News for October, 2009
Monday, October 26th, 2009
New Study Shows Not All Green Buildings Are Alike
Not all green building projects are alike when it comes to energy efficiency, according to research conducted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT). CNT examined 25 Illinois commercial projects that received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and found that some are more energy efficient than others.
Anne Evens, director of CNT Energy, says that increasing energy efficiency in buildings is an important goal for the Chicago region. “Buildings account for 61 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the Chicago region,” says Evens. “In order to reduce those emissions, we need to build for greater efficiency, and we need to save energy in existing buildings. The first step in making a building more efficient is to understand how it uses energy today. That baseline gives owners and operators the information to set and meet goals and to identify areas for improvement.”
CNT’s research and findings are part of the recently released Year 1 Final Report of the Regional Green Building Case Study Project: a Post-Occupancy Study of LEED Projects in Illinois, published by the USGBC – Chicago Chapter in collaboration with CNT and other regional partners. The U.S. Green Building Council rates green building projects for the voluntary LEED certification based on actions taken to address several areas including energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water use, location, and building materials.
CNT analyzed how projects performed over multiple years in areas including energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, operating costs, commute transportation and occupant comfort. CNT’s research concluded that the Illinois projects that prioritize energy efficiency as a key LEED strategy are more likely to have better energy performance than projects that prioritized other LEED categories.
The research also shows the importance of looking beyond the planning and construction phases of green building projects to implement regular tracking of the use and cost of energy, water and other resources, and to establish operation and maintenance practices that improve performance.
“CNT is a leader in analyzing energy use in buildings and in providing useful feedback to building owners and operators,” said Doug Widener, executive director of the USGBC – Chicago Chapter. “Their research supports the USGBC’s efforts to ensure that LEED certified projects achieve energy savings throughout the life cycle of the building.” The study also concludes that is important to continue to collect and analyze energy use data on an ongoing basis in order to understand the impact of changes over time. Performance evaluations must take into account changes in building occupancy, use, operations, and maintenance, as well as systems improvements.
The USGBC took a step in this direction in August when it launched its Building Performance Initiative. The initiative aims to create a system for collecting and analyzing energy and other resource use data from LEED certified buildings and providing feedback to owners.
This research is funded by Grand Victoria Foundation. The second phase of this research will kick off later this fall and will include up to 50 new and returning projects.
About Center for Neighborhood Technology Founded in 1978, CNT (www.cnt.org) is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works nationally in advancing urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on climate, energy, natural resources, transportation, and community development. CNT Energy is the energy services and planning division of CNT that focuses on energy efficiency in buildings, including performance measurement. CNT is one of eight nonprofits selected from around the world to be recognized by a 2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Monday, October 26th, 2009
Today the U.S. Green Building Council – Chicago Chapter released a year-one report of the post-occupancy performance of LEED buildings in Illinois. CNT is one of five project partners and performed the project’s data collection and analysis.
The report analyzes how 25 LEED commercial building projects in Illinois perform post-occupancy over multiple years in areas including energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, operating costs, commute transportation and occupant comfort. The research is funded for a second year, which will kick off later this fall, and will include up to 50 new and returning projects.
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Friday, October 23rd, 2009
In September, CNT conducted the first of three workshops kicking off the Municipal Energy Profile Program (MEPP) for the 7-county Chicago region. There a forum was created for technical questions and best practices on how different communities are planning to spend their Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program federal money, and received input on how CNT can best help municipalities. The workshop helped set the stage for developing a regional partnership to address energy efficiency and participate in the competitive round of federal funding.
With funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, CNT is working with municipalities around the region to assess and analyze their resident’s energy and emissions usage. Each profile includes aggregates of annual natural gas consumption and electricity consumption from account-level data; aggregate annual electricity consumption from account-level data; annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory; and annual transportation by vehicle miles traveled, provided by the natural gas and electricity utilities serving Northern Illinois—ComEd, Nicor, Peoples and North Shore Gas.
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Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
In 2005, CNT received a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment) Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council for its renovation of its headquarters in Chicago. Today McGraw Hill Construction released a new market research study, Green Building Retrofit & Renovation: Rapidly Expanding Market Opportunities through Existing Buildings, which features CNT as a case study.
This report examines the economic impact of green retrofits. CNT’s LEED Platinum office building saves nearly $18,000 in energy costs annually and was built at a cost comparable to a standard renovation. Our building serves as a demonstration that energy efficient retrofits are a good investment. The recently released McGraw Hill report suggests that green building is more than just a trend and that existing buildings are the fastest growing market for green buildings. Read more »
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
Yesterday CNT Energy Director, Anne Evens, was at the White House for Vice President Joe Biden’s press conference on expanding a program to retrofit homes. CNT Energy wrote about this exciting step toward using energy more efficiently, at the Power Smart Pricing blog.
The goal of the “Recovery Through Retrofit” plan is to expand home energy retrofit programs and energy efficiency. The report sites the barriers that have prevented the field from expanding and reaching more of the 130 million homes in the United State that could use a boost in efficiency. The key to the new initiative is to overcome these barriers to help homeowners make cost effective investments in their homes.
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Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Leading conservation experts, water system executives, local environmentalists and others agreed that managing stormwater with green infrastructure is a critical element to sustaining our water supply and preventing a future water crisis for Northeastern Illinois.
Green infrastructure took center stage at a recent regional discussion about sustainable water supply planning for Illinois, hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands. The event was centered on a report to be released by both organizations titled Before the Wells Run Dry: Ensuring Sustainable Water Supplies for Illinois.
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Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
CNT promotes location efficient neighborhoods which have walkable streets, access to transit, mixed land uses, and concentration of retail and services. These neighborhoods require less time, money, and greenhouse gas emissions for residents to meet their everyday travel requirements. Walk Score was launched in 2007 to help people find walkable places to live. Walk Score is a web tool that calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, and now public transit.
CNT is working with the makers of Walk Score, Front Seat, on a project that was recently funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Foundation awarded a grant to Front Seat to add public transit, transportation cost, and greenhouse gas emission data to Walk Score. CNT will provide Front Seat with the estimated transportation costs of a location as well as the household greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
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Friday, October 2nd, 2009
The Chicago 2016 bid fueled a renaissance of ideas—inside and outside the official bid process—on how to transform our region for the better. Now, even though Chicago won’t be hosting the 2016 Olympics, these new ideas are giving the City the opportunity to build a world-class, environmentally sustainable city—one that can pay both economic and environmental dividends. Creating a cutting-edge, environmentally sustainable city isn’t just about creating something that “our grandkids will thank us for.” By investing in the infrastructure and innovation that would have demonstrated Chicago as a model of sustainability for the Olympics, we can also address long-standing, confounding problems that have kept many Chicago neighborhoods from offering a high quality of life, affordable for everyone.
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Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Cited a “top active thinker of today”, CNT President Scott Bernstein landed on Planetizen’s recent “crowd sourcing experiment” to identify the top 100 urban thinkers of all time. Among an impressive list of academics, civic leaders, authors and politicians, Scott was ranked #27 by voters.
Among Scott’s achievements, one of the most significant right now is his contributions in coining the term “location efficiency”, which is becoming more widely known and used to draw the connection between where we live and how much we spend on transportation.
Google the term “location efficiency”. The first result links to the Location Efficient Mortgage (LEM), developed by CNT, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Surface Transportation Policy Project in 1995. LEM’s recognize the savings available to people who live in location efficient communities.
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