Wednesday, December 9, 2009

LEED for Sub Training

On November 5th, the Massachusetts Membership Forum (soon to be MA USGBC Chapter) hosted a "LEED for Subs" workshop. Suffolk and Moriarty were the workshop sponsors, NSTAR was the venue host, Ver-Tex the lunch sponsor, and Consigli and Erland the table sponsors. The event had more than 120 people in attendance, mostly sub-contractors. It was very well received, with lots of positive comments in the session reviews. I opened the 1/2 day event with a presentation on the following:

– Why Build Green
– US Green Building Council
– LEED® Rating Systems
– LEED® 2009
– LEED® Credit Categories

The presentation is attached. Bill Holland followed with a presentation on the Materials and Resources credits and Marie Nolan with one on the Indoor Environmental Quality credits. Jim Newman closed the session talking about green building resources.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

HRES Solar Thermal

On Friday, Andrea Ruedy Trimble, Jessica Parks, Carol Healy, Zhen Wu, Mitch Hunter, and Fady Ghattas of the Harvard Office for Sustainability took a tour of the solar thermal installations on 472-474 Broadway and 20-20a Prescott Streets in Cambridge. Bjorn Storz of Harvard Real Estate Services lead the tour. There are 14 flat plate collectors on the two roofs and they are expected to provide 30 to 40% of the domestic water demand. The solar planels collect heat through a glycol loop which is pumpted to plate frame heat exchangers in the basements. From there a water loop transfers heat to storage tanks. Finally, another set of plate fram heat exchangers transfers the heat to pre-heat the domestic water, which receives additioanl heating from natural gas boilers. The installation is expected to reduce GHG emissions by 13 MTCDE per year and save 2,300 therms of natural gas.

The systems performance is being tracked real time and available on the web. The public is invited to track the performance of the system by visiting and logging in with username "frei" and password "frei". Solid Solar, the manufacturers, are continuing to monitor the system from Germany and making slight tweeks to the controls to optimize its performance.

Everybody on the Office for Sustainability staff enjoyed the tour and hopes to see more such installations on roofs around Harvard and elsewhere.

Read more.

Wasted Energy or Hospitality?

On Friday, we stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, MA. The hotel is relatively nice with a great location right on the Charles River overlooking Boston, just a short walk to the Garden / North Station where we watched the Boston Celtics lose to the Orlando Magic (Boston was 2 for 19 from the 3 point line - ouch). When opening the door to our rooms (we had a large suite and a standard twin room that were connected), we were greeted by electric light. Lots and lots of electric light. In fact, there were at least 8 lights on between the two rooms. Each was controlled by a separate switch and had obviously been on for some time awaiting our arrival. We were just stopping by to drop off our bags and then walk to the Celtics game so I quickly made the rounds and made sure to shut off every one before leaving.

After the game we returned to our hotel room shocked to find it equally well lit as when we first arrived. This time I counted and there were definitely 8 separate lights turned on between the two rooms. It seems that in the three hours we were gone, somebody had come into the room just to put chocolates on our pillow and to turn on the lights. It was as if they had each room separately metered and immediately sent somebody up to turn on the lights the second the electricity demand dropped below 100 watts in any room. I called the front desk to ask why our lights were on and was told that it is their policy to do this every time somebody goes into a room, be it to clean up or just to drop off some chocolates. At my request they would not be turning on my lights for the remainder of our stay.

Admittedly, the lights were all compact fluorescents, but this gesture seems disingenuous when the hotel admits keeping lights on at all times is company policy. It also seems at odds with their "Passion for the Environment" signage in the bathroom.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Water Savings Calculations

Question sent by email:

I've heard you say you can save 40% of domestic water without any added cost. How do you do this? Is it use of gray water for flushing in addition to waterless urinals, low flow toilets, aerators on sinks, etc???


It was very easy to do in the past with fixture selection. The water efficient fixtures we use have no added cost compared to conventional fixtures. We could save a tiny bit more with gravity fed toilets (the kind with the tank like you have at home), but we usually use flushometer toilets (the more commercial kind with the silver pipes sticking out of the wall).

Lets look at the calculations assuming there are two people in the building, one man and one woman.

Base Case (code compliant)

Toilet = 1.6 gpf - 3 times/day for woman, 1 time for man

Urinal = 1.0 gpf - 0 times/day for woman, 2 times for man

Sink = 2.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 3 times/day for 25 seconds for everybody

Shower = 2.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 1 times/day for 5 minutes for 10% of people

Design Case (what we do)

Toilet = 1.6 / 1.1 gpf dual flush - 1 full 2 half times/day for woman, 1 full for man

Urinal = 0 gpf - 0 times/day for woman, 2 times for man

Sink = 0.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 3 times/day for 20 seconds (sensors) for everybody

Shower = 1.6 gpm @ 80 psi - 1 time/day for 5 minutes for 10% of people

The scenario above would save 48.1% of the water in an office setting based on a comparison to EPAct 1992 (calculation for LEED NC v2.2):

Now we usually get a little less credit for the same water usage because the base case for commercial sinks has been reduced to 0.5 gpm @ 60 psi.

Base Case (code compliant)

Toilet = 1.6 gpf - 3 times/day for woman, 1 time for man

Urinal = 1.0 gpf - 0 times/day for woman, 2 times for man

Sink = 0.5 gpm @ 60 psi - 3 times/day for 25 seconds for everybody

Shower = 2.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 1 times/day for 5 minutes for 10% of people

Design Case (what we do)

Toilet = 1.6 / 1.1 gpf dual flush - 1 full 2 half times/day for woman, 1 full for man

Urinal = 0 gpf - 0 times/day for woman, 2 times for man

Sink = 0.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 3 times/day for 20 seconds (sensors) for everybody

Shower = 1.6 gpm @ 80 psi - 1 time/day for 5 minutes for 10% of people

The scenario above would save 34.8% of the water in an office setting based on a comparison to EPAct 1992 and the new commercial fixture rules (calculation for LEED 2009). Of course there is no kitchen sink in this example (assuming a college dorm), but that would have to be added in if appropriate:

Residential buildings code still allows 2.5 gpm sinks, so we typically save 38.1% in old and new versions of LEED.

Base Case (code compliant)

Toilet = 1.6 gpf - 5 flushes/day for all

Sink = 0.5 gpm @ 60 psi - 5 times/day for 25 seconds

Shower = 2.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 1 time/day for 5 minutes

Design Case (what we do)

Toilet = 1.6 / 1.1 gpf dual flush - 1 full & 4 half flushes/day for all

Sink = 0.5 gpm @ 80 psi - 5 times/day for 25 seconds

Shower = 1.6 gpm @ 80 psi - 1 times/day for 5 minutes

Of course the calculations above are done for 2 people, but the percent reduction will remain the same regardless of the number of people as long as you assume a 50/50 split between men and women.

We have plans to use greywater in some buildings and one of my projects in South Carolina did th
is (see Half Moon Outfitters case study). Showers really drive the numbers in residential buildings and it is possible to go below 1.6 gpm. We usually use Delta H20 Kinetic showers, but many of the best low-flow showers aren't allowed in Massachusetts because they're not on the approved plumbing list. The toilet in the top right is a tank-type dual flush from Dubai. The urinal on the bottom left uses no water for flushing and has a trap that can be cleaned and refilled with oil (Kohler Steward).

Hope this helps.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Soldiers Field Park Wind Turbines

On September 22, Harvard Real Estate Services installed two 10-kilowatt Bergey Excel wind turbines on the top deck of the Soldiers Field Park Garage. We were on-hand to witness the installation and talked with the project manager (Chris Packard of JLL) and contractor (Tom Dowd of North Shore Solar and Wind Power). The turbines atop their 40 foot towers look great and are noticeable from a large part of Allston and Cambridge. The poles are mounted to steel supports that go through the top deck and down two more floors. The turbines automatically track the wind and are set to veer away from the wind if it is too high. The garage was recently retrofitted (project managed by our group - the Green Building Services of the Office for Sustainability) with all new vapor tight super T-8 fixtures and occupancy sensors and is testing some pole mounted LED fixtures on the top deck. The new lights are predicted to save about 40% in energy costs, greatly increasing the percentage of the building powered by the new turbines. The turbines are are expected to produce enough electricity to power six average American homes. A link to a Harvard Gazette article can be found here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Calculating Energy Savings

On Friday, I presented a brown bag lunch presentation on Calculating Energy Savings to the OFS staff. The presentation started with a look at some spreadsheets I'd created to quickly calculate the savings from two easy energy retrofits... reduced pressure drop air filters and premium efficiency motors. The Excel file had pages started for calculating a number of other types of savings, but wasn't quite ready to share at this time. Next we went over part of the attached Power Point starting with how to calculate lighting fixture requirement using the Lumen Method (the agenda on the second page of the presentation was never changed to represent the actual presentation). We then went over the Fundamental Law of Illumination and how fixture distance affects illuminance. The presentation continued with an explanation of energy models and how they work. We then finished by looking at an eQUEST version 3.62 model for one of the undergraduate houses and quickly reviewing some of the inputs and summary reports. About 6 people attended.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Integrated Design and LEED

On Monday, September 14th, I taught my first full lecture at our ENVR 119, Green Building Design, Construction and Operations class at the Harvard Extension School. The class was well attended (about 40 people in the classroom) and was watched by many more live via the web. For the first time we had an online chat room up so that people could talk to each other during the class and ask questions, which teaching fellow Andrea Ruedy Trimble would read aloud. We know at least one student watched from Brazil and we expect the class from Tsinghua University in China to watch the recorded version. Tsinghua University has partnered with the Extension School to offer our class at their University, watching our lectures and using our assignments, but grading their own papers and supplementing our lectures with their own introductions.

The class on Monday was extended to three hours instead of its usual two hour format. For the first hour, I spoke about Integrated Design. The class asked lots of good questions and we had excellent participation. Rafal Shurma spoke next for one hour about international green building rating systems. It always makes me smile to see BREAM for Prisons as a formal rating system. Finally, I spoke from 9:30 to 10:30 pm about the US Green Building Council's LEED Rating System. I talked about the overall structure of the LEED system and then walked through the specific environmental attributes identified in the 2009 version of LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations. We also announced a study group for students wanting to prepare for the LEED Green Associate examination. A surprisingly high percentage of students stayed in class until 10:30 and about 5 even stuck around to ask questions. Copies of both of my presentations are attached.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

LEED for Homes Platinum

Walked by 2 Grant Street the other day. This is Harvard's first LEED for Homes Platinum building. It was a full-gut renovation of a 1,000 square foot house originally built in 1867. The project used a Mitsubishi Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) to ventilate the house in an energy efficient manner (pictured). This is a preferred method of ventilation compared to ventilating by leaving the building envelope really leaky (the more common method) and is especially effective in a hot-roof application where insulation is applied directly to the underside of the roof (as was done in 2 Grant). The project uses a high efficiency condensing furnace (95.5% efficient) for heat and air conditioner (13 SEER) for cooling and Icynene spray insulation to improve the envelope performance. Domestic hot water is provided by an instantaneous water heater as needed by the occupants (no storage tank) and all appliances were selected to be Energy Star rated. The team selected all low-emitting materials and otherwise environmentally friendly materials, water efficient fixtures (saving 40%), and carefully designed the project to be durable and avoid mold or moisture damage. This is only the second LEED for Homes Platinum at any university and the fist renovation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Green Building Class

On Monday, we had the first ENVR 119, Green Building Design, Construction, and Operations class of the year. So far there are more than 75 students signed up for the class that is offered live and via distance learning. This is the fourth time we've offered ENVR 119. Jack Spengler (pictured above right) provided the course introduction as well as a lecture on the impacts of buildings on the environment and human health. Dr. Spengler is the Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation in the Exposure, Epidemiology & Risk Program, within the Department of Environmental Health, at Harvard University's School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts and is a world renowned expert on indoor air quality. Andrea Trimble followed with a review of the course syllabus and schedule. Andrea (pictured to the left) is manager of the Harvard Office for Sustainability Green Building Services. Rafal Schurma and Agnes Vorbrodt-Schurma introduced themselves and spoke briefly about their experiences starting the Polish Green Building Council. I followed with a very brief introduction of myself and a quick presentation on integrated design and the design and construction process (time was limited). A copy of my presentation can be found below.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Owner's Project Requirements Charette

On Wednesday we held a goal setting meeting for the Sherman Fairchild project (a laboratory building full gut renovation). Representatives from the Architect, MEP Engineer, Project Management, Operations and Maintenance, Occupants, Office for Sustainability (both the green building services and the occupant engagement groups), Engineering and Utilities, IT, and EH&S were present to decide what constituted a "successful" project. Establishing goals and measures of success up front is important to getting everybody on the same page and should help quicken the design process and minimize change orders as all stakeholders have had a chance to provide their feedback.

Project goals were collected in the areas of "Project Performance", "Environmental Performance", "Human Health and Comfort", "Operations and Maintenance", and "Training and Education". OFS staff lead the meeting using the Nominal Group Technique, which collects a list of ideas from all stakeholders, gives attendees time to ask clarifying questions, and then ranks the goals to identify the most important. We'll take the results and compile a ranked set of project goals and the Owner's Project Requirements (OPR). The design team will respond to these documents in each of their design submittals and the commissioning authority will use OPR during the commissioning process. The agenda for the four hour meeting is attached here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kovac Lab Commissioning

Jesse Foote, Kevin Sheehan, and I visited the Kovac Lab on Thursday to do some of the functional testing / witness testing. The lighting controls weren't ready yet, but we confirmed the air balancing for supply and exhaust, went over the heat pump and condensate pump checklist, verified fire dampers and access panels, checked as-built drawings, looked for pipe insulation and labels, and reviewed the thermostat settings. The project looked really good and the gentleman from Comfort Air Solutions out of Framingham was really helpful. We found a large wall penetration above the ACT for cables that should be filled in (the lab calls for negative pressure and deck-to-deck partitions). We also found one fire damper that was covered up and made inaccessible as well as some un-labeled piping. The biggest concern was a lack of control dampers on the two outside air ducts. We drilled holes for a traverse in one and found the outside air to be over 37% higher than called for by the design engineer, which would result in a lot of extra heating and cooling energy. We didn't bother testing the second intake because of the lack of a control damper made making changes impossible at this time. A couple of issues were outside of the scope of work of the current project team, like no air being exhausted from the restrooms (despite supply air being delivered and an exhaust air grill) and existing air diffusers in one room directing supply air directly at the exterior wall and windows (we suggested rotating the diffuser 180 degrees). Our final recommendation was to review the thermostat schedule with the occupants and include occupant training as part of building turnover, as it seemed like the current occupied hours setting of 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM for weekdays and 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM for weekends might be unnecessarily long. We'll return soon to confirm the lighting controls.

Monday, August 10, 2009

After Dark Interview

My first (and only) TV interview is now available on the web. Holly Hurley of After Dark conducted an interview this winter for a segment titled "Conservation in Brookline." The entire interview, which is hopefully edited to make me look smarter in the actual TV show, is posted on the BASEnet website.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

DDC Training

Andrea and I attended the first of two Direct Digital Controls Systems classes this morning to learn more about optimizing building management systems. Greg Kousidis of Harvard's Facilities Management Operations group taught the four hour class using the BMS simulator he helped create. The simulator has a working model of two air handling units complete with fans, heating and cooling coils, temperature and humidity sensors, and much more. FMO and OFS (HGCI at the time) modified the Introduction to DDC and the System 600 APOGEE training materials to create the class. Today's class covered an Introduction to DDC, DDC Hardware, and the first part of Communicating with your Field Panel. Next week's class will finish Communicating with your Field Panel and end with Insight Basics. Greg will teach the rest of the OFS Building Service group later this month.

Talk at GSD

Our director and I guest lectured on Wednesday this week in the Planning and Building Sustainable Campuses executive education class at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. About 20 students attended the class, which was organized by Dan Kenney and a team from Sasaki Architects. My part of the lecture is attached. I'd taken the group on a tour of Rockefeller Hall (soon to be LEED NC v2.2 Gold) to the same group on Tuesday. Roy Lauridsen of the Harvard Divinity School met us at the building and lead the tour.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Holyoke 4th Floor Commissioning

This morning we conducted functional testing as part of our commissioning of the Holyoke Center 4th Floor fit-out. During the electrical portion of the commissioning, we confirmed all occupancy sensors were working correctly and set to the proper timing (the first project we've looked at with all occupancy sensors working correctly before commissioning). However, we noticed that the light fixtures were not dimming up and down based on the presence of daylight as they were supposed to. It turns out they needed to be set up with the photosensor tool before they'll dim, but this had not been done. We were able to work with the lighting installer and have them set the minimum (nearly off) and maximum (set to provide just over 50 foot candles at the work surfaces rather than fully on) levels for each fixture. We also made sure operating the daylight responsive dimming feature was added to the operator training planned for the next day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

SCUP Conference

Last week at the SCUP conference we presented on the Hamilton Hall project from the Business School. The architect, Nancy Goodwin of Finegold Alexander + Associates, started by introducing the project and it's LEED gold rating. Ken Beck, project engineer from BLW Engineers, followed with a talk about the building's controls, which included the first use of occupancy sensors to control thermostats on campus. I followed with a look at how the Buisiness School and the University leveraged the initial successes from Hamilton Hall into bigger successesses in future projects and eventually into campus-wide policy changes. A copy of the presentation can be found here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

BCA Commissioning Requirements

Posting on BCA Group at LinkedIn: There has been a lot of discussion about the BCA's certification being too difficult to obtain. The Certification comittee is looking for ways to make the certification easier to obtain without sacrificing the integrity of the certification. Ideas?

Response: As someone who has worked with a lot of bad commissioning authorities, I think the BCA certification requirements are great. How many projects have a commissioning authority sign off despite never having an OPR or BOD? How many CxA's use the nominal group technique to facilitate development of the OPR? How many CxA's use Guideline 4 to prepare the systems manual? CxA's that confirm As-Builts are As-Built? CxA's that suggest envelope commissioning in a complex building? I think the BCA and U of Wisconsin certifications give educated owners a level of confidence in their consultants and help give the industry a better image. I've worked on lots of clients who feel (after paying for bad commissioning) that it was a worthless investment though I'm convinced and the data supports that good commissioning is the smartest investment an owner can make. Nathan

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Somebody recently asked for a copy of our GreenBuild 2008 presentation. For a copy, please click here. While I'm at it, here's a copy of an old "Green Buildings at Harvard" presentation (very outdated now).

"Advertising" Green Buildings

Question: I work for the Office of Sustainability at ### University. I was wondering if you could direct me to the individual in your office who would know about green building done at Harvard. Specifically, I'm interested to know if any of the Harvard's green buildings have innovative ways of advertising their innovations.


We have a pretty big campus and over 60 green building / LEED projects and each advertises their innovation a little differently. We have real time utility displays in some:

All completed projects get case studies (eventually):

We put the technologies used in an online database:

And a lot of projects have comprehensive signage programs, lab hood CFM displays, tours that are publicly available, etc. We usually try to write an article about new projects for our website:

We then try to link to this site on the AASHE bulletin.

A couple of years ago we published a map of all our green building projects in the Harvard Gazette (click on the image on the bottom right):

Hope this helps,


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Funny LEED Review

Earlier this month, an associate received a preliminary LEED review questioning their submittal for MR prerequisite 1, Collection and Storage of Recyclables. Specifically, the reviewer didn't feel that the recycling collection listed in the document on the top right, which includes "Cans, Glass & Plastic", in addition to the paper and cardboard collection elsewhere in the building, met the requirements of LEED. The review stated that collecting "cans" was not sufficient to cover the "metal" recycling required by LEED. While I assured my associate that they could still get the prerequisite with some clever wordsmithing, I was quite amused last week when I visited the new USGBC headquarters at 2101 L Street, NW in Washington, DC and saw the recycling collection bins pictured on the bottom left, which collect "Glass, Cans & Plastic". Do you think they'll fail to achieve LEED CI status because they missed a prerequisite?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dunster Kitchen Controls

Our Dining Services group recently worked with National Resources Management to reduce energy consumption in their kitchens. They put in controls to to reduce short cycling of the walk-in cooler and freezer compressors, run the evaporator fans only when needed, and run the defrost cycle based on coil temperature. NRM also installed anti-sweat door heater controls and replaced the small evaporator fans with much more efficient Electronically Commutated Motors (ECM) motors, as is being done in the picture on the right in a cooler at Dunster House, where 2 coolers and 2 freezers were upgraded. The new controls are able to be monitored remotely to track refrigerator and cooler performance and to verify energy savings (the small image on the bottom right shows a screen shot tracking the Dunster House kitchen). The overall project covered 14 walk-in coolers and 8 walk-in freezers in 4 kitchens, cost about $80,000 after utility rebates, is estimated to save over $28,000 annually (simple payback in less than 3 years), and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 62 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Details of the Dunster project are included on the bottom left. The whole project was funded through the Green Campus Loan Fund and the loan will be repaid as the energy savings are realized.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SmartBike DC

When I got off at the Foggy Bottom Metro Stop in Washington, DC on Sunday, I saw a bike rack full of identical (similar) red bikes. The bikes were part of a membership-based shared bike program (like ZipCar for autos). It is my understanding that for $40 a year, members of this program have unlimited use of the bikes. SmartBike DC claims to be America's first self-service public bike rental program. Not sure how effective it is, but it is nice to see as you get off the subway.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Energy Simulation Consultants?

Question from LinkedIn LEED AP Group: Where can I find a consulting firm that specializes in Energy Simulations?
Response from SustainableDCS: Almost any MEP can give you an energy model usable for EAc1 (most already use Trace or HAP to do their load sizing, both of which are acceptable for this simulation). Most will complete the model at the end of design to tell you how many LEED points you'll get. This is the least expensive option, but offers no real value to the design process. A good modeling firm will provide multiple parametric runs to help identify the best orientation, envelope, HVAC, etc. Some will also provid CFD analysis for natural or hybrid ventilation (or fume hood containment and avoiding exhaust plume reintrainment), daylight simulation, or radiant temperature simulation, depending on your needs. Transolar is the best we've used for the fancy stuff ( ). We really like Andelman and Lelek for eQuest models ( ).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hip Hop Archive Cx part II

In a previous post we showed some photos of the commissioning process from the Hip Hop Archive. One of the items we added to our issues list was the lack of a fresh air duct that was supposed to be connected to one of the heat pumps. Though the duct was shown on the construction documents and as-built drawings, we couldn't find it in the field. After a lot of back-and-forth with the contractor, it turns out the duct never made it from the fresh air intake and no fresh air was being provided to the spaces served by this heat pump. The two pictures attached show the same access panel before commissioning (no duct) and after (with duct). The team also found that the filter could not be accessed in one of the other heat pumps, another item that the contractor has since fixed. This is our first attempt at self-commissioning a small fit-out project and the experience proved very valuable.