As we celebrate National Energy Awareness Month this October, I am reminded of just how well-positioned we are as a firm and an industry to have a direct impact on our nation’s energy footprint. It should come as no surprise that buildings account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption. The built environment is expansive, ever-increasing in size, and with a significant percentage of existing buildings that continue to age. As design engineers creating and renovating this built environment, we play a val
uable and important role in defining our nation’s energy consumption for the future. The new construction we design today, with all of its energy-saving features, will serve people’s needs for at least the next 50 years. These buildings will operate beyond the goal year of 2030 for net zero energy buildings. The decisions we make today as engineers and designers, in partnership with our clients, directly impact our nation’s ability to have an environmentally sustainable future.
We all need energy. Oil reserves are dwindling. Our current energy sources (coal, nuclear, oil) are environmentally hazardous. These are the facts. How we take in this information and formulate actions to address those facts defines us and our future success. Together with our clients, Mason & Hanger seeks out opportunities to utilize renewable energy sources on our projects. We apply our extensive experience in renewable energy design to identify appropriate opportunities for a given client, project, and site.
By identifying opportunities to reduce consumption and then identifying renewable technologies to fill the gap between supply and demand, we are well on our way to designs that achieve net zero energy (that is to say they generate as much energy as they consume) or near net zero energy. And we can do this in a way that is financially viable - not some pie-in-the-sky design that does not prove itself economically. We are real people with real clients who have real (tight) budgets. We create solutions that protect the environment and investments for the mutual success of our clients and the planet. Coming to work every day to design and create such environmentally conscious buildings and sites renews my hope that we will, in my lifetime, break out of our fossil-fueled ways and really excel at the use of clean, renewable energy on a scale that is economically viable and socially preferable.
What exactly has our company contributed in terms of the application of renewable energy? Below are just a few of our contributions:
- 2.5 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) designed and installed
- 500 kilowatts of wind generated power designed
- Application of solar thermal water heating as the preferred primary system type for all projects (subject to ample solar resource)
- 23 LEED certified projects, plus an additional 20 projects currently undergoing certification. While not limited to renewable energy, a large component of the LEED rating system focuses specifically on energy performance and on-site renewable energy generation
How do we continue to lead the way forward in sustainable, energy efficient building design? Below are just a few ways:
- Our newly formed Energy Auditing & Commissioning Group - This group focuses on working with owners to reduce energy costs and meet government mandates thru services such as retro-commissioning, continuous commissioning, envelope commissioning, facility condition assessments, and building energy audits. Commissioning is vitally important for new construction, but can have an even greater impact in existing buildings given that the existing building stock is so vast.
- Comprehensive Sustainability Studies - These studies take a holistic, macroscopic view of a project during early design phases in order to identify sustainable design opportunities and allow them to inform development of the site. Clients seek our multidisciplinary expertise as both planners and designers to provide scientific, informed analyses that yield realistic, constructible recommendations.
- Expanded service offerings from our Building Sciences Group – This group continues to put out advanced scientific analysis that supports the design of better performing, more efficient, and sustainable buildings in a cost effective and timely manner. Recent new capabilities include condensation studies for optimization of the building envelope.
- Continuous Innovation
In short, I am renewed and energized during this National Energy Awareness Month by the direct impact our firm has on the nation’s energy reduction goals and environmental well-being. It is individuals like ourselves and firms like ours who will lead our nation to long-term economic security and improved environmental health. The actions and decisions we make today, tomorrow, next month, and next year will shape and define the built environment.
Happy National Energy Awareness Month, and keep designing sustainably!