What Mayors Can Do - Energy Efficiency for Residential, Commercial Buildings
by Judy Sheahan
May 22, 2006
Austin Mayor Will Wynn, Chair of the Conference’s Energy Committee, moderated a session regarding what mayors can do to encourage energy efficiency for residential and commercial buildings held at the Energy and Environment Summit.
“Although mayors can lead by example by greening their own facilities, we need to work with the private sector to figure out a way to green residential and commercial buildings to have even more of an impact on reducing energy consumption and improving the environment,” Wynn said.
Scott Bernstein, President of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, focused on the rising energy costs that face homeowners. Bernstein told the audience that while home sizes have increased by 40 percent, family size has shrunk by 20 percent. He also pointed out that denser housing is more energy efficient with detached homes the least energy efficient using three times as much energy as a middle unit of a multi-family building.
“With row housing, each addition unit pairing saves at least two heat loss surfaces compared to a single family home. That is a potential savings of 32-43 percent,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein also questioned the wisdom of spending money on Low Income Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) versus spending money on weatherization efforts. Bernstein said that simply paying the utility bill does not address the problem. Bernstein pointed to efforts in California, which targets 20 percent of utility-funded energy efficiency towards low-income households; that equals about $120 million a year. California has also modified their building codes for the past 30 years to be more energy efficient. As a result, electricity consumption per person in California is about 60 percent of the rest of the United States.
Vuk Vujovic, Director of Sustainable Design for Legat Architects, Inc, discussed high performance design for commercial buildings. He talked about making the “business case” for sustainability by approaching building design holistically, where operating costs, increased funds, and the design process are integrated with each other. According to Vujovic, that is the best way of maximizing the overall building performance. He compared it to a car designed in 1914 that could go 35 miles per hour and had a fuel efficiency of 25 miles per gallon compared to a 2006 Sports Utility Vehicle that can go 140 miles per hour but only gets 16 miles per gallon. The better design would be a hybrid car that can go 140 miles per hour but gets 60 miles per gallon.
Vujovic discussed typical design strategies that incorporate energy efficiency and environmental sustainability including delighting, high efficiency light fixtures, water conservation, high efficiency heating and ventilation, geothermal heating and cooling, natural ventilation, eco-roofs, building integrated photovoltaic, and wind turbines.
Vujovic said the key was to educate code officials, building owners, and occupants about the benefits and opportunities as well as the risks and liabilities. He said to focus more on performance and not ideology and to demonstrate meaningful and verifiable results. He also said to avoid prescriptive models and to allow for innovation and flexibility. He also recommended assistance to address first-time capital costs, providing alternative funding options and providing tax incentives.
Frank Frankini, Vice President of Office Equity Properties, the largest owner of office buildings in the United States with more than 700 commercial buildings, spoke about his perspective where increasing efficiency and conservation can save his company money. He spoke about the importance of energy monitoring to figure out quickly where there is a problem. He also told the mayors that incentives are more welcome in the building industry as opposed to mandates. He said that an economic partnership is needed between cities and commercial buildings if performance standards are required.
Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and Pleasanton (CA) Jennifer Hosterman both spoke about their local initiatives to encourage green building design. Santa Barbara created a checklist and uses a 1, 2, or 3 star rating to signify building compliance with their rating system. In Pleasanton, they have implemented form-based codes and building ordinances as well requiring homes in a new development to have photovoltaics installed.
Chicago’s Environmental Commissioner Sadhu Johnston talked about Daley’s initiative to “fast track” building permits for green buildings.
For complete copies of the presentations, see usmayors.org.