August 30, 2017 - Danfoss’ 29th EnVisioneering Symposium, “Building Delivery: The Nexus of Market Transformation”, engaged players from the HVACR and buildings industries, policy, research & education, and energy efficiency advocacy groups in discussions about high-performance buildings, and how they can be delivered at the pace, precision and volume required to transform the marketplace.
By Anthony Capkun
“The industry has had broad discussion lately about the shift from building component improvements to holistic or system strategies in the pursuit of the next level of energy efficiency—but another shift is occurring: from performance understood as energy efficiency to performance understood more comprehensively,” said Danfoss’ Lisa Tryson in her opening remarks. “Energy performance is essential, but economic growth, air quality, life experience within the building, life cycle cost and resource utilization are all critical themes now entering the equation.”
Driving the high-performance decision-making process
Over the next 15 years, U.S. urban population growth is expected to exceed total population growth, signalling an increase in demand on and for buildings. At the same time, 533 cities worldwide are now reporting GHG emissions—an increase of 70% since the Paris climate agreement was signed in late 2015.
According to Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, the United States has levelled out building sector energy consumption, but has not yet significantly decreased it. He laid out a three-pronged solution for reaching existing zero net carbon targets, which included the use of high-performance design in new buildings, deep energy retrofits in existing buildings, and renewable energy via incentives for those buildings unable to implement deep energy retrofits.
“We need to dispel the myth that high-performance buildings are more expensive to design and build,” Mazria said. “In new buildings, it’s possible to find easy trade-offs in design that make energy efficiency very affordable. And in existing buildings, energy efficiency improvements cost approximately 75% less when undertaken at a building’s intervention point or major renovation.”
“For this to work,” Mazria continued, “bottom-up leadership is absolutely critical, and goes hand-in-hand with better education of the buildings sector and academia.”
A market-optimized policy, whereby advanced codes are adopted on the local level, is also necessary. Mazria cited cities like Palo Alto and Santa Monica, which have already started to improve commercial and residential building codes, respectively.
Richard Swett, co-founder and CEO of Climate Prosperty Enterprise Solutions, noted the key to energy performance decisions lies within benchmarking. “We need measurable ways of monitoring and reporting,” he stated. “We need to be able to capture the big data within buildings in order to review, analyze and improve. Historically, buildings were not built to be machines. But that is changing.”
He laid out the blueprint for a collaborative building modelling tool that, in one single platform, compiles the functionalities of several existing tools and would enable architects, engineers, owners and other stakeholders to manage and verify everything from building programming and design to construction and operations.
“Changing minds is affected by the ability to show trends and prove opportunities,” Sweet remarked.
Best practices in transformation
Changing the market and proving opportunity is just part of the results of Vancouver’s green building program, according to Sean Pander, who serves as the city’s green building program manager.
“The city’s goal is to lead the world in green building design and construction,” explained Pander. It employs a strategy that dictates 100% of energy originate from renewable sources by 2050. Additionally, all new buildings are required to have zero operational GHG emissions by 2030 or earlier.
Thus, Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan was developed, which includes incentives for private sector leaders striving to reach zero emissions buildings, and investment in tools to improve knowledge-sharing and remove barriers. It also requires city leadership; all new city-owned buildings pursue Passive House certification, and serve as an information source for future projects and as a means by which to inform regulation and remove barriers.
Passive House, according to Tomas O’Leary, co-founder and managing director of Passive House Academy, is the easiest path to nearly net zero carbon emissions.
“Compared to a conventional building, a passive house building uses up to 75% less total energy,” confirmed Brandon Nicholson, founding principal of Nicholson Kovalchick Architects.
According to Nicholson, who has built a business model around this integrated design principle, the performance of these buildings is predictable and the results certain. The buildings are durable, comfortable and healthy. Therefore, they represent superior value and can command better prices/rents, lower vacancy rates, lower utility bills, and less maintenance and equipment replacement. And, they can be delivered at “near first cost parity”.
But the keys to achieving first cost parity, he argued, include design expertise, knowledgeable tradespeople, component economies of scale, and a locally based supply chain. It is through these deeply energy-efficient buildings—and superior value—that the market can be truly transformed.
— With files from Danfoss. Download the full report below (PDF).
PHOTO: “Building Delivery: The Nexus of Market Transformation” convened players from the HVACR and buildings industries, policy, research & education, and energy efficiency advocacy groups to discuss how high-performance buildings can be delivered at the pace, precision, and volume required to transform the marketplace. Photo courtesy Danfoss.