Energy Efficiency

Slow Down & Take the Holistic Route

After decades of research, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman determined that people make most decisions after thinking fast, a process governed chiefly by instinct or habit or both.  Slow thinking, in contrast, may yield better decisions.  Slow thinking, as Kahneman defines it, requires stepping back, looking at the big picture, and acknowledging biases. Kahneman’s research aligns with my own experience as an architectural engineer.  When we work too quickly, we think fast, and this can work to our detriment.  An example of fast thinking in our business is to look at first costs rather than value.  For the most... Read More

Bryan Smith: The Disruptive Design Interview

THEN & NOW – TEN YEARS GONE It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since design started for Penn State’s Hort Woods Child Care Center.  What’s your take-away over that time period?  〉  Well, I was in my early/mid-thirties and now I’m in my early/mid-forties!  Jokes aside, those ten years have made a huge difference.  I was a newly PE’d engineer with some ideas and passion for sustainability trying to prove those idea to others…and to myself.  Since then, those concepts have held water in multiple instances.  I can present myself as experienced and the concepts as legitimized. ... Read More

The Competition for Supply & Demand Reduction

In Volume 11 of The ReeSource, I discussed changes that were occurring in the energy industry as a result of deregulation. At that time, electric utilities were in a period of transition from the traditional arrangement where they were each the only supplier of electricity to customers within their specific geographic regions to one where they would have to compete with other utility companies. The transition period has now passed, and open competition for the supply of electricity is a reality. Meanwhile, the growing interest in energy efficiency his driven the passage of new laws in a number of states... Read More

Shedding Light on the Incandescent Situation

On September 1, 2009, Europe banned the manufacturing and importing of incandescent light bulbs. The European Union’s ban started with the 100 watt lamp and will move on to the 60 watt lamp in 2011, 40 and 25 watt lamps in 2012, and all remaining incandescent lamps by the end of 2012. This ban has left many asking if this light source faces a similar fate here in the United States. Presently, almost 50% of lighting in American homes is produced by incandescent bulbs, and yet, this light source is the least efficient of all commonly used bulbs, converting only... Read More

Thermal/Infrared Imaging: More Than Meets the Eye

Imagine for a moment that you have heat vision and can virtually ‘see the unseen’ by sensing temperature, just like a scene out of a sci-fi movie. This is essentially what thermal/infrared (T/IR) imaging is – the ability to view the normally invisible infrared (or heat) waves radiating from an object. An actual T/IR camera translates varying radiant temperatures into colors to produce a visible image that can offer numerous benefits in the area of preventive maintenance. In fact, a preventive maintenance program involving regular T/IR imaging inspections of various building elements and systems, such as the electrical distribution, envelope,... Read More

Easy as ABC… 123… LED?

From the chandeliers of Buckingham Palace to the street lights of the Big Apple, LEDs are the fast-growing technology that is redefining the age-old concept of lighting. In an environmentally-conscious world, this energy-efficient light source touts a long list of advantages over other common light sources. Due to the ever-increasing interest in these advantages, LEDs are now offered in a variety of luminaire types and styles for both interior and exterior applications. However, this once thought of fringe technology does still have a few barriers to hurdle. But with almost monthly scientific advances, LEDs are well on their way toward... Read More

Flipping the Switch Without Lifting a Finger

With the adoption of new state and local energy standards aimed at reducing global energy consumption, virtually every non-residential building will be facing more stringent lighting control requirements. Whether these standards are based upon ASHRAE Standard 90.1, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), or a particular state-developed provision, meeting the requirements with a flexible, easy-to-use, and economical lighting control system may seem impossible. Nevertheless, through the aid of advancing technology a lighting control system can be achieved that eliminates energy waste, while creating a cost-effective and user-friendly environment. With few exceptions, both ASHRAE 90.1 and the IECC state that the... Read More

Six Feet Under: A Geothermal Systems Overview

Due to the current global energy pinch, alternative and more environmentally friendly methods of heating and cooling our buildings have been developed. One such system, the geothermal heat pump system, uses an alternate and renewable energy source – the Earth – as a means of heating and cooling a building. Our planet stays at roughly 55 degrees year round and has an almost unlimited ability to absorb, store, and give up thermal energy. Therefore, geothermal heat pump systems use the Earth as a huge heat sink to pull heat from and reject heat to. “…the geothermal heat pump system uses... Read More

Next Year’s Model

It is an interesting time to be in the building design industry. Combine the growing awareness in sustainability and the technology becoming available to designers, and you have the reason why. For those that have the vision and courage to embrace these changes, the full potential has yet to be defined. With buildings responsible for over 50% of the world’s energy consumption, these changes could help shape the future of the planet. Ten years ago, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system was in its infancy, and building energy modeling software was just beginning to move from... Read More

Rules & (De)Regulations

As the debate over global warming and energy usage grows and the building industry increasingly turns toward ‘green’ approaches to design and construction, cost-benefit analyses of alternative building methods have become more significant. Because the cost of energy is a critical component in most of these studies, it is important to consider the impact that the deregulation of the electric and natural gas industries can have on that cost. “In an attempt to encourage innovation and free-market competition, the federal government began the process of utility deregulation in 1978…” The natural gas and electric industries are similarly structured in that... Read More