Building Green Chicago 2012

By Linda Seggelke

Now in its sixth year, the Building Green Chicago Conference has grown into one of the area’s most reliable sustainable building events. Hundreds came out to the Chicago Mart Plaza to visit with green vendors, hear educational seminars and network with like-minded professionals.

Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainable Officer for the City of Chicago opened the event by saying, “Fundamentally, it comes down to making this the most attractive city today and the most attractive city in the years to come.” Weigert discussed what Chicago is doing about retrofitting and energy efficiencies.

Chicago has over 250 LEED-certified buildings, more than any other metropolis. The city is working on a first wave of energy efficiencies in city assets—government buildings and schools—to reduce our impact on the environment. Chicago has thrown open the door for all kinds of energy savings: solar, water, waste and even transportation.

Rosemarie Andolino, Department of Aviation Commissioner, then addressed the conference attendees with a thorough explanation of how Chicago’s airports are leading by example with sustainability. Our two airports, O’Hare International and Midway, accommodated over 85 million passengers last year. They provide 540,000 jobs and generate $45 billion in annual economic impact.

Andolino explained how all the modernization at O’Hare followed the new Sustainable Design Manual and diverted 82% of waste away from landfills, improved energy efficiency by 10% and reduced baseline water use by 21%. The O’Hare project derived over a third of its materials from local sources and reclaimed over 500,000 tons of asphalt grindings and crushed concrete aggregate for reuse on other projects. This last item alone saved $4.5 million. Further adding to the sustainability factor, there are currently 14 completed or proposed vegetated green roofs at the two airports totaling more than 333,000 square feet.

A first in our nation, O’Hare maintains an aeroponic garden which opened late summer 2011. Located in the rotunda at Terminal 3, it is made up of 26 towers with over 1,100 planting spots. The produce grown in this garden is used at select O’Hare restaurants.

The second panel discussed Geothermal Energy and was kicked off by David Buss, owner of Buss Energy Systems in Quincy, Illinois. Buss put a geothermal system into his own home in 1980. Since that time he has installed hundreds of systems throughout Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, for schools, churches, office buildings, medical facilities, apartment complexes and assisted living facilities. He talked at length about how geothermal systems come in different varieties: open loop, closed loop, horizontal loop, vertical loop and pond loop to name just a few.

These systems take heat from the ground in the winter and use it to warm the air and/or water in our homes or buildings and put heat back into the earth in the summer, thus regulating the temperatures to a comfortable temperature year round. The type of system used in any installation is dependent upon the space available. If little space is available, then a vertical loop would be preferred. If a large body of water is available in a warmer climate, then an open or pond loop would be acceptable.

A conductivity test may be required to determine how much pipe is needed when deciding both if a geothermal system is financially feasible and if it makes sense for the space to be conditioned. If everything works out, geothermal is the most cost effective system that starts paying off immediately upon installation.

John Schaefer is the Director of Public Works for the south suburban village of Homewood. Homewood installed a geothermal system in the police, fire and public safety building. The old heating and ventilating system, dating from the 1960’s, had created a comfort issue for employees and the village wanted to reduce energy consumption and explore the potential of going geothermal.

After exhaustive research, the public works department decided on something new in the public sector: a guaranteed energy savings clause. This clause states that once the system is up and running, either Homewood saves $20,000 per year or the design/build team writes them a check for the amount of savings that they did not see. Schaefer looked into grants and was able to secure funds from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

Geothermal loops were installed in 24 wells dug about 425 feet deep. Homewood wanted the most efficient system that still allowed for individual offices to have separate controls with simultaneous heat or air-conditioning all year long.

This retrofit allowed Homewood to reduce its carbon footprint by 38 metric tons per year. The savings to be experienced over 30 years should be in excess of $600,000. “Besides saving a great deal of money, this new geothermal system is so much easier to take care of,” said Schaefer.

The third panel discussion covered new standards for sustainable construction. Jenny Carney, principal at YR&G, spoke about the LEED rating system and how the technical development trajectory for LEED credits works. She walked attendees through the USGBC National Committee structure as well as the advisory groups and how they function. Carney went on to talk about the importance of recharging stations for electric vehicles and the proposal to require separate tracking of heavy and light construction waste materials.

Rod Petrick of the Chicagoland Roofing Council outlined the changes in roofing both locally and nationally. He discussed reflectivity, mass effect and insulation and how each of these is impacted by the new International Energy Conservation Code. Each of these can save money, but how much and where can best be determined by the professionals. Solar panels and green roofs were brought up again as being sustainable and cost efficient.

Finishing the panel’s topic, Elizabeth Scanlan, Director of Code Development for the Chicago Department of Buildings, discussed the new Chicago Energy Conservation Code to be adopted late this year or early next year. It will likely be more stringent than the state code. Currently, the State of Illinois is finalizing their adoption of the International Energy Conservation Code and will hand this off to the city sometime in the fall. Scanlan also explained that the city is expanding enforcement of the Energy Conservation Code by replacing the Registered Energy Professional designation with the Certified Energy Professional.

The final session dealt with utility rebates. Jay Wrobel is the Executive Director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, which designs and administers energy efficiency programs and coordinates utility program efforts. Traditional incentive programs involve lighting, furnaces and water heaters. Most people realize that CFLs and lighting produce 70% of electric savings, and HVAC and water heaters hold the lion’s share of gas savings.

Wrobel talked about the next generation of sustainability in this arena. Rather than just asking, “Where do the savings come from?” we should be looking for the “new” programs. How do building shells work to save energy and how do the interior systems affect energy usage? Once we understand energy usage we can look to manage that usage and measure our savings.

We all need to realize how whole buildings or whole businesses function to reach for the next level. Wrobel talked about a WWII European reconstruction designer, Paul Drucker, who said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” If we understand that measuring energy efficiency is identifying where energy is used, how energy is used and where the waste is, we can identify better ways of reducing our usage and salvaging our resources.

The need to score or rate a building or home is important since benchmarking your building has the potential of giving it a leg up on other buildings of similar size or style. Building owners and managers need to better manage energy usage and make that a priority. These savings can become a permanent part of a building score card, or statement of energy performance.

Customers pay into a fund at the utilities to promote energy efficiency. The utilities then determine what kind of programs can reach the most customers to educate them regarding sustainability. Rebates are not the only way to realize savings. An HVAC system analysis, including ductwork, can provide suggestions to increase savings. There are companies out there who are able to test, diagnose and recommend changes to your systems to provide greater savings and more efficiency.

John Mansfield is the Outreach Lead for Resources Solutions Group, which manages the Business Energy Efficiency Rebate Program, Business Custom Incentive Program and Home Energy Efficiency Rebate Program for Nicor Gas. These programs are paid for by customers of Nicor Gas and provide cash rebates for energy efficiency equipment and projects with the intent to reduce gas consumption and positively impact the supply chain.

There are programs for home energy efficiency rebates, business energy efficiency rebates and even custom incentive programs. For homes, a complete system replacement (furnace and air-conditioning) can account for a rebate up to $500. Businesses can realize up to a $9,000 rebate for a energy efficient boiler. For gas saving projects that are not eligible through the Prescriptive Program, the Custom Business Incentive Program can save up to $500,000 per project as long as it does not exceed 50% of the installed project cost.

Paige Finnegan from Franklin Energy wrapped up the panel with an overview of the Peoples’ Gas and North Shore Gas Natural Gas Savings Programs. Once again, these programs are funded by the consumers. The objective is to reduce gas consumption and to increase awareness of energy efficiency and there are many programs that people need to be made aware of. Homeowners in the City of Chicago should look at the Single-Family Direct Install Program, which includes measures such as faucet aerators, shower heads, pipe insulation, etc. Apartment buildings greater than three units may qualify for low-cost direct install measures which include low flow fixtures, CFLs and more. Prescriptive rebate programs allow for on-bill financing when purchasing a qualifying furnace and air-conditioner.

Businesses can benefit from prescriptive, one-for-one replacements of predetermined measures such as boiler or furnace replacement, steam traps, gas water heaters and programmable thermostats. Custom projects offer tangible energy savings not covered by prescriptive rebates and small business programs give free, on-site energy assessment and installation of energy saving devices

The commercial real estate focus is on energy efficiency for base building and tenant spaces, identification of efficiency measures, bonus incentive for tenant participation, assistance with green leasing concepts and to meet the overall energy reduction of Energy Star goals. One case study showed that the installation of four 92% efficient boilers qualified for a $32,000 incentive and saved 12,000 Btus annually. In another case study, an upgrade of the main boiler plant at a corporate campus qualified for a $56,000 incentive and a savings of 21,000 Btus.

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