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A short while ago, I received a flyer promoting some turn-key residential properties that allege to be energy efficient.
The units boasted energy efficient appliances, but beyond that, they were silent. When we talk about efficient or high performing buildings, it is certainly important to ensure that we carefully examine the building envelope.
Although we may not think of them that way, collectively buildings are big consumers of energy.
Indeed according to an article by Alan Macklin published in the August 2011 issue of Modern Building Systems, it is estimated that 40 percent of the world's energy is consumed by buildings, making the management of energy used by buildings a key component in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and frankly reducing the cost of doing business.
This increased emphasis on the performance of buildings worldwide is due in part to legislation.
In fact, in the same article by Macklin he cites the directives by the European Council for 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, increase the share of renewable energy by 20 percent and improve energy efficiency by 20 percent. The other major factor in this drive is of course money. Because of the rise in energy costs, building management, once the domain of the engineer, has now become a central focus for financial leaders and company CEOs.
The performance of homes is of course just as important to the homeowner who has to grapple with increased spending on energy as well.
Over the years, I have heard numerous persons lament the fact that as hot as it is outside, the inside of their homes is even hotter. This problem can be blamed on poorly sealed, un-insulated homes - a matter that has increasingly been seen as a problem because air-conditioned homes are now commonplace.
From the standpoint of the mechanical engineer, when we look to design an air-conditioning system for a business or home, the projected performance of the building itself is a critical factor in the design process. If we start from the outside, the orientation of the building on the property is important, in that assuming you have sufficient land area to do so, it is better to rotate the building so it is not fully east or west facing but rather experiences sunrise or sunset at an angle.
Avoid the temptation to raze the property before building. Instead, keep some of the trees, as this will reduce future landscaping costs and potentially provide exterior shading to windows.
To improve the performance of your building you need to consider the "R value" of walls and roofs, and to do so, effective insulation is often necessary. The R value refers to the resistance to heat flow and a higher R value indicates greater insulation effectiveness.
I caution you that before you consider insulation, the issue of moisture control should be examined very closely with your architect and builder. It is very important that buildings are properly sealed to prevent the intrusion of moisture.
Walls should be well constructed with all openings properly sealed.
With reference to home construction, for example, the U.S. Department of Energy describes a wall with an R value of 14.6 or higher as having advanced insulation and those with an R value of 11.6 as standard. Windows should be properly sealed all around to avoid leakage and double paned if budget permits, or at the very least tinted to reduce the impact of solar radiation that makes the interior feel warmer. The same rules apply to any glass doors. Interior shading from blinds or sheers, for example, also helps reduce the load on the air-conditioning system.
Consider making your roof a cool roof. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), a cool roof reflects (solar reflectance) and emits (thermal emittance) the sun's heat back to the sky instead of transferring it to the building below. Solar reflectance and thermal emittance are measured from 0 to 1 and the higher the number the cooler the roof.
A lot of cool roofs are white and we can relate to this from feeling the difference between wearing white or black clothes.
Many of us are also familiar with Bermuda roofs that are white. However according to the CRRC there are many cool color products that have dark pigments but are highly reflective. They further predict average energy savings on cooling costs can range from 7 percent to 15 percent.
Therefore, with your building envelope designed and making sure it's outfitted with high efficient lighting and appliances, you will be well on your way to achieving a truly energy-efficient building.
Challenge for this week: If planning to build a new office or home, discuss building performance with your architect before plans are drawn.
We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd and is a registered Professional Engineer
It's that time of year again when we expect lots of visits from family and friends as we approach the holiday season.
This is typically a time when we like to update our furniture and appliances because, you know, we want to impress that aunt or uncle we don't especially like. If you're on the hunt for that new appliance, I thought I would share some purchasing tips so you don't hurt yourself in the process.
In looking at washing machines, those that earn the ENERGY STAR rating are predicted to use 50 percent less water and 30 percent less energy than other models. These are typically seen in high efficient front or top loading models that no longer have central agitators.
Rinsing is now achieved using a high pressure spray which eliminates the need to fill and drain the tub.
Additionally, high speed spin options reduce drying time and as a result energy use. Just in case you are wondering, ENERGY STAR does not label clothes dryers as it has found very little difference in energy use amongst different models, so you would have to achieve your energy reductions in the washing process.
You may want to ensure your refrigerator is qualified, as these models are expected to be 20 percent more energy efficient than other models. Improve performance by leaving space at the back of the appliance to allow it to breathe, keep it away from heat producers like stoves and use energy saving or economy settings.
For those buying dishwashers, a 10 percent energy saving is predicted as these more efficient models have increased water pressure to reduce the need for pre-rinsing.
Some even have soil sensors to predict the wash cycle needed and have internal water heaters that reduce water heating costs.
Window or wall unit air-conditioning units that have achieved this rating are also expected to use 10 percent less energy than comparable models. You may wish to look at models that are equipped with timers to automatically shut units off when not needed.
Ceiling fans equipped with lights which have achieved this rating are 50 percent more efficient than other models and the light kits are expected to produce 75 percent less heat. These fans should be hung at least eight feet from the floor and of course only used when the room is occupied as contrary to popular belief fans do not cool a room.
They work by making persons in the room feel cooler. A qualified fan would work with compact fluorescent bulbs that last at least 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Whether you are looking for a plasma, LCD, HD ready TV or a standard model television all types have been compared and you can find a qualified model. It is worth the effort because rated models are on average 40 percent more efficient than other models. This is typically an appliance that spends a significant amount of time in standby mode so you want to check the consumption in this mode which should be no more than one Watt.
At the moment there is no rating for ovens, ranges or microwave ovens.
I know you may want to purchase items just because they are on sale, but do your homework before shopping to avoid the impulse buy.
By making the effort to compare the predicted consumption of appliances at full power and standby you can save yourself a lot of money in the long run as the product with the lower sticker price may be more costly over the product lifetime.
Challenge for this week: Be an informed consumer and research before you shop for appliances. Take energy savings into account.
We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to email@example.com
Sonia Brown is Principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd and is a registered Professional Engineer
A local contractor specializing in energy efficient homes says the proposed tariff reductions on green products could inspire a transition to more environmentally friendly buildings.
Owner of Westfield Construction Science Jonathan Cunningham is encouraging Bahamians to embrace the opportunity.
The government's decision to reduce duties on renewable energy products is a positive sign, indicating that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) believes green living is a priority. He said it could trigger a change in how Bahamians approach energy efficiency.
"This is definitely good for the Bahamas in general and good for contractors in the industry," Cunningham said. "Residents will benefit from this the most, and the savings that they will experience long term will make their investment into renewable energy a great one."
The tariff changes were announced during the 2012/2013 Budget Communication delivered by Prime Minister Perry Christie on Wednesday. In terms of renewable energy related products, the duty on solar generators was reduced from 45 percent to 10 percent, wind-powered and "other" generating sets went from 45 percent to 10 percent and plastic and steel doors went from 35 and 25 percent respectively, to 10 percent.
Cunningham mentioned that while the intent of the government to promote renewable energy is a good one, the PLP must be proactive in terms of promoting and ensuring that Bahamians are in a position to transition to it. He pointed that a $30 million sustainable energy project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) didn't reach its full potential. He also told Guardian Business that more legwork will be required to guarantee renewable energy will catch on.
The tariff reduction on those items could be a key ingredient in the government's affordable housing initiative, where they want to provide more cost-efficient options for Bahamians going forward.
Cunningham's company, Westfield Construction Science, specializes in net zero energy buildings, which are described as a buildings without any net energy consumption and no carbon emissions. These homes safeguard owners against energy price increases and lower the total net monthly cost of living.
He is optimistic that the country can transition to more energy efficient solutions, but the government must be consistent in pushing it.
"It's a good sign that in a couple weeks of the government taking office they have placed emphasis on renewable energy," Cunningham said. "It's a great industry that needs to be developed and promoted, and if Bahamians embrace this technology, then everybody will benefit."
The Green Files asked Stuart Bowe, the president of the Bahamas Hotel Association, on his views about the country's tourism sector going green.
Sonia: Are you generally satisfied with the progress of hotels in The Bahamas to improve energy efficiency, conservation and to incorporate sustainable practices?
Stuart: Many hotels have put in various energy efficiency measures in recent years, but certainly much more can and must be done. This was confirmed in a 2010 detailed energy audit program by the BHA and the government conducted with 18 hotels. The study revealed tremendous opportunity exists to realize greater efficiencies and savings of between 40 percent and 60 percent for many of the hotels.
Sonia: If given the opportunity, would you make any changes to existing legislation or government policies regarding the energy sector, to facilitate hotel properties in utilizing renewable energy?
Stuart: The government has already put in place a number of incentives to encourage greater efficiencies and the use of renewable energy. Customs duties have been eliminated for solar panels and related components such as energy efficient lighting, building insulation, biodegradable items, solar air conditioners and electric vehicles. This is all a step in the right direction. Through the government's National Energy Policy Task Force, the BHA and the Chamber of Commerce have made further recommendations for incentives to purchase other energy efficient items. This would cut back on the payback period and make it more practical for businesses to invest in these savings. We have also recommended that the Bahamas Electricity Act be amended to allow businesses and residents to practice net metering, where energy is produced from solar, wind, or other renewable sources. The process allows for excess energy produced to be redirected back into the public electricity grid system and businesses/residents receive a credit.
Sonia: Do you believe that BEC, WSC and commercial lending agencies are on-board with assisting the hotels in achieving their energy objectives?
Stuart: I believe that all stakeholders realize the potential and are taking steps to address energy issues. The changes require collaboration to address the key issues; behaviors, physical assets applications and policy change. The cost of energy from traditional sources is increasing and we must step up the pace on implementing sustainable programs.
Sonia: In the absence of revised legislation, what might properties do to help themselves?
Stuart: More can be done by hotels and businesses to install energy efficient lighting, improve the use of natural shading, water usage reduction strategies for both guests and staff, better maintenance of refrigeration and technical appliances, in-house staff awareness training, utilization of professional help where needed, and other technical solutions for utility usage.
Sonia: What is your vision for a well developed green tourism sector in The Bahamas?
Stuart: There are tremendous opportunities, particularly for Bahamians, to develop small guest houses, bed and breakfast offerings, lodges, hotels, attractions and amenities, which by design and operation embrace sustainability.
Under the umbrella of "green tourism", these offerings would appeal to the eco and cultural interests of global tourists. Our Family Islands are natural locations, and we must continue to advocate for green tourism initiatives as a matter of business and industry survival.
Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
oSonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.
America and The Bahamas have common economic challenges, and to stimulate investment and trade, renewable energy should play a major role, according to Alex Sokoloff, the Political and Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy.
"We are at a change now, like the industrial revolution, when whole industries will change as power generation changes," he said.
"We're seeing that in Silicon Valley and in Texas, where we have companies developing cutting-edge technology that could have a huge effect on The Bahamas. The Bahamas can help lead the way."
During an interview with Guardian Business, Sokoloff highlighted alternative energy as a key economic component between the two countries.
Sokoloff, who arrived in The Bahamas just three months ago, has worked all around the world since joining the foreign service in 2003. His first tour was in Malaysia, and before coming here, he served as an Economics Officer in Rwanda.
But what makes The Bahamas distinct, he said, is the close ties shared with the U.S. and its ideal position for green solutions.
For example, because there is no heavy industry requiring a great deal of power, as opposed to major urban centers in North America or Europe, the country would adapt well to these solutions.
Meanwhile, with a constant dose of sunshine and access to ocean currents, solar and tidal power would provide a clean, efficient and plentiful source of energy.
He pointed out that green solutions were in line with President Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the economy in the U.S. through renewable energy and the National Export Initiative.
He envisions a mutually beneficial relationship whereby these green products can be brought into the country to benefit the people.
Sokoloff was also encouraged to hear there are many renewable energy projects already underway within The Bahamas.
Last month, Earl Deveaux, the Minister of the Environment, told Guardian Business that people "need to take matters into their own hands" when it comes to alternative power solutions to reduce costs and ensure a more stable power supply.
He pointed out that the government has introduced low tariffs on energy-efficient light bulbs, solar water heaters and green building materials.
"We wish to accommodate these decisions to reduce the energy load," he said.
Of course, there is also considerable business potential behind alternative energy.
Many business have sprung up in The Bahamas, including, most recently, Sun Solutions, which aims to import and distribute solar panels at a reasonable cost to residents and businesses. Graham Weatherford, one of the company's founders, said Sun Solutions currently has 4,000 orders on standby as they iron out the details.
In fact, the company has stopped taking orders to cope with the existing demand. "I would love to see The Bahamas establish itself as a front-runner in green technologies," Sokoloff said.
"The world is getting so interconnected now - when you start creating new opportunities and investment, it helps us both."
As Solomon's Fresh Market's opening looms in November, AML Foods Limited is considering two more store openings in the coming years, with executives confident there is a strong place for the supermarket in the Bahamian marketplace.
"We're very confident it will be successful and with the right location we can duplicate it in the future," said Gavin Watchorn, Group President and CEO.
"There is room for more than one of these stories - I would say three is a possibility in The Bahamas."
Watchorn was unable to give an exact timetable or specify where the stores would be built at this time.
The business model behind Solomon's Fresh Market, he added, includes a healthy, natural and organic image, which is a niche he believes will fit in well with Bahamian shoppers.
The news comes as the company announced their second-quarter results this week, revealing that while the company's sales are up, net profits have suffered due to the high price of utilities.
In fact, utilities rose 15 percent this year, or $294,000, which "materially impacted" earnings, according to the press release.
The company is putting aside $1 million in 2012 for capital expenditures that will focus on energy usage reduction, geared towards replacing air conditioning and refrigeration units throughout their holdings.
The CEO explained that is four times AML Foods normal expenditure in this area.
Most years, he said the company tends to spend $250,000 on upgrades to improve energy efficiency.
Although the $1 million is expected to have a major impact on utilities costs, Watchorn noted that Solomon's Fresh Market presented a particularly unique opportunity to reduce costs in the future.
Building something "from the ground up", he said, allows AML Foods to be "as energy efficient as possible".
He speculated the approach will save the store between 40 and 50 percent in costs, compared to the other stores under AML's umbrella.
"When we were designing the store, we sat down with utilities in mind," he said.
"Our branding and vision for the store is healthy, natural and organic. We don't want to give the wrong impression as energy hogs. So we have made a lot of decisions and investments that will reduce energy usage."
For example, Watchorn said the new store will make use of skylights, meaning Solomon's won't have to rely on standard electricity as much.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, the Chairman of AML Foods Limited, added that employing these energy saving tactics have been a priority from the beginning.
"I know it has been a major topic of discussion," he felt.
"Natural lighting, keeping the building cool, and yet reducing AC usage is important."
In the case of the skylights, Watchorn explained the lights in the supermarket will actually automatically dim or brighten based on the conditions outside.
Similarly, Solomon's will employ top-notch air conditioners that work in tandem with the store's humidity, cutting on and off depending on the climate control needs.
Energy efficient refrigerators, freezers and special building materials represent a larger initial expenditure.
But Watchorn said he is confident the investment will pay off.
"We believe we will see a return on it in the future in regards to our utility bills."
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
GIVING an update on the ongoing renovations and improvements at SuperClubs Breezes, company chairman John Issa announced that the Cable Beach resort is in the process of "going green."
The two towers have be renovated over the course of two years, closing a block at a time to install energy efficient chillers for the air-conditioning units, energy efficient fan coils and broilers.
Low flush toilets and flow restricting faucets have also been installed to cut down on water consumption.
So far, around $20 million is estimated to have been spent on the renovations, which were contemplated with the goal of cutting energy cons ...