March 6, 2010

FOCUS | Green building / LEED

Thermal Insulation Association of Canada working toward LEED recognition

After two years of discussion with Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), the Thermal Insulation Association of Canada (TIAC) might be a step closer to gaining LEED recognition.

The association is looking to get into the energy requirement section with an incremental rating system being developed by its American counterpart, the National Insulation Association (NIA).

The rating system aims to identify how much energy is saved by mechanical insulation in a building and determine incremental energy savings that would correspond with additional thicknesses of insulation, said Ron King, consultant to NIA working on the development of the program.

“No one can answer this question in relation to the holistic building,” he said.

“We want to determine this and what happens if we go beyond minimum standards.”He added that they need both sets of data for a meaningful discussion with USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council).

The NIA is asking contractors to supply takeoff calculations from which the association will compile the required figures on mechanical insulation, while building owners are required to submit energy bills.

The information is then entered into a program called 3E Plus, proprietary software developed by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA).

It calculates the thermal performance of both insulated and uninsulated piping, ducts, and equipment; determines surface temperature and heat loss or gain calculations of individual thickness up to 10 inches, and calculates greenhouse gas emissions and reductions.  

Although the program has been used to calculate bare versus insulated surface heat loss efficiency percentages for individual components, this will be the first time it has been used to provide energy efficiency data on entire buildings.  

“As we design the system we are starting with hospitals and schools, and hope to set six of each for the preliminary data,” said King. The data will be compiled into a database of commercial buildings across a variety of climate zones and building types.

The association is trying a standardized approach in its bid for assigned LEED energy credits.

The research will have implications across North America, especially in jurisdictions that have adopted ASHRAE 90.1 as the baseline standard for energy requirements.

A new version of 90.1, outlining a 30 per cent energy reduction over 90.1-2004, will be released later this year.

The standard contains minimum requirements of mechanical insulation required for various levels of LEED certification.

The CaGBC references a table in ASHRAE 90.1, in which pipe insulation thickness is specified for various temperature ranges. Incorporating 90.1 without additional requirements causes the thickness to default to the minimum, even though adding insulation could improve a building’s performance.

“Some specs require 35 per cent better applications than 90.1, and this is where insulation contractors have to start using some initiative and do the calculations,” said King. “If the table shows a 1/2 inch (minimum) and the building requires 25 percent less energy consumption, contractors have to know how to calculate this or at least know where to go for help.”  

More often than not, energy efficiency credits are earned through changes to the building envelope, lighting and electrical energy consumption, said King.

Increasing the mechanical insulation in a building could help achieve higher energy efficiency at a fraction of the cost of other technologies.

Neither insulators association believes a stand-alone category for mechanical insulation is on the horizon, but both are optimistic that mechanical insulation as a component of the energy or environmental calculation will be included.

The NIA is aiming for preliminary first quarter results. 

“It’s not going to be a scientific, top-of-the-line process, but rather a realistic approach to provide a realistic, believable, ballpark figure, and that’s all we need to engage USGBC,” said King.

The group wants to present data that will be accepted as appropriate to determine mechanical insulation’s contribution to sustainable building.

Once a rating system is developed, the NIA will take it to USGBC to show that the industry has been doing its homework and show that mechanical insulation represents a certain percentage of all the energy consumed in a building. The NIA hopes to present its findings to the USGBC this summer.

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