Thursday, December 10, 2009

Upgrading your building

ASHRAE's weekly eNewsletter "The HVAC&R Industry" quoted this interesting statistic:

"According to Research shows that over 50% of commercial buildings were built prior to 1980. For all commercial buildings, over 70% have not had an HVAC or lighting upgrade, or had their windows replaced; and, nearly 90% have not had an insulation upgrade."

This shows that there is plenty of opportunity to save energy costs for more than one out of every three buildings that we see.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Building Green in Salinas

Sustainable Salinas - an Action Group of Citizens for a Sustainable Monterey County (CSMC) - and the City of Salinas present:
“Building Green in Salinas”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
6:30 to 8:00 PM
Sherwood Community Center

Panel presentation on Salinas LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green buildings and guided tour of the new LEED-certified community pool.


Joe Piedimonte, Chairman of the Environmental Management and Sustainable Design Advisory Group for Hartnell College, and Green Building Consultant for Ausonio will discuss the LEED certification process and the benefits of green buildings.

Jeff Oberdorfer, Executive Director, First Community Housing (F.C.H.) will present FCH’s Salinas Gateway Development, 100% affordable rentals with a green, vegetated roof with all rainwater recycled back into irrigation.

Carl Niizawa, Deputy City Engineer for the City of Salinas, supervised the design and construction of the newly opened LEED Gold certified (pending) Salinas community pool. Mr. Niizawa will give a brief overview of the project, followed by a guided tour of the facilities.

CSMC is a local nonprofit organization whose mission is “to meet the challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil by helping our communities to transition to sustainable uses of energy and resources.” Sustainable Salinas, along with the other Local Action Groups formed by CSMC, provides community education, promotes “green” building codes and ordinances to conserve water, reduce waste, create community gardens, offset carbon emissions, and many other projects. Join them for this informative free presentation. For more information about this presentation, Sustainable Salinas or CSMC, please contact Virginia Jameson at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

KION 46 Coverage of the Ausonio LEED Registered Building

PJ Javaheri of KION TV was looking for a story on green. At the time, Jeannie, Derek and I were knee-deep in a waste stream audit for our building. We had been collecting the waste generated in our building for the past week, and the morning PJ called we were busy going through bags of garbage to see how we could improve our recycling. We were in the process of determining that composting might be a viable option for our building. Alyson at the front desk explained to PJ that we were tied up, but he must have smelled a story. Not much later, he showed up to our building. We told him about some of the features of our LEED Existing Building project that we were working on for the Ausonio Building. For some reason, these features were more interesting to him than our waste stream audit. Derek and I left the garbage bags and our gloves, and before we knew it, we were on the roof with PJ! I have attached much of the segment that aired. The tape that I used was eaten by a rogue VCR at our office, so not all of the segment was captured, and it is a little rough at the beginning.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Terms of Service for Twitter


We'd like to let you know about our new Terms of Service. As Twitter
has evolved, we've gained a better understanding of how folks use the
service. As a result, we've updated the Terms and we're notifying
account holders.

We've posted a brief overview on our company blog and you can read the
Terms of Service online. If you haven't been by in a while, we invite
you to visit Twitter to see what else is new.


These updates complement the spirit of Twitter. If the nature of our
service changes, we'll revisit the Terms as necessary. Comments are
welcome, please find the "feedback" link on the Terms of Service page.

Biz Stone, Co-founder
Twitter, Inc.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hartnell College Offers Introduction to Green Building this fall

Construction Technology is now the Center for Sustainable Construction at Hartnell

Hartnell College in Salinas has added Green Building to its Fall curriculum. This course will be the first step toward an entire program for Environmental Management and Sustainable Design. There are two advanced courses planned for the Spring Semester, so there is momentum building.

I have been Chair for Hartnell's Environmental Management and Sustainable Design Advisory Group for almost a year. When I first talked to Mike Thomas about the purpose of the Advisory Group, I realized that there was a blank slate. I thought the only way we could chart this new territory is through the charette process. Our group met once a month for several months, planning a charette that would create a vision, a mission statement, and potential courses. The charette was a huge success.

The Introduction to Green Building course was designed to help construction management students, but also the community. Some of the topics to be covered are: Green Building definitions & careers, site selection & orientation, materials & methods, energy, indoor air quality, off site impacts, certification systems, professional accreditation, safety, records & computer tools, financial tools. The course was developed in conjunction with the Sustainability Academy. Laura Strohm, founder of the Sustainability Academy is also a member of the Hartnell Advisory group. Jordan Daniels, Co-Chair of the USGBC Monterey Branch will be the instructor. He should be able to tap into experience from the LEED project "Uptown Monterey," and the projects he over sees with Building Wise.

The official course title is: "CON 120 - SECTION #1366 - INTRODUCTION TO GREEN BUILDING"

Classes will be on Monday nights (6-9pm) from August 17th to December 14th, 2009. You can register by calling (831) 755-6755 or on-line at www.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

First LEED registered Floating Building is launched

The platform for the LEED registered Marina Services Building at Cottonwood Cove, Searchlight Nevada is in place. In these pictures you can see its location in the Marina. The platform was erected on land under strict protection for Lake Mead, as well as other erosion controls. I am in the process of reviewing invoices for the materials to document the recycle content of the platform. Construction of the building is due to start soon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monterey College of Law Wins Award

The Monterey College of Law Community Justice Center project has been selected as a Building of America Award winner and is scheduled to be featured in the upcoming Green Building of America-Northwest Green edition of Construction Communications.

As a featured project, the publication will show how it is making a difference for its community through its sustainable elements. Construction Communications works closely with each region's cities, counties, major associations and organizations, developers and project teams to ensure the top sustainably designed and built projects are covered in each regional Green Building of America edition. You can view regional editions on our web site at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Would your project benefit from registering to LEED v2.2?

If your project is not in a dense urban setting you can lose valuable credits for transportation and density/community-connectivity under LEED 2009. The deadline for registration to LEED pre-2009 is this Friday, 6/26. This includes LEED New Construction and Existing Buildings. The cost of registration is $450 for members plus the time to process the registration. Once registered under v2.2, the project may have until 12/31/09 to move to LEED 2009 at no extra cost. This gives time to see if additional energy savings and renewable energy credits of 2009 out-weigh the penalty of not having density/connectivity or public transportation.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

PG&E Energy Audit at Portola Hotel

Technical Solutions Engineer Chris Saiz demonstrated his expertise as we walked through the Portola Hotel and Spa yesterday. We were conducting a Level I Energy Audit walk for the hotel's LEED Existing Building Operations and Maintenance certification. The account manager for PG&E, Alex Calvillo, arranged for this audit. Alex was present, as well as Alicia Kilgore from PG&E; Al Hittle, the Portola's Chief Building Engineer; and George Lewis from the Engineering Department.

We thought that most of the lighting upgrade opportunities had already been implemented, but Chris pointed out large areas in Jack's Lounge that could be converted from 50 watt MR16 halogen lights to 3 watt LED equivalents. There were also a number of incandescent lights still in some of the lobby areas that could be replaced with CFL's. Chris made a point of observing the intent of the lighting. If it was directional, he would lean toward LED lighting, even over efficient fluorescent lights.

The Portola Hotel has quite a large kitchen area that serves both restaurants and banquets. Chris offered inisights on the refrigeration and kitchen equipment, explaining how PG&E provides incentives to purchase or upgrade equipment. This will be valuable information for future reference. As equipment requires major repairs, knowing the incentives for replacing the equipment, as well as energy savings makes better informed buying decisions.

Similar to most luxury hotels, the Portola Hotel and Spa has a dedicated laundry operation. The hotel has a state-of-the-art co-generation plant to help make the laundry operation efficient. This did not stop Chris though. He saw opportunities to preheat water before it entered washing machines and to use heat exchange technology for the dryer operations. We also discussed time of day usage and the potential to change the schedule of operations to reduce the impact of peak time rates.

We managed to brave some rather vocal seagulls on the rooftop where Chris offered suggestions to improve the operation of the chiller and air-handling units. We also toured some of the gorgeous rooms. It's hard to focus on energy savings when you're enjoying a terrific view of the Monterey Harbor and marina, howevber, we did manage to find some potential savings here. Even a relatively small savings per room can get big when you consider it's multiplied by more than 300 rooms.

Finally, Chris was able to provide suggestions on reducing computer energy demand. Chris works primarily in the Silicon Valley, so data center energy management is a core competency for him. He made the case for virtualization using products similar to Vmware to reduce the amount of servers in the data center. Each server generates 255 watts for 8000 hours a year. It also requires about 350 watts of cooling, so this can add up! He is also a big proponent of energy management software that can shut down any of the hotel's 80 computers as they become idle.

We're awaiting a report from Chris about his observations. We will use that to implement low-cost/no-cost solutions. We will also form a long term capital plan based on upgrades that will present some large opportunities. This is where the LEED certification process challenges you to a higher benchmark of achievement. As a result, the Portola Hotel and Spa will achieve terrific energy savings, and offer a great place to stay for the Green-minded traveler.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is this green washing?

I had a client consider a Big Belly Solar for their project today. As usual, I went out to the product's "LEED," "Green" or "Sustainable" web page. Was I ever in luck? They had a LEED page! Now, how typical is this that every one of these products can qualify for an innovation point? And according to this promotional material, that can be the difference between Gold and Silver. I'm sorry, but I guess it's up to me to figure out how this product is going to get a LEED innovation point for using energy from the sun to compact what may have been compacted with nothing but a foot. Now, I know we are supposed to be diverting from the landfill, but is it innovative to just compact instead? Let me know if I'm off base on this. May be I just had a bad day...

Monday, June 8, 2009

The LEED Triple Bottom Line

The USGBC through LEED encourages a triple bottom line of the environment, economics and society. Usually I am working with the economic and environmental aspects of the project. I have been wondering how a project like the Boys and Girls Club can balance out the social equity portion of a Green building. Some of the ideas I am thinking about are how a facility such as this will be accessible to children that may not have had the opportunity to be in a Green built environment. This is probably the biggest aspect of social equity. There would not be too many green buildings in our areas that would be designed for kids to hang out and feel safe. What a terrific opportunity!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Boys and Girls Club Alisal Unit

I am very pleased to be kicking off a LEED eco-charette for the proposed new Boys and Girls Club in Salinas. The project is targeting Platinum. Our charette will include a tour of Chartwell School by Executive Director Douglas Atkins. Ausonio Inc was the builder of Chartwell School, and it achieved 57 LEED points to be the first ever LEED Platinum K-12 campus.

I look forward to leading a discussion about how the building design can engage youth in sustainability. We have a great invite list of city and community leaders. I hope we have a good turn out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Presentation: A Higher Vision

Joe Piedimonte gave this presentation at "A Higher Vision" hosted by Hartnell College on Monday April 20, 2009. You may download the PDF at the link below:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Platinum Rated Home on HGTV

Michael Carlson is an architect we are working with on two LEED
projects: The floating building on Lake Mead and New Horizon's School in
Las Vegas. He will be featured on HGTV for the Platinum rated home he
designed. Carlson and his associates, Jedd Heap and Phil Lenzen,
designed a house in Tradition, a master-planned community in St. Lucie
County, for a special client - Home & Garden Television. The
2,430-square-foot structure is the 2009 HGTV Green Home Giveaway house,
and will be featured in the cable network's special at 8 p.m. Sunday,
April 19.

Regards, Joe

Shortcut to:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Energy Star Rating for the Ausonio Building

We started out pursuing LEED Existing Building certification. Along the way we discovered the Energy Star rating. I was familiar with this rating for appliances and computers, but never realized there is a huge category for buildings. Energy Star rated buildings are not as popular in Castroville as they might be in New York City. We have been contacted by the CoStar group and will be included in their survey. Refer to my blog entry on the last CoStar study:

Last week I received the following notice in my inbox:

Dear Joe Piedimonte:
Congratulations! Your application has been approved and you have earned the prestigious ENERGY STAR for:
Ausonio Bldg
Ausonio Affiliates
11420 A Commercial Pkwy
Castroville, CA 95012
The ENERGY STAR is the mark of superior energy performance and identifies your building as one the most efficient buildings in the nation. By taking this important step along the path to energy efficiency, you are not only saving money – you are preventing the release of greenhouse gases and protecting the environment.
Within 2 business days, your facility will automatically be included on our website as part of our registry of buildings to earn the ENERGY STAR (

The only bad news is that the program has apparently run out of plaques.

Update on the LEED registered Floating Building

Click the Document to read it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Renewable Energy Credits

I was looking into REC's (Renewable Energy Credits) for a project and what I discovered was interesting. I had always thought that REC's were noble credits, but they were not cost effective. I think I have changed my mind.

I am working with a client that has done an incredible job of building a sustainable office. Their project was registered right at LEED Gold, but my concern was "what if the USGBC throws out a few of their credits?" This project had nothing extra to cover any lost points. This would cause their project to be Silver, despite their golden commitment.

The client was looking into adding more photovoltaic panels to their project, but this was something they preferred to do at a later time. Adding this 18kWh system would require a large capital outlay, but they were willing to do this earlier than scheduled to gain 3 LEED credits. They had already maxed out the Renewable credits, so this would be just to optimize the Optimize Energy credits.

The client had invested significant capital in a PV system, and wanted to conserve their next investment for a few years. Yet, three additional credits might mean the difference between Gold and Silver. Then it occurred to me that there might be another solution: REC's. REC's would allow them to pay a small premium to use green electricity for 70% of their buildings needs. For their building, the initial estimate is between $1000 to $2000 a year for two years. There would be two LEED credits available for using this approach. This is not too bad of an option when faced with a $100,000 - $200,000 additional investment in a photovoltaic array for three LEED credits.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting with the program

No posting since September! This is no reflection of activity. It's been busy, but I do not see things slowing down for a while. Thank you green economy. Since I do not see things slowing down, I need to find time to add to this Blog. This will be my new years resolution.