Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sustainable Purchasing Policy

I drafted a Sustainable Purchasing Policy for my Campus’ Student Association and it was successfully approved by council this week. The policy sets guidelines that can be followed to ensure that items purchased have as little effect on the environment as possible. The goal is to reduce the waste we generate, support manufacturers who use recycled content, and support local businesses.

The policy clearly states that it is a guideline and that it does not need to be followed. This is to ensure that the Student’s Association is able to function in its role. The policy is in place to get people thinking about how the purchasing choices  they make can effect the environment. In my role as the VP of Finance I track and report all purchases, and with this new policy in place I will also be tracking which purchases meet the criteria set forth. We will measure our performance based on the percentage of purchases that are sustainable. There is currently no minimum threshold that we need to achieve, but over time we may adopt an acceptable standard.

The purchasing policy was drafted using the LEED Operations and Maintenance guide as a template and it meets the requirements of Materials and Resources Prerequisite #1. Under LEED O&M a sustainable purchasing policy is mandatory, and you get extra points if you follow it. I feel that just by having one in place people are likely to follow it, and by not making in mandatory you are far more likely to have it adopted by building managers.

I have uploaded a copy of the purchasing policy here.

EEBE Walkthrough Audit

Today our groups performed our walkthrough audits for the Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment project. Our house that we audited was only a couple years old and was quite energy efficient already. We were armed with some pretty sophisticated tools and a great set of checklists that we prepared.

Dan Boyd from the Nova Scotia Homebuilders Association was on hand to perform the blower door test for us. The home we audited previously tested at 1.4 air changes per hour (ACH) but we won’t know how it faired out today until we get the data entered into HOT2000.

We tested the envelope of the building with the thermal imaging gun to look for thermal bridges. We found lots at the studs in the walls and the ceiling, as well as all along the headers and rim joists. Thermal bridges are pathways where heat escapes and are common in standard construction. Modern construction methods are working to eliminate them all together but not all builders are using them right now. We didn’t find any missing insulation or sagging around the windows.

We used an air quality meter to measure temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels on each floor. This will help us determine how effective the ventilation system is. The home has a heat recovery ventilator to reclaim the heat during the ventilation process.

The lighting was quite different throughout the house. We found compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen, as well as incandescent bulbs depending on what fixture we were looking at. We will recommend that the incandescent bulbs be replaced with CFLs.

South is located to the rear of the home and there is an excellent solar resource there. We will be creating a model for a solar system to determine the payback before we make that recommendation. I expect it will be feasible because of the location and the number of occupants (the more people the more hot water used). We will also look into using a drain water heat recovery system to reclaim heat from the drain water.

Water efficiency on the inside of the house was given attention when the home was designed, but the exterior could have some improvements. There are a lot of plants outside so a rain barrel to capture rainwater for watering would reduce potable water usage. Mulch should also be added around the shrubs to reduce evaporation from the soil and hopefully reduce the need for additional watering.

The heating system is about as good as it can get. The owner has an air source heat pump with an electric furnace for a backup. Since the subdivision was blasted out of the side of a rock mountain a ground source heat pump would be too much of an expense to be worth it.

Tomorrow we will start to sift through all the data we collected and come up with some more ideas for low cost or no cost recommendations for the home owner.

Sustainable Transportation at my Campus

This week at my campus is Sustainable Transportation Awareness Week. I am on the executive of the student association and I am organizing this event. This week we are giving out prizes to encourage people to use sustainable transportation. I am also using the event as a learning exercise for LEED for Existing Buildings. The event kicked off on Friday with a transportation survey. The survey meets the requirements of LEED EB:O&M Sustainable Sites Credit #4. Normally there would be a mandatory minimum number of responses to the survey but we don’t have the authority to make it mandatory. We are also only sending it out on one day, instead of for an entire week like LEED requires. The survey should give us an idea of the times of commutes that students and staff take. We will be giving out a cash prize to one randomly selected person who responds to the survey.

Every day this week you can be entered into a second draw if you use sustainable transportation to get to school. We will accept walking, cycling, or any other non-motorized transportation. Also accepted are hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles, and carpools of 3 or more people in a traditional vehicle.

On Friday of next week we will be doing “Crazy but Safe Sustainable Transportation Day.” We will be giving a prize out to one random person who uses an unconventional method of transportation to get to school. Some examples might be roller skates, skip-it, or stilts. This day is designed to bring awareness to the need for sustainable transportation, and to be fun.

The student association executive at our campus this year is made up entirely of students in the Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology program. I expect that we will have several new green events over the course of the year.

The results of our transportation survey.

Innovative Products I Discovered in the Greenbuild Expo Hall

Before I went to Greenbuild NEXT in Toronto I mapped out the Expo Hall so I wouldn’t waste too much time in there. They had over 900 exhibitors so I made a list of the ones I wanted to visit before I got there. Of the 90 that I narrowed my list down to there were two that I was really impressed by. I want to share some details with you below.

BioNova Natural Pool

BioNova makes home swimming pools that do not use chemicals to condition the water. Their pools are naturally purified using a built in water garden adjacent to the pool. Plants are chosen for their water regeneration capabilities and other are chosen for their  decorative appeal. More info at their website.

A BioNova Natural Pool

EcoVéa: The World’s Most Intelligent Shower

This shower saves up to 80% of the water and energy used by a standard shower. It does this by analyzing the drain water to determine what is clean and what is dirty. The clean water is filtered, treated, and returned to the shower head. This reuses the water and the heat it contains.  This takes it a step beyond drainwater heat recovery system which just reuse the heat but waste the water. More info at their website.

EEBE Project Update

We are now 3 days into the Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment project and there have been some changes to the work that we will be doing. We will not be auditing Habitat for Humanity homes as we had originally planned. The reason for this is that we were not able to get architectural drawings for those houses, and without drawings we would need to measure which would add hours to the project. Because the timeframe is only 3 weeks we have selected different homes to allow us to focus on learning the skills that are most important.

We were put into teams and each team will conduct an audit. Our team consists of:
Fin MacDonald (Me) – NSCC, Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology
Sarah Mitchell – NSCC, Contruction Management
Arwin Hidding – Hanze University (The Netherlands), Architecture
John Booth –  ITCarlow (Ireland), Construction Building Services

The project based learning approach places us in groups with diverse skills so we can draw off each others talents. Some of us are early in our study and some of us are at the end, so our skills levels vary. There will be lots to be learned during this project.

The house we have chosen is the larger of the two. It has 3 floors including a basement. It also features some complex roof geometry. It will be more challenging to model but we chose it because it comes with 2 years of utility data so we will be able to benchmark the consumption.

Our group is currently working on a HOT2000 model of the home and today was the first day some of my group members have seen this software before. The HOT2000 model will allow us to calculate the energy load of the building as well as determine the feasibility of building upgrades. We are also creating a 3D model of the home in Autodesk Revit. Revit is a similar program to Google Sketchup but with much more advanced features. We will be calculating the Building Energy Performance Index (BEPI) and Building Energy Cost Index (BECI) as soon as we get the past utility data. These indices will allow us to benchmark the building against others in Canada. They will be normalized for building area as well as weather to aid in the comparison.

The on-site audit will take place next week, and I will provide another update after that happens.

EEBE Phase 1 – Habitat for Humanity Home Audits

The first phase of the Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment (EEBE) program with NSCC International will take place in Halifax, NS. I will be based out of the NSCC Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth during that time. We will be joined by students from Hanze University in the Netherlands and IT Carlow in Ireland. The 3 week project will be to perform complete energy audits of 2 habitat for humanity homes in the area. We will be broken into teams and each team will be assigned a house. We will visit the home to perform the physical audit and use tools like thermal imaging guns and a blower door. We will take measurements so that we can create an energy model using HOT2000, which is free software from Natural Resources Canada. The software will allow us to add upgrades and determine how they will affect the energy performance of the building. We will also be checking the houses against the LEED for Homes checklist to see how well they line up with some of the broader green strategies beyond energy efficiency. At the end of the 3 weeks we will prepare a report and presentation of our findings and recommendations.

Outside of the project work we will have some presentations and tours included in the 3 week period. We will tour Thermodynamics Ltd who manufacture solar panels for hot water heating. We will also be touring the Efficiency Nova Scotia demonstration homes built by Denim Homes. The new Halifax Seaport Farmers Market is also on our list.

William Marshall from Equilibrium Engineering will be training us on HOT2000. I’ve been trained already but I am looking forward to refreshing my knowledge. We will also hear presentations from Josh MacLean from Efficiency NS, Allan Read from ITCarlow, and Gualdino Duarte Pais from Hanze University.

This project will be my life for the next 3 weeks. I am fortunate to have instructors at my home campus in Middleton who are willing to meet me half way and allow me the to be away from classes for 3 weeks. I will still be responsible for the material covered during that time but will not have to attend classes.

Our teams will start each day at 8:30 am and work as long as it takes to complete the project. Outside of the project work we aim to be good hosts to our Irish and Dutch guests! We’ll be introducing them to some of what Nova Scotia has to offer culturally, and we will be meeting them at the hostel first thing on Monday to show them the way to school on the first day.

                

Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment

I recently learned that I have been selected to take part in a international exchange program through NSCC International. The program is called “Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment.” It is a joint venture between the Nova Scotia Community College, Holland College in PEI, Institute of Technology Carlow in Carlow Ireland, and Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, The Netherlands. This project based learning venture will feature students in Architecture, Civil Engineering, Construction Management, Electrical Engineering, Energy Sustainability, and Mechanical Engineering. It will be a great chance for me to get some experience working with people in other disciplines.

The first stage will be a three week project in Dartmouth, NS. Each of the four schools will work together with local community partners, industry and relevant agencies to solve energy efficiency challenges related to constructing and retro-fitting homes. A special emphasis will be on low income housing and efficiency awareness and education education for the owners and tenants.

In late February the team will travel to Carlow, Ireland to undertake a second project. The details of this project will be worked out in the near future. Upon our return from Carlow we will prepare a final report as well as a presentation for the Technology Showcase 2012.

This project will allow me to gain international experience and an international perspective on energy efficiency. In densely populated areas like Europe resources are much scarcer and energy efficiency is a much more urgent priority. For this reason they are further ahead in their construction and conservation methods. I’m excited for what I can learn from them.

Greenbuild is Green

Tomorrow I will be leaving for Greenbuild and I wanted to talk a little bit about the green features that the conference will have. When you register for the conference you need to enter how far you will be travelling to get to Greenbuild, and your method of transportation. This is because Greenbuild will be offsetting the carbon associated with the travel as one of its green initiatives. Most of the conference hotels are within walking distance of the event. If you are staying at one of the few that are too far to walk you will receive a complementary 3-day transit pass with your registration.

The conference will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center (MTCC) in the heart of downtown Toronto. The MTCC will ensure that it is a zero waste event and will reuse or recycle 97% of all waste generated. Volunteers will be at all the waste stations helping attendees sort their waste. The event will also be powered using renewable energy. The energy will be generated off site and guaranteed available on the grid through renewable energy certificates. The menu for the event will all be locally sourced. Food, beer and wine available on-site will be from within 100 miles of the conference.

Maroon 5 will be headlining the opening celebration. The band practices green touring and travel using a bio-diesel powered tour bus. The band members also live on an organic food diet.

Exhibitors will be encouraged to be as green as possible when developing their displays. Green Exhibitor awards will be available to those who exceed the standards developed for the expo hall.

When it comes to being green Greenbuild is a winner. They certainly walk the walk. I’m excited to see all the green initiatives in action this week!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 177 other followers