2022 Spring Highlights

Hope your year started out well. Hope seems to be in the air this spring after a tough two years. The social isolation affected our normal networking and business development. Was that true for you too? We pivoted to online business development, which made our world broader in some ways. But everything seemed to take longer, and deadlines took second place to “hope everything is alright with you.” It’s been tough times, and this note is more personal than our usual company newsletter. I got hit with breakthrough Covid myself late last summer followed by the dreaded long Covid. As we pulled through this difficult period, I was so grateful for my team members who supported the delivery of a passion project of mine — an online course in “Decarbonizing Buildings.” More on that below, but first some remarkable developments in decarbonization, local and international, since our last newsletter in Fall 2021.

New Report from IPCC on Climate Change Adaptation

Worldwide climate resilient development action is more urgent than previously assessed in AR5

In April 2022, the IPCC published the finalized second part (2nd of 3) of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), titled “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”.

This set of headline statements from the Working Group II Summary for Policymakers was my favorite version, providing overarching conclusions in a concise narrative. Point C.3 states “Soft limits to some human adaptation have been reached, but can be overcome by addressing a range of constraints, primarily financial, governance, institutional and policy constraints.” We discuss this aspect in the Decarbonizing Buildings course also.

An Executive Order for a Greener Federal Portfolio

US Federal Government Buildings to go Net-Zero Carbon

What does the Executive Order signed by President Joe Biden in December 2021 mean for the US Federal government buildings portfolio? It commits them to:

1) Use of 100 percent Net-Zero carbon electricity by 2030, of which 50 percent electricity is to come from local, clean renewables

2) 50 percent emissions reduction in the Federal building portfolio by 2032, and a Net-Zero emissions building portfolio by 2045
Read the full text here.

Montgomery County among the First in the Nation to Pass Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) Legislation

Bill 16-21 signed into law in May 2022

Montgomery County is among the first local jurisdictions in the nation to enact this type of legislation on building performance standards. The law expands the number of buildings covered by the County’s existing Benchmarking Law and establishes long-term energy performance standards for those buildings to meet over time. More about it here. Simultaneously in April, the State of Maryland also adopted Building Performance Standards. According to the Institute for Market Transformation, the two laws complement each other.

Image Courtesy: My Green Montgomery

With ESG Reporting on the Rise, SEC Proposes Rule on Climate Disclosure Requirements

Investors are clamoring for transparency in corporate disclosures related to climate change, which has led to widespread adoption of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting by corporations. The abundance of frameworks and lack of accountability in reporting — for investor stock representing trillions of dollars in investments — prompted the SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) in March 2022 to propose enhancing and standardizing the climate-related disclosures provided by public companies. You can read more here.

If the rule change goes through, it could create a new career path in the financial services field. “Carbon Accounting” could become a course of study in universities and a section of the CPA exam. Companies such as EY and Deloitte are already working and recruiting in this field. Such industry trends, how ESG intersects with green buildings, and potential careers are also discussed in the Decarbonizing Buildings course. And with that …

Decarbonizing Buildings: Registration is Open!

It is my pleasure to share that registration is open online for the “Decarbonizing Buildings” course. It is part of the Advanced Energy Resilience Certificate program, created in partnership with the George Washington University’s Environmental and Energy Management Institute (EEMI) — a leader in graduate and professional education in environmental, energy, and sustainability management.

Decarbonizing Buildings” is a high-level course designed to help connect the dots between kWh and climate change, and the possibilities for decarbonization in the buildings sector — via technology, finance, and policy. It is concise but chockfull of information with applicable knowledge, current data, and key new concepts — all presented within a framework to help create a mental map of the important pieces. It is also a labor of love. I’ve poured into it everything that I know and believe decision makers would benefit from knowing as they make important decisions about the building sector. The course helps understand what is possible!

The Earth Month 2022 theme was “Invest in Our Planet.” To that I’d add, ‘invest in yourself’ and consider taking this course, or share it with people who may be interested. Registration link

Speaking of Education…

While down with long Covid, I came across the story of a girl, Asma, on BBC. Living on the streets of Mumbai (Bombay), she was managing school while dealing with harassment from strangers. I found her grit and determination to succeed and her plight as an independent-minded woman against the tough odds on the streets of India so moving that I tracked her down via the BBC journalists.

From Asma I learned that other people were interested in supporting her as well. We supporters — modest educators and consultants — formed a group across multiple continents, reached out to our friends to pool resources, and managed to collect enough to get the family a rental apartment and pay for her college fees. Today, she’s able to study in safety and is doing well in school. This is the power of community and the promise of education. You can watch the video and contact me if you’d like to contribute! Link to BBC video

Always the Bridesmaid?

In fact, I planned to double my contribution to Asma as soon as we got a break on a new project. For the last few months, a win eluded us, although we came close so many times!

  • Valuation of DERs study; came in second (we were a sub and CBE partner)
  • AIA study for low-carbon retrofits; came in second (we were the Prime)
  • Local school commissioning job where we were the envelope experts; came in second… by one point… out of 250! Seriously, what are the odds? (we were a sub to the MEP commissioning lead)
  • Large multi-year DOE Connected Communities project; we were selected in the concept phase but did not win the final phase (I was co-PI)
  • A multifamily design project; included as the sustainability consultant to a leading local architecture firm; they did not win this time
  • A public library design project; included as envelope specialist (our subspecialty) with another leading architect; they did not win this time

That’s consulting life! But there’s reason to be optimistic. Given the number of competitors, second is no small feat. And as they say, “Failure gives you the proper perspective on success” — someone wiser than me.

So, am I able to double my contribution? Yes!

Yes, It’s a Win!

We are reviewing Utility Climate Business Plans in DC

Energy Shrink led a proposal to the DC Public Service Commission and teamed up with a great group of partners to review climate business plans. And this time, we won. After that long streak of seconds, this was sweet! And it’s a truly interesting project. What our team is doing:

  • Review of utility climate business plans
  • Modeling alternate scenarios

We are looking forward to helping the DC Commission as they continue to do groundbreaking work and show national leadership in decarbonization.

Besides this, we were on winning teams for two other IDIQ contracts projects in the last few months. We are looking forward to getting some real work real soon on those too. And more to come!

Energy Modeling for a Passive Home — Done!

We worked with our partner Neev to conduct careful energy modeling of design alternatives for a Source Zero Passive House — the Stillman residence being designed in Virginia by Peabody Architects — in the Design Development (DD stage).

What type of questions does energy modeling help answer in DD stage?

  • One skylight strip or two?
  • Worth zoning the two floors with a thermal separation?
  • Worth using a radiant floor system?
  • Worth filling up the existing basement crawl space?
  • What SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) is optimal for these windows

Energy Modeling results: Not glamorous but highly informative!

BEPS Compliance Study — Completed!

Our benchmarking client received the dreaded letter from DC: Your building does not meet the DC building performance standards. Upgrade or be subject to fines.

Working with our MEP partner, Lilker, we:

  • conducted a site visit, and devised two cost-efficient pathways for our client to meet DC standards
  • Prepared a detailed report with cost analytics to guide them on choices

Image: Furnace room in client’s DC multifamily building, Energy Shrink

Keeping it Real

While we love working on policy matters for the scale of their impact, we like to keep our feet firmly on the ground and in real buildings so that we can keep our consulting pragmatic.

Where I have been sharing forward recently…

I was invited to speak on Net Zero at the Ghana Green Building Summit along with some other fantastic, committed individuals. The organizers wanted to address “Is the race to Net Zero Buildings a fad?” To which I say, with the technical and financial possibilities today, why would we build any other way? Always a pleasure to share with a new audience what is possible in buildings.

… and who better than Architects to design our new future? That is the crux of my interview in the AIA Virginia INFORM Magazine. You can read it here.

Did You Take a Spring Break?

Hope you did! Here’s a thought on that by another person wiser than me…

How have you been the last few months? I’d love to hear!

Until then, on behalf of all of us at Energy Shrink, I wish you a cleaner, greener spring, a happy Memorial Day, and a wonderful summer ahead.

With warm regards,

Smita Chandra Thomas

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