Gordon Holness, P.E., past president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), is on the road proclaiming the values of uniformity and harmony in building efficiency standards.

He presented his views on the current state of building efficiency during the HVAC Excellence Educators and Trainers Conference, Mar. 20-22, Las Vegas, NV.

According to Holness, the many subsets of the HVACR industry — government, codes and standards, manufacturing, distribution, contractors, utilities, and educators,— often work at cross purposes.

"As a result, we wind up with LEED platinum building that no one can work on, new standards or codes that none reads or follows," Holness said.

Holness addressed ways in which the HVAC industry can be working together to resolve the issues of increasing energy demands during a time of decreasing supply and growing environmental impact issues.

"If you look at super critical peak power in the U.S., and I mean maybe 20-40 hours per year — the cost of generating that is often 100 to 1000 times the cost of generating off-peak power. But that will change with demand response and control, and on-time pricing. You’ll see some emphasis ion thermal storage as we bring more wind, solar systems online. Those systems are intermittent power sources, so you start to get 5, 6, or 7% power generated by those methods. However, thermal storage will bridge those periods when the wind dies, or solar exposure is not intense."

Holness said net-zero energy buildings are still a possibility.

"At our conference last year, a series of pilot programs were demonstrated," he said, "and they were successful. ASHRAE’s long term goal is to continue to spur the technology that can lead us to net-zero energy buildings."

Holness said building planners must look beyond first costs.

"The initial construction cost of a building, is only 2% of the cost, over the 40-50 year life of a building. Operational energy costs are 6%. Occupancy costs are the highest, at 92%. This includes "human capital," such as salaries, benefits, etc. If we can make those occupants happier, healthier, and more productive, we can more than pay for any initial small increase in capital costs. We must move away from first cost mentality, and think more in terms of lifecycle costs," Holness said.