Ralph DiNola, CEO at NBI, responds to the U.S. withdrawal from the global climate accord.

Last October, New Buildings Institute along with a host of partners, opened the Getting to Zero National Forum with great enthusiasm, sharing gratitude and satisfaction over the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement. We noted how the global agreement to address climate change legitimized our movement and could be seen as an endorsement of the efforts we have been making to advance energy performance in buildings on a path to achieving zero energy in the building sector.  We have long known that buildings contribute over 40% of carbon in the United States.

According to C40, the building sector offers the greatest number of  near-term actions to address climate change.  In cities, buildings can be responsible for over 75% of emissions, making the building sector a clear focus for leadership in energy efficiency and emissions reductions.

The water-energy nexus is a nascent topic in the building industry. The impact on water systems linked to energy generation has important ecological, conservation, and sustainability implications, particularly in water-strained areas such as the Southwestern desert of the United States. The vast majority of power plants in the United States use water to provide a cooling source to condense steam. So how much water is saved from reduced demand through efficiency measures? Turns out, quite a lot. 
New calculation tool estimates average gallons of water consumed per kWh of energy generated by state.

NBI has laid the groundwork to connect the water-energy nexus at the power plant with the energy consumed at the building level. With the support of existing research and funding from the Edwards Mother Earth Foundation, NBI technical staff have created a calculation tool to estimate the watershed impacts of building electricity use and compare it to onsite water consumption (toilets, faucets, etc.). NBI's simulation shows that the water savings at the generation source from energy efficiency enhancements are on the same order of magnitude as the building-level water savings--20%. 

Rhode Island Shows Economic and Climate Leadership by Embracing Zero Energy

As states look to buildings as a means to fulfill climate and energy policy goals for cutting carbon emissions, Rhode Island is emerging as a leader with a bold vision. The Ocean State  has committed to enhancing its economy by investing in a more efficient and resilient buildings stock and creating jobs while positioning itself as a Climate Champion by adopting a series of energy policies to reduce all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

These policy goals, which include an executive order that calls for 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, can be viewed as the next step in a series of energy policies that reflect a unique response to a different sort of vulnerability for the Rhode Island. Because there are very few energy sources located within the state, it is almost entirely dependent on imported fossil fuels for supplying in-state electric generation, thermal energy and transportation fuels. As stated in their energy plan, " the State's most significant "supply" resource is actually on the demand side--energy savings achieved through investments in energy efficiency " . This is reflected by the #4 scorecard ranking the state received from the  American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy  (ACEEE) for their energy efficiency policy and program efforts.

Read more about Rhode Island's climate commitment 
NBI Examines How Federal Preemption Hinders Energy Codes

A recently released white paper from NBI finds that federal preemption rules present a major  barrier to using energy codes  as a means to achieve high levels of energy efficiency in buildings. Decades-old federal laws that set national standards for appliance efficiency, including heating and cooling systems and water heating equipment, also preempt states and cities from setting their own more stringent standards. The original purpose was to avoid a 50-state patchwork of varying rules. Today however, federal preemption is preventing cities and states from setting efficiency stringency through local energy codes and even driving up the incremental cost of efficiency, according to the NBI paper, "Federal Preemption as a Barrier to Cost Savings and High Performance Buildings in Local Energy Codes."
NBI technical staff developed the white paper to fully understand the impact of federal preemption on the effectiveness of energy codes. The paper also works to identify and recommend solutions to address barriers imposed by the 40-year-old laws. 
New Report: Energy Performance of Commercial Buildings with Radiant Heating and Cooling
Radiant systems can be part of an integrated approach leading to low energy consumption in commercial buildings.
A new study, Optimizing Radiant Systems for Energy Efficiency and Comfort," looked at 23 commercial buildings that predominantly use radiant distribution systems for both heating and cooling. Researchers from the Center for the Built Environment and NBI found that nearly all the buildings out performed peer projects and national benchmarks, suggesting that radiant systems are part of the integrated approach that can lead to low energy consumption. The report, which was developed on behalf of the California Energy Commission (CEC) EPIC Program (EPIC-14-009), describes the general characteristics including, type, size, location and climate zone of the buildings studied. Some operator perspectives from the survey are included to inform design and operation factors regarding radiant systems. 

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and NBI recently announced a partnership that will streamline and strengthen the tracking and certification of zero energy (ZE) buildings in order to drive broader market adoption, codification and standardization of ZE technologies in everyday buildings.  As a first step, NBI and ILFI are working to consolidate certified, verified and emerging ZE building projects into a single, unified dataset with common categories. In addition, NBI and ILFI will also share a protocol for data collection, certification and case studies. The partnership intends to create a more seamless system for tracking, registering, certifying, and evaluating the burgeoning zero energy movement.

New Construction Guide and HVAC Primer updates available
NBI has just completed updating content for both its  HVAC Primer  and the New Construction Guide . Available for purchase on our website, both of these publications can help designers select the right technology and techniques for designing an energy efficient building. For more information on these guides, click on the publication name above. 
ZNE Fellow Announced
Oregon's net zero energy (NZE) buildings market is getting a boost with a new Net Zero Fellow to focus on one of the major barriers to NZE adoption-money. The fellowship was awarded by the Energy Trust of Oregon to Shilpa Surana of Brightworks Sustainability. For the next 18 months, Surana will be looking at the most cost effective and technically feasible ways to reach net zero energy consumption, specifically in midrise multifamily buildings, and low to midrise office buildings.   Read More

Don't miss these partner events and NBI workshops:
August 24 | Net Zero Plus Electrical Training Institute, Commerce, CA

November 28-29 | Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena, CA

Meet NBI Staff: 
Jim Edelson and Kevin Carbonnier at
2017 National Codes Conference
July 17-20 | Pittsburgh, PA
October 30-  November 1  | Litchfield Park, AZ