Geoff Bennett - Editor

Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

This week we are getting back to our knitting so as to speak and examining a range of articles on buildings. First up is an article from a real estate and property management perspective, on sustainability in 2012, and how it is regarded as a ‘megatrend’ with energy efficiency being at its core.

And not only are green buildings now seen as a megatrend through their more efficient use of resources, other benefits include being healthier, with happier and more productive occupants. It also now turns out that the care given in the design and product selection stages means they are safer and more durable than their non-green alternatives. Thinking out loud – can anyone find any good reasons why we would want to build anything but a green building?

And if you thought that the future for buildings is all in new construction, then this next article may make you think again. A recent study undertaken by The Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historical Preservation has found that it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative energy and climate change impacts caused in the construction process. Overall, the study concluded that careful assessment of the benefits of refurbishment and adaptation vs. new construction should always be undertaken. The results might surprise…

Our next article examines the ways buildings continue to become smarter in how they control and communicate with building systems. New energy harvesting, wireless sensors and switches have the ability to transform the ability to fine tune and manage systems within a building – often resulting in greater occupant comfort and a more efficient use of energy.

Of course these systems all need to operate as intended and as an integrated collective. This requires building operators to remain vigilant when undertaking regular monitoring of control systems and regular maintenance and commissioning. This however can be a weakness with sufficient money and resources often unavailable to keep the buildings systems operating optimally and an expensive oversight according to Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, as the payback for recommissioning a building is typically just over one year.

In our next article we examine how climate data can be meaningfully used to boost a building’s performance. Whilst it is quite technical, it does provide the reader with an insight into the algorithms we use in our e-Bench™ benchmarking normalisations. And, yes – I got a sore head when first trying to understand them.

Moving away from buildings we next examine the precarious state of the world’s resources and why a revolution in the way we use energy, land and water is needed now. And I mean now. Many of these drivers are coming from the inefficient and unsustainable way we are using existing resources and how countries and businesses need to change the way they account for pollution and externalities.

Nothing demonstrates this balancing act better, than the correlation between water and energy. As this next article discusses, “Did you know a single query on Google consumes a tenth of a teaspoon of water? Multiply that by 293 million searches per day, and more than one million litres of water is consumed through Google searches. Every day. And Google is already one of the most energy-efficient search engines in the world, using only half the energy of a typical data centre for each search query”. As the article states “Start viewing water as a fuel. Save water by saving energy”. Indeed.

And as our next two articles go on to point out – that two of our most precious resources – oil and water are both under significant pressure to meet world demand. Oil, in that all the cheap oil is gone, with new exploration and production only viable if the price per barrel remains over $90. Don’t see meeting that hurdle is going to be troublesome. And water use could reach 8,680 trillion cubic meters this year, with water use rising at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century. This is quite simply unsustainable, with many parts of the globe already experiencing significant scarcity and/or access to clean drinking water.

Land resources are also under threat with the global mining boom leading to a land grab. As the article discusses, in just ten years, iron ore production has more than doubled, coal use has risen by 45% and metals like Lithium, by 125%. Industrial wastelands are being formed by vast open-cast mines and mountain top removal, and the poisoning of water systems, deforestation and the contamination of topsoil is unprecedented. Makes you realise how many of the readers of this are very fortunate to live in New Zealand.

Our final article ends on what is a socially interesting note. For a growing number of young people, having access to the Internet and their mobile phone is of greater value than owning a car. As the article puts it “The iPhone is the Ford Mustang of today”. Cousin Melkoomb would certainly agree with this.

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.

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