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USGNN Original StoryGreen Policy and Design are Focus of Energy Efficiency Global Forum

Several executive dialogue sessions are being held today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C., as part of the inaugural Energy Efficiency Global Forum & Exposition (EE Global), hosted by the Alliance to Save Energy. The first-of-its-kind comprehensive energy-efficiency forum is geared toward industry professionals, policymakers and academics in an effort to forge partnerships and develop "Best Practices," policies and strategies to respond to the climate, national security and economic implications of the increasing global demand for energy.

RK Stewart, president of the American Institute of Architects, opened this morning's building track focused on "Energy Efficiency: The Cornerstone for Creating Carbon Neutral Buildings." Stewart's presentation, "What Kind of Ancestors Will We Be?" asked how future generations will look at the buildings we leave behind. As he noted, building design, construction and materials leave a far larger carbon footprint than cars and trucks, despite popular opinion.

According to Stewart, architects can right now begin to reduce consumption at no cost by using the systems available smartly. "It's how we use daylighting," he noted, for example. Taking a look at window size and orientation and making the most of those systems are one way architects can begin to design more efficiently.

"It's really the operations, the way we use electricity," Stewart said.

Stewart also noted that government mandates and incentive programs may need to play a stronger role on making buildings more energy-efficient. A graph he showed his audience comparing California energy efficiency to that of the United States as a whole showed that the state's total energy use "has basically flat-lined" since the government has taken a strong stand in requiring energy efficiency.

\Stewart also mentioned that the various green rating systems available can play a part in bringing buildings in the United States close to the net-zero energy requirement proposed by the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007. CLICK HERE to read more about this bill. According to Stewart, AIA is currently in the process of evaluating the various rating systems in use.

"They all work," Stewart said. "All the systems out there have their virtues and they all have areas where they could be stronger."

Stewart says the goal of the evaluation is to help the rating systems learn where they could strengthen their programs, and to guide the design community when it comes to choosing a rating system.

Scot Horst, chairperson of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Steering Committee, took a closer look at what efficiency really means. Efficiency, Horst explained, means "doing more with less." More, for Horst, means, in part, looking at buildings holistically. Optimizing just one part of the building isn't enough, since every component impacts the whole.

Horst looked at a school in New Jersey in particular. His graphs demonstrated that investments in daylighting and wood triple-pane windows, among other factors, each resulted in long-term savings and rapid paybacks. However, when he showed how these investments impacted other systems-specifically, fewer heat pumps were needed once these insulating accommodations were made-the savings grew dramatically.

"Until you look at how the whole system is working together, you really don't understand how it is working," he said.

People also play an important-although occasionally overlooked-role in this discussion, Horst said. He mentioned one company that renovated its buildings-and found that the 2-percent drop in absenteeism, resulting from the fact that people wanted to be in the building longer, was enough to cover the cost of the renovation.

Dr. Wolfgang Feist, director of the Passive House Institute, spoke on "Improving Energy Efficiency by a Factor 10 - The Passive House Standard." According to Feist, a few simple changes to existing systems can go a long way. One example he focused on was adding "Super Windows" to homes.

"I have seen a lot of single-pane windows in Washington," the German joked, "and it's very cold here."

Feist stressed that adding just one additional lite helps improve energy efficiency and thermal comfort dramatically. While this may seem like an obvious fact for the glazing community, the policymakers, designers and even building owners in the room listened carefully.

Stay tuned to USGNN.comô for more on the EE Global Forum, which continues through tomorrow. .

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