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Builder Confidence Remains at Record Low in December

Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes held at a record low in December as deepening economic turmoil, a deteriorating job market, and an ongoing flow of…

Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes held at a record low in December as deepening economic turmoil, a deteriorating job market, and an ongoing flow of foreclosed homes onto the market continued to negatively impact sales conditions.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) did not budge in December from November’s all-time low reading of 9, with two out of three component indexes losing further ground.

“The crisis continues,” said NAHB Chairman Sandy Dunn, a home builder. “While builders are doing everything we can in the way of price and non-price incentives to move new homes off the books, buyers are afraid to move forward, and in any case there is almost no way to compete with the cut-rate product that is continually flooding the market from mounting foreclosures.”

“We have seen no improvement over the past month in terms of sales conditions for new homes,” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said. “In fact, certain factors have gotten progressively worse, not the least of which is the job market, where massive layoffs are having a devastating effect on consumer confidence. At this point it will take definitive government action to stop the slide in home values and turn the tide of consumer sentiment.”

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2/3 of Construction Companies Planning Layoffs

An estimated two-thirds of the nation’s nonresidential construction companies are planning to cut their payrolls, according to new employment and business forecast figures released by the Associated General Contractors of…

An estimated two-thirds of the nation’s nonresidential construction companies are planning to cut their payrolls, according to new employment and business forecast figures released by the Associated General Contractors of America. All told, those layoffs are forecast to result in a 30% decline in the number of people working on construction projects.

“Unless the business climate changes significantly and soon, the construction sector will continue to experience the kind of devastating job losses and crippling declines in business activity that will undermine efforts to end the recession,” Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO said.

The forecast results, which are based on a representative survey conducted by the construction association late in 2008, found no relief in sight for construction companies that already have been among the hardest hit by the economic slowdown. Many construction companies experienced significant slowdowns beginning late last year, resulting in a 10% decline in the number of construction workers since 2006, Sandherr pointed out.

According to the forecast figures, the association’s member companies have seen or are planning for declining activity in every type of construction market. Ninety-two percent of building contractors are expecting or experiencing declining activity.

The forecast did find, however, that planned investment in infrastructure projects as part of the stimulus package is likely to dramatically improve the employment and business outlook for the year. For example, 85% of nonresidential construction companies would either cancel layoffs or add new employees if states embarked on stimulus-funded infrastructure projects.

For survey results (PDF), click here.

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DOE Establishes ASHRAE 90.1-2004 as National Energy Standard

ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, has been established by the Department of Energy as the commercial building reference standard for state building energy codes…

ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, has been established by the Department of Energy as the commercial building reference standard for state building energy codes starting in 2010.

By December 30, 2010, all states in the United States must certify that their building codes meet or exceed the requirements in ASHRAE/IESNA’s 2004 energy efficiency standard, under a 12/30/08 ruling. If they do not have a code in place at least as stringent as 90.1-2004, they must justify why they can’t comply.

Thirty-seven states complied with the last DOE ruling establishing ASHRAE 90.1-1999 as the national energy standard.

“The quantitative analysis of the energy consumption of buildings built to Standard 90.1-2004, as compared with buildings built to Standard 90.1-1999, indicates national source energy savings of approximately 13.9% of commercial building energy consumption. Site energy savings are estimated to be approximately 11.9%,” according to the ruling published in The Federal Register.

DOE noted that the newer version of the standard contained 13 positive impacts on energy efficiency, several of which are related to lighting:

*Complete replacement of interior lighting power density allowances.
*Revised exterior lighting power density allowances.
*Addition of occupancy sensor requirements for classrooms, meeting and lunch rooms.
*Lower retail sales lighting power allowance.
*New exit sign wattage requirement.

Nearly half of the states (24) currently have an energy code in place at least as stringent as ASHRAE 90.1-2004, meaning 13 states will likely catch up in 2010 and 13 will not comply for various reasons, such as “home rule” state constitutions.

In addition, ASHRAE is working on providing more stringent energy guidance in a proposed standard for high-performance buildings. Being developed in partnership with IESNA and the U.S. Green Building Council, Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, will provide minimum requirements for the design of high-performance new commercial buildings and major renovation projects, addressing energy efficiency, a building’s impact on the atmosphere, sustainable sites, water use efficiency, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

ASHRAE publishes a revised version of the standard every three years. The latest version is the 2007 version.

I will post a more detailed comparison of the 1999 and 2004 versions of ASHRAE 90.1 soon.

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Cree Announces Volume Availability of 2×2 LED General Lighting Fixture

Cree, Inc. has announced the volume availability of the LR24, a 24-inch square recessed LED general lighting fixture. The LR24 is intended for suspended-ceiling applications traditionally addressed by linear fluorescents,…

Cree, Inc. has announced the volume availability of the LR24, a 24-inch square recessed LED general lighting fixture. The LR24 is intended for suspended-ceiling applications traditionally addressed by linear fluorescents, also known as lay-ins or troffers.

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The LR24 is the newest addition to the Cree family of recessed LED fixtures and delivers uniform, high light levels required for offices, schools,hospitals and retail environments while consuming less energy than most linear fluorescent systems.

The LR24 features a CRI rating of 92 and is dimmable from 100-5% using standard protocols.

“With the addition of the LR24, we can light an entire office using Cree LED fixtures,” said Neal Hunter, Cree president of LED lighting.

He added: “The volume availability of the LR24 builds on Cree’s success to-date, as we’ve already installed more than 1,000 early-production LR24s in various national-account projects.”

With a 24-inch square form, the LR24 offers architects and designers a modern lighting aesthetic. The lens is recessed above the ceiling for glare reduction and a distinctive look.

“We have installed LR24s on one floor at the U.S. Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. as part of our ongoing energy-efficiency program,” said Chris Jennings, U.S. Federal Reserve, plant manager. “The graphic designers in the department love the uniformity and the color rendering of the new lights. We are impressed with the amount of light delivered by the LR24, and we look forward to evaluating additional Cree LED lighting products in other applications within the Federal Reserve.”

According to Cree, the LR24 can deliver recommended light levels at only 0.5-0.75W/sq.ft.

Click here for more information about the LR24.

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USGBC Reaffirms Commitment to Developing Green Building Code

The U.S. Green Building Council recently reaffirmed its commitment to the development of Standard 189.1P, which will be America’s first National Standard developed to be used as a green building…

The U.S. Green Building Council recently reaffirmed its commitment to the development of Standard 189.1P, which will be America’s first National Standard developed to be used as a green building code when completed.

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Created specifically for adoption by states, localities, and other building code jurisdictions that are ready to require a minimum level of green building performance for all commercial buildings, Standard 189.1P is being developed as an ANSI standard under ASHRAE’s leadership, in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council and IESNA.

Doubts about the future of Standard 189.1P were raised in late October by ASHRAE’s decision to reconstitute the volunteer committee responsible for the development of the green building code. While rebuilding the committee will mean delays, USGBC remains confident in the quality of the final result.

It’s an interesting (and ambitious) move to merge 90.1 and LEED to create a green building standard, which will likely see first use for public construction in the greener states and for commercial buildings in municipalities committed to green construction. Washington, DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, for example, require most commercial buildings to reach LEED Silver, and in 2008, the State of California authored and adopted a statewide green building code. In terms of lighting, the latest draft of Standard 189.1 that I saw is aggressive and looked like a preview of what is likely to appear in ASHRAE 90.1-2010.

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Annual Rate of Construction Valued at $1.08 Trillion in November

The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce recently announced that construction spending during November 2008 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,078.4 billion, 0.6% (±1.6%)…

The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce recently announced that construction spending during November 2008 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,078.4 billion, 0.6% (±1.6%) below the revised October estimate of $1,085.3 billion. The November figure is 3.3% (±2.2%) below the November 2007 estimate of $1,115.3 billion.

During the first 11 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $998.4 billion, 5.3% (±1.3%) below the $1,054.3 billion for the same period in 2007.

First, let’s look at private construction:

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $756.4 billion, 1.5% (±1.1%) below the revised October estimate of $767.7 billion. Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $328.3 billion in November, 4.2% (±1.3%) below the revised October estimate of $342.6 billion.

Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $428.2 billion in November, 0.7% (±1.1%) above the revised October estimate of $425.1 billion.

And now for public construction:

In November, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $322.0 billion, 1.4% (±2.6%) above the revised October estimate of $317.6 billion. A bright spot in the construction industry in 2008, educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $88.7 billion, 1.3% (±2.7%) above the revised October estimate of $87.6 billion.

The November numbers surprised some economists who thought nonresidential construction would have taken a significant hit by that point. But the value of put in place construction increased in November over October, and what’s more, it increased 16% over the first 11 months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007. As the below graph shows, as of November, data representing the nonresidential construction market has yet to peak for either the private or public components. This is likely because there were so many projects underway at the beginning of 2008.

However, there are signs of underlying weakness, such as a decline in retail construction that is not surprising considering the weakness in retail sales over the past few months, and nonresidential construction is being forecasted down in 2009 because of weakness in the overall economy (deep recession, actually). I’ll have more on 2009 soon. But in the meantime, expect 2008 to close at more than $1 trillion in total construction spending.

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Study Captures Daylighting’s HVAC and Lighting Energy Savings Impacts

Daylighting is recognized as best practice in energy codes and industry standards due to its documented positive effects on worker satisfaction and performance and potential to generate substantial energy savings….

Daylighting is recognized as best practice in energy codes and industry standards due to its documented positive effects on worker satisfaction and performance and potential to generate substantial energy savings. Daylighting and daylighting control are now encouraged or required by California’s Title 24 energy code, LEED-NC v.2.2, Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools, and ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Office Buildings. At the time of writing, ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and 189.1 standards are expected to include requirements for daylighting controls.

While the benefits of daylighting and daylighting control are clear, demonstrated savings vary widely based on many factors.

The New Buildings Institute states daylight harvesting systems can generate maximum potential savings of 35-60%. The Lighting Design Lab states lighting energy savings can reach 60-80% in offices, classrooms and gymnasiums. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, daylight-response switching coupled with skylights has demonstrated energy savings in warehouses of 30-70%.

And that’s not counting HVAC impacts.

One of the challenges in estimating typical savings is it’s difficult to compare high-performance daylighting and glazing strategies against standard designs because of the numerous differences between buildings. How do we know realized energy savings are due to the daylighting strategy and not some other factor such as building orientation?

To address this question, the Energy Center of Wisconsin conducted a controlled experiment at the Energy Resource Station near Des Moines, Iowa. Two sets of four identical rooms provided the comparison testbed, with each supplied by independent lighting and HVAC systems. One set of rooms, the Test Rooms, were configured with high-performance glazing and direct/indirect light fixtures with daylighting dimming control. The other set of rooms, the Control Rooms, were configured with standard clear-glass glazing and recessed fluorescent fixtures with no photosensors or dimming control.

This allowed a direct comparison of lighting and HVAC energy consumption during three rounds of study conducted during the summer, fall and winter of 2003—or a total of 70 days of operation—based on three conditions: 1) the base case described above, 2) reduced fenestration (simulated by the use of exterior panels to partially cover the windows), and 3) adding an interior light shelf to enable deeper penetration of daylight into the room interior.

The Energy Center of Wisconsin measured lighting and HVAC energy savings exceeding 20% based on operating costs of abut $1.13/sq.ft.

Lighting energy savings were determined to be about one-third, or 32%, based on $0.15/sq.ft. annual operating costs for the Test Rooms compared to $0.22/sq.ft. for the Control Rooms, resulting in $0.07/sq.ft. savings per year. Cooling energy savings were measured at 25%, fan energy savings at 3%, and savings in demand charges at 24%, while heating energy increased marginally.

The Test Room fixtures frequently operated at some level of reduced output, around 50% on sunny days. Note that the building geometry offered a ratio of 75% perimeter area (friendly to sidelighting) to 25% core areas, so about a quarter of each room’s floor space did not receive daylight or daylighting dimming. (The windows also did not include blinds.)

The biggest operating cost savings, however—about two-thirds—resulted from lower cooling loads. About one-half were related to reduced demand charges. Interestingly, the three Test Room configurations (base case, etc.) showed very little change in lighting or HVAC energy use, although the reduced fenestration option did produce somewhat higher lighting energy consumption because of less daylight.

The researchers concluded: “The data from this experiment demonstrate clear and substantial reductions in lighting and HVAC energy consumption due to the lighting and window specifications.”

The “Energy Savings from Daylighting” report can be downloaded free here.

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GE Debuts Incandescent-Shaped CFL

Miniaturized electronics developed by GE Consumer & Industrial engineers and scientists are the enabling technology of a new covered GE Energy Smart CFL featuring the GE Spiral® CFL inside the…

Miniaturized electronics developed by GE Consumer & Industrial engineers and scientists are the enabling technology of a new covered GE Energy Smart CFL featuring the GE Spiral® CFL inside the glass bulb. With this new CFL, protected by more than a dozen U.S. patent applications, the electronics fit in the neck of the bulb. The result is a profile that’s virtually identical to a standard incandescent light bulb.

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The new covered GE Energy Smart® CFL debuted nationwide at Target on December 28, 2008. It is being launched at selected Ace Hardware stores this month and more broadly around Earth Day (April 22, 2009) at retailers such as Sam’s Club and Walmart.

Click here to see videos showing the prototype.

GE anticipates its new 15W Energy Smart CFL will appeal to people that want the energy savings and long-life performance of a GE Energy Smart Spiral CFL with the appearance, size and fit of a traditional incandescent bulb. The equivalent of a 60W incandescent bulb, the new 8,000-hour CFL is guaranteed for five years based on four hours of daily use.

”These fit in more lamps and fixtures than standard GE Spiral CFLs with the plastic base,” says Kathy Sterio, general manager of consumer marketing, GE Consumer & Industrial. ”Some people just want an incandescent bulb profile so they can easily use it with clip-on lampshades or smaller table lamps. Other people may see it as more aesthetically pleasing than GE Spiral CFLs in lamps or fixtures where the bulb is visible. It provides a more finished or tailored look that appeals to a lot of consumers.”

Between April and June 2009, GE plans to introduce 9W and 20W versions as 40W and 75W equivalents, respectively. Each will offer the same rated life and guarantee. The 20W CFL will have a slightly taller profile that mirrors a standard incandescent 3-way bulb. A 100W equivalent, meanwhile, could be introduced as early as 2010.

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DOE Releases LED Streetlight Demonstration Project Report

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released the Phase III report from the solid-state lighting (SSL) demonstration of LED streetlights in Oakland, CA, according to an email I recently…

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released the Phase III report from the solid-state lighting (SSL) demonstration of LED streetlights in Oakland, CA, according to an email I recently received from Jim Brodrick at DOE.

The GATEWAY demonstration report, prepared by Pacific Gas & Electric and Energy Solutions, provides an overview of project results measured over a 12-month period, including comparison to Phase II luminaires, energy consumption and illuminance levels, and economic analysis.

In this project, four LED fixtures on one of the Phase II streets were replaced with next-generation LED luminaires (58 watts) from the same manufacturer, with the same chip and driver.

Key findings include:

• Energy savings increased by 25% relative to Phase II (LED luminaire wattage dropped from 78W to 58W) and by 52% relative to the baseline system (from 121W to 58W)
• Luminaire cost decreased by 34% between Phase II and Phase III (from $610 to $400)
• Lighting performance was maintained

Check out the photos below for a quick before/after. The difference in lighting quality is compelling.

Click here to download the complete report (PDF).

Click here to learn more about DOE’s GATEWAY demonstration program.

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Lighting and ASHRAE 90.1-2007

In March 2008, TED Magazine, the NAED publication for electrical distributors, published my column summarizing the lighting changes of the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 energy standard. ASHRAE 90.1-2007 did not make power…

In March 2008, TED Magazine, the NAED publication for electrical distributors, published my column summarizing the lighting changes of the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 energy standard.

ASHRAE 90.1-2007 did not make power allowances more stringent, but did include a number of significant refinements.

Click here to read the article.

According to the Building Codes Assistance Project, as of January 2009, no state has yet adopted ASHRAE 90.1-2007 in whole or as the basis for their commercial energy code.

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