The musician and singer Sheryl Crow (love her music!) said, “The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use in the first place.” She probably was not trying to do so, but somehow, she managed to condense thousands of pages written about energy efficiency into 13 words. If you don’t use the energy in the first place, natural resources and money are saved.
Oh, if only it were that simple. Since we don’t want to live in caves with candles (at least most of us don’t), the next best thing is an Energy Star building. However, we concede there is a lot of distance between a cave and an Energy Star structure. That is precisely why GBRI developed a course called Step-By-Step Approach to Energy Star to make the distance easier to cross.
Most people are familiar with Energy Star products, like appliances and plumbing products. The Energy Star label makes it easy to identify the appropriate products. A much greater challenge is achieving Energy Star building certification, which requires input from all project team members. Energy Star rates homes and commercial buildings, and project success requires designing and assembling building components so that the final product achieves energy efficiency as a quality whole. From pre-design to post-occupancy operation, the building should not use energy in the first place, to paraphrase singer Sheryl Crow.
Devil is in the Details
Energy Star rates homes and new and existing commercial buildings .The synergistic quality of an Energy Star building means the design and construction team must understand how to set building performance goals, estimate expected energy use, and use EPA tools like Target Finder (set goals) and Portfolio Manager (track energy usage). Of course, to borrow another expression: the devil is in the details. Everything from the number of computers in the building to the HVAC system to the size, type and placement of windows influences energy consumption.
The successful completion of the Energy Star project requires methodically and successfully completing several project phases. These phases include:
- Holding (and planning) meetings, data collection, and making a determination of the building’s Target Finder score and estimated carbon footprint
- Developing an action plan that includes energy and water audits, energy modeling, and ROI analysis
- Gathering utilities data and tracking progress using the Portfolio Manager
- Completing the Application Letter and the Statement of Energy Performance
Naturally, there is plenty of documentation that accompanies these steps. So many details – but the best way to manage details is step-by-step. A licensed professional can guide the building management team in Energy Star certification and annual re-certification. Yes, the Energy Star rating must be renewed annually, but that makes sense, if you think about it. Systems can degrade over time and become less energy efficient, and it would not be right to keep hanging that Energy Label plaque on the building wall, if the building cannot meet the strict requirements.
Only star buildings can wear a star.
Natural Resources Currency
We started with a quote, so let’s end with a quote. Geoscientist M. King Hubbert said, “It is evident that the fortunes of the world’s human population, for better or for worse, are inextricably interrelated with the use that is made of energy resources.”
Amen to that. Energy efficiency is simply not a matter of lowering utility bills. Long-term thinkers understand it is just as much about creating human fortunes counted in natural resources currency. This is a serious topic covered in much more detail in GBRI’s live broadcast March 20, 2013 at 3:00 PM Eastern, which will be available on demand starting March 22.
Do you know how to earn a building Energy Star label, and do you believe this rating has much more important implications than saving energy? What do you really see as the big energy picture?