Category Archives: Energy

4 Ways to Make Your Office More Energy Efficient

The following post is by Alaska Structures:

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Every workplace has its upsides and drawbacks. Whether it’s the quality of the coffee in the break room or squabbles over cleanliness of shared areas, navigating the politics and interested parties of an office environment can be taxing. One thing everyone can get behind is energy efficiency and using resources more effectively, but as with every project in the workplace, getting started requires a budget, a manager, and a dedicated team to see it through to completion. Especially if you’re a small business or startup struggling to make ends meet each month, it’s possible to simultaneously improve both your workplace and bottom line with a few smart energy efficiency upgrades and strategies.

Educate Your Employees

Every office has a few key figures who are noticeably wasteful or ignorant to their lack of eco-friendly habits, but they may not be leaving the refrigerator door open or the sink running on purpose. Investing in energy-efficient tools and appliances will only fully pay off if everyone on your team gets behind the initiative. And as anyone who has dealt with HR or employee criticism will tell you, it’s important to consider your approach when implementing energy-efficiency standards and initiatives.

The good news is that going eco-friendly in your office can be fun! Aside from the ideal scenario in which no lights are left on in empty rooms and all computer equipment being shutdown at night, the potential savings is huge. By informing employees of the cost-saving potentials and offering financial rewards in exchange for reaching benchmarks could help engage your employees into action.

Use Power Strips and Smart Lighting

Connected electronics often use “phantom energy,” or energy drawn and used even when the device is switched off. Investing in higher-quality power strips with scheduled on/off times and smart power utilization methods is a great first step, but sometimes the simpler route is just as effective. Have each employee unplug their machines at the end of the day will have a tremendous short and long-term impact on your bottom line. Otherwise, you can retrofit many electronics with smart Wi-Fi plugs to ensure they turn off automatically after regular business hours.

Installing a smart lighting system can also help reduce your energy costs while improving indoor comfort levels in the workplace. Replacing older bulbs with smart Wi-Fi connected models is expensive, but many may even last longer than traditional LEDs – some models claim to last 15 years during regular use.

Invest in New Space

While it’s generally easier to find and relocate to a more energy efficient office environment, some industries call for more specialized real estate to grow and expand their operations. As energy experts tell us, it’s crucial that energy efficiency standards are considered in the very early stages of the project to ensure complete adherence during construction and finalization in new spaces.

Many in the industrial sector have turned to high-performance polyvinyl fabric buildings to help bring down their energy costs and maintain profit margins as their business expands to a new facility. Because modern fabric buildings are low maintenance and quick to assemble, organizations with remote locations, camps, or secondary facilities outside of their headquarters have invested in portable fabric buildings. They’re also a great cost-saving alternative to brick-and-mortar buildings thanks to the natural light and comfort that comes with the energy efficient design and engineering that comes with higher-end fabric structures.

Make a Few Key Upgrades

Studies have shown that laptop computers are nearly 80% more energy-efficient than their desktop counterparts. Not only will switching to laptops help reduce the amount of energy expended in your office, they’ll save room in the workplace and allow your employees the flexibility to jump up and bring their work home or at a nearby coffee shop if so desired.

Finally, swapping out your office’s old refrigerator for a new Energy Star-rated unit will have a near immediate impact on your energy consumption and most importantly, your monthly bill.

There are plenty of strategies employed by business owners to maximize their company’s cost-saving potential and we hope more of an effort to improve energy efficiency across the board begins to catch on in throughout the business world as solutions become more and more affordable for companies of any size.

Alaska Structures has manufactured fabric buildings for industrial and commercial applications around the world since 1975.

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Here’s why you should measure CO2 in your building

The following post is an excerpt from Daphic Scientific by Michael Forster PhD 

iStock_000057422952_LargeCO2 is a known indoor pollutant affecting performance in the workplace, at school, and even at the gym. Extreme levels of CO2 can lead to death, particularly in enclosed spaces such as laboratories, some hospital rooms, and breweries. CO2 can have a number of effects on home and workplace health and safety.

Controlling CO2 can also improve building energy efficiency, saving costs by up to 80%, and is even considered in the scoring of Green Star Ratings in building design.

Here, we outline 7 reasons why you should be measuring carbon dioxide levels inside buildings.

1.  CO2 can kill you

Outside air has a CO2 concentration around 400 ppm and each human breath contains around 30,000ppm.  As CO2 concentration around you increases, symptoms begin by causing panting, followed by tremors and loss of consciousness, and finally death.

CO2 can be hazardous in one of two ways: by displacing oxygen in the blood or as acting as a toxin.

2.  CO2 can decrease productivity

In the office and classroom, elevated levels of CO2, in the range between 1,000 ppm and 2,500 ppm, have been found to decrease concentration, increase headaches, decrease performance, and increase rates of absenteeism.  Generally, CO2 concentrations as low as 1,000ppm can lead to poor decision-making performance.

Although CO2 is not the only factor, elevated levels can lead to that feeling of lethargy and tiredness often associated with office workers.  Studies have shown that lethargy induced by elevated CO2 can decrease performance by up to 10% for adults and over 20% for school children.

3.  CO2 can increase rapidly in poorly ventilated rooms

Figure 1. An example of increasing CO2 concentration in a poorly ventilated office with a single occupant.

Figure 1. An example of increasing CO2 concentration in a poorly ventilated office with a single occupant.

In surveys of school classrooms in California and Texas, average CO2 concentrations were above 1,000 ppm, many exceeded 2,000 ppm, and in 21% of Texas classrooms peak CO2 concentration exceeded 3,000 ppm. Such high levels of CO2 could have a particularly adverse effect on concentration during exam periods.

Generally, where large numbers of people gather then CO2 will increase rapidly and lead to poor indoor air quality and pollution. In offices, this could be meeting rooms where a number of staff gather for extended periods in confined spaces.

Other places, such as gyms, shopping centers, cafes with soft drink vending machines, or libraries, are increasingly being recognized as indoor environments with elevated CO2 leading to poorer performance.

4.  Some locations have naturally high CO2 levels and need to be monitored

Figure 2. The ESRAD-102 CO2 Storage Safety Alarm can save lives in locations where extreme levels of CO2 occur.

Figure 2. The ESRAD-102 CO2 Storage Safety Alarm can save lives in locations where extreme levels of CO2 occur.

There are certain locations where indoor CO2 in an enclosed room or area can potentially reach extreme and life threatening levels.

Laboratories and hospitals may have enclosed or poorly ventilated locations where CO2 cylinders are stored or used and may potentially have harmful levels of atmospheric CO2.

In manufacturing, spaces where CO2 is regularly used are also potential areas of harmful levels of CO2.  Breweries can be extremely hazardous.  Pockets of high CO2 can form in tanks and cellars and can quickly lead to death.  Even bars, clubs and pubs, where CO2 cylinders are stored in a room, are increasingly required to monitor CO2 levels for workplace safety.

Using CO2 sensors for ventilation control can assist in these cases.  However, other systems with audible and visual alarms may warn workers and occupants of dangerous levels of CO2.

5.  Monitoring CO2 for energy efficiency

Facility managers are increasingly turning towards monitoring CO2 for Demand Controlled Ventilation (DVC). Ventilation units can automatically set air intake based on maximum occupancy rate of a room, office or classroom.  However, occupancy is often intermittent and unpredictable and may lead to over-ventilation and energy inefficiencies.  Monitoring CO2 levels and automating ventilation to intake air at pre-defined CO2 levels, such as 800ppm, will increase ventilation when it is actually needed.

One study found that monitoring CO2 for DVC saved between 5 and 80% on energy costs compared with a fixed ventilation strategy.

Other technologies to monitor occupancy level may not be as efficient as monitoring CO2 levels.  For example, humidity set points, which can vary widely, change slowly and not directly reflect occupancy.  Another method is to use a presence detector sensor, or PIR.  This method is used widely to automatically turn on lights when a person enters a room, but this method does not detect how many occupants there are in a room.  Measuring CO2, on the other hand, can determine the presence of an occupant and the number of occupants as the rate of change in CO2 levels will be higher with more occupants.

6.  Improving your green building score

The Green Building Council of Australia scores up to 2 points if CO2 levels are maintained below 800ppm or 700ppm respectively.  This move recognizes the relevance of optimal CO2 level for occupancy comfort and productivity.

The United States Green Building Council scores up to 2 points for indoor air quality assessment.

7.  The novelty factor

Most people would not have a clue what the CO2 levels in their room are, what they should be, and how they change throughout the day with various factors.  Monitoring CO2 levels with a data logger showing real-time CO2 levels is interesting. Informing your guests that you are controlling the ventilation in your building with a CO2 detector will certainly raise a few eyebrows!

CO2 technology, installation, and maintenance

Figure 3. A simplified diagram of the NDIR principle of CO2 measurement.

Figure 3. A simplified diagram of the NDIR principle of CO2 measurement.

There are two types of CO2 sensors.

The first is a simple detector that has either voltage or 4.20mA output that can run back to a BMS. These detectors are ideal where multiple units need to be installed and operated by a single BMS.

The second type is a transmitter. These detectors can connect directly into an HVAC unit to control ventilation. This type is ideal where only one sensor is needed.

Other types can additionally measure temperature and humidity providing a complete monitoring solution.

For more information on CO2 measurement devices, check out the Daphic Scientific Environmental Research & Monitoring Equipment site. http://www.edaphic.com.au/why-you-need-to-measure-co2-inside-buildings/

A work or learning place designed for optimal productivity leads to better performance and, ultimately, is better for the bottom line.  Monitoring and controlling CO2 levels is one approach to a healthier workplace environment.

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Lake Washington School District honored for sustainability

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

McKinstry is recognizing the Lake Washington School District as a “model of Northwest sustainability and environmental stewardship,” with its Champion of Sustainability award.

The district was honored during the Sept. 27 Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

In partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, the annual Champions of Sustainability program recognizes one organization during a regular-season home game that exhibits  innovative energy and waste reduction in the built environment.

What did they do?
In 2006, LWSD adopted a resource conservation management  program focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction. Since then, the district has saved $9 million in utility costs despite having increased its buildings’ square footage and number of students.  Electricity use has fallen by 20 percent and natural gas consumption is down 30 percent. Conservation-minded students also helped trim the district’s waste disposal budget by 42 percent.

LWSD also has the largest solar energy capacity of any school district in the state, at 615 kW – enough energy to power about 60 homes. The solar panels at Finn Hill Junior High alone account for 355 kW.

Geothermal heating systems have been installed in its new high schools and several elementary schools. Because the temperature underground stays constant throughout the year, geothermal systems that circulate water through the ground can heat schools using much less energy than standard systems.

Rain gardens and other sustainable stormwater management practices at schools save LWSD $64,000 annually, as compared to traditional water treatment systems. The measures also reduce the concentration of pollutants funneled into local waterways.

Last year, the district renewed its commitment to sustainability by launching powerED, a behavior-based program designed to bring new levels of effort and tools to conserve utilities, increase efficiencies and promote sustainability in LWSD schools.

About the Champions of Sustainability Program:
McKinstry’s Champions of Sustainability program is part of the Defend Your Turf campaign, aimed at water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and community involvement within CenturyLink Field and Event Cente,r as well as in terms of its impact on the city.

For more information on Defend Your Turf, visit www.centurylinkfield.com/defendyourturf.

About McKinstry:
McKinstry has implemented a number of facility-wide energy conservation initiatives at CenturyLink Field and Event Center, including the installation of one of the largest solar arrays in the state, mechanical system upgrades, high-efficiency lighting and ultra-low-flow water fixtures. These upgrades make the stadium a national model for sustainable sporting facilities.

McKinstry is a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy and facility services.  For more information, visit  www.mckinstry.com.

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NFL strikes gold with new 49ers’ stadium

Levis StadiumThe new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers has achieved LEED Gold status, a first for an NFL stadium. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, has many green features, including a green roof, solar-paneled pedestrian bridges and a solar-paneled roof deck. But, its most crucial green feature may be the state of the art grey water system.

Up to 85 percent of all water used in the 68,500-seat stadium comes from recycled water. A recycled-water pressure booster system taps into the Santa Clara Valley Water District water recycling system, eliminating the need to use freshwater to flush toilets and irrigate the natural grass field and green roof.  The system is powered by Bell & Gossett brand pumps.

“A recycled-water pressure booster system ensures adequate water is available when everyone goes to the bathroom at one time, like halftime at a football game,” said Mark Handzel, Vice President, Product Regulatory Affairs, and Director, HVAC Commercial Buildings.

The stadium’s water assessment estimates the recycled-water pressure booster system will save over 42 million gallons of water per year. And there are twice as many toilets in Levi’s Stadium as were in Candlestick Park, the 49ers’ former stadium.

The stadium uses highly efficient building systems by Bell & Gossett, including:

  • The centrifugal pumps were selected for the recycled-water pressure booster system.
  • The Rolairtrol air separators, Series 60 inline pumps, 1510 end suction base mounted pumps, and VSX double suction pumps were chosen for the hydronic systems.
  • A brazed plate and GPX gasketed plate, and frame heat exchangers were selected because of their high thermal efficiency for the condenser water system.

The Levi’s Stadium will host Super Bowl 50, next year, on Sunday, February 17, 2016.

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Need a building? You’ve got some new options

The following post is by Alaska Structures:

Much has been said about sustainable construction methods and how beneficial reclaimed and recycled materials can be to reduce the carbon footprint of a home or commercial construction project.  However, often overlooked are the many non-traditional building alternatives that provide an energy efficient shortcut to a complete building.

Shipping Containers

shipping container

Highly durable and too often wasted, these hulking containers aren’t just for subterranean bomb shelters anymore. DIYers and construction experts have been creating beautiful, functional, and livable buildings out of industrial shipping containers for several years now and we’re thrilled with the results.

By reusing the massive metal containers for home construction, homeowners are able to enjoy sturdy walls, cool interiors, and endlessly expandable layouts. While working with standard shapes may feel limiting, many experienced container builders have found ways to create ventilated rooftops and innovative, expansive rooms using multiple container sections, as well as beautiful outdoor decks and living spaces.

While it takes a lot of hard work and logistical planning, the benefits of designing a custom home without the need for producing additional materials will provide a level of satisfaction beyond what typical sustainable building practices often provide.

Tensioned Fabric Buildings

tensioned fabric building

Perhaps some of the most versatile structures available today, a high-end tensioned fabric building can sometimes outperform even a brick and mortar structure in terms of durability. These buildings can withstand significant snow load and high winds, will remain intact during natural disasters, and help lower insurance costs.

High-end fabrics can provide insulation and security in any climate on earth and some manufacturers go the extra mile with HVAC systems, electrical connections, and other custom options. The lightweight nature and ease of installation make these fabric buildings a great option for organizations on the move, but with so many foundation options, there’s no reason why you can’t install your fabric structure in place for good.

Worried about meeting building code? Depending on where you purchase your fabric building, the company’s engineers may be able to meet or exceed various building code requirements mandated by your city or state governments.

Modular Buildings

modular building

Shedding the misnomer of “pre-fab” buildings, modular constructions aren’t just for the temporary construction site, and are not like the double-wide trailers of 40 years ago. Entire hospitals, apartment complexes, and even hotels are being built using modular practices. By using modular methods, major projects have found success with reductions in construction time, site preparation, and shipping costs.

The production of modular buildings is more efficient, so they are a much more eco-friendly solution when compared with traditional construction. The construction industry accounts for about 40% of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By using off-site manufacturing methods, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme suggests that construction site waste can be reduced by as much as 90%. Off-site construction also requires less heavy machinery use during the assembly process, further reducing emissions during the construction.

Modular buildings aren’t just greener during construction either – many modular constructions come with super efficient HVAC systems, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and glass walls/open office layouts that utilize more natural light.

Alaska Structures has manufactured fabric buildings for industrial and commercial applications around the world since 1975.

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