Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Energy Management System that Integrates Human Behavior

Chris Thorman, a blogger for Software Advice, recently wrote about a very cool environmental monitoring system developed by Sharman and Knowledge Global, a sustainability consultancy. Their Environmental Management and Measurement Application (EMMA) records and diplays real time carbon footprint information, and sends real-time alerts to property managers, is tied to "eggs" that glow green or red based on energy use and records daily metrics. This system engages occupants as well as building managers. The occupant engagement component is particularly critical for ongoing energy reduction as we know from recent behavioral studies.

Thorman describes the behavioral aspects of the system:

  • The EMMA monitor in the lobby of buildings displays energy use by floor, room and even by tenant. This makes it easy to organize competitions that motivate tenants to reduce the amount of energy they are using.
  • EMMA’s wireless “eggs” are another visual incentive for reducing tenants’ carbon footprint. These egg-shaped devices sit throughout a building – in common areas and on each floor, for example – and glow red or green as energy use fluctuates against the optimal forecast. This constant reminder about energy use encourages tenants to use less, or at least, makes them aware of energy use in areas they may have not even thought about before.

Here's a flow chart describing the basic aspects of the entire system:

More resources on this system:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Energy Fix by Greg Allen

One of my esteemed colleagues, Greg Allen, is a "sustainable strategist" in HOK's Toronto office who specializes in energy. Seriously, this guy knows everything about it... non-renewable, renewable, anything you want to know. I ask him all of my obscure energy-related questions that noone else knows the answer to... like about co-gen, solar nano-technology and if T. Boone Pickens really knows what he is talking about.

Greg has just written a really nice white paper about retrofitting buildings currently reliant on fossil fuels (that means most buildings). It's a very helpful resource if you're looking for ways to seriously change the way your building uses energy and, in fact, create revenue by selling energy back to the grid. His answer is NOT just slapping solar panels on the roof. Be prepared, it's a complicated answer, but worth really understanding.

For the short version of his paper, click here.
For the long version, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gingerbread Green Homes

And now for a little holiday humor... For those of you who spend way too much time doing LEED checklists, you'll enjoy this. John Cantrell, Weronika Cichosz, JoAnn Brooks, Lori Selcer, Julian Tablada - colleagues of mine from HOK - came up with a green checklist for building a green gingerbread home.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On My Bookshelf: Clean Energy Common Sense

It’s no joke, I like to read. A lot. In fact, my birthday gift this year was a Kindle – partially because it’s green, partially because it’s cool, but mostly because I’ve run out of room on the bookshelves in my house.

One of my recent reads is a little book on current affairs and the environment by Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

First, about NRDC: NRDC is an environmental action group whose mission is “to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.” No small task! This organization has been doing good work since 1970 and is popular and influential today: How I Met Your Mother’s Marshall Erikson’s dream job is to be a lawyer for NRDC.

The book itself is inspired by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and includes a foreword by Robert Redford (yes, that Robert Redford). It’s a quick read – at only 106 pages, I was able to get through it in two sittings.

What I really liked about this book is that it truly lays out the arguments for combating climate change in a clean, clear, no-nonsense manner. Anyone who reads this book will understand Beineke’s arguments: written simply and without a lot of jargon or extraneous information.
The book is written for any number of audiences: from those who question whether climate change is real to those who are the greenest greenies.

For me, the part that resonated most was the section on carbon cap & trade (part of Chapter 4: A Blueprint for Change). This section takes a complicated subject with all kinds of market and political aspects and makes it very understandable – extremely helpful for those who do not spend their days studying carbon trading, emissions, global politics, manufacturing, and/or the global free market.

The Epilogue calls for each reader to “do something”: contact your Senators and Representatives, write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine, or start a dialogue with your contacts. I’m hoping that this post gets you thinking about the environment and what you can do, whether it’s read the book, research the issues, or change your behaviors and urge others to do the same!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Green Depot" Offers Great Gift Ideas

I think I may be slow to realize this website even exists, but I must say I was pleased to find it. The Green Depot sells efficient light bulbs, filters, low VOC paints... all of those green household items you would have had to search for hours online for in the past, but now you can search for in an instant.

My favorite part of their site is the "gift ideas" section where you can find everything from recycled wine bottle glasses, to a Kil A Watt gadget to measure your appliance energy intake; from a dual flush toilet retrofit to a composter for the home. SO COOL!

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