Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Monthly Archives: September 2011

What is next for Green Building?

The theme of Greenbuild in Toronto this year is “What is next for green building.” With that in mind I have been thinking a lot about just what the future will hold. The LEED construction rating systems don’t contain any requirements for green building operations after construction. The LEED Operations and Maintenance rating system was created to remedy this, however right now it is under utilized. I think one of the things that will happen next is that more buildings will seek the operations certification as well. Recently the Empire State Building as well as Toronto’s TD Bank tower have both obtained LEED Gold certification under this rating system. These iconic buildings set a fine example for others and prove that LEED is not just for new buildings. By greening our existing buildings we move one step closer to the ultimate goal of green cities.

Green cities are another thing that will happen next. Both the USGBC and the CaGBC have buildings in their strategic plan as being a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of green cities. Before we can have this outcome we will face some significant hurdles. City infrastructure will need to be improved to allow buildings to share resources. The notion of net-zero will need to shift from the scope of the building to the scope of the city and this will require more advanced water and electrical facilities. I have no doubt that LEED will eventually develop a rating system or guide for green cities.

People will be a big part of what is next. I believe Emerging Green Builders (EGB) will play a significant role in the future. EGBs are young professionals less than 5 years into their careers or students. I am an EGB and our group was educated with sustainability in mind. We are freshly starting out and have our whole careers ahead of us. It is safe to say that we will be involved in whatever happens next for Green Building. I’m excited to be a part of it!


Mapping the Greenbuild Expo Hall

This years Greenbuild will bring over 900 different exhibitors to Toronto and fill two halls with booths at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. This is easily the largest event I have ever attended. Since I want to get the most out of my experience I have taken the time to research which booths I would like to visit. I only have 11 hours to myself during my 4 day trip to Toronto and this is the only time I have available to visit exhibits. I would like to have as much left over to see some sights in Toronto so it is extremely important that I develop a plan of attack for the exhibit hall.

My main interests lie in new and innovative products and technologies. I am looking to be impressed! I am also going to be visiting several companies that I have targeted for employment once I graduate. It will be a great chance to have someone from the company tell me about what they do and how they like working there.

I was able to narrow the 940 exhibitors down to a list of 89 that I would like to see. The majority of them are in the north exhibit hall so I will visit that on the first night and try to get that out of the way. The Greenbuild website has a really useful tool that allows you to select the booths you want to visit and print a map so you can take the most optimum route through the hall. I’ll be keeping the ones I’ve chosen to myself for now but watch for an update after the conference to see which ones impressed me.

A picture of the exhibit hall from a previous Greenbuild Expo

Flow Meters, Solar Power and the WEL

I am back from a bit of a break and have been doing some solar monitoring projects using flow meters. The benefit of the flow meter is it allows you to do an energy calculation and determine just how much energy the solar panels are saving you. Up until now I have been working on measuring the glycol energy, and the glycol uses a constant flow rate. The water side of the system is different because the flow is based on the buildings hot water demand. Without a flow meter or an estimated flow rate all you are really doing is measuring temperatures. Flow meters work by sending an electric pulse every time a specific volume of fluid passes them. Most give one pulse per gallon or one pulse per 10 gallons. The Web Energy Logger (WEL) counts how many of these pulses you receive each minute. You can easily scale this value with the WEL’s programming to whatever engineering units you want. I prefer liters per second. Once you have the WEL measuring the flow properly you can move on to the energy calculations.

The formula for calculating the solar output is as follows:

Solar Heat Output = (volume flow rate)*(density of the fluid)*(specific heat of fluid)*(temperature differential created by the solar system)

You can also calculate the total heating required by the building by measuring the temperature differential between the cold water supply and the final hot water on the outlet of the furnace. You apply the same formula as the solar output but using the new temperature differential.

Total Heating = (volume flow rate)*(density of the fluid)*(specific heat of fluid)*(temperature differential created by the entire heating system)

The total heating value can be used to calculate the percentage of the total water heating load that the solar system is able to meet. This percentage is known as the solar fraction.

Solar Fraction = (solar heat output) / (total heating) * 100

If you are monitoring an active solar system (one that uses electricity to run) then you will need to subtract the electrical energy used by the pump and control system from the solar output to get a fair representation of how much you are indeed saving. In most cases the equipment will use a minimal amount of energy but it is important to factor it in because over the course of the year it does add up.

Once you have the WEL calculating these values you can start logging daily, monthly, and annual totals. This will provide great insight into the effectiveness of your solar thermal system. It is important to note that without measurement you can never be sure that the system is working even if it is brand new. The math formulas and calculations for monitoring solar systems might seem a little tedious at first but before long it will become old hat.

An example of this in action can be found here:

A flow meter with an electronic pulse head counter

The above flow meter installed on a domestic hot water system

CaGBC Atlantic Chapter AGM

Today I attended the annual general meeting for the Atlantic Chapter of the CaGBC. I recently joined the local chapter and wanted to attend to meet other members, board members, and learn about the chapter.

The Atlantic Chapter has one part time employee on the payroll, and this is the Executive Director Lara Ryan. The rest of the positions are volunteer based. The chapter has 16 board members. There are also four committees:
1) Education Committee
2) Residential Committee
3) Carbon Committee
4) Build Green Atlantic Committee

Over the past year the chapter has held lunch and learn sessions in NS, NB, and NL. They are working on establishing relationships in PEI to be able to do the same there. The chapter currently has 264 paid members with the breakdown as follows:
New Brunswick : 34
Newfoundland & Labrador: 17
Nova Scotia: 204
Prince Edward Island: 9

Build Green Atlantic is the chapter’s major event. It was held on May 5th at the NSCC Waterfront Campus and was attended by 224 people (myself included). The keynote speaker on May 4th was attended by 125. The chapter also held a 1/2 day mini-conference at the Waterfront Campus in December which offered sessions on green building and the industry.

They provided us with a status report on LEED Buildings in Atlantic Canada.
Registered Projects
NS: 107 (up from 78 last year)
NFLD: 39 (up from 29)
PEI: 3 (up from 2)
NB: 41 (up from 36)

Certified Projects
NS: 6 (up from 4 last year)
PEI: 2 (up from 0)
NB: 6 (up from 5)

I’m glad I attended the AGM because I learned a lot about what the chapter does that I wasn’t aware of. I intend to be more active with the chapter going forward. It was great to meet the board members who voted to send me to Greenbuild as their scholarship winner. I’m looking forward to connecting with the local chapter at the Canada House Pavilion at Greenbuild in Toronto next month.

Greenbuild Education Sessions

My registration package for the Greenbuild Conference in Toronto arrived by email this weekend and I registered as quickly as possible. A big part of the event is the education sessions which are offered. Since some of these sessions fill up early I wanted to make sure I got my first choices. I had picked my choices a few weeks ago and today I registered and got into all the ones I wanted. Part of my responsibilities as a Greenbuild Scholarship winner is to share the knowledge with my local chapter. I will be presenting on what I learn to both the Atlantic chapter of the CaGBC and my classmates at NSCC. The sessions I will be attending are:

Passivhaus: Bringing German Energy Design Home to LEED
The Passive House approach (Passivhaus in German) is one of the world’s most aggressive, proven approaches to radical energy reduction, durability, IAQ and thermal comfort by design. This session will introduce and explore the Passive House standard design approach and requirements as well as demonstrate its application to projects in the North American context. This interactive session will introduce some of the barriers and opportunities–seeking input from attendees–for superior home energy performance

What You Need to Know About WaterSense for LEED 2012, Inside and Out! 
The 2012 rating systems have been revised to ensure that LEED projects are protecting water supplies for future generations. Gain a firm understanding of the most reliable strategies to reduce water use in your projects for all rating systems, no matter what the size!

The Proof is in the Pudding: Performance metrics from the first Five Certified Living Buildings
The first 5 certified Living Building Challenge projects are the greenest buildings in the country. How did the teams accomplish this lofty goal and achieve net zero energy and water, what are the lessons learned? The panel will discuss the one year occupancy period and how that data informs building performance knowledge. Learn about each project’s strategies across five different climates and project types from the perspective of the client, consultant and audit team.

Advancing Energy Simulation Tools for Design and Retrofit Optimization: the EnergyPlus GUI Development
More deep energy retrofits and net zero energy projects are required! Better simulation tools should be accessible! EnergyPlus is widely viewed as the most comprehensive building performance analysis tool available. A primary barrier to widespread adoption (critical to DOE’s mission) has been the lack of a graphical user interface (GUI). The diverse panel will demonstrate interactive use scenarios of how the new EnergyPlus GUI can enable practitioners to use EnergyPlus to support innovative, integrated design.

Learning from Buildings: Technologies for Measuring, Benchmarking, and Improving Performance
This session describes methods developed at UC Berkeley for monitoring and benchmarking buildings’ physical environments and occupants’ perceptions. We present research results derived from such assessments, which have significant implications for building designers, owners, operators, employers, and occupants. We discuss the development and testing of the Performance Measurement Protocol, recently produced by USGBC and ASHRAE. Driving this work is the belief that all stakeholders benefit from increased assessment and sharing lessons learned about building performance

Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities
The current interest in green buildings often overlooks the far greater conservation potential of sustainable communities. Creating net zero energy and water usage communities is much easier than creating single buildings with the same performance. Communities can be vital, complex ecologies that obtain maximum use of consumed resources while minimizing waste. These goals are best achieved by exploiting the synergies among the separate infrastructure systems while obtaining multiple benefits from each conservation strategy.

LEED 2012
LEED must continuously improve to drive change and transform the market. This is especially important as green codes begin to raise the floor on the status quo and current LEED requirements become the norm. LEED 2012 has shifted to a performance-based structure that supports recertification and raises the bar to maintain LEED as a leadership tool. The rating system draft will have completed its 2nd public comment period and received thousands of comments on the proposed requirement. This session will provide insight into the decisions behind the changes in LEED and discuss some of the more complex issues that have arisen during the development process.