NetZeroMax takes sustainable design and green building full circle by promoting and advocating energy independent design solutiuons. This web site features passive design information and high tech options that, when used in combination, result in a cost effective, Net Zero building independent of power from the local utility. We don’t have to wait to become energy self-sustaining. This site includes many great ideas to MAXimize your Net Zero energy independence TODAY, and save you money in the process.
By Brent Sauser
A very interesting article was published today by Steve Gorehar of The Daily Caller, who is reporting on how close the Unites States is to experiencing routine power blackouts. Our national power grid is close to maximum capacity. Some areas could encounter power blackouts as soon as this summer. CLICK HERE to access the complete Daily Caller article for additional information. Steve Gorehar writes:
The United States has the finest electricity system in the world, with prices half those of Europe. But this system is under attack from foolish energy policies. Coal-fired power plants are closing, unable to meet EPA environmental guidelines. Nuclear plants are aging and beset by mounting losses, driven by negative pricing from subsidized wind systems. Without a return to sensible energy policies, prepare for higher prices and electrical grid failures.
Capacity shortages are beginning to appear. A reserve margin deficit of two gigawatts is projected for the summer of 2016 for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), serving the northern plains states. Reserve shortages are also projected for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) by as early as this summer.
This article is warning us that the national power grid will not be as reliable is it has been in the past. Blackouts will become more prevalent while government policy and regulation will continue to complicate the quest for available and inexpensive power. Electrical prices will continue to rise.
We can take control of the situation by adopting a Net Zero approach to new construction and with renovating existing buildings. Cost of conversion to Net Zero is going down and substantial federal tax credits are still on the table through 2016. This one-time Net Zero implementation cost will give you peace of mind, power during blackouts, and money back in your pocket. The technology is here now to make that happen. You don’t have to be a victim of rolling blackouts and rising electricity prices. Take control by creating your own power. Then you will have the power and the control.
By Brent Sauser
Part of the mission of NetZeroMax.com is to provide useful information that might influence prospective builders to make the decision to go Net Zero. Included is sounding a warning voice to all those willing to hear. In that context permit me to share with you what may be already too obvious . . . ELECTRICITY PRICES ARE RISING while the price per KWH for solar energy is decreasing. But, don’t take my word for it. I invite you to read the following article by Terence P. Jeffrey of CNSNEWS.com (dated April 16, 2014):
(CNSNews.com) – The average price for a kilowatt hour (KWH) of electricity hit a March record of 13.5 cents, according data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was up about 5.5 percent from 12.8 cents per KWH in March 2013.
The relative price of electricity in the United States tends to rise in spring, peak in summer, and decline in fall. Last year, after the price of a KWH averaged 12.8 cents in March, it rose to an all-time high of 13.7 cents in June, July, August and September.
If the prevailing trend holds, the average price of a KWH would hit a new record this summer.
The BLS’s seasonally adjusted electricity price index rose to 209.341 this March, the highest it has ever been, up 10.537 points—or 5.3 percent–from 198.804 in March 2013.
In its press release on the Consumer Price Index, BLS noted that the overall energy index declined in March, driven by declining gasoline and fuel oil indexes, despite increases in natural gas and electricity.
”The energy index fell 0.1 percent in March after a 0.5 percent decline in February,” said BLS. “The gasoline index declined 1.7 percent in March, the same decline as in February. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 5.1 percent in March).
“The fuel oil index also declined, falling 2.9 percent after rising 4.1 percent the previous month,” said BLS. “In contrast, the index for natural gas rose sharply, increasing 7.5 percent, its largest one-month increase since October 2005. It has increased 15.3 percent over the last three months.
“The electricity index also increased, rising 1.1 percent,” said BLS. ”Over the last 12 months, the energy index has increased 0.4 percent, with the natural gas index rising 16.4 percent, the electricity index increasing 5.3 percent, and the fuel oil index advancing 2.1 percent. These increases more than offset a 4.7 percent decline in the gasoline index.”
Historically, rising electricity prices have not been inevitable in the United States. The BLS’s annual electricity price index—which goes back a century—shows that electricity prices generally declined in the United States between 1913 and the end of World War II. They then held relatively steady for about two decades before beginning to escalate in the late 1960s.
CLICK HERE for the original article.
By Brent Sauser
Last June I wrote an article on the V3 Solar Spin Cell. (CLICK HERE to read the article.) Back then the concept of a spinning solar cell that could convert solar energy directly to AC current was considered highly unlikely and, therefore, a fraud and a scam. Claims of significant improvements in efficiency at lower costs were met with skepticism by flat panel solar manufacturers. Admittedly, the revolutionary potential for solar spin technology would, if proved viable, be the eventual demise of the flat solar panel market, hence the dollar-driven push-back.
What has happened in the last 10 months since my last article? V3 Solar has continued their research and testing and have developed prototypes of solar AC spin generators that convert sunlight directly to AC current. V3 Solar has also developed additional methods for utilizing their spin technology, all of which are in the developmental phase. What was on the drawing boards 10 months ago is beginning to show positive signs of success.
NetZeroMax will continue to monitor V3 Solar’s progress and bring it to you. This is a wonderful example with how 21st Century technology and ingenuity is achieving more efficient and affordable sustainable products for the consumer. We wish V3 Solar continued success in their research and development of their spin cell technology.
Cree (Nasdaq: CREE)
March 27, 2014
Cree announced the white power LED luminous efficiency achieves 303 lm/W, establishes a new milestone in the LED industry. This research results exceed the industry record (276 lm/W) that was set more than one year ago and much earlier than originally anticipated.
Steven DenBaars, professor and co-director, Solid State Lighting and Energy Center, UCSB, said “This is truly an impressive accomplishment. Achieving this level of LED efficacy amplifies the potential for the solid-state-lighting industry to deliver smaller, lower-cost lighting solutions, and even larger-than-expected energy savings.” Cree report shows that under the conditions of color temperature 5,150 K and 350 mA drive current, the measured LED luminous efficiency is 303 lm/W, and the testing was conducted under standard room temperature.
John Edmond, Cree co-founder and director of advanced optoelectronics said “Relentless innovation is a driving force at Cree as we continue the pursuit of 100-percent LED adoption,” he also added “Pushing the boundaries of LED performance is critical to enhancing LED lighting designs, and this 303 lumens-per-watt result will enable more cost-effective lighting solutions.”
To find out more about Cree LED lighting CLICK HERE.
by Glenn Meyers-Green Building Elements
LPL Financial today announced the opening of its new net-zero energy San Diego headquarters, Tower II at La Jolla Commons. The company reports this facility is the largest net-zero energy commercial office building in the U.S.
The 13-story, 415,000-square-foot office tower demonstrates a company commitment to sustainability and social responsibility, incorporating sophisticated available green technologies, health, and wellness benefits for its employees.
The tower uses three fuel cells to convert biogas into carbon-neutral electricity that will allow the building to achieve net-zero energy status. In order to monitor and manage the tower’s reduced energy consumption, energy meters are located throughout the building and all surplus power is pushed back to the grid through San Diego Gas & Electric. In addition, the tower is furnished with LED lights that feature automatic dimming capabilities based on the degree of available natural light, as well as occupancy sensors that turn lights off by detecting unoccupied offices.
Eighty-eight percent of the tower’s water consumption, nearly 2.5 million gallons annually, is recycled and used for irrigation and other building needs. Employee-focused sustainability programs encourage employees to recycle, compost and carpool. On-site charging stations for electric vehicles are also available for employee use at no cost.
The building will house more than 1,600 LPL Financial employees from seven office buildings in La Jolla moved to the La Jolla Commons facility.
By Eric Roper (March 21, 2014)
Local marketing firm Akquracy is behind plans to construct what founder Scott Petinga says would be the largest shipping container building in North America.
The three-story, 18,500-square-foot structure in the North Loop would use 60 identical 40-foot containers to form a rhombus framing, a ground-level park and plaza. Shipping containers have become a trendy medium for new buildings because they are abundant, strong and relatively cheap.
The architecture firm that designed the building, New York-based LOT-EK, has used shipping containers as the basis for designing buildings and mobile pop-up shops across the world. One of Akquracy’s clients is Puma, who used LOT-EK to design a mobile retail and event structure called Puma City.
“If you look around the North Loop, the one thing that everything has in common is buildings were built to last,” Petinga said. “Modern buildings aren’t necessarily built to last. So I’m trying to bring some of that craftsmanship back.”
The proposal would house Akquracy on the upper floors, as well as co-shared “incubation space” for local entrepreneurs. The ground-floor would feature a restaurant-cafe space, retail, and a plaza with an array of chairs. Since the building is not square, there is much open space between the building and the curb.
“We’ve built it in such a way where we’re looking for residents to come hang out, we’re looking for people essentially who work in the neighborhood to come out, to spend a little bit more time in the North Loop,” Petinga said. “Instead of just coming in, coming to work and then leaving immediately after.”
Renderings show that the building would use green shipping containers from the massive Taiwan-based shipping company Evergreen. The exterior of the building would feature diagonal windows sliced into the containers.
Petinga hopes to have it complete by May 2015. Among the major obstacles is assembling 60 identical containers, at least some of which will originate in the Twin Cities. He hopes to do more with containers, however, and founded a foundation that aims to build a single-family home for less than $100 a square foot.
“It’s actually stronger, stronger more sustainable, more economical at the end of the day,” Petinga said. Akquracy is currently housed at the former John Deere tractor factory building on 8th Avenue North and Washington Avenue. They have other offices across the country.
By Brent Sauser
It was less than 50 days ago we were celebrating reaching the milestone of 1,000 NetZeroMax.com subscribers. It took 18 months to reach that milestone. We are very pleased to announce that NetZeroMax.com has reached the 2,000 subscriber milestone in only 7 weeks. It took less than 50 days to achieve the 2nd thousand subscribers. That is nothing short of remarkable growth and focus on the website. More people are finding NetZeroMax.com via Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. It shows that the website is becoming more and more popular at a faster pace.
We deeply appreciate all those who have taken the time to subscribe to the website. Going Net Zero is not as great a challenge or sacrifice as once thought. More Net Zero projects are starting every week all over the world. Many more are embracing the common sense decision to build Net Zero because the technology is here now for incorporating low cost sustainable features into the design. The good news is all this can be done without sacrificing expected creature comforts.
We are committed to spreading the Net Zero message and invite you to keep referring back to NetZeroMax.com for additional articles shining light on the subject. We are coming to a transition where educated owners are insisting that architects and developers incorporate Net Zero features into the project design. If your architect cannot design to Net Zero . . . I know one who can!
By Brent Sauser
I have attached an excellent video from Clifton View Homes that details the 12 steps required to achieve Net Zero. It is interesting to note that the 12th step is a solar PV system. Most people who think of going Net Zero might believe that a Solar PV system would be #1. However, the secret to success in the design and construction of a Net Zero building is to implement passive, low cost features into the design PRIOR to incorporating active expensive systems.
I have provided information regarding most every step mentioned in previous articles. However, sometimes it is more effective to see them working together in one application. Net Zero is building smarter while incorporating elements of the surrounding environment and seasons of the year into the overall design. Net Zero strives to strike a balance with the environment, which is to consume less energy than it produces. At worse, it is neutral with the environment and at best gives something back.
This video will provide some added confirmation regarding what is required to achieve a Net Zero solution.
by Sustainable Business.com
The Forest Service’s first net-zero energy building has received the 2013 GreenGov Presidential Award and the US Department of Energy 2013 Federal Energy and Water Management Award.
The award is for the renovation of the 48 year old Technology and Development Center in San Dimas, California – the hub for fire-fighting equipment and related problem-solving efforts in the West.
The building will produce more than double the energy if consumes by typical upgrades such as replacing the HVAC system, and installing 302 kilowatts of ground mounted solar on 1.5 acres of land.
In fact, the Forest Service’s Northern Region negotiated a 13-year, $2.6 million energy savings contract that will retrofit 500 facilities at 62 sites severed by 19 different utility providers. The contract will result in upgrades that include programmable thermostats, heat pumps, lighting, vacancy sensors, attic and foundation insulation, infiltration reduction measures and a 4.9 kW solar PV system.
Expected to save $250,000 in utility bills a year, it’s being used as a template for two other Forest Service regions. Since the fire-fighting budget is nowhere near enough to battle the surge in climate-related wildfires, they certainly can use the savings.
by New Buildings Institute (nbi)
NBI tracks and studies developments in zero net energy buildings, ultra-efficient structures that use only as much energy as can be produced onsite through clean, renewable resources. Over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the number of zero net energy projects as well as size in terms of square footage, and diversity of building types.
Our most recent study, the 2014 Getting to Zero Status Update: A look at the projects, policies and programs driving zero net energy performance in commercial buildings, examines the numbers, locations, types, ownership, and policy and program drivers for ZNE. The number of ZNE verified and ZNE emerging (not yet verified) projects has more than doubled since we last reported in 2012 for a total of 160 buildings in North America. An additional 53 ultra-low energy buildings–those with efficiencies on par with ZNE buildings, but without sufficient onsite renewables to power the building–were identified as part of the study.
For more information CLICK HERE.
By Brent Sauser
Thin film solar power is being incorporated into the mainstream in very creative ways. These two videos show how thin film solar can power a small car, as well as cover over 10 acres of an existing landfill in Georgia. Thin film solar provides the much needed flexibility for certain applications, which results in much needed renewable and sustainable power. For installations of significant size thin film solar provides a rather impressive visual scene that can be easily detected from aircraft. Each new application gives the general public more reason to accept solar power as a viable energy alternative that will result in reduced energy bills and provide a more environmentally sustainable solution to our energy demands.
If you haven’t checked out how affordable going solar is, I invite you to go on-line and check out the cost of solar arrays from Amazon.com, Lowe’s.com, and Home Depot. Add to that the 30% federal tax credit and it becomes even more affordable. However, federal tax credits for solar end at the end of 2016. Time to make plans! Time to go SOLAR!
By Brent Sauser
UGE Press Release: www.urbangreenenergy.com/case-study/Hilton
Installed: August 2013
6 UGE-4K Wind Turbines
Annual Carbon Offset: 70,000 lb
Hilton Worldwide wanted to attract sustainability-minded customers to its resorts, both for personal lodging and green events. By installing six UGE wind turbines on its roof, the Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort distinguished itself as the destination for green lodging and events. The six wind turbines, combined with future plans for solar PV, offset a significant portion of the resort’s energy usage.
“The turbines will help us visualize the hotel as a place to be conscious of energy use… it will help to highlight the importance of conserving electricity, and to start dialogue.”
Randy Gaines, VP of Engineering, Hilton Worldwide
It’s a great night for the City of Fort Lauderdale. This is about a corporate culture and a company that believes in giving back to the community.”
John P. Seiler, Mayor of Fort Lauderdale
By Brent Sauser
Photonics Online provided this very interesting article from MIT researchers regarding harvesting the heat of the sun, as well as the light to increase a solar panel’s efficiency. Many wonderful advancements with photovoltaics are being explored with each new day. This article features Solar Thermophotophotaic systems.
“A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.
In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.
A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.
To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals—between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby.
This basic concept has been explored for several years, since in theory such solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) systems could provide a way to circumvent a theoretical limit on the energy-conversion efficiency of semiconductor-based photovoltaic devices. That limit, called the Shockley-Queisser limit, imposes a cap of 33.7 percent on such efficiency, but Wang says that with TPV systems, “the efficiency would be significantly higher it could ideally be over 80 percent.”
There have been many practical obstacles to realizing that potential; previous experiments have been unable to produce a STPV device with efficiency of greater than 1 percent. But Lenert, Wang, and their team have already produced an initial test device with a measured efficiency of 3.2 percent, and they say with further work they expect to be able to reach 20 percent efficiency enough, they say, for a commercially viable product.
The design of the two-layer absorber-emitter material is key to this improvement. Its outer layer, facing the sunlight, is an array of multiwalled carbon nanotubes, which very efficiently absorbs the light’s energy and turns it to heat. This layer is bonded tightly to a layer of a photonic crystal, which is precisely engineered so that when it is heated by the attached layer of nanotubes, it “glows” with light whose peak intensity is mostly above the bandgap of the adjacent PV, ensuring that most of the energy collected by the absorber is then turned into electricity.
In their experiments, the researchers used simulated sunlight, and found that its peak efficiency came when its intensity was equivalent to a focusing system that concentrates sunlight by a factor of 750. This light heated the absorber-emitter to a temperature of 962 degrees Celsius.
This level of concentration is already much lower than in previous attempts at STPV systems, which concentrated sunlight by a factor of several thousand. But the MIT researchers say that after further optimization, it should be possible to get the same kind of enhancement at even lower sunlight concentrations, making the systems easier to operate.
Such a system, the team says, combines the advantages of solar photovoltaic systems, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, and solar thermal systems, which can have an advantage for delayed use because heat can be more easily stored than electricity. The new solar thermophotovoltaic systems, they say, could provide efficiency because of their broadband absorption of sunlight; scalability and compactness, because they are based on existing chip-manufacturing technology; and ease of energy storage, because of their reliance on heat.
Some of the ways to further improve the system are quite straightforward. Since the intermediate stage of the system, the absorber-emitter, relies on high temperatures, its size is crucial: The larger an object, the less surface area it has in relation to its volume, so heat losses decline rapidly with increasing size. The initial tests were done on a 1-centimeter chip, but follow-up tests will be done with a 10-centimeter chip, they say.”
By Brent Sauser
The creative variety of solutions appears limitless when utilizing recycled shipping containers. I admit I am fascinated with the versatility of shipping containers when used as a structural element. Not only does it function well as a low cost, readily available construction component, reusing existing shipping containers helps to reduce our clogged ports from an overabundance of unused containers that may never see reuse. Instead of doing nothing and allowing these structural components to blight our ports and oxidize away, more attention is being focused on how we can integrate shipping containers into our built environment. So far the integration process has been very successful. More creative uses for shipping containers can be found all over the United States and abroad.
This example is of a student housing complex in New Haven, Conn. It was designed by Christian Salvati and Edsel Ramirez of Marengo Structures and is featured in the February 4, 2014 edition of “Building Design + Construction”. The apartments cost $360,000 to build, and the lot cost $22,000. Salvati acknowledged that volume construction would bring down the overall construction costs. Brought to the site on flatbed trucks and hoisted into place with a crane, the apartment building was assembled in only 4 hours. The resulting two-story structure utilized six 45 foot long shipping containers. In order to integrate with the local community character they constructed a front façade for a better aesthetic blend and left the sides and back exposed.
The building features two separate apartments. From the interior one would not suspect being inside shipping containers. Sheetrock has been placed on the walls and ceiling. The floors are poured and polished concrete that include a radiant flooring system. It is heated by baseboard hot water heaters. Ceiling fans, ventilators, and air conditioning are included for cooling. The walls are insulated with six inches of soy-based sprayed cellulose.
For more information regarding this project CLICK HERE.
By Brent Sauser
You know you are on to something significant when others invest in checking out its feasibility. Ideas and concepts are just that until sufficient due diligence is performed that will back up the spin with grounded facts. Once the facts are completed, quantified, and accepted, those ideas and concepts become part of the mainstream. The remaining and most challenging variable is convincing the general public that it is, in fact, mainstream and not still an extreme or fringe-type notion.
Net Zero is here in a big way! As the typewriter gave way to the word processor, the pocket calculator to the smart phone, the oven to the microwave, and the incandescent bulb to LED, the transition to Net Zero construction is just as inevitable. The only question is WHEN! As more become aware of the long-term benefits relative to the modest increase in construction costs, the WHEN may be much sooner than we think!
Net Zero design and construction is undergoing significant analysis and investigation at several levels. All conclusions reveal the positive, long-term benefits with only a slight increase in construction costs.
Please watch the attached video (see below) that demonstrates how Net Zero design and construction is being studied in order to find the best solutions for future construction. Net Zero is more mainstream than you might think!
by Brent Sauser
Eight days ago NetZeroMax celebrated our 1,000 subscriber and today we are up to 1, 074. Today we celebrate reaching the 200,000 milestone for site visits. In fact, we are past 201,000 site visits as of today.
We, again, express our deep appreciation to all those who follow NetZeroMax.com. Thank you for your support. We hope that the spirit of designing and building in a more environmentally sensitive manner will become the rule and not the exception. We will continue to advocate for the implementation of net zero active and passive systems to reduce our dependence on utility power created via non-renewable resources. We invite you to join with us in speaking out when the opportunity to go net zero arises.
Let’s see how quickly we can reach 300,000 site visits. Tell a friend!
by Brent Sauser
NOTE: This a follow-up article to the one written on January 28, 2014, as printed in the Orlando Sentinel on February 14, 2014.
I had the opportunity to tour the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts recently and was impressed with the grand scale of this world-class facility. A group of us was escorted to a five-story-tall “wave” wall that stretches the entire width of the expansive lobby. This wall will be flooded with colorful, moving light that can be easily seen from the street and can be modified to suit any occasion.
As I walked the many levels and stood at center stage, I imagined the many great performances that will soon grace these theaters. Without doubt, the new center will stand as a monument to excellence in the performing arts. This is a structure all Central Floridians can be proud of.
Except . . . . . .
When the tour ended, I thanked our guide and turned back to take another look at the building. A thought crossed my mind: If so much careful attention has been given in the pursuit of excellence in theatrical performance, surely the building itself would reflect excellence in its own performance.
I wondered what level of effort had been given to assure the center would perform to the highest level of energy conservation and sustainable design possible. After all, who is going to pay to heat and cool the massive volume of space? Who is on the hook to pay for the electricity and marvelous moving lights of the wave wall? Who is left to bear the utility burden of this facility? Surely, all this was taken into consideration in 2007 when the contracts for design and construction were signed.
After some online research, I discovered that the performing-arts center was contractually obligated to comply with the lowest level of sustainable design requirements for 2007. Many of these requirements are now part of our building codes. The project team could have elected to pursue higher levels of environmental design excellence, but chose to stay with the minimum requirements and incur the higher utility costs.
It is a shame that such an impressive facility does not demonstrate performance excellence for itself. How much will this missed opportunity cost in utility bills for decades to come? As for me, no standing ovations here.
by Brent Sauser
In less than a year and a half NetZeroMax.com has emerged from its humble beginnings to eclipse 1,000 subscribers. That is a huge milestone that deserves celebration. And . . . right on the heels of this achievement we are approaching the 200,000 site visit milestone. We are above 196,000 currently and should reach 200,000 site visits within a week.
I can’t begin to express my depth of gratitude to all those who have subscribed to this website. THANK YOU! It gives me hope that my passion for environmentally sensitive, sustainable design is shared by so many all over the world. WE ARE NOT ALONE! In fact, judging from the increased interest and growth of NetZeroMax.com, I’d say that our numbers are growing on a daily basis. It is heart warming to read your comments of encouragement and motivates me to continue this effort, which I am convinced is making a difference in the lives of like-minded individuals. Hopefully, NetZeroMax.com has also helped convince those who may be undecided to take the Net Zero “plunge”, dive in and reap the immediate benefits from being energy independent.
Building Net Zero is not just another construction option. We are quickly approaching the time where higher energy prices and potential energy usage penalty fees will replace the federal incentives due to expire at the end of 2016. The best way to protect ourselves from suffering this negative impact is to decide now to make the transition to energy independence. Whether new construction or renovation, implementing Net Zero technology into your project will reap positive benefits for years to come.
Thanks again for your support. Now . . . let’s make it happen!
By Brent Sauser
They don’t call Florida the Sunshine State for nothing. Take away the sun for a few days and introduce rain into the gloomy equation, and Floridians get really cranky. It has been raining the past few days in Central Florida, and along with the unwelcome lower temperatures come increased grousing about the rainy weather. We Floridians love our sunshine!
I had the occasion to go out into the rain to do some errands. While warming up the car I took a minute to watch the rain fall. It traveled from the roof of my house, to the rain gutters and downspouts, then to the driveway, where it eventually reached the street curb. It would then find its way to a public storm drain to feed the nearby retention pond and, ultimately, percolate down into the underground aquifer. I didn’t see anything particularly strange about the path of travel, that is, until I thought of it in context to becoming Net Zero. Then, it didn’t make much sense at all!
NetZeroMax.com is dedicated to providing greater awareness in the pursuit of becoming energy independent in our design and construction practices. After all, God-given sun light is free and technology has enabled us to capture this free, sustainable, renewable resource with cost competitive photovoltaic systems, thereby allowing our buildings to produce MORE energy than they consume over the course of a year. In like manner the rain we receive is a God-given natural resource that is also free for the taking. Question is . . . . What are we doing to harvest all this wonderful, free rain water? If you are like me, not much. Regardless of the time of year, most of the rain that falls within my property lines ends up in a retention pond. That is NOT Net Zero thinking!
It wasn’t always that way. Back in a time where we didn’t have the luxury of public utilities to provide us with treated potable water, we had to fend for ourselves. We dug wells, sometimes very deep wells to reach water, and we used rain barrels to capture the water from the rain. Back then, rain water was as good as gold during the dry season. Many had multiple rain barrels to capture as much FREE rain water as possible. Today, however, too many of us rely totally on the public utility to provide our potable and irrigation water. We look at rain as just another natural nuisance . . . like the wind.
It would be a mistake to concentrate solely on energy conservation without any attention to water conservation. Many wonderful strides have been taken in the field of water harvesting that deserves mention. It can be as simple as a rain barrel connected to a downspout, or as sophisticated as a large underground cistern system, depending on the specific application. Well thought out systems of every type and size are available for use. With the severe drought going on in California, I wonder if any residents have changed their mind in regard to personal water conservation.
When you really think about it, rain water harvesting makes good common sense. Think of it this way . . . Instead of rain, dollar bills fell from the sky, would you let them drain away into a nearby retention pond. I don’t think so. Not only does harvesting rain water make good common sense, it saves you money from water not provided by the public utility, and saves them money for not having to expand to cover increased demand. So like sunlight, rain provides similar cost saving opportunities for us, if we are smart enough to take advantage of them.
By Brent Sauser
I believe we may have begun to turn a corner regarding building Net Zero. NetZeroMax.com has spent a lot of time and electronic ink on WHAT Net Zero is. But as more and more Net Zero buildings are completed throughout the United States, the “WHAT” is becoming more understandable, and perhaps most importantly, more acceptable. Many owners in need of new facilities, as well as forward thinking developers have caught the vision of the long term benefits to them, their employees, tenants, community, and environment. As more and more people become aware of what Net Zero is, the next step is to help deepen their awareness with answering the HOW and WHY to build Net Zero.
These two short videos share some of the HOWs and WHYs of Net Zero construction, on a large and small scale. Even though one example is residential and the other a public facility, both use similar methods to achieve Net Zero. The key is to incorporate as many low-cost passive features as possible, with a complement of active systems to bridge the gap to becoming a complete Net Zero facility.
These videos provide further evidence that building Net Zero is no longer considered an extreme or fringe idea. It is now a viable option in facing the rising cost of electricity, and serves as a credible response to reducing our dependence on energy provided by non-renewable resources. The technology is here and the costs are now competitive to build Net Zero. WHY . . . . . ? Because it makes good common sense to do so.
By Brent Sauser
Scheduled to open in November of 2014, those that know say that the new Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center is on schedule. To this discerning eye my estimate is more like May 2015. Regardless, I had the opportunity to tour the construction site and was very impressed with the scale of this world class facility. The overall total square footage adds up to 330,000SF, however, the 1,700 seat Acoustics Theatre is part of the 2nd phase of construction, which will occur once the funds have been procured. Included in the first phase is the 2,700 seat Disney Theater, which features a fan shaped seating layout enabling a much closer-to-the-stage theatrical experience. Also included in the first phase is a small 300 seat community theater to help maintain its roots to smaller, more intimate local presentations.
Without doubt, those involved with the design and construction of the Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center are very excited and proud of this accomplishment. The website boasts many wonderful facts regarding how state-of-the-art it will be. But, with all the “hoopla” about design vision, diversity, and status . . . . I couldn’t find one sentence regarding any attention to energy conservation or environmental sustainability. NOTHING! It wasn’t until I looked deeper that the contract for construction included a very short paragraph requiring the facility to achieve a LEED Certified level using the LEED v2.2 guidelines. This project was approved in 2007 when LEED v2.2 was the standard and seemed like (at the time) a huge hurdle to climb. Today, however, we have evolved to LEED v4.0, which makes the Certified level of LEED v2.2 look like a no-brainer. In fact, much of what is included in LEED v2.2 is now part of the current Building Codes. While touring the several floors I wondered if the building would even qualify for any current LEED certification, because of the prolific use of glass everywhere.
I came away from the tour with mixed emotions. The design, vision, and execution is truly amazing and well thought out. I’m confident that it will serve its intended purpose for decades to come. Yet, I ask myself; what will the utility burden be for the taxpayer over its life span?
In the 1980’s I probably would have been a whole hearted supporter of the design concept. But, it isn’t the 1980’s. It isn’t even the 20th Century. We are living in a new Century, requiring bold attention to vital issues; issues that require a more sensitive approach to construction and the environment. If you were asked if you thought the Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center represented a sensitive, balanced approach to the environment, sensitivity to sustainable resources, and creative use of renewable resources . . . what would your response be? I know what mine is! If the taxpayer is going to be on the “hook” for a large portion of the $387 million dollar budget, not to mention the maintenance and utility bills of this facility, perhaps more attention could have been given to achieving a better environmental balance, instead of token compliance with the lowest level of LEED certification, from an outdated LEED v2.2 guideline. Perhaps LEED Gold or Platinum would have been a more appropriate contractual requirement.
Leaving the construction site, I was left with the feeling that, although NET ZERO design has come a long way, we still have so much further to go. Too often sustainable and renewable design features get value engineered out as nice-to-haves, where the end product ends up more a reflection of the 20th Century. We can do better! We must do better!
by Brent Sauser
Building Net Zero has become so mainstream many businesses are focusing their collective efforts in satisfying the growing demand throughout the United States. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where building Net Zero makes good common sense, as well as good business sense. But, hey . . . . don’t take my word for it. Watch the video below from DPR Construction in Arizona and hear their commitment to sustainable design using renewable resources.
Net Zero is not just an idea . . . it’s the answer!
By Brent Sauser
Recycling shipping containers is happening all over the world. This creative example comes from Australia by the firm Royal Wolf. The following news article is courtesy of “Building Design + Construction”, dated January 17, 2014:
“Australian firm Royal Wolf has put its money where its mouth is by creating an office facility out of shipping containers at its depot and fabrication center in Sunshine, Victoria. The company specializes in sourcing, selling, and modifying new and refurbished shipping containers. The facility, dubbed Room11, includes offices, common space, a meeting room, and a reception area deployed around four interior, landscaped courtyards. Container ends have been replaced with full-height windows, some of the ends have been reused as interior partitions. The exposed ceiling has been insulated on top with rigid insulation and a membrane roof. A pair of vertically placed containers marks the entryway.”
By Brent Sauser
Yet another story regarding the GOOD and BAD news from installing sustainable, renewable systems to your home. KSL.com reports that Rocky Mountain Power has announced a “rate increase request of $76.3 million, or 4 percent, from the Utah Public Service Commission. If approved, the typical customer would pay an additional $3.73 per month for electricity. The request also included a $4.25 monthly fee for “net-metering” customers.”
CLICK HERE to read the KSL.com article, written by Jasen Lee, dated January 19, 2014.
Net-metering is a term used to describe customer-generated power, usually from solar panels or wind turbines. Utah’s largest state electric utility is crying foul due to the 2,200 (and growing) customers who are producing over 14.6 megawatts of power. They are losing a considerable amount of revenue and are raising overall electricity rates to offset the loss. Those who have converted to self-generated, renewable energy are also being hit with an additional $4.25 per month to “help offset some of the fixed costs to supply electric service to net-metering customers and receive the extra power they produce.”
What is happening in Utah is occurring in many other parts of the United States. Utility companies are working fast to raise rates to help offset the loss of revenue from net-metering customers. The good news is that the movement to renewable energy must be happening at a significant enough pace to instill fear in the local electrical utility. People are taking advantage of the financial incentives to build Net Zero. However, the dark side of any significant transition is the nagging pressure to appease old, outdated, and subsidized technology. Their control as the ONLY source of electrical power no longer is universal. Thousands of upstart customers are turning to the freedom that comes from installing their very own sustainable personal power plant on site. The power utilities can see the threat to their government supported monopoly and are working fast to justify higher rates . . . even for those who assist in providing power to the utility . . . the net-metering customer. Why are net-metering customers having to pay an additional fee for providing electrical energy back into the utility grid?
These issues, of course, will need to be sorted out over time. But, I am confident that as the typewriter did not prevail over the word processor and computer . . . renewable energy and sources that provide it will win the day. However, the typewriter industry was not backed as a government supported monopolies. This will take time!
Financial incentives end in 2016. Start planning now for your renewable system installation.
For those who are interested in building Net Zero it is important to understand a fundamental equation that will help to assure success. That is . . .
Optimizing Passive Design features + Energy Star Appliances and Equipment + LED lighting and daylighting + Energy Efficient HVAC and water heating + a modest solar array (5kW -10kW) = NET ZERO!
This may be an oversimplification, but it is a good starting point for a building design plan of action. Passive features include: proper building orientation; building materials; insulation type and thickness; window location, size, and type; roofing material; etc.
Net Zero doesn’t happen by accident, but takes considerable planning. Special care should be taken in selecting your architect and contractor, to be sure that they are experienced in Net Zero design and construction, and are current in this rapidly evolving sustainable market. If you have decided to NOT build Net Zero, then I encourage you to build as close to Net Zero as possible, with the ability to easily upgrade in the near future. The time is quickly approaching where building Net Zero will no longer be considered an option. Net Zero gives you more control over increasing utility rates, meaning money back in your pocket. We are not that far away from federal incentives turning into fees and penalties for not being energy efficient. When this occurs we will be paying for the high price of energy PLUS additional fees for not being energy compliant. Taking that into consideration makes the move to Net Zero much more cost effective! The federal incentives expire at the end of 2016. What will happen after that is anyone’s guess.
Is it really worth the gamble to not build Net Zero?
By Brent Sauser
DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! CLICK HERE to read the article from “cnsnews.com”, written by Susan Jones on January 13, 2014.
For several years now the government, whether at the federal or state level, has offered financial incentives to invest in energy efficient systems. Although many incentives are still active (i.e. Federal incentive for renewable energy installations through 2016), many more are no longer available. Financial incentives for reducing our energy consumption “footprint” is a positive motivation . . . or “carrot”. In many ways, this method could be considered successful due to the many thousands that have taken advantage of the financial “carrot”.
However, with some “carrots” come the eventual and predictable “STICK”, especially when it comes to our federal government. At first, the “STICK” may be sold as another “carrot” or in this case, another way to access energy usage and provide corrective suggestions. It may even be sold as a harmless, voluntary program meant to help improve our energy efficiency. The attached article reveals a new method from the Department of Energy (DOE) to rate the energy efficiency of homes. The DOE calls it “The Home Energy Scoring Tool”. This tool is similar to a vehicle’s mile-per-gallon rating. On a score of 1 -10, a high rating reflects high energy efficiency, while a low score demonstrates the opposite. The DOE states that the Home Energy Scoring Tool “can be a powerful motivator in getting homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements”. NO KIDDING! The DOE continues, “The scores serve as an official way to document these improvements and thereby enhance your home’s appeal when you’re ready to sell”. Sounds great, doesn’t it? What about those who have saddled themselves with huge homes, with a lot of square footage and volume? You better believe that SIZE MATTERS with this rating system. With more square footage and volume you need more energy to heat and cool, unless of course you incorporate the suggestions provided as a result of the home energy survey that, by the way, you will have to pay for as a result of this new DOE system.
Right now it is being introduced as voluntary and appears harmless. Time will tell if and when it becomes a mandatory requirement, and if and when the “official” rating results in additional fees for excessive energy consumption. You need to ask yourself, “How energy efficient am I, and how can I become more energy compliant?” NetZeroMax.com is here to help answer these questions. Whether we like it or not, the energy usage “screws” are being tightened on us all .
Building Net Zero can no longer be placed in the “nice to have” category, only to be value engineered out of the construction budget. The writing is on the wall for all to see. Invest in building Net Zero now and keep the savings in your pocket, or open your wallet to never-ending, escalating energy usage fees in the
future. This choice needs to be a “no brainer”.
Once you have read the attached article, I am confident that you will see how this “carrot” can easily be converted to a “STICK” that will impact all of us. We don’t need to build bigger. We need to build smarter! Building Net Zero will get us there.
by Brent Sauser
Net Zero has gone retail! You might recall that back in March of 2013, I wrote a story regarding Walgreen’s intention to build the first Net Zero retail store in the USA. CLICK HERE to review the NetZeroMax story.
Walgreen’s has completed the construction and has opened the doors to their first energy independent store in Evanston, Illinois. The videos included in this report tells the amazing story of the successful launch of Walgreen’s first Net Zero store. This is no small accomplishment! Walgreen’s has several freezers and coolers that require huge amounts of energy to maintain. Special attention to building orientation, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and window size and location were taken into consideration. This is not your typical corner Walgreen’s!
Congratulations to Walgreen’s for their leadership in proving to the commercial retail community that going Net Zero can be done. Let’s hope that 2014 will inspire many more pace setting decisions.
By Brent Sauser
It is exciting to see how Net Zero is catching on throughout the USA. The included videos share their Net Zero success stories and how satisfied they are with the benefits of going Net Zero. The decreasing costs of Net Zero systems have made the decision to build Net Zero a virtual “no brainer”. We are only limited by our lack of awareness regarding the tangible evidence of Net Zero’s cost effectiveness. Taking control of what once was an understood dependency, such as electrical power, provides a feeling of self-reliance, energy independence, and environmental compatibility . . . not to mention the cost savings from ever increasing utility costs. Net Zero can be achieved WITHOUT sacrificing your expected creature comforts, as these videos illustrate.
What was once a fringe notion is now a viable, mainstream consideration in the design and construction of all building types. If you are unaware of an architect who can provide a Net Zero solution for your next project, I know one who can.
CLICK HERE for more information regarding Net Zero homes.
by Brent Sauser
Evidence that solar power has become a cost effective, common sense choice over conventional choices for power can be found all across the United States. I dare say it has reached the level of acceptance as mainstream and can now compete based on cost with the more standard non-renewable sources for energy. But, don’t take my word for it. CILCK HERE to link to an article from the Star Tribune written by David Shaffer on December 31, 2013.
Consider this; recently a judge in Minnesota has ruled that Xcel Energy should invest in large solar panel arrays instead of new natural gas generators. Consequently, Edina-based Geronimo Energy plans to build about “20 large solar power arrrays on sites all across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million”. What could be more “mainstream” than your local utility? When they can see the long term economic benefits of solar versus the old, non-renewable resurces for power . . . that is a significant revelation we all should take notice of. If they can see the virtues of going solar, what about us? Have you checked your power bill lately?
The VP of Geronimo Energy was quoted as saying, “It says solar is coming in a big way to the country and Minnesota.” NOTE: If this ruling is upheld, Geronimo Energy would receive NO state or utility subsidies. NONE! However, they would be eligible for federal tax credits, as we all are through the year 2016. Hey! I think they are on to something! They can see that even without state or utility subsidies they can still profit from going solar. If they can . . . how about you?
She was also quoted to say, “The cost of solar has come down much faster than anyone had anticipated. This is one of the reasons solar is going to explode.” (I’m sure she means that in a positive way!) The largest of Geronimo’s projects will cover 70 acres, with other sites located in 17 Minnesota counties.
You can’t get more mainstream than that. The transition to solar and other Net Zero products is gaining momentum. Whether public or private, many more projects are taking a good hard look at going solar and making the right decision . . . for them, the community, and the environment, because it is now a mainstream, competitive cost choice!
Happy New Year!
By Brent Sauser
Christmas time is a magical time of hope, gifts wrapped in colorful paper and bows, of tender memories, and bright lights inside and out. Yet, this year we celebrate the yuletide season in the face of rising electrical prices. In response, many are switching over to LED lights, which operate at a fraction of the cost. This common sense decision to lower the impact of higher electrical prices indicates that:
- People will make a common sense decision to switch over to Net Zero type products, even though they may cost a little more to purchase, when they understand the tangible savings that will pay for themselves (and then some) over the long term.
- Regardless of where we live, we cannot escape the relentless march of rising electrical prices.
Consider the following news article . . . . CLICK HERE.
If we are willing to see the common sense logic in buying something of higher initial cost (i.e. LED lights), knowing that in the long run the savings in operational costs far outweigh the initial cost . . . . . then we have all taken a huge step toward understanding the benefits of going Net Zero on a larger scale.
We cannot control the continuing rise of electrical costs, but we can control how to mitigate the impact through wise choices in design, and selection of Net Zero materials and products. Taking the leap to Net Zero can be done without sacrificing your expected creature comforts. It’s time we take control of our long term expenses and not remain victims to external forces that never seem to go down in costs. That’s just common sense!
We have taken a big step. Now, let’s keep going!
By Brent Sauser
Now that more and more people are discovering NetZeroMax.com (over 137,000 visits), it is time to take the Net Zero message to the next level. We are now on Twitter, which gives our growing number of subscribers (528 so far) the opportunity to have a voice in the green building and sustainable design process.
Beginning in January of 2014, we will be conducting chat sessions based on various sustainable design subjects and Net Zero principles. This will give you the opportunity to tweet directly to me and other Net Zero believers in construction that produces more energy than it consumes. Using Twitter will enable all NetZeroMax.com subscribers to share ideas, concerns, questions, and other Net Zero related input that will serve to increase our overall sustainable design awareness.
I invite all those who have already subscribed to NetZeroMax.com to go to the bottom of the right hand column of the HOME PAGE and click on the FOLLOW button where it states that we are now on Twitter.
After clicking on the FOLLOW button, go ahead and send me a tweet, just to make sure you are a follower on Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you. And . . . . please stay tuned for more information regarding NetZeroMax and Twitter activities in 2014. Together, we can make a difference!
by Brent Sauser
We are pleased to announce that NetZeroMax.com is growing in popularity. Visits to NetZeroMax.com have surpassed 135,000 with over 375 visits daily. Our total number of subscribers has eclipsed 500 with an average of 5-10 new subscribers every day, from all over the world.
It is gratifying to witness this growing enthusiasm with Net Zero design and construction. We are thankful to be a part of something so vital to future generations, that is, taking a more sensitive approach to the implementation of sustainable design methodologies, which includes going Net Zero. So much sustainable technology now exists to satisfy your Net Zero needs with so many different options. We don’t have to settle for outdated 20th Century construction, that consumes energy and produces NOTHING in return. THOSE DAYS ARE OVER!
We can’t keep building in wasteful, energy consuming ways and expect our collective quality of life to improve. If your architect is not that knowledgeable regarding how Net Zero design can be integrated into your project . . . . . I certainly know one who can!
Please keep following NetZeroMax.com where ever you are located. There is no place on earth where the principles of Net Zero design cannot be implemented. We must insist on nothing less that Net Zero!
By Brent Sauser
Going to GreenBuild 2013 in Philadelphia was a great experience. I got to visit with many manufactures who are already featured on the RESOURCES page of NetZeroMax.com. One exhibit I especially enjoyed was with the Solatube (daylighting) folks. While there I was reminded of the many advantages of bringing full spectrum sunlight into my home for a great price. Just think . . . free interior illumination directly from the sun.
Once I returned to Orlando I called The Solar Guys (authorized installers of Solatube products for Central Florida) to arrange a time to have one installed. Turns out the only time they had left was Friday the 13th. Superstitions aside, I booked the date.
Chris Manotti (The Solar Guys installer) arrived at noon, and after discussing the best location and Solatube type, Chris got right to work at 12:15pm. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind if I photographed his progress and timed his installation. He agreed without exception.
We decided on the 14 inch diameter Solatube 290 DS . . . a good choice considering the size of our living room. We paid a little extra for the Tier Drop glass lens diffuser. From start to finish took one hour . . . 60 minutes. That’s all. Of course, Chris knew what he was doing, so anyone who might consider installing a Solatube on their own could take most of a full day. In fact, Chris said he came from one installation and has two more to complete before the end of the day.
The “after” photos speak for themselves regarding how effective daylight can be to light up a space by the power of the sun. The following photographs illustrate how easy the installation is.
Overall I am very pleased with the installation and encourage you to bring the sunlight into your home through the installation of daylighting products like Solatube.
To learn more about the Solatube 290 DS CLICK HERE!
By Brent Sauser
I am very grateful to a good friend and follower of NetZeroMax.com (Tatiana Maha’a) who forwarded to me this great You Tube video of a shipping container home in Atlanta, Georgia. As I continue to question people if they would be willing to live in a shipping container house, I still get that deer-in-the-headlights, turned-up-nose response. They can’t imagine it, because it doesn’t fit the culture of the two story home with a white picket fence. We still have a lot of work to do.
I have attempted to share several conceptual designs in various configurations using shipping containers on NetZeroMax.com, but these are only renderings of what could be constructed. The video (below) shows actual shipping container residential construction. Take a close look at how the home is organized and how much room can be achieved in a width of 16 feet. Considering the very low cost of shipping containers delivered to site, this presents an interesting option for comfortable living, while recycling materials that would otherwise remain unused at most ports. I invite you to watch the video and see how nice shipping container living can be.
By Brent Sauser
There is no way of escaping the fact that there are consequences to our personal decisions and actions. That is also true for the decisions and actions made or ignored by our local, state, and federal government. Well intended decisions often end up as obvious contradictions. For example, the federal government encourages us to drive fuel efficient automobiles and provides monetary incentives to “sweeten” the decision to move in that direction. However, now that so many have taken advantage of those incentives, our government is now complaining that they are not receiving enough revenue from gas taxes to cover expenses. To compensate, the government is now floating the idea of taxing drivers by the mile instead of at the pump . . . thus totally eliminating the incentive to go hybrid.
As more people embrace the advantages of building Net Zero, our electrical utility is faced with a growing challenge of having to deal with integrating renewable energy into the power grid, that was not designed to handle a substantial influx of variable renewable energy. The following article from Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times (Nation) captures the depth of the problem.
December 2, 2013
WASHINGTON — “In a sprawling complex of laboratories and futuristic gadgets in Golden, Colo., a supercomputer named Peregrine does a quadrillion calculations per second to help scientists figure out how to keep the lights on.
Peregrine was turned on this year by the U.S. Energy Department. It has the world’s largest “petascale” computing capability. It is the size of a Mack truck.
Its job is to figure out how to cope with a risk from something the public generally thinks of as benign — renewable energy.
Energy officials worry a lot these days about the stability of the massive patchwork of wires, substations and algorithms that keeps electricity flowing. They rattle off several scenarios that could lead to a collapse of the power grid — a well-executed cyberattack, a freak storm, sabotage.
But as states, led by California, race to bring more wind, solar and geothermal power online, those and other forms ofalternative energy have become a new source of anxiety. The problem is that renewable energy adds unprecedented levels of stress to a grid designed for the previous century.
Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don’t.
“The grid was not built for renewables,” said Trieu Mai, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory .
The frailty imperils lofty goals for greenhouse gas reductions. Concerned state and federal officials are spending billions of dollars in ratepayer and taxpayer money in an effort to hasten the technological breakthroughs needed for the grid to keep up with the demands of clean energy.
Making a green energy future work will be “one of the greatest technological challenges industrialized societies have undertaken,” a group of scholars at Caltech said in a recent report. The report notes that by 2030, about $1 trillion is expected to be spent nationwide in bringing the grid up to date.
The role of the grid is to keep the supply of power steady and predictable. Engineers carefully calibrate how much juice to feed into the system as everything from porch lights to factory machines are switched on and off. The balancing requires painstaking precision. A momentary overload can crash the system.
California has taken some of the earliest steps to address the problems. The California Public Utilities Commission last month ordered large power companies to invest heavily in efforts to develop storage technologies that could bottle up wind and solar power, allowing the energy to be distributed more evenly over time.
Whether those technologies will ever be economically viable on a large scale is hotly debated. The commission mandate nonetheless requires companies to produce enough storage by 2024 to power about 1 million homes.
“Energy storage has the potential to be a game changer for our electric grid ,” Commissioner Mark Ferron said.
Some utility officials warn, however, that the only guarantee is that ratepayers will be spending a lot. The commission’s goals, while laudable, “could cost up to $3 billion with uncertain net benefits for customers,” Southern California Edison declared in a filing.
But regulators are desperate to move past the status quo. Already, power grid operators in some states have had to dump energy produced by wind turbines on blustery days because regional power systems had no room for it. Officials at the California Independent System Operator, which manages the grid in California, say renewable energy producers are making the juggling act increasingly complex.
“We are getting to the point where we will have to pay people not to produce power,” said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, a system operator board member.
A bigger fear is that the grid is becoming more vulnerable to collapse, leaving the public exposed to the kind of blackouts that hit San Diego, parts of Arizona and a chunk of Baja California on a blistering hot September day in 2011.
Rush-hour traffic jammed as streetlights went dark. Flights were grounded. Pumping stations came to a halt, causing sewage to flow onto beaches. People were trapped in office elevators and on rides at Sea World.
An employee’s misstep at a substation near Yuma, Ariz., caused that blackout, but energy experts see it as a harbinger of the sorts of problems that could become frequent if the nation fails to refashion its outmoded power grid.
Foster has been working with other regulators and power company executives to redesign the system. The work involves ideas for mapping and building vast networks of electrical lines, industrial-scale solar- and wind-power plants and backup natural gas plants that can keep the lights on when shifts in weather cause renewable sources to falter. That’s the tangible stuff they can easily explain.” By Evan Halper – Los Angeles Times (Nation)
CLICK HERE to read the article from Evan Halper.
By Brent Sauser
As much as I am a fan of photovoltaic systems and their increasing efficiency and cost effectiveness, I am also a supporter of wind generators. Urban Green Energy (UGE) is one of the leaders in wind generator technology. UGE was at the 2012 GreenBuild convention in San Francisco, and I was pleased to see them at GreenBuild 2013 in Philadelphia. I spoke with Tyler regarding UGE’s achievements over the past year and he related several success stories that point to growth and expansion in the wind generator industry. Tyler graciously consented to make a video with NetZeroMax to explain and demonstrate the advantages and benefits of using wind generators. One big advantage is that wind generators do not work ONLY in sunlight, but 24/7 . . . if an 8mph minimum wind is present.
Please CLICK HERE for more information regarding the benefits of wind generators at UGE.
By Brent Sauser
I was pleased to come across the Mitsubishi Electric exhibit at GreenBuild 2013 in Philadelphia. Prominently displayed was the popular Mitsubishi Ductless HVAC system. NetZeroMax was fortunate to have Chuck Applebee consent to making a video regarding Mitsubishi Ductless HVAC systems. As an architect, I have had the opportunity to specify ductless systems and consider myself a convert to the technology. Ductless HVAC systems have been around for decades, in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere outside the United States. Meanwhile, Americans are way behind the benefit curve when it comes to energy efficient and cost effective ductless HVAC systems. Conventional ducted systems can achieve up to an 18 SEER (energy efficiency) rating, while ductless HVAC systems achieve a SEER 26, with SEER 30 in the near future. Who wouldn’t want to save 30% a month on their energy bills?
Ductless HAVC systems are a practical, flexible, energy efficient, and cost effective way to bring mold-free and mildew-free cooling and heating into your home or office building . . . . by zone. You don’t have to heat and cool areas of the building that are unoccupied. You can direct the cooling and heating to where you want it, when you want it. Flexibility, energy efficiency, cost savings! Not a bad combination.
You do not have to settle for old technology simply because your contractor is unfamiliar with ductless systems. Insist on ductless HVAC systems, even if it means finding another contractor to install it. Ultimately, you will enjoy an energy savings of up to 30% by going ductless . . . and that adds up in your favor. Isn’t that so much better than the alternative?
Part of becoming sustainable is choosing technology that will reduce the amount of energy required for operation and yet provide the same or (in the case of ductless systems) substantially improved performance over the course of its useful life. Ducted systems WON’T get us there! Ductless systems better contribute to an overall Net Zero building solution.
Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Mitsubishi Ductless HVAC systems.
By Brent Sauser
I confess . . . I am a big fan of daylighting, or light harvesting! Anything we can do to bring the daylight IN and keep artificial lighting OFF during the day time is a big energy saver. Think about it . . . why should we settle for poor building design that requires energy dependent artificial lighting during the day time, when we can bring the daylight into our interior spaces and benefit from God-given, full spectrum light . . . . FOR FREE. The RESOURCES page on NetZeroMax.com identifies several daylighting companies that feature all types of products that bring free daylight into interior space.
We met with Eric Miller, national sales manager of Solatube, at the GreenBuild 2013 convention. Eric was gracious enough to make a video for NetZeroMax.com that features two innovative residential daylighting systems (see below for video). I was so impressed with the features of the 14” diameter Solatube system that we are planning to have two installed in our home.
I invite you to watch the video and CLICK HERE to learn more about Solatube and their many great residential, commercial, and industrial daylighting systems.
By Brent Sauser
Our flight to GreenBuild 2013 started in Orlando with a short lay-over in Cleveland, Ohio. We transferred to a very small commuter jet with little head room and one seat on the left and two on the right. Once crammed in (on the right side) we taxied out to a remote spot on the runway where we waited about forty minutes for the Philadelphia airport to approve departure, due to delays at their end. While patiently waiting, I overheard a person in the window seat behind me say something about the GreenBuild convention. That got my attention and proceeded to speak with her. Turns out, she is a project consultant for Big Ass Fans and was attending GreenBuild 2013 as an Exhibiter. I mentioned to her that I was familiar with her product and very impressed with the technology of marketing wide diameter fans. I also shared with her how Big Ass Fans got me in trouble with Human Resources simply by invoking the name to the wrong person. We told her that we looked forward to seeing her and the Big Ass Fan exhibit at the convention.
Sure enough, in a prime location near the middle of the exhibit hall, we came upon the Big Ass Fan exhibit . . . . and Alicia was there talking to a conference attendee. We walked over and reintroduced ourselves, but Alicia remembered us from the flight. She consented to making a video explaining Big Ass Fans for NetZeroMax.com. I’m sure you will agree that Alicia knows her product well and is quite eloquent in explaining all of Big Ass Fans many features.
We hope you will take the time to click on the link below to learn more about Big Ass Fans and how they can reduce your cooling and heating demand, as well as contribute to an aesthetically pleasing Net Zero solution. Thank you Alicia for being such a good sport. You were fantastic!
For further information regarding Big Ass Fans CLICK HERE.
By Brent Sauser
The USGBC GreenBuild 2013 convention is something one needs to prepare for, whether attendee or exhibitor . . . just ask my feet! Regardless of the venue or location, GreenBuild is more than a convention. It resembles more of a pilgrimage for green building and sustainable design enthusiasts. Some 25,000 like-minded people converged on the Philadelphia Convention Center to feast upon the new and innovative products from the over 900 exhibitors, while braving very cold weather outdoors.
The cold weather was a challenge in contrast to last year’s GreenBuild convention in temperate San Francisco. Coming north from Orlando our blood was a little too thin to be comfortable outdoors, but that only motivated us to spend more time on the exhibit floor.
The Philadelphia Convention Center is a vast venue covering over three city blocks and several levels. People were easily dispersed between the dozens of classes offered, exhibit hall, and other scheduled events. We never felt too crowded in the exhibit hall and enjoyed the opportunity to talk with many of our friends already featured on our RESOURCES page on NetZeroMax.com.
Our personal observations of GreenBuild 2013 are:
- USGBC always puts on a great convention and this year was no exception.
- Attending GreenBuild provides the easiest way to stay current and connected with the newest advancements in sustainable design methods and products.
- In general, few new (if any) ground breaking products were introduced this year. Many exhibitors scaled back their exhibitor space from last year in San Francisco.
- There seemed to be an emphasis on commercial products with little attention to residential.
- Solar panel and thin-film products/systems were not featured at GreenBuild, which tells me they are relying on their own convention to promote their products. Even so, I was surprise to not see solar systems on exhibit.
- More water harvesting companies were exhibiting this year, which is a welcome site. This is an area of sustainable design that needs more attention.
- I was pleased to see many daylighting exhibitors promoting commercial and residential products. In fact, we are planning on installing two 14” Solatubes in our home soon.
- All the plumbing manufacturers were promoting their products that comply with WaterSource low-flow requirements. Waterless urinals seem to be on the “outs” . . . not too many featured as in previous years.
- If I was to point to one thing on the exhibit floor that “wowed” me, I’d have to point to the two exhibits featuring a two-car electric recharging car port, with solar panels on the roof. One exhibit featured a Tesla roadster and the other included the new BMW plug in. The BMW recharging carport cost only $50,000. Not bad!
All in all I felt like this year’s GreenBuild convention was a victim of the ongoing sluggish economy and less than optimistic outlook for 2014. I applaud all the exhibitors who braved the cold weather and expense to stay connected with the sustainable design community. It is very encouraging to be a part of something that is making such a significant difference in our lives and communities. Regardless of which way the economic “winds” are blowing, green building products will continue to improve and proliferate, until the decision to build Net Zero is no longer considered extreme, fringe, or out-of-the-norm. The technology is HERE NOW to make Net Zero happen. Let’s get going!
GreenBuild 2014 is in New Orleans, LA. I better start preparing now!
By Brent Sauser
For those of you who remain unconvinced that shipping containers can be utilized as a resource for human habitation and not look out of place, I invite you to view the attached animations of a shipping container townhome development that demonstrates an efficient and aesthetically pleasing community.
Each 2-story Net Zero townhouse is 1,280 SF (gross), two bedrooms with balconies, with an entry porch and back patio. A living room, kitchen, and family room are located on the first floor.
Sometimes it makes more sense to think INSIDE the box! For further information regarding shipping container townhouses, please contact dbs Archtiects PLLC.
by Brent Sauser
The recently completed Salt Lake City Public Safety Building boasts the first Net Zero building of its size in the USA to achieve a Net Zero rating. The building covers over 174,000 SF, comprising two underground floors for parking and four above ground levels housing the Salt Lake City police, fire departments, and emergency operations dispatch center.
The Net Zero Public Safety Building was financed through a $125 million bond passed in 2009 to replace the existing outdated facilities. Not only does the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building achieve Net Zero, but can withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, permitting occupants to continue working during and after the event.
Net Zero features include:
- LED lighting
- Solar water heating system
- Radiant floor heating and cooling system
- Solar canopy featuring photovoltaic integrated glass panels
- Offsite solar energy farm
- Roof top vegetation
- Strategically placed windows
A building of comparable size constructed without any Net Zero systems would generate over 2,670 metric tons of greenhouse gases, while the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building generates only 524 metric tons of greenhouse gasses a year. An Energy Star rating of 100 was awarded because of its energy efficiency and reduction in emissions. For further information regarding the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building please click on the following:
by Brent Sauser
Located nearby the famous Villages of Central Florida is a new residential development called Green Key Village. It is a three phase residential subdivision that, from a distance, may appear just like all the other residential communities surrounding the Villages. However, closer observation of Green Key Village will reveal a significant, quantum leap difference from all the others. Green Key Village comprises single family residences that are all NET ZERO construction. Let me repeat that . . . . EVERY MODEL BUILT IN GREEN KEY VILLAGE IS DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED TO ACHIEVE NET ZERO! Think of it . . . three phases of construction comprising dozens of single family homes that produce more power than they consume. Amazing, simply amazing!
Green Key Village further proves that to achieve Net Zero the architecture does not have to appear goofy. Quite the contrary, the Bahamas style of the Florida Keys provides a fitting host for the various components utilized to obtain an energy independent solution. The 7.02kW solar array fits in nicely, along with the GE heat pump water heater and manifold PEX plumbing system. Open cell foam insulation fills the 2×4 stud walls, with 5 inches of open cell foam along the underside of the roof, making the attic part of the overall building envelope. Placing the water heater and HVAC heat pump in the conditioned attic space allows for shorter duct runs, and smaller HVAC system (2 ton instead of 4 ton). High ceilings of 10ft and 12ft allow the hot air to rise with ceiling fans gently circulating the air in each space.
WaterSource plumbing fixtures and EnergyStar appliances are a part of the overall energy efficient planning for each Green Key Village model. Low-E and low SHGC windows are provided throughout.
Not only is every home in Green Key Village Net Zero, but the real story is HOW they determined the most cost effective and energy efficient, Net Zero approach for each residence. Green Key Village utilized the time saving ekotrope software (featured in a previous article on NetZeroMax.com). This software calculates the best possible combination of Net Zero components to achieve the most cost effective solution, while optimizing the greatest potential for energy efficiency.
Green Key Village is definitely worth checking out, whether via website or in person. I’ve done both. I applaud all those who took the risk to make Green Key Village a reality. Hopefully, more will follow. Net Zero is a here and now reality. Green Key Village is a vibrant example of how Net Zero can be integrated into design and construction with very little visual fanfare or sacrifice. We don’t have to give up our expected creature comforts to live a Net Zero lifestyle. Anyone from Green Key Village will be happy to tell you that!
For further information regarding Green Key Village CLICK HERE.
For further information regarding ekotrope software CLICK HERE.
By Brent Sauser
Achieving Net Zero for any project takes careful attention and planning. So many passive and active design considerations need to be made that best fit the specific building requirements, site location, and available budget. Going Net Zero is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. How can a designer be certain that the Net Zero decisions made are the most effective and efficient to achieve Net Zero without unnecessary additional cost? If only there was a software available that could capture the necessary design parameters and provide an optimized Net Zero solution.
Introducing ekotrope. Ekotrope is a Net Zero optimization software that lowers construction costs while increasing energy efficiency, enabling Architects to design Net Zero buildings at lower construction and operational costs. This is done by analyzing the entire building during the design phase and comparing different Net Zero component configurations. Components can be added or deleted during the process to assure the most cost effective, energy efficient solution. Architects and builders can easily measure and visualize energy trade-offs with each iteration.
Results show that ekotrope software has saved between 2% to 10 %, while making the same building up to 40% more energy efficient.
by Brent Sauser
GreenBuild 2013, USGBC’s annual convention, is less than two weeks away. Tens of thousands will converge at the Philadelphia, PA Convention Center to learn the latest in sustainable design and green building technologies and methodologies. LEED v.4 will also be launched.
NetZeroMax.com will be there to bring you the most up to date information regarding new and innovative products that will increase your Net Zero efficiency and reduce your overall implementation costs. You will see us wandering the exhibit halls on Wednesday and Thursday of GreenBuild 2013. We look forward to seeing you there.
By Beth Buczynski
More companies and organizations are finally putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainability. Most recently, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which provides non-profit grants for conservation and science, announced that its new headquarters had achieved Net Zero Energy Building Certification through the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).
This is no small feat as the building, located at 343 Second Street in Los Altos, Calif., clocks in at about 49,000 square feet. It took careful planning and lots of determination on the part of the Foundation to achieve the net zero status. As of this week, however, it has achieved the goal of operating its headquarters building at net zero energy by generating more than enough electricity to meet its needs during the first full year of occupancy.
While the Packard Foundation’s main goal is to support the development of science and technology, people are at the center of its mission. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than in how they chose to build their new headquarters.
“The Packard Foundation believes that the future of the planet’s health greatly depends on how we live and work today,” said Susan Packard Orr, board chair of the Foundation. “My parents, David and Lucile Packard, cared deeply about science and technology as a means to effect positive change in the lives of real people, everywhere. I am sure they would see their values reflected in this important achievement that’s been realized through the Foundation’s new headquarters.”
Sustainable strategies that allowed the building to achieve Net Zero status (as well as LEED Platinum certification) include:
- Electricity production via 915 rooftop solar panels
- Effective use of daylight to supplement artificial lighting
- Efficient heating and cooling using innovative chilled beam technology
- Storing up to 20,000 gallons of rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing
- Use of living green roof and rooftop gutters to assist with rainwater collection
- Recycling 95% of materials from pre-existing buildings
- Crafting all interior doors from locally salvaged eucalyptus trees
- 100% outside air for ventilation
- Desktop alerts that indicate when doors and windows can be opened for natural ventilation
“The Net Zero Energy Building Certification of the Packard Foundation building is significant to ILFI because it shows that it is possible for large buildings to live within their energy means,” said Amanda Sturgeon, Vice President of the Living Building Challenge for ILFI. “The Packard Foundation has shown that organizations do not need to trade off comfort to achieve net zero energy. They have shown it is possible to build and operate buildings that meet these dual goals.”
Want to know more about how they did it? CLICK HERE!
Top: David Livingston
Middle: Jeremy Bitterman
Bottom: Jeremy Bitterman
By Brent Sauser
While traditional silicon-based solar panel technology continues to improve in efficiency and cost reduction, thin-film solar innovation is stretching the boundaries of application limited only by our imagination. Thin-film solar is less expensive than traditional solar panels, easier to manufacture, and is capable of being integrated into the overall building design, instead of being attached to the roof surface. Although not as efficient as solar panels, thin-film solar can be integrated into a window glazing system becoming part of the building skin; providing UV protection, radiant heat reduction, consistent renewable power during sunlight, and visual transparency. Thin-film permits the architect to integrate solar without it appearing as an afterthought, or secondary to the overall aesthetic approach. Not only has thin-film solar become a part of the window and glazing industry, but other practical applications for thin-film solar are coming on the market. Various types of roofing tile and shingle manufacturers are integrating thin-film solar into their products to permit the entire roof to function as a solar collector. Thin-film is being applied to flexible surfaces for placement between the standing seams of metal roofs, reducing roof penetrations in the process by “sticky back” application.
Thin-film technology has expanded the solar energy palette of renewable energy products, options, and applications. As citizens of the 21st Century we owe it to ourselves, especially those in the design and engineering community, to take advantage of these innovative breakthroughs that will move us further away from non-renewable resources for power, provide a more environmentally sensitive solution that benefits building occupants and the surrounding community . . . . not to mention money back in your pocket! Let’s collectively throw away the obsolete specifications of the past, embrace the realities of today, and “spec” forward.
The following videos demonstrate and explain in greater detail the benefits of thin-film BIPV systems.
by Brent Sauser
Advancements in solar technology are happening every day. Whether with conventional silicon wafer solar panels or new advancements with thin-film solar PV . . . improved technology means greater efficiencies at lower costs.
- The fundamentals of PV technology
- Breakthroughs in thin-film technology, and
- Sharp’s Sunyvista transparent thin-film PV Windows
by Brent Sauser
It is an unwritten understanding that new home improvement products are not generally accepted or considered “mainstream” until the big-box retailers have brought them through their “doors” to the general public. I’m very pleased to announce that Home Depot and Lowe’s, two of the biggest big-box home improvement retailers, have embraced the solar energy kit market BIG TIME! One only needs to visit their websites to review a long list of solar panel kits that range from 1 kW to 9.5 kW in size. Both retailers have partnered with solar kit manufacturer, Grape Solar, and provide the same variety of kit options. Prices vary slightly. For example:
HOME DEPOT: Solar panel kits, from Grape Solar, are available on-line that range from 1 kW ($2,897) to 9.5 kW system ($21,475). A 5 kW solar kit costs $11,350. For more information regarding Home Depot solar panel kits CLICK HERE.
LOWE’S: Solar panel kits, from Grape Solar, are available on-line that range from 1 kW ($2,745) to 9.5 kW system ($21,399). A 5 kW solar kit costs $11,499. For more information regarding Lowe’s solar panel kits CLICK HERE.
When rebates and incentives are factored in, the net cost can be reduced from 30% and up. Federal incentives of 30% are in play through 2016. CLICK HERE to check out the additional incentives and rebates offered in your State.
Solar panel system installation has been simplified significantly to the “do-it-yourself” level, and the Grape Solar system offered by Home Depot and Lowe’s is no exception. Easy to follow instructions and videos are available to assist in installation.
A few minutes on-line will also reveal many other solar panel manufacturers offering kits for sale. The selection has never been greater, the costs lower, and installation easier than now. Freedom from non-renewable power has never been more affordable, more doable! Whether for new construction or remodeling, going solar makes dollars and “sense”.