Snippets – Software and Online Tools

dividing-line2Announced in late 2012, the Center for the Built Environment has developed a web-based thermal comfort tool, which is now available for use: http://cbe.berkeley.edu/comforttool/. From the email announcement, “this free online tool is useful for performing and visualizing comfort calculations according to ASHRAE Standard 55-2010. The tool has been validated against the official ASHRAE Thermal Comfort tool.”

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There is now a free, open source plugin for Grasshopper called Ladybug that “allows you to import and analyze EnergyPlus weather data (epw) in Grasshopper and draw diagrams like sun-path, wind-rose, radiation-rose,” can “run radiation analysis, shadow studies, and view analysis,” and then show the results inside Grasshopper, according to the announcement in early 2013. The tool was developed by a graduate student from the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Oh, Kansas

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I live in California. Even more specifically, I live in the Bay Area, which has generally embraced both that sustainability is a pretty good long term goal and that public money can be used pretty effectively to address and promote that goal.

At the other end of the sustainability spectrum is a recent story about Kansas.

The Kansas legislature’s Committee on Energy and Environment is proposing House Bill No. 2366, which would ban all state and municipal funds for anything related to “sustainable development” [via Bloomberg]. In the bill, sustainable development is defined as

development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come.”

The full text of the bill (only 2 pages long) is worth reading:

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You can also read it online here (PDF).

As noted by the somewhat snarky Bloomberg article, “… House Bill No. 2366 shouldn’t affect the wind industry, because Kansas already doesn’t support wind development with public funds.”

Oh, Kansas.

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Solara & Los Vecinos: Net Zero Energy Affordable Housing

Solara and Los Vecinos are affordable housing projects that were designed with the goal of net zero energy performance with a very small increase in the incremental cost per unit. The projects also have a number of other “green” features.

More information on Solara and a link to a case study is on the Global Green website here. Information on Los Vecinos and a link to a case study is here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.
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The Hestia Project

Steve Gurney, an ecologist at Arizona State University, has put together a software package that illustrates where fossil fuels are being burned in a city down to the individual building and street level.

You can find more information about The Hestia Project here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.

ACEEE 2012 – Think Bigger: Net Zero Energy Communities

One of the first panel sessions I went to featured a talk by Jeff Harris, of the Alliance to Save Energy.

He covered a lot of ground in defining “net-zero energy,” covering state and federal goals around NZE, detailing many of the appeals of NZE, and then focusing on the potential of NZE communities.

What I found most interesting during his talk was the specific examples of the military’s focus on getting a number of bases to NZE. He noted that there are more than 6 pilot sites targeting ZNE (often used interchangeably with NZE) by 2020. Two of the sites have the additional aggressive goal of being “triple-net-zero,” or net zero energy, water, and waste.

He also mentioned a specific site – Fort Carson – and showed some analysis (I think by the National Renewable Energy Lab, NREL) of what kinds of strategies and systems will be needed to achieve the ZNE goal.

After the session, I found an NREL report online that provides significant detail on the recommendations provided for Fort Carson” “Targeting Net Zero Energy at Fort Carson: Assessment and Recommendations” (link opens a PDF).

Zero Resource at ACEEE Summer Study 2012

I’m spending the week at the 2012 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficient Buildings.

I’ll be sharing interesting information, ideas, and resources with you as the week progresses. Right now, I’m listening to Jeff Harris of The Alliance to Save Energy discuss some of the advantages of thinking about achieving net zero energy goals by looking at the goal at the scale of net-zero energy communities.

CEC Approves New California Building Energy Efficiency Standards!

“California officials on Thursday approved energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings that officials are describing as the toughest in the nation. …

“The new requirements, set to go into effect in 2014, will reduce energy use in California homes and businesses by 25 percent or more, commission officials said.”

Read the full story at the San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll post more details about the new building efficiency standards tomorrow.

For those that want the details now, the full 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards Rulemaking is online here.

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Solar Decathlon Time Lapse

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This week’s video is a time lapse of the construction of the 2009 Solar Decathlon entry from Cornell University, nicknamed the “Silo House.”

You can find more information about the 2009 Solar Decathlon here. You can find more information about the Cornell entry here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.
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Geothermal Map of the United States

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Image Credit: Google Green Blog

According to the Google Green Blog, a recently completed project to update the Geothermal Map of North America by SMU Geothemal Laboratory (supported by Google.org), estimates that the technical potential of geothermal energy exceeds 2,980,295 megawatts. More details can be found on the blog here.

Google has also worked to develop this information as a layer in Google Earth. The file can be downloaded from a link towards the bottom of this page. The map shows Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Potential from depths from 3km to 6.5km and excludes protected lands such as National Parks.

An important note: I am not in any way endorsing EGS. Messing with the Earth at big scales makes me nervous, since we have so little information on the potential impact of our actions. I live in earthquake territory. Also, I read this alarming article in the New York Times a couple years ago. An excerpt:

All seemed to be going well — until Dec. 8, 2006, when the project [in Basel, Switzerland] set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many…

As early as this week, though, an American start-up company, AltaRock Energy, will begin using nearly the same method to drill deep into ground laced with fault lines in an area two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.

…For geothermal energy to be used more widely, engineers need to find a way to draw on the heat at deeper levels percolating in the earth’s core.

Some geothermal advocates believe the method used in Basel, and to be tried in California, could be that breakthrough. But because large earthquakes tend to originate at great depths, breaking rock that far down carries more serious risk, seismologists say. Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.

It is well worth reading the entire article. And it is well worth remembering that just because it is called “clean” energy does not mean that there are no potential hazards associated with the energy production and use.

ZETA Communities on NPR

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As I was listening to the radio this morning, I heard a story about Bay Area company ZETA Communities…

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As Population, Consumption Rise, Builder Goes Small

The planet may not feel any different today, but there are now 7 billion people on it, according to the United Nations.

That number will continue to rise, of course, and global incomes are likely to rise as well. That means more cars and computers, and bigger homes: the kinds of things Americans take for granted. It’s that rise in consumption that has population experts worried…

In an industrial park outside of Sacramento, Calif., there’s a factory inside what looks like an old airplane hangar.

Zeta Communities builds modular homes here. Project manager Scott Wade says they’re not like “stick-built” homes — “stick-built meaning they build it one piece at a time,” Wade says, “whereas we build it an assembly at a time.”

In cities, modules can be stacked to make a new generation of efficient buildings. At Zeta headquarters, architect Taeka Takagi rolls out a blueprints with one of Zeta’s prototypes.

“It is a micro studio,” she says. “The units are under 300 square feet.”

You can read or listen to the entire story on the NPR website.

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You can also watch videos of a unit being built in the ZETA factory and a unit being installed on our website here.

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