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Category Archives: Green

How Will Current Politics Affect Facility Management?

BY JUSTIN FEIT –

Changes are underway with the new administration – how will they impact you?

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President Trump’s agenda places several programs that have helped FMs in danger of being eliminated. Their survival depends heavily on the ability or willingness to push some key parts of his agenda through Congress.

After the unprecedented electoral victory of Donald Trump, the political climate in the U.S. has been in a state of flux. As the president fills in cabinet and department positions, enacts his agenda and navigates the tumultuous waters of the current political climate, the commercial building industry awaits Washington’s concrete actions and their wide-ranging impacts.

With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the White House, budget cuts, tax cuts and deregulation are likely on the way. While some of these actions might help businesses, these actions will also have consequences for the buildings industry in the coming weeks, months and years. How will the current political situation affect you?

Information Sharing for Energy Efficiency

Michigan State University had a plan to boost its energy efficiency across the board but was in need of more information and strategies to enact changes across its portfolio of academic buildings, science facilities, parking ramps and athletic facilities. The Department of Energy’s voluntary energy program, the Better Buildings Challenge, provided these vital resources, even though it did not offer any financial incentives.

“We have saved close to $10 million over the past few years by installing energy-efficient measures across campus. We have reduced the energy footprint by 13% in the 20 million square feet included in the program,” says Lynda Boomer, Director of Planning Design and Construction at MSU.

Learning from similar universities that had undergone comparable projects, MSU found success in its energy-saving initiative. The information sharing partnership of the Better Buildings Challenge helped MSU enact HVAC upgrades, chiller replacements and insulation improvements for optimal efficiency.

Through the Better Buildings Challenge, partners commit to improve the energy use of their building portfolios by at least 20% within 10 years and lead the way in a network for peer-to-peer collaboration,” says Maria Vargas, Director of the Better Buildings Challenge. “By showing how energy efficiency has been successfully adopted – and the barriers addressed and overcome – these partners are examples for others across a myriad of building types and locations.”

Since joining the initiative, MSU has been able to achieve considerable savings in its facilities, and the program has been successful across the board in reducing energy usage in buildings.

“MSU became aware of the Better Buildings Challenge and Alliance through involvement in the International Institute for Safe Laboratories (I2SL). We had just completed the energy transition plan and were already on the path to reducing energy use on campus and becoming more efficient, so it was a good fit to join the Better Buildings Challenge,” says Boomer. “While they did not provide any financial aid, the program gave MSU an opportunity to network with other universities and suppliers that could provide ideas and opportunities for energy saving projects.”

In practice, the Better Buildings Challenge has been successful in helping participants reach that 20% goal. “Partners have saved 240 trillion BTUs in energy consumption, $1.9 billion in cost savings, 15 million tons in avoided carbon emissions, $8.6 billion in funds extended by financial allies partnering with DOE and 4 billion gallons in water savings,” says Vargas.

Initiatives that the voluntary Better Buildings Challenge has started include the Financing Navigator to help people find financing options, greater focus and research on data center energy use, water efficiency pledges that save both water and energy, and the SWAP, a reality TV-inspired web series in which property managers from two organizations look for savings opportunities in each other’s buildings.

The voluntary nature of the project allows organizations to earn recognition and share energy information with other participants, which can provide the spark for worthwhile changes. However, the future of the Better Buildings Challenge is in jeopardy due to a recent executive order and the future federal budget.

The Trump Trajectory

President Trump has targeted several Obama-era policies that directly relate to the buildings industry through executive actions and legislative proposals. One needs to look no further than the Better Buildings Challenge, which former President Obama introduced in his 2011 State of the Union address as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In his 2013 Climate Action Plan, Obama’s agenda included expanding the Better Buildings Challenge.

However, the Trump administration has taken aim at Obama’s Climate Action Plan with the Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, identifying goals of striking down energy-related regulations that executive departments have mandated in the past. This executive order could threaten the future of the Better Buildings Challenge, although it is not yet clear how or to what extent.

Executive orders have some historical precedent of being more symbolic, guiding the vision and overall policy of a presidency. Whether or not this particular executive order will on its own largely impact Obama’s Climate Action Plan is unclear at this point. But what an executive order may or may not be able to accomplish can be done so through legislation.

The budget proposal Trump will expand and hopes to usher through Congress provides more concrete plans for cuts within several departments that house energy efficiency programs. While this budget proposal will undoubtedly undergo major changes to placate the many factions of the House, the original budget presented provides insight into the trajectory this administration would like to follow as far as federal funding goes.

Two of the most important departments to look at with the budget proposal are the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which would face cuts in 2018.

The DOE’s proposed cuts seem small compared to other departments with 6% or $1.7 billion in cuts having been proposed to its 2017 allocation. However, under this prospective budget, the National Nuclear Security Administration would receive a $1.4 billion boost, meaning cuts to other programs in the department – ones that might impact building operators – compound under this budget.
One of the hardest-hit agencies under the proposed budget cuts is the EPA; the agency’s overall budget would shrink by 31% or $2.6 billion. Stating a desire to cut back on regulations that hinder businesses, the president set his sights on cutting one particular program in the EPA: ENERGY STAR.

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The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back

The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet – and now we have to fix it

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Internet business cables in California.

‘Dismantling the surveillance state won’t be easy. But whatever happens, we’re going to be breaking new ground.’ Photograph: Bob Sacha/Corbis

Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.

But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.

One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don’t cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers.

We need to know how exactly how the NSA and other agencies are subverting routers, switches, the internet backbone, encryption technologies and cloud systems. I already have five stories from people like you, and I’ve just started collecting. I want 50. There’s safety in numbers, and this form of civil disobedience is the moral thing to do.

Two, we can design. We need to figure out how to re-engineer the internet to prevent this kind of wholesale spying. We need new techniques to prevent communications intermediaries from leaking private information.

We can make surveillance expensive again. In particular, we need open protocols, open implementations, open systems – these will be harder for the NSA to subvert.

The Internet Engineering Task Force, the group that defines the standards that make the internet run, has a meeting planned for early November in Vancouver. This group needs to dedicate its next meeting to this task. This is an emergency, and demands an emergency response.

Three, we can influence governance. I have resisted saying this up to now, and I am saddened to say it, but the US has proved to be an unethical steward of the internet. The UK is no better. The NSA’s actions are legitimizing the internet abuses by China, Russia, Iran and others. We need to figure out new means of internet governance, ones that makes it harder for powerful tech countries to monitor everything. For example, we need to demand transparency, oversight, and accountabilityfrom our governments and corporations.

Unfortunately, this is going play directly into the hands of totalitarian governments that want to control their country’s internet for even more extreme forms of surveillance. We need to figure out how to prevent that, too. We need to avoid the mistakes of the International Telecommunications Union, which has become a forum to legitimize bad government behavior, and create truly international governance that can’t be dominated or abused by any one country.

Generations from now, when people look back on these early decades of the internet, I hope they will not be disappointed in us. We can ensure that they don’t only if each of us makes this a priority, and engages in the debate. We have a moral duty to do this, and we have no time to lose.

Dismantling the surveillance state won’t be easy. Has any country that engaged in mass surveillance of its own citizens voluntarily given up that capability? Has any mass surveillance country avoided becoming totalitarian? Whatever happens, we’re going to be breaking new ground.

Again, the politics of this is a bigger task than the engineering, but the engineering is critical. We need to demand that real technologists be involved in any key government decision making on these issues. We’ve had enough of lawyers and politicians not fully understanding technology; we need technologists at the table when we build tech policy.

To the engineers, I say this: we built the internet, and some of us have helped to subvert it. Now, those of us who love liberty have to fix it.

• Bruce Schneier writes about security, technology, and people. His latest book is Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive. He is working for the Guardian on other NSA stories

 

 

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Hey to all my Green buddies; here’s an easy way to make a difference

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Going ‘Green’ is Good for Business, Exec Says

Tips for Companies Trying to Clean Up Their Act
Despite pressing economic worries, the environment remains a top concern for consumers the world over. And that means environmentally-friendly business practices are as necessary for the bottom line as they are for the planet, says Joe Veilleux, president of Euromed USA (euromedusa.com).
“Being a producer of natural ingredients for pharmaceuticals and health supplements, we’ve always held environmentalism as a major company value,” says Veilleux, a registered pharmacist.“We’re glad to see that, even when people face unemployment and other economic hardships, they’re still committed to green practices.”
Recent polls, including BCG’s annual International Global Green Consumer Surveys taken throughout the recession, reveal an unwavering commitment to environmentalism, he says.
“Even at the height of the recession in 2008 and 2009, more than a third of consumers said they were willing to pay a little more for products that are better for the environment,” Veilleux says. “A majority said they consider a company’s environmental credentials when making purchasing decisions.”
Euromed recently earned “green” ISO 14001 certification for its Barcelona factory by meeting stringent criteria established by the world International Standardization Organization, which sets standards for sustainable and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.
“In the five-year process of re-engineering our factory to meet the ISO 14001 criteria, we learned a lot that can benefit other companies,” Veilleux says. “Some of the steps we took cost little to nothing; others were, frankly, expensive. But all companies today need to be aware that consumers are looking at what they’re doing to – and for – the planet, and they’re making buying decisions based on that.”
These are some of the initiatives undertaken at Euromed Barcelona, which manufactures herbal extracts and natural active substances for customers in the United States and Europe.
Recycling biomass – the company’s manufacturing waste product. We’ve found different ways to recycle the post-extraction biomass, depending on the product involved, Veilleux says. “Much of the residue is sent to companies that specialize in creating bio-gas – specifically, methane, which is used to generate power,” he says. “However, the residue left from milk thistle has such a high nutritional value, it’s actually used to feed farm animals. We ship the waste product to a company that dries it out and cleans it before it’s added to feed for pigs, chickens, cows, and the like. The biomass is given away for free, he adds.
• Wood pallets become compost. At Euromed, wooden pallets are reused until they can’t be used any longer. “At that point, they’re sent to recycling facilities, which use them in composting products,” Veilleux says. This step was easily accomplished by working through waste management companies.
• Printer toners get refilled. Empty toner cartridges are shipped to the company’s supplier, where they’re recharged and returned for use. If not for recycling, the toner cartridges would be deposited in landfills.
• Cleaner air and water. The company purchased new equipment to accomplish these goals, including on-site wastewater treatment and water purification plants, and equipment to decrease atmospheric emissions.
All totaled, Euromed spent $1 million to $2 million to upgrade its factory. It was money well spent, Veilleux says.
“We’re excited about the certification because it verifies that we’re one of the world’s leaders in environmentally friendly production,” he says. “That’s very important to us — we rely on plants, the Earth’s natural, renewable resources,not only for our business but for our personal health.
“We have a special interest in making everyone aware of how vital it is that we all take steps to prevent environmental damage.
About Euromed USA
Euromed USA supplies standardized botanical and herbal extracts and natural active substances for use in the pharmaceutical, health food and cosmetics industries. By extracting the necessary chemicals, the company can guarantee its products meet the precise chemical specifications necessary. Euromed was founded 40 years ago. Its parent company is the 100-year-old Rottapharm-Madaus corporation based in Italy.

 

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Fall Building Maintenance Tips – Prepare for the Cold Weather to Come

It’s been a long, hot summer for most of the country, but as the calendar gradually turns to September, fall is almost here and before you know it, the cold winter weather will be here, too.  Here are a few things you can do as a building Owner or Director of Facilities to ensure you and your buildings are ready for the change in seasons:

  • Perform Roof Inspections – Get your ladder and check out the roofs around your campus – or hire a qualified roofing contractor to inspect your low-sloped built-up and membrane roofs as well as the higher sloped shingled roofs.  Look for areas of loose shingles, especially around the building eaves where ice dams can form during winter, which allow moisture to enter under the shingles.  In addition, check flashings at vertical wall intersections, chimneys, and plumbing vent boots to confirm there are no holes or other damage that can allow water to enter the building during heavy rain or snow.  Adequate roof maintenance not only reduces leaks, but extends the life of your roofing systems.  It is important to check low-sloped roofs weekly during the leaf falling season to ensure that roof drains are not clogged with leaves and debris.  Higher sloped shingled roofs should be checked at the end of the season to ensure that gutters, valleys, and other areas are not clogged with leaves and debris as well.
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts – Ensure all gutters and downspouts are clear from debris so that they adequately drain water away.  This continues to be important as the season progresses and leaves begin to fall.  Consider pruning overhanging trees at this time to keep the leaves and debris off the roof.  Clogged gutters can cause water to back up, which will damage the roof and the trim around the roof and soffits, as well as siding.  During cold winter weather, standing and backed-up water in gutters can freeze and cause ice dams that will damage your roof and sheathing, and lead to leaks.  Downspouts should discharge into underground storm drain leaders or empty onto splash blocks that adequately divert the water away from the exterior of the building.
  • Inspect All Exterior Doors and Windows – Check to make sure that caulking is still flexible and is sealing any gaps between window/door frames and exterior walls.  This ensures the warm air stays inside the building during the winter and seals the exterior building envelope from water penetration and leaks.  For added energy savings, check the weather stripping at all exterior door frames to make sure it’s still in place and serving its intended purpose.
  • Check Exterior Faucets and Service Irrigation System – Install frost-proof exterior hose bib faucets or drain older non-frost-proof faucets to keep them from freezing and breaking during the winter.  This is also a good time to have the underground irrigation system serviced and prepared for winter by a qualified irrigation contractor.
  • Exterior Site Concrete  and Asphalt Pavement – Perform regular sealing of exterior cracks in sidewalks and paved areas during the fall.  Water that freezes inside these cracks can cause the concrete to spall and deteriorate, leading to more costly repairs later.  The water penetration can also cause the subgrade to soften, leading to settlement and potholes.  It is critical to ensure that all expansion joints are adequately sealed with a high-quality joint sealer to prevent water from getting below the pavement surface and softening the structural base course materials.  Routine and periodic sealing of the asphalt pavement with a liquid asphalt sealer will help seal small hairline cracks in the asphalt pavement, which also protects the structural base course from softening and degradation due to water intrusion.
  • Tune Up Your Heating System – Inspect all the furnaces and heat pumps to ensure they are clean and operating properly with clean filters.  Clogged and dirty filters cause the heating system to waste energy while heating the building to your desired set point temperatures.  Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to make sure they are operational.  Clean chimneys to ensure they are clear and not clogged with soot and other debris, which can cause gases to build up inside your buildings.  A qualified HVAC contractor will not only perform a visual inspection of your heating system, but will also remove covers and check filters, check blowers, ensure flues are clear and operating properly, and perform other safety checks that will assure a safe and warm environment for your residents this winter.
  • Check Attics – Check the insulation in your attics to confirm it’s the proper thickness and is distributed evenly.  Lack of proper attic insulation is a major cause of heat loss in a building, which will increase your heating costs.  You should also check to see that all vents are operating properly and there is no insulation blocking the continuous soffit vents around the attic perimeter.  This is also a good time to ensure that fire sprinkler lines located in unheated attics are adequately insulated to prevent freezing and breaking of these lines.
 

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Small Portions of Hope for the Construction Industry

For building firms and their suppliers this week’s “Government Construction Summit” has offered some mixed messages for the future.  The summit focussed closely on government procurement policies and efficiency savings; but amidst a rash of cuts in government spending, what do these efficiencies amount to?  Both the cabinet office minister Francis Maude and his chief construction advisor Paul Morrell outlined the current position for the construction industry and their own thinking on government building contracts, strategy and procurement.  The summit had a keen focus on both saving money, with some suggestions of possible opportunities for the building industry.

Government Streamlining

Building firms, however, may be less interested in how the government proposes to streamline its processes and more on the availability of construction contracts.  The summit showed that last year the number of contracts for new schools fell by thirty per cent while for roads the figure was nearly fifty per cent.  For many this is no surprise as the government’s austerity measures begin to bite and the effect on the construction industry has been clear with big names such as John Doyle going into administration last month and the subsequent loss of 290 jobs.  Like many other suppliers to the construction industry Doyle’s disappearance from the industry is a significant indicator of the effect that the lack of large scale projects is having on the industry.

Future PFI Contracts?

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) sector has provided a good market for construction firms in the past, however, at the summit the Treasury’s Infrastructure Unit could only announce that plans for the successor to the initiative will be made clear well before the autumn, and could be available in the next few weeks.  If this raised hopes for construction firms the statement was qualified by the statement that ‘we have had the largest successful investment in s social infrastructure since the Second World War already.  That “already” may be one that suggests there may not be much more on the PFI front planned for the near future.

It’s taking part that matters (if you’ve paid your entry fee)

Despite a cast of thousands in construction terms, the Olympian task of constructing the facilities for the Games Atkins remains the only construction company permitted to use its involvement in the project for marketing purposes.  This was confirmed at the summit, although smaller contractors were advised they could always tell prospective clients that they had been involved.  Sort of along the lines of “It was this big. Honest”.  Having paid for the privilege, it seems that Atkins intend to hold onto their exclusivity, while the smaller firms who have helped to make the Games possible will receive marginally less recognition than your average torch bearer.

Good Tsunamis

Tsunamis are not normally considered a great idea, but Terry Fuller the Homes and Communities Executive director promised one is on its way for construction firms, as housing finances are handed back to local councils.  This particular mega-wave is expected to come in the form of a flood of building contracts, according to Fuller, as councils rush to spend their new found rental income.  On the same theme Fuller disclosed that social housing landlords who fail to meet construction targets may have their funding removed and passed onto others, to ensure enough homes are built on time.

Mixed Messages

Overall the summit provided a glum picture of the construction industry at present, despite the major construction projects promised in the form of nuclear power plants and at least one high speed rail link in coming years.  While the government’s plans to rationalise its spending may not be of much interest to building firms, the changes to funding for housing could offer some hope, as could changes in the way grants are administered to social housing.  For construction firms, large or small, finding their own efficiency savings seems to be the order of the day.

For all sectors in the construction industry, from concrete batch plants suppliers to scaffolding firms, the governments summit this week has provide small portions of hope and some very mixed messages.

 

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VIDEO: Best marriage proposal ever

Isaac Lamb proposed to his girlfriend, Amy, in a very innovative way, and the video has gone viral.
Check out Isaac’s incredible proposal – set to Bruno Mars‘ “Marry You.”

CLICK ON THE PHOTO

 

When Isaac Lamb decided to propose to his girlfriend, Amy, he knew he wanted to do something over-the-top. but not even Amy was prepared for the elaborate proposal he staged with 60 of their closet friends and family members. The video went viral – and has already amassed almost 6 million views on YouTube at last count.

The video even got Bruno Mars’ stamp of approval!

Congrats to Isaac Lamb and the future Mrs.. I don’t think I could’ve made a better music video for this song. Thank youvimeo.com/42828824

 
 
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