Green Leasing: A Collaborative Approach to Energy Efficiency

Brandywine Realty property outside Philadelphia

Brandywine Realty property outside Philadelphia

You’ve probably seen this stat before —buildings account for 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in the U.S.  We all know that reducing energy consumption is imperative for the future sustainability of our country, but when it comes to putting words into actions, we sometimes get stuck.

 Case in point: the potential for gridlock in traditional lease agreements— where the benefits of reduced energy usage or building upgrades do not “flow” to the person who pays for the transaction. For example, if a tenant is not responsible for monthly utility bills, then there is no financial incentive to reduce energy use.

 The good news? Companies such as Brandywine Realty Trust are bringing a fresh perspective to energy efficiency through green leases, which help align the financial and energy incentives of building owners and tenants.

 Specifically, property owners can charge tenants for measures that result in operational savings, such as energy-efficient lighting or chiller retrofits, as long as the savings are greater than the cost of the measure. The tenant benefits from reduced monthly utility costs and the building owner is able to increase the value of the building. Most importantly, the lease agreement instills a spirit of collaboration and mutually beneficial financial incentives to reduce energy consumption.

 Best of all, green releases are generating formidable results. Brandywine Realty Trust and its tenants have reduced energy costs by roughly 46 percent in a 93,000 square foot, 1980s era, building in suburban Philadelphia. And, the building’s energy cost per square footage is approximately 38 percent lower than the area average. With such a great return on investment, it truly begs the question — why aren’t more real estate companies getting on board with green leases?

Energy Deregulation is a Positive for Consumers, but Do Your Homework

 Danny Small is Manager, Building Science Development for CertainTeed Corporation

Danny Small

Danny Small

 If your utility called you up and offered you a significant discount on your electric or natural gas rate, would you take it? 

Usually I’m speaking to builders, architects and homeowners about reducing energy costs by using less energy.  Now, in many parts of the country, you can also reduce your energy costs by simply paying less for the energy you use.

With the recent deregulation of the energy industry, individuals as well as businesses in certain areas of the U.S. now actually have a choice of utility suppliers.  What that means is that you can now lower the rate you pay for your energy by taking advantage of a seamless and easy process.  Electricity choice is well under way, and natural gas is right behind it.  If your state does not yet offer energy choice, it’s coming, and it can offer a significant savings for residences, small businesses and large commercial and industrial entities.

Here’s how it works:  Your utility bill consists of three components:  generation, transmission and distribution.  The utility remains responsible for distribution:  Getting the energy to your house, maintaining the lines and poles and taking care of the billing, collections and customer service. The generation and transmission however, is now open to competition and can be “shopped around,” resulting in potentially large savings for the customer.

You may be wondering how the utility feels about this whole thing.  In one of my previous positions, I helped manage energy efficiency incentive programs in several eastern states, working closely with utility companies as deregulation started to roll out.  The utilities actually actively encouraged their customers to shop their rates.  Since the utility does not make its money on generation or transmission, they are not looking to provide the lowest rate; they just pass the cost on to the customers.  You can view a news interview with a representative from a Pennsylvania utility, explaining how the process works.  

Switching is easy.  It costs nothing, takes only a few minutes online or over the phone, and in many cases there is no long-term commitment.  Everything stays exactly the same from the customer’s perspective:  Same bill, same payment process, same service, same electricity.  Just a lower rate! You really have nothing to lose in making the switch.

Among energy suppliers, both rates and terms can vary widely.  Go to www.ShopForEnergy.com to see the options available in your area.  Besides a competitive rate, look for a plan with no termination fee.  In addition, some suppliers offer 100% renewable energy options (recommended) and other benefits to win your business.  For example, one major eastern supplier, North American Power, offers all of the above and also contributes $1 per month from its own profits on behalf of each of its customers to a charity of the customer’s choice.

So far, my experience “privatizing” my energy has been extremely positive, and I highly recommend it if the option is available to you.

When it Comes to Air Tightness in Buildings – Don’t Forget the Garage

 
 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Many of our houses have attached garages which are, for the most part, unconditioned space within our habitat.  It is the interface of these two spaces which so often fails in our attempts to conserve energy and have superior indoor air quality. 

For starters, you have to make sure that the garage is air sealed from the rest of the structure because of what you store in that space. You store things in your garage because you want them out of the weather but you don’t want them “indoors.” Very often negative pressure is generated in the home by exhaust fans and dryers. In your home’s attempt to reach a neutral pressure with the exterior, it will often pull air from the garage into the home.  Now all of the gaseous and particulate contamination which is associated with what you are storing and doing in your garage is coming into your home. Think about what is on the other side of these “interior” walls – typically they are the rooms where we spend the most of our waking hours; kitchen and family room. If the separation plane between these spaces is not made air-tight we might as well move into the garage.

One small detail which is best addressed during the time of construction is breaking the continuity of framing chases between the garage and the house typically found in the garage ceiling. As the second floor framing runs continuously across one of the garage interior walls, air-tight blocking needs to be installed between floor framing to close this avenue of air migration. This is obviously easier to achieve with dimensional floor framing or “TJI” (Trus Joist I) than it is with modern trusses. Also ensure that any doors leading from the garage to the living space are properly sealed and air tight. Get a new door sweep if the old one is worn out. One great indicator of an air leaky passage door is a dirt “shadow” in the carpet just inside the sweep. Carpet fibers make excellent air filters and atypical soiling patterns are great indicators of air flows.

Once you’ve decreased uncontrolled air flow between the home and the garage is there added value by adding an insulated exterior garage door?  Absolutely! Any way that you can tighten or insulate the envelop will improve the efficiency. When you are making any changes with regard to air tightness in the home don’t forget to include the garage in your decisions.

The Philadelphia Eagles Really Know How to Go Green

I attended a Green Drinks event recently in the Philadelphia area sponsored by Sustainable Solutions Corporation, a company that provides comprehensive sustainable development and green building services for corporations, municipalities, developers and homeowners. Lucas Hamilton wrote about these events in his “Starbucks” of Sustainability Blog.

The guest speaker was Leonard Bonacci, director of event operations for the Philadelphia Eagles.

I’m a football fan and religiously watch the Eagles play every game, but I was not aware of the incredible commitment the Eagles organization and Lincoln Financial Field were making in their efforts to “Go Green.” Theirs is a top-down commitment, starting with the Eagles owners Jeffrey and Christina Lurie. Christina leads this charge, which started when the team moved into their new home, Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles are considered to be one of the most environmentally conscious Teams in the NFL. That is due to the enormous attention paid to reducing their carbon footprint, including:

  • Employing wind technology to power the lights.
  • Using napkins with recycled content and cups that are corn-based rather than petroleum based, and are totally biodegradable.
  • All of the grease from food cooked at the stadium is taken to a refinery to be combined with biodiesel fuel.
  • Composting of trash instead of sending to the landfill.
  • Requiring vendors to support their green initiatives by greening their operations, recycling and using energy-conscious products.
  • Recycling by staff and tailgaters, including easy-to-identify blue bags, dumpsters and trashing carts to collect recyclables.

The ultimate goal is for the entire enterprise is to be carbon neutral, which is no small task when talking about a stadium that hosts 70,000 people per game.

Their newest endeavor is a partnership with a company called Solar Blue which will help convert Lincoln Financial Field to function with self-generated renewable energy. This will be accomplished with wind, solar power and dual-fuel generated electricity.

My personal favorite conservation effort by the Eagles organization is Eagles Forest, a 6.5 acre site located in Neshaminy State Park, Bensalem, PA. The organization has planted 1,500 trees and shrubs, including 150 trees purchased by Eagles fans. Part of this program is dedicated to offsetting the team’s carbon emissions from away-game travel.

For me Go Eagles now has added value! What do you think of Go Green? Are teams in your area making similar commitments?

Reshaping the Built Environment Passively

Stan Gatland

The Passive House concept gained a great deal of traction over the past year and the 2010 Passive House Conference, which was held in Portland, Oregon in November, was proof of the growth and interest.  The attendance grew from 250 last year to 350 this year.

It is clear from the growth of the conference that building professionals in the U.S. and Canada are beginning to gravitate to the Passive House Standard. The primary goal of Passive House technology is to reduce your heating and cooling load so that very little energy is needed to maintain comfort.

The people who came by the CertainTeed booth were much more knowledgeable about passive house technologies and had practical experience with regard to designing and constructing passive homes in all parts of the U.S.  That was a significant change from previous years.

CertainTeed remains the only large building materials manufacturer sponsoring the Passive House Conference. The Passive House Institute has created a Passive House Alliance which will work closely with the Institute to promote Passive House building energy efficiency standards and construction in the U.S.  A grassroots effort like this could have significant impact on adopting standards that truly support energy efficient building.

Attendees were very interested in Saint-Gobain’s Isover Multi-Comfort House strategy. This passive house concept has been very successful in Europe. There were several colleges and universities at the conference and we took this opportunity to talk with them about the Multi Comfort House Student Competition which invites teams of architecture and engineering students from around the world to compete in a passive design competition.  Philadelphia University has participated in the past and the hope is that  other U.S. colleges and universities will consider participating in the 2011 competition.  

It was good to talk with designers who are using CertainTeed Optima® insulation with our Membrain™  smart vapor retarder in very deep cavities using TJI joists to achieve the insulation levels needed to meet Passive House standards. We have conducted hygrothermal analysis to assist designers who are using this system.

One of the notable speakers this year was Dr. Robert Hastings, architect and energy consultant from Austria who gave his perspective on this trend.  Dr. Hastings has been involved internationally in sustainable building and solar energy since the 1970’s when the first wave of concern regarding energy consumption hit the mainstream. Unfortunately, the progress that was made in the 70’s was quickly abandoned once oil became readily available again. 

Let’s hope that this groundswell will not be abandoned as in the past. As a nation, we need to continue to move toward energy independence.

Stan Gatland is Manager, Building Science Technology for CertainTeed Corporation

Kicking the Energy Issue up a Notch – The Green Power Community Challenge

Lucas Hamilton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just launched a year-long nationwide campaign called the Green Power Community Challenge to encourage communities throughout the nation to utilize renewable energy as a means of helping address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

The Green Power Community Challenge aims to double the amount of renewable energy sourced electricity used by participating EPA Green Power Communities collectively. Throughout the year the EPA will track and report the standings of the communities participating on a quarterly basis.  

In order to participate, communities need to join EPA’s Green Power Partnership and buy or produce approved forms of green power (such as solar power) on-site. All the communities currently participating are listed if you want to check the communities in your area.

This program not only focuses on the use of renewable energy but also encourages generating energy on site as a means to cut down on our net annual fuel consumption.  Communities can either reduce as much energy as possible or identify ways to create power to subtract from their total consumption. 

One resource that can help communities and individuals meet the challenge is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiencies (DSIRE). This site lists all the incentive and rebate programs by state. This is important because the incentives do vary from state to state.  In some cases, the incentives or rebates can help you recoup almost half of the cost to install photovoltaic roofs.

At the conclusion of the Challenge, the community that has the highest green power percentage and the community that uses the most kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power will receive national recognition and special attention from the EPA.

It is exciting to see this type of involvement in reducing energy consumption on the community level.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Drinking Freely at the Energy Trough

The days of conspicuous consumption on the part of apartment dwellers may soon be over. A recent article in the New York Times regarding utility included rents  highlighted the fact that the energy consumption in apartments or multi tenant buildings where utilities are included is about 20 percent higher than apartments where utilities are not included.  With the record temperatures experienced throughout the country this summer this has a major environmental impact since 40 percent of a building’s energy use is spent on heating and cooling.

Property managers are beginning to audit buildings and have discovered renters with utilities included did not worry about turning on the air conditioner in May and leaving them on until October.  Apartment dwellers admit to leaving the air conditioner running when they go to work and even when they go on vacation because it is not costing them anything.   

In the Times article, Lawrence J. Wright, a New York University professor referred to this type of phenomenon as Homo economicus – man’s economics – if something is free you will imbibe until you are full.

Property owners are considering submeters in buildings to identify how much energy is consumed per apartment.  While this would still generate one bill, the landlords could charge tenants based on consumption.

No one wants the label of ‘conspicuous consumer’. The ability to show a resident how much more energy they consume than their neighbors could help to change the behavior.

This may be the end of an era but one that could help to improve the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Lucas Hamilton

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. 

The Competition Between Man and Machine

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

Do you ever follow one of those folks that drive a Prius and wonder why they’re going so slow?  I never did until last week.  CertainTeed was fortunate to co-sponsor a luncheon event at the Greenbuild Convention and Expo with Gerding Edlen Development , a leading developer of sustainable investment properties from Portland, Oregon.  Dennis Wilde was our featured guest and speaker and he gave an interesting and very thought provoking presentation on how his firm is working on retrofitting existing building stock to dramatically improve energy and water consumption.

During the conversation he started talking about the Toyota Prius and asked us if we ever wondered why drivers of these very innovative cars drive slow?  “Because it’s a competition between man and machine,” quipped Wilde.  What, you say?  The Prius, for those of you not familiar with it, has the ability to instantaneously give you your current mileage rating based on your speed.  The slower you go, the better the mileage, the faster you go, the worse, etc.

His point was, if we were all able to, in real time, monitor our energy consumption, we may be a lot more diligent about conserving.  It’s true. Some of us really make efforts, like turning lights off when not in use, unplugging appliances, etc.  But, how much do we really save?  We’re never quite sure except our heart quivers with excitement if we see a lower energy bill.

Here’s a nifty trick.  We presented Dennis with a Kill-A -Watt as a modest token of our appreciation for supporting our event.  What’s great about this device is that you plug your, say, computer into it, and then plug the Kill-A-Watt into the wall.  With the computer on, it tells you how much energy that computer will cost you that month.  Now, turn the computer off and leave it plugged in.  The Kill-A-Watt will now tell you how much energy you’re consuming with the device off, but still plugged in.  AHA!  Now you have a real-time way of calculating savings. 

This seems so simple, but the lesson is bold and telling.  We now all have an easy way of monitoring our energy usage and subsequently reducing it through a simple, inexpensive tool.

Many thanks to Dennis and the folks at Gerding Edlen for an outstanding presentation and a real treat for CertainTeed and our customers.

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.