ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 138 - 12/16/2011

New NIBS Report Considered a ‘First Step’ Toward Making High-Performance Buildings Commonplace Across America

Washington, D.C. -- The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) has taken what it considers a “first step” toward ensuring that high-performance buildings become the norm across the United States by releasing a report, entitled “Data Needs for Achieving High-Performance Buildings,” during its annual meeting, held here earlier this month in conjunction with the Ecobuild America conference.


The 60-page report makes a slew of recommendations about the submission, collection, and management of data to fill the void left by a lack of U.S. Energy Information Administration Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) information and incorporate details about water use, indoor environmental quality, cost effectiveness, and other attributes of high-performance buildings that do not involve energy use.


“The lack of updated energy data from CBECS has left a void that the building industry will need to fill in order to have the metrics to achieve the numerous high-performance-building goals set before us,” NIBS President Henry Green said. “We at the institute are pleased to be able to facilitate the bringing together of industry stakeholders to streamline the collection, correlation, and dissemination of data to achieve these goals. This report, developed through the expertise of institute staff and industry representatives, is the first step to ensuring that high-performance buildings become the norm across America.”


In calling for a database that reflects all high-performance-building attributes, NIBS recommended that the following steps be taken:


  • CBECS funding should be pursued but with modifications. Data on energy use of the building stock is an essential piece of any database focused on high-performance-building attributes. Despite [its] shortcomings, CBECS provides validated and accepted data on building stock energy performance. However, any resumption of CBECS should include an expanded and more diverse sample set to include additional data points for water use and other areas and allow for integration and correlation with other datasets. A subset of CBECS data also should be made available to allow advanced statistical computing. 
    Development of standards for integration and interoperability should be supported. Taking advantage of the multiple existing databases requires the creation of standards and protocols that allow such databases to work together to produce usable results. Development of these standards and protocols must include the owners of all relevant databases. Existing interoperability efforts, including those currently under way related to building information modeling and meta-data efforts in geographic information systems, could provide examples of infrastructures to accomplish development of such standards and protocols.
  • Accepted protocols for data acquisition, storage and retrieval, and confidentiality should be established. In order for building owners and others to contribute data to a central repository, they must have assurance that the source and integrity of the data is protected. A common security protocol followed by all data collectors would ensure that any combination of databases would provide sufficient protections to submitters.
  • Data providers and collectors should be encouraged to post data availability on a common website, allowing for the eventual performance of “super searches.” There already exists numerous datasets maintained by many entities for various purposes. However, lack of public access to such data (and even the knowledge that such data exists) limits its widespread utility. In the near term, a central hub providing information on the availability of data would expand its utility considerably. Eventual integration of such data and the ability to search for particular types of data would further increase utility. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory already maintains an open energy data portal, which was established as part of the Open Government Initiative. Current content is limited, but through its wiki format, data holders can submit information on their available data.
  • A building data working group should be formed with key stakeholders. Recommendations in the testimony that NIBS received represent a fraction of the broader building data stakeholders. However, the recommendations of this limited group already make the case for convening a larger working group of stakeholders who can guide future activities in this area. Such a working group should include both public- and private-sector representatives and all types of data users and providers. Through a cooperative approach, the data-collection process can be efficient and allow for integration and aggregation across datasets.
  • The existing effort to develop the Database for Analyzing Sustainable and High-Performance Buildings (DASH) should be built upon. Participants in the DASH program already represent key stakeholders in data collection and use. The program has incorporated existing work by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and others to identify some metrics of interest. Efforts to establish common collection and anonymization protocols also have begun. Rather than establishing a new data, data stakeholders should consider working within the existing DASH program to expand the scope to incorporate additional high-performance attributes and the desired outputs that the report identifies.
  • A new system for the submission, collection, and compilation of building data should be developed. Individual building systems, occupants, and owners do not exist in isolation. To understand how whole buildings perform with respect to the multiple expectations placed on them requires an understanding of how these entities interact. Existing datasets often focus on single attributes with limited to no ability to link to other datasets to evaluate correlations with other attributes. A new data survey system allowing connections across data sets, and ideally only burdening building owners and managers with a single data-collection effort, would provide the building community with the greatest benefit for the least overall cost.


It is important for key players to understand the users of building-related data and their needs to allow development of datasets with the greatest buy-in and acceptance across the building community, according to the institute. Such users include building owners, facility managers, tenants, occupants, educators, researchers, design professionals, codes and standards developers, regulators, voluntary programs, manufacturers and software developers, and real-estate professionals and appraisers.


NIBS established the High-Performance Building Data Collection Initiative last May. About 30 witnesses later provided testimony during an institute hearing to assess building data needs. The report incorporates this input. The New Buildings Institute and National Environmental Balancing Bureau supported the hearing and report.

Schedule for Revising Residential National Green Building Standard Outlined


Michelle Desiderio, director of the NAHB Research Center’s Green Building Programs, updated Ecobuild attendees on the status of a new residential National Green Building Standard.


The center’s ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is believed to be the only residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The standard defines green building for single- and multi-family homes, residential remodeling projects, and site-development projects while allowing for the flexibility required for regionally appropriate best green practices. For residential buildings, four threshold levels -- Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald -- allow builders to quantify and qualify green building at all levels. At the Emerald level, the highest rating for a residential green building, a building must incorporate energy savings of at least 60 percent.


To comply with the standard, a builder or remodeler must incorporate a minimum number of features in the following areas: lot and site development; energy, water, and resource efficiency; indoor environmental quality; and home owner education. In order to attain a higher level of green certification by the NAHB Research Center, a home must accrue successively higher levels of minimum points in every category. The highest level of certification is dictated by the lowest category score level.


The revision process began in earnest at a Consensus Committee meeting last March, Desiderio said. Since then, there has been another committee meeting and a public-comment period. About 450 changes to the standard have been proposed, “so it will be quite substantially revised,” she said, adding that one of the changes could involve a clarification of practices in common areas for multi-family structures. She further reported that the committee will meet during the third week of February with a final standard scheduled to be submitted near the end of next year. ANSI “hopefully” will approve the revised standard by the end of 2012, she noted. Even if ANSI approves the new standard next year, it probably will not go into effect until 2013.


There have been approximately 3,200 new and remodeled single-family homes certified since ANSI approved NGBS in early 2009. More than 900 more of these types of homes have been scheduled for rough inspections for potential certification. About 110 new and remodeled multi-family buildings with 2,848 units have been certified over the last three years. There are more than 100 multi-family buildings in the pipeline for certification, Desiderio said.


Most of the initial homes that were certified were larger, custom-built structures, “but since then we have seen the full gamut,” Desiderio said. There have been an increasing number of traditional suburban homes and smaller homes in cities certified.


Panel Pushes for Adoption of Plan for Sustainable Suburban Areas

During another Ecobuild session, a panel of construction professionals called for adoption of a plan to create greener suburban communities. Pushing for the plan, entitled “The Sustainable Suburbia Audit and Action System” (S2A2S), were Christine Papageorgis and Quoc Nguyen of EA Engineering and E. Phillip McCormick, an architect and professional planner.


“The sustainability movement focuses on urban redevelopment, transportation, and maximizing the use of existing infrastructure,” McCormick said. “Since substantial housing stock and suburban community infrastructure are grounded in aging-but-not-yet-decayed infrastructure, it is essential to maximize the opportunities to invigorate sustainable principles in the maintenance of these human environmental resources in the suburban setting as well as denser urban areas.”


The audit program identifies opportunities for community improvement on multiple scales (e.g., short term, long term, single property, and corridors), McCormick said. Action options include measures to improve buildings, facilities, land use, landscape features (both natural and cultivated), transportation, water management, air quality, energy conservation, and social interaction.


Under the plan, actual environmental improvements (i.e., reduction in emissions, water quality enhancements, ecological quality) are quantified and compiled into a prediction of total environmental benefit. The impact of an implementation schedule and effectiveness of implementation mechanisms -- including regulation, incentives, and grant programs -- can be evaluated by community leaders and developers to make decisions leading to an environmentally sound suburbia, according to the speakers. 

The plan targets suburban areas where the density is less than 16 units per acre. Also, unlike the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhoods rating system, the speakers’ plan focuses on existing communities.

The speakers are urging individuals and families to reduce their travel distances, modify their thermostat settings, heat less water, and naturalize their lawns. The panelists additionally advocated increased use of bicycles, rain barrels and gardens, insulation and thermal glazing, solar water and space heating, and energy-saving insulated windows and doors.


Papageorgis stressed that more education and collaboration among residents is necessary in order to make suburbia more sustainable.

Exhibitor Briefs


The Alliance to Save Energy has applauded a White House announcement that the federal government and private sector are moving forward with energy-efficiency upgrades to a broad swath of public- and private-sector buildings. ASE expects this effort to make a “large dent” in energy use in non-residential buildings, helping them become at least 20 percent more efficient by 2020. “By using energy savings performance contracts, private companies will carry out $2 billion of improvements to federal facilities and be paid back over time with the money saved due to lower energy use in those buildings.” Also, 60 chief executive officers, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders are investing $2 billion to make 1.6 billion square feet of their buildings more energy efficient. These upgrades are expected to save money and energy on college campuses and in hospital complexes, large industrial plants, and local municipal buildings. This is part of the Better Buildings Initiative launched in February with the goal of creating energy-efficiency upgrades in America's commercial and industrial buildings, making them 20 percent more efficient over the next decade to save American businesses almost $40 billion in energy costs.


The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has released updated guidance on building energy audits. The second edition of Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits promotes best practices, provides “how-to’s” and aims to fill a void in available information for engineers, building owners, managers, and government entities. The new publication includes tips for energy auditors, how to hire an auditor, what to ask for in a comprehensive audit report, and how to build a successful energy-efficiency retrofit team. Additionally, the publication focuses on how to build a successful team, analytical methods, successful approaches to site visits, incorporating on-site measurements, economic evaluation of measures, and how to organize an energy audit report that promotes action on the part of building owners and managers. The publication includes several tips for conducting energy audits and reviewing results prepared by others. Also, there is an expanded section of forms and template analyses, including “live” Excel spreadsheets, checklists, and equipment-specific forms that are considered suitable for field collection of detailed commercial building data.


Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing Public Policy Director Justin Koscher expects the number of projects in the Roofpoint Pilot Program to double to 100 next month. RoofPoint is a guideline for the selection of “environmentally innovative” roofing systems, roofing systems that maximize energy efficiency and longevity while minimizing environmental impact. In addition, RoofPoint serves as a checklist to identify the ways roofing systems provide economic and environmental benefit and as an assessment system to compare different roofing alternatives for a particular environmental application. In addition, RoofPoint provides a platform for a comprehensive certification program to recognize and reward environmentally responsible roofing practice. Officials are targeting February for the program’s public launch, Koscher told Green Building Insider.


Graphisoft has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the North China Municipal Engineering Design and Research Institute (NCME) to promote the use of building information modeling (BIM) in China. Under the MOU, Graphisoft and NCME will establish a Strategic Partnership Program that focuses in part on creating BIM standards for China and are based on ArchiCad and related software and services. The agreement also aims to strengthen the design capabilities of NCME as well as the brand and influence of NCME. The institute is a design and research organization integrating urban planning, project consulting, environment assessment, project design, contract engineering, project supervision, research, and technology development. Over the next three years, Graphisoft will help NCME implement BIM on design, collaboration, and sustainability and create BIM specifications.

The Green Building Initiative has launched a Guiding Principles Compliance Assessment/Certification Program. The program is expected to provide a practical, thorough, and credible means for agencies to demonstrate compliance as required by Executive Order 13514. The program is suited for use on various building types found within the federal sector and can be purchased by itself or as a supplemental certification as part of a Green Globes CIEB Project. The program is designed to meet the needs of federal agencies that own, lease, and operate buildings and are required to meet the requirements of the Federal Guiding Principles for Sustainable Existing Buildings as specified in the executive order. 


Gig Harbor, Wash.-based VaproShield, which provides “breathable” membrane systems for walls and roofs, has introduced RenewShield, a vapor-permeable, air- and weather-resistive barrier manufactured from 70 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. “It is 100 percent recyclable after its useful life, fully incorporating the concept of ‘cradle-to-cradle’ design,” according to the company. The design of the product requires 70 percent less virgin material than other conventional building wraps. VaproShield reported that RenewShield has passed all testing and criteria in its class, including ICC-ES AC 38, Air Barrier ASTM 2178, and ASTM E-84 Class A Fire Rated. With a perm rating of 75, the product allows moisture vapor within the building to escape, ensuring good indoor air quality, the company stated.




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