The U.S. Capitol Complex features
buildings between 25 and 215 years old. The Architect of the Capitol – the
group responsible for the maintenance and operations of the Capitol Complex –
not only must maintain the integrity of the historic buildings in its
portfolio. It also must ensure those venerable facilities perform as
efficiently as possible.
On the surface, it
seems logical that the newer facilities featuring advanced technologies
would be more energy efficient than the older buildings. But that is not
necessarily the case.
building, which is 100 years old … has the best energy intensity of all the
Senate buildings,” says Stephen Ayers, the Acting Architect of the Capitol. “So
it’s interesting, and it’s probably because of the substantial construction
material used. Some of the walls over there are 3- and 4-feet thick. That
surprised us that the energy intensity there was much better than the much
newer buildings in the Senate.”
I interviewed Mr.
Ayers in September 2008, and we discussed the energy-efficiency initiatives
taking place at the Capitol Complex. I was surprised at the energy efficiency of the historic buildings. Implementing modern technologies
designed to make these historic buildings operate at peak efficiency seems like
a tall task. But, as Ayers pointed out, historic buildings are not as
inefficient as one would think.
and engineering managers responsible for historic buildings always are conscious
of maintaining the facilities’ integrity. But when they have to implement
energy-saving initiatives inside historic structures, maintaining that
integrity becomes an even bigger challenge.
week, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning
Engineers (ASHRAE) sponsored a Congressional briefing on turning older
structures into high-performing historic buildings.
“As the saying
goes ‘the most sustainable building is one you never have to build,’” says Doug
Read, ASHRAE program director of government affairs. “Historic buildings
already have a significant amount of embodied resources in the bricks and
mortar, so it only makes sense to maintain the historic nature of the structure
while improving its energy efficiency.”
Apparently, the saying, “They just don’t
build them like that anymore,” is applicable here. If you manage historic
facilities, I’m curious how they’re performing. Please share your story. Also,
feel free to read more about the Congressional briefing and the energy-efficiency
efforts taking place at the U.S. Capitol Complex.
Most of the old buildings were designed well for coal fired heat. What is needed is to heat them as designed by taming the new equipment to the design of the system. That is what I do for old buildings. They are comfortable and the systems work well. The next challenge is to retain the heat loss within safe Air Quality Standards. Thgat can be done by retarding the heat loss with improvements to a point just above the air quality standards. If Fressh air heat exchange can be accomplished at the same tme, then all the better. For most buildings properly replacing the piping insulation will go along way from the starting line.
In the preservation community, we like to say that the greenest building is the one that's already been built. In an age when environmental accountability is an emerging giant in our social consciousness, it's often up to preservation professionals to lead teams of architects, engineers, and construction/facilities managers to make decisions which mediate the impact of the built environment on the natural environment.
An Environmental Audit for an existing building will usually result in a Top Ten list of things that can be accomplished immediately and at moderate cost. These are basic 'housekeeping' sorts of tasks like vapor barrier in the crawl space or closing up penetrations in walls, floors, and ceilings. The Audit will also identify areas of hazard that can impact the health and welfare of the occupants over time.
If the property owner/manager is interested in renewable resource systems - including stormwater capture and waste water reclamation - those systems can be integrated in ways that are aesthetically pleasing as well as functionally efficient. The tax credits currently available from state and federal governments can be brokered in ways that make renewables available even for non-profits!
In addition, expect to see cost of utilities decline as much as 70%, month in and month out, over the life of the equipment, 25 - 30 years. Imagine the programming (outreach) that could be funded with those cost savings!
It's just good stewardship of our human, financial, and environmental resources.
Think of where BTU's (British Thermal Units) are stored in your facilities right now. They are intentionally kept in the water heater. How did they get there? "You" paid somebody (oil, gas, electric) good money to put the BTU's in the tank. If your pipes and tank are not wrapped, those BTU's - that you already paid for - are drifting out into the crawl space, basement, or attic. When you call for hot water, gallons may flush down the drain before 'hot' finally arrives at the tap - another 'cost' for poorly managed resources. There are cost-efficient ways to effectively manage water usage as well. Of course, change out that 'oil, gas, electric' for 'free' solar energy, whether solar domestic hot water or photovoltaics.
Let me know if you want more information on all this.
I can help.
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