Greenovation Projects are Taking Center Stage

January 25, 2010
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A geothermal heating-cooling system is the main HVAC component for the Terra Verde home in Altoona, Fla.

There are a lot of high-profile energy retrofits going on these days. They offer many insights and information for contractors and others looking to get more deeply involved in this growing market.

Dr. Anna Marie, health specialist for the Weather Channel and host of the nationally syndicated better-living show “Your Life with Dr. Anna Marie,” is teaming up with Dr. Jennifer Languell, star of the Discovery Channel’s “Project Earth” series, to lead a complete green renovation project to transform an energy-sucking, 1970s Florida-style ranch home into an eco-friendly, energy-efficient and, ultimately, healthy home.

Similarly, Ecology and Environment Inc., announced that it has achieved an 80 percent reduction in annual carbon emissions associated with building energy use at its global headquarters in Lancaster, N.Y. The company achieved this in just nine years as the result of a series of measures, targeted toward not only infrastructure improvements but the direct engagement of employees in energy efficiency, that have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.

NEW GREEN ACRES

Terra Verde (Green Acres), in Altoona, Fla., sits on 23 acres adjacent to the Ocala National Forest. From the original single-pane, metal-framed windows to the heating oil tank buried in the front yard, the home had been untouched since the first concrete block was laid almost 40 years ago. As part of the transformation, Drs. Health and Green will seek to certify the renovated home as “green” under standards established by the nonprofit Florida Green Building Coalition.

Dr. Anna Marie has been a broadcast TV correspondent for more than a decade. By combining her medical training, broadcast experience, and interest in helping people live full and healthy lives, she has become a popular source of medical information on television today. Since 2003, she has partnered with The Weather Channel to provide millions of viewers with healthy-living information to help keep the effects of weather from impacting their everyday life.

Dr. Jennifer Languell, founder and president of Trifecta Construction Solutions, is a leader in educating the development and construction industries, as well as homebuyers, about the benefits of green building and sustainable development. She holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering and Sustainable Construction from the University of Florida.

Together, Drs. Health and Green are exploring ways to enhance the energy efficiency of Terra Verde; reduce the home’s water consumption; improve its IAQ; utilize materials that are renewable, recycled, or reused; and achieve a land- scape that uses native or drought-tolerant materials.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Dr. Anna Marie on this project,” Dr. Languell said. “She has long been an advocate for healthy living, and at Terra Verde we will have the chance to educate consumers about the role of the home and other products in achieving a healthier and greener lifestyle.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 120 million homes that are five years or older; the majority are actually 30 years or older. Homeowners that are currently unable to sell their homes are opting to remodel instead. Skyrocketing energy prices, mixed with a growing green movement, have more people looking at energy-efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly choices for their remodels.

The Florida Green Building Coalition, which has certified more than 2,000 green homes in Florida, is dedicated to improving the built environment by providing a statewide green building program that defines, promotes, and encourages sustainable efforts with environmental and economic benefits. The organization manages green certification programs for residential, condominium, and commercial construction, as well as land development projects and green government programs.

Progress on the Greenovation of Terra Verde can be followed on www.terraverdetv.com and on www.greenovation.tv.

Dehumidification is part of the plan at the Terra Verde residential project in Altoona, Fla. Not only will it address IAQ concerns in the humid area, it can also help keep cooling costs down by decreasing humidity, allowing a higher thermostat setting.

CARBON FOOTPRINT

“Climate change experts have been debating the crucial need for carbon footprint reduction over the past 25 years, and are recommending an 83 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” said Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E&E), president and CEO Kevin Neumaier.

“Based on our experience, this goal is not only achievable, but if done right will foster an economic gain,” he said. “Without enough data and real-world examples, some fear that greenhouse gas reduction initiatives will cripple the world economy.

“E&E’s experience over the past nine years is that there is a path to meeting global targets, and it provides great ROI.”

Between the baseline year of 1999 and 2008, the company implemented efforts that enabled it to achieve a 37 percent (12,000-cubic feet) reduction in natural gas usage and 23 percent (198,000-kWh) reduction in electricity usage. Furthermore, comparing associated upfront costs of approximately $58,000 for energy conservation measures plus $20,000 for the purchase of renewable energy credits (low-impact wind and hydropower) with an estimated $310,000 in energy cost savings from 1999 to 2008, the company said it saved approximately $232,000 over the nine-year period.

Based on current energy costs, E&E estimates additional annual savings of $43,000 relative to energy costs that would have been accrued before implementing its conservation measures.

E&E employed a variety of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction methods that contributed to this achievement, including the development of GreenMeter®, a real-time energy consumption tracking and management system designed to identify efficiency opportunities. E&E also installed a GreenMeter monitor in the lobby of its headquarters, allowing employees and visitors to view building energy-use data throughout the day.

“Actively engaging our employees was critical to our success,” said Neumaier. “We did everything from post reminders about turning off unnecessary lighting and equipment, to implement an energy-efficiency program that showed documented results, through GreenMeter, of how their conservation efforts were making a real and direct impact. This not only kept the momentum going, it contributed to a long-term behavioral and cultural shift among our employees.

“Our experience suggests that organizations the world over stand to gain as we have when they address not only the technical operations of their building, but the involvement of their most important asset - their people.”

Combined with behavioral changes, other energy conservation efforts included replacement of all incandescent lighting with fluorescent lighting (CFLs and low-mercury T8 lamping) and purchasing Energy Star®-rated kitchen and office equipment. The company also retrofitted air-handling unit fans with variable-speed drives, installed a building automation system with direct digital controls, optimized air-handling unit scheduling by matching run times to building occupancy requirements, and optimized natural air circulation through a company-wide e-mail notification system for opening and closing windows.

According to Neumaier, “Our experience in fostering sustainable development across the globe belies the economic crisis some predict greenhouse gas reduction efforts will create. Like the thousands of worldwide projects we’re working on, we are committed to reducing any negative environmental impact associated with the operation of our headquarters, and have found that focusing on sustainability is not only good environmentally, but also economically.”

Built in 1986, E&E’s 64,000-square-foot headquarters building is the world’s oldest LEED® Platinum-certified structure under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) rating system. The company’s 80 percent GHG reduction accomplishment is magnified by the fact that it began focused energy-efficiency efforts in 1999 with a building already achieving better-than-average energy efficiency.

When E&E first set forth to construct its global headquarters more than 20 years ago, in Lancaster, N.Y., it was not with the hope of achieving a particular rating or certification, but with the intention of implementing building design methods that just made sense over the long haul. Efforts to maximize daylighting and fresh-air intake, use 100 percent green electricity, select post-consumer building materials whenever possible, and incorporate indoor plant life were all guided by the company’s founders.

“Construction on our headquarters building began in 1986, long before the existence of organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, and certainly before sustainable building guidelines like LEED existed in the United States,” said Neumaier. “The company’s aim was thus purely to build a structure that, as much as possible, would harmonize with - and not battle against - nature.”

In addition to low-water-use fixtures, green energy sourcing, and post-consumer products such as its carpet tiles, the building features a 300-foot-long atrium with more than 1,000 plants that thrive indoors, and a glass ceiling that can be opened to allow fresh air (in addition to windows throughout the building that can be opened).

“Working windows were an imperative design feature, despite advisement that this was ‘just not done’ in a commercial construction project,” Neumaier explained.

“Knowing it would make such a difference to work morale - and the overall health and well-being of the work force - to be able to circulate large volumes of fresh air during the temperate months, we had to insist.”

Aprilaire technical rep Billy Efthimiades shows the setup of the dehumidification and geothermal equipment in Terra Verde.

GROWING HABITATS

The construction site itself was selected for its diverse natural habitats, including a wetland and riparian habitat that E&E wanted to preserve. The 125 acres on which the company’s headquarters sits includes a combination of patch, corridor, matrix, and edge habitats that support a significant number of flora and fauna, including 150 types of plants, 172 bird species, and an abundance of mammal and amphibian species. These include 20 species of concern and 25 native species that were reintroduced by E&E in an ongoing effort to enhance the quality of the existing habitats. In addition, the company utilizes its grounds to participate in the Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program for marsh birds and amphibians.

“Over the years we have made improvements to the habitats that have furthered their flourishing,” Neumaier said, “while also enhancing symbiotic balances to achieve things like natural pest and noxious weed management, food and cover for nesting wildlife, and the attraction of new animal species like the Northern leopard frog, bobolink, gray fox, and Northern saw-whet owl.”

Combined with other elements (including a company-wide recycling effort, designated parking spaces for carpoolers, and a system of nature trails for employees), the headquarters and structure earned a title in 2008 as the oldest LEED Platinum-certified building under the USGBC’s LEED-EB rating system.

“As part of the LEED Green Building Rating System™ procedure, our headquarters was reviewed in a stringent third-party verification process that examined five key areas of human and environmental health,” Neumaier said, “which included sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. With very minor modifications, the building we’d had in place for 20 years at that point was able to meet all criteria in these categories, making it the oldest building to retroactively receive the USGBC’s highest LEED Platinum certification.”

With its headquarters building and as a company overall, E&E continues to model that green is not only possible, it can also be prosperous. Recently recognized as one of 2009’s “FSB 100” Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies by Fortune Small Business, E&E has experienced significant gains as the world market continues to accelerate its sustainability practices.

“In 2008 … we managed to achieve a 40 percent earnings increase in the fourth quarter,” Neumaier said. “This speaks loud and clear to the way the green economy is flourishing, and the role we continue to play within it.”

The company has completed more than 45,000 projects for a wide variety of clients in 84 countries, providing environmental solutions in nearly every ecosystem on the planet.

Publication date: 01/25/2010

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