Managing Your Expectations

Lucas Hamilton

When you are considering remodeling activities and the impact that those activities will have on the energy consumption of the home, a very good place to weigh the benefits of one activity over another is the Federal Energy Management Program.

Under this program there are a variety of things but the one I thought most interesting is the Technology Deployment.  This focuses on market-driven technologies and creating market pull for new and underutilized technologies.

If you look at the Building Envelope section you will see what activities will give you a great impact on reducing your energy consumption.  Activities such as using a cool roof or a green roof, installing window films or replacing older windows with high R value windows are rated so that the end user can identify which remodeling activities will give the biggest bang for the buck. You can also look at the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning and see that commercial ground source heat pumps, for example, have a huge impact.

This in a wonderful way for consumers to get to the bottom line and be able to make smart choices when remodeling in order to reduce energy consumption especially in older homes.

It is also a great way to avoid being disappointed because you were told by some radio advertisement that installing new windows will cut your energy bill in half. You will be smarter than that!

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed

Can Mapping Urban Albedo Help Control Urban Heat Island Effect?

 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Urban temperatures are rising and it has a great deal to do with the types of materials we choose to construct our habitat. Historically, our construction materials have been great absorbers of infrared and near infrared solar radiation. As our urban centers have grown they have accumulated an excess potential for heat absorption which has put them out of balance compared to more rural areas. This is what is called the heat island effect.  The good news is that every urban surface exposed to the sun becomes a potential location to reverse this process and restore the balance.

While researching maps of Philadelphia (my home) for a previous blog on billing property owners for impervious surfaces that contribute to the rainwater run-off pouring into co-mingled storm/sewer systems, I came across the map used to identify these properties by the City (http://www.phila.gov/water/swmap). 

The interactive map shows the relative water permeability of surfaces delineating between general materials such as roofing, parking areas, roads, and open spaces. I started to think about how we could use similar technology to identify the albedo of the surfaces – a material’s natural ability to reflect or absorb radiant heat gain from solar radiation.

Some creative person (with a lot of time on their hands) should be able to use tools like Google Earth, identify the nature of the surfaces they see, and draw from a database of Solar Reflective Index (SRI) values to identify the potential targets for improvement. How can we influence global cooling?  By using technology that is available to identify the albedo of existing buildings. Once identified, municipalities can incentivize people to change to cool roofs or to living roofs where appropriate. The city could encourage the re-planting of native trees in unusable areas. There are all kinds of things each property could do to make a difference.

I would love to hear what other ideas may be out there to address this issue.  Any takers?

Tips for Optimum Efficiency of Solar and Cool Roofs

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

While conducting a webinar recently on thermal performance in building envelopes I was reminded about a very important issue related to both commercial cool roofs and photovoltaic roofs.  They must be cleaned!

If you do not clean your solar panels and cool roofs their efficiency plummets.  Roofs are out of sight but it is important to not forget about them.  Cool and photovoltaic roofs should be inspected every six months to insure that they are performing properly and providing the maximum benefit of the product.

Reminder! No one should work on a roof but a roofer. The integrity of the roof is very important and the correct tools and cleaning agents much be used to properly clean a cool or photovoltaic roof without damage. I cannot stress this point enough – any cleaning to be performed must be done in accordance with the recommendations of the roof or photovoltaic manufacturer. Inspections should also be conducted only by a roofer or the manufacturer.

If you would like to read a great paper on the economic viability of cleaning cool roofs just follow this link: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/staff/papers/new_51.pdf.

Building Green for Vancouver Olympics Should Have Lasting Effects

Vancouver Olympics 2010

Vancouver Olympics 2010

For those of us that have watched the Olympics for more than 20 years, it’s been really fun to watch some of the newer events emerging.  Sure, we love to watch the traditional bobsled, downhill skiing, and hockey (go USA), but the Olympics have really progressed with “new era” events like “half pipe snowboarding” and “snowboard cross.”  Cool stuff and our hats off to the International Olympic Committee for recognizing these emerging sports and modifying tradition to keep interest in the Olympics alive!

 As a host city, Vancouver should be applauded for taking this spirit of progression to sustainable building initiatives and pushing renewable energy measures that set a new standard for future Olympic venues.

 Some highlights are:

  • The site for the Village was a Brownfield development of a former industrial area. Following the Games it will become a socially inclusive community that will be home to 15,000 people and provide 250 units of affordable housing.
  • Heat captured from the sanitary sewer’s main line is sent back to heat the buildings and water.
  •  50% of the Villages’ roofs are vegetative, capturing rainwater for reuse and curtailing runoff. They also provide insulation value year round and prevention of heat gain from solar radiation in the summer, acting as cool roofs.
  • The buildings include traditional and contemporary artwork by Four Host First Nations, First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists from across Canada. This meets  one of the requirements of the Living Building Initiative; public art.  
  • The City of Vancouver is targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold for the buildings. For the venue’s community centre, LEED “Platinum” is targeted.
  • Streets have been designed for pedestrians and bicycles first. Underground parking areas can accommodate car co-op vehicles and electric hookups.

Along the Olympic route there is also the Whistler Vision Net Zero Demonstration House.  Built by RDC Fine Homes of Whistler, British Columbia this house is self-sufficient for all energy needs and hopes to achieve LEED Platinum certification. We were pleased to have our CertainTeed WeatherBoards™ Fiber Cement Siding, ProRoc® Gypsum Board with M2Tech® technology and ProRoc Setting Compound with M2Tech used on this project. The house is open to the public throughout the Olympics.

Very public displays of support for renewable energy, net-zero development and sustainable initiatives are great educational opportunities.  The test will be how the costs to develop these buildings vs. the life-cycle analysis and long-range savings hold up within the financial community.  In the true Olympic spirit, let’s eliminate the barriers of our thinking and work together!

 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 

 

Energy Awareness: A Life Long Pursuit

yhtp_cm_eam09_lgThe U.S Department of Energy has declared October as Energy Awareness Month to call attention to the need for all of us to adopt new habits to help lower our carbon footprint. The theme for 2009 is A Sustainable Energy Future: We’re Putting all the Pieces Together.

Energy awareness was first observed in the U.S. in 1981 as American Energy Week but was expanded to a month-long observance by the Department of Energy in 1986.  On September 13, 1991, President Bush officially proclaimed October Energy Awareness Month. It’s hard to believe that, in more than 25 years since the initiative began, we haven’t made more headway in energy conservation.  That is why I believe, as I mentioned in my previous Blog Stars Align for Energy Efficiency, that now is, indeed, the time to change our energy consumption habits.

Building Science Engineering has come a long way in understanding and communicating the physical, chemical and biological reactions among a building’s components.  These advances also help to drive the development of products to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings.  Of course, the older the building the less energy efficient it probably is, but many structures can benefit from a mild energy efficiency makeover. 

Here are some tips to determine and improve energy efficiency:

  • Conduct an energy audit.  Locate obvious air leaks by examining gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring, at junctures of the walls and ceilings, and at electrical box openings and plumbing penetrations. If cracks are present, caulk and weather strip.
  • Understanding the R-value of fiberglass insulation is important. R-value means resistance to heat flow – the greater the R-value, the greater the insulation power. Visit www.energystar.gov for a map of the recommended R-value insulation levels needed in your region.
  •  Properly controlling moisture will improve the effectiveness of air sealing and insulation efforts. Some insulation systems can provide the added benefit of moisture management in addition to traditional insulation performance. Any insulation that is exposed to significant levels of moisture can decrease R-value performance.
  •  Insulated siding helps improve R-value, up to 30 percent.  Insulated siding can help reduce the heating and cooling costs of a home.
  • Solar reflective roofs can provide long-term protection as well as savings. Cool roofing technology is another simple way to lower energy consumption. This means less work for the air conditioning system, and minimizing the absorption of solar heat through the roof. Solar reflective coatings and solar reflective shingles should be considered for a roofing project.

 The Federal Energy Tax Credit creates a great opportunity for all of us to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.  Let’s not let Energy Awareness Month pass by without taking advantage of savings and efficiency all year long.Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation.

Stars Align for Energy Efficiency

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

During the last presidential election, the candidates talked a lot about “energy independence.”  Behind the rhetoric and campaign promises, there is truth.  Like never before, the United States is in the position to fully embrace sustainability and energy efficiency.  Energy is a national security issue. We are sending money to parts of the world for oil when those countries have no long term interest in us. Less dependence on them will be a driver in identifying domestic sustainable energy resources. Truth is, we have “skimmed the cream off the milk” so now is the time to stand on our own whether we like it or not. There are four key influences that point to this alignment:

Social influences:  Consumers are more educated about energy efficiency; in part due to added focus by the media.  Television has Planet Green, news broadcasts focus on “Going Green” looking at what individuals and businesses are doing in this area. Baby boomers, who were children in the 1970’s, remember the gas lines and early public campaigns for energy efficiency and recycling. When energy became cheap and plentiful again, most of those efforts were cast aside and forgotten. Well here we are again.  Since those Boomers are now making the economic decisions, they have greater influence. After all, who’s buying hybrid cars? Baby boomers!

Economic influences: There is a great amount of venture capital and government grant money available for the development of alternative energy and energy efficient products.  Solar and wind have never totally caught on before because they were cost prohibitive.  Now, as demand grows, they will be more affordable and, therefore, embraced. Programs like Cash for Clunkers was successful partially because it motivated the consumer to move into a more energy-efficient car, keeping car manufacturers and dealers in business by creating demand and reducing the carbon footprint of poor performing vehicles.

Technology influences: This is fueled by the economic influences.  Research and development around wind, solar and ethanol as alternative energies are being funded.  Ethanol is not viable as a resource alone because of a variety of issues including water. It could, however, be a part of the solution. For manufacturers, like us, continuing to improve the energy efficiency of insulation or solar roofing products as well as finding new ways to improve other building materials, is critical.  When the housing industry is producing 2.2 million homes per year changes can’t be implemented easily.  But now, in a slower market, changes can be made to the building envelope to improve energy efficiency while keeping the home affordable.  Organizations like Oregon BEST and Cascadia’s Living Building Challenge, both of which we spoke about before, encourage the building community to take energy efficiency and net-zero building to the next level.

Educational influences: In the past, we didn’t have degreed programs around building science and sustainability. Now, this information is being incorporated into the curriculums for architects, engineers and other professionals who deal with construction. The professionals coming behind us will be prepared to take energy efficiency and sustainability to greater heights.

So, yes, the stars are aligned for lasting change with regard to lowering our carbon footprint both as individuals and corporations, embracing alternative sources of energy and leaving a legacy of innovation and sustainability for future generations. 

Your thoughts are welcome!

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 

Stan Gatland photo_1Stan Gatland, Manager, Building Science Technology at CertainTeed Corporation contributed to this blog.

Smaller and Smarter for First-Time Home Buyers in Omaha, NE

I went to Omaha recently to meet with Scott Kinkaid, Vice President of Innovation, HearthStone Homes who is blazing a trail in home building and leaving some of the bigger, national builders in the dust.

Instead of following the pack and going from building starter homes to luxury homes, they decided to build smaller, energy efficient homes geared to first- time home buyers.  They chose to go in this direction right before the cash crunch, which really paid off considering the introduction of the tax credit for first-time-home buyers.  But they also wanted to insure home sales would continue at their brisk pace when the rebate ends later this year.

As part of his energy efficient home plan, Scott wants to guarantee the home buyer that the energy costs of these homes would not exceed $20/month.  He determined this would be a three-pronged approach:  Look at the building envelope for efficiency, evaluate the technology and educate the home buyer.  On the first issue, he talked to his insulation contractor who wasn’t certain what it would take to achieve these low monthly energy bills. The contractor, who purchased construction materials from several manufacturers, made a request to all of them to discuss this issue.  Only CertainTeed accepted.

I love a challenge, so I went out to Omaha to meet with Scott (By the way, if you go to Omaha during the College World Series, book your hotel room early!).  Within 24 hours, we had performed some computer simulations and while we didn’t hit the $20 target, we were able to suggest changes to their building models that would provide a builder-guaranteed “good” efficiency rate of $32/month, a “better” efficiency of $29/month, and a “best efficiency” rate of $22/month for heating/cooling.  My suggestions included increasing the insulation package, upgrading mechanical systems, adding cool roofing products, and tightening up the duct work.  Having these simulations and suggestions enabled him to look at what it would cost to make the adjustments and make a sound business decision to make it happen.

They were thrilled.  Now HearthStone will improve the energy efficiency for these homes by adjusting issues in the building envelope, increase Energy Star ratings through added technology in the home and will be able to pass savings onto new home buyers, providing the home buyers will learn to use the home efficiently to get the maximum utility savings.  Bottom line, this was a win-win for all parties.

HearthStone wanted to stand out in the marketplace and has done so quite nicely.  They are building about 800 ultra-energy efficient homes a year and is outpacing the big, national guys who usually lead the pack in middle America.

Lucas Hamilton is the Manager of Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation

Mining Gold for the Future

Saint-Gobain's Research & Development Facility, Northboro, MA

Saint-Gobain's Research & Development Facility, Northboro, MA

CertainTeed’s parent company, Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, just completed the expansion of its Research and Development Center in Northboro, MA. In the early stages of the project, I went to Northboro to meet with the architects from Shepley Bulfinch of Boston and David Woodbury, who was in charge of the project for Saint Gobain, to discuss how to best meet Saint Gobain’s environmental directives for energy consumption in the design of this building.  Saint Gobain’s corporate sustainability directive is one of the most stringent in the world.  It says ‘We will be leaders in energy conservation.”

The architects had never been challenged by a client to incorporate the company’s products while complying with a corporate directive for energy consumption.  They did a great job.  Shepley Bullfinch was able to integrate 13 Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed products into the design and create the most energy efficient building in Saint-Gobain’s network of nearly 200 facilities throughout North America.  This building is not only slated for LEED Gold, which is great, but it is also the state-of-the-art in energy efficiency which is outstanding.  Among the products used on this building was CertainTeed’s Flintlastic® FR Cap with CoolStar™, a commercial roofing product with solar reflective properties to maximize energy efficiency.  If you want to see the products used on this project visit Northboro.

This building uses much less energy per square foot than a comparable building and exceeds all performance requirements for any energy program in the country.

All new construction projects within Saint Gobain will meet these directives for energy efficiency. The program also applies to existing buildings and those requirements will be phased in over time. It speaks directly to where we want to be in our daily lives with regard to sustainability and energy consumption.

It was exciting to work on this project because it was virtually a blank canvas that enabled technical and building science professionals to take energy efficiency to new levels. As we meet these energy performance mandates for CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain, it will help us work with our customers by sharing what we have learned on our own buildings.

Lucas Hamilton is the Manager of Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation