Posts Tagged ‘home energy audits’

LEED-ing the Way

Friday, August 6th, 2010

leed_certification

What is LEED?

This week, Sinclair Community College student Senya Oji-Njideka described the school’s Civil Engineering Technology program, which emphasizes energy conservation and energy analysis. In the course of his description, he mentioned several national programs being implemented to help save energy. One of those is the LEED building certification program — we did a little more homework to find out what LEED is all about and why it’s critical to Architectural Technology students — or anyone who is interested in buildings, and in the future of the planet.

LEED actually stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The voluntary certification program was at the forefront of the energy conservation effort, established in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). If a building has been “LEED-certified” it means that it is environmentally sound, constructed with materials and methods that are water-efficient and energy-efficient. It also means that it was designed with an eye to reduced carbon emissions and improved indoor air quality.

Within the U.S., more than 15,000 buildings have been LEED-certified, and that number is increasing as businesses and institutions become more concerned with the environment. Certification is based on a point-based ranking, and a building gains points based on seven different categories: Energy and Atmosphere; Sustainable Site; Indoor Environmental Air Quality; Materials and Resources; Water Efficiency; and Innovation in Design. Points are given for such things as using low-emitting materials in painting, flooring and adhesives to reusing existing materials during a reuild to creating a water efficient landscape.

So, what does this all mean to Senya and other students interested in careers in the building industry?

It means that, going forward, a thorough knowledge of LEED requirements is extremely useful — and often mandatory — for careers in Architectural Technology and Civil Engineering. The USGBC offers “LEED Professional Accreditation” to demonstrate a person’s expertise and ability to guide a building project through the LEED certification process. Exams are given in several categories, including the LEED-NC (New construction/major renovation), LEED-EB (Existing Building) and LEED-CI (Commercial Interior).

Check out the USGBC website where you’ll find plenty of background on green building initiatives as well as LEEDS-related laws and incentives that are being implemented in communities throughout the country to promote environmentally responsible building projects — both commercial and residential. The website also goes into more detail regarding LEEDS certification requirements and can direct you to exam-prep courses and other instruction to help prepare for LEEDS accreditation testing.

ATETV Episode 43: Collaboration, Conservation and the Cutting Edge

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

This week, we learn how companies look to graduates to meet workforce demands, learn about the latest trends in energy conservation and talk with a student who is returning to school to study laser technology.

In our first segment, we visit Springfield Technical Community College, where Computer Technology students are taking classes side-by-side with professionals from area computer companies.

Says Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks, “The collaboration between Juniper and local colleges [enables students to] access the same information [being accessed by professionals] which helps them prepare for the same types of jobs.”

And as Springfield’s Gordon Snyder notes, “What we’re doing is exposing companies to the community college…We have made good connections with these companies and they realize what great places community colleges are. [In fact, community colleges] are now probably the first place they come when want to hire somebody new.”

While industry is becoming more aware of the programs offered at Springfield Technical College, students, teachers and consumers alike are becoming more aware of the high costs of energy – and ways to conserve – as we learn in our second segment.

As Mike Traen of Certified Energy Raters explains, green building verifications and performance testing for Energy Star compliance and rating is a great movement.

“It’s a way to be environmentally responsible,” says Mike. “It amounts to not using more than you have to, not disposing of more than you have to. It’s a good thing for a home owner because you’re going to save money in the process.” Mike predicts that the field of Energy Efficiency and Compliance will expand and that the need for qualified energy technicians, too, will increase.

And, it’s a similar message in our third segment, which takes us to Central Carolina Community College’s Laser and Photonics Program, where student and former truck driver Andy Dawson is making a change, and embarking on an exciting, fast-paced career.

“I’m loving every minute of the program so far,” says Andy. “I mean any time I get something in my hands and I’m having to do the work on it and being able to break that laser down [and figure out what’s wrong with it and how to best fix it] to get it working correctly [I get excited]” he adds. “For just two years’ investment, you can’t go wrong in a community college program, “ he notes.

Home Energy Audits: Greening Your Home, and Saving You Money

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In the past couple episodes, we’ve focused on home energy audits as a growing source of good, green jobs that can’t be outsourced. Today we’re going to take a look at the process from the homeowner’s perspective, explaining what goes into an energy audit and what actions homeowners can take to save energy and money.

According to Sinclair Community College Professor Robert Gilbert (featured in this week’s episode), a home energy audit looks at four different aspects of a home’s energy efficiency. First, technicians determine how well-insulated the building’s walls, ceilings, windows and foundation are. Gilbert says that up to 60% of a home’s heating and cooling costs are due to “air infiltration.” By blowing air in through the doorway of the house and measuring the pressure inside, technicians can measure how airtight a home is and where the leaks are.

Second, technicians test the mechanical parts of the house: the heating and cooling systems, major appliances like washers and dryers, and even the type of lightbulbs a home has. But just as important as what stuff a home has is how the folks inside use it, which is the third part of the audit. Technicians look at when residents are home, what temperature the thermostat is set to and even how often the TV is on. Finally, technicians will look at utility bills to see exactly how much fuel and electricity the home is using.

Gilbert credits tax rebates and incentive programs offered by utility companies and state and Federal governments for the increased demand for audits — and, by extension, for audit technicians. Another factor is that more homeowners are realizing that small steps can lead to big savings on their utility bills.

A home energy audit is a great way to get your home to peak efficiency, but you don’t have to wait to start saving. To save electricity, Gilbert suggests replacing incandescent light bulbs with florescent models; turning off lights in unoccupied rooms; plugging TVs and other electronics into power strips, and turning them off when not in use; and unplugging items like cell phone chargers, which drain electricity even when not in use.

To save on heating and cooling, Gilbert suggests turning down the thermostat at night and when you aren’t home; programmable thermostats are particularly handy for this. And if you’re up for a do-it-yourself project, caulking and foaming over areas where air is leaking out of the house can result in big savings.

You can find more helpful tips and information on energy audits online. Energy Star, the energy efficiency program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, has a page where you can find a professional energy audit company near you and compare your energy usage to that of other homes in your area.

Thanks to Professor Gilbert for his help this week and for his practical energy-saving tips!