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Funding for Department of Energy Programs

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

Did you know that the buildings sector is responsible for more than 39 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption, 71 percent of electricity consumption, and 53 percent of natural gas consumption? Those are some significant statistics! And these statistics are also the reason why PIMA is strongly in support of higher standards for building energy codes – which are the most effective tool for reducing energy use in buildings – and several U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) programs.

Keeping this in mind, it's no surprise that PIMA was interested in the House Appropriations Committee release of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2013. Why? Because this bill covers funding for all DOE programs, and there are two programs that are of particular interest to PIMA – and to building contractors, specifiers and architects nationwide. These two programs are:

  1. Building Technologies Program
  2. Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)

Both of these programs are related to building energy codes and building energy-efficiency. Given the statistics above, imagine the impact that higher standards for building codes and efficiency could have on our nation's overall energy consumption. These two programs are well worth the required funding of $310 million and $32 million, respectively.

Consider this: the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States, spending more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. A strong Federal Energy Management Program assures that the federal government can continue to shrink this large cost to the nation.

By meeting the funding requests for these programs, state and local governments will continue to have access to activities that strengthen their abilities to choose the best options for code adoption and administration. These activities include:

  • The development and deployment code compliance tools, like REScheck and COMcheck
  • Providing technical assistance to states and local governments for the adoption and implementation of building energy codes
    • Analysis and support for improving the IECC and ASHRAE 90.1 model building energy codes;
    • Technical support and evaluations by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other national labs in code development and adoption activities; and
    • Training for architects, engineers, builders and local code officials.

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JCPenney Teams Up With DOE to Increase Energy Efficiency in VA Store

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

JCPenney recently participated in the U.S. Department of Energy's Commercial Building Partnerships(CBP), an initiative that is transforming the country's energy landscape by demonstrating the best ways to achieve dramatic energy savings in commercial buildings. This CBP initiative partners programs, companies and organizations with DOE representatives, national laboratory staff and private-sector technical experts to explore energy saving ideas and strategies.

JCPenney worked with the Pacific Northwest Laboratory to identify energy efficiency design measures that could be applied to store locations across the country. One of the first stores to receive these upgrades was an existing building already in need of some major renovations – a one-story, 107,000 square foot building in Colonial Heights, VA.

The design team on the project took an integrated approach to maximize energy savings. For the building envelope, the team chose to use polyisocyanurate insulation during roof replacement. The benefits from using this insulation were significant enough that JCPenney will now consider adding additional insulation to future reroofing projects at all locations. Energy savings from the total package are expected to be 45% as compared to the store's energy use in the past.

This case study underscores the energy saving potential of polyiso insulation and, here at PIMA, we are excited that the design team chose to use polyiso insulation and even more excited that JCPenney has seen significant benefits since its implementation.

To learn more about the project, take a look at the ASHRAE website.

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Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

At the end of September, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) announced The Energy-Efficient Cool Roof Jobs Act, a bill projected to create up to 40,000 jobs nationwide, aid the construction industry and increase energy-efficiency.

In addition to creating thousands of jobs, the bill is expected to add $1 billion of taxable annual revenue in the construction sector and annually reduce carbon emissions by 800,000 metric tons. The bill will also provide economic incentives to speed up the adoption of energy-efficient roofs by removing obstacles in the tax code that hinder roof upgrades.

This is exactly the kind of legislation our country needs. Legislation that creates jobs, improves energy efficiency and lowers operating costs. As a supporting organization of the bill, PIMA believes this is the type of economic stimulus effort that has the potential to pay off in many ways.

The act reduces the depreciation schedule for commercial roof retrofits, lowering the current 39-year depreciation in the tax code to a 20-year depreciation schedule for energy-efficient cool roof systems. To qualify, roofs must include systems with insulation that meets or exceeds ASHRAE 189.1-2009 standards and primary cool roof surfaces in climate zones one through five.

A significant opportunity to increase building energy efficiency lies within the commercial roofing sector, where over 50 billion square feet of flat roofs are currently available for retrofit, four billion of which are retrofit each year. If the insulation levels in these commercial roofs are upgraded from their current R-value to the high performance levels embodied in a High R Roof – 50% above the minimum required values – annual energy savings would exceed $2 billion.

Co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), the bipartisan bill has the support of PIMA, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Associated Buildings & Contractors (ABC), Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA), Environmental and Energy Study Institute, United Union of Roofers and several construction industry associations.

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Label Those Buildings!

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Energy sponsored a webinar on their proposed voluntary national energy performance standard for commercial buildings. The goal of the Commercial Building Asset Rating Program (CBAR) is to assist the nation's building owners and managers in developing plans to improve commercial building energy efficiency. This would include evaluation of building envelope and major energy using equipment.

A voluntary program is an essential first step to eventually requiring energy ratings for all homes and other buildings. Unless we take this step, we are condemning all our existing building stock to underperforming in energy usage, thereby negatively impacting the country's economic and environmental performance.

While first adopted by Denmark and Australia, mandatory building energy ratings are an important part of an existing efficiency program throughout the European Union. This "time of sale” requirement insures that a buyer will be able to give preference to an energy efficient building. Many states and localities (Washington State, California, Massachusetts, Seattle and New York, have enacted laws) are actively considering adoption of similar requirements.

One might ask with LEED and Energy Star programs, is another rating system necessary? While it is unclear how this final CBAR program turns out, its premise goes beyond LEED, which focuses on sustainability, and Energy Star, which does not really rank building performance other to tell you if it is the top 25% of similarly located buildings.

It is time to label the energy performance of buildings. We do require performance labels for cars and appliances, so why not for these users of over forty percent of the nation's energy?

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On Hottest Day of Summer, Congress Catches Up on Cool Roofs

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

At the end of July, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing for Congress on solar-reflective roofs and other cool-roofing techniques including insulation. As heat waves swept the country, the seminar provided some relief for those dreading the warmth of future summers and seeking refuge next to the closest air-conditioner.
Led by a distinguished panel of experts, the briefing addressed the huge potential for roofs to lower the surface temperature of buildings and entire cities.

Speakers at the briefing included Arthur Rosenfeld, a Scientist Emeritus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, James L. Hoff, Research Director for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, Laurie Kerr, Senior Policy Advisor on Buildings and Energy in the Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability in New York City, and Kevin Kampschroer, Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings in the U.S. General Services Administration.

I think it is ironic – or perhaps excellent timing – that on what was one of the hottest days ever in Washington, EESI brought together such an esteemed panel of experts to inform Congress on ways that the roof can provide viable energy efficiency solutions. The panel reiterated that solutions truly are available today and that insulation and whitening roofs as part of an efficient cool roofing system.

Cool roofs provide several benefits, including:
• Lower surface temperatures for buildings
• Lower surface temperatures for entire cities
• Reduced amount of energy usage
• Reduced energy costs
• Improvements in air quality
• Improvements in air quality
• Offsetting carbon emissions

In Texas the average daily high temperature for July was 101.7 degrees. It is definitely time for some very well insulated cool roofs.

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Whither Climate Policy?

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

When I first graduated from law school, I worked for a Republican Member of Congress as a legislative counsel. During my tenure on the Hill I became friends with Sherwood Boehlert, the Chief of Staff for another Republican Congressman. I stayed here in Washington and Sherry Boehlert moved back to New York where he was elected to Congress for twelve terms. He chaired the House Science Committee and was a Republican leader on issues such as water quality, infrastructure, and energy efficiency.

I raise Congressman Boehlert's name for two reasons. One is because he recently penned an editorial in the New York Times decrying the Republican party's apparent disregard for the science behind the climate change issue, and secondly because I believe this aversion to dealing with climate by both parties is having the unintended consequence of slowing our existing energy efficiency initiatives just when they need to be accelerated.

Proposed 2012 budget cuts in Department of Energy and EPA programs such as Energy Star, State Energy Programs, Building Energy Codes and Federal Energy Management are indicative of retrenching when we should in fact be moving forward. A proposed bill introduced by Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Portman (R-OH), Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 contains a broad package of low-cost tools that would reduce barriers for businesses, homeowners and consumers looking to adopt off-the-shelf energy efficiency technologies that will save them money. A broad coalition including PIMA supports this bill but serious questions remain as to whether this Congress will address energy efficiency in any comprehensive manner.

Which brings me back to climate policy. Reasonable people can disagree on the best way to address this issue. What is truly disturbing is how many elected officials have decided to ignore 97% of the world's climate scientists and our country's own National Academy of Sciences, who have recently concluded that "scientific evidence that the earth is warming is now overwhelming.”

As Congressman Boehlert points out in his editorial, Ronald Reagan trusted science and moved the country toward a worldwide phase out of ozone depleting chemicals. Ignoring climate as a key driver for our need to enhance energy efficiency in the U.S. is a little like trying to climb the top of Mt. Everest with no oxygen mask- you may get to the top without it but the journey is more secure with it.

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Reflections on California’s Infatuation with Reflectivity

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

California is an amazing state – high GDP, movie stars, Silicon Valley, and a terrific climate. And, it maintains energy policies that put its per capita energy consumption at a fraction of other states in the nation. Through an aggressive regulatory framework for energy efficiency in buildings, coupled with clean burning gasoline requirements, the state has created a benchmark that other states often replicate. One of those benchmarks is requiring reflective roofs on all residential and commercial buildings as per Title 24, which also requires minimum levels of insulation – a perfect partnering to create high performance roof systems…

…perfect up until now.

California has proposed changing the existing Title 24 reflectivity requirement for commercial buildings that would, for the first time, give greater credit for reflectivity than insulation when it comes to efficiency. At least it appears that way in the initial proposal just published by the California Energy Commission, which limits the amount of insulation that may be used as a trade off with reflectivity. In addition, California's minimum R value for rerroofing commercial buildings, far from exceeding national code minimums, is lower than ASHRAE 90.1 2007.

Fortunately a coalition of roofing industry groups (PIMA included) is drawing the Commission's attention to this issue.

In a report titled "California's Energy Future-The View to 2050”, scientists from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory concluded that California can meet its goal to reduce its greenhouse emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. However, California may not meet this lofty goal if the state fails to keep its eye on the component that delivers efficiency day and night- 24/7- thermal insulation in buildings.

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The Human Side of Oil

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

I am an energy efficiency advocate. I make my living urging the nation to use products that advance the energy efficiency of buildings. Obviously, the more polyiso used, the better as far as I am concerned. Yet the broader goal is product non-specific, weaning our country from reliance on fossil fuels, the use of which has dramatic environmental, economic, and national security consequences. Politicians see this issue mostly through the prism of one product.


We all have, at one time or another, used the oil industry's size and omnipresence and yes, profits, to express national frustration about our nation's energy destiny. Demonizing the oil industry with harsh rhetoric is a popular political sport. But there is another side to petroleum – the human side.

This past week, 70 PIMA members and I were guests of Conoco-Phillips Corporation at their oil refinery in Borger, Texas. I have been to chemical facilities of various types around the country but the size of this refinery boggled the imagination. It receives approximately 191,000 barrels of crude per day, producing mostly transportation fuels (gasoline, aviation, diesel).

During this tour we were briefed by a wide range of experts including top executives, plant managers and lab researchers. The complexity of the refining process was overseen by a computerized command center that rivals a Star Trek movie set with committed Board Operators working long hours in a windowless environment. We also learned that Conoco Philips is working on cutting edge energy solutions such as biofuels and wind energy storage.

The overwhelming impression I received was one of hard working professionals, committed to the safe 24/7 operation of this critical facility, who surely recognized the critical reliance the country has on their presently produced products. And who are looking for new energy sources for the future.

What's my point? Petroleum is the basis for so many products from pharmaceuticals to insecticides to insulation. Half of refined products go to something other than gasoline, in fact many items that contribute to transportation, manufacturing, and building energy efficiency. As an energy advocate, I am not saying that next time you see an oil company executive you need to give him or her a hug, what I am saying is that we need to appreciate the human element of a very complex industry.

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Only 1500 Proposed Changes!

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

This week I will travel to Dallas to participate in the International Code Council (ICC) hearings to further develop the proposed (PV 2.0) International Green Construction Code (IgCC). The focus will be the resolution of just a few proposed changes submitted by interested parties.

A few? Try 1500 proposed changes.

Building professionals from around the country will debate these 1500 proposals in the span of one week.

When complete (the IgCC is set to be adopted in November 2011), the IgCC will be a recognized, consensus based building code "linking sustainability with safety and performance” that will be an overlay to the existing I-codes.

An admirable goal that is fraught with challenges. How do we define terms like " life cycle” or "low emission” or "zero energy performance index?” How tight should the buildings be? What thermal performance should be expected? What fire retardants should be permitted?

As a non "techie” I look forward to listening learning as well as advocating during this highly technical week long drama,. This effort by the ICC to set out comprehensive goals for 21st century commercial buildings deserves the broad support of the design, construction, and building owner communities. The question is how can 1500 proposals devolve into this green construction document that will be our new national standard for high performance buildings?

Stay tuned!

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Running with the “Code Rats”

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 11, 2012

I love buildings. I am a lawyer by training, not an engineer or design professional, so this is a love that has evolved over time, from my work over the past twenty years on energy efficiency and from seeing the many ways building design can impact people's lives.

While I respect and admire the architects, consultants, roofing contractors, facility managers, and all the other committed construction and property management professionals, it is the "Code Rats,” who currently have my full and undivided attention.

"Code Rats,” a term very affectionately given by one of their own, to the individuals participating in an almost continuous and for most of us invisible process known as "code development.” Building Codes. Energy Codes. Fire Codes. You name a performance element of a building and there is a code provision to address it. ICC. ASHRAE. NFPA. These are the code development and standard setting groups that "code rats” study and spend much of their lives working with to achieve building and design standards that provide safety, comfort, and increasingly, high environmental performance.

I am not a "techie” and have only limited experienced at code hearings. That is about to change as I prepare to attend the IgCC hearings in Dallas next week. What I can say is that the dedicated professionals from all different stakeholder organizations (local government to product manufacturers to building owners) who spend literally months and sometimes even years developing the building codes deserve much praise and appreciation from those of us who inhabit the built environment.

But I think they are happy just being called "Code Rats.”

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