February 16, 2012
I recently watched an interesting documentary that said people who eat meat consume up to 10 times more energy to obtain that meat than to obtain vegetable-based products. This includes feeding the livestock, transporting it, and packaging and refrigeration. While I’m not so sure about those numbers, I do agree that the energy consumption of the feedlots, haulers, and grocery stores far outweighs that of a produce grower.
Another statistic also recently startled me: The price of a barrel of crude oil will never again fall below $100, experts predict, meaning that the price of gas will stay high. While numbers like this tend to hit home with the average consumer, we don’t always hear about how energy prices affect us in other ways.
To blatantly stereotype, I think Americans are an on-demand society, and we don’t really care where our meat comes from. We drive our cars—alone—nearly everywhere, and we typically don’t spend money to save money over the long haul. When it comes to calculating our energy use or managing it wisely, I think we’re mostly in the dark due to the complexity of climate science and building engineering. We need to consider our energy usage in America more carefully. (Note: I fully anticipate hearing from those of you who aren’t wasting energy; I encourage you to tell me what you’re doing right. E-mail me at arozgus(at)cfemedia.com.)
ASHRAE 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, is the most logical place for engineers to find information on energy standards. It helps guide consulting engineers in all aspects of engineered systems, and is updated every three years. There are lots of other processes and measurement options which also aid in engineers’ understanding of how to make buildings and their systems more efficient.
But are engineers doing enough to take a more holistic approach? Do building owners, architects, and others involved in the process understand the opportunities here? We have solutions for the energy problems, but we have a ways to go.
I think some firms are already doing everything they can to ensure that their clients’ buildings are the most efficient possible. Examples shown in this publication and at conferences like the AHR Expo highlight what manufacturers and engineering firms are doing well. Energy efficiency is a key aspect of design, and I think it should firmly stay there—and be a model for other firms and for our nation as a whole.
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