Dueling standards

Lori Brown gives the scoop on two green-building energy standards

Chico State’s Wildcat Recreation Center

Chico State’s Wildcat Recreation Center

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

Substantial savings
According to the California Energy Commission, California’s building efficiency standards (along with those for energy-efficient appliances) have saved more than $56 billion in electricity and natural-gas costs since 1978. It is estimated the standards will save an additional $23 billion by 2013. That’s some serious greenhouse-gas emissions savings!

Efficiency engineers
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is the leading authority when it comes to standards and guidelines for green-building benchmarking for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration. ASHRAE’s mission is “To advance the arts and sciences of heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and refrigerating to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world.”

Organizations like ASHRAE are vital, because without building metrics, how well a building performs relative to energy, water consumption, indoor air quality and comfort would be based simply on some engineer’s … umm … unbiased opinion.

ASHRAE standards have long names and are assigned confusing numbers. An example is Standard 90.1—the Energy Standard for Building’s Except Low-Rise Residential. This standard is the big dog of all the numerous ASHRAE standards. To LEED certify a new commercial or institutional building, such as Chico State’s Wildcat Recreation Center, which is under construction, meeting Standard 90.1 is a requirement—or prerequisite—of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED-certified projects must be able to meet all of the rating-system prerequisites and achieve a minimum number of points (26 for new construction).

Go, California!
Achieving the minimum energy performance (Energy and Atmosphere-Prerequisite 2) requires meeting ASHRAE’s energy standard (90.1), which is no problem for the rec center since it is being built in California and its owner (the California State University system) and designers are required to meet the more stringent California Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings (California Code of Regulations, Title 24).

California saw the light way ahead of the pack and leads the nation not only in energy code definition but also in code enforcement. Title 24-2005 requires a compliance inspection before issuing a certificate of occupancy. The lights might be on in the rec center, but nobody’s going inside until it’s met inspection.

USGBC has taken some heat for setting the bar for the energy efficiency of LEED-certified buildings lower than that of California’s Title 24-2005 building code. Meanwhile, the state is continuing to raise the bar. Projects applying for permits beginning July 1, 2009, will be required to meet the 2008 Energy Standards, which are more stringent than the current 2005 Energy Standards.

Everyday savings
So what can individuals do to help contribute to energy savings in the workplace? First, buy Energy Star-rated electronic office equipment. Energy Star equipment reduces the amount of energy consumed by a product by either automatically switching it into a sleep mode when it’s not being used and/or reducing the amount of power used when in standby mode. And, of course, turning off your computer and monitor when you leave the office for the day is a no-brainer.