Developers Claim That 30% Energy Savings Are Unachievable

first_imgEdward Mazria Fires Back, Labeling the Report “Disinformation”HERNDON, VA — A report published by a real-estate development group concludes that there is no cost-effective way to build a new commercial office building designed to use 30% less energy than a code-minimum building.According to the New York Times, “The report, released this week by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, found that a 50 percent energy improvement beyond federal standards is technically impossible. A 30 percent target is achievable, but only by adding a million-dollar solar system that could take up to 100 years to pay for itself.”The real estate development association — sometimes known as NAIOP, the acronym of its former name — hired energy consultants from Consol in Stockton, California, to run computer simulations on an imaginary four-story office building built to ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004 in three cities: Chicago, Baltimore, and Newport Beach, Calif. The researchers examined the effects of a variety of energy upgrades, including air-sealing measures, improved insulation, improved glazing, reduced lighting levels, efficient HVAC equipment, and photovoltaic arrays.Consol researchers hoped that a combination of cost-effective measures might reduce energy use to 30% below that of the baseline building. Measures were considered cost-effective if the payback period was 10 years or less.Maximum Achievable Energy Savings: 23%The report, “Achieving 30% and 50% over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 in a Low-Rise Office Building,” concluded, “The analysis was not successful in identifying practical energy feature upgrades to achieve the 30% threshold. The best scenario evaluated achieved 23% over the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 Standard. …With the Package features noted … the Chicago, Baltimore and Newport Beach models achieved 23.0%, 21.5% and 15.8%, respectively, over the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 Standard. These could represent the practical and economical limits of current construction within this office building model. Increased energy features from these levels would drive the Package payback period well beyond the ten-year time horizon. Additional energy savings are required to reach the 30% and 50% goals. Outside of increasing building energy features, one way to do this would be to generate electricity via photovoltaic panels. These systems would cover approximately 11,000 square feet and could be installed on the building rooftop. However, with an installed cost of over $1.1 million … and a payback period between 55 and 100 years, they would be economically impractical considering the industry accepted ten-year timeframe.”Why Stop At Ten Years?Critics of the report note that the Consol researchers made several questionable assumptions, including the assumption that energy prices will remain constant, and that a payback period greater than ten years is unacceptable. Perhaps the best counter-argument to the report’s conclusion is the simplest: buildings using 30% less energy than buildings meeting Standard 90.1 have already been cost-effectively built. Like bumblebees, these buildings perform well, in spite of computer analysis that proves them to be impossible.Edward Mazria, a Santa Fe architect and the founder of Architecture 2030, quickly issued a statement criticizing the developers’ report, which he called “disinformation.” Mazria wrote, “They contracted with ConSol, an energy-modeling firm, and asked them to analyze five (yes, only five) efficiency measures for an imaginary, square-shaped, four-story office building with completely sealed windows and an equal amount of un-shaded glass on all four sides of the building,” noted Mazria. “In other words, analyze an energy hog. They conducted the analysis for different cities and climates — Newport Beach, Chicago and Baltimore — without changing the design to respond to these very different climates.”Ignoring Low-Hanging FruitMazria continued, “They did not study changing the shape of the building, its orientation or form, or redistributing windows or using different windows to take advantage of natural light for daylighting or sunlight for heating (office buildings are day-use facilities). They did not study shading the glass in summertime to reduce the need for air-conditioning, using operable windows for ventilation (not even in Newport Beach with its beautiful year-round climate), using landscaping to reduce micro-climatic impacts, employing cost-effective solar hot water heating systems, employing an energy management control system or even study the impact of using inexpensive energy-saving occupancy sensors in rooms to turn off lights. In other words, NAIOP intentionally kept out of the analysis all the readily available low-cost, no-cost and cost-saving options to reduce a building’s energy consumption.”last_img

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