Tie It Altogether

Radical reductions in existing building energy consumption? Possible? Yes. Easy to do? That needs work.

Initiatives | Sustainability
Here at Landwave, I am putting together a holistic, systematic approach to radically reducing building energy. Can we radically reduce energy consumption without impacting lifestyle? Of course we can. Has it been easy to adopt and integrate - as in transparent, coordinated and achievable?  Not yet.  Is it a widespread practice, demanded by building owners?  Not yet.  Do we have enough  knowledgable designers and installers, and the supply chain to support them? Not yet. That's what I'm addressing. WHO SHOULD READ THIS? If you own a building, design buildings, enforce building codes, set policy, analyze macro economic trends  or are generally interested in energy issues, this is a problem that might intrigue you. My efforts are aimed at reducing power consumption across footprints as large as the US inventory: some 130 million homes and 13 million commercial/institutional structures.   Consider the number of owners that represents:  100 million plus?  Why does this matter? We are concerned about climate change.  We are concerned about emissions (technically it's not just CO2, every fossil fuel produces additional greenhouse gasses.) So attention to fossil fuel alternatives draws attention, because we feel reassured that the utilities and transportation sectors will handle the issue. Except for one other possibility.  Electricity in generated and consumed in the same moment.  We only generate the energy we consume.  It doesn't seem a stretch that if we consume less, less is generated and less is emitted. Today we have a power generating capacity on the order of 13x greater than that generated in 1950.  Is it possible the reason has to do with buildings?  Since buildings represent the lions share of electrical consumption, it's a good bet.  If so, what can we do about it?  If we could reduce consumption radically without impacting lifestyle, how might that change how utilities operate?  Would it be easier for us to retire power plants, or reduce the demand on them substantially? And what kind of contribution would that represent to reducing emission? And how could we go about it?  Passive House is a powerful technique well proven outside the US with dozens of wide ranging examples within the US, including a highrise dormitory at Cornell University and multi-family housing in Kansas City.  LEED has generated capacity within the design community for taking these issues into account.  And there is ample evidence that the costs during design and construction are on par, or close to, current conventional techniques. I do "rollouts" as a specialty: lots of facilities modified at the same time.  What if we could apply these techniques to multiple projects at a time?  What if the next "demonstration project" isn't a single home, or commercial facility, but is instead, 250, or 500, or 1,000 of them at a time? WHY LISTEN TO ME? I've been designing buildings, information systems and strategic initiatives for a long time.  I have seen patterns of assumptions, decisions and implementation that bring us shy of our goals.  It bothers me. I consistently ask how we can do better.  The level of difficulty of this particular problem is about 3 on a scale of 5.  The impact on energy production is vast - we could potentially reduce our energy demand by 30% globally.    I know how to make this one go.  I have a family of proposals that can be applied to various situations.