Month: January 2010

New Gadgets Help Consumers Track Home Energy Use

According to the Department of Energy, monitoring electricity can help consumers reduce energy consumption by up to 15%. Now Oregon Scientific has announced two new products designed to help consumers…

According to the Department of Energy, monitoring electricity can help consumers reduce energy consumption by up to 15%. Now Oregon Scientific has announced two new products designed to help consumers monitor energy usage and save energy in the home:

The Advanced Wireless Appliance Manager monitors power consumption, carbon emissions and real-time costs for up to eight appliances, in addition to long-term trend information. An alarm will alert the user if consumption goals are exceeded. MSRP: $99

Using the Individual Appliance Manager, simply plug the device into any outlet and it will track energy current, line voltage and corresponding costs for any one electrical appliance. The LCD screen also displays the time. MSRP: $29

Hat tip to Randy Smith of the Lighting Design Lab for turning me on to this new product.

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Controls Friday: Consulting-Specifying Engineer Magazine Publishes Roundtable on Lighting Energy Efficiency

Acting on behalf of my client the Lighting Controls Association as its education director, I was pleased to participate in a roundtable on sustainability and lighting efficiency published by Consulting-Specifying…

Acting on behalf of my client the Lighting Controls Association as its education director, I was pleased to participate in a roundtable on sustainability and lighting efficiency published by Consulting-Specifying Engineer Magazine.

Joining me were Jody Good, LC, LEED AP, Principal Lighting and Theatre Designer for Spectrum Engineers Inc.; Siva Haran, PE, LC, LEED AP, a lighting consultant; and Jeff Park, Sustainable Market Development Manager for WattStopper.

Check it out here.

This post sponsored by:

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Lighting Controls Association Publishes 2010 Construction Forecast

The United States suffered its worst recession in 70 years following the collapse of the housing market. The good news is some economists believe the economy began to recover in…

The United States suffered its worst recession in 70 years following the collapse of the housing market. The good news is some economists believe the economy began to recover in Q309 after hitting bottom in the second quarter. The residential construction market is expected to recover, and the Federal stimulus has generated some growth in public nonresidential construction.

The bad news, however, is the private nonresidential construction market is in “freefalll,” in the words of one construction economist—expected to decline 13.4% in 2010 before starting to recover in 2011.

Click here to read this special report, which I wrote on behalf of the Lighting Controls Association.

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November 2009 Construction Spending at $900.1 Billion Annual Rate

Construction spending during November 2009 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $900.1 billion, 0.6% lower than the revised October 2009 estimate of $905.6 billion and 13.2% below…

Construction spending during November 2009 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $900.1 billion, 0.6% lower than the revised October 2009 estimate of $905.6 billion and 13.2% below the November 2008 estimate of $1.037 trillion. During the first 11 months of 2009, construction spending amounted to $868.9 billion, 12.7% below the $994.9 billion for the same period in 2008. (Note these are estimates and subject to change.)

Residential spending declined 1.6% from $263 billion in October 2009 to $258.9 billion in November 2009, which in turn was 18.6% lower than November 2008, when spending was estimated at $318 billion.

Nonresidential construction declined marginally (0.2%) from an estimated $642.6 billion in October 2009 to $641.2 billion in November 2009, which in turn was 10.9% lower than November 2008, when spending was estimated at $719.3 billion. Private nonresidential construction declined 0.7% from $330.6 billion in October 2009 to $330.5 billion in November 2009. Public nonresidential construction declined 0.4% from $312 billion in October 2009 to $310.7 billion in November 2009.

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Architecture Billings Index Remains in Negative Territory

On the heels of a more than 3-point dip last November, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Architecture Billings Index (ABI) had a negligible increase of less than 1 point…

On the heels of a more than 3-point dip last November, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Architecture Billings Index (ABI) had a negligible increase of less than 1 point in December.

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. AIA reported the December ABI rating was 43.4, up slightly from 42.8 in November. This score indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 55.3, down more than three points.

“The main impediment to an economic turnaround for the design and construction industry remains frozen credit markets. We continue to hear that there are numerous viable projects out there awaiting financing,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “And the longer this situation persists, the more dire the news for the architecture profession which is struggling at unprecedented proportions.”

Key December ABI highlights:

Regional averages: Northeast (48.6), Midwest (46.6), South (43.2), West (40.0)
Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (51.0), institutional (44.2), commercial / industrial (42.7), mixed practice (38.1)
Project inquiries index: 55.3

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LightNOW Editor to Publish Novel in April 2010

I am pleased to announce that my latest novel, Tooth and Nail, will be published by Schmidt Haus books in April 2010. This is my first work of horror, or…

ToothAndNailx3I am pleased to announce that my latest novel, Tooth and Nail, will be published by Schmidt Haus books in April 2010.

This is my first work of horror, or rather, post-apocalyptic fiction and was a lot of fun to write.

Hope you’ll check it out when it becomes available!

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AIA Board of Directors Chooses Hanley Wood as New Media Partner

LightNOW has learned that Architectural Record appears to be about to lose the AIA media contract, which is due to expire at the end of 2010. The American Institute of…

LightNOW has learned that Architectural Record appears to be about to lose the AIA media contract, which is due to expire at the end of 2010. The American Institute of Architects has chosen Hanley Wood, LLC to begin negotiating development of an integrated media approach (print, online, digital, convention/meetings) for the AIA’s official publication and annual convention.

Hanley Wood is the publisher of Architect Magazine. While the new relationship with AIA will certainly benefit Architect, it is unclear at this point how Architectural Lighting Magazine, also published by Hanley Wood, will benefit. It could benefit substantially. . . .

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Death and Taxes

Below is my column for the Jan/Feb issue of Illuminate, for your consideration. Note that Jan/Feb is my last issue as editor at large. From here on out, I will…

capitolhillBelow is my column for the Jan/Feb issue of Illuminate, for your consideration. Note that Jan/Feb is my last issue as editor at large. From here on out, I will not be leading the magazine as its editor but instead contributing it to as a staff writer. This was on my request …

Death and taxes may be the only things that are certain in life, but in the case of taxes, why pay more than you must?

While it appears that there has not been a lot of interest among architects and designers in the Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction (CBTD) created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, simply designing lighting systems that comply with many of today’s energy codes enables building owners to already come close to qualifying for the incentive. This is potential money on the table for your clients and an untapped value-add for your business. In some cases, your company may be able to claim a significant tax deduction for itself.

Keeping in mind that we at Illuminate are not in the business of providing tax consulting and advice—for more information, consult a properly trained, regulated and insured professional—here is an educational description of the CBTD and how lighting can be used to achieve it:

The CBTD provides an incentive for building owners to invest in energy-efficient interior lighting, HVAC/hot water and building envelope. Recently extended to December 31, 2013, the incentive provides an accelerated tax deduction of up to $1.80/sq.ft. to cover the cost of all three advanced systems or up to $0.60/sq.ft. for one of the three systems. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently teamed up to call on Congress to expand the benefit from $1.80 to $3.00/sq.ft.

There are several paths to compliance. The complete and partial deduction paths involve one or all three qualifying building systems. Both require intensive energy modeling to compare the energy performance of the proposed building compared to a baseline reference building.

The Interim Lighting Rule, which may not be so “interim” anymore as it appears to also have been extended to December 31, 2013, offers a much more straightforward path.

The Interim Lighting Rule enables owners of commercial buildings to deduct the full cost of new interior lighting, capped at $0.30-$0.60/sq.ft. on a sliding scale, if the new lighting achieves a lighting power density (W/sq.ft.) that is 25-40% lower than the maximum values published in ASHRAE 90.1-2001’s Table 9.3.1.1 or Table 9.3.1.2. (The exception is warehouses: The lighting system must reduce power density by at least 50% to get a $0.60/sq.ft. deduction.)

Besides achieving a target reduction in lighting power density, three other conditions must be met. First, if the project triggers the controls provisions of ASHRAE 90.1-2001, these provisions must be met. Second, bilevel switching must be installed in all occupancies except hotel and motel guest rooms, store rooms, restrooms, public lobbies and garages. And third, the application must meet the minimum requirements for calculated light levels as published in the ninth edition of the IES Lighting Handbook.

In a new building, the local energy code must be complied with. Most codes are based on ASHRAE 90.1 already. In fact, according to EnergyCodes.gov, 29 states already have a commercial energy code in place that is as least as stringent as ASHRAE 90.1-2004/2007 or IECC 2006/2009.

The 2004 and 2007 versions of the standard contain lighting power density caps that are generally 13-50% lower than the 2001 version. For example, maximum allowable power density for office buildings is 23% lower. Retail 21% lower, hospitals 25% lower, manufacturing 41% lower, schools and universities 20% lower, and warehouses 33% lower. This means that simply by designing the lighting system to the requirements of an energy code based on ASHRAE 90.1-2004 or 2007, the design may already be near the zone of qualification.

Regarding bilevel switching, if your code is based on the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), some type of light level reduction is already required by code in some enclosed indoor spaces. While IECC exempts spaces with occupancy sensors, the CBTD does not, which may entail the use of occupancy sensors with bilevel switching capability in some spaces. Additionally, note that while IECC defines light level reduction, the CBTD does not. Regardless, bilevel switching is a simple, durable, cost-effective energy-saving strategy for many spaces.

And regarding meeting minimum light levels based on IES recommendations, that is just basic good lighting practice.

The bottom line is that by achieving compliance with ASHRAE 90.1-2004/2007 or IECC 2006/2009, adding bilevel switching where required, and adhering to the basics of good lighting design, commercial building projects can come close to achieving qualification for the CBTD. Pushing the design to achieve a little more efficiency may produce a significant financial benefit.

Note that if the building is government owned (does not pay taxes), the designer (“person that creates the technical specifications for installation of energy-efficient building property”) may be allocated the CBTD by the owner, according to IRS Notice 2008-40. This could be an architect or lighting designer. If more than one designer, the owner may allocate the deduction to the designer who was primarily responsible for the design or among the designers.

The primary obstacle is simply the hassle factor. This is something that must be learned, the client must understand and value the benefit, and the project itself must be inspected and certified by a qualified individual who is a licensed contractor or engineer (who is not an employee of the building owner). But the investment in time may be justified if CBTD expertise translates to a competitive edge—certainly if the investment can be amortized over multiple projects.

NEMA recently improved its website built to educate the public about the CBTD. You can check it out at www.lightingtaxdeduction.org.

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Renaissance Lighting Launches Newly Enhanced Website

LED downlight manufacturer Renaissance Lighting has launched its newly redesigned website with improved navigation and new features to improve and enhance the customer experience. New enhancements include more in-depth product…

LED downlight manufacturer Renaissance Lighting has launched its newly redesigned website with improved navigation and new features to improve and enhance the customer experience. New enhancements include more in-depth product information and product photography, a new installation showcase and case studies section, plus a full manufacturer rep and distributor directory.

Check it out here.

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