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Is Building Efficiency the Next VW Emissions Scandal?

A building advisory official speaking at UK Construction Week has warned the construction and property sector could face legal action over the “performance gap” between buildings’ promised efficiency and their actual performance — and cautions the industry could face its own VW-style emissions scandal, Business Green reports.

The online publication says Rob Pannell, managing director of nonprofit building industry advisory body Zero Carbon Hub, revealed testing shows some buildings use twice the amount of energy compared to their energy performance rating. He warned that failure to address this gap could leave some property companies at risk of legal action.

Volkswagen is currently under investigation by the US and other nations and facing lawsuits after an EPA probe revealed the automaker used and used “defeat devices” to cheat air pollution laws. This week VW said it withdrawing US emissions certification applications for its 2016 diesel Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles. The original EPA investigation, which covered about 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the US since 2008, did not cover 2016 models.


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5 thoughts on “Is Building Efficiency the Next VW Emissions Scandal?

  1. I currently work in the largest LEED Platinum-certified net zero waste building in the world: http://www.packard.org/about-the-foundation/our-green-headquarters/. But it hasn’t been a slam dunk We hired an onsite engineer who has been tweaking the system to increase efficiency while at the same time maintaining maximum comfort. Apparently, other building owners have relied on the sustainability promises of the equipment they purchased but may not have checked to ensure they performed as well as they should.

  2. This is noise; much ado about nothing, and probably a fishing scam for lawyers…building efficiency measures in LEED are compared to an imaginary hypothetical baseline case that never exists, nor will it. Furthermore, LEED buildings are commissioned by a third party that confirms directly to the Owner that systems are operating the way that they are intended. If the building uses more energy than the model predicted, it is probably related more to the amount of process energy and plug loads being used in the building than HVAC or electrical systems energy, unless operating schedules are widely different from what was anticipated. Furthermore, Owners are generally not spending the money to put in the meters to measure discrete system energy usage, despite project teams writing Measurement and Verification (M&V) plans that Owners can implement.

    The energy modeler also needs to explain what the purpose of the energy model is, and needs to set the owner’s expectations of the difference between reality and predicted results. As in many things, setting expectations early can lead to improved understanding later.

  3. NYSERDA is using 2012 energy prices in their cost/benefit modeling. Look at oil prices from their website:

    FOR MODELING: Energy Costs used for predicting savings: Between $3.67 to $4.04 per gallon (http://bit.ly/NYSERDAficticiouspricing)

    ACTUAL: Current Actual Statewide Costs: $2.45 to $2.82, $2.64 statewide.

    Using the low numbers, in the unlikely case BTU energy savings are accurate, $ savings is being overpredicted to consumers by 150%!! This means someone being told they will save $100 a month is likely at the very least to have a NYSERDA induced shortfall of $33 a month.

    If people are unable to predict with any precision, that should be disclosed.

    If people are not predicting with accuracy, a multiplier should be put in place. There is no excuse for allowing low realization rates to continue, in my mind that’s perpetuating fraud upon the public.

  4. The issue with houses is not whether the model works or not or how much more poorly the building performs, the issue is that in the USA at least duct testing compliance is a miserable 5 to 15 %. Nationwide. Where Code states they must be tested and passed and they’re never tested.

    I don’t see how VW differs from builders who don’t test their ducts. Our review of new houses shows that 5 to 15% are tested correctly if at all. Testers complain they cannot get work because their competitive testers will offer a passing certificate and not even show up at the house. And, if a tester fails a house, goodbye, that is the last test they’ll perform for that builder.

    Results seem better in States where the HVAC installer test their own work much like all plumbers do a static pressure test of their plumbing. Just part of the job. Installers realize that testing their ducts is not big deal and for the most part they are pretty conscientious espcecially when they see what a no brainer it is to pass.

    I think there is more of a problem when BPI or RESNET guys are required to perform the test. If so, then both of those organizations stand to lose a lot by being shoved out of the testing process in those states where they are required to do the test.

    My guess would be that in sum, a lot more greenhouse gas emissions and pollution will be caused by underperforming ducts in houses than by underperforming VWs. In all fairness the same rules should apply across industries. In addition the health and safety aspects of leaky ducts are well known and there the cost of our lax enforcement could be greater.

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