Comfort and Efficiency?





Posted by:
Wayne Alldredge
Energy and Sustainability Services

It seems everywhere I look; talk about climate change continues to grow louder. Pressure for commercial buildings to ramp up their efficiency efforts is increasingly becoming a topic, not just in commercial property management circles—but in the media at large. Cities such as Manhattan, San Francisco and Houston already have efficiency legislation, and more and more cities nationwide are following their lead. Additionally, utilities across the country are running shorter on power as greater demand for energy becomes the norm. To prevent blackouts and brownouts, programs called Demand Response are spreading like wildfires. Once voluntary and financially advantageous to building owners, these programs are starting to become mandatory and potentially costly to building owners who chose not to participate.

One area that requires more attention in our quest for meeting corporate sustainability goals is Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC). The HVAC system is frequently the single largest energy draw—about 40% in a typical building—it plays a key role in a building’s energy use reduction plan. Plus, making an HVAC system demand-response-compatible can contribute significantly to relieving grid strain during times of peak demand. “LEED Pilot Credit 8: Demand Response” was created to incentivize buildings to participate in Demand Response programs for properties seeking LEED certification, and there are numerous utility funding structures out there to help commercial buildings finance the retrofits necessary for participation.

But, HVAC systems in commercial buildings have long been a point of contention and tenant complaints—we have all experienced being too hot or too cold in the typical office building. Because of this, owners and property managers have some rightful apprehension regarding modifying a system for energy reduction that is already a notorious comfort offender.

Enter HVAC optimization. HVAC optimization, which is typically installed either on top of or instead of existing HVAC controls, has come quite a long way in recent years toward bridging the gap between corporate and national sustainability efforts, occupant comfort and economic feasibility. Two recent examples; HVAC optimization software creator Enerliance (a Yardi company) showed how an 800,000-square-foot building in Southern California with a central plant is currently achieving over one million kilowatt hours (kWh) in annual energy savings without compromising occupant comfort, and HVAC optimization controls manufacturer BesTech showed how a 130,000-square-foot building in Phoenix with multiple small package units is currently saving 41% in HVAC related kWh and 48% in kW demand reduction without compromising occupant comfort.

These technological advancements eliminate the cycles of over-cooling and over-heating office space, thus improving efficiency and comfort simultaneously. Good news for both climate change and occupants. Great news for building owners considering these technologies are typically eligible for rebates and pay back quickly while reducing complaints and helping maintain occupancy.

Now there are advances in technology to help both large and small commercial properties reach much greater HVAC efficiencies. Energy Management efforts like these are as good for business as they are for the environment.

Regional Approaches to Dealing with Climate Change


Jiri Skopek



Posted by:
Jiri Skopek
Energy and Sustainability

Two large sustainable buildings conferences have occurred recently that clearly reflect the different drivers and strategies for green buildings around the world: Greenbuild in New Orleans, which was largely North American; and the World Sustainable Buildings 2014 Conference in Barcelona, which was largely attended by delegate teams from many countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific as well as North America.

While all regions of the globe recognize the urgency of dealing with climate change and the important role of the building industry, nevertheless, each region has a slightly different focus.

  • The GreenBuild sessions showed that the focus in North America is extending beyond just mitigating climate change to also finding adaptation solutions to cope with the inevitable effects – particularly along coastlines, where most economic activity occurs.
  • In contrast, the European philosophy  tends to be that climate change beyond the 2 degree threshold  must be avoided at all costs. Failing this, however, will cause insurmountable disruptions to human civilization as we know it. The European sense of urgency to deflect a global disaster of unimaginable proportion was reflected in the World Sustainable Buildings Conference theme: “Are we acting as quickly as we should?”
  • In China, change is also being driven by the environmental impact of increased consumerism from a rapidly expanding middle class, and unhealthy cities.

These contrasting perspectives are resulting in three different types of strategies:

  • In North America, change is occurring primarily through voluntary measures, which are market- driven and are supported by not for profit foundations and institutions.
  • In Europe, where the focus is to take aggressive action to mitigate climate change, European Union led commissions and committees are drafting regulations and codes for buildings. Meanwhile, citizen-led sustainable community development is also taking place.
  • Meanwhile, in China, the strategy is largely taking place through local government planning of sustainable new cities to accommodate a growing middle class, which is increasingly conscious that the air they breathe is killing them.

The relative merits of the three approaches is worthy of discussion. While standards and regulations at the building level may be more effective because they impose change across the board, the reality is that they tend to be minimum requirements. These mandatory measures must also be phased in gradually to allow businesses time to adapt; otherwise they may cause major economic and market disruptions.  On the other hand, voluntary action, such as is largely found in North America, can be more ambitious and innovative, but is dependent on market demand. Actions at the city level, whether through local planning or citizen-led sustainable community initiatives, are getting traction. Improving  existing districts and developing new sustainable communities is a holistic approach, which integrates buildings and local infrastructure, using a top-down meets bottom-up citizen engagement. There is nothing contradictory in any of these measures – and in fact, all three work well together.

Are we moving as quickly as we should?





Posted by:
Simone Skopek
Energy & Sustainability Services

Everyone has heard of the annual mammoth GreenBuild Conference, but few people in North America are aware of the World Sustainable Building Conference, which, since 1998, has been gathering together the world’s leading green building professionals and academics to share a global view of how the building industry is addressing the environmental threats to the planet.

Often compared to an international “Green Buildings Olympics,” the World Sustainable Building Conference attracts teams representing countries from all over the world, who present papers, studies and leading edge projects. This year’s 3-day conference, held in Barcelona, offered no fewer than 144 sessions, where more than 2,000 experts debated on the challenges of the building sector and the solutions needed avoid global catastrophe from climate change.

The theme of this year’s conference held a distinct note of urgency - “Are we acting as quickly as we should?”  –  highlighting the sobering fact that  at the current rate, the increased CO2 emissions from the building sector alone would bring the planet to the threshold limit of 2ºC increase, marking an irreversible global warming beyond humanity’s ability to control.

One interesting tranche of the forum was a review of existing buildings’ actual performance in use compared to the performance that was predicted at the design stage. It highlighted, among other conclusions, the many challenges of energy and GHG emissions benchmarking, as well as the need to convey information “from the boiler-room to the boardroom” in language that is meaningful to decision-makers.

Another notable point that was raised repeatedly in informal discussions was the recognition that the choices made in the design of China’s cities will largely determine the future of the world. This point resonated with some of the Chinese presentations that highlighted intensive and accelerated efforts to create eco-cities.

The World Sustainable Building Conference has evolved from a small core of organizers and participants in Canada in 1998, to what has become a distinguished forum of the world’s leading professionals and academics. The conference has grown in amplitude, and now attracts participation from the World Green Building Council.

Teams from different countries gather regionally every two years to meet their regional counterparts in Europe, Asia and America, in order to prepare for the world conference, which takes place every three years in such far flung parts of the world as Helsinki, Melbourne, Tokyo and Lisbon.

The next world conference to be held in 2017 and hosted by Hong Kong, promises to be a stellar affair, judging from their large representation, thoughtful participation and the elegance of their pavilion at this year’s conference.

In light of this year’s theme, “Are we moving as quickly as we should?” it is hopeful that the 2017 conference, with its stated theme of “urban scale sustainability,”  may provide some solutions.


Does your organization leave a phantom footprint?

Sarah Nicholls image




Posted by:
Sarah Nicholls
Head of Global Corporate Sustainability

When companies talk about greening their supply chains, they typically focus upstream, asking suppliers to adopt and disclose the sustainability impacts feeding into the business. Reducing the carbon footprint of suppliers is a critical part of the sustainability equation, particularly for business-to-consumer companies. However, for companies whose primary business involves services, the greater impact can be downstream with clients.

That’s one of the chief insights gleaned from our 2013 Sustainability Report.

Adhering to the global targets we set last year, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions per employee from our corporate offices by 7% since 2012 by occupying more efficient buildings as one example of a reduction initiative. While impressive, these achievements pale in comparison to the results we have influenced through our services and hands-on management of our clients’ properties.

In addition to the buildings we occupy, we manage 3.0 billion square feet of space globally for our clients and we track and disclose energy usage for those properties. In many respects, this type of energy usage could be considered our phantom footprint. Sort of a Scope 3-related category where we don’t indirectly emit GHG emissions, but we absolutely influence them by virtue of our work.

Cumulatively, we have helped U.S. clients reduce GHG emissions by an estimated 11.9 million metric tons since 2007, saving them an estimated $2.5 billion in energy costs (see page 8 of our 2013 Sustainability Report for details). We’ve accomplished these savings by developing industry-leading strategies, tools and technologies that help clients improve energy efficiency and control associated costs.

As your company thinks about its sustainability impacts, make sure to look in both directions.  What can you impact downstream? Do you have a phantom footprint?

Bye Bye Baggie

Michael_LaRussa (2)




Posted by:
Michael LaRussa
Solid Waste and Recycling Program Analyst

California banned the use of plastic bags last month, when Governor Brown signed SB270 on September 30. The bags will first be phased out of supermarkets and large grocery stores starting July 2015, followed by convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The legislation sets a statewide standard and expands coverage beyond more than 100 various local bans encompassing an estimated one third of the state’s population.

Because plastic bags total less than a percent of the state’s total waste stream, one might say that plastic bags don’t carry much weight in terms of a waste diversion impact. Yet they do impede the recycling process itself, slowing and jamming sorting equipment at Material Recovery Facilities. Add that to their part in litter abatement costs, and California taxpayers spend an estimated $25 million annually to dispose of the bags. And less than 5% of single-use plastic bags are recycled, contributing to marine debris that harms aquatic organisms and blights a major tourism draw.

While California is the first U.S. state to enact such a ban, Hawaii previously achieved the feat in-effect through local bans by all four populated counties. While it remains to be seen which state will follow, it is clear that plastic bag legislation is covering a growing number of Americans, as major cities from Austin and Chicago to Seattle and Portland address the issue directly.

A number of countries across the globe currently enforce bag fees or outright bans. Ireland’s 2002 plastic bag levy resulted in a 94% reduction in per capita usage. Scotland will introduce a new bag fee later this month, following similar actions by Wales in 2011 and Northern Ireland in 2013. Looking ahead, Jordan’s Food and Drug Administration is contemplating a ban on plastic plates in restaurants, in addition to plastic bags used in food service.

Retail establishments which do not meet the revenue, square footage, or goods requirements for participation under California’s new law may voluntarily comply, earning them recognition by CalRecycle. This brings up a question of approach for companies in impacted sectors, wherever their location: Does such legislation present a compliance issue to manage by a deadline, or an opportunity to lead the competition with a sustainability plan that wins employee and customer support?