Design Electrical transmission lines

Published on July 23rd, 2010 | by Dawn Killough


Green Buildings Miss Mark on Efficiency

Electrical transmission linesA recent article in the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce by Mark Winder brought up an interesting point about green buildings: sometimes they aren’t as efficient as they were meant to be.  Winder cites a 2008 study by the New Buildings Institute regarding the energy use of LEED certified buildings.  The report says that while most of the certified buildings were performing as expected or better, a full 25% were not as efficient as originally designed.  I know this is a hot topic, as many conversations are taking place regarding “greenwashing” (presenting products as green when they may not be) and the added cost of going green.

In my opinion there are (at least) three factors driving this trend of non-efficiency in green buildings: design issues, constructability, and building operations.  My intention here is not to assign blame, but give my impression of what I see happening on projects.

Design Issues

During the initial conceptual design phase of a building it is easy for consultants and design team members to promise the moon.  “This building will be net zero, reuse all it’s sewer water, and feed the occupants with a green garden on the roof.”  Sounds great!  But then, issues come up.  The site selected has a huge, historic oak on it, that can’t be moved or cut down, and will interfere with the solar exposure for the photovoltaic panels.  Or, the water treatment system everyone thought was such a great idea is going to triple the amount of piping in the building and cost $1 million to purchase and install.

Soon, features that were going to save the building so much energy are removed or value engineered out, and what finally makes it to construction documents is a building slightly better than code.  Hopefully the team has some strong green leadership keeping the project on track with its goals.  But I have seen several projects lose energy efficiency to efficiency of design.


This factor sort of ties in to the previous one, in that the cost to build all these great systems is all too often prohibitive.  Unless the Owner is a “greenie” themselves or has a very strong green agenda, this initial cost increase often scares them off.

Or there may be problems implementing the green plans in the “real world.”  The weight of the green garden roof and the solar panels may simply be too much for the structure to bear.  Or the triple piping system needed by the water treatment system may take up so much wall and floor space that the usable square footage is reduced to an unsustainable amount.  It would be wonderful if problems like this were caught during design, but we all know that just doesn’t happen.

Building Operations

This is one of the biggest factors in determining how much energy a building saves.  Occupants need to be educated about how green buildings work, because they are significantly different than code buildings.  Many require less maintenance and are meant to almost run themselves.  Maintenance staff need to be thoroughly trained on how the systems operate and how the controls work.

The occupants of our net zero building with the solar panels and garden roof are going to have to dress differently than occupants of the code building next door.  Thermal comfort is defined in a range, usually satisfying about 70% of the people 70% of the time.  Individual ventilation controls can help, and are usually used with underfloor systems.  These systems, however, are more expensive than standard above-ceiling ductwork (see Design Issues above), and don’t allow temperature control, just air volume and direction controls.  Sweaters may be needed on a 90 degree day!

I know that there are probably more factors effecting the building’s efficiency than the three I have mentioned here.  These are just some of the problems I have come across in my experience.  They are all solvable through collaborative design processes, which, unfortunately, don’t happen all the time.  But, we are making progress.

Photo courtesy of Martin Sutherland through a Creative Commons License.

As media market shrinks, PR passes up reporters, pitches directly to consumers; Best Buy, MasterCard among those creating their own content.

Advertising Age October 26, 2009 | Bush, Michael Byline: MICHAEL BUSH At a time when earned media is so highly sought after by marketers due to its (relative) low cost and the credibility with consumers, brands that rely on it are faced with the growing challenge of finding news outlets for their messages.

As the body count of magazines and daily newspapers continues to rise and the once-robust news and feature holes of surviving publications shrink along with reporting staffs, some marketers have given up on the traditional path to media coverage: pitching journalists. According to the website Paper Cuts, which tracks layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers, nearly 30,000 reporters have left the industry since the beginning of 2008. So instead of pitching their stories to reporters, a growing number of marketers are directly engaging consumers through original content they and their agencies are creating.

“The traditional one-way media model has definitely had its day, said Sam Lucas, chair of U.S. brand marketing at WPP’s Burson-Marsteller. “So agencies are talking to clients about these engagement models much more.

And while they haven’t completely abandoned traditional media outlets, big-name marketers such as Procter & Gamble, Best Buy, MasterCard and Coldwell Banker are among those who have taken matters into their own hands by creating content and bringing it straight to consumers.

Mark Hass, CEO and partner of MH Group Communications, said one of his automotive clients is using YouTube very aggressively and sees it as a way to get its product messages out directly to consumers.

“They still have the usual car-and-driver folks drive and write about their cars, but that’s becoming much less important than [it] used to be, Mr. Hass said. He said aside from controlling the message the other upside to creating and managing the dissemination of content is the potential to reach a wider and more diverse audience than just newspaper or magazine readers.

“You build a channel on YouTube and you get millions of views, Mr. Hass said. “And these people are coming from all over, and it’s more about their interest in your product, as opposed to the readership and viewership of a particular medium. It’s horizontal. If you wanted to reach that many people using traditional media, you would have to pitch and place in dozens of outlets. website best buy mastercard

Here’s a sampling of what some marketers are doing on their own:

* In May, Coldwell Banker, with the help of its PR shop Cooper Katz, launched a YouTube channel called Coldwell Banker on Location. David Siroty, senior director for PR at Coldwell Banker Real Estate, said the company uses the channel to post educational videos about the housing market and purchase process as well as house listings. web site best buy mastercard

“We can bypass the media and do videos from our CEO, brokers and agents talking about what first-time home buyers should do, Mr. Siroty said. “You have a consumer that needs and wants to be re-educated on the nuances of housing. So we post the videos and drive traffic through social media.

The channel launched with 300 videos and is now at 5,000 with just under 500,000 views.

* Best Buy’s Geek Squad has been creating its own content for a few years now, according to Geek Squad’s Paula Baldwin. Her title is telling: mistress of propaganda. “As a company, we began to get more serious about it roughly two years ago, creating editorial-style videos of our agents on-site at a variety of events, she said. These agent correspondence videos are aimed to bring viewers into the “Geek’s world and provide information and access they otherwise wouldn’t have. Over the last year Geek Squad has begun producing tutorial videos on everything from computer support to iPods in cars to one on the DTV transition called “Two-Minute Miracles.

“For [Geek Squad], the move to create content was partly about filling the void left by the change in the media landscape, Ms. Baldwin said. “But it was also about filling a willingness we perceived in our customers for more access to Geek Squad’s knowledge.

* MasterCard has also taken to the web with video interviews of its executives. Andrew Foote, senior VP in the digital media practice at WPP’s Cohn & Wolfe, MasterCard’s PR agency, said unlike three to five years ago when web content had to be polished and professionally produced, MasterCard has gone the low-production route. It’s taping its executives using Flip video camcorders, editing the video on laptops and uploading them to YouTube.

“They’re realizing they can comment on issues and get the points of view of their experts out there and on the record, Mr. Foote said. Once the videos are up, the company will often tweet the links and follow up with reporters letting them know MasterCard commented on the topic.

“Sometimes those videos end up on the blogs of those publications and [it] leads to building online relationships with reporters, analysts and industry influencers, Mr. Foote said. He said MasterCard isn’t “necessarily becoming less reliant on mainstream media; the company just realizes it’s not the only game in town, and, when speed is of the essence, creating its own content or relying on digital channels is the best approach.

“Sometimes mainstream [media] can’t keep up with the needs of the company to get stuff out, Mr. Foote said.

Some marketers are going further, creating the communities in which they distribute that content. Renee Wilson, managing director, New York, of Publicis Groupe’s MS&L, said her client Procter & Gamble’s Rouge magazine is an example of how to circumvent the reporter. But for clients, including P&G, she said MS&L has been tapping into existing niche communities or creating communities from scratch that marketers can speak to. For Ferrero Rocher chocolates, the agency circulated content about the brand and new products through numerous online properties. “Consumers still get brand information but it’s not filtered by a reporter at a traditional publication, she said. For P&G’s Oral-B Pulsonic, it formed a partnership with Elle/Hachette and created fashion content that was delivered to the consumer by Oral-B Pulsonic and hosted on And for SmartOnes, the agency created an online community for fans to share product info, rather than going the traditional food-media route.

“Everyone is now looking at tapping the right communities or creating them, Ms. Wilson said.

Bush, Michael

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About the Author

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon. She is currently a Contract Administrator at Rich Duncan Construction.  

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