During Energy Awareness Month Take the ENERGY STAR® Pledge

Lucas Hamilton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program has launched a pledge project designed to draw awareness on the part of individuals to change their ways and adopt more energy conscious practices. The pledge asks individuals to commit to replacing items in your office or home ranging from light bulbs to appliances and office equipment that carry the Energy Star label to reduce energy consumption. Retrofitting with added insulation is another improvement to consider.

According to the current statistics 2,655,126 individuals have joined the cause and pledged to take small, individual steps that have led to reducing 8,842,303,899 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change.

I want to applaud my fellow employees for taking the Energy Star pledge and committing to reducing their energy consumption.  The EPA estimated that the value of the pledges received by CertainTeed/Saint-Gobain so far equates to more than $1.5 million in energy savings.

You, too, can get involved as an individual or a company and be a part of this national campaign.  Get your company involved by going to Energy Star’s Join our Movement . To register as an individual go to Take the Pledge

This type of awareness is a good starting point to encourage everyone to look at ways to reduce their energy consumption and become more conscious of how they use energy.  We can all do our part.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Are Only the Rich Getting Greener?

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

As I travel across the country and talk to building professionals, I find there is a lag in the central part of the country compared to the coasts or metropolitan areas when it comes to embracing green/sustainability and building science.  This may not be surprising.  Many of the issues around green/sustainability are consumer awareness driven especially in the absence of subsidies or state-mandated programs.

Last year, the Department of Energy published statistics on the adoption rate of the Energy Star program across the country.  What they discovered was that the adoption rate was in direct proportion to the education level of the consumer.  People with higher education levels generally have more income, are buying new homes with more options and functionality, and choose more energy efficient products.   

In the parts of the country where residents are less likely to pursue post secondary education, adoption of programs like these is slower.  The questions I get in the rural areas of the country tend to be the same questions posed to me by people in more urban areas the previous year.

This is unfortunate.  I have talked about this previously with regard to nanotechnology and leveling the playing field for habitat equality. The people asking the least amount of questions are the people who need green technologies the most.  People on lower or fixed incomes need to control energy costs more than people with disposable incomes.  But, in reality the rich and educated are getting greener faster.

The building community needs to seek ways to provide these technologies to low- or moderate-income housing in lower income parts of the country where sustainability is critical because of the increased need to control energy costs.  

Is reduction of energy consumption important to people who are just getting by? Absolutely!  Is there a lag in the interest?  Yes, we do see it. Clearly, there is more interest in metropolitan areas than in rural America.

The message needs to be driven home in all parts of the country and at all income levels.

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

Energy Quotient – Look for the ASHRAE Label

ASHRAE labelWe may finally have found a way to qualify and label the energy efficiency of buildings called the Energy Quotient. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) proposed this standard for reporting the energy consumption of buildings so that consumers can compare the energy use of one building to another.  This is a concept whose time has come in order to make sound decisions about a building either to rent or own.

The Energy Quotient rates, grades and labels building from A+ to F for their efficiencies based on standards ASHRAE created.  This is similar to how Energy Star rates products and gives them an energy consumption rating.

The benefit to this is that once the building industry reports these ratings publicly it’s going to drive building and home owners  to make our buildings more efficient – not only new buildings going forward but retrofitting existing buildings. Just like remodeling a kitchen prior to selling a home to make it more marketable, owners will be making energy efficiency upgrades to improve marketability of all buildings before putting them on the market. This will propel the need to improve existing buildings, which is fantastic.

Initiatives like this provide another level of comparison that benefits the consumer and encourages us to improve what we do as it relates to energy consumption. It’s measurable, it can be reproduced, and it will accelerate our conservation efforts. 

Economically motivated issues are more successful in our culture than mandated ones. Building owners will no longer need a mandate for energy efficiency if they have an economically motivated reason to do it.  It takes energy efficiency efforts away from the programs and puts control back into the free market. This allows the free market to drive the point which it does with this simple label.

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

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

Energy Auditors in High Demand

Lucas HamiltonOn Sunday, October 11th, I read an article in the New York Times titled City Aims to Reduce Carbon Output by Buildings stating that New York City is going to require energy audits on all existing buildings.  New York is setting its own guidelines for the reduction of carbon dioxide production based upon the usage of electricity in the city, which is a tremendous undertaking. But the first step towards measuring energy efficiency improvements is to get a baseline and then track going forward.  This will require qualified auditors to conduct these audits on the existing inventory of buildings.

This got me thinking about the increasing need for qualified energy auditors. For two years, I have been getting calls from people to conduct energy audits on their buildings. In the construction industry, there are HERS raters (Home Energy Rating Service) who use a program called REM Software that features two evaluation programs REM/Design and REM/Rate.  This program enables you to upload your building design and location and run a simulation based on local utility rates. It can tell you month by month what your energy bills should be for heating and air conditioning. This helps quality homes for Energy Star tax credits.

In doing a quick search, I discovered there is a huge need across the country for trained energy auditors. There is a website, energyauditorjobs.com that lists all the available jobs nationwide.

There are three skill sets needed to be an Energy Auditor:

  • You need to understand how buildings are built and operate
  • You need to understand the science of buildings
  • You need to have knowledge of the softwares.

 Some of the entities that will be looking for energy auditors are:

Weatherization Programs produced from the stimulus. We are currently training quasi-energy auditors in weatherization programs, like the Pennsylvania Housing Resource Center at Penn State University program. They are trained in the Building Science part but not in the audit software or simulations.

Municipalities and state departments of energy, like NYC, will need thousands of energy auditors to test all the buildings in their cities and towns.

Real estate investment portfolios, utility companies, hotel and resort operators, manufacturers, especially large manufacturers, will need to conduct audits on their plants and buildings. CertainTeed is currently conducting audits on all our plants and buildings due to our own corporate mandates. 

Building management companies could find this as a differentiator in the marketplace if they can offer building owners the expertise to evaluate and control the energy costs for the buildings they manage.

This need for energy auditors is only going to mushroom and get bigger over time.  This is one of the green jobs that the green evolution has promised us. This is a new workforce that will be needed to meet the demands of the marketplace.

From my position, having done this type of work for 25 years, I see this as a coming together of social and economic forces overlapping at one place – the energy auditor.  As we continue to teach Building Science in our colleges and universities, we will need to incorporate this training as well.

This is a perfect career path for young people or for construction professionals who might be looking for a new opportunity.  And it is just the beginning as we embrace the concepts of energy efficiency and require the upgrading of our building inventory.

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.