"America is Addicted to Oil"

Amen! I can't express how relieved I was to hear the president utter these words in his most recent State of the Union address. While it remains to be seen what will happen, it's my hope that the president's words and official recognition of this national malady may move more people to act. Certainly, the engineering community has many proponents of energy efficiency, and the green building mov...

02/01/2006


Amen! I can't express how relieved I was to hear the president utter these words in his most recent State of the Union address. While it remains to be seen what will happen, it's my hope that the president's words and official recognition of this national malady may move more people to act. Certainly, the engineering community has many proponents of energy efficiency, and the green building movement has helped push the design community to consider more sustainable options. But where are we really? Throughout this issue, you'll see numerous references to ASHRAE 90.1, which, of course, is the default energy efficiency standard , the backbone of LEED and for many states, their new energy code. However, for devout believers of optimum energy efficiency, 90.1 is but a starting point, as many innovative engineers point out that achieving results 30% below the current standard is doable today and that zero-energy buildings are not such far-fetched fantasies. But as the president rightly points out, the notion of users really trying to save energy is still pretty novel. One market that bears this out is retail, the theme of this issue. That community is being hit hard by strict new energy consumption mandates that primarily affect lighting.

Being an utterly new concept to many, frankly, there's a huge veil of ignorance about what to do when it comes to implementing energy-efficient building systems. Case in point is my own company. As I was writing this column, this scenario unfolded outside my office door: A member of our building facilities staff was having a conversation with some consultants from a major lighting vendor about a possible retrofit. Of course, I couldn't resist butting in. I noted in my column a couple months back that we still have T12s and magnetic ballasts. While I could list a dozen technologies I'd like to see installed, the rep was really only pitching a conversion to T8s and electronic ballasts—duh! I asked him about controls, occupancy sensors, indirect lighting—all I got was a kind of "uh, we don't sell that stuff, how can I divert the conversation?" look.

This is a real dilemma, I believe. Building operators shouldn't settle for something that's better than what they have but not necessarily good enough. And I fear it's not just about lighting or what manufacturers are selling. At the ASHRAE Winter Meeting, I met with a number of our readers, and in one conversation, a member of one of the technical committees revealed that his committee was keenly aware that engineers themselves were paying little attention to not only Standard 62.1, but also Standard 90.1. In fact, he said his committee chair estimated "only about 17 engineers in the country are following them." This particular engineer thought that estimate was low. That's pretty scary, and I sure hope he can be proved wrong. That said, I do believe we all have to act, and as with any good diet, it only works if we truly exercise.





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