August 2010

26 August 2010 

Bangkok Post

In an attempt to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is collaborating with environmental institutes and private companies on carbon reduction certification for buildings.

The government and the private sector plan to use the certification to reward buildings that cut emissions to a certain level.

The campaign was officially kicked off at a seminar in Bangkok yesterday entitled "Cutting Carbon, Cutting Global Warming".

Recipients will be notified by Egat, the Thailand Green House Gas Management Organisation (TGO), the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) and the Thailand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The TGO will be the auditor for the certification process via its greenhouse gas control board. Certificates will be valid for three years.

"A definite benefit for the owner of a certified building would be a good image as someone who's helping to address the climate change issue," said Sirithan Pairoj-Boriboon, executive director of the TGO.

The campaign is targeted at buildings that are more than 10 years old. It encourages their owners to use green technology that can cut emissions.

Carbon footprint certification for goods was launched in 2008, with 79 goods from 18 companies receiving the accolade.

These goods, labelled with a green logo, have received a warm welcome from buyers, particularly in Europe and Japan where green products are enjoying a rising trend, said Ms Sirithan.

There are five categories for building certification, based on usable space of less than 2,000 square metres, 2,001 to 10,000 sq m, 10,001 to 50,000 sq m, 50,001 to 100,000 sq m, and more than 100,000 sq m.

Applicants must submit information regarding building layout, energy consumption, water treatment systems, amount of greenhouse gases emitted, and waste and energy conservation plans.

Certification will be awarded to buildings cutting their greenhouse gases by at least 10% based on 2002 data, said Qwanruedee Chotichanathawewong, assistant president of the TEI.

She said Kasikornbank, the Bangchak Petroleum headquarters and Toyota Motor (NYSE:TM) (Thailand) were vying to be the first certified by the TGO.

"We'll take about three months to determine which building gets the certificate," said Ms Sirithan.

She said Thailand was responsible for 340 million tonnes of carbon emissions last year, of which 38% came from ageing buildings, 44% from industry and transport and the rest from general activities.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an international certification body for green buildings, has certified just two buildings locally: the Rayong plant of US carpet producer Interface Inc and the headquarters of Colgate Co. 
25 August 2010

Times Union (USA)

Researchers at GE Global Research in Niskayuna are working with utility companies and home builders in the western United States to try to reduce energy consumption in homes by 70 percent.

The $5 million project is being done in coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Building America program that seeks to accelerate the use of advanced energy efficient building technologies in U.S. homes.

General Electric Co. is partnering with various energy and construction companies and universities in addition to Bank of America. The team is called the Building Industry Research Alliance, one of 15 groups selected by the DOE for funding.

Under the DOE program, researchers are being asked to come up with ideas that can reduce energy consumption in existing homes up to 30 percent.

But by incorporating solar energy into the mix, researchers at GE believe they can reduce energy usage in homes by 70 percent -- saving the average home owner $850 a year in electricity costs.

GE's industrial, appliance and lighting and research divisions are working together to devise a solution that will deliver homeowners those types of results. Not only will homes be outfitted with solar panels, they will also have energy efficient appliances controlled through a computer system.

GE recently introduced a system called the Nucleus Home Energy Manager that can run on a laptop computer or smart phone and tracks home energy usage.

"Solar electricity by itself is not going to be as advantageous to the consumer or the utility unless you have energy efficiency," said Charles Korman, the chief technologist for solar energy at GE Global Research in Niskayuna. "The systems are all designed to be utilized with other GE products."

New York regulators have approved a variety of programs that encourage home owners to buy solar electric systems for their homes. And utilities across the state are also studying new technologies they could deploy to create a "smart grid" that would allow home owners to better manage their electricity with "real-time" electric usage data and pricing.
 
GE has been developing its own products to take advantage of the smart grid once it becomes a reality nationwide.
 
GE and its team on the DOE project are planning to demonstrate their technologies in several test houses in western cities such as Phoenix, Sacramento and San Diego.
 
Korman said it's important to squeeze as much energy efficiency out of a home before calculating how much solar power needs to be generated.
 
"Once you've done that, you've pretty much reevaluated the home load," he said. "It's energy efficiency first, and then solar second."

20 August 2010

Reuters

Japan's government plans to subsidize domestic plants producing clean-energy and energy-efficient goods under steps to support the slowing economy, the Nikkei newspaper said, as the murky outlook keeps firms from boosting spending at home.

A strong yen is putting additional pressure on Japan's fragile economy, which is already seeing slowing growth and mired in grinding deflation, forcing the government to consider drafting a package of stimulus measures.

In a draft version of the stimulus package, the government plans to subsidize investment in domestic plants manufacturing goods such as lithium battery cells for electric vehicles, the Nikkei said on Friday.

Another proposal is to extend the deadline for subsidies aimed at encouraging households to purchase energy-efficient consumer electronics, the paper said.

It will also extend a housing loan program, which was scheduled to end this year, that reduces annual interest on 35-year fixed-rate loans for energy-efficient and quake-resistant homes.

Economics Minister Satoshi Arai will submit the draft stimulus plan to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday, it said.

25 August 2010
 
New York Times
 
Most Manhattan office buildings are designed for paper pushers, but there is a new factory running at the end of a long dim corridor on the fifth floor of the Empire State Building. Here machines are whirring, a furnace is roaring, and dozens of blue-collar workers are bustling about.

They are setting up to dismantle the building's 6,514 double-hung window frames, to reuse the glass and make them anew. It is part of one of the nation's most ambitious and symbolic energy-efficiency programs: a $20 million effort to cut the skyscraper's overall energy use by 38 percent.

Along the way, its planners hope to reduce the 79-year-old building's carbon footprint and shrink its $11 million annual utility bill. But the most ambitious part of their scheme calls for the suite of upgrades to pay for itself in just three years.

The "factory" is the outgrowth of a conversation in 2007 between Anthony Malkin, president of the New York real estate firm Malkin Holdings LLC, and Jamie Russell, who was then the director of the William J. Clinton Foundation's climate initiative. Malkin's company owns a collection of buildings across the bustling business sector of midtown Manhattan. Russell was looking for one for the foundation's new energy efficiency building retrofit program. The idea was to showcase economically feasible ways to reduce the energy use of existing buildings around the world.

Malkin suggested an older building, since the company’s entire buildings portfolio was already undergoing a $1.25 billion renovation. But Russell was thinking much bigger. He wanted a building that had been in Malkin's portfolio for less than a year, all 102 stories of it. "We knew that a building like the Empire State Building has global impact," said Arah Schuur, director of the Clinton Foundation's building retrofit program.

Before working out a plan with Malkin in early 2008, the foundation had already started several other retrofit partnerships around the world. What it needed was the publicity that was sure to come from the iconic New York landmark because the foundation had picked one of the more intractable problems in the struggle to save energy.

The energy consumed by residential and commercial buildings in the United States represents nearly 40 percent of the country's energy use and overall carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In New York City, where there are about a million buildings, the issue is particularly acute.

According to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's environmental program, PlaNYC 2030, more than 75 percent of the city's total energy consumption goes into heating and electrifying its buildings. However, New York is a city not only of buildings, but also of large buildings.

Only 2 percent of the buildings in the city -- about 22,000 -- are larger than 50,000 square feet, yet this more spacious variety consumes 45 percent of the city's total energy. Giving a sense of urgency, the plan says the focus must be on "improving the largest users first."

Testifying in front of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee last month to discuss the so-called clean energy economy, Malkin said the Empire State Building consumed as much energy as 40,000 single-family homes each day. The building's peak electricity use tops out at about 9.5 megawatts.

PlaNYC also estimates that the vast majority of the buildings that currently make up New York City will still be standing in 25 years -- roughly 85 percent of them. New "green" construction cannot meaningfully address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions without addressing existing building stock.

Almost as soon as the Clinton Foundation launched its building retrofit program, Bloomberg announced his support for its goals. Part of the foundation's mission is to show hard-nosed building owners that energy efficiency is a shrewd business decision. However, part of the problem is that large buildings have multiple renters -- who often don't know their energy costs -- and landlords who normally take care of the problem by raising the rent.

"We are not motivated by 'doing the right thing,'" Malkin explained to the Joint Economic Committee. The motivation, he said, comes from "making money."

Energy efficiency and profit are not always in the same basket, at least not within a time span many businesses are willing to consider. A successful retrofit project has to have significant reductions and be able to pay back the capital costs within a reasonable time frame, notably, less than five years.

The Clinton Foundation brought in the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based energy research group, to help design the strategy for upgrading the Empire State Building. Jones Lang LaSalle manages the project, and Johnson Controls Inc. was awarded a competitive contract to oversee the project installations as well as ensure that the energy savings materialize.

The team now had a major question in front of it: What could it afford to retrofit?

Throwing every "green" idea at a single building to see what sticks can quickly cripple a project financially. Accounting for the age of the building and a host of local environmental factors will determine how much insulation is needed, whether solar panels are a worthwhile investment and what kind of air-conditioning system is best.

After months of analysis, considering 66 energy-efficiency measures and combining them into different "packages" to determine which would work best in tandem, the team ultimately decided to enact a package with eight measures.

The window upgrades will both increase the building's heat retention in the winter and, through the use of a suspended film between each pane of glass, reflect heat in the summer without reducing the amount of visible light. This portion of the upgrade, however, only represents about 13 percent of the project's reduction.

Other improvements to the building include radiator insulation to prevent heat from escaping the building and an upgrade of the chiller system that runs the air conditioning. Five of the eight projects will be completed by the end of the year, representing more than 60 percent of the planned savings. However, none of the upgrades sounds particularly remarkable on its own. In fact, the "most high-tech things" in the building, Malkin said, were the wireless thermostats that improve temperature management.

"But look," he said after the JEC hearing, "it's all innovation." Malkin recalled something his grandfather once told him in the 1970s: "Hardly anything gets invented. But people combine stuff together which had never been combined, and it's in a new way, and it creates a different result."

Richard Leigh, director of research and advocacy for the Urban Green Council, the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, said he admires the ongoing renovations at the Empire State Building. The retrofit planning strategy has been known to the academics for many years, he said. What has been missing is practical implementation.

"To change the city's energy consumption," Leigh said, "we have to go after the existing structures."

"So I think it's wonderful what they're doing with the Empire State Building," he said.

Schuur, of the Clinton Foundation's building retrofits program, said the project's value comes from the difficulty of dealing with a famous older building. "It's got all the things that people say are so hard to do."

"While I agree that New York is a very unique city," said Schuur, "a lot of the cities -- the large cities -- that we work with have similar characteristics, in that they are largely developed, and so they have an existing building stock that makes up the vast majority of buildings that will be there in 30 or 50 years."

The project has largely had its desired effect. Schuur said building owners on the opposite side of the planet have approached the foundation, interested in retrofitting their own properties. And many of them mention the Empire State Building by name.

Schuur said that she was eager to see how New York City's building efficiency laws, passed in December, will affect the "building retrofit world" (Greenwire, Dec. 10, 2009).

In New York, she said, "you've got the savviest bunch of real estate professionals in the world. It's a good place for this kind of experiment."

Schuur added, referring to the theme from the movie "New York, New York": "You know the song -- If you can do it in New York, you can do it anywhere."

19 August 2010 

Arab News

 
According to the organizers of Saudi Build 2010 and Saudi Stone-Tech, two major construction exhibitions in the Kingdom, Smart Buildings, the term used to describe buildings distinguished by one central system that operates by communicating amongst components to control the function of the home, are planned to go up all over the country at a total cost of SR150 billion.

The source also said that the construction of the buildings was expected to be fully completed by 2018. The Kingdom, suffering from a rapidly growing population and demand for housing must construct at least 2.9 million housing units by 2015 and 4 million housing units by 2020 to satisfy market needs.

Saudi Arabia, according to organizers, has decided to invest in Smart or Green Building Technology as a means of promoting long-term sustainability and energy efficiency in the country.

Studies have shown that smart buildings can reduce energy consumption by 30 percent, cut emissions and water consumption by 50 percent as well as reduce building waste by 90 percent when compared to their conventional counterparts.

"Building owners are increasingly becoming interested in making their facilities more energy efficient to save money and decrease operating costs," Shahid Bhatti, project manager of Saudi Build 2010 of Riyadh Exhibition Company said.

He added that smart building solutions provide a convenient way to improve energy efficiency and optimize the performance of buildings.

Smart buildings have become such a popular alternative to conventional buildings that many companies are expected to network at the two events scheduled for Oct. 18-21 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.

The events are scheduled to provide contractors, real estate developers and building owners with direct access to thousands of opportunities to incorporate Smart Technology into their businesses.

On the regulatory side, reports last month have said that regulations governing smart building construction and maintenance are expected to become a mandatory part of building codes in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2010.

"We should have binding regulation by the end of this year," Ali Nazzal, sales and operations manager at ABB Smart Home and Intelligent Building Controls in Riyadh said.
In addition, there has already been talk that the smart building industry not only in the Kingdom but also in the GCC is expected to reach new heights in the next couple of years. Currently the Smart Building industry in the GCC is estimated to be worth 1.2 trillion riyals. Companies from India, China, Singapore, among others have already forged tie-ups with several Saudi firms to provide, smart, building materials to supply the local market.