Tools For Your Super That Could Save You Money

The April edition of The Cooperator listed some tips on common tools and fixes your building staff should be aware of. These tools and tips could save you from unnecessary expenses. How many of these does your building super do/have?

  • Use a moisture reader (to detect leaks before opening a wall)
  • Portable floodlights with chains (illuminate exterior work areas such as new concrete to prevent vandalism)
  • Wire mesh that can be cut to size for drain covers in parking areas (clean weekly to prevent buildup)
  • Sandbags for low-lying areas that are prone to flooding (put them out before a big rainfall)

The entire article with some additional tips can be found here.

Up in (no) Smoke?

Public Housing Agencies were presented with a proposal in November to end smoking in public housing facilities. Currently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is reviewing comments and requests for additional resources and time to enforce the proposed ban before finalizing the law.

Will this be a trend? Do you want your building to go smoke free? A recent article in the cooperator examines the topic in depth. What do you think?

Click here to read the article in The Cooperator.

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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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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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Signs Four Green-Code Bills

The Green-Code Bill recently passed by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio are geared towards improvimg your health and our environment

The mandates are as follows:

      1) Construction companies to insulate piping which has been exposed during construction.

      2) Some stairwell doors in apartment buildings be equipped with devices to hold them open.

     3) Requires the use of mold-resistant drywall and cement in building areas prone to moisture.

     4) Construction companies use energy efficient lighting on construction sites.


Some questions come to my mind when reading the bills:

Will #1 and #4 increase the construction costs for the building owner?  Should construction companies provide additional information to the client showing the energy savings associated with the new mandates?

How will #2 impact security in a building?  how will this impact buildings that have conditioned hallways and permanently open louvers at the top of stairwells?

#3 should be tied in with greater emphasis on improved ventilation, in particular exhausting of bathrooms.  Even if the materials are mold resistant there needs to be equipment in place to regulate moisture in the building.


Blocked Energy-Efficiency Bill

A recent bill aimed at cutting homeowners’ energy use, utility bills and carbon footprints was shot down. The bill’s goal was to make it easier for homeowners to buy efficient equipment and to encourage  manufacturers to build energy-efficient cooling and heating systems.

What are your thoughts on why it didn’t pass?

Do you agree with the statement that the bill was “derailed by the contentious debate over the Keystone XL pipeline and President Obama’s plans to issue new climate change regulations.” ?


See the results of Senate Vote

NY to move away from charging customers fees on top of their utility bill?

Recently NYS identified at the end of 2013 that less than half of the 30% renewables-by-2015 target had been met since the start of the 2004 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  As a result, New York’s Public Service Commission has filed to create a new Clean Energy Fund to replace the state’s RPS.

New Clean Energy Fund will be paid for by state rate payers however the current RPS $4 average fee on customers’ utility bills (clean energy fee) will decrease over the next 6 years or so when it is expected the Green Bank will be fully funded. 

Does the reader agree with the commission’s statement, “The transition from the current suite of ratepayer supported programs to more market driven delivery mechanisms will decrease the need for ratepayer surcharges”?

If so, what is the outlook for NYSERDA which is funded by SBC charges on your utility bill?


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IMF says: Fossil fuel subsidies costing global economy $2 trillion

According to the International Monetary Fund subsidies are masking the true cost of fossil fuel. “…When you factor in implicit subsidies from the failure to charge for pollution, climate change and other externalities, the post-tax cost comes in at closer to $2 trillion – equivalent to about 2.9 per cent of global GDP, or 8.5 per cent of government revenues.”

Cons of subsidies according to Sophie Vorrath:

  • Divert government resources
  • Stifle incentives for greater efficiencies and innovation
  • Government reforms might appear to be a daunting challenge

So naturally the next logical step for goverments moving towards a low-carbon environment would be “reducing or eliminating fossil fuel subsidies – and properly pricing energy to account for environmental impacts”. — Sophie Vorrath

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What can we learn from Vermont’s Net Metering Expansion?

“Vermont’s legislation,H.702, raised the state’s net metering cap from 4 percent of a utility’s peak load to 15 percent, significantly expanding participation in this critical program.”

How does it compare to other states that dealt with conflict around net metering?

Andrew Savage highlights three main factors:

  1. Economic benefits of distributed solar generation
  2. Public Service Department involvement and acted as an intermediary between and among industries
  3. Full backing of the utility, GMP


Read more.


World’s first HVAC rating criteria

“AIRAH hopes the development of the world’s first HVAC rating criteria by Australian industry will have a “profound impact” upon market practices by putting pressure on companies to improve the efficiency of their products and endeavour to make improvements.”

Is the way to create change and movement towards energy efficiency and sustainable marketplace by putting pressure on the manufacturer’s?  Will that illicit the right response?

“The Online HVAC Rating Tool will make use of both quantitative data and qualitative information covering the design, installation and operational phases to rank the performance of different HVAC systems and will “rate, reward and encourage” best practice products on the market.”

I think one component that was left out of this new ranking of performance is the ability to retrofit a unit as well as the disposal and recycling of the HVAC system.  It seems in the US that most equipment is designed with a short life span and that the owner is left with the burden of disposal instead of manufacturer encourage to take back and reclaim.

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