The phrase that always has me reaching for a complimentary bag that can be found in the seat pocket in front of you on an airplane is “Best Practice”. Are you following “best practice”? Are you familiar with “best practice”? Will you use “best practice”? No. No. And no.
Define best practice, anyway. What does it mean? It’s something someone with many letters in their title block, who was paid a princely fee to declare, “This is the way it ought to be done”. Let’s examine a few deep thoughts on this concept.
- “Best practice” infers this is the best car, shirt, beer, house, bicycle… for you. What if your friends or coworkers you frequently haul around in the back seat of the car are tall and best-practice man recommends a best-practice Nissan Altima? I can tell from experience riding in the back seats of rented Altimas that they have no headroom, and I am not a tall guy. Consider EE program evaluation: The typical portion of an EE program budget (total) available for program evaluation is 3%. The sample size for producing the industry standard confidence and precision targets is typically in the 70 project range, almost regardless of the size of the population. Do you think 3% is the right number to budget to evaluate PG&Es residential lighting program and 3% is the right number to budget for Rochester (Minnesota) Public Utilities residential lighting program? Best practice – in the garbage can.
- Somebody paid the best practice man to produce “best practice” and therefore, “best practice” is available to the public. If it isn’t available to the public, how can it be declared “best practice”? If we are asked in an RFP to do stuff via “best practice”, where is it? It’s available on the internet somewhere, like advice for curing hiccups. The fact is, if it is available to the public, “best practice” actually means “status quo” or “not worst practice” or “folklore”.
- “Best practice” is something you want to advertise? Who writes a proposal and enthusiastically scribes they will deploy industry “best practice” for the client? Firms that die. That’s who.
How about these best practices, which I Jeff Ihnen, P.E., MS ME, LEED AP, JBJBJee provide for free:
- Best practice is never use the term “best practice” when describing how you will handle a project for a client.
- Best practice is explaining how you understand the client’s plight, challenges, and interests and how you will take care of them for the client. I will not deploy the square-peg “best practice” to your round-hole problem.
- Best practice is completing stuff on time for the client.
- Best practice is producing accurate results that reflect reality; results that will not come back to bite a few months after best-practice man flew home and started deploying “best practice” for other clients.
- Best practice is telling clients what they need to know and not what they want to hear or what you want to tell them.
- Best practice is working for clients who want to know what they need to know.
- Best practice is producing clear demonstrable results, not merely trying with “best practice”. Trying is for young kids. Results are for adults.
- Best practice is bang for the buck, not paying for ridiculous precision on something that doesn’t matter.
- Best practice is doing what the client needs, not what the consultant wants.
LEED has resulted in common examples of failed “best practice”. LEED is taking a pounding with high profile news outlets and lawsuits but the best practice known as LEED is NOT the problem. The USGBC is NOT the problem. The problem is practitioners who have no business developing green buildings. They don’t understand energy consumption and efficiency. They don’t know how buildings work. They don’t understand building automation systems. They can’t follow instructions to do things differently. They design and build the building as usual and look at the paperwork at the end as a useless function. What does one expect?
Building a “green” building is exactly like cooking a delicious meal for guests. Cooking a delicious meal is easy 95% of the time by following instructions in the cookbook – but you HAVE to follow instructions. The usual LEED building process goes like this: brown hamburger, cook macaroni, add Hamburger Helper, “where’s my plaque?”. No offense to Hamburger Helper, which was derived for “cooks” who can barely handle boiling an egg and for busy people with a pack of ravenous kids to feed, but in the end it’s Hamburger Helper. It’s what you get from people and firms with no skill. It’s “best practice”.
 The 5% that is difficult takes a lot of experience – things such as bread and pastries require skill and experience.
As blasted in this blog many times, most recently in Widgetman, humans almost always have their priorities far out of whack. With EE for example, facility owners should probably establish marshal law to ensure lights are shut off overnight in their office buildings before they start adding photovoltaic panels. But then, I guess, to the casual observer (schlep) one can see how green the building is during the day, but at night when the building is lit like the headlamp of an oncoming train when no one is there, the wonderful PV panels cannot be seen and nobody pays attention or cares that the lights are burning bright to keep the cockroaches in their holes.
The human desire for widgets over self improvement, learning, hard work, and results for the greatest achievement in whatever the pursuit may be is universal. A perfect illustration for this is the triathlon. I’m not a triathlete for several reasons, the first of which I wouldn’t make it out of the water, the most dangerous part of the tri, alive. Maybe I could do something substantial like an Olympic distance or half ironman with gobs and gobs and gobs of time swimming.
The other barrier to tris, to me, is they require gobs of crap, but a barrier to me may be a reason to do them for others because people like crap (widgets). For the swim, a wetsuit is a great idea because hypothermia in the water can result in death. They also add buoyancy, which I would desperately need.
After the swim – the bike and run is where people get widgetitis. Let’s start with the bicycle. I would guess at least half the bikes in a half-iron are the Cervelos or equivalent Trek, this, that or the other. These are the Formula 1 race cars for the cycling universe. Some cost north of $6,000 easily, and they are pretty much only used for racing because they are stiff and uncomfortable to ride (I am told). But, they are extremely light and aerodynamic – the frame, the wheels, the frame and the wheels together, and the handlebars. If you own one of these and don’t shave your chops and legs, you’re wasting money.
Then there are the aero helmets for another $150, which is ridiculous because it must cost as much to design and manufacture a toilet plunger as it does for one of these things.
As I watch some people mounting and donning this stuff for their 56 mile ride I’m thinking, “Why don’t you lose that 20 pound sand bag of a spare tire, and then pay $5000 to shave 6 ounces off the bike and get the aerodynamics that will save you 30 seconds on a 56 mile ride?” In combination, these bikers are like a Formula 1 race car with an 18 horsepower Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine.
Moving onto the run, which I actually can do, we have additional widgets of the day. Some of the Formula 1 drivers may use a beverage belt thingy with eight or ten little bottles of sport and energy drinks of some sort. They each probably contain 100 calories and a bunch of expensive mineral crap they don’t need. They remind me of my little green army guys when I was a kid, but rather than having a belt full of grenades, it’s a belt full of little flasks. There are probably 10 water/Gatorade stops on the course, so what’s the point in carrying this cargo?
Then there are compression thingies for the calves and arms. What are these for? They’re like the spoiler on the old bitchin’ camaros from the 1970s (check out the song sometime by the Dead Milkmen). They look “cool” (to some people), but they serve a dopey, theoretical purpose. The theory is they increase veinal (return) blood flow. Good for bed-ridden or stationary people, but triathlons? Working muscles need blood flow and these things restrict it. The fad is in the NBA as well. Lastly, I would add that triathlons occur in the summer when it’s hot. What you need: the right shoes for your foot type and maximum heat rejection. Compression things are insulation. Bad. BTW, remember cho-pat straps and nasal strips? Gone. You won’t see these compression things in five years either.
There are similarities with energy efficiency. At the moment, LEDs are the hot item, but to my knowledge, they produce no more lumens per Watt than a decent T8 fluorescent lamp. They have other advantages, however, like a forever service life, and they don’t result in skunky beer they tell me. Electric cars will be in the nasal strip category as they will be swamped by hybrids with possibly some decent market share by plug-in hybrids. Then, of course, there is the Cervelo owner with the 20 pound spare tire equal for buildings: the LEED triple platinum with PV, solar water heating, individual temperature and ventilation control, variable speed drives operating at full speed, and heating water temperature controlled to 160F all the time.
Forget the widgets and apply yourself first.
 Finishing a triathlon is a great accomplishment and while I have no vested interest, by all means, buy all the stuff you want!
As my crop of silver hair continues to expand, I have become more of a historian, particularly when it comes to cause and effect, and peoples’ behavior. I step back and observe what is happening and what has happened as a result of this or that policy. Theories are nice, and they may be well thought out and make sense but if they fail miserably, should we double down and try it again? Policy isn’t like launching rockets or breaking the speed of sound.
For those things, you can test, observe failure/problems and make adjustments. For example, Chuck Yeager was the first to break the speed of sound in an airplane. As he did so, the vehicle, which looked like a beer keg with wings (tap included), shook violently and about blew apart. Why? Because it had straight wings, not “delta” shaped wings. The tap of the keg was led by a shock wave that emanated back in a V, kind of like the wake behind a boat. The straight wings resulted in the ends leading the beer keg’s shock wave and the portions closer to the fuselage were safely behind the shock wave. There is a large difference in pressure upstream and downstream of the wave causing instability and the violent vibrations. They learned. Sweep the wings back so the entire wing is post shock wave. All supersonic aircraft have since been designed that way. Google for pictures of the Blackbird, Concorde, Stealth Fighter, F-14, 22, and a gazillion others and you can see this delta wing design. You don’t see this on your basic subsonic A320 passenger jet. Mechanical engineers should already know this. If not, they went to the wrong school or slept through fluid dynamics.
Policy, on the other hand, does not work this way in my opinion because policy affects infinite variables and you are dealing with peoples’ decisions on a macro basis, not physics. When accounting for decisions made by 300 million individuals followed by a chain reaction of decisions that is limitless, you will get the same results from the same policy every time.
Keynesian theory (stimulus), for example has failed, what a thousand times, not counting the depression? But we keep trying. See this damning report by two Ph.D. economists, one from The Ohio State University and one from the University of Western Ontario. The Act “saved or created” 443 thousand government jobs and “destroyed” about 1 million private sector jobs. I wonder if the study was funded by ARRA! LOL! Has anyone seen Joe Biden lately?
I could write a book regarding why it doesn’t work on a macro level, but let me just provide some reasons believers give for it not working: it wasn’t enough money ($800 billion is almost $3,000 for every man woman and child in the country – how many flat screen TVs from China do we need?), it doesn’t work during deficit spending, the financial crisis, the Bowl Championship Series, La Nina, Rosie quit The View, people were busy preparing for the apocalypse that failed to materialize over the weekend – you name it.
Likewise, it’s been a bomb for energy efficiency.
- Utility and regulatory stakeholders in Iowa opined they couldn’t wait for the funding to stop so people would get off their hands and get in the game again. Now that ARRA is wearing off, an objective observer can see this happening – the economy improving, slowly.
- Cash for clunkers miniscule EE impacts. Over an AESP conference lunch last week, I visited with an engineer from Southern Company, Alabama and he said the Honda and Mercedes plants in their service territory were running around the clock, full tilt. Post cash for clunker they were running at half capacity. And savings?
- A long time ago, I said the money going to EE needs oversight to ensure it isn’t wasted. Well lo and behold, a few weeks after this we bid as a sub-consultant to evaluate the funds spent in California and won the project. We haven’t seen a nickel’s worth of work yet.
- With a business partner’s lead, we pursued pilot work to pursue some ARRA funds, despite my vowing not to pursue ARRA funds. Result: $130,000 lost in work we will never be paid for.
- We had a “shovel ready” LEED® project for a new federal building ready to go. After dragging on for months, our LEED services were value-engineered out of it. Did the OSU guy capture this?
- In the past couple weeks we considered going after some DOE EE evaluation work with one of our best clients but dropped out once intelligence revealed a competitor was going to low-ball it with their “government rates”. Reverse price fixing. I wonder how the rest of their clients feel about this??
What else is ironic is I would say our industry is quite progressive, yet when politically favored are in power, EE gets the shaft. Consider WI, which during the recession prior to this one, the Democratic governor Jim Doyle, almost collapsed the state’s energy program by taking HALF the budget dollars rather than cutting spending elsewhere. In speaking with Californians last week at AESP, the same thing is on the table in Sacramento, with a Democrat uber-super-duper majority. I said, I bet there’s uproar over that. Not a peep. How could this be? Unions Trumpka EE, get it?
Meanwhile, on the right you have people like Rand Paul with his kooky bill to undo the incandescent ban; Glen Beck waxing hysterically that George Soros will use the CFL as a tool to overthrow the US government and Media Matters will control your smart grid connection; Bush and hydrogen; and of course there is a considerable faction of right wingers that would just as soon gut all EE efforts and drill, mine, build power plants, and power lines willy nilly, and waste resources per market forces.
Finally there is this triple lindy irony: the incandescent ban, signed into law by Bush, hated by right, generally applauded by policy people in our industry, is causing much angst for program people. It’s taking with it a gravy train of easy savings for EE programs. An entire cottage industry is developing to rationalize the legitimacy of maintaining these savings. There’s a problem though. I can get CFLs on Amazon.com for less coin than the less efficient halogen. We may actually see incentives for throwing away working incandescent light bulbs (just guessing).
Will the Republicans dismantle our industry? It’s probably not going to happen in Wisconsin. A friend (Shaw) of a friend (Koch) of the governor is the administrator! What a hoot – a story for another day.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
Although I don’t appreciate talking about it, we have a black list of companies and organizations for which we will not again partner with, work with, or bid their request for proposals. What type of activities land somebody on this list?
Companies or organizations that take our business development efforts and give it to someone else.
We are working on retro-commissioning for a major player in the Midwest grocery market. As with most of our investment-grade studies for energy retrofit or retro-commissioning, we like to use contractors to provide us with pricing because we expect they will get the work and therefore, the pricing is going to be more accurate in addition to having accountability for the prices at implementation time. The contractor was very reluctant to help because he was afraid he would help develop pricing and concepts and then somebody else would get the work. I laughed out of familiarity with such shenanigans.
Unfortunately, while working on the grocer project, we were victims of just what the contractor was talking about, on a different project. We had completed an energy study for a quasi non-profit, quasi-government outfit (Jeff, how many times do you have to get burned before you learn?) and we were moving into developing the design and provided a proposal. We had already pretty well nailed down the scope of the project.
Inject another righteous government agency to “help” this end user. Well, they took our developed scope of work and put out a competitive request for proposals with OUR work on it. So now we’re faced with throwing away all the development we had already done just to be competitive with the other bidders who were handed this on a silver platter. As I wrote last week, it’s a rainy day in hell when a government outfit takes anything but the low bid, otherwise known as the cheapest, crappiest system imaginable; one that meets only the major recognizable features, like equipment efficiency. There are plenty of places to cut cost on the design and on the project itself.
That agency is blacklisted.
Companies that use our credentials to win a job and then dump us like a cheap date.
Last year we had “teamed” with a local architect on a LEED project for a new nearby federal facility. I must digress for a moment. This project was in progress when the “stimulus” was passed – you know the one that was supposed to break loose the shovel-ready projects. If this wasn’t shovel-ready, I don’t know what was. The plans and specifications had been lying about for year or two waiting for approval to proceed. It drug on for months once the stimulus passed.
Come to think of it, this one too was in our hip pocket and they bid the work out again. I’m not sure why because the design was 90% completed but I suppose some milestone had passed and federal statutes required a rebid or something.
So now that it’s competitive, once again after doing a bunch of development and front end work, we have to cut cost to beneath the cheap and crappy level. So our client, the architect asked us to chop our down our price. We provided a counter offer and waited. And waited, and waited.
We already had 20 or so LEED projects under our belt compared to near zilch for the architect. Finally, we get a hold of the scumbag, er, I mean client, and he says, oh yeah, “The good news is, we won the project. The bad news is, you aren’t on the team.” This is lower than a pregnant snake’s armpit. (stolen from the aussies and modified by me).
Companies or organizations that use our proposal in attempt to beat “their” firm down in price.
This one is more difficult to nail down but let’s just say if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… A large organization pursued by a bunch of consultants / contractors has been working with a provider for years and maybe they want a new or modified service, or maybe it’s just the same stuff they’ve been provided with many times. Now they suddenly want a proposal from us. This is either a Sarbanes Oxley corporate requirement (ok), process to actually evaluate invited bidders (ok), charade to fake a bureaucrat into thinking the chosen one was competitively selected (not ok), or a hammer to beat down the firm they know they are going to hire (not ok). Essentially, we are wasting a bunch of our time to benefit only the buyer. The other bidder(s) gets screwed too.
Blacklisted after a few of these – typically takes a few rounds of abuse to have this scam come into clear focus.
Wolves in sheep clothing.
Over the years we’ve been pursued by numerous companies that would like to partner with us. It would be a marriage made in heaven. Next step: an initial public offering on the NASDAQ! Uh huh. Sure. These dirt bags just want access to our clients and for some reason, controls companies and performance contractors make up a substantial portion of this bunch.
Show me the money before I lift a finger or you are blacklisted.
A better way.
Recently a business partner stated it well, “What do we have in business and life but our reputations?” And I always say to our company’s people, you best treat well everyone you work with in the company, our clients, and even the competition. You never know who will one day be your client or supervisor, employee, or maybe someone you want to partner with, or get help from.
Everyone involved in business transactions should benefit – consultant, owner, utility, shareholders, and contractor. Clearly and unfortunately, some entities think they can get ahead while screwing others and thinking they are getting a good deal or making extra profit. Sooner or later these outfits run out of victims to exploit. It shouldn’t be a fixed pie that everyone fights over. It should be a pie from which everyone’s slice grows.
It appears Sacramento is contemplating the same fateful robbery of EE program dollars by hocking the stream of energy efficiency money. In WI, this grab actually happened and crippled programs. Ironically, or maybe not so, they would be both carried out under Democrat governors.
Outrage of the Week
Maybe I should start an outrage of the week? Well here is the inaugural. The DOE is calling it “Market-Driven Solutions” to work with behemoths like Target and Wal-Mart to develop new efficient rooftop heating and cooling units. Is this the same Wal-Mart with $420 billion worldwide sales and $14.4 billion in annual earnings? Chu, you have got to be kidding me.
Like General Electric, why doesn’t Wal-Mart get back to what they used to do well; innovate, rather than going to Washington with its hand out. Time to put a “strong sell” on Wal-Mart stock. They’re washed up.
This is a free market solution: an RFP for manufacturers of rooftop units to develop units that meet Wal-Mart’s specifications, reliably, and supply them with heating and cooling equipment for the next 100 stores. After 100 stores, the incumbent has a huge advantage for (hopefully) proven success.
A portion of the $1.6 trillion, or as I like to say $1.6 million million, deficit is funding this kind of crap. This wouldn’t be funny even if it weren’t true.
Oxymoron of the week: “DOE facilitates market-driven solutions”.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog you must have disagreed with something or maybe more strongly taken exception or offense to something. In this week’s post, maybe I can pick up everyone else.
Christmases were great when I was kid. It was by far my favorite holiday. I couldn’t wait for my mom to put up the same crappy artificial tree every year. It consisted of a broomstick like trunk with holes drilled to support the “branches”. The branches consisted of twisted No. 9 wire with plastic pine needles that I guess may be best described as like bristles in a brush. The ends had a cluster of bristles. The branches and twigs looked like spiral pipe cleaners.
“It’s like martinis. A couple at a time is perfect. Twenty is a little messy and painful.”
We were able to pile enough tinsel rope and ornaments on it to make it look respectable. In a way it was better than most trees, real or fake because we had lots of one-off ornaments made by us kids, or given as gifts for this or that. There were almost no box collections of glass balls, which typically broke one by one as we played football on our knees in the living room. My knees burn and back hurts just thinking about it. This was the football version of Nerf basketball. Somebody would inevitably get tackled into the tree sending ornaments flying. It wasn’t a good time until something broke or mom came tromping in with the wooden spoon.
Well that burned off as the years passed and the holiday break just became an over-welcome break from school and time to play holiday basketball tournaments in high school. In college I had a chance to get together with friends for more robust celebration. Now as an old man, it’s a nice break to get a reprieve from email and fire fighting and a time to catch up and actually take a couple days off for real. The only downside is we have to drive to my mom’s with a house full of siblings, their kids and extended family. It isn’t as though I don’t like people in my family. I just don’t like being trapped in a relatively small house with all of them at once. It’s like martinis. A couple at a time is perfect. Twenty is a little messy and painful. But this is the greatest thing in the world for Mom so it’s worth it.
We get a Christmas tree for our office every year. At one point the clean up crew got fed up with the needles so we converted to a fake tree. Now we’re back to real trees probably because we now have a hardwood floor rather than crappy carpet, so cleanup’s a breeze, I think.
This year our tree arrived and I thought, wow what a spectacular tree. I spend many hours, many, many hours trying to grow trees like that on my wooded lot. Growing trees on my lot is like fish fry making it to spawning age. Only about 2% of them make it without getting mowed off by 100 pound rodents others call whitetail deer. I have a hell of a time getting the trees above munching height. It’s difficult to grow tall trees when they get munched off every year. An electric fence and individual fence barriers are installed for protection. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a whack job but we know them quite well and they know I don’t have horns and a pointy tail.
Then once trees get above munching height they become targets for the damn bucks that do their antler scraping on them and in probably two minutes they can destroy a beautiful 5 year old tree. I usually refer to hunting as killing defenseless animals, per my former boss’s definition, but at my house it’s pest eradication. When I was a kid I hunted all the time for everything that was fair game, but now I beg my neighbor to eradicate the varmints but he’s too sportsman like – too much of a hunter. It has to be a clean shot, the right size varmint, the right gender and all that kind of crap. Just take them out. I’ll pay the butcher.
So at Christmastime people are out chopping down perfect trees that I’m trying to grow. Our office tree like most others is blocking views to outdoors in our office and lights are deployed up the wazoo. It (was) surrounded by many frivolous gifts wrapped in goofy wrapping paper or fancy bags that when burned only are half consumed as the rest is some combination of non-combustible clay and other paint residue (not that I’ve tried this). All this flies in the face of LEED and sustainability.
For the office Christmas party, we are encouraged to get $10-15 gifts for a random gift exchange. Guys this is the rule: 12-packs of damn good beer only.
So my green solution is this: Chip in for a reusable keg (otherwise known as half barrels in this goofy state) of damn good beer. We drink our limit of 24 ounces with our reusable glasses (real glass ones). Use one of the potted plants for the Christmas tree. At my house, we use our fig tree and in fact, I liked it so much last year, we left the lights (LED of course) installed all year. The lights are on a timer. The wrapping paper for the keg can be one reusable bow used annually. We don’t need no stinking wrapping paper. The women can either partake in the beer consumption, get a box of wine or even a barrel, or a bulk tank of floral hand lotion. Whatever it takes; just no cluttery knickknacks.
The tree growers can bring their skills to my house. I would gladly pay $30-$50 a pop for these perfect trees that are currently being massacred and I’m not talking about buying the big trees. Plant seedlings and tend them until they get above munching and scraping size.
Now that my friends, is a sustainable Christmas.
After our tree was installed in the office this year, I asked where are the candy canes? Get some candy canes so I can get my sugar fix. So Deb, our receptionist kindly populated the tree with candy canes. I ask, why can’t somebody patent a candy cane wrapper that is easy to remove. Getting the wrapper off a candy cane is like skinning a frozen earth worm. After a while of biting and clawing at it, just eat the whole thing. Same thing goes for compact disc wrappers. Good grief, what is it about these things? It says lift here but that peels off a tiny sliver of super sticky tape. So you have to work for five minutes to get the thing open. Think of the lost GDP.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
I just finished plowing out after probably a foot of snow fell over about 18 hours Saturday afternoon into the wee hours of Sunday morning. My wife suggested I go blow out the neighbor’s driveway. He’s had heart problems but he does have a blower so I said give them a call to see if it’s ok because if somebody blew my driveway out I’d be pissed. It would be like watching somebody else reel in my trophy fish for me – especially with the virtually unstoppable John Deere at my fingertips. A few years ago, I first added a couple suitcase weights. Last year I added two more and finally broke down and got chains. With the wheel weights, it probably has close to 400 lbs for added traction but there’s room for one more suitcase weight and I could fill the tires with fluid – probably not necessary!
Anyway, I was thinking once again that as of Thursday, the forecast for this weather system that dumped a foot on us was for “snow showers”. I don’t know what a snow shower is but it doesn’t bring to mind belly-deep snow for our Labrador Retrievers. Two days before we got hit with an awesome storm and a foot of snow, the forecast was “snow showers”. Other times the forecast is for six to eight inches and we get flurries instead. (Flurries incidentally are snowflakes that only exist in the air or in your mind in which case you would be a Parmenidean airhead) Anyone living in the Midwest away from areas susceptible to lake-effect snow has experienced this grossly erroneous forecasting at least a dozen times a year.
We have what, 70, maybe 80 years of practice forecasting weather? It’s essentially a two-dimensional turbulence problem over this short two-day term. Thousands of people, including the almighty federal government, have spent their entire lives “learning” to predict weather, now with the most powerful computers known to the human race. Yet they still hit this forecast so poorly that if it were a golf shot, it wouldn’t even be a worm killer. The ball wouldn’t make it off the tee box. The forced draft of the club head would be just enough to knock the ball off the tee. Foink.
So I ask, isn’t a little bit or completely naïve, ignorant, pompous or something to think computer models can predict the earth’s temperature over the long term? Beyond the relatively simple two-dimensional weather model, the global temperature model would have only about 8,000 additional variables, some huge ones like turbulence in the oceans which are giant heat sinks, (and I mean giant and they spin tangentially and vertically relative to the earth’s surface) the heat source’s (sun’s) output variance, volcanoes spewing grit and CO2 shutting down continental air traffic for weeks, and I could list at least 500 additional ones but don’t want to bore you further.
Or take the relatively simple subject of economics. Projecting what will happen next in the economy may be easier than predicting the weather. Still, nobody has come close. One guy says we can never forecast the economy with any accuracy. I think he should try modeling the planet.
It isn’t a question of whether CO2 affects global temperatures. It does, (as do cucumbers) all else equal, but does it match a single eruption? I would say anyone who emphatically says it does should try their graces at forecasting the weather a while. Even if we could predict with 99% accuracy (whatever that means) what the weather will be one week from today, it would be the equivalent of first grade flash cards compared to Ph.D. level computational fluid dynamics that would be the global model. But even that would be oversimplification because sooner or later the first grader can learn CFD.
Further comparing weather forecasting to climate modeling, with weather forecasting we have instant and absolutely positive feedback in a very short period of time – an instant comparatively. Modelers examine what may have went wrong with their model such that it predicted snow showers and the next thing you know, the Vikings with their new coach and geriatric quarterback are playing in Detroit – as their home field against the NY Giants. The parameters are few. The outcome variance is huge and the feedback is instant. The lessons learned should fill the library of congress, yet in 80 years (whatever) we still can’t even predict the weather a couple days out.
I don’t pretend to know the answer. I know enough via academic background and experience, and the obvious, that I, nor can anyone else project future climate patterns with any sort of certainty. Or, as Rummy once eloquently said, “Reports that say something hasn’t happened are interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
This guy is bringing a class action lawsuit against the USGBC because he isn’t participating in LEED and he thinks LEED is a farce giving others an unfair advantage. I didn’t see anyone else in the class. It must be him and the mouse in his pocket.
This is entirely unproductive and as I suggested just a couple weeks ago in Feral Cat, What Say You, if he goes after USGBC, why not go after ASHRAE and all the state reviewers of code compliance. Rather than getting on board and getting involved tear it down. This scorched earth does no good for anyone, the plaintiff in this case as well. It is the opposite of the way we choose to do business.
Secondly, PC Magazine published an article reporting that Pike Research completed a study indicating cloud computing would reduce worldwide data center energy expenditures by 38% in the next few years. Back in April in my rant about Greenpeace,I confessed to being ignorant with respect to IT but I put my credibility on the line essentially betting cloud computing would save energy. Touché.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
Back in August I came close to posting a blog “Enough of the Empire State Building Already” but that one faded away. In case you never read anything about energy savings and sustainability, the building is undergoing a $20 million renovation to improve energy efficiency. The project would shave the facility’s $11 million energy bill (a cool $4 per square foot) by 38%. Johnson Control ran ads in every trade magazine I get and various publications, including major newspapers, ran articles by the dozens.
Coming in a close second to the Empire State Building was the Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, WI. Apparently it was the first LEED Gold certified High School for New Construction Version 2.1. Ok. It seems everybody associated with the project ran an ad for their greatness: manufacturers and vendors of stuff used for construction, contractors, service providers, congress people, the governor, priests, rabbis, dog catcher, and the feral animals themselves. This went on for months.
Well it all hit the fan. As I was flipping through my stack of trade magazines this long holiday weekend, I saw in HPAC (short for Heating Plumbing and Air Conditioning but they actually go by HPAC – HPAC.com) in their August issue that a group of stakeholders including the building committee, a couple licensed professional engineers, and other taxpayers are appealing the certification with the USGBC. They claim the design does not and cannot meet indoor air quality standard ASHRAE 62, minimum energy performance, ASHRAE Standard 90.1, OR the minimum commissioning requirements. Ouch! What do you feral animals have to say for yourselves now?
I’m not going to do a ton of investigating of this crime but I have no reason at all to believe the appellants are not standing on firm ground. What is interesting is the firestorm of HPAC reader comments, which read like blog comments of far left and far right cutting each others’ livers out. Jeezo, the comments are still swirling three issues AFTER the first mention of it in August. Comments include the following, each of which I respond to:
- One of the points I raised concerned legal liabilities and the USGBC’s refusal to accept responsibility for advice about guideline compliance.
o The USGBC shouldn’t have responsibility for advice it gives. It’s up to the design and construction teams. The guidelines are available. If they can’t read, find new firms to do the job.
- The USGBC seems to prey on undereducated, uninformed owners and the public.
o Nice. There are certainly uninformed folks, but I’m sure the USGBC is a deceitful money grubbing outfit headed by Gordon Gekko’s offspring. The guy would probably dump a five gallon bucket of used motor oil in the lake if you paid him $100.
- LEED is a standard of relative greenness, not a contract for overpaid lawyers and underemployed engineers to litigate. …the LEED process has been a powerful force bringing green design mainstream.
- LEED is bogus. Let common sense prevail. Why can’t you simply tell the architect/engineer firm(s) to design the most EE building you can without a third party intervening?
o Because cheap and crappy always wins the bid and the average firm doesn’t really know squat about REALLY producing an efficient, comfortable, and code-compliant facility.
- I agree [not me – the next guy reader/commenter]. USGBC does not check if equipment is installed per drawings.
o If it did, it would cost a fortune and no one would do it.
- [in response to the previous statement the next guy says] Get a life. LEED is a standard of relative greenness… blah blah. [The exact same statement as above by the same guy, published two months in a row]
- [in response to the previous] Mr. Perkins just doesn’t get it. Building green just to get LEED points, rather than building a building that will improve the health of occupants[with minimal] lifetime costs, is total BS… Too many folks just care about LEED certification, not if a building really works.
o In my opinion, LEED actually improves the odds that a building “really works”. It requires somebody to at least fake their way through commissioning and at least think about designing for efficiency and healthy environments. To say LEED diverts designers and contractors away from these things is irresponsible.
I mentioned before in this blog that our MO is to fix immediate problems first and take corrective action later. Too frequently building owners/stakeholders go after the party they think is responsible and meanwhile the building festers away. The second too-frequent approach is to hire the same fools responsible for the kludge to fix it.
Owners and stakeholders should first fix the problem by hiring somebody who knows what they are doing. This does two things, both of which they want to fix a screwed up building: (1) gets the building working optimally as soon as possible and (2) by doing so gives them leverage with the responsible parties for some sort of settlement.
Attacking USGBC for establishing green building methods and metrics but not enforcing them with an iron fist is ridiculous. Why not go after ASHRAE for not coming down on people like a ton of bricks for not following ASHRAE’s standards? Energy codes that are state law in many states aren’t even enforced in some of them. I’m not sure about the rest of the parties involved with LEED projects but engineers have codes of ethics. I would say blowing off owner desires, cutting corners and lying about what was or was not done probably violates these ethics. How about attacking these losers and scoundrels and running their underwear up the flagpole instead?
I would guess you haven’t heard but the Chicago Climate Exchange is shutting down. At one point in this blog I explained I think that trading something that has no value in and of itself is unprecedented. Currency is only thing I can think of that has no intrinsic value but currency is actually a means to put value on things. I can buy groceries with currency. I can’t buy anything with a carbon credit.
Numerous corporations were buying carbon credits and even “supporting” the legislation in the event some sort of cap and trade passed. The legislation disintegrated and there remain only a few ashes of political will to even whisper the phrase. The carbon value that existed was 100% speculation. The value that remains is 100% nothing.
As I mentioned in a recent post, if cap and trade didn’t pass during last congress with unstoppable majorities in both houses and the White House, I don’t see it happening. This does not rule out the EPA creating their own laws to put a price on carbon dioxide.
In “The Nebulous Green Job” I ranted about Green Jobs, of all things. As it turns out the green jobs stimulus portion of the stimulus has not been too stimulating. The Washington Post reports that the recently green-educated graduates are having difficulty finding work in solar energy installation, green landscaping, recycling, and green building demolition. Well, heeeyeah! Electricians and plumbers are on the prowl for PV and solar water heating systems. There is already a live and well recycling and building demo industry. I just burned up “the tube” in my microwave oven this weekend and the nice local do-everything, small but mighty superman store otherwise known as Coon Valley Dairy Supply replaced it. I asked what they did with the old ones. A local guy picks them up and strips them down into piles of materials to be sold to buyers – no government green-job intervention included. Cool! If there is a market people will find it and fill it.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
The Wall Street Journal this week weighed in on the ban on incandescent from the energy bill of 2007 signed by Bush to phase out the incandescent light bulb by 2014. Naturally, their opinion is that banning products that are essentially harmless and in demand from citizens is bad policy. As usual, I have multiple points of view on this issue as well.
First, I agree with the WSJ that ramming things like this down peoples’ throats is never a good idea. It appears that next month we are going to see the political fallout of such lawmaking processes. In the energy efficiency business we have to remember who we are ultimately working for – energy consumers. There are already plenty of foes of energy efficiency programs. The last thing we need is a public uprising against EE. Ultimately regulators are appointed by governors. I don’t really want to see a candidate ride a wave of uproar into the governor’s mansion on a platform with planks to dismantle EE programs.
If governments want to impose EE and other green standards for their facilities, that is fine by me as long as they are not completely stupid with my tax money. Wait a minute – Snap out of it Jeff… I must have nodded off to the land of gumdrops and lollipops – I was talking about Washington using money wisely and miserly. That will happen as soon as San Francisco makes its way to Juneau by movement of tectonic plates.
As I recall reading an article in one of the greenie publications I get, an author also thought it is bad policy to ram LEED requirements onto the private sector. I agree. It is our job to sell the public on energy efficiency by reward not by training up and deploying an army of the green police.
Secondly, keep the feds out of this kind of stuff because they have a habit of writing bills and passing them without any knowledge of what is in the foot-thick stack of paper they are voting on and/or they are ignorant of the costs and benefits and certainly the consequences the bills they fight over. Do any of them even use CFLs? Do they have any concept that they take a minute or two to reach full brightness from a pretty darn dim start? Do they have any clue that CFLs are even worse at starting in cold conditions and never do come up to rated brightness in many of these cases? Have the Vikings won the Super Bowl in the past 45 years?
Compact fluorescent light bulbs have their place for sure. I use them wherever there are significant burn hours. But there are many poor household applications such as closets, pantries, refrigerator, outdoor lighting, and bathroom lighting (at least for men – ooooh!). Sure, I could get LED lighting for these applications and those would pay back in… see the San Francisco / Juneau connection above. Somebody needs to figure out how to get CFLs to come up to brightness in a few seconds and work in cold weather.
So as usual, congress passed something that is undoable. No. I’m not going to bother to read the law because I’ll be locked up in a seizure after reading (or trying to) just a few pages because it is so painful to read and understand. Come to think of it, how can a ban on incandescent bulbs take more than one page of typed text? Actually, the repeal is two pages. Give that man a bubble gum cigar for brevity anyway. Incandescent lights will still be manufactured or there will be a major rebellion.
Compact fluorescent bulbs have dropped in price by 80-90% in the short 15 years I’ve been in the business. While they still only make up 10% of installed residential bulbs as stated in the Journal, they are flying off the shelf at three times that rate. The market is clearly swinging in the CFL direction. My mother, as one example, has installed them in most of her fixtures and while I hate to admit it, I had no influence on that.
Last week I made up a story explaining how energy efficiency results in more energy consumption as consumers have more money to spend on things. The story started with steel manufactured in China, shipped to Ontario, tires coming and going and so forth. That was a lame attempt at the insanity.
I popped this open on Sunday night and it tracks a series of manufacturing events I should have dreamed up. Rio Tinto, a huge international mining company, mines and ships iron ore from Australia to a steel plant in China. There it is processed into plate steel that is shipped to Caterpillar’s Decatur, IL plant that builds the behemoth dump trucks – the ones that look like Tonka trucks but their tires are 12 feet tall. From IL, the truck is shipped in pieces to – you guessed it, the Rio Tinto mine in Australia. You gotta love it!
Sorry I couldn’t make that up.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
Many posts ago, I wrote “The More You Spend, The More You Save” explaining how poor system control wastes energy but results in even greater energy savings for efficient equipment. For example, consider an air handling system that wastes heating energy provided by an efficient boiler. The boiler saves x% versus a conventional model, so x% multiplied by greater use (wasted energy) results in “more” savings.
Recently I picked up on buzz that argues greater efficiency results in greater energy consumption. At one point I recall reading in the Wall Street Journal an editorial that argued more efficient vehicles just result in people driving more. They live further from work. They go on joy rides. They visit the in-laws more. I scoffed at this argument, at least at current gasoline costs and anything near them. If I buy a hybrid that gets 50 mpg versus a “sports car” like an Infiniti G35 coupe that goes half as far on a gallon of gasoline, I will drive more. No. Way.
I will drive more (barely) if (1) I have a car that is fun to drive and (2) I am in an area where it is fun to drive. While I haven’t driven a hybrid, I don’t think it would meet my criteria for #1. As for #2, western Wisconsin is a driver’s and biker’s paradise because (1) it is scenic (2) there are lots of smooth, paved, and curvy roads on which to drive and (3) there is minimal traffic. Quite frankly, I’m much more concerned about striking a deer, coon or coyote than another vehicle. I used to live in the DC metro area. Forget it. You might as well drive a tin can because you are going nowhere fast. I grew up in Southwest Minnesota. Forget it. You can drive for miles without moving the steering wheel. But even so, living here in driver’s paradise, I have limited time so I never, ever think, “ooh boy, a 45 minute drive is only going to cost me $2.79 in gasoline – let’s drive!”
That’s one argument that doesn’t hold water in my opinion. On the other hand, some people do run efficient stuff like lighting for longer hours because it’s efficient.
The other argument made in these articles is that the money freed up by spending less on energy results in redirection of that extra money toward other goods and services – and those goods and services result in more energy consumption to extract, process, manufacture, transport and operate. I do buy into the merits of this argument whether the end-user is a homeowner, service provider, or manufacturer. I never really bought into the notion that energy efficiency programs result in lower revenues for utilities. Maybe they understand this and hence the rah-rah from utilities for energy efficiency programs. I don’t blame them. By far the main driver of EE is saving money and increasing profits. See “This is Not Tee-Ball“.
Just think how this turns the energy efficiency business and policies on their heads. In “Paying to Lose,” I discussed how utilities have to make their savings goals or they may get hammered by regulators. This, in turn, improves the bottom lines of their customers allowing them to expand. What a racket. Rather than utilities spending money for their customers to use less of their product, they are actually using their CUSTOMERS’ money to sell MORE of their product. And how about “Decoupling Stupid,” that allows utilities to recover revenue “lost” to energy efficiency? They spend their customers’ money to increase sales and meanwhile essentially get reimbursed for the “savings”. Cool!
We have also discussed the underperformance of LEED facilities. In “LEED and the NOT Happenin’ Savings,” I described how LEED buildings weren’t meeting energy performance targets because of lousy commissioning. Well hail to the lousy commissioning agents! They are actually reducing global energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. Now that end user won’t be able to afford a new vehicle manufactured in Ontario with steel from soot belching plants in China shipped across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal to the Gulf of Mexico and transported by rail to Toronto or someplace – and tires from tariff protected Ohio that are shipped to Canada and back to the California border once installed on the automobile. They also won’t be driving their phantom car. (California won’t allow the car cross state lines because of the embedded energy, so Los Angeleans have to drive to Reno to pick up their car – I just made that up but it is probably true or at least accurate or emblematic, but certainly driving a new car across state lines into the golden state causes cancer and birth defects like everything else in CA does)
And I consider Michaels Energy. Our facility uses practically no energy but in recent years our air travel has gone from virtually zero to hundreds of thousands of passenger miles per year. And from the destination airport, we drive all over the place. Soon for example, we will have about five people zigzagging all over California verifying energy efficiency measures that probably save less than the gasoline burned to prove it. Somebody has to do it!
So go ahead and turn that thermostat up, open the window for some fresh air and click on that 70 inch plasma TV, have a beer and save the planet, Homer.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
A couple weeks ago I beat up electric automobiles for being overpriced and unpractical due to their short driving ranges and cripplingly long charge times. This week I present a saner approach to substantial energy and emissions reductions.
The electric car is the equivalent of installing renewable energy sources before making conventional systems and technologies as efficient as possible in buildings. Like buildings, we can cost effectively cut personal transportation energy consumption substantially, without sacrificing anything with readily available technologies – rather than pouring gobs of money into technologies that are just five years away from prime time; like they have been for the past 30 years.
Automobiles have gotten much more efficient over the past 20-30 years. However, the miles per gallon have hardly budged. Automobiles have grown continuously larger and more powerful. The modern Honda Civic, for example, is much larger and probably heavier than the “larger” Accord from 30 years ago. The modern version is most likely much more powerful as well.
Public enemy number one on this front is the explosion of the sport utility vehicle, which sort of peaked out just before hurricane Katrina, after which the $3-4 and upward gasoline prices caught peoples’ attention. SUV buyers can be split into two groups: the family haulers and the egocentric. A small group of SUV owners actually need it for regularly poor driving conditions (snow for instance) and/or towing. Maybe we need to make SUV owners pariahs akin to smokers. We’ll have parking lots, ramps, and garages that ban SUVs. Or maybe we put scales where you pay the parking attendant and pay a tonnage penalty for overweight vehicles. Or we could make the entrance to these spaces so small that only a Porsche 911 size car will fit through the gate. Speaking of Porsche and SUVs, the Cayenne was an awful development. How about LEED points for a SUV-free workforce? I’m not so much in favor of these things although the LEED thing is intriguing.
I have been a big advocate of gas-electric hybrids since the beginning, especially for city driving applications where brakes are applied 40 times per mile. My question though is, why do they make so many of them so goofy looking – like the Prius and the Insight. Other models include hybrid versions of the common all-gasoline vehicles like the Civic, Camry, and Cadillac Escalade (which is a joke). How about some sporty smaller cars like the Celica, 240 SX, Prelude, and Integra? Unfortunately these reasonably-priced snappy fun-to-drive models are all defunct.
As a kid, I remember the late 1970s / early 1980s and the cars of the times. When I was first old enough to drive, my older brother was nice enough to lend me his relatively new 1979 Mercury Cougar. Look at that behemoth. It had rear wheel drive and handled like crap. The closest I ever came to an accident was driving this thing down a slushy road when I wandered out of the track. Think of going down a waterslide trying to stop by digging in your fingernails. The next year the thing was downsized by 50%. The gas mileage probably doubled. BTW, I don’t know why they put that woman on there. The car is already hideous enough. The last thing it needs is a supermodel next to it to make it look even worse.
Another blow to petroleum consumption could be dealt with the Diesel engine. All else equal, the Diesel engine is substantially more efficient than the gasoline (Otto) engine. Why? It has a higher compression ratio, which generates a higher combustion temperature. Like steam-driven power plants, efficiency is limited mostly by the highest temperature relatively cheap steel can withstand.
Later, after ditching the Cougar and suffering through three years with a 1983 Ford Mustang, I purchased a 1984 Ford Escort Diesel. The Focus is the descendant of the Escort. In fact, I think the big pitch for the Escort (gas version) was its fuel economy. Most people I’ve talked to regarding the Diesel version are amazed to know there was such a thing. Yes – 48 miles per gallon – 1984 – 27 years ago in car terms. We don’t need rocket science or even some mythical magical battery. We just need somebody with a brain promoting sane solutions to saving personal transportation energy.
Diesels faded from the American auto-makers’ lineups of cars for whatever reason. General Motors somehow took a gasoline engine and turned it into a Diesel engine for its first shot at Diesel engines for light vehicles. This was about 1982. I remember driving my brother-in-law’s Diesel Silverado pickup truck and pulling a trailer. It would literally take ¾ of a mile on flat terrain with no wind to get up to 55 mph. It was the most pathetic excuse for a truck I had ever experienced.
I believe Volkswagen has offered diesel vehicles since way back. To demonstrate how a sane approach to efficient transportation makes the insane look stupid, consider the Diesel versions of the VW Golf, Jetta, and Jetta wagon are rated at about 42 mpg, highway. The tiny tin can lawnmower on wheels, the “Smart Car,” is rated at a pathetic 41 mpg. You don’t even have room for an extra pair of shoes in one of those things. They haul groceries as long as it is limited to Ramen noodles and canned tuna.
So how about these qualities to easily get to 60 mpg with virtually no sacrifice in performance, convenience, or ego:
- Shrink cars back to where they were in the late 1980s with a proportional shrunken engine
- Diesel engines
- Styling that that doesn’t scream “I am a snooty college professor and I am better than you”.
These vehicles would result in SUBSTANTIALLY LESS EMISSIONS than a $40,000, 40 mile per charge ELECTRIC VEHICLE. If you are thinking, “but we can power electric vehicles with windmills”, it doesn’t work that way. Windmills and other renewable energy will always be fully utilized. The incremental increase (or decrease) in electric consumption will come from conventional sources regardless of how you want to pretend you’re charging your batteries with a windmill. In other words, electric cars will be charged with coal, natural gas, or nuclear power.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP← Older posts