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Snippets

Weather extremes are damaging parts of the U.S. infrastructure [NY Times]

The United States ranks 9th out of 12 of the world’s largest economies on energy efficiency but feels the least guilty [BuildingGreen.com]

Demolition began at the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library – when completed, it will be a zero net energy building [Berkeleyside]

The Feds say the PACE retrofit program is still too risky [BuildingGreen.com]

Photo: A blooming artichoke in Berkeley, CA, by Anna LaRue

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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Two Years of Zero Resource

Over the last two years, we have covered a number of topics, from tiny houses, to DOE rules on showerheads, to definitions of terms.

Since the end of February, when WordPress starting showing the statistics, Zero Resource has attracted readers from all over the world.

Over the last two years, the top twenty most popular posts of all time are:

  1. Death Rays
  2. More Tiny Houses
  3. The Difference Between the CEC and CPUC
  4. Tour a Tiny Apartment in Spain
  5. Putrescible Waste
  6. Finding Data – GDP and Electricity Consumption
  7. Alex Wilson, Founder of EBN – Part 1
  8. Plastic Bag / Retail Bag Laws in the U.S.
  9. Bad News About CBECS 2007
  10. Nina Maritz
  11. Are People Clueless about Energy Savings?
  12. MRF (Rhymes with Smurf)
  13. Resilience vs. Sustainability
  14. The Key System
  15. Visualizing the U.S. Power Grid
  16. Do Green Roofs Improve Solar PV Performance?
  17. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
  18. Local Target Stores & Hazardous Waste
  19. Tiny “Spite” Houses
  20. Houses – Small, Reused, and Prefab

Many thanks to all the Zero Resource readers around the world! We look forward to another year.

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FEMA & USGBC on Resilient Communities

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Last Wednesday, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gave a speech describing the role green building can play to ensure resilient communities as the climate shifts. Fugate was the keynote speaker of the National Leadership Speaker Series on Resiliency and Security in the 21st Century at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The presentation also featured the launch of a report by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The report, Green Building and Climate Resilience: Understanding Impacts and Preparing for Changing Conditions, describes potential adaptive strategies familiar to green building practitioners. These strategies add an important new dimension to green building’s long-standing focus on reducing greenhouse gases through energy efficiency and renewable and low-carbon energy supplies.

You can find the full report on the USGBC site here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.
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A Year of Sky

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This is a lovely video of the San Francisco sky for a year. According to the YouTube description,

A camera installed on the roof of the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco captured an image of the sky every 10 seconds. From these images, I created a mosaic of time-lapse movies, each showing a single day. The days are arranged in chronological order. My intent was to reveal the patterns of light and weather over the course of a year.

More information on the project site: http://www.murphlab.com/ahots

It is also a very clear illustration of how day length changes symmetrically over the year. All of the days are synchronized, starting and ending at the same time. So you can see that some days are much shorter and longer than others, and that sunrise and sunset happen a little earlier or later than the previous one.  The exact times of sunrise and sunset depend on our latitude here in the Bay Area.

So… how does this connect back to resource efficient infrastructure?

Knowledge of the sun’s movement and its position in the sky at any given date and time are fundamental to energy efficient building design and the thermal and visual comfort of the building’s occupants.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.
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Energy-Related Recovery Act Money

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 I’ve been having quite a bit of fun investigating where some of the energy-related recovery act money has gone via the interactive map here. If you zoom in to look at the Bay Area, you can hover your mouse over each circle to see who received the money and how much. For example, the City of Berkeley received $118,155 for a renewable energy project, and Fremont received $1,891,200 for energy efficiency.

JARGON

Zero Net Energy part 1

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photo credit: Alan Walker

Zero Net Energy (ZNE) is a term that is increasingly heard throughout the architecture and building sector, but it is also a term that can mean different things to the different people who use it. In this series of posts I will give an overview of the four common definitions of  ZNE, and a brief expansion on their respective implications in relation to policy structures and physical infrastructure.

The four common definitions of ZNE are: 1. Zero Net Site Energy, 2. Zero Net Source Energy, 3. Zero Net Energy Cost, and 4. Zero Net Energy Emissions. All four of  these calculations are as measured over a calendar year, or on an annual basis. The difference is in the metric (the “thing” being measured) and the boundary (what is included in the calculation). All four definitions can be applied to –and calculated at– a “community” or multiple-building scale as well. In all cases the “net” part refers to how energy is accounted for at the grid level; low energy buildings that are not grid tied would therefore not be under a zero net energy designation.

Part 1. Zero Net Site Energy

what this is: A Zero Net Energy Building is one that uses no more energy than it can produce on-site within one calendar year (this is the most commonly used definition of the term “zero net energy” at present).

what this means: A “site” can be defined as either the building footprint itself or the building and the property it sits on. In this definition, the building/ building site would incorporate a form of on-site renewable energy such as solar (most common), wind, small hydro or biogas. As mentioned, a ZNE building is still tied to the larger energy grid. For example, a ZNE building that generates energy through the use of solar panels would create a surplus of power while the sun was shining (and the excess power would be fed back into the grid), but would have to draw power from the grid in the evening or during cloudy days. The goal here is for the overall power drawn within one calendar year to be less than or equal to the power generated.

pros, cons & considerations: The chief benefit of this definition is that it promotes deep efficiency at the single building scale. This is because in order to viably (and cost effectively) achieve this definition of ZNE, it is much more desirable to build the lowest energy-use building possible and then add a source or renewable generation. In addition, ZNE sets a concrete goal to achieve and thus can be a more useful target than trying to meet or best shifting baselines as building performance codes change.

However, buildings are built in many types and have many necessary functions- not all of which are compatible with the site definition of ZNE. For example, hospitals, restaurants, industrial activities, etc., may all have a very hard time achieving a ZNE facility because of unusually high energy demands. In addition, high-rise buildings and urban infill sites have their own challenges due to physical constraints (poor solar access, low rooftop-to-building ratio, proximity and density issues, etc.)

The implication here is that if a ZNE site-definition goal is in place on a policy level, at a certain point it becomes necessary to start looking at the issue from a multiple-building, or “community”scale, that would allow energy balancing between buildings to achieve an overall ZNE outcome (this is a simplification, but that is the main point).

Further reading:

P. Torcellini et al., Zero Energy Buildings: A Critical Look at the Definition, National Renewable Energy Lab, 2006.

This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms
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 GE Energy Financial Services and several other funders have invested $22 million in Project Frog, a San Francisco company that provides climate-sensitive design and fabrication of modular high-performance buildings (BuildingGreen.com). Beacon Power, a Massachusetts company that received a $43 million federal loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy. The failure of the company, which develops energy storage systems, is likely to add to criticism of the federal government’s green energy initiatives (New York Times Green Blog). According to the Harcourt Brown & Carey blog, Sagewell, Inc., based in Boston, has developed the first mass-scale building envelope heat-loss imaging and analysis system.  Sagewell can image hundreds of properties per day (actual images are taken in the evening when people are more likely to be home) and their analysis can be used to rank order the heat loss of homes (and commercial buildings) so promoters of energy efficiency can market to the best candidates and motivate property owners to adopt energy efficiency. One of the stranger bills to be considered by Congress passed by a voice vote on Monday evening. Officially named the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, it essentially tells American airline carriers that it is illegal for them to participate in the European Union’s cap and trade system, which charges companies for producing emissions beyond their allotted limit (New York Times Green Blog).

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2011 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

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The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has posted its 2011 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. California is ranked #2, behind Massachusetts.

You can see the California information here.

The full scorecard ranking can be found online here.