review: MiaGreen Session 3


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A review of an educational session at the MiaGreen Expo & Conference held in Miami FL on February 25-26, 2010.

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review: MiaGreen Session 3

  1. 1. miagreen session 3 1 review: MiaGreen session 3 For the third session of the day, I planned to attend The Recycling Business: Entrepreneurial Inspiring Models, but, sadly, the co-founders of Ecoist, who were slated as two of the three speakers, were not present, nor was anyone taking their place. So, I instead moved over to Truly High Performing Buildings: Tools and Techniques for Getting It Right, which was presented by Noah Eckhouse, the Vice President of the Building Performance Group for Bentley Systems. My late arrival prevented me from hearing the set-up and introduction to his session, but I still caught what the presenter called the “canons” for achieving energy efficient, high- performing buildings. They were: • Thou Shalt Not Believe the Greenwashing • Thou Shalt Not Avoid Hard Work • Thou Shalt Not Overlook the Obvious • Thou Shalt Learn From Others Before You • Use The Best Tools & Don’t Work Alone While pretty self-explanatory, Noah still elaborated on them. There are a lot of technologies out there, and even practitioners, who make promises they cannot deliver, or which cannot be attained when their system or service is considered as part of the whole, so he cautioned the audience to do their research and not blindly believe what anyone says. That leads directly into point number two: there are no easy solutions. Do not rely on shortcuts, do not read “top 10” lists of green building advice and believe that you know how to design and actually create green buildings. The most simple formula to keep in mind, he said, is “garbage in = garbage out.” Always keep your brain engaged, and allow yourself to detect obvious missteps. Here he showed images of solar panel arrays installed behind shading elements which prevent most of the available sunlight from reaching those panels. Whoever was leading those projects didn’t stop to consider that trees, for example, are not transparent. So the presenter encouraged us to be wary of what he called “one click solutions.” Solar panels are great, but they will do nothing if improperly used. Thus, they are not a solution unto themselves. And when such mistakes are made, everyone must learn from them. There are already buildings whose design intended them to be high-performing, and they have gotten a lot of ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  2. 2. miagreen session 3 2 hype, but, once constructed, they have fallen far below expectations. We must learn, therefore, that good design does not equal good performance. He advised the audience to beware of LEED tunnel vision, saying that there are at least 50% of certified buildings that are barely at or below the code baseline. Simply designing a building to comply with the certification requirements will not actually get you the desired results. So how can someone get a high-performing building? Noah advised that all parties involved in the project get together at the very beginning; this is the simplest way to avoid losses. Everyone from conceptual designers, to engineers, to operators should be on- board with the plans. And it is important that the entire team be working with professional grade tools. He mentioned the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyPlus, and Bentley’s Tas Simulator V8i as examples of software that can help engineer the performance of a building before an actual structure is touched. EnergyPlus is programmed to model heating, cooling, ventilating, lighting, and other building energy flows. The Tas Simulator can perform external shadows and internal sun paths studies. As a quick case study, Noah undertook the virtual retrofit of a random building in Massachusetts using the Tas Simulator V8i. Through Google Maps, he picked a 1950s structure in Amherst, and walked us through what changes he could make to it to get better energy efficiency. The results were rather surprising. Through trial and error, he was able to achieve a 25% energy efficiency level, but he did it without too many bells and whistles. Better windows yielded a huge gain, but a central HVAC system did just the opposite, eating up all the gains in efficiency. External window shades turned out to be pretty much useless, while chilled beams got the model closer to the 25% efficiency level. The benefits of this study were quite evident: you can essentially play with every aspect of a structure, incrementally building up to the best possible model. And if you make mistakes along the way, you are not stuck with them and they don’t cost you any money. It was rather clear that some of the solutions we might consider absolutely necessary for a high- performing building don’t always yield great solutions, so really no single system should be locked in. Energy modeling can show you where to invest your resources for maximum impact. Thank you, Noah, for this lively and informative session! ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601