Optimizing Energy Performance – the big score

grass, earth and sky

Counting LEED credits can be nerve-racking. Do we have enough to get the LEED certification level that has been our goal. The closer the project gets to completion, you begin to find out that you either have the credits or you don’t. And if some credits are becoming questionable, you may be running out of time to make sure that you have them bagged.

Well, we are in the final tally stage of the project and we find ourselves asking questions like, “I thought we had that point. How did it slip through our fingers? Or, can we still find a way to get that one? Or, Yes! We’ve got that one in the bag.”

The mother lode of LEED credits is Energy and Atmosphere (EA) Credit 1. You can get anywhere from 1 point to a whopping 19 points. A significant number of credits are only 1 point; in fact 38 of the total 110 available to be precise. Some other individual points are from 2 to 6 and others range from 1 to 3 , 4 or 7. But none of the credits can get you the number of credits in EA Credit 1 in one shot.

To get the really big points, you need to do a Whole Building Energy Simulation and demonstrate a percentage improvement in energy consumption over the minimum requirements for energy design outlined in  ASHRAE 90.1-2007 which is the Energy Standard for Buildings. The points you can get are:

Improvement               Points
12%                             1
20%                             5
30%                             10
40%                             15
48%                             19

There are points in between each of these as well. The percentage is based on a computer simulation model for the whole building. A baseline calculation is performed per ASHRAE 90.1 and then the proposed building performance is determined as “the annual energy cost calculated for the proposed design.” The difference between the two is the percentage improvement. This is another area where the Design Team is responsible for submitting and documenting the calculations in order to get the points.

So what are we doing to reduce the energy consumption of our building? Here are the big ideas:

  • triple pane glass in thermally broken frames to reduce heat gain and heat loss which reduces the heating and cooling loads.
  • highly insulated walls to reduce heat gain and heat loss which reduces the heating and cooling loads.
  • highly insulated roofs to reduce heat gain and heat loss which reduces the heating and cooling loads.
  • low energy consumption light fixtures.
  • low energy consumption heating and cooling equipment.
  • solar hot water heating reducing the need for gas or electric water heater.

The advantages are great beginning with reducing the demands on the environment involved with the production and use of energy; like the extraction of fossil fuels and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA estimates that “ if the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings were improved by 10%, the resulting greenhouse gas reductions would be equivalent to taking about 30 million vehicles off the road.”

We are targeting getting at least 10 points for EA Credit 1, but we may need even more to make our goal of LEED Gold certification

Stay posted as we begin to tally the points. I’ll be checking in to see how the contractor is coming along on their part to get the points.

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