Green Buildings: Measure and Verify Performance

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One of the big outgrowths of the green building movement is a new focus on actual building performance. This isn’t just the individualized performance of a singular system at a point in time (“the lights come on when you flip the switch – check”), but the overall performance of the whole building over some extended period of time (annual energy consumption per square foot of building). Green buildings have touted their superior energy or resource efficiency and while there have been some success, there have also been some less than tremendous performances by allegedly high performance buildings. As a result – and in this engineer’s opinion, a logical outcome – there has been a movement towards adding a “measurement and verification” (M&V) requirement to the ratings systems. Taking the two ‘’biggest dogs in the park,” the USGBC’s LEED system and the EPA’s Energy Star program, there are two slightly differing frameworks.

Philadelphia’s Green Economy Task Force Features MDC’s Mitch Swann

Mitchell Swann, PE, a principal at MDCSystems®, was featured in Philadelphia’s Green Economy Task Force newsletter, Green Economy Leaders, which is excerpted below.

“I like Philadelphia—good points—bad points. Family is here.” In his clipped way of speaking and without any fanfare, Mitch Swann (pictured here on the left), who grew up in Germantown, lets you know he’s proud to be a Philadelphia native and plans to stick around the ‘hood giving back whenever he can.
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Mitch, who is a Partner with MDC Systems in Paoli—a firm that provides clients with comprehensive assistance in effectively navigating complex engineering and construction projects—traveled to South Philadelphia to share his time and expertise with students who are training for jobs in green construction, energy efficiency and solar installation. “We discussed the LEED program and what that means, why the marketplace is concerned about [sustainable buildings], trends, expectations for the future, ways people can get involved, an overview of green economy types of issues.”

MDC® Engineer Wins Presidential Grant for Best Green Business Idea, Washington, DC

Washington — To Amal Kabalan and her fellow entrepreneurs, the plight of schoolchildren in Guinea presents a fairly basic need that inspired a simple but creative business response. Guineans don’t have much access to energy for light. Kids wear backpacks. Why not attach a solar-powered device to the backpacks, collect energy on the walk to school, and then use the stored energy to power lamps so the children could study at night?

The idea earned the 27-year-old Lebanon native $3,000 in seed money to start the venture with her new business partners — people she had met just days before and who had been selected by Athgo International, a nonprofit organization that sponsored the competition in partnership with the World Bank Speakers Bureau.

Addressing Green Building Risk

E. Mitchell Swann
MDCSystems®
Consulting Engineer

In recent years there has been increased discussion on the risk aspects of green or ‘high performance’ buildings and how the industry might address those risks. I gave my first presentation on the subject at a joint CIBSE/ASHRAE conference in September 2003 in Edinburgh, Scotland. While final case law and court decisions regarding green buildings are still limited at the time of this writing, prudent practice would recommend that designers, contractors and owners consider the potential risks, arrive at some appropriate factors or strategies to address those risks and act accordingly.

Beware of the Gray to be Green

Donald R. Keer
MDCSystems®
Consulting Engineer

As companies strive to improve energy consumption, promote environmental responsibility and improve the use of sustainable fuel sources to either generate revenues or improve their bottom lines the risks are not always in the determination of capital budgets, project scheduling or execution but in the gaps between technology unit operations. Renewable energy facilities can have a dozen or more process unit operations, each with proven technologies yet at the unit interfaces the process can break down leading to reduced efficiencies, higher than expected start-up costs and lost profits.

The Donning of the “Green,” Getting Accustomed to New “Customs”?

E. Mitchell Swann, P.E., LEED A.P.
MDCSystems®
Consulting Engineer

A day doesn’t go by without hearing of the next new green building project in almost all sectors – from major owners to the one-off office park on the highway. Everybody wants to be ‘in,’ but it is important to understand what one is getting into before one is deep into it. Not recognizing the landscape can lead to problems, misunderstandings, and claims. A common thread in the analysis of construction claims is a comparison of ‘the work done’ by one participant with what a ‘comparable’ practitioner would do on a similar project. This is commonly referred to as “custom and practice,” or the Standard of Care.