The difficulties in meeting low-energy building requirements

energy efficiency, LEED, Low Energy Building, Passive House Design, Project Frog, US Green Building Council As state-enforced low-energy building requirements become ever stricter, those charged with improving energy efficiency are facing a tough challenge.

Internationally applied systems, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) system, created by the US Green Building Council, offer different awards to building designs based on how well each project meets their prescribed standards.

General Electric has recently demonstrated how in-demand the knowhow which can help in meeting these requirements is. GE, along with venture capital firms Claremont Creek Ventures, Greener Capital Partners, and RockPort Capital Partners, will invest a combined $22 million in Project Frog. Project Frog is a specialist company that uses construction tools and software modeling to create pre-engineered building kits that meet specific energy efficiency requirements.

The company specializes in school design, with kits that are designed with the LEED certification specifically in mind. According to GE, Project Frog will accelerate change in the commercial building market.

Data center power efficiency

IT firms, particularly computer data centers, are notorious for using vast amounts of energy, often inefficiently, as their circuitry and processors continue to whizz away into the night when other businesses power down for the day. Within the data center industry there exists a specific measure of power use efficiency, the PUE (power usage effectiveness), which is calculated by dividing the total facility power over the IT equipment power.

Google, one of the largest, and without a doubt the most high profile data centers, had been extremely secretive about its PUE. That was until earlier this month. The search engine has just unveiled its strategies for greener operations, including its date centers as well as other operations. In the white paper, Google outlined a series of improvements which it said have led to its PUE being reduced by around a third. These improvements included adding temperature monitoring, optimizing air vent tiles, turning up thermostats to 81 degrees and blocking the ends of “cold aisles” with curtains.

These suggestions are obviously geared towards the data center market. However, they do indicate that reducing energy costs is possible, even in high consumption fields.

Efficiency through legislation

When the private sector is not adequately pulling its weight in addressing energy efficiency issues, the state can also play a part. In Malaysia, where hotels are amongst the biggest consumers of energy, all industrial premises, offices and hotels will have to restrict their air-conditioning units at a maximum of 24°C from 2013, as part of the country’s new Energy Efficiency Act. Prior to 2013, the government will lead by example, setting air-conditioning units in government buildings at 24°C and installing energy saving bulbs instead of traditional fused models.

Irish lead the way in Passive House Design

Low energy building requirements are also increasingly common in the housing market. The Passive House standard (from the German Passivhaus) can be applied to residences that meet extremely low energy consuming properties. The standard is so strict that heating systems are not permitted, meaning that any artificial heating must be channeled through heat already by occupants.

According to Construction Ireland’s editor, the Irish construction industry is leading the field, with the second highest number of certified Passive House designers in the world.

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