High-performing buildings must encompass indoor air quality and maintainability, not just energy efficiency, according to Kent Peterson, PE, presidential/life member and Fellow ASHRAE, vice president and chief engineer of P2S Engineering, Long Beach, CA. That was one of the messages delivered to the 200 attendees at the ASHRAE High-Performance Buildings Conference: A Focus on Deep Energy Savings, held March 12-13 in San Diego.

Perhaps the strongest message was delivered by ASHRAE President Ron Jarnagin, staff scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA. He told attendees they must be more aggressive and take a systems approach to building designs, because despite numerous energy-efficiency initiatives the country’s energy-use numbers are not decreasing.

“We’re not getting the job done today. Today’s building designs mortgage the energy future of the United States,” Jarnagin said.

On a global scale, Jarnagin cited the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s International Energy Outlook 2011, in which world energy consumption is projected to grow by 53% between 2008 and 2030. “So we’d better pick up the pace,” he said.

Jeanne Clinton, special advisor for efficiency, the California Public Utilities Commission, covered building energy-management measures from an economic development point of view.

World energy consumption is projected to grow
by 53% between 2008 and 2030.

She said that making commitments to green buildings has multiple wins: dollar saving in terms of reduced building operating costs, stimulation of the economy with investments in products and services for buildings, creation of jobs or upgrading of jobs to higher skill levels, and the capture of carbon savings.

“There’s an unlimited amount of capital available in the private sector if we can deliver the right proposal [to building decision-makers],” she said.

There are challenges to selling owners on the benefits of high-performance buildings, however. “We need business models and financing models that give us the ability to make a compelling case,” Clinton said. “We also need to have enough personnel with the right talents to deliver the goods.”

She advised design engineers to pursue three courses of action to make the high-performance buildings market a strong one:

  • Look for opportunities to standardize or otherwise make the retrofit process more streamlined and understandable to make it easier to sell to investors, owners, and managers.
  • Push for more favorable national tax policies, and reach out to other groups, such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and the Real Estate Roundtable, so that a coalition case for favorable tax treatments can be made in Washington.
  • Reinvigorate traditional training organizations, and boost the continuing education of the incumbent workforce. “We’re going to have to take it up a notch if we want to deliver on the opportunities,” Clinton said.

The keynote speaker on the meeting’s second day, Eric Corey Freed, LEED AP, founding principal of organicARCHITECT, San Francisco, said the klaxon alarm on climate change is ringing loud and clear, and those who deny or ignore it do so at the own — and the human race’s — peril.

Coining a new term for humanity, “Dodo Sapiens,” Freed said, “We won’t be the first species to wipe itself out, but we will be the first to do it knowingly.”

According to Freed, the job and goal of everyone in the engineering and architectural communities should be to make every building a high-performing building. “What we do now is take traditional buildings and add things to them to make them green, when we should be conceiving them as green from the start, he said.

“What we really need are living, regenerative buildings that take control and responsibility for their own water, waste, energy, and food.” Bing Liu, Bing Liu, PE, senior research engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA and Erin McConahey, PE, LEED AP, principal, ARUP, Los Angeles, discussed the ASHRAE 50% Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) for Small and Medium Office Buildings.

Liu chaired and McConahey was a member of the project committee that developed the guide. Liu said it represents the next step toward creating net-zero buildings, but cautioned that design engineers cannot use it in a vacuum.

“Successfully creating a high-performing building takes integrated design,” she said. “It’s not just for designers or ASHRAE members, it must apply to all the individuals who touch the building.” McConahey agreed, and said chapters 2 and 3 in the ASHRAE 50 Percent AEDG place the focus on creating an integrated design process.

“We must move beyond a hierarchical model characterized by antagonism and silo-making in the design process,” McConahey said. “Just because you had everybody in the same room talking to each other didn’t mean you were going to have an energy-efficient building come out of it. You have to focus on the right things at the right times in the process, and everybody has to contribute savings.”