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Energy Modeling for Building Design and Construction
On Wednesday, April 4th, I spent the evening among architects, builders, engineers and students listening to an inspiring presentation on energy modeling for integrated building design, planning and construction hosted by the US Green Building Council's northern California chapter at the Monterey Bay branch. It was a thorough overview of what energy modeling entails when planning a new building, or retrofitting an existing one, how the design process is implemented to ensure maximum efficiency and minimal sticker shock, and incentives for developers and builders to meet higher standards of energy efficiency. Using case studies including the Nordic Naturals Watsonville warehouse and the Midori Passiv Haus, built right here in Santa Cruz county, the presenters demonstrated how utilizing an integrated design and planning team to realize clear goals from the beginning, lead to the highest efficiency, most cost-efficient result for the developer.
One perceived barrier is that these types of projects are too expensive to attempt. However, free and low-cost energy modeling software is available to assist users in accurately identifying the most feasible energy saving strategies to implement in a new project or remodel. It is even possible to design buildings that consume less energy to light, heat and cool simply by taking passive solar orientation into account. Furthermore, the better a project is designed and built to exceed energy codes, the shorter the return on investment period is on upfront costs for the homeowner or developer. Finally, greenspace is your place to find finishes to complete your project with sustainable quality.
While benefits for developers and homeowners are essentially “built-in” to energy efficient homes, generous incentives are now in place for residential builders to exceed California energy code so that both builders and residents can gain from superior energy efficient houses. The lesson of the evening was that, with proper planning, it is now easier and more affordable to construct extremely efficient commercial and residential buildings.