Over the next two years Commercial real estate professionals may be faced with adapting to a whole new way of evaluating buildings as information about building energy performance becomes readily available. While today you may not know whether a building uses 200 or 600 KWh (kilowatt hours) per meter square by 2009 it could be common knowledge.
Behind this trend is the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) initiative to restructure the (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) LEED program to incorporate a web-based lifecycle reporting system that will incorporate building design and performance data. The program is to be expanded to include new and existing buildings and the information will be available to the industry. It is to be operational by January 2009.
In addition to availability of actual building performance data as proposed by CaGBC there is a also a plethora of simulation software for predicting building performance based on application of different energy conserving or generating technologies. According to Green Building Simulation, an article by Jeremy Faluki on WorldChanging.com “Simulation and modeling is one of the keys to a sustainable future. Otherwise progress can only happen by trial and error, which on the architectural scale is a horribly slow process.”
At last weeks Green Building Festival, Stephen Pope of Natural Resources Canada described the merits of about eight different simulation software applications. He also referred to a US Department of Energy website with over 300 individual tools for measuring building performance. The degree of accuracy of these applications is sensitive to weather projections and occupancy levels. Nevertheless, Pope said simulations are helpful for identifying key trends and prioritizing investment in technical solutions.
Availability of building performance data and simulation software allow energy use to be boiled down to a few simple numbers stated as “so many” kilowatt hours per meter squared. Energy performance based on KWh per meter squared then facilitates easily understood comparisons of buildings.
This point is illustrated by a presentation at last week's Green Building Festival by Doug Webber of Halsall Associates where examples of their work including the results from a research project "Green Buildings in North America" commissioned by the Centre for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) were described.
Webber's presentation reviewed energy performance data for a sample of about 30 buildings in Toronto that all earned Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) funding in relation to the targets established by the 2030 Challenge.
The 2030 Challenge is a set of green house gas (GHG) emission goals that have been adopted by organizations in North America including the Institutes representing Canadian and American Architects and hundreds of municipalities. The first goal of the 2030 Challenge is to achieve an immediate 50% reduction in GHG emissions with a further 10% every five years such that by 2030 all new buildings are carbon neutral.
According to the Federal Office of Energy Conservation information the average annual energy intensity of Toronto office-buildings is 460 KWh per square meter. Based on predicted performance the 30 CBIP compliant buildings were on average about 50% better than the market average at 230 KWh per square meter. This demonstrates that "Good practice gets us to the first threshold (in the 2030 Challenge)" said Webber. Simulating, a technically feasible, but aggressive roll-out of existing conservation technologies, the CEC study showed all the carbon emmission targets of the 2030 Challenge could be met for the building sample dropping energy use to below 185 KWh per square meter.
Another example from the Green Building Festival was a description by Steve Carpenter of Enermodal Engineering of their head office in Kitchener, Ontario, Grand on the Green built under the Federal Governments C2000 Program. While the average Canadian office building uses 600 KWh per meter squared, Grand on the Green uses 120 KWh per meter squared, a figure Carpenter said could be reduced to 78 KWh per meter squared using newer technology.
Another reference to 'KWh per meter squared' was contributed by Doug Webber who said that the German government has enacted a maximum energy consumption for new buildings of 110 KWh per meter squared. Like a speed limit on the highway the regulation provides instant sensitivity to building energy consumption.
Webber added that while "Green Buildings in North American" showed there are technical solutions in the building sector for significantly reducing GHG emissions largest obstacle to implementing solutions persist including the availability of data and ‘motivation’.
The CaGBC appears to be attempting to address both of these issues. In addition to use of life cycle building performance data in the revised LEED program, it is also planning a series of ‘motivational’ activities.
According to Peter Busby of Busby, Perkins and Wills Architects, the recently elected chair of the CaGBC, the council is scheduling visits to 20 of Canada’s largest municipalities to ask for support for Green Building practices. It has also scheduled a National Summit, Shifting to the Mainstream in Toronto on June 11-12, 2008 where it plans to launch the new LEED program.
“With 78% of the public concerned about global warming and green house gas emissions it is having a huge effect on all levels of government,” said Busby. “The Canada Green Building Council is working hard to find solutions with them.“