Greenbuild 2013

Last week we had the chance to attend the United State Green Building Council (USGBC) Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Philadelphia.  Let me tell you, it was a physically and mentally draining week, yet we return rejuvenated and inspired to continue on our path.  Attending a conference like this always lifts your spirits as you are surrounded by 30,000 like minded professionals.

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Sym-Home Brings On A New Partner

I would like to officially welcome Amy Lloyd to the Sym-Home team.  Amy will be taking on a full time role of business development and managing the daily operations as we look to expand our services offered at Sym-Home.

Amy Lloyd HeadshotAmy has over 13 years of experience in the design and construction industry with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from Kent State University.  She has worked for Architecture Firms in Cleveland, Columbus and Washington D.C. with project experience in industrial, municipal, mixed-use retail and multi-family housing.  For the last several years, she has been working with the State of Ohio as an Owner’s Representative for K-12 new construction and renovation projects in Ohio where she managed project teams for a total of 25 schools buildings translating to over $420 million in construction.  As a part of these school projects, Amy has been directly involved in 2.5 million Square Feet of LEED Registered or Certified buildings.

Amy’s experience working both as a Project Manager and as an Owner’s Representatives makes her a valuable team member understanding what it takes for a great project using experience from both sides of the table.

Building Science Summer Camp 2013

It’s that time of year again where some of the greatest minds gather in Massachusetts for The Westford Symposium on Building Science, or better known as Building Science Summer Camp.  This event is hosted every year by Joe Lstiburek, PhD. PE and his wife Betsy Pettit, FAIA.  This camp is an all-out building science geek fest where some of the top researchers present studies and new building products and systems in an effort to help design and build more energy efficient and healthier homes.

As this is an invitation only event, I am left glued to my seat to follow and decipher the presentations live, 140 characters at a time from its 430 attendees by following the twitter hashtag #bscamp.  However social media has increased access to this event yet again.  A big shout out goes to Michael Anschel and Stephen Davis for broadcasting live the now famous tweet chat in Joe’s crawlspace via Ustream. Follow their channels here & here.  Thus if you have any interest in the latest building science research, I encourage you to watch last nights crawlspace interview of Joe and to follow the #bscamp twitter chat as today is the last day of the symposium.

Video streaming by Ustream

 

Upfront Cost vs. Operation Cost

When doing home energy audits I have not been recommending the use of LED lights due to cost.  However we recently installed the first of what will be many LED light bulbs in our home, and after running some numbers it seems the price has dropped to the point that they are competitive with CFL lights.  Yes, they are more expensive than a CFL bulb, and much more expensive than a standard incandescent bulb.  However the way you need to look at is you are purchasing your light bulbs for the next 10 years with the purchase of one LED light.  If you take a look at the chart below, you can see based on costs I saw at my local Home Depot store, there is a good energy and monetary savings over the life of the LED bulb when you take into consideration how many times you would have to replace the other bulb types.  The savings is even greater in a commercial facility where you are paying someone to change out those bulbs.

Light Bulbs
LED
CFL
Incandescent
Cost$9.97$2.24$0.66
Watts6940
Average life (hours)25,0008,0002,000
Electricity cost$0.11$0.11$0.11
Cost to operate (life span)$16.50$7.92$8.80
Total operating cost$26.47$31.75$118.25
kWh1502251000
LED & CFL bulbs are 40W Incandescent equivalents
Download Worksheet

Now it appears that with an electricity cost of $0.11 per kWh that if you can find a LED light for $15.50 or less, you will save money over a CFL through the life of the bulb.

Why not look into it yourself with this little calculator (here), just input the costs of the light bulbs you find at your local store along with their rated wattage and your local electric costs and see how much you can save.

Now this little light bulb exercise holds true with any upgrades in efficiency whether you are replacing light bulbs, a furnace and air conditioning unit, to making envelope upgrades to a new home or addition.  You pay a little more now for efficiency, but in the overall life of the project you end up saving money.

Energy Targets

EnergyUse-InfographicI am sure we have all seen graphics like these, giving us a pretty picture of what is one of the primary contributors to climate change, as buildings contributed nearly half of all the CO2 emissions in the united states in 2010.  Not to mention it gives us an idea of what kind of pace we are using our fuel sources, and as they become more difficult to obtain, costs will just continue to rise.  Energy usage in our homes is becoming a big deal as energy codes are becoming stricter and utility companies are being required to produce a certain percentage of their product by renewable sources and provide energy efficiency programs for their customers.

Related to home energy usage, I have noticed a lot of press on Net Zero Energy Homes and even attended a webinar by Matt Grocof who renovated a home built in 1901 and is now the oldest home on record to be a Net Zero Energy home.  Now most Net Zero homes are new homes as it is easier to build new rather than retrofit energy efficient systems into an existing home, hence the reason for my attendance on the webinar.  With more than half of the 113.6 Million homes in the United States, over half this number was built before 1980.  This leads to a huge potential of improvement in energy usage with our existing housing stock and that is why organizations like the Affordable Comfort Institute (ACI) have created the 1000 Home Challenge to create case studies of how to drastically bring the usage of our existing housing stock.  Therefore I was hoping to learn more about some of the retrofit strategies that were used to obtain net zero.

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