ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 13 - 08/01/2012

Standards Can Prove Very Helpful When Assessing Costs, Benefits of Green Building, Expert Tells WPL Publishing Webinar Audience

By Steve Rizer


Certain reference standards can prove to be very helpful resources when assessing the costs and benefits associated with green building, Triple Green Building Group LLC Principal Kelly Gearhart told a group of construction professionals attending a recent WPL Publishing webinar. Such resources include Appendix G of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1 (2007) as well as standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).


“One of my favorite tools that ASHRAE puts together is ASHRAE 90.1-2007 Appendix G, which is fascinating reading,” Gearhart said. “I highly recommend it. What Appendix G does is it gives you instructions on how to put together an energy model of your building. [Appendix G shows you] how to feed in information to a software program that says, ‘All right, my building is this many square feet, it’s located in this climate zone, I’m using these types of systems, I have this kind of lighting per square foot, I have this kind of exterior lighting, this is what my thermal envelope is made up of and looks like,’ and it can spit out information for you about how much energy it thinks your building is going to use over a year….


“In order to assess the efficacy of alternate systems, you can use this reference standard, ASHRAE, and the tool for energy modeling to figure out what your simple paybacks are going to be. What if I switched out these systems? What if I put in better insulation? What happens if I take off the shading on the south side? How does that affect my energy consumption, and where does that start to pay itself back if I put it in? So, these assessments for cost and benefits I think are very helpful. ASHRAE is one of my favorites.”


Referenced standards from organizations such as ASHRAE provide a wonderful framework for understanding what a best practice is regarding energy consumption from various systems, Gearhart said. “Not only are their publications adopted into codes around the world, but they also provide excellent design guidance in addition to the code publications. By using their tools, they’re using their worksheets. That’s a way you can understand the costs and benefits of pursuing certain approaches to sustainability.”


Gearhart additionally pointed to a few other standards as being potentially very helpful.


“You also have standards from EPA that have to do with things like how to handle brownfield cleanup, cleanup of contaminated sites[, and] how to appropriately control for erosion and sedimentation during construction. So, you can use these reference standards to set yourself up well to meet the requirements and understand the costs and benefits associated.


“IESNA is the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, which partners with EPA to help you with this energy-modeling aspect. They’ve got a lot to say about interior-lighting and exterior-lighting recommendations, strategies, and ways to approach it for different building types.”


Also, Gearhart praised SMACNA as “a great organization” because it has “put together a reference standard that says, ‘All right, let’s behave as if we are renovating a building that has people in it anytime we’re doing construction and make sure we’re caring for the lungs of those people by doing very straight-forward things like protecting ductwork, like conducting housekeeping carefully, protecting absorptive materials from moisture.’ So, what they’ve done is really set the stage for high-performance good health in a building during construction. There absolutely are health benefits to this. There also are economic benefits to this by keeping the building dry, by keeping materials from becoming damaged in a very straight-forward, simple, easy-to-understand way.”


Using these reference standards can help professionals understand and assess the costs and benefits associated with green building, Gearhart said. “You can find simple payback using energy modeling. Also, you can do a water budget in the same kind of way.”


Later during the webinar, Gearhart told attendees that for some projects it makes economic sense to install systems that can make ice at night because “energy may be much cheaper in the evenings, so in order to offset the high cost of energy during the mid-afternoon, energy is purchased at night, ice is made, and that helps cool the building during the hotter periods of the day when the utility rates are higher, so that return on investment is completely dependent on what those rates are rather than [the] demand of the building itself.”


Gearhart also highlighted a credit within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance program as being a worthwhile vehicle for optimizing green building endeavors, noting that her organization always pursues the credit, called Innovations and Operations Credit Three: Documents and Sustainable Cost Impacts, for its LEED projects.


“All you have to do [to qualify for the credit] is document overall building operations costs for the previous five years and track changes to those costs during your performance period,” Gearhart said. “Now, a performance period is when you start the clock on your sustainable enhancements to your building. You start monitoring their impact. Let’s say you have started a green cleaning program. You start to monitor how it’s going. You track purchases and make sure those are the kinds of products being used. You monitor ongoing training and make sure that’s happening. You periodically evaluate feedback forms from occupants. Do they feel that everything is being cleaned appropriately? So, you’re starting the clock on monitoring how things are going with the improvements that you have made on the building.


“So, you’re documenting overall building operations costs for the last five years, you have a starting point, and you track how it’s changed during the performance period. Hopefully, if you’re doing a program like this, you’re also doing things that are going to reduce your energy consumption, reduce your water consumption, perhaps change the profile of your waste streams. Maybe you’ll find that you’re actually tossing some valuable recyclables into the landfill and you can pull those out of the stream and find an economic benefit. So you’re tracking those changes.”


During the webinar, Gearhart addressed a target audience of architects, engineers, public and private owners, developers, construction managers, contractors, subcontractors, facility and property managers, and consultants.


To inquire about obtaining a recording of the webinar, call WPL Publishing at (301) 765-9525.




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