More on the greening of Greensburg

I wasn’t out to make this a multipart series, but commentor ShoreThings made the point on my prior article that a 42% reduction of energy use is a good thing. And like I’ve stated before, as an architect I can appreciate the concept of saving energy but as I replied to ShoreThings, there’s a cost vs. benefit aspect that has to be factored in.

One example is where I was talking to a GacoWestern company rep yesterday, a company who sells (among other things) waterproofing membranes. They’ve found their products are in demand for “green” roofs, better known as roof gardens.

In talking with the salesman, I asked the obvious question: who takes care of a green roof? Obviously there’s a landscaping cost involved because if the green stuff dies, all you’re carrying then is a lot of dead stuff at the top of the building. That cost has to be factored in against the energy savings, along with possibly the additional structure needed to support such a dead load. To me, a better alternative is simply to have a light-colored surface on the roof.

In Greensburg’s case, the energy savings is noble. But here’s a summary of seven prerequisite items their buildings MUST comply with to even be considered for LEED Platinum compliance:

  • Sustainable Sites: Construction Activity Pollution Prevention. Create and implement an Erosion and Sedimentation Control plan.

This extends a federal guideline to any site, even if under one acre (the federal cutoff.)

  • Energy and Atmosphere: Fundamental Commissioning of the Building Energy Systems. Designate a Commissioning Authority to oversee the design and construction of building energy systems, including but not limited to HVAC, lighting, domestic hot water, and renewable energy systems.

Depending on the size of the building, this can be done by personnel of the design firm or owner, but in larger buildings this has to be independent. It is up to the owner to document Owner’s Project Requirements while the design team does a Basis of Design – the Commissioning Authority verifies their incorporation into the design and construction and generates a final report. Most buildings on the scale Greensburg is looking at can be done without an independent party to regulate compliance.

  • Energy and Atmosphere: Minimum Energy Performance. Comply with a number of sections in the ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2004 standard.

These standards cover the building envelope, HVAC, water heating, power requirements, and lighting.

  • Energy and Atmosphere: Fundamental Refrigerant Management. No CFC-based refrigerants in new buildings, or phase-out for existing buildings.

Not all refrigerants are created equal, either. They vary in what the standard calls “ozone-depleting” and “global warming” potentials.

  • Materials and Resources: Storage and Collection of Recyclables. Provide an easily accessible area for building occupants to collect and store (at a minimum) paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics, and metals.

Note that the requirement has a minimum of square footage required to be designated as a collection area based on the building square footage – a 10,000 s.f. building requires a 125 s.f. area set aside for this purpose, for example.

  • Environmental Quality: Minimum IAQ Performance. Comply with minimum standards of ASHRAE 62.1-2004, Sections 4 to 7.

In layman’s terms, they want to make sure air moves through the building, with preference given to natural ventilation.

  • Environmental Quality: Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Control. Minimize exposure of building occupants, indoor surfaces, and ventilation and air distribution systems to ETS.

Here you either have to ban smoking from the building entirely (plus an area 25′ or less from any entry, air intake, or operable window), shunt them to a smoking room inside the building with separate ventilation, or, in residential buildings, seal units and pressurize the corridors so that smoke tends to stay inside units.

Only one of those directly deals with saving energy while another two are peripheral to the notion. But then you have two prerequisites that seek to modify or influence behavior with the recycling and the ETS control, and that gets farther afield from where I think the emphasis should be. Remember, these must be met to even get started with the LEED certification process. To be fair, however, the resolution doesn’t require actual U.S. Green Building Council approval (fortunate, because that process costs several thousand dollars) but in order to meet such a lofty standard most of the projects will have to meet most of the other requirements detailed here in a 78-page .pdf file. (The book I studied to pass my LEED exam was some of the driest 400+ pages I’ve ever read.)

It’s a long dissertation to reply to a single comment, but this is background that I think is helpful to understand when the radical environmentalists start pushing their green buildings mantra. The energy savings they get from LEED standard compliance is just a fortunate selling point, but what they really want is to maximize government control over what’s placed on the properties that we the people own.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

4 thoughts on “More on the greening of Greensburg”

  1. And if we all reduced our energy usage by 42%, there would be less demand for electricity and gas. If there was less demand for electicity, then the utility companies wouldn’t have to build new power plants, and the cost of electricity would go down. If there was less demand for electricity, then there would be less demand for the natural gas and coal that are used to produce electricity. The price for natural gas and coal would go down. If there was less demand for coal, then there would be less demand for the rail transport of coal, which means that the cost of rail transport would go down. If the cost of rail transport goes down, then the cost of transporting lumber and grain goes down, which means that the cost of lumber and grain would go down. When I talk about the big picture, I am not talking about the entire building or the cost of the building. I am talking about the BIG PICTURE. If everyone in the United States could cut there energy use by 42%, the cash flow that would be freed up by the savings would cause our economy to explode with growth. Going green does not cost us money, it creates opportunities far beyond our imagination.

  2. Here’s what would really happen. The cost of gas and electricity would drop,utility companies would build less power plants because demand lessens. When the price of fuels stabilize consumers will realize that energy is affordable again, and uh oh we don’t have enough power plants up to snuff, sooo we’ll just build some more and Whammo! the price of energy is higher than it could have been to begin with, when utility companies pass the costs to consumers. Every other example you’ve cited is subject to the same rule. Why not let the marketplace fix the problem NOW and get the gov’t out of policing the energy fiasco they helped to create? Why is it I can’t help but get the impression the “greens” are by nature anti-capitalist? Hmmm?

  3. Many of these items, if put in layman’s terms, are already in place to some degree. The Erosion and Sedimentation plan sounds really complicated, but if you just say that black fence that they put around the lot to keep the dirt in, then it seems more reasonable. In Maryland, the ETS issue is not an issue in public buildings, including the Rathskeller at the Elks club, since smoking will no longer be allowed indoors. And CFCs have been removed from cars and residential cooling systems. I don’t know about commercial applications. The thing might be 78 pages long, but there are current technologies to accomplish all of these requirements. I would think that you would consider building a better building a challenge rather than a drawback. You could even invent some new technology like heat recovery systems on water drains to recapture the energy from hot water that goes down the drain or you could run pipes under asphalt roads and parking lots to heat water. No architects are going to be remembered for building the same thing they did yesterday. And I don’t think anyone is going to accuse you of being a Democrat or liberal or green or Communist(get a grip Elbert) for building something that is energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

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