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Building Energy-Efficient Bridges in Pittsburgh

Breathtaking view of Pittsburgh as seen through the breathable facade of The Tower at PNC Bank.

As one terribly clever energy professional pointed out – a city with 446 bridges couldn’t possibly be intimidated by hundreds of pages of building codes.

“Bridges to the Future” was the theme of the 2017 National Energy Code Conference, which took place July 18th – 20th in Pittsburgh, PA.  The third city to become part of the 2030 District, and commonly known as “The City of Bridges,” Pittsburgh proved a fitting venue in which to focus on the future of energy-efficiency through the impact of codes and initiatives across the U.S.

The conference kicked off with “Energy Codes Bootcamp,” a great session for professionals new to the industry. It covered code basics, compliance software training for REScheck and COMcheck, and a brief overview of what’s coming in the 2018 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2016. Overall there is a focus on improved efforts to understand the different performance paths, and proving performance measures for buildings.

Next on the agenda, “Tours of the Tower” at PNC Plaza, which was designed to exceed LEED Platinum certification, and is known as the “greenest office building in the world.” The Tower is truly the crown jewel in Pittsburgh’s green building community, and no one could be more appreciate of it than the group of energy professionals in attendance.

The final tour of the day showcased The Energy Innovation Center, a not-for-profit organization whose purpose includes community engagement, workforce education and training, and support for businesses in the clean energy market.


Educational Sessions 

“If you work in building codes, it is essential to consider the future”
– Ian Finlayson, Massachusetts Dept. of Energy Resources 

One of the best educational sessions of day two was presented by Ian Finlayson of the Massachusetts Dept. of Energy Resources, “Developing and Promoting a Stretch Energy Code.” Massachusetts has mandatory requirements to adopt the latest ASHRAE and IECC codes every 3 years. But rapid gains in energy-efficient building are also being achieved across the state through educating and encouraging stretch codes. The keys to success include seeking expert input, keeping the message simple, and tracking adoption across municipalities.

“It’s all about ROI – how you consume and how you build must align.”
– Timothy McDonald, Onion Flats, LLC

Timothy McDonald, President of Onion Flats, LLC, kicked off the final day with the impressive gains his development company is achieving in the affordable housing market in Pennsylvania. Building on that knowledge, he has focused extensive efforts on including passive house building standards in the point system used by state housing finance agencies in awarding contracts. Once again education is a key component, emphasizing the fact that net-zero and passive house standards can be met cost-effectively. He added competition to the strategy, as the motivation tool for getting more builders to utilize energy-efficient building standards.

Some of the unique features of his own multi-family developments include facades that communicate energy use of the building, and making inexpensive design strategies essential, not traditionally key considerations in affordable housing.

 

Awards 

A final highlight of the conference was the presentation of the Jeffrey A. Johnson Award to the 2017 winner, Shaunna Mozingo, of Colorado Code Consulting. Jeffrey was remembered by his colleagues for his passionate work in energy-efficiency building. It was evident throughout the conference, and through the recognition of her colleagues, that Shaunna has embodied that same spirit throughout her career.

The conference was a great place to connect with a wide range of professionals focused on advancing the energy-efficiency initiatives at all levels – not just regulation. The architects, consultants, builders, manufacturers, and code officials in attendance all shared the same common goal: planning for the future by improving how we build today.


Considering attending an energy code conference in the future? Next up on the calendar is the 2017 International Code Council Conference, to be held September 10-13th in Columbus, OH. Take a look at the complete lineup of exhibitors and the education agenda here. Year-round, one of the best resources for both the residential and commercial building industries is the US Department of Energy website energy.gov. If you haven’t visited the site yet, take the time to look around – it has an absolute wealth of information for most any topic relating to energy-efficiency. 


 

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