This Week's Codes and Standards, July 9

Picking the right size HVAC system, new construction tax for housing voted on in Philadelphia, and Net Zero apartment building in Salt Lake City constructed at standard cost

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | July 9, 2018
Room interior
Photo: Unsplash/Filios Sazeides

Developer Says Net Zero Salt Lake City Apartment Building Constructed at Standard Cost


The developer of a new $16 million, 112-unit apartment building in Salt Lake City say the structure was built to net zero specifications at a cost on par with standard construction—a first for the state. The developer, a nonprofit called Giv Group, says its structure, dubbed “Project Open,” is the tallest net zero building in Utah. All of the electricity residents use is offset by 3.5 acres of solar panels offsite.
This allowed the project to avoid the expense of rooftop solar panels. The project is said to have achieved a savings of $565 per unit in mechanical and electrical systems. The cost premium for net zero projects is typically 5% to 10% higher than standard construction. Seventy percent of the apartments are affordable units with rents starting as low as $250 a month.

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Carbon Emissions in Cement Production Threaten GHG Reduction Goals


While infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric and wind power farms are seen as tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the production process for an essential material for these projects—cement—is itself a major carbon polluter. The cement industry is the second-largest industrial emitter of carbon after the steel industry. For cement manufacturers to lower emissions, they would have to either develop a whole new material or invest in carbon-capture systems.
To date, the industry seems to be unwilling or unable to finance the research needed to develop a low-cost, low-carbon alternative to cement. There are some researchers developing new cement formulas that use less calcium, which would lower pollution. A carbon tax may be the best way to spur cement producers to reduce GHG emissions, some believe.

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Philadelphia City Council Votes for New Construction Tax for Housing


The Philadelphia City Council recently voted for a controversial new tax on construction projects to raise money for affordable housing. The measure, passed on a 9-8 vote, would generate about $22 million annually if enacted.
The 1% tax on construction would help finance the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which could be used by developers to build housing for households earning up to $105,000 a year. It’s unclear if this legislation will be enacted, though. Philadelphia’s mayor is reportedly considering a veto of the measure.

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Rebates and Incentives Available in California to Replace Gas Heat with Electric


As California adopts stricter home energy codes, a utility in Sacramento is offering rebates to homeowners who swap gas heat for electric. Other incentives are available for heat pump water heaters, reducing demand by sealing and insulating, getting an induction cooktop or electric car or heat pump clothes dryer.
All told, homeowners can reap a total of $13,750 in rebates. The research director for Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) says that energy efficiency measures cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough. Going all electric is required to reach the utility's targets.

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Right-Sized HVAC Systems Critical to High Performance Homes


HVAC contractors often push for big air conditioning units in homes, but this tendency is antithetical to a highly energy efficient home. For example, a robust air conditioning capacity of one ton for every 500 square feet cools an area very quickly, but also short-cycles more often.
With the compressor turning itself on and off in rapid intervals, the HVAC unit can become less efficient. In addition, when an AC system short-cycles often, it suffers a lot of wear and tear that shortens its lifespan. Manual J methodology, developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), provides contractors with a reliable way to right-size HVAC equipment.

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