Making Homes Greener in Austin, Texas

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We’re often writing about energy efficiency on Energy Refuge as an important component of energy sustainability. Fortunately, an increasing number of contractors are advancing the green building movement and spreading the adoption of sustainable design, energy efficient construction practices and green building technologies, as Houston Neal, Director of Marketing at Software Advice Software Advice, has noted.

Houston recently started a series of articles profiling green contractors and kicked it off with an interview with Kyle Ashley, of Austin-based Green Building Energy Services. Below is a summary of what Houston heard from Kyle about the specific case of Austin.

Austin’s Older Buildings Missing the Mark

According to Ashley, “there is a significant opportunity for retrofit and upgrade work in the Austin area. “Many of our buildings don’t comply with modern building energy codes” said Ashley, (i.e. those established by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO)). “Most buildings are 15 to 20 years old (or older). The number could be as high as 80 percent.”

As buildings make up 40 per cent of energy use in Texas – and nearly 70 percent of electricity use – there’s a great opportunity for Austinites to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings.

Ashley breaks Green Building Energy Services projects down to 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial; 80 percent retrofit and 20 percent new construction. “This is where we identified the biggest area to contribute to the community,” said Ashley.

Record-Breaking Temperatures = Record-Breaking Utility Bills

Austin just had the hottest summer on record. Accordingly, utility bills have been off the charts. Demand from property owners that want to cut utility costs is high, and energy-efficient retrofits are a great solution.

According to Ashley, most energy issues originate at the building envelope (the ventilation and insulation of a building’s roof, walls, doors and windows). As many homes have traditional atmospheric vents, he said, they often “don’t have enough air intake into the attic. The air becomes stale and heats up like a conduction oven.”

This is common among older homes built out in the hill country, or those in downtown Austin that were built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.” Older homes may have little to no insulation in walls, which is a major contributor to this issue. Ashley and his team use non-expanding injection foam to completely fill the wall cavity.

A common project for commercial buildings is roof treatment. According to Ashley, many businesses have flat and untreated roofs. They need better protection to act as a radiant, air and moisture barrier. Not surprisingly, improving the energy efficiency of offices and retail buildings can be done with a simple, cost-effective solution: expanding spray-foam.

What’s the ROI of Green Construction?

If you’re asking yourself, “What’s the ROI?”, there are three main measurable improvements Ashley and his team work toward:

1. Financial impacts. Every building is different, but owners can reduce their utility bills 15 per cent to 30 per cent with energy efficient upgrades.

2. Energy conservation. Ashley’s team has noticed an average 20 per cent reduction of kilowatt hours in cooling months, and a 20 percent reduction of gas use in heating months.

3. Greater comfort. When a home is properly ventilated and sealed, homeowners and business owners are more comfortable.

Though Ashley suggests hiring a qualified organization to perform a comprehensive energy assessment, building owners can realize energy and cost savings with little investment. By simply changing your behavior, you can conserve and reduce energy consumption without having to do remodels and energy efficient retrofits.

Article by APASOLINI, appearing courtesy energyrefuge.com.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. Spray Foam is an incredible insulation product that has gained significant momentum in the high-end and high performance home industry. Closed cell spray foams have typical R values of 6-7 per inch of material, making them the most potent when space it at a premium. Like dense-packed cellulose, SPF also has incredible advantages in reducing air movement in structures. It is an effective way to tighten the building envelope significantly during new construction.

    SPF is great for use in wall cavities of new construction and also on the roof decks of existing or new buildings. Roof-deck application is done between the rafters of your roof assembly, usually sprayed directly onto the sheathing of the roof. Coupled with sealing off soffit and ridge vents as well as gable walls, we create a sealed attic. Sealed to the outside the attic breathes only to the house and will maintain a temperature much closer to the conditioned living space of your home in any season. It is a complete cap on your building and one of the most effective at eliminating the path for warm air rising and escaping from your home.

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