Occupant Behavior: Five Keys to Meeting Building Environmental Performance Goals

A recent article published on Property Management Software Guide claims occupant behavior – not funding or awareness – is preventing green buildings from reaching their environmental performance goals.  The article, Occupant Behavior: Five Keys to Meeting Environmental Performance Goals, identifies five ways to encourage behaviors that align with environmental performance goals:

  1. Engage occupants before they move in.  Hold an eco-charrette with the future tenants to include their ideas about the building’s design and help them understand the importance of established performance goals.
  2. Take a holistic approach.  It may not be enough to focus solely on energy and water usage. Holistic programs emphasizing sustainability and overall health and well-being have proven to be very successful.
  3. Measure energy use with new technologies.  New social energy management tools can assist in making tenants more aware of their energy use by showing the real-time environmental performance of the building.
  4. Provoke competition.  Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be leveraged to create friendly competition among occupants, floors, or even other local buildings. By setting clear goals and displaying real-time data, facility managers can capitalize on tenants’ competitive spirit in order to reduce a building’s carbon footprint.
  5. Create transparency.  It is important to make energy data available in a way that it is easily understood.  Providing tenants with easy-to-read charts or graphs showing energy usage patterns, data on actual cost savings and shrinking carbon footprints, helps facility managers better engage their tenants.

Ashley Halligan is the author of Occupant Behavior: Five Keys to Meeting Environmental Performance Goals. Ashley is a Property Management Systems Analyst at Software Advice.

Energy Efficiency Financing-Models and Strategies

In October 2011, Capital E for the Energy Foundation released the “Energy Efficiency Financing – Models and Strategies” report.  This report summarizes energy efficiency financing models and strategies that are applicable to industrial, commercial and residential sectors.   In preparing this report, Capital E ran a meeting with leaders from banks, industry organizations, project developers, and regulatory agencies.  The collaboration led to the design of new mechanisms for energy efficiency financing.

As stated in the report, the most cost-effective energy efficiency investments in the United States would be around $150 billion a year.  With this amount, within a decade, American residents and businesses would save $200 billion annually and create over a million full time jobs.  Current financing, however, totals only $20 billion, leaving approximately $130 billion of cost-effective potential investments unfunded. To close this gap, energy efficiency financing must become more mainstream and there must be some sort of standardization, such as green appraisal standards and performance data, for banks and financial institutions to compare.  Capital E has included multiple models and strategies in their report that will help create pathways to scaling energy efficiency financing from $20 billion to $150 billion annually. 

Models:

The models described in this report are analyzed according to funding sources, program structures, limits to scale, repayment vehicles, and project risks.  The models considered include:

Many advantages of these models include facilitated collaboration across numerous governmental departments, job creations, reduction of project risks, and removing of split incentives.  Disadvantages of a few models include state-level authorizations, funding limitations, higher transaction costs, and longer processes and negotiations.

Strategies:

The strategies in this report consider applicable building sectors, applicable models, level of establishments, growth potential, advantages, and disadvantages.   The report includes analysis of the following financing strategies:

  • Intermediary Aggregated Scale Purchasing
  • Revolving Loan Fund
  • Preferential Loans
  • Risk Reallocation
  • E-Loan
  • Point of Purchase Interest Rate Buy-Down
  • Re-Align Incentive Structures.

Certain strategies, such as unsecured consumer loans, have advantages like easier access to capital but have disadvantages such as higher interest rates.

The full report provides an overview of energy efficiency financing models and strategies.  It is important to understand and spread this knowledge because increasing energy efficiency financing will help businesses and residents reduce their energy costs, create more jobs, and improve air quality.

View the full report here to look more closely at the models and strategies included. 

A look at the National Research Council Report: Water Reuse Potential for Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply

Is it possible to meet our future water supply needs through the reuse of municipal wastewater? This is a question the National Research Council (NRC) had in mind when the Assessment of Water Reuse Committee was formed by the NRC’s Water Science and Technology Board. Since wastewater is discharged into the environment in significantly large quantities—approximately 12 billion gallons of municipal wastewater is discharged to an ocean or estuary each day—the committee critically assessed the practicality of reusing water to meet future supply needs by analyzing technical, economical, institutional and social issues associated with water reuse.

This isn’t a new idea, as water reuse is a very common practice within the United States for irrigation and non-potable applications; however, as the NRC’s report states, using reclaimed water to augment potable supplies has significant potential for helping meet future needs. The EPA previously estimated the extent of water reuse in the United States; as of 2002 Florida was reusing the largest quantities followed by California, Texas and Arizona.  Over 50% of the reclaimed water in Florida and California was used for irrigation. 

So then the question is begged, how will people react to drinking recycled wastewater?  Although it sounds unsanitary, with the right wastewater reclamation technology and monitoring systems, the potable reuse of highly treated reclaimed water becomes worthy of consideration.  The committee found that the current technology is very advanced with room for improvements but no real limitations. To help address public concerns about safety of reuse and the effects on human health and the environment, the committee proposed 14 priority research areas within two categories: health, social and environmental issues; and performance and quality assurance.

Several advanced treatment facilities in California and throughout the world provide examples of successfully managed systems that are expanding local water supplies.  In Southern California, Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment System recycles wastewater using advance treatment processes.  Half of the treated wastewater (about 35 million gallons a day) is used to recharge the local groundwater basin which supplies potable water to the county.  Elsewhere, Singapore’s NEWater system recycles wastewater that subsequently meets 30% of the nation’s water demand.  Currently only a small percentage of NEWater is being used to augment potable supplies.

As the world’s water supply decreases and as population increases, the need for water reuse becomes even more vital—especially for water-limited regions.  Although reuse alone will not address the nation’s water challenges, municipal wastewater reuse has the ability to significantly increase the world’s water resources.

Find out more by reading the full report here

Green Appraisal Standards

Green buildings first emerged in the late 20th century and are consistently being recognized within today’s market as positive additions to the real estate industry.  Greater energy efficiency not only increases a building’s value by reducing the property’s carbon footprint, but also saves on overall operating costs.  Despite the obvious environmental and economic savings, the real estate industry is currently lacking a consistent mechanism to account for energy efficiency characteristics in the process of determining property value.  This gap leads to imprecise and often inconsistent valuations of commercial properties.

A green real estate appraisal standard would help close this gap by measuring the efficiency and sustainability value of commercial properties, thereby attaching increased asset value to higher-performing buildings.  This would encourage banks to release capital for more energy efficiency projects, since it would be easier to assess property value based on money and energy savings.  Since capital costs are the main barrier for efficiency upgrades and retrofits, creating a standard and getting banks on board would assist in creating new sources of funding in the efficiency arena.

A building performance data tracking system would also give appraisers a resource for comparable projects. Stakeholders from energy, financing, appraisal, and real estate service industries are currently lacking consistent data about the monetary and energy efficiency benefits of higher performing buildings.  A green appraisal standard will provide these stakeholders with a consistent methodology to assess properties’ energy efficient and sustainable features in determining market value.  This improved standard and data system would also provide incentives for greater investment opportunities into efficiency. Since green building has become such a positive trend, why not add standards that will boost funding sources for efficiency projects and bolster green jobs?

Currently, the U.S. Green Building Council, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Real Estate Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC), have made it a top priority[1] to establish a green real estate appraisal standard.  Through a public comment process, they continue to press the Obama Administration to use their existing legal authority to establish these green standards.

Let us know what you think about a green appraisal standard.

Thomas Properties Group, Inc. Recognized for Excellence in Sustainability

Thomas Properties Group ranks first in environmental performance among publicly traded real estate companies in North America by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB).” 

The GRESB initiative was created in 2009 to assess the environmental and social performance of public and private real estate investments.  The overall goal is to reduce the real estate sector’s carbon footprint while creating shareholder value.

With a #1 ranking in North America, it is no surprise that Thomas Properties Group has also received the coveted 2011 Calibre Environmental Award. This award, presented by the Calibre Committee in concurrence with the International Interior Design Association, seeks to recognize the outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship of organizations that are not only an integral part of the design community but also have a profound impact on society as a whole.

TPG’s mission is “to make a positive and profitable contribution toward a sustainable future.” By following this mission, TPG has continually been at the forefront of sustainability development by focusing on their product, customers, and investors to reduce operating expenses, reduce carbon footprints, and improve occupant productivity.  In 2008, TPG received our Sustainability Showcase Award, which recognizes leaders that are paving the way towards California’s clean energy and low carbon future.

Thomas Properties Group is committed to greening their entire portfolio of existing buildings and new developments, and continues to coordinate green efforts companywide with the help of Daniele Horton, the company’s full-time Sustainability Manager. Daniele is one of our Green Building Advisors, sits on the USGBC-LA Board of Directors, and chairs its Existing Buildings Committee. We are proud to have her as part of our team and want to congratulate Thomas Properties Group on receiving the much deserved GRESB #1 US ranking and the 2011 Calibre Environmental Award!

T12 Lighting Phase Out

Are T8s the new T12s?  According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s fluorescent lighting mandate they should be.  Starting last year on July 1, 2010, the magnetic ballasts that operate T12 lamps were no longer produced for commercial or industrial applications.  Since then, there have been progressively fewer T12 ballasts available for purchase and production has focused on the T8 and T5 systems. 

Starting July 14, 2012, most T12 lamps will also be phased out of production, including the following[1]:

  • Most F40 and F34T12 lamps and almost all FB40 and FB34T12 U-lamps
  • All 75W F96T12 lamps
  • All 60W F96T12/ES lamps, with the exception of a few 700/SP and 800/SPX lamps
  • All conventional 110W F96T12 HO lamps that deliver fewer than 10,120 lumens
  • All 95W F96T12/ES/HO, unless they can provide at least 8,740 lumens

It’s definitely a good time to get on board with the more efficient T8 and T5s. These lamps have lower mercury levels, longer lives, contribute to LEED points and are at least 30% more efficient. Compared to the T12 system, switching to a T8 system can save $7.20 a year and a T5 can save up to $13.60.[2]  If commercial and industrial owners make the switch there will be significant energy and money savings.

Speaking of savings, the Energy Independence Act of 2007 (EISA) has extended the tax deduction for qualifying projects that will be completed before January 1, 2014.  By recognizing the availability of incentives and rebates currently offered, commercial customers can save on retrofits if they act fast. Once all the DOE mandates are in effect, removing less efficient T12 systems will become a regular practice and the only option for customers with the inefficient lighting system. Rebate and incentive programs will likely disappear when this happens, so retrofitting sooner may have its added benefits.

What do you think about the T12 phase out?

New Light Bulb Efficiency Standards

Next year, under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), increased energy efficiency standards for light bulbs will go into effect. This mandate will gradually increase the required efficiency of bulbs over the next few years. Starting in January 2012, the 100 watt bulb will be required to drop 30% so that it emits the same amount of light while utilizing only 72 watts.  The increased bulb efficiency requirements will continue in 2013 with the 75 watt bulb and in 2014 with the 60 and 40 watt bulbs. 

These EISA standards will produce huge energy cost savings while eliminating wasteful products from the market.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that this new standard could save nearly $6 billion in 2015 alone. By significantly reducing the amount of electricity required to light America’s homes and businesses, mostly generated from coal-fired power plants, the standards will also reduce harmful emissions from those coal  plants including emissions of mercury, arsenic and greenhouse gases.[1]

New labels for light bulb packaging, designed by the Federal Trade Commission, will also take effect in January and will highlight bulb measurements in lumens.  While watts tell us how much energy the light bulb uses, lumens measure the brightness.  These labels, similar to nutrition labels found on grocery items, will also include the bulbs’ energy costs, life expectancy, mercury levels (if any) and the lights’ appearance ranging from warm to cool.[2]

So what do these bulb changes mean for the commercial consumer?  Simply put, customers will be able to save energy and money without losing the amount of light displayed. Since light bulb purchases will focus on brightness, ambiance and life length, the new labels will allow consumers to purchase the most efficient bulbs for their specific office, business and industry needs.  With the new label it will also be easy to estimate the yearly cost of specific bulbs, letting commercial customers manage their budgets and make practical choices about which bulbs are the most cost-effective.

Despite the energy and cost saving benefits, many people are still skeptical about the changes. Will the market of incandescent bulbs be overtaken by compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs)? Certainly some incandescent bulbs currently on the market won’t make the cut, but they will not be banned, they will only need to be reinvented.  By utilizing a halogen technology with the incandescent bulb, lighting companies can reach the new standards, which are currently available in the standard bulb shape.[3] Since this efficient technology is already accessible, and means savings for most customers, bulbs will most likely transition to these new standards even if the mandate wasn’t set to take effect.      

Let us know what you think about the new bulb standards.

Solar Access

Can you force your neighbor to trim their trees if it shades your PV system? As California moves towards reaching the goals of the California Solar Initiative and beyond, disputes relating to solar access are likely to grow. In California, the Solar Shade Control Act (sections 25980–25986 of the California Public Resources Code) governs solar access. The Act was passed in 1978 and until 2008 stated that trees or shrubs may not cast a shadow over more than ten percent of a solar collector on a neighboring property at any one time during the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

A dispute between two Santa Clara County neighbors[1] was one of the first to raise widespread awareness of this conflict.  Citing the Act, a PV system owner brought criminal charges against a neighbor because the PV system he installed in 2001 was shaded by the neighbor’s trees that were planted six years prior to the installation. The lawsuit lasted from 2001 to 2008 and cost $37,000 in legal fees.  Ultimately, the tree owners were convicted and ordered to cut down a portion of the trees. Six months after this ruling, California amended the Act to account for existing trees.   The amended law “exempts all trees and shrubs planted prior to the time of the installation of a solar collector.In other words, the Act allows trees and shrubs to grow and shade solar panels without penalty as long as they predate the neighboring solar collector.[2]

Since 2008, lawsuits in California[3] and the rest of the country[4] have continued to surface. In all these lawsuits, both sides argue their environmental benefits. PV system owners cite that the PV system avoids more CO2 emissions over the course of a year, while tree owners argue that trees provide shading which offsets the need for air conditioners to run as much in warm summer months and provides habitat and food for local animals. No matter the merits of either argument, recent rulings have been decided by local laws.

The revised Act has implications for both residential and commercial building owners in California. Before installing PV, the site analysis must take into account not only shading from current trees, but also future impact of nearby trees that will grow over time. Likewise, someone planting a tree must see if any PV systems are installed nearby and either select a different location for the tree or plan to prune it over time.



[1] California Vs. Bissett

[2] Anders, et. al. California’s Solar Shade Control Act, A Review of the Statutes and Relevant Cases, Energy Policy Initiatives Center University of San Diego School of Law, March, 2010

California’s Revised Energy Planning Guide for Local Governments

What is it?

The California Energy Commission has recently released the 2011 Energy Aware Planning Guide, an update to a 1993 version. The guide is geared towards local governments and planning organizations including cities, counties, and regional transportation districts or any other local entity that influences energy usage in buildings, land use, transportation, water delivery and waste processing. The guide’s goal is to provide technical information to local governments seeking to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance renewable sources of energy.

Why is it Important?

Recent California legislation – the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act 375 – are starting to impact energy usage in California and local governments play a big role in influencing energy demand. Examples include local government’s influence on building code enforcement, land use planning, public transit and sometimes local governments run an electric and/or gas utility. This is in addition to the local governments own energy usage. The Guide provides processes, tools and templates to help local government’s make strategic energy plans and implement them.

How is it Helpful?

The Guide starts with a systematic process for creating an Energy Action Plan to inventory sources and uses of energy and identify opportunities for improvement. The Guide then presents many strategies to reduce energy use. Ideas include parking supply management, ridesharing, planting shade trees, implementing solar energy and water reuse and recycling.  The Guide then ends with metrics and guidelines for quantifying the impact of the recommended strategies. All of these ideas and examples can save a local government time and effort – generally in short supply during this era of budget deficits - in reducing energy usage for its own operations and its residents and businesses. 

Nigel Hughes

Nigel Hughes is a San Francisco based consultant who has held a variety of corporate and consulting positions in the commercial real estate industry.  Nigel’s real estate experience extends fifteen years and encompasses financial analysis, market studies and business process engineering.  Nigel is a LEED Accredited Professional and advises clients on issues related to green leasing, sustainability reporting and other aspects of green building and sustainability.  He also has extensive international expertise, having lived and worked in the United States, Australia and the UK.  Currently, Nigel lives with his family in Marin County, California, and is a member of Navigant Consulting’s real estate practice.