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Posts tagged ‘COTE’

Case Study: Center for Environmental Studies at Bishop O’Dowd High School

Thursday, April 19, 2018
6pm
Free and open to all. RSVP to events@aiaeb.org.

1.5 CES LUs

Susi Marzuola, AIA of Siegel and Strain Architects discusses the 2017 AIA East Bay COTE Sustainable Design Honorable Mention winner, The Center for Environmental Studies at Bishop O’Dowd High School. Please note: this is a presentation at the chapter office, not a design tour.

 

Natural Building for Remodels and The New Carbon Architecture

Imagine that the act of building actually helped heal the environment.  What would that look like?  Massey Burke takes on this question both in her work as a local natural builder and in a chapter in the inspiring new book The New Carbon Architecture, by Bruce King.

Massey answers questions below in conversation with AIAEB COTE’s Cate Leger. 

Cate:  Natural building is generally associated with expensive or do-it-yourself new, custom houses  in the countryside, but I have seen firsthand that natural building is appropriate and cost effective for remodels and city building.  We met when you installed natural earth finishes for an apartment building renovation I was working on.  The prices were competitive with the alternative:  wood floors and plastered sheetrock walls  and 3 years later the earth finishes are holding up well.

Why do you like working with natural finishes and materials?

Massey:  I like working with natural materials because they help me maintain a direct relationship to the landscapes that they come from, both aesthetically and practically.  Working with natural materials usually involves a much shorter and more accessible supply chain, and often means that I am sourcing and refining the materials as well as building with them.  I love this process:  it allows me to make choices about how I affect the environment through building.

Cate:  We’ve heard a lot about zero net energy buildings as a key step to reducing use of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  In The New Carbon Architecture, you argue that buildings can go a lot farther in solving the climate crisis.  Tell us more about that.

Massey:  Shifting to natural building materials can sequester carbon, and, done right, can make our buildings carbon sinks rather than carbon emitters.

Wood and other plant-based natural materials  are now understood to sequester carbon within a building–because plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into stable non-atmospheric carbon.  As long as they do not break down, the carbon within the plants remains locked up and does not return to the atmosphere.  

While it is less common in modern construction than wood, straw has been used worldwide in building for many thousands of years.  Straw bale construction is typically the most familiar to people, but there are actually many different ways to use straw in construction.   Straw is also used in a most earth or clay building systems, like adobe, cob, earth plasters, and earth floors. 

Cate: Where will you be taking this research in the future?

Massey:   This year is a mix of building work and carbon sequestration research, which is moving me toward creating high-performance buildings that are explicitly designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  I’m also developing more avenues for using natural materials for remodels.  In particular I am interested in expanding the applications of clay plasters in remodels to improve humidity control and energy efficiency. 

Getting to Zero: The AIA 2030 Commitment and Other Strategies

Thursday, February 15, 2018
6pm
Free and open to all.
RSVP to events@aiaeb.org.

AIA East Bay COTE members Alice Sung, AIA (Greenbank Associates) and Larry Strain, FAIA (Siegel and Strain Architects) present: Getting to Zero: The AIA 2030 Commitment and Other Strategies. Some of us have heard about Architecture 2030 and/or the AIA’s partner program, the 2030 Commitment, but how many of us are walking our talk about getting to zero energy or carbon, and reporting on performance with every project?  Whether you are already a signatory firm (it’s free!) but struggle with fulfilling your AIA 2030 Commitment, OR want to learn more about the topic and real world approaches to getting to zero energy and zero carbon, this evening meeting is for you. Come learn about the AIA 2030 Commitment and other strategies to get us to zero carbon, including: the value of embedded carbon, materials selection (2030 Palette) , district-scale approaches, and de-carbonization /electrification of our EXISTING buildings.  Share your thoughts, join in in the discussion.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand what Architecture 2030 and the AIA 2030 Commitment programs are.
  2. Understand what it means to “sign-on,” and learn best practices for reporting performance towards zero carbon.
  3. Learn a variety of approaches within architectural practice, to get to a zero carbon built environment.
  4. Better walk your “sustainable design” talk.

COTE: Center for Environmental Studies at Bishop O’Dowd High School

Thursday, January 18, 2018
6pm
Free and open to all. RSVP to events@aiaeb.org.

Susi Marzuola, AIA of Siegel and Strain Architects discusses the 2017 AIA East Bay COTE Sustainable Design Honorable Mention winner, The Center for Environmental Studies at Bishop O’Dowd High School. Please note: this is a presentation at the chapter office, not a design tour.

Does Your Building Pass the Lick Test?

Cate Leger

Energy codes have done a good job of moving California architecture to more energy efficient buildings.  However, green building needs to also include green building materials.

Back in the 1990s a great deal of attention in the green architecture community was placed on materials.  Materials were researched and compared for their toxicity, life cycle impacts on the environment and human health, carbon footprint, sustainable yield, cultural impacts of extraction and more.  However, as concern about the climate has grown and disagreements sprang up on the ‘greenness’ of various building systems and materials, the focus has generally shifted to energy efficiency and more recently shifting to 100% renewables.

While CALGreen has incorporated standards to limit off gassing of some toxic chemicals, there are many human and environmental health issues of materials these standards don’t address.  Here are some excellent resources to fill the gaps:

  • Healthy Building Network’s HomeFree offers a short, easy to use specification focused on indoor air quality and health. Healthy Building Network also has extensive database on chemical content and environmental impacts for thousands of products and great articles explaining their research. https://homefree.healthybuilding.net/reports
  • The Living Building Challenge, a third party green building rating system similar to LEED, has a comprehensive Red List of chemicals to avoid and a database with materials meeting those standards. https://living-future.org/declare/declare-about/#the-red-list
  • The Green Science Policy Institute provides guidance on avoiding toxics in the home. They also have a series of short videos breaking down the toxic chemical landscape into 6 classes, allowing the layperson to understand the general problems.  http://greensciencepolicy.org/
  • The Forest Stewardship Council provides the most comprehensive third party certification for sustainably harvested wood.

What we build with also has a significant impact on the climate.  The embodied energy or the carbon footprint of building materials varies widely.  Using low carbon materials for construction is critical in addressing climate change because the greenhouse gas emissions savings are accrued earlier, at the time of construction, when they have the biggest impact.  Prioritizing low carbon materials can significantly reduce the lifetime carbon footprint, and in some cases even reverse it!

Metal and plastics in general have a very high carbon footprint.  Concrete, while lower in embodied energy per pound, is used in such great quantities that its global warming impact tends to dwarf that of other materials used in construction.  Blowing agents used in some of the foam plastic insulations have such high carbon footprints that their addition to a building can negate the operating energy savings for decades.  For more information, The New Carbon Architecture by Bruce King offers inspiring examples and details of low carbon construction.  https://ecobuildnetwork.org/projects/new-carbon-architecture

If the health of workers, occupants and our planet are not reason enough to use healthy building materials, fire is yet another one. The toxicity of building materials and furnishings can be amplified when they are burned. Smoke that engulfed the North Bay – and blanketed the entire Bay Area – was laced with dangerous chemicals: dioxins, furans, hydrogen cyanide and heavy metals, threatening the health of all.  Sadly, firefighters are known to have some of the highest rates of cancer.  Frequent exposure to these kinds of chemicals may be a contributing factor.   Many of these dangerous chemicals are also left behind in the ash.

COTE Happy Hour

Thursday, November 16, 2017
6pm
Free and open to all. RSVP to events@aiaeb.org.

All are welcome at this 2017 Committee on the Environment meeting. We’ll review results from a recent member survey focused on embodied carbon, discuss what we learned from last month’s COTE, and more!

SunShares Makes NOW a Great Time to Add 100% Renewable Electricity

By: Cate Leger, Principal, Leger Wanaselja Architecture and Commissioner, Berkeley Energy Commission

Many cities in the Bay Area have partnered with SunShares this fall to use bulk buying power to reduce the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels and electric vehicles to an all-time low.  The program also simplifies the PV panel purchasing process, offering a short list of pre-vetted installers and free local workshops to ask questions and learn about the process.  There are even resources to sign up for 100% renewable electricity for those that can’t install solar PV.  For residential architects this is a great opportunity to share with clients.

For homeowners, now is a great time to purchase PV or an electric car.  Purchasing PV panels is a good time to consider going all electric or at least shifting some loads from gas to electricity.  One of the barriers I hear again and again to installing solar PV panels in the Bay Area is that electric use is just too low to make a difference or to interest solar installers.  Adding an electric car will dramatically increase the electrical load.  Shifting to electric heating and appliances will add more and bring projects that much closer to 100% renewable energy.

PV installation and electric vehicles still qualify for a 30% federal tax credit, even in the current political climate.  In addition, some of the costs of going all electric such as  electrical service upgrades and electric car hookups can be covered by the 30% federal tax credit.  However, these tax credits are set to expire in a few years.  Taking advantage of SunShares now ensures participation in the federal tax credit program.

Even if purchasing PV panels is not possible, shifting to a 100% renewable electricity provider makes a difference now.

Learn about SunShares: http://www.bayareasunshares.org/

Sign up for a free workshop.  There are several in-person and web based workshops around the bay area: http://www.bayareasunshares.org/events

The deadline to sign up for SunShares is November 2017.

Want to Help Restore a Healthy Climate?

By: Cate Leger, Principal, Leger Wanaselja Architecture and Commissioner, Berkeley Energy Commission

Electrify your buildings

For decades, gas has been the fuel of choice for environmental and climate conscious buildings that can’t include solar power.  However to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, not only do we need to improve energy efficiency, but building operation needs to switch entirely from gas to low-emission electricity. (1)

Even now, due to improvements in the fuel mix and technology developments,  electricity is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our homes, apartments and commercial buildings in California.

Electricity delivered to the site is much cleaner

In the past, inefficiencies in generation and transmission of electricity meant that only about a third of the energy from the combusted fossil fuel source made it to the building.  So, when drawing power from the grid, electric resistance space or water heaters had to be 3 times as efficient as gas heaters to do the job with the same amount of GHG emissions.  Electric resistance, even though it is able to turn 99% of the electricity into heat, was no match for gas appliances.

Now, due to California’s requirements for renewable energy, close to a third of electricity provided by PG&E is currently generated by renewables.(2)  What this means is that today in PG&E territory,  the GHG emissions associated with operating conventional electric resistance appliances are close to, and in some cases lower than, those from gas appliances.  Because of continuing increases in solar and wind, gas appliances will perform worse and worse by comparison over time.(3)

The Problems with Gas

New research is showing that our aging gas infrastructure in California is leaking gas that is supposed to be delivered to our buildings—the equivalent of one Aliso Canyon blowout per year.(4)   There is also the risk of explosions, especially during earthquakes.

Gas also poses problems inside buildings, particularly as we improve the air tightness of the envelope.  Fossil fuel combustion appliances, including gas stoves, are among the primary sources of indoor air pollution.

A Revolution in Electric Heating

While electricity is getting cleaner, widespread development of heat pump heating technologies have improved the performance of electric heaters, making them vastly more efficient.  Heat pumps, the equipment used in refrigerators and air conditioners, have been deployed in space and water heaters with efficiencies as much as 3 or 4 times greater than electric resistance and gas.(5)  This is accomplished because the heat pumps are using the energy not to heat the air or water but to transfer existing heat from one medium to another.

While there are still improvements to be made in the refrigerants used in most heat pumps, when heat pumps are deployed instead of gas, GHG emissions are reduced dramatically.(6)

Electric water heaters also have the added value (which can be significant) of being demand responsive–leveling out the supply/demand cycles of the electric grid.  Heating water is responsible for about a quarter  of the state’s residential energy use and electric water heaters can be programmed to draw energy only during peak solar generation, storing that energy through the evening when electricity demand is greatest.(7,8)

Current Barriers to Electrification

While the state has set ambitious goals for reducing GHGs, several specific energy policies are in conflict.  The assumptions for title 24 energy performance analysis still favor gas space and water heating. Retail prices for gas do not reflect the GHG emissions of gas compared to electricity, or the grid benefits of flexible electric loads like electric water heaters.  And finally, state regulations prevent utilities from offering rebates under the state energy efficiency program when switching from gas to electric fuel.(9)  There are a variety of reasons for these conflicting policies, however they give the impression that using gas is better for the environment than electricity.

There are many challenges for energy providers to switching from fossil fuels to renewably generated electricity, such as energy storage.  However, solutions are also being developed at the same dizzying pace that renewables are being added.  These concerns should not obscure the significant improvements that have already been made in the electricity supply and the importance of shifting building operation from gas to electricity.

The Path Forward

Building operation accounts for approximately 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.  Shifting to all electric operation is an essential part of lowering that percentage and returning to a healthy climate.

Notes

  1.     “Deep carbon reductions in California require electrification and integration across economic sectors,” Max Wei, etc. Environ. Res. Lett. 8 (2013) 014038 (10pp) http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014038/meta
  2.     California Renewables Portfolio Standard, Current Renewables Procurement Status, CPUC http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/renewables/
  3.     Greenhouse Gas Emissions Factors:  Guidance for PG&E Customers, November 2015 show GHG emissions per MWh of electricity dropped from 620 lbs of CO2 in 2003 to an estimated 349 in 2017.  The guidance projects GHG emissions to continue to drop to 290 lbs in 2020.
  4.    CARB and CPUC Joint Staff Report, January 2017 http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M172/K518/172518969.PDF
  5.     Sanden CO2 heat pump water heaters https://www.sandenwaterheater.com//
  6.     Under the Kigali Agreement of November 2016 countries and corporations globally agreed to a phase out of all refrigerants with high global warming potential.
  7.    Energy use: https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/reports/2009/state_briefs/pdf/ca.pdf
  8.    Gurlaskie G., Duke Energy, Feb. 2017, Heat Pump Water Heaters for Demand Response http://aceee.org/sites/default/files/pdf/conferences/hwf/2017/Gurlaskie_Session7A_HWF17_2.28.17.pdf
  9.     “The Role of Electrification in Achieving Long-term Climate Goals for the U.S.” by Rachel Golden,  June 2016, UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group

COTE Happy Hour

Thursday, August 17, 2017
6pm
Free and open to all. RSVP to events@aiaeb.org.

The Committee on the Environment would like to hear what environmental issues (existing and potential) are most important to you. We encourage all chapter members to attend this happy hour and  share your thoughts on program ideas, discussion topics, group mission and anything else you’d like to see this year.

COTE Happy Hour / Visioning Session

Thursday, July 20, 2017
6pm
Free and open to all. RSVP to events@aiaeb.org.

AIA East Bay’s Committee on the Environment is reconvening. We encourage all chapter members to attend this visioning session and help shape the future of this new group. Come prepared to share your thoughts on program ideas, discussion topics, group mission and anything else you’d like to see this year.