I’d like to reiterate something I mentioned to Congressman John Tierney the other night at North East Geo Professional association meeting in Boston: We do not support long term savings in building or infrastructure projects, and instead rely on instant gratification.
1. Buildings are built and developed to make income instantly at the LOWEST possible cost. However, it takes only 7% more upfront spending to produce 90% more efficient energy use in a building, and thus would save half a billion annually from borrowing each year if applied across the board.
2. Greater energy efficiency would provide a huge number of new jobs -both in construction and engineering and product services, especially if the current stock were to be retrofitted. Retrofitting can and should strive for 75 to 90% efficiency, instead of the standard 15 to 20%, as it takes almost the same amount of effort for both of them.
3. As an example, every time each roof is replaced, by adding three to ten dollars worth of insulation, depending on building type, the roof insulation values can be increased from average R=10 to R=60. This alone would reduce heating and cooling loads enormously – by a factor of 10 or so, across the entire US, as most buildings are low-rise in our country.
4. Our walls and windows are still in infancy compared to our present common sense technical knowledge. Windows – Glass and shading is again the cheapest solution. If our rental or zoning calculations were not measured to the exterior face of the building, we could actually BEGIN to see potential state of the art exterior walls. The new current Green solutions in New York City are already a reality. This allows 6″ thicker wall without penalty to the owner. This in turn gives owners the ability to build an extra new surface or new GOOD state of the art wall. This extends the building life by 50 to 100 years, as exterior wall then protect the framing and slab edge, the two most vulnerable parts of building leading to eventual demolishing. Roofs are the other elements where separate layer gives protection and ENERGY efficiency.
5. If combining new wall / window glass, proper wall protecting the building frame (and giving new found beauty to the property) – + coupling the building with solar panels, geothermal, and hopefully local windmills in the neighborhood – like at each school, or university or hospital complex, (and using LED lights inside), the entire power grid load would nearly disappear, and thus nuclear plants could be dismantled.
6. My own house, as well as my latest clients’ houses are 80% or more efficient than they were 20 years ago. The next final step for my own house is solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, a low profile horizontal wind generator for power, and then I am free from utility grid.
7. Since the 70’s my primary curtain wall supplier, Germany-based Gartner, has shown that buildings can be made 80% more efficient through proper exterior wall, day-lighting, and now with LED lighting and solar and wind power. What are needed are the proper tax incentives, and new building codes that support efficiency and not the Utilities and equipment suppliers. We need new training of engineers, architects, contractors in EVERY BUILDING department in US. There is an appalling lack of knowledge in each of these categories. Young professionals are forced to follow old fashioned approaches in each project, and by the time they are in charge, we have lost their (possible) fresh new knowledge from universities (as most education is still not facing reality and demanding that each building should be considered ZERO carbon, zero utility at the start each project). If every building had a mandate to do this, with tax penalty increasing when building moves away from the goal, then US ingenuity would start to raise its head, and we would see the miracle or our spirit. Buildings currently use 70% or more of our energy, currently only helping to make our planet bit warmer by the day, but as usual we don’t worry about it, as we think our children will fix this (just as we did)
Tapani Talo, AIA