The Process Approach of Human-Building Interaction (HBI)
How can we apply an approach based on usability to help people reduce their energy use in the buildings where they live and work?
How to Start a Green Buildings Program: Part 2
“Sustainability is the long-term goal and green buildings are one of the ways to get there... the briefest definition of green buildings is that they are common sense buildings.”
A guest post from NYSERDA’s Craig Kneeland
Fieldwork and Evaluation
An interview with Michael Blasnik about understanding the actual performance of buildings using measured data.
Behavior and Usability: At the Interface of Human-Building Interaction
We need to apply user-centered approaches to the design of the appliances, technologies, and equipment that consume the energy that we use in our homes and workplaces.
in other words: EISA Lighting Standards
Framing the standards as a ban on incandescent light bulbs misrepresents the actual situation: EISA increases the efficiency standards for a product whose design has remained essentially unchanged for 100 years.
in other words: Electric Generators: Disaster Preparedness or Preparing a Disaster?
A segment of the public anticipates prolonged power outages. But in taking steps to prepare our homes for natural disasters, could we be making them less safe?
How to Start a Green Buildings Program
New York State's Green Buildings Program uses utility ratepayer and federal funds to make buildings environmentally responsible, economically viable, and healthy places in which to work. Founder Craig Kneeland tells the story of how it began.
in other words: Market Segmentation
Some utilities have successfully adopted market segmentation approaches. Developing a segmentation model is expensive, but a number of online resources could provide enough insight to improve program recruitment.
Power and Energy Primer: Part 7 - Power Factor in Alternating Current
Some AC devices require more power than they need to perform work. How does this affect your utility and your electric bill?
Gospel of Public Art
"With the world in crisis and people looking for solutions, it’s no surprise that artists like these are employing their creative talents to raise questions and address challenging issues. Good public art is not just about looking good."
A guest post from Jack Becker of Forecast Public Art.
Behind the Facade of Multifamily Financing
An interview with Andy Padian about his experiences financing energy efficiency projects and mentoring future leaders in sustainability.
Our 2012 Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts
To cap off our first year of existence, we’d like to present our most viewed blog posts of 2012. Thanks for reading and see you in 2013.
A Greener Deal from Across the Pond
Alex Krzesinski, Marketing Executive at Yorkshire Energy Services, describes the new United Kingdom residential program called Green Deal.
Existing Building Commissioning Case Study: Minnesota History Center
How can you correct excessive energy use in a building that houses museum exhibition spaces, classrooms, storage spaces for valuable artifacts, a library, and conservation laboratories?
Power and Energy Primer: Part 6 - Direct and Alternating Current
In DC electricty, the current of electrons flows in one direction, from - to +. AC is a bit more complicated: the current flows in both directions, alternately reversing direction at regular intervals.
Reflections on the 2012 BECC Conference
BECC was a good chance to catch up on how the latest social psychology and behavioral economics work is being applied to energy efficiency.
Power and Energy Primer: Part 5 - An Introduction to Power Quality
You would have very little patience if your electronics unexpectedly shut off and on. We have come to expect a certain level of stable and continuous electrical power quality.
Plugload and Minnesota Sustainable Building 2030
Most energy reduction stratgies focus on lighting, plumbing, and HVAC loads, but target energy use intensities can only be achieved by proportionally lowering the plugload.
Power and Energy Primer: Part 4 - Energy Flow, Source and Site Energy
Site energy can be used to measure the overall efficiency of your home, but does NOT tell you how much of the original energy producing raw material was required to deliver that energy to your house.
> 1,000 Words: Secondhand Smoke Animations
Even though the walls of an apartment look solid, air buoyancy and pressure differences between interior spaces cause air to move between rooms and even to other units in the building. We've created animations showing how these interior air driving forces affect the migration of secondhand smoke within a multifamily apartment building.
Power and Energy Primer: Part 3 - Load Curves and Generation
Utilities need to have enough power plants to meet peak demand at the time it is called for, or they risk causing a blackout. All utilities have a mix of electricity sources, including coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. They decide which power plants to run based on a number of factors, including cost, environmental regulations, and location.
A Primer about Power and Energy: Part 2 - Loads and Peaks
Your electricity bill charges you for your energy use, but how much power does your house need? And how can you reduce your power demand? This post focuses in on the concepts of peak loads, load-shifting, and power planning.
Power and Energy Primer: Part 1 - The Light Bulb and the Electric Bill
Definitions like “energy is the capacity for doing work” and “power is the rate of doing work or the rate of using energy” don’t do much to differentiate between a kilowatt and a kilowatt hour. This post walks through an example to show why to consider investing in energy efficiency upgrades before installing a solar PV system.
in other words: Using Cell Phones to Create a Feedback Loop
Increased communication and feedback via cell phones could foster a sense of collaboration between inspectors and contractors while instilling a common purpose. A team approach to learning and continuous improvement could be a very nice by-product. Taking a systems approach and incorporating feedback loops helps create a true learning organization.
> 1,000 Words: Combi System Animations
The Innovation Exchange is developing methods to clarify complex energy concepts and provide technical information. We've created four animations in support of our research staff's outreach about integrated space and water heating systems. This visual approach demonstrates how the parts of the various systems interface and to allows comparisions between them.
in other words: Innovation and Design Thinking
During the late 80s and early 90s, the term “house as a system” pervaded the home energy field. This led the community to consider the interconnected systems of the building, but fell short of a systems thinking approach. Yes, the house is a system, but we do not practice systems thinking until we understand and define the system patterns and consider the entire system, including its occupants.
Sustainable Design in Minnesota
A guest post from Rick Carter, Senior Vice President at LHB's Minneapolis office:
"As an architect practicing in the building realm, I can safely say that many individuals and businesses feel that they are too small to make a difference in the big picture. Although we have discussions at the global and national scale, very little seems to be accomplished. For a community (city, town, neighborhood), we can track most of this information with accuracy and see changes when actions take place."
Fan Efficiency Grade: A Cool New Metric to Improve Efficiency
Supply, return, and exhaust fans in commercial buildings account for 1.25 Quads of primary energy use per year, so it makes sense to improve their efficiency. Director of Research Martha Hewett explains the potential and practical implications of Fan Efficiency Grade.
in other words: $250 for a Thermostat?!
Programmable thermostats are available for a little more than $50: why would any rational person spend four to five times that price for a Nest or other comparable wifi-enabled smart thermostat?
A Pattern Language for Residential Energy Efficiency
I am creating a Pattern Language for Residential Energy Efficiency to understand the recurrent patterns that we encounter and develop a rule-based process to identify effective approaches in delivering energy efficiency services to communities, buildings, and households.
Look Before You Leap: Being a Desk Jockey Can Help You Do an Energy Audit
In this post, we’ll describe how you can gather important information about the house prior to the visit while sitting at your desk. Thanks to the Internet, you could begin filling out the audit form before stepping into your car and even perform a visual inspection of the exterior of the house. We'll discuss available tools and useful analyses that can help prepare and expedite your house visit.
in other words: Understanding How to Interpret Your Energy Use
With the increasing trend of customer feedback reports supplied by utilities as well as the greater accessibility to energy use data via smart thermostats, the smart grid and Green Button, now may be a good time to think about visual communication, visual literacy, and education.
Productivity in the Cloud
Cloud computing moves software and data from local servers to store it on servers in remote locations. It has been said to provide energy efficiency benefits compared to in-house servers. Working in the cloud also enhances productivity, communication, and collaboration.
in other words: Video Game Consoles and Home Entertainment Centers
The home entertainment system is often at the heart of the discussion when dealing with plug loads and standby power. How can we address their phantom loads?
In this post, I’ll discuss a couple of concepts for videos that apply new ways of messaging that incorporate ideas from social psychology and marketing.
in other words: Green Button
We are extremely excited about the potential of the Green Button initiative and anticipate its adoption by Minnesota utilities. Actual usage data is extremely valuable in demonstrating the need for energy efficiency actions and for assessing energy savings.
Tracking the "Look" of Energy on Pinterest
Pinterest is an excellent way to visually catalog online finds. Its link to home design and maintenance creates an opportunity to save residential energy. After a preliminary exploration of how Pinterest users approach energy efficiency on the site, we’ve identified some interesting trends.
Anatomy of the Energy Drips Video
In order to spur awareness and interest, we turned to the fields of social psychology and behavioral economics to create more effective messaging. Based on the research, we learned that the concept of loss aversion is a strong motivator for people to take action. We decided to re-frame the conversation around energy efficiency from "use less" to "waste less."
Review: Apps to Expand Smart Phone Communication Beyond Calls and Texts
A smart phone’s novel features can sometimes distract from its original function: to provide instant communication with the outside world. Cell phones are now standard issue for all auditors, and the interactive communication functions of smart phones offer new opportunities during home energy visits.
Review: Commercially Available Apps Adapted for Energy Audits
We believe that smart phones and tablets should be considered essential parts of the home energy auditor’s tool kit. In this review, we will explain how you can use mobile devices and on-the-market apps in the field.
Mobile Devices and Apps for Energy Audits
At the Innovation Exchange, we’re curious how new technologies can save energy, but we don't limit our scope to HVAC systems and insulation. We’re also exploring how advances in information and communication technologies can contribute to energy savings. Over the next few weeks, i.e. will investigate how mobile devices and apps could transform residential energy programs.