The Importance of Buy-in from the User

In 2009 IBM launched a pilot water study that enabled residents, who recently had smart water meters installed, to visually monitor their water consumption through a web-based portal.  This near real time monitoring helps households to identify leaks and benchmark their usage with other households.  The goal of the study is reducing waist.  The pilot study is essential to understanding households interaction with a smart meter and ensuring buy-in and ownership.  Smart water meters as a standalone will not impact water consumption.  “If you can get citizen buy-in and make them a part of the process, you’ll have a better project in the end,” said Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol.

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Choosing the Right Belt

Recently in the news there has been alot of talk about high efficiency motors and optimizing controls. But did you know that a simple O&M measure could increase the efficiency of your belt drive motor?

V-belts are commonly used on belt drives in rooftop exhaust fans, rooftop packaged units and make-up air fans in buildings. A low cost and short payback energy efficiency measure frequently recommended by RO is the installation of cogged belts in place of v-belts. Cogged belts have “slots that run perpendicular to the belt’s length, helping to reduce the bending resistance of the belt. While using the same pulleys as v-belts, cogged belts manage to run cooler, last longer, and increase efficiency by 2% from standard v-belts.”

Give us a call to help you determine if replacing your belts is a cost effective solution for your application.

Advanced Controls for Rooftop Units Pays Back

A year-long study conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of rooftop packaged HVAC equipment at malls, hospitals and other buildings in the USA found, “Commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57 percent with advanced energy-efficiency controls”.

The main goal of the campaign, http://www.advancedrtu.org, is to encourage installation of advanced controls for rooftop HVAC units.  PNNL has created a table with typical HVAC unit sizes, operational characteristics and costs to help building owners “weigh the costs” of advanced controls.  For instance building owners could achieve a 3 year payback with an installation of a unit that is 15 tons or less and electricity costs are greater than or equal to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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In-Tank makes WC installation a simpler task

RO Engineers & Architects:

This blog has great photos showing the components of an in-tank WC. Save on space, energy, water and have a sleek modern design.

Originally posted on Architecture, Design & Innovation:

Leading sanitaryware brand Roca has introduced In-Tank – the first system to incorporate the cistern inside the WC pan, making installation simple as well as saving space and water.

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The In-Tank Meridian back-to-wall and wall-hung WCs are the first to have a concealed cistern integrated within the pan. Responding to the demand for quick and easy-to-install products, this clever system saves time and keeps costs to a minimum as with the tank already incorporated inside the product, no wall installation is required.  The wall-hung option is supplied complete with either a straight or an L-shaped support, enabling it to be fitted to solid or cavity walls with the support frame built-in.

This innovation means that the In-Tank Meridian, already a compact option with a projection of just 595mm, requires even less installation space than a standard back-to-wall or wall-hung WC. The ideal solution for smaller bathrooms, the In-Tank offers greater…

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Cut the $$ to power furnace fans by ~40%

Did you know that “Furnace fans consume about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year, or almost 10% of the total electricity use of an average U.S. home.”?  As a comparison, typically a room air conditioner consumes 600kWh per year, a refrigerator is 450kWh per year and a dishwasher is 300kWh per year.  Most residential owners of furnace fans are not aware of this because the fan is a component of a larger system and the associated energy consumption with operating the fan is not monitored.

According to ACEEE, there is a new standard that will take effect in 2019 to address the performance and efficiency of furnace fans. “On a national level, DOE estimates that the new standards will reduce electricity consumption by about 500 billion kilowatt-hours over thirty years of sales, an amount equal to the annual electricity use of about 47 million U.S. households, and will save consumers $29 billion. ” Joanna Mauer, Technical Advocacy Manager

What can be done to meet this new standard?  Well if your existing fan motor is permanent split capacitor type it may be replaced with a brushless permanent magnet (BPM) motors (depending on age, condition, existing wiring).   In addition to improving motors, the standard also includes guidelines on furnace controls: multi-stage or modulating furnaces.   Furnaces are commonly setup for on/off operation which is not optimal for matching the furnace output with the actual demand for heat.  A more efficient method of operation are multi-stage furnaces that generally operate continuously and improve comfort by reducing temperature swings.

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EPA drafts Clean Power Plan

 On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, proposed a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. According to NRDC, it is estimated that $37.4 billion in savings on electric bills by 2020, if  states use energy efficiency as the key approach to reduce carbon. Many see the plan having a positive impact on the demand for energy efficiency-related jobs; electricians, roofers, carpenters, insulation workers, heating/air conditioning installers.   The drafted rule gives states an “unprecedented flexibility to meet their obligations within an all-of-the-above set of options, tailored to each state’s needs and opportunities. A flexible approach will keep electricity affordable for American families and businesses, spark homegrown clean energy innovation that creates jobs, and increase energy efficiency to save families money”, says Ernest Moniz, US energy secretary. 

NRDC analysis of electricity bill savings if 13 states use energy-efficiency driven carbon reduction plans reveals a total savings( household, commercial and industrial) ranging from $7 million to $1 billion.

The two main objectives of the proposal according to EPA are:

  • Consistent national frameworkThe Clean Power Plan will put in place a consistent national framework that builds on work states are already doing to reduce carbon pollution – especially through programs that encourage renewable energy or energy efficiency. It will reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants while ensuring a reliable and affordable supply of power.
     
  • Maximizing flexibilitiesEPA’s proposal ensures that states have the flexibility to choose the best set of cost-effective reductions for them. By setting a state-specific goal and allowing states to work individually or in regional groups, EPA is making sure states have the flexibility they need to drive investment in innovation, while ensuring reliability and affordability.

Some critics of the Clean Power Plan worry that states where work is already under way to reduce carbon pollution may have do more work and spend more money to comply than those states that have made no effort to reduce carbon pollution.   Energy Secretary Len Peters and Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council have said the law would likely limit the state’s compliance flexibility.  They feel the plan is focused on carbon reduction actions at power plants, and doesn’t emphasize the importance of an EPA approved program that might include energy efficiency at homes and businesses or encouraging alternatives to coal.

As of right now, the proposal is in a 120-day public comment period and further EPA review. A final rule is expected out in one year.

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Architects Challenged to Look at the Bigger Picture

The annual conference of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) was held this year in Chicago June 26‒28.  Shaunacy Ferro, writer for fastcodesign.com, wrote an article about what was discussed on the second day of the conference during a panel discussion moderated by KCRW producer Frances Anderton. Panelists included Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategist; Ellen Dunham-Jones, chair of the Congress for New Urbanism; Robin Guenther, principal at Perkins+Will; and Rachel Minnery, a disaster resiliency activist.  Frances Anderton initiated the panel discussion asking: “What do we mean by resilience, and how do we actually explain this notion to the public?”

Shaunacy highlighted in her article what the panelists thought were some of the greatest challenges facing today’s cities and suburbs:

Majora Carter, who founded an organization called Sustainable South Bronx in 2001, had an important message for architects: “It’s not just about the building. It is about the context that building is in… How is this going to fit in the larger picture of how a city lives and breathes and loves and works? Those are the things we need you to be saying.”  

Rachel Minnery’s words were directed to our society and necessary cultural and behavioral shift, “Inherently in the U.S., we have our boxes–We have our property lines, we’re individual property owners. We need to shift that from a culture of ‘I’ to a culture of ‘we.'”

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Role of Building Operators and Promotion as a Green Job

“Recognize and promote building operations as a green job. Building operators can have a major effect on the indoor environment and indoor air quality as well as on building energy use and sustainability. These potential contributions to environmental sustainability can help make building operations an attractive career.” According to a new study  Behavioral Strategies to Bridge the Gap Between Potential and Actual Savings in Commercial Buildings recognize the building as a social system and use real buildings and users to experiment with solutions. The researchers stress the role of building operators and recommend training and certification for the profession, with curricula including energy use and energy efficiency.

Some highlights from the study are:

1) Small sample set.

Using semi-structured interviews, the sample of buildings personnel consisted of ten building operators, three energy managers, and nine other building management staff (e.g., property managers, analysts).  Additionally, most of the buildings the sample of building personnel operated were Energy Star-rated buildings, LEED-certified buildings, where energy use or sustainability appeared to be of higher interest compared to typical buildings.

2) Only four case studies, mostly offices
Case I:
Large Owner- Occupied Office- Single tenant, over 10 stories, more than 400,000 square feet, out- sourced building operations team; LEED- certified
Case II:
Medium Local Government Office-Single-tenant LEED- certified, about 60,000 square feet, renovated in 2000s
Case III:
Large Government Office-Single tenant, over 500,000 square feet, recently renovated
Case IV:
Medium Multi- Tenant Mixed Commercial-Multiple tenants, originally constructed mid 20th century, over 200,000 square feet
3) Recruitment was difficult

Recruitment was difficult, especially since they wanted to avoid studying buildings that had already been extensively researched or that were too specific, such as buildings on university campuses.

4) Target reader audience: research, policy, and program communities rather than to building operators

 Perspective complements efforts that target energy efficient technologies or individual actions in isolation, as well as guidelines that focus on the technical aspects of improving building operations (e.g., PECI 1999, Sullivan et al. 2010).

 

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