DOE Finalizes Furnace Fan Energy Efficiency Standards


New efficiency standards will save consumers money

The Department of Energy announced final furnace fan energy efficiency standards today, the one-year anniversary of the release of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

“The part of the Climate Action Plan that got the most attention was the EPA rules on power plants,” but the plan was packed with smaller DOE measures that will add up over time, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said at a Washington, D.C., forum hosted by the League of Conservation Voters. “We are making progress [because] of the president’s commitment to move forward [as] aggressively as we can,” Moniz said.

DOE has finalized eight energy efficiency standards since last June — including measures for walk-in freezers, flood lights and electric motors. The agency has also produced nine proposed standards, including for commercial clothes washers and overhead lamps.

The new furnace fan standards could reduce the device’s energy use by 46 percent, DOE said. It would also save US consumers about $9 billion and reduce 34 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years, DOE said. Obama has pledged to collectively cut 3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions through his two terms’ worth of administration actions, the equivalent of one year’s worth of emissions from the nation’s electricity system, DOE said.

Furnace fans push air through ductwork to circulate hot or cold air in homes. DOE started the rule making process for furnace fans in 2010 and finalized a test procedure for the devices — adopted from an industry proposal — at the beginning of the year.

Under the new rule, the current furnace fan industry value of $350 million would drop by about $60 million, plus there would be an additional $40 million in costs to comply with the rules over the next five years, according to DOE. The rule includes modular blowers, which was a point of disagreement between DOE and the industry under the proposed rule.

The net benefit of the rule when including the “social cost of carbon” would be between $1.4 billion to $2 billion per year, DOE said.

“Today’s Department of Energy efficiency rule — the first of its kind and one that we see as an important step forward — is another sign that the administration is serious about meeting President Obama’s efficiency goals of reducing carbon pollution by a cumulative 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through standards for appliances and federal buildings,” said Meg Waltner, manager for building energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement.

World record for largest vertical garden

24-storey green feature helps Tree House save over $500,000 a year

City Developments Limited (CDL) has officially set a Guinness World Record for the largest vertical garden in the world. The 2,289 m2 structure adorns CDL’s Tree House condominium in Bukit Timah, Singapore and has attracted visitors from all over the world since its completion in 2013.

The record-breaking garden was designed to look aesthetically beautiful and also provide a number of benefits for the building including substantial water and energy savings.

The company predict that the garden is expected to achieve air-conditioning energy savings of between S$12,000 and S$24,000 annually for the 48 west-facing master bedrooms that are insulated by the vertical wall.

“A natural insulation, the vertical garden reduces the estate’s carbon footprint by filtering pollutants and carbon dioxide out of the air. It reduces heat absorption and lowers the energy needed to cool indoor spaces,” say CDL.

The garden is just one of a number of green features in the Tree House, which combined are expected to save the building over S$500,000 annually in energy and water savings.

Mr Kwek Leng Joo, CDL Deputy Chairman, said, “With the eco-inspired Tree House, CDL has not only created a place where residents are proud to call home but more importantly, a green icon which placed Singapore in the world map.”

America’s oldest net positive home remodel – How did they do it? Free Webinar

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“When my wife Kelly and I bought our 110 year old Folk-Victorian home in Ann Arbor’s Old West Side Historic District, it was a dreamInside Mission Zero come true: drafty old windows, lead paint, zero insulation, a half-century old furnace, asbestos siding, a gas powered mower in the shed and even a few pieces of coal scattered around the back yard. What more could a couple ask for? From the start we knew that homes use an astonishing 22% of energy consumed in the U.S. In fact, your home uses far more energy than your car. Home energy costs have skyrocketed to an average of $2200 per year. Old homes use even more than their fair share of the energy pie. . . .But using resources to build big new “green” homes to save resources just seems ironic. There are 130 million existing homes in the U.S.; half were built before 1972.” – Matt Grocoff

Matt Grocoff photo by Cybelle CodishImagine an existing home in a cold weather climate that produces more energy than it consumes, even with an electric car plugged in and can prove it! Come learn more about what you can do in your next remodel to go beyond conventional green and push the envelope without breaking the bank. You will also get a hint of Matt’s goals to achieve Net Zero Water and learn a little bit more about his pursuit of the Living Building Challenge.

“So, retrofitting America’s old homes is not just about preserving history, it is indeed about protecting our future.” – MG

Matt is the founding principal of the THRIVE Collaborative working to create life-enhancing buildings that harvest their own energy and water, create zero waste and are beautiful and restorative.

He was honored as a 2012 Michigan Green Leader by the Detroit Free Press, called a “proven zero energy master” by Green Building Elements and one of “Greater Detroit’s most progressive personalities” by MyFord Magazine.  He is co-founder of Mission Zero Fest and a nationally renowned advocate and thought-leader on net zero energy buildings, Living Buildings and restorative design. Matt is host of Greenovation.TV, a contributor to the Environment Report on public radio, contributor to FOX2 News EnergyTeam, writer and the green renovation expert for Old House Web and

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America's Oldest Net Zero House color corrected v.2

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The Tesla effect: Toyota subsidiary leases new Fremont warehouse space

tesla warehouse tai toyota

Call it the Tesla effect: Another supplier has moved out of the automaker’s factory, leasing space nearby as growth continues for the electric car company.

Toyota Tsusho America Inc., or TAI, this month inked a five-year lease for 64,396 square feet of warehouse space at a Prologis-owned complex at 41470 Boyce Road in Fremont. The company has been working inside Tesla’s Fremont factory since 2010, but Tesla has been expanding its own production use inside the facility, sending suppliers like TAI searching for their own space. In May, my colleagueBlanca Torres wrote about Futuris Automotive Inc., another Tesla supplier,inking a deal for 160,000 square feet in Newark.

Yet tenants like TAI and Futuris are finding it tough to find the right space, said Craig Leiker, an executive vice president atKidder Matthews who represented the tenant with colleague James Viso, a senior associate. The landlord was represented by Joe Kelly of CBRE.

“It’s a very tight market for warehouse and industrial,” Leiker told me. “The market vacancy is about 6.7 percent, and Prologis’s vacancy factor is less than 2.”

Leiker said the site met the company’s needs because it was close to the factory and had the right number of truck doors, high ceilings and enough warehouse space. The lease represents an increase for TAI, which is going from about 18,000 square feet to 64,000 square feet. TAI will use the space mostly for warehouse as well as some wheel assembly.

The deal is good news for developers of industrial and warehouse space, who are finally building new projects for the first time in years. Read more about that trend here.

Report Shows Growth In Demand For Green Homes

Green homes use less energyThe US Green Building Council (USGBC) now estimates that there are as many as 150,000 LEED-certified green housing units worldwide, a number that more than doubled between 2011 and 2012 and continues to grow steadily, according to the organization’s LEED in Motion: Residential report released last week.

The report is the latest in USGBC’s popular LEED in Motion series designed to equip readers with the insight and knowledge to understand LEED, the world’s most widely used and recognized green building rating system, and to make the case for sustainable building practices worldwide.

With the official start of summer and Americans bracing for higher energy bills, the benefits of LEED-certified houses are even more pronounced. LEED-certified homes provide 20 to 30 percent savings in energy and water use compared to code-built homes, and they maximize fresh air indoors while minimizing exposure to airborne toxins and pollutants.

“Our homes are more than just spaces that provide shelter,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “Homes touch practically every aspect of our lives and are a critical element of our overall sense of safety, identity and community. Enhancing our homes’ efficiency and resilience offers an extraordinary opportunity to further the revolution in sustainable building and living practices so that it ripples outward to our communities. As demonstrated in LEED in Motion: Residential, this movement is already well under way.”

Featuring a foreword from Nest CEO and founder Tony Fadell, the report explores the multiple LEED rating systems for different types of homes, including new single-family homes as well as new and existing low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise multifamily buildings. USGBC is also developing a rating system for existing single-family homes.

Interesting facts from the report include:

  • There are as many as 150,000 LEED-certified residential units (under LEED for Homes and commercial rating systems)
  • 43% of LEED for Homes units fall into the affordable housing sector
  • The US, Canada and Saudi Arabia are the top 3 countries for LEED for Homes certified units
  • California leads the U.S. in LEED for Homes certified units, followed by Texas

LEED in Motion: Residential also highlights the importance of local policy in spurring the uptake of green homes as well as noting the important connections between green homes and occupant health and well-being.

The report is currently available as a free download on the USGBC website at with hard copies available at Dwell on Design Los Angeles, the largest design event in the US, June 20-22, 2014.

Source: US Green Building Council

Project officials unveil plans for $500M Moscone Center renovation 

  • The Moscone Center will include wider sidewalks and fewer parking spaces at the corner of Howard and Third streets.

A planned major renovation of the Moscone Center will mark the centerpiece of an effort to make San Francisco’s South of Market, specifically the blocks surrounding the convention center, more pedestrian-friendly in the coming years.

A significant chunk of the $500 million project to renovate primarily Moscone South and the nearby area — revealed to the public for the first time Thursday — includes widening sidewalks and reducing parking and driveways at Howard and Third streets.

“This part of The City is not an area that is driver-friendly,” Supervisor Jane Kim said after a presentation at the Moscone Center. “It’s an area [where] we need people to walk and bike.”

Mohammed Nuru, director of the Department of Public Works, which is managing the project, said a plan is also being studied to make the streets surrounding the center, including Howard Street, two directions for drivers.

Regardless of traffic changes, visitors and residents will have better open street-level access to the center, aligning with a greater effort to make the area more walker-friendly.

“Right now Moscone is kind of this wall from Howard to Folsom,” Kim said. “People want to see a lot of the blocks broken up, more crosswalks, and less of a hardscape.”

click to enlargeThe area surrounding the Moscone Center is planned to receive a variety of improvements in an effort to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. - NATHANIEL Y. DOWNES

  • The area surrounding the Moscone Center is planned to receive a variety of improvements in an effort to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly.

The outside of Moscone South will be replaced with a taller, glass-coated building featuring multiple outdoor terraces and an additional ballroom with city views. An indoor ballroom will remain intact.

The project will also add more than 8,000 square feet of public space, transform 20,000 square feet of parking into pedestrian-friendly space and replace the pedestrian bridge atop Howard Street.

Construction will be divided into three phases, the first of which primarily consists of excavating a block of dirt under Howard Street in the middle of the 260,000 square-foot exhibit hall beneath Moscone South and the 180,000 square foot hall under Moscone North to better connect the two spaces. The second and third phases will mainly include renovating the Moscone South building. Once completed, the Moscone Center will leave the smallest carbon footprint of any convention center in the U.S., said Craig Hartman, a partner with the project’s architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

The center will tap into the water supply generated from its foundation and harvest rainwater to avoid using any new water for irrigation and flushing, saving 5 million gallons of water annually, according to Hartman. It will also have the largest solar rooftop installation in San Francisco.

“All of these pieces are part of this plan to think about the environment,” Hartman said.

Additionally, officials tout how the project will increase revenue and jobs for The City. The Moscone Center operates at capacity and stands to lose $2 billion in economic activity by 2020 without the expansion, according to project officials.

Kim also emphasized that the project considers the needs of both residents and visitors.

“Tourism is a really key part of our industry, but we want to make sure that whatever is built is also sensitive to the residents that live here,” Kim said.

Public comment closed Monday for the draft environmental impact report, but an informational hearing on the project will be held July 24 before the final EIR is complete, said Lynn Farzaroli with the San Francisco Travel Association.

Following approval, construction is slated to begin in December and last four years.

Sand Hill buys Stanford Research Park gems for $140M

Screen shot 2014 06 17 at 6

A joint venture of Sand Hill Property Co. has bought 3175 Hanover St. in Palo Alto, which is home to the Silicon Valley law firm Cooley LLP.

Eight months after picking up the former Facebook headquarters at 1050 Page Mill RoadSand Hill Property Co. has bought another major asset in Palo Alto’s prestigious Stanford Research Park.

This time it bought the headquarters of legendary Silicon Valley law firm CooleyLLP and a nearby parcel that could be a redevelopment site.

A joint venture of Redwood City-based Sand Hill Property Co., the firm headed by veteran investor and developer Peter Pau, acquired Cooley’s roughly 129,000-square-foot building at 3175 Hanover St. The building sits on more than 7 acres of land and is adjacent to Hewlett Packard’sheadquarters at 3000 Hanover.

Sand Hill also acquired a 2.9-acre parking lot at 3300 El Camino, which could be redeveloped to include new office building.

Parties involved in the transaction declined to release the total purchase price, but county title records peg the value of the sale at $140 million.

Sand Hill bought the ground lease for both properties, not the actual land underneath them. (This is standard procedure in this submarket; Stanford University owns all the land in the 700-acre business park, which is home to more than 150 employers, in perpetuity) The seller was Novellus Systems, which was acquired in 2012 by Lam Research. The ground leases run through 2051, according to people with knowledge of the property offering. Cooley is in its building for about another decade.

The transaction is another score for Sand Hill Property, which is currently firing on all cylinders. Sand Hill’s under-construction projects include a medical office building for Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Los Gatosa major campus expansion for Netflix, also in Los Gatos; and Main Street Cupertino, the first major mixed-use development in years in the hometown of Apple Inc.

The property was marketed by Andrew Hueser of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank, who declined to comment. Financing for the Hanover property was arranged by CBRE Capital Markets’ Debt & Structured Finance Team. In a statement, CBRE said it arranged $86.5 million in non-recourse financing for the property, provided by a “Wall Street lender.” Commercial Mortgage Alert said the lender was Natixis, the French investment bank.

CBRE’s John Nelson declined to discuss the deal in detail. But he said in a statement that the transaction “was one of the most competitive financing situations I have seen in quite some time. The intense competition among lenders was a direct function of the strong location and tenancy of the prospect in addition to the excellent sponsorship.”

Sand Hill’s joint venture partner in the deal is believed to be an affiliate of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi that has partnered with Sand Hill in past deals, according to people not directly connected to the transaction. Pau didn’t immediately return a phone call.

Properties in the research park don’t come available often, and when they do, there is very strong interest. The high-profile research park is home to tenants including Tesla Motors, SAP, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, VMWare, Nest Labs and numerous high-tech law firms. Vacancy is below 5 percent.

This is the biggest acquisition in the research park since Sand Hill picked up 1050 Page Mill last year. Sand Hill has proposed a redevelopment of that site, which has been vacant, with plans to transform the 13.5 acres into an architecturally striking office project.

Near the Mark: Zero in on Energy Neutrality

Affordable strategies to get your building close to zero

By Janelle Penny –


« Return



If your building isn’t net zero, you can still be an energy hero. Drawing near can be just as good.

Targeting “near zero” instead – which the New Buildings Institute defines as an energy use index (EUI) of 16-20 kBTU per square foot per year or less – still brings staggering savings and green gains, even if true zero status isn’t in the cards right now.

To hit anywhere near the bullseye of zero energy use, however, you need an extra-efficient building. Focus on optimizing your building’s tightness, equipment, and operation inside and out before looking at renewables.

Predictably, retrofitting an existing building to achieve such low energy consumption carries considerable challenges – but it may also offer previously unnoticed opportunity.

“You can look at any existing building and assess its existing green components, and if the building is currently in its end use, you can assess its actual performance. There’s some benefit to having an existing building to work with,” explains Ralph DiNola, executive director of the New Buildings Institute. “In a lot of historic buildings, you’ll see features like high window head height, good daylighting, a design that favors natural ventilation, and a big thermal mass – you’re potentially given a host of features that work well when aspiring to net zero.”


In Short: Evaluate Your Path to Zero

5 steps to achieving near-zero energy use

1.) Site: How does your building’s orientation affect solar heat gain and available daylight?

2.) Envelope and facade: Should you tighten the building from the inside or outside?

3.) Electrical and mechanical: Which systems are near the end of their useful lives and can be replaced with more efficient models? Which retrofits offer the quickest payback to help finance other upgrades?

4.) Data: How will you measure consumption and savings?

5.) Occupant behavior: What can you do to get occupants on board with your savings strategies? How can you make them aware of behavior-dependent sources of energy consumption, such as plug loads?

You don’t need the features of a historic building to put zero in your sights, however. Mark Frankel, technical director of the New Buildings Institute, says the key is integrated design and a strong, thorough team working with you, though some buildings can pose extra problems. 

“Some of my favorite examples in our database are existing buildings that are not historic – they were total dogs, but now they’re net-zero or super-efficient buildings because the design team was committed to making them work,” says Frankel. “However, there are features that can be liabilities to net zero, primarily excessive glazing. That’s a very difficult feature to work with because you have to fight solar gain and extreme heat loss, which are challenging features for managing energy.”

Start by assessing the building’s orientation and the condition of the facade and envelope. Your location, climate, and building type will have a major impact on what strategies are feasible, says Jim Gabriel, partner of architectural firm Hanna Gabriel Wells, which renovated a former auto repair garage with cinderblock construction into its net-zero Bacon Street office in San Diego, CA, in 2009. The original structure was built in 1955.

“Office buildings have relatively low energy use compared to other building types, so they’re a good target just because you’re already part of the way to zero,” says Gabriel. “The physical form of the building also plays a role. Ours is long and narrow in proportion, so it easily lends itself to natural ventilation and daylighting. The more things you can do passively, the more you start to drive down the energy consumption.”

The Bacon Street office didn’t require much insulation due to its breezy, temperate location, but more severe seasonal variations in other parts of the country make that step a must.

“If you can insulate the exterior and add a rainscreen on the outside of a relatively simple building, that will be less expensive than a total gut rehab of the interior spaces,” notes Laura Blau, principal of sustainable architectural firm BluPath Design. “It’s easier to attend to air sealing from the outside where more surfaces are open to you rather than trying to do things with existing interior conditions where floors meet walls and walls meet the foundation and roof. Maybe you have a building where you can change out the windows and put on a new facade. If you’re adding a new wing, you can orient it to invite winter sun in or keep summer sun out, depending on the thermal dynamics.”

The Historic Green Village on Anna Maria Island, FL, is a unique mixed-use combination of four 100-year-old buildings containing a cafe, outdoor equipment outfitter, and jeweler, as well as a new building with a small art gallery and bakery. The team opted for spray foam instead of exterior insulation because its historic buildings were unoccupied at the time of renovation.

“The biggest single factor in reducing energy is insulation, along with double windows and low-E glass,” says Tom Stockebrand, the village’s technical consultant and energy expert.

As Frankel noted, if your building is overglazed, sometimes a second skin can both mitigate the negative effects of too much glazing and contribute to a tight envelope, another requirement in creating an ultra-efficient building. Addressing envelope issues first will help clarify what to do inside and protect against envelope failure from condensation and freeze-thaw cycles, which invite rust, rot, mold, and mildew.

“With any deep energy retrofit, the first consideration is whether you’re near the end of the useful life of your mechanical systems,” says Blau. “That’s a great time to think about putting money into the envelope so you reduce the load and can use smaller mechanical equipment. If you replace your mechanical systems and then look at your envelope afterward, you will have oversized systems that won’t run as efficiently.”



After addressing envelope and facade issues, turn your attention to the building’s electrical and mechanical systems. Daylighting is a nearly universal strategy, according to the New Buildings Institute.

“You want to provide the right amount of light when and where you need it. Anything else is wasted,” says Jenn Dolin, manager of sustainability and environmental affairs for lighting developer Sylvania. “Energy management and lighting control systems help you identify when lighting is being used incorrectly, and then you can adjust to that. Let’s say you have a snowstorm and everyone is asked to stay home, but your lights are programmed to be on for 10 hours a day. If the entire building is lit for 10 hours but there are only three people in the entire building, you won’t want those lights on because that’s a huge amount of wasted energy. Some lighting control solutions will let you go in remotely, turn the lights off, and then adjust as necessary when people are back in the building.”

The Leon County Extension Office in Tallahassee, FL, opted for a simple lighting retrofit when they targeted net-zero status during a 2012 renovation of their 1960s-era building. Lighting fixtures were upgraded from 40W T12 lamps with magnetic ballasts to 32W T8s. A survey of tasks then revealed that some occupants’ needs were met with three lamps rather than four, allowing further savings. The team also added occupancy sensors to private offices.

HVAC did not escape the Leon County Extension’s review. The office previously used zoned HVAC with multiple rooftop units. After the team decided to target net zero during the next renovation, closed-loop geothermal heating andcooling replaced roughly two-thirds of the building’s heating and cooling capacity. The one remaining HVAC unit will later be replaced with one that has a higher SEER rating.

“Our auditorium is one of the primary places we use for outreach, and a lot of nighttime functions are held there. In conjunction with solar PV producing energy during the day, we wanted the geothermal to primarily serve the nighttime load,” explains Maggie Theriot, director of Leon County’s Office of Resource Stewardship. “In addition to maximizing our heating and cooling dollars, it reduced the peak demand of the building. That brings more monetary savings, even if your energy use stays level.”

The most efficient building can still waste energy if occupants don’t buy into your savings strategies, Frankel explains. Involve occupants early and often.

“What really separates successful from unsuccessful projects is when they address the way occupants will use the building and how it’s operated over time,” says Frankel. “If occupants aren’t on board with good plug load behavior and turning off lights at night, you can totally destroy your energy budget. It’s not just a design problem – it’s a design, occupant, and operations problem.”


Passive House: The Near Zero Certification

Pioneered in Central Europe, the Passive House standard is becoming an increasingly viable option even in North American climate extremes. It focuses on minimizing energy losses – the “passive” component – rather than “active” renewable technologies, though adding them can certainly push you closer to zero. The standard focuses on these five waste-killing principles.

1) Airtight Shell
Passive House allows buildings to leak no more than 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals of building pressure. Minimizing loss through the shell is critical in meeting the standard’s other performance requirements – a scant 4.75 kBTU per square foot per year for heating and cooling and a specific primary energy demand no higher than 38.1 kBTU per square foot per year.

“There cannot be any thermal bridges in the building,” explains Catrin Klingenberg, executive director of Passive House Institute US, a nonprofit dedicated to furthering passive building standards. “A thermal bridge is a material with a higher conductivity than the materials around it – for example, a steel beam that goes from the inside to the outside. Everything must be insulated around the envelope.”

2) Optimized Solar Energy
Make the best use of available sunlight for your climate, whether that’s changing out the windows for glare-free daylighting or putting in smart shades for cooling days. This step also cuts down on mechanical heating needs thanks to carefully controlled solar heat gain.

3) Continuous Ventilation
Adequate ventilation is a must to keep the building comfortable, and adding heat recovery reduces heat loss through the ventilation system by roughly 80%, according to Passive House literature.

“Installing a ventilation system that has heat exchange is a good step, and it pays because you’re eliminating exhaust through ventilation, which is typically very high in commercial buildings,” says Klingenberg.

4) Efficient Appliances
Your building will still need some artificial lighting and HVAC components after the retrofit, and you’ll also want to minimize the plug loads your occupants are generating. Choosing the most efficient equipment whenever possible is a no-brainer.

5) Accurate and Proven Analysis
To verify that your building is meeting the low energy threshold, the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), a spreadsheet-based design tool, is used to confirm energy consumption.


Building energy dashboards are a popular way to help occupants visualize the impacts of their energy choices – the Historic Green Village meters all five buildings and displays data in a web-based portal and in dashboards for each building. The Leon County Extension Office took a similar tack with a kiosk comparing building energy consumption with the current production of the office’s solar array. “People start using less power just because the display is sitting there,” notesStockebrand. 

The extension office also used a more interactive strategy. Staying true to their teaching mission, occupants paired up with office mates to conduct self-performed audits, both in common areas and in their own offices.

“Throughout the audit, they’re exploring their own spaces and reflecting on how they can improve personal behaviors and purchasing decisions, as well as how they interact with the space they’re provided,” explains Theriot. “From that came a list of recommendations that we boiled down. Some of the behavioral recommendations were achievable and free – any employee can start doing basic things like turning out the lights.”

The audit also yielded more complex recommendations, Theriot added. Thanks to occupant requests, the infrastructure for an electric vehicle charging station was installed while the ground was already being disturbed to install the office’s solar panels.

“Engaging your occupants sometimes means they come up with great unforeseen opportunities that otherwise might be missed,” says Theriot.

In addition to showing occupants the numbers behind their actions, also target an often-overlooked energy consumer – plug loads.

“Traditionally plug loads are ignored because people focus on lights and mechanical systems,” says Gabriel. “But the way we work today demands huge amounts of power from plugging in equipment – everyone has computers and mobile devices that are constantly recharging. Monitor plug loads and develop strategies for managing them, whether that’s just making sure the equipment you buy is energy-efficient or buying occupancy sensors that shut off or step down equipment when people leave their areas.”

The path to efficiency is difficult and can be fraught with complications, but it’s combining a logical set of efficiency strategies that will draw your building close to zero.

“There’s no shortcut to getting there,” Gabriel adds. “You can’t just bootstrap different thoughts together – often building owners and managers hear different strategies from different buildings and try to apply them to their own facilities in a piecemeal way. That’s not going to get you the holistic kind of solution you need. When you properly analyze what you have, you get a building that can truly step out and move toward your goals.”





Bacon Street Offices – Hanna Gabriel Wells
San Diego, CA

Building Size: 4,500 square feet

Constructed: 1955

Renovated: 2009

EUI: 13, with a net EUI of -9 due to a renewable production EUI of 22

Certifications: LEED Gold, Savings by Design Honor Award

Green Strategies:

  • A wall of windows along the street side of the building provides daylight. Diffuse skylights at the back of the space provide balance.
  • The design relies on daylighting first, then layers ambient light with advanced controls that turn off artificial light when it’s not needed. Users control their own LED task lights.
  • The building relies on prevailing coastal breezes for natural ventilation. Warm air is exhausted through the skylights.
  • Each lighting zone is individually monitored for more effective commissioning and measurement.



Leon County Cooperative Extension (University of Florida)
Tallahassee, FL

Building Size: 13,000 square feet

Constructed: 1960

Renovated: 2001 and 2012

EUI:19, with a net EUI of 0 due to a renewable production EUI matching consumption

Certifications: None

Green Strategies:

  • A closed-loop geothermal field of 60 wells at 90 feet deep moderates water temperature, enabling the building to discard or recover heat as necessary. The geothermal system allowed for a downsized compressor and provided a 40% energy savings compared to a conventional system.
  • HVAC control setpoints are set back to 80 degrees F. on nights and weekends. During weekday morning operations, startup of the HVAC units is phased to avoid peak demand charges.
  • Waste heat from the geothermal system is used to heat hot water in the kitchen.
  • A 60 kW solar array of 253 panels, each producing 240W of electricity, is mounted on a steel beam structure so it can double as a canopy for the parking lot.



Anna Maria Historic Green Village
Anna Maria Island, FL

Building Size: 5,000 square feet (across five buildings)

Constructed: 1911 and 1915

Renovated: 2012

EUI:28, with a net EUI of -7 due to a renewable production EUI of 35

Certifications: LEED Platinum
Green Strategies:

  • Every structure is insulated above code levels and fitted with high-performance windows. One 1,000-square-foot building is insulated so thoroughly that its total monthly electric bill never exceeds $20.
  • The geothermal heating and cooling system reaches 450 feet below the café into an aquifer with 72-degree F. water.
  • Domestic water is heated to 170 degrees F. by a flat panel with copper tubing painted black.
  • Data from the village’s eMonitors (which track multiple circuits and main feeds) revealed that the dominant loads are air conditioning and café equipment, especially freezers, refrigerators, and the espresso machine. The team discovered that the air conditioners weren’t phasing in as planned, due in part to excess heat created by a display case in the café. Simply adding a blanket reduced air conditioning loads by 25%.


What’s the Right Dose?

By Michael Cockram
Illustration by Lenny Naar

The link between health and green building seems natural. More daylight, fresh air, and reduced emissions from fossil fuel read like a recipe for wellness. But there are those who use things like LEED certification as a marker of healthy building when the facts don’t always align with the claims.

—– Advertising —–

For example, Duke Realty, an Indiana health-care-facility developer, extols on its website the healthy attributes of a recent project that achieved LEED Gold certification, asserting, “Green buildings typically have better indoor air quality than conventional facilities.” However, the certification was for LEED for Core & Shell. This category doesn’t include the finish-out of tenant spaces and avoids a primary culprit in indoor air quality: toxic emissions from finish materials.

On the other hand, a 2010 study done by Michigan State University titled “Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity” found that LEED buildings do create healthier work environments. Despite the fact that the scope of the research was limited to only two case studies (the Christman Building and the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union), the authors of the report concluded that “these preliminary studies lend support to expectations of improved IEQ [indoor environmental quality] and occupational health and public health outcomes from expanded use of green office buildings.” Expectations are not evidence, and the Michigan State researchers were aware of the limitations of drawing conclusions from subjective employee surveys, their method of evaluation in this study.

Common sense and a lot of science warn that breathing toxic chemical gases in unventilated or unexhausted environments is hazardous. That’s the presumptive logic on which this and similar studies are based. Future research will most likely broaden its scope to measure accurately the cause before extrapolating its effect.

Fact fishing and sound bites

This is why studies, particularly those of the preliminary kind, are so susceptible to distortion. A 2011 Fox News headline shouted out: “Green Buildings, Hazardous to Health?” Beyond that hyperbole, the story cherry-picked its way through an Institute of Medicine study on the potential impacts of climate change on IEQ. The story focused on the possible negative effects of “weatherization” methods such as adding insulation and tighter construction.

“To say something is green because you’ve increased tightness or insulation is inappropriate,” says Carnegie Mellon architecture professor Vivian Loftness, a coauthor of the study. She points to the passive-house technique of using heat-exchange ventilation as an example of green building that actually improves fresh-air delivery rates compared with conventional homes. “It’s a package deal; you don’t build supertight without a ventilation system,” she adds.

The Fox story also omitted the recommendations of the researchers, which called for updated codes, more testing, and regulation by the EPA of toxic emissions from materials.

Some researchers have criticized the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the fact that it’s possible to tailor a LEED Platinum certification without any indoor-air-quality credits. But the critics provide no data to show how LEED buildings actually perform.

The National Research Council of Canada released a study this year that is the most extensive to date on how green buildings perform in terms of indoor air quality. Comparing 12 pairs of conventional and green buildings (most were LEED-certified or candidates), the study found that the green buildings did have better indoor air quality. According to research-team member Guy Newsham, the data supported the premise that such buildings have lower levels of indoor pollutants and higher ratings for occupant well-being, among other positive attributes.



MELBOURNE, Australia (June 2, 2014) – It’s not often that a travel product helps provide clean and safe drinking water for communities in need.  It’s even less common that it’s good for the environment, helps you pack less and weighs only 5 oz. The world’s first pocket-sized washing machine, the Scrubba® wash bag, is doing just that.

The man behind this Australian invention is Ash Newland. His Melbourne-based company, Calibre8 Pty Ltd, has committed to donating up to $15,000 USD in the next five weeks to charity: water ( to build the infrastructure required to plumb a water system for a school in Bangladesh.  The project will provide an ongoing supply of clean and safe drinking water for around 750 people as well as vital training in water and sanitation hygiene.  With 16% of people in Bangladesh lacking access to water and 42% lacking access to sanitation, this project will be vital to the school and nearby communities.

“This donation of up to $15,000 is the first of many large donations we plan to make in the coming years,” Newland said. “We have selected charity: water for this donation as they offer a great level of transparency and reporting. We think it is important that our supporters can see exactly what project they helped fund and in most cases even look up the location with GPS coordinates.”

Newland continues, “We launched the Scrubba wash bag in mid-2012 after a successful crowd-funding campaign, so it is terrific to already be in a position where we can make substantial contributions to communities in need.

“Having traveled extensively around the world, I have seen first-hand the sad truth that many people live without clean water and other basic essentials – things we often take for granted,” Newland said.  “It is great to know that we can help travelers pack less and travel lighter and at the same time help those in need with the basics to survive.”

The exact amount donated up to the $15,000 will be tied to social media engagement through June 27, 2014. “By linking the donations to social media engagement, we hope to build awareness of the need for water-related projects as well as our product, which will allow us to commit more funds in the future,” Newland said.

The Scrubba wash bag will donate $1 for every new Like on their Facebook page ( For those who already own a Scrubba wash bag, the company will donate $20 for a cool image of Scrubba being used on location and posted to the company’s Facebook wall or emailed to Fifty dollars will be donated if users upload a video of themselves demonstrating how to use the Scrubba wash bag to clean their clothes on YouTube and email the video link to

Conceived by world-traveling patent attorney Ash Newland in 2010 as he prepared to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Scrubba wash bag has become a global success story.  His company, Calibre8 Pty Ltd now has “retailers and distributors in over 14 counties and this looks like expanding to around 20 countries in the next few months,” Newland said.

Notes to editor
High res product images can be accessed from Scrubba’s online image bank at:
The latest promo video is accessible at:
charity: water images specific to this project can be accessed at:
Ash Newland is available for interviews and can be scheduled by email to

Available worldwide, the Scrubba wash bag recently won Gear Junkie’s “Best in Show” from Outdoor Retailer 2013 and is part of the greatest gear for 2014 (
How the Scrubba Wash Bag Works

The secret to the patent pending 5 oz. Scrubba wash bag is on the inside: hundreds of resilient “nodules” act as a flexible washboard in a bag. To wash clothes, simply add cleaning liquid and one-half to a full gallon of water, seal the bag, expel the air and rub for as little as 30 seconds (three minutes provides a machine quality wash). Rinsing can be done in the bag or in the shower and then it is simply a matter of hanging the clothes to dry.
The Scrubba wash bag is patented in Australia and New Zealand and patent pending internationally. The word Scrubba and the Scrubba logo are trademarks of Calibre8 Pty Ltd.