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High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 3

first_imgIronically, here in California – where we pride ourselves on being so advanced from an energy perspective – our energy code has spawned legions who follow the “just pass” mindset. And, greatest of ironies, often among the legions we find even our energy consultants! Even on high-performance projects!On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself in a conversation with one of these guys (or gals) when they’ve said, “No, we can’t do that, it will cost more.” Wait a minute – aren’t you the guy/gal who is supposed to be the most savvy, and most concerned about optimizing energy performance? And maybe first cost isn’t the only thing at stake here?So why does this happen? It happens because this occupation has been beaten down by a steady river of clients whose principal interest in the energy code is scraping by with the bare minimum compliance. This means, as a number of my venerable colleagues have been known to quip, that if they built any more poorly, their homes would be illegal. Yet we can hardly blame those poor, beleaguered energy consultants for their uninspired mindset. Its genesis lies in the code, and in their mainstream, same-old-thing clients. Code cultivates a mindset of compliance, not one of innovation and leadershipFolks in our industry have become accustomed to the unspoken mandate from builders and developers, “I just want the house to pass code at the lowest possible cost.” Instead, as I was harping on last month, everyone on the team should be asking the question, “What’s the most energy-efficient house I can build within budget?” RELATED ARTICLES High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 1High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 2High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 4High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 5 In California, the code doesn’t incentivize the use of photovoltaics for on-site renewable electricity generationIn general, the highest energy production of photovoltaics (PVs) occurs at times of peak system loading – afternoon and early evening. This is a great benefit to the grid and hence to the state, utilities, and infrastructure as a whole. In the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, for example, there are certain power plants that are only needed at peak demand and therefore only operate for a few hours a year. (Yes, you read that right – a few hours a YEAR.) Needless to say, the cost of those few hours is extraordinarily high, and the power plants reserved for these periods of demand are often the oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient.PV systems have the potential to delay or even eliminate the need for these plants, once widely deployed. And yet Title 24 dings PV homes for electric use – even at their peak production times. Let me explain.Many net-zero and high-performance home projects on which I have worked are also all-electric homes, for the simple reason that the owners want their homes to be fossil fuel-free. They believe that natural gas will become increasingly scarce and expensive, as petroleum has become, and wish their homes to be capable of operating solely on renewable energy. This means that loads like water heating, drying clothes, and cooking are electric rather than gas loads; and some of these loads may be expected to occur at peak.The code-based energy models take this into consideration and accordingly penalize these projects for those loads – in spite of the fact that those same homes may be cranking a very nice surplus amount of electricity from their PV arrays into the grid at exactly the peak time for which the homes are being penalized by the model. Not exactly incentivizing, eh?Furthermore, every unit of electric energy supplied to the grid by a home-based renewable electric system typically represents a hefty multiplier effect, as shown in the illustration.For every single unit of grid-supplied electric energy, roughly 3½ units of fuel energy need to be burned at a power plant (most of the other 2½ units are lost through combustion as waste heat). Correspondingly, 1 unit of energy supplied by an onsite PV array instead of by the grid avoids the need to burn more than 3 units of fuel. (The nationwide average site-to-source multiplier for electric energy is around 3.4.)But the code is blind to this benefit. Go figure. Regulation: friend or foe?So there you have it – my beefs with the energy code. We’re due for a code update soon, though, so hold good thoughts that these things will change.Don’t get me wrong – in general, I’m a proponent of regulating things, stopping environmental problems before they happen. Take the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act: if we don’t let pollution happen, we don’t have to clean it up. If we didn’t let energy waste happen, then we wouldn’t have to worry about climate change or national security. (Maybe. You take my point.) But regulations, as I’ve now presumably persuaded you, have adverse consequences as well as positive ones. We can’t assume that code changes will fix all our problems; we have to remain vigilant, and pull the covers off the problems that codes fail to fix, or that they even create.I hasten to add the footnote that there is much in California’s energy leadership to trumpet, and the code has been instrumental to much of the progress that has been made here. My point is simply that it behooves us to be aware of and to combat the unintended and unfortunate consequences of the energy code(s). Among the takeaways:We need to be discriminating in our selection of energy consultants, ensuring that those we choose to work with are in fact not of the “just-comply” school of thought. Some can be quickly jostled out of that rut; others, not so easily.We need to constantly examine the benefits associated with energy improvements, not just in terms of first cost but also in terms of operating energy savings, comfort improvements, and other non-energy benefits.We need to benchmark our designs against more appropriate “reference homes” – homes that are smaller, more compact, and simpler in form.We need not to be deterred by the blindness of the code to the benefits of what we may be doing in our homes. Just because the code models don’t reflect all those benefits doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile or valid.And finally, we need to look for opportunities to influence code development for the better, while at the same time understanding that we can’t rely on codes to do our job (of curbing home energy use) for us.center_img During the last month we’ve had a very stimulating conversation going about design – and how some important design opportunities for improving energy performance are often overlooked, and why. The dialogue started here and, thanks to fellow GBA Advisor Bruce King, continued on Facebook.Now to continue the fun, we’re going to look at CODE – specifically, the energy code – and its role in high-performance and net-zero energy homes.You might (understandably) be thinking, “My homes are way above code; where’s the conversation?” And if you’ve been at this energy efficiency thing for a while, there is no conversation. But what’s interesting is how often I see the code getting in the way, particularly for project teams that are relatively new to the arena of high-performance home design. Here’s how. The code turns a blind eye to design decisions that may have substantial influence on energy useIn California (and elsewhere, if I’m not mistaken), energy performance is often expressed as a compliance margin, or “percent above code.” The energy models calculate this percent by comparing the predicted energy use of the home as designed with that of a minimally code-compliant home – i.e., one that incorporates a set of prescriptive energy features mandated for homes in that climate zone (e.g., R-19 walls, R-38 roof, etc.). This minimally code-compliant home is referred to as the “standard reference house.” The standard reference house has the same basic geometry, orientation, and size as the home as designed.The standard reference house may be an energy HOG (meaning no offense to the very intelligent porcine species): poorly oriented, bloated, and excessively complex. This means that energy performance is benchmarked against something that – while it might comply with minimum R-values and so forth – is far, far away from anything that might be considered efficient. So you might design something that is 50 percent more efficient than an energy hog. Well and good. Does that mean it’s truly efficient?Suppose you had started with an inherently more efficient geometry and a more modestly sized home? Ironically, you would find it more challenging to achieve substantial modeled reductions in energy demand; your design would show up as having a lower compliance margin, suggesting that its energy performance is inferior to the hog, when in fact the opposite is true. You would be penalized for having made good decisions from the outset. And worse, there is nothing in the code or the energy models that remotely suggests that the designer might want to tinker with size, geometry, or orientation; these critically important variables are completely ignored by the code and accepted by the models as fait accompli.It’s no surprise, then, that these opportunities also are overlooked by design teams as potentially fruitful avenues to explore when seeking improvements in energy performance. It doesn’t benefit them (as viewed through the eyes of the energy model), even if they were to actually think about it … and they typically don’t.last_img read more

Lawn Mowing Season

first_img RELATED ARTICLES GBA Encyclopedia: Green LandscapesProtect and Restore the SiteIn Defense of the Lawn I’ve never liked mowing the lawn. And it’s not just because of the gasoline used in the process.Lawns carry huge environmental burdens in this country, and we have a lot of them. I profiled some of these impacts once for an article in Environmental Building News back in the 1990s. From the information I found then, the total lawn area in the U.S. is 50,000 square miles — an area larger than the state of New York. We spend $25 billion per year on their care. We dump 3-6 million tons of fertilizer on them, and the runoff from those lawns is one of the largest pollution problems in our lakes and rivers.We apply something like 34,000 tons of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides on them, accounting for a whopping 14% of total pesticide use in the U.S. — and 34% of insecticide use. On a per-acre basis, this amounts to about two pounds per year.And while not as big an issue in Vermont as elsewhere, we use a huge amount of water maintaining our emerald-green oases. “Kentucky” bluegrass is not from Kentucky (it’s from Europe), and it takes about 40 inches of water per year to keep it that lush green we’ve come to know and love. In much of the country, irrigating lawns is the single largest consumptive use of water (we use a lot more water in cooling thermo-electric power plants, but most of that water is only “borrowed” for power generation, then returned to the source), often accounting for 40-60% of total municipal water use. And then there’s the energy. Our fleet of 40 million lawn mowers consume several hundred million gallons of gasoline each year. And despite improvements in recent years, lawnmower engines aren’t as clean as car engines. While our mowers consume just a tiny percent of the gasoline used by our automobile fleet, they emit as must as 7% of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in some areas. My own predicamentLiving in West Dummerston, Vermont, six miles outside of Brattleboro, I’ve tried to shrink our lawn area to minimize the need for mowing, and ten years ago we went out on a limb and bought a then-pretty-new battery-powered electric lawn mower. It’s a Makita mower — you-know (well, some of you guys know), that tool maker of the famed Miss Makita calendars.I’m pretty sure that Makita no longer makes an electric lawn mower, and ours never worked all that well. But our lawn area was small enough that the mower (mostly) did the job. In the last five years, as the rechargeable lead-acid batteries gradually failed, it got harder and harder to mow the entire lawn on one charge. We looked into replacing the batteries, but they were going to cost something like $250 — for a mower with all sorts of other stuff wrong with it that had probably cost about $400 when new. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money for new batteries.This year the batteries finally stopped charging altogether. What would we do about it?Being a product researcher (it’s an affliction that gobbles up hours but at least finds a useful outlet in our company’s green products directory, GreenSpec) I spent a while learning how far the industry had come in ten years. I still liked the idea of mowing our lawn using electricity — opening up the potential for generating our own power for that task) — but surely the industry had moved beyond our Makita-blue mower (that had lost its slick plastic cover when I removed it one time to see about replacing the batteries and lost the screws).Consumer Reports likes the Black and Decker 19-inch 36-volt mowers (either self-propelled or push-type). But neither Consumer Reports nor the local dealer in Brattleboro likes these mowers as much as gasoline-powered models. They aren’t stocked locally, so I’d have to special-order one. (If only more homeowners pushed for lower-impact products!)We may order one of these, but I’m also watching the technologies. Power tools are converting to more environmentally friendly lithium-ion battery technology in place of nickel-cadmium or sealed lead-acid batteries (the latter being what is used in the Black and Decker mowers). Do I really want to go out and buy a mower (for about $450) with lead-acid batteries and then see the newer technology come along as soon as I’ve bought it? (I have an inquiry into Black and Decker to try to find out if the company’s battery technology will be changing soon.)Meanwhile, my decision-making in the lawn-mowing department got more complicated by our purchase of a farm last fall. All of a sudden we have a much larger lawn to deal with — at least until we succeed in shrinking that lawn area. We’re now at the scale of lawn where a push mower may not be large enough. So far, we’ve been borrowing a generous neighbor’s riding lawn mower, but are less than enthusiastic about purchasing a new riding lawnmower that’s gasoline-powered.center_img Electric riding mowers?What’s the status of riding mowers with battery-powered electric motors? It turns out that there are some. But they’re quite pricey! The company Driven by Solar, Inc. makes the ReCharge Mower G2, a riding mower powered by a 36-volt, 85-amp-hour battery system. The mower has two cutting blades with a 30-inch width and seven cutting heights. The blades spin at 3,600 rpm, which is pretty standard for gasoline-powered riding mowers. The manufacturer’s suggested list price (MSRP) of this made-in-America mower is $2,599.Hustler makes the Zeon zero-turn commercial riding mower with a two-blade, 42-inch deck. The mower weighs in at a hefty 814 pounds with a roll-over protection system (ROPS) installed. The website claims the Zeon can mow a full acre on a single charge. It looks like a great machine, but carries a MSRP of $6,999, with a special Web price of $4,999 — out of our range.And at the top end of the (limited) scale of commercial electric riding mowers seems to be Mean Green Products, LLC. The company’s 36-volt RX-50 riding mower has a 50-inch deck and enough battery capacity to mow about two acres, according to the company. It weighs an even more prodigious 890 pounds, and the price is $9,900. Way out of our price range!These zero-emission, rechargeable electric riding mowers sound pretty good, but you can buy a decent gasoline-powered riding mower for half the price of the cheapest of these.I’d like to use an electric mower and charge it with my own photovoltaic power system, but the cost is just too high, and all of these models currently use lead-acid batteries, which may soon be obsolete and more manufacturers switch to lithium-ion batteries.I’m thinking the answer is to find a decent used riding mower on Craigslist and use it until a battery-powered electric model is affordable. By then I should have a PV system up and running.Or maybe I should buy some goats…. Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. He also coauthored BuildingGreen’s special report on windows that just came out. To keep up with Alex’s latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed.last_img read more

Three Surat fire victims cleared Class XII exams

first_imgThree of the 22 students who died in the fire on Friday had appeared for the Class XII Board exams and cleared them comfortably, as per the results that were declared on Saturday.The students were identified as Yashvi Kevadiya, Mansi Varsani and Hasti Surani. “While Yashvi passed the exam with 67.75 percentile (C1 grade), Mansi received 52.03 percentile (C1 grade) and Hasti scored 69.39 percentile (B2 grade),” said Surat police spokesperson P.L. Chaudhari.last_img

Assam flood victims to get cash for utensils, clothes for first time

first_imgVictims of flood in Assam are set to get cash for a couple of items they were entitled to but never received for five years.The Assam Disaster Management Manual, 2015, prescribes utensils and clothes for the flood-affected people.Those staying in designated relief camps as well as those marooned and living in camp-like situation will now be given ₹5,000 each for purchasing these items. The payment would be made through direct benefit transfer.“The Deputy Commissioners of the districts have been asked to ensure the immediate transfer of ₹3,800 for purchase of utensils and ₹1,800 for purchase of clothes to the bank account of the head of the flood-affected families,” Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.“This has been in the manual, but will be implemented more or less for the first time,” he added.The Deputy Commissioners have also been asked to ensure distribution of cattle feed and free textbooks to school children in the flood-affected areas besides settling claims for rehabilitation grants for partially or fully damaged houses within one month.Relief and rehabilitation workers have been providing rice, pulses, salt, mustard oil, baby food, bleaching powder, phenyl, tarpaulin and generic medicines. Organisations such as All Assam Students’ Union said the State government has not been providing enough for the victims of the flood that has so far claimed the lives of 57 humans, 523 domestic animals and fowls and 199 wild animals including 17 one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga National Park.last_img read more

NBA: Warriors forward Barnes avoids jail time after guilty plea

first_imgLeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against Shaun Livingston #34 and Matt Barnes #22 of the Golden State Warriors in the first quarter in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 9, 2017, in Cleveland, Ohio. Barnes pleaded guilty Tuesday, June 27, 2017, to disorderly conduct but avoided jail time following a December incident at a New York nightclub. AFPNEW YORK, United States — Golden State Warriors forward Matt Barnes pleaded guilty Tuesday to disorderly conduct but avoided jail time following a December incident at a New York nightclub.Barnes was ordered to perform 10 days of community service and allowed to do the work in California. He was given until August 29, the next hearing date, to complete the work.ADVERTISEMENT During Golden State’s playoff run to the NBA title, Barnes came off the bench to appear in 12 games, totaling nine points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals.Charges came from an early morning incident involving Barnes when he was a member of the Sacramento Kings and former Kings star DeMarcus Cousins.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutVideo footage obtained by police appeared to show Barnes as the assailant of three people, with two women reported being choked by Barnes. Another man who ran to aid one of the women was sucker-punched.Cousins was accused of delivering the punch but was recently cleared of wrongdoing by police. View comments Fil-German Standhardinger named to Gilas team set for SEA Games What ‘missteps’? LATEST STORIES Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Heart Evangelista admits she’s pregnant… with chicken Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games World’s 50 Best Restaurants launches new drinking and dining guide Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ 1 dead in Cavite blast, fire A civil suit has been filed against Barnes and Cousins by plaintiffs Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell. CBBSports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Cayetano to unmask people behind ‘smear campaign’ vs him, SEA Games Pagasa: Kammuri now a typhoon, may enter PAR by weekend MOST READ WATCH: Firefighters rescue baby seal found in parking garagelast_img read more