22 Years and a Change
Another day another dollar. Another year, another perspective. I come back to this blog to write my annual birthday post. However, this time I come back to you after the most influential year of my life which revamped my outlook on life and sustainability. Oh, and a degree too (in fact my graduation ceremony is going on as I write to you).
Last year I focused on my dismay in how far we have come, or rather haven’t come, since the inception of sustainable design and construction principles. This year, turning 22 years old in 2013, I have a very different and more enlightened view on the green industry and the green professionals behind it. Until this year I had never left the Americas nor have I been truly exposed to foreigners’ perspectives on sustainability. After developing life-long relationships with people of all ages throughout Europe and the Middle East, I came to a single conclusion: boy did the West get it wrong. Regardless of the energy cost differential or even the left-leaning societal views of Europe, we as a people have approached sustainability in a backwards fashion. The end of pipe solutions we are formulating are simply not the answer to resolve our unbalanced consumption and production. The question is not “how can we produce more?” but rather “How can we consume less?” The experts designing green building in North America are too focused on green printed paper than they are on feasible green solutions. A pretty telling fact about Green Washing in America is the fact that the leader of the largest non profit green building certification system in the globe is not even an accredited professional but earns over $500 000. I am not suggesting I could run a better game, in fact I could not, but the industry ‘leaders’ should not be at the top and their influence can be felt trickling down to individual projects. There are too many CFOs leading the green building industry. These current leaders would be much more affective as Directors of Sustainability in firms making the transition to a green profitable business. This will leave the leadership roles to those who can understand what it means to be sustainable, and for western culture it means producing a lot more than we have consumed since the industrial revolution (A lot of catching up to do).
Prior to this day of reflection I have been one of those CFO minded people who believed the green paper was the only route to a green world. When in fact it is much simpler than that; it is just society’s outlook and what they truly value. In the historically most capitalistic part of the world we place that value on money and growth as opposed to a high quality of life for us and our children. Society drives all corporations, for without us they could not exist. If society puts enough emphasis on their demand, the world will be forced to conform to it or else society will fail. The triple bottom line, as hunky-dory as some make it out to be is true. It aptly shows the interconnected and dependent nature of the world’s major spheres, the environment, economy and society. Sustainability is not a lifestyle choice; one cannot choose how to be sustainable while ignoring the rest of the global civilizations. A sustainable life is the only choice as you either are sustainable or you are not. That is the one problem I have with point systems; how can a building be only 50% sustainable? It is a black and white affair which luckily was recognized by the Living Building Institute in their certification system, the Living Building Challenge.
On my 22nd birthday I would like to be clear with my perspective and message. A sustainable present and future is very possible. I have even seen it myself in the eyes of those who I have been thankful to encounter and befriend. However, the people at the helm of the movement are in many ways incredibly capable people, but not for their current position. I have all the confidence in the world that humans are making a generational push towards a shift in our societal mindset which will ultimately conclude in a balanced Earth.
Alternative Energy – How the Power Grid Is Adapting and Why It Is Happening Now
While alternative energy can be good for the environment, the power grid must adapt to the transition to environmentally friendly energy sources and become a “smart” grid to handle the variability of a diverse renewable energy portfolio.
The smart grid is called the internet of things. Each “thing” in the smart grid is an appliance like an air conditioner, a controlling device like a programmable thermostat or motor control center or power source like a solar cell. Renewable energy sources communicate real time power generation information to utilities. While the theory of a smart grid has existed for more than a couple of decades, only recently it is becoming a reality.
Why Is the Smart Grid Now a Possibility?
There are several reasons why the smart grid is being rolled out en masse now although the technology has existed for a decade. The primary reasons pushing the smart grid are the economies of scale that now make a smart grid affordable, the adoption of renewable energy as its cost per kilowatt comes down, and the computing infrastructure required to run smart grids now up and running.
Economies of Scale
Networking the entire power grid requires a huge number of sensors. As wireless technology has exploded, the cost of individual wireless communication devices has come down low enough that we can consider installing millions of them across the power grid and in appliances as a standard feature. Smart grid sensors use the same cheap communication components as cell phones, often using similar batteries as well. By leveraging the cost savings yielded by the economies of scale for producing millions of cell phones and PDAs per month, smart grid infrastructure is now affordable enough to be practical and in practically everything that uses more than a sip of power.
Renewables Require a Smart Grid
Renewable energy demands tighter power grid monitoring and immediate corrections to handle. Solar power production is greatest in the afternoon, when people tend to use the most power. However, it produces little power in the winter though people need energy to stay warm. Wind power peaks at sunrise and sunset, when there is relatively little demand. Adding more renewable power onto the power grid multiplies the variability of the power supply. When renewable power from local sources suddenly drops due to a thunderstorm blocking the sun, the power grid must compensate by either pulling power from batteries or turning on natural gas power plants.
This is why Spain’s solar power and wind power drive caused a horrific economic slump; they discovered that for every megawatt of renewable energy they put in, they had to install an equal capacity of natural gas or oil burning power generation which was then rarely used. Spain had to build twice as many power plants while using the more expensive renewable power plants most of the time.
The United States is not facing this debacle because it is shifting to natural gas. Renewable energy sources that are good for the environment are coming on line slowly across the grid, while the investors still receive a return on their investment because the natural gas plants are still used in some capacity all of the time. However, as more renewable power sources come on line, more back up power generators will have to be added and kept in sync with the renewable energy supply. And a smart grid is the only way to handle many small, personal renewable energy projects that provide most of a consumer’s power but must alternate between accepting locally produced power and delivering power when renewable sources fall short.
The Rationale for Sustainable Building Design
The smart grid generates massive amounts of information. Thanks to data analysis and data reporting tools pioneered by companies like Google, utilities have the ability to compare one utility customer’s date against his or her neighbors, report on each person’s prior day’s usage and relate this to the previous day’s temperature outside. More importantly, this information can be relayed to the user through utility websites or displayed on the home’s thermostat. Some consumers have signed up for emailed notices and warnings when they use more power than average or their pre-selected quota.
Other users have signed up for discount programs where they are notified of power system overloads and paid to turn off devices and bring down their power consumption. Some utility customers are receiving rewards for shifting power consumption to non-peak times like early morning and late at night. Using low cost cloud computing and data analysis tools based on those pioneered by Google, utilities now have the ability to record power usage of consumers minute by minute and reward those who lower their usage when the utility asks them to do so. Conservation is good for consumers and the environment, but it must be balanced by consumers’ needs; in depth data analysis helps companies and consumers reach a reasonable balance before rolling blackouts hit.
Green buildings are penetrating the construction industry because they marry the best methods in construction with efficient performance. Green building design satisfies the building owner through its performance as it addresses sustainability concerns of economic, environmental and social impact. In addition to being cost effective, sustainable building design ensures minimum negative environmental impact through to the end of a building life cycle.
Sustainable building design provides a practical response to issues of environmental impact. Sustainability is not limited to a building construction stage; it encompass the entire life cycle of a building; from the extraction of resources to the time the building is demolished. Sustainable building utilizes renewable sources of energy; it encourages recycling and reuse of water and materials. Outside the building, it integrates the use of both local and adapted species for landscaping. Sustainable buildings design encourages efficient energy consumption by enabling passive heating, cooling and ventilation. The protection of the environment and efficient utilization of resources forms the foundation of sustainable building design.
Green buildings are substantially expensive at the design and construction stages; it requires the installation of sophisticated heating and cooling systems. However, these equipments are efficient; for example, energy-conserving lighting cost more than conventional, code-compliant lighting but it has superior cost saving benefits. Sustainable building design encourages the harvesting of rain water, which is used for irrigation; rain water harvesting requires the installation of additional piping, pumps, controls, storage tanks and filtration components. Owners of green buildings will recoup their investment in a short time because energy and water rise due to diminishing supply and increasing demand. Therefore, green building design has massive economic advantages than conventional building design.
Both conventional and green buildings design have potential effects to occupants; these effects can either be positive and negative. Green buildings design has more positive effects than negative effects. An estimated 30 percent of conventional buildings report complaints related to indoor air quality, which, may result in illnesses. This happened because conventional building designers paid little attention the impact of building designs on the health and general productivity of occupants. Green buildings are designed to promote the health of occupants. For example, green building contractors protect ductwork during installation to avoid contamination during construction; they use finishes with low volatile organic components to prevent poisoning by hazardous chemicals. When it comes to heating and cooling, they carry out precise sizing of heating and cooling components to ensure the correct humidity, and they use ultraviolet radiation to kill mold and bacteria.
The emphasis in green building design is the quality and characteristics of a building. Green buildings are healthy buildings built using resource efficient principles and methodologies. They are built to achieve better energy, economics and environmental performance. A multidisciplinary team must be sought before construction of a green building begins; this team includes architects, engineers, specialist in indoor air quality, landscapers and many others. Sustainable building design requires the input of experts in any field which will affect the occupant. Sustainable building design plays a role in minimizing the impact of buildings to the environment.
The Center for Green Schools
The Center for Green Schools at USGBC initiative was created in September of 2010 with an “ambitious goal of ensuring everyone has the opportunity to attend a green school within this generation.” A green school, just like any LEED certified building, will provide an atmosphere full of clean air and natural light and be free of toxic chemicals that most current educational facilities still contain. Schools are a center point for communities in many cities and towns and whether new or old they can become a green beacon for sustainability.
INFO GRAPH @ http://centerforgreenschools.org/Libraries/Resources_Documents/CFGS-infographic-2011.sflb.ashx
At www.CenterforGreenSchools.org, one may find many resources on what green schools are, why they should be created, how one may educate the community on green schools, and who can help build them. Green schools aren’t just build to save energy, but also to provide educational facilities that can be used as teaching resources as well. For example, students can see how solar panels and direct sunlight can help change the need for electricity.
CFGS from U.S. Green Building Council on Vimeo.
Green schools are safer and create more productive learning centers by providing natural light and better indoor air quality. West Brazos Junior High School in Brazoria, Texas has seen a 4, 5 and 7 percent point increase on mathematics, reading, and social studies standardized tests once moving into a new green school.
As we start to see and recognize the potential green schools present our youth, we can begin to push for more LEED certified schools. Creating educational facilities that follow green initiatives will provide pathways for the next generation to build a better and more sustainable future.
HVAC (Heating ventilation and air conditioning system) consumes almost 60 % of the total building energy. In case of central air conditioning system the central cooling plant known as chillers consumes more than 50 % energy. Hence for energy efficient design of HVAC system, it is crucial to select right type of chiller.
There are different types of chillers available in the market such as reciprocating, scroll, screw, centrifugal chillers. In these types, the reciprocating chiller is on the verge of becoming obsolete due to high power consumption and high maintenance cost. For commercial building with floor area roughly above 100000 Square feet, centrifugal chillers are widely selected due to their high efficiency. The power consumption of a centrifugal chiller is approximately 0.5 to 0.6 IKW/TR at ASHRAE design conditions. The air cooled screw chiller consumes almost double the power compared to a centrifugal chiller. The main disadvantage of using centrifugal chillers is the compressor surging at low load, which can be overcome by using variable frequency drive (VFD) for compressor motor and hot gas by pass method(although hot gas bypass is not the right method from an energy efficiency point of view)
The centrifugal chillers can be used with refrigerant R 123 and R 134a. R 134a is HFC (Hydro Fluro Carbon) hence has no phase out schedule as per Montreal Protocol, which emphasis on ozone depletion potential. This is crucial to LEED’s credits for refrigerant management. Without meeting the Fundamental Refrigerant Management Pre-requisite, a building is not eligible for LEED certification. However it has high global warming potential hence as perKyotoprotocol this refrigerant has phase out schedule. The other refrigerant R123 is HCFC (Hydro Cloro Fluro Carbon) which has less ozone depletion potential and has phase out schedule as per Montreal Protocol.
GreenBuildingrating system mentions minimum limit on COP (coefficient of performance) which can be achieved by right selection of centrifugal chiller.
The future of centrifugal chiller design lies with latest technologies such as oil free magnetic bearing technology, high efficiency heat exchanger with enhanced surface copper tubes, controls compatible with building management system.
Dual Compressor Centrifugal chiller working on R134a refrigerant