May 17, 2020

New Global Energy Requirements' Impact on Construction

energy digital
energy requirements
4 min
Buildings account for nearly 40% energy used in the U.S.
The International Code Council, responsible for energy efficiency standards for buildings in the U.S., recently issued an update of the 2012 Internati...


The International Code Council, responsible for energy efficiency standards for buildings in the U.S., recently issued an update of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Among other changes, the 2012 code contains more stringent requirements for insulation in new buildings throughout most of the United States in order to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Energy conservation is a matter of growing importance in the U.S., where buildings account for nearly 40 percent of total energy consumption and 70 percent of electricity use. Although China's energy consumption is highest in the world, the U.S. ranks number one in per capita use. Due to its significance, the building industry committed itself to make a valuable contribution to reduce per capita energy use in the U.S. This commitment is reflected in the goals set by the U.S. building industry, along with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

Heimo Scheuch , CEO of the largest brick company in the world, Wienerberger AG – headquartered in Austria – was in the U.S. recently to discuss the impact of 2012 energy code requirements on the construction industry and simple solutions for code compliance. 

Code compliance can be a significant hurdle for architects, builders and contractors, who need easy-to-install, efficient and cost-effective building solutions. The new minimum standard for insulation will be R20, where R-value is the measure of heat flow resistance. As a result, the traditional 2x4-inch framed wall with batt insulation does not meet the 2012 code.

Code compliance can now be achieved in two ways: using 2x6-inch studs with batt insulation OR by adding continuous sheet insulation to 2x4-inch stud construction. Continuous sheet insulation attached to studs creates a "wall" next to exterior brick and minimizes heat loss by providing a weather-resistant barrier. Brick is one of the world's oldest green building materials: The unique combination of durability and thermal mass properties of brick – as compared to other exterior building materials – significantly decreases the load on heating and cooling systems.

Brick is a "breathing" material and thereby guarantees not only a healthy indoor climate but also balances temperatures. In contrast to many other building materials, brick absorbs temperatures, which keeps a home or office cool during the warmer months and warm during the cooler months. This is why building with brick supports lower energy consumption.

Scheuch stresses the economic rationale of a brick house.

"You can not only save energy costs with a brick house, but maintenance costs are very low; and due to its longevity, resale prices are significantly higher," Scheuch says. "A brick house keeps its value and quality over a long lifetime."

Wienerberger's North American subsidiary, General Shale, based in Johnson City, Tenn., offers superior building solutions with bricks, which are already in full compliance with the code. Scheuch points to General Shale's offerings of traditional brick, thin veneers and Endurance RS4™ Structural Brick, which are – when combined with continuous insulation – ideal solutions for meeting the new energy code requirements, with minimal labor and cost adjustments. Endurance RS4™ Brick, the company's most recent product innovation, is designed for structural longevity. The RS4 stands for "Real Strong, Real Safe, Real Sustainable, Real Smart."

Oversized for safer, stronger, more sustainable and energy-efficient construction, this product eliminates the need for load-bearing wood or steel framing and has excellent thermal mass properties. In addition, the product is suitable for any type of foundation, withstands higher loads and meets seismic requirements. Brick makes a building very solid and more resistant against hurricanes, fires and earthquakes. This is also reflected by insurance rates, which may be lower for a brick house than for any other material.  

"Since our company was founded more than 80 years ago, the nature of our business has been sustainable building," says General Shale President and CEO Dick Green . "Brick is the ultimate construction material for environmental concerns and energy savings, and we are proud to offer a variety of products and solutions to make code compliance easier."

Recognizing the importance of reversing America's trend with regards to energy, the U.S. government and organizations such as AIA; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); International Code Council (ICC); and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) work to provide design and construction standards to maximize energy efficiency.

Source: PR Newswire

Edited by Carin Hall

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Jul 30, 2021

Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector

3 min
The UK’s nascent marine energy sector starts exporting electricity to the grid as the most powerful tidal turbine in the world begins to generate power

Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre

At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable. 

How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?

Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.” 

“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement. 

The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.

“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government. 

“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.

“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”

However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future. 

We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.” 

The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours

This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly

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