The new norm of energy efficiency
Since the 1970s, energy conservation has been a topic of conversation within the U.S. government, standards-making organizations and the average business. The OPEC oil crisis may seem light years behind us — and ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and the U.S. Green Building Council may seem the norm — but energy efficiency is in its adolescence.
I think we’re only getting started.
Last week, I was invited to participate in a closed study about my lawn care practices. The survey asked how high I set my mower blades (3 inches), whether I fertilize (compost tea) and how much I water it (I don’t — the grass is on its own). After completion, it showed me the compiled responses of all participants, and offered educational information on how to best care for a lawn.
I was appalled at the replies. First, the amount of fertilizer used by study participants was insanely high. I live in a large city (combined storm sewer), so I don’t immediately worry about nitrogen leaching into my well water. But I am concerned about what happens to all that nitrogen “downstream.”
Second, the number of times other respondents water their turf each month was insane. I’m happy that I find time to mow it on a weekly basis. This survey showed that participants watered their lawns as much as every other day (the average was nine times per month). How much water does grass really need? More than an average human in a developing nation?
Fortunately, after all the results were shown, the website led to information on how to care for every aspect of a lawn. The gist of the study, I realized as I was reading through this information, was to encourage wise use of natural resources and selective use of others. The whole exercise led back to one theme: Be efficient in the use of materials and resources.
This made me think of the International Green Construction Code, ASHRAE Standard 189.1: Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, U.S. Green Building Council, Energy Star and ASHRAE Standard 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.
These codes, standards and guidelines were launched as early as the 1970s when the oil embargo hit the United States, and in the 1990s as a response to the need for more efficient products and buildings. While the concept of energy efficiency has been around the U.S. for more than 40 years in a more formalized format, it’s only now become part of the vernacular for any building professional.
Experts have the “LEED Accredited Professional” or “Certified Energy Manager” designation. Every product on the market touts itself as “green” or “energy efficient.” It’s now becoming the norm rather than the exception.
I think there are a lot more changes coming — in a positive way. Smarter buildings. Sophisticated controls. Decreased resource usage. Alternative energy. I look forward to watching the energy market grow up.