business that you are involved in.’
www.asknature.org aims to share biomimetic design knowledge for applications globally.
Both projects are free and open source.

This post is instalment #4 of 5. Stay tuned!

[1] Based on data he cited from the International Federation of Institutes for Advanced Study (IFIAS), 1974

Monday, December 01, 2008

GreenBuild 08, Boston MA: Highlights – part 3

By Sonja Persram, BSc., MBA, LEED® AP
Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.

GREEN JOBS were one major focus of the conference.

Green For All President and Founder Van Jones gave a rousing presentation, sponsored by Dadanco:
"You are the people who the country is going to turn to… You have a president (elect) who
wants 5 million green jobs… (you’re going to be the people … who have to find a way of doing that) … and a president elect who wants to put $150 billion into clean and renewable energy. This used to be a lot of money. Now it sounds like a rounding error … There are some investments in this country that we can no longer put off…

It’s not that we have a President
(-elect) who’s black, it’s that for the first time we have a president who’s green." Continue reading Van Jones’ Master Speaker presentation

Among other excellent presenters on this topic[1] was the
Greener Good panel on USGBC Chapters’ local green job and social equity initiatives. The panel was convened by Jerome Ringo, President of the Apollo Alliance – a coalition, Ringo noted, that impacts 17 million people and is a collaboration of conservation organizations, business, industry, labour and politicians with a common, green focus. Ringo described how the Apollo Alliance’s new 10 year extensive investment Apollo program is a $500 billion strategy which they believe can create over 5 million green jobs, to “put people to work from all walks of life.” Said Ringo: “We believe we have our own moon shot mission today – we can now declare energy independence, we can now stimulate the American economy, and we can clean up the environment.” What a feat this will be, and how badly the US – and Canada – both need such an initiative.

A marvellous example of the triple-bottom-line in action was the panel presentation on her company’s initiative by
Martha Jane Murray, an architect and co-owner with her husband of Neil M Footwear - a shoe factory in Arkansas. Murray is Policy Associate with the Clinton Climate Initiative and Founding Chair, USGBC Arkansas.

In rural America, retaining both companies and employees is difficult. Murray noted the following stats:
· 7.6 million families are living under the poverty level in the US
· 400,000 household units qualify in Arkansas for federal assistance

She described how their corporate concern about profitability led to a focus on compensation to enhance employee retention. In seeking different ways to compensate employees in addition to salary and benefits, they simultaneously found means to stimulate their local (rural) economy. Unusual for a corporation that addresses their own energy efficiency, they also worked with their local utility to develop an energy benefit program for employees. In this program they work with employees to make energy efficiency upgrades to homes, while generating local jobs.

Murray and her husband finance the retrofits up front using an energy fund with payments over time arranged via payroll deductions. Employees get cash coupon incentives from their utility for the recommended measures, and then receive benefits from lower utility bills in the amount of $200-$1,500/year per homeowner. As one employee observed, “Normally people don’t go out and do this on their own. They don’t know how extensive or how little (the retrofits will be)."

These are small measures on an individual basis that make enormous differences in people's quality of life, and benefit the environment and local economies.

This post is instalment #3 of 5. Stay tuned!

[1] See also Majora Carter: http://www.greenbuild365.org/pagemaker.aspx?PID=67