The new Green Standard - ASHRAE 189.1

Dusting off my notes from my January trip to Las Vegas for the ASHRAE Winter Meeting I came across a session with Past ASHRAE President Kent Peterson talking about Standard 189.1.  This is ASHRAE's Green Standard which has recently published it's user manual.

The big news about this standard is that it's written in a codified language, which means that it is enforceable by code officials, and it is meant for high performance buildings.  

Now before I go any futher let's back up two steps so that I can paint a broader picture.  ASHRAE's superstar standard has long been 90.1, which governs the minimum energy code compliance. It too is also written in codified language and has been updated on a three-year cycle (2001, 2004, 2007, 2010).  It wouldn't be stretch to say that this code is the least that an engineer could design to without breaking the law (a little food for thought). But ASHRAE has also been raising the bar on standard 90.1 with each new version.  

Now that we have talked about the minimum bar for all buildings let's move on to the minimum bar set for High Performance Buildings, Standard 189.1.

Today when people think about high performance buildings, they think green, they think LEED.  But the LEED process is no more than a guideline, a "paint-by-numbers" points system that doesn't always get you a high performance building. Enter Standard 189.1.  Those familiar with the LEED guidelines will look at this standard and do a double-take.  They look the same.  But be careful, they may have the same structure and some of the same goals, but the ASHRAE committee that developed this has taken a lot of care in structuring it into an enforceable language. One of the real keys that is in the standard is the requirement for high performance building operation.  Time and time again the operation of a building is reduced to the level of understanding of the building operators, but this standard has taken steps that this cycle is broken.  Specifically the steps include commissioning throughout the design and construction process, owner training that focuses on system operation not just equipment operation, and plans for operation that incorporate benchmarking, useage, and maintenance.

Putting 90.1 and 189.1 together you will see that they are not independent.  As standard 90.1 becomes more stringent so to will 189.1.  With the ultimate goal for standard 189.1 to become the net-zero standard for buildings.

Other tidbits from the session:

- Standard 189.1 now adopted as an optional path of compliance for the new Internation Green Construction Code

- Water comsumption is quickly becoming more of an issue than energy consumption for most buildings.

- Studies of existing buildings showing that US power consumption is leveling off, despite improvements in efficiencies.  This is primarily due to the fact that we are plugging more stuff in.

- Newest version of standard 62.1 (the ventilation standard) is coming out requiring less ventilation.