There are lots of reasons to “go green” when it comes to electrical construction – it saves money and the environment.
Buildings currently account for nearly 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the design and construction of green buildings will have a significant impact on the effort to reduce these emissions. By partnering with a NECA contractor to develop green energy solutions, you can transform the design and construction of a building to be environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work.
What Are Energy Solutions?
Energy solutions are specific to the individual assets and goals of each customer, but each will usually include energy conservation, energy efficiency, and responsible energy production. Taking together, they create a holistic, integrated energy solution that powers buildings and communities with less waste and more efficiency.
Energy conservation means using less energy without impacting the occupants’ everyday activities or productivity. An important part of energy conservation is advanced controls on both the utility and customer sides of the electric meter.
Electrical systems that automatically adjust lighting and environmental controls as daylighting and occupancy change are called "energy management systems." EMS helps reduce building operating and maintenance costs, as well as reducing energy waste.
Reducing the power it takes for a building to operate is usually the first step an owner can take to cut operating costs, while also reducing a building’s environmental impact. Energy efficiency involves using more efficient materials and equipment to generate, transfer and use energy. Conservation can only save so much; a systematic approach to cutting energy use is necessary to be truly green.
NECA contractors can perform an “energy audit” to determine how much power is being used and what systems are requiring the most. He can then offer a list of options for reducing power use or improving energy efficiency.
Responsible Energy Production
People and businesses that invest in alternative energy sources like solar photovoltaic panels and distributed generation have a lot to gain. However, they can only benefit if the technology and equipment necessary for alternative power is designed and installed correctly. No one would have a roofer handle installation of a building’s main electrical service. Why then would a roofer be the choice for installing PV panels? The same safety and performance considerations apply for powering a building using alternative energy sources as they would for traditional electrical transmission and distribution.
NECA Going Green
NECA has long understood the value and need for safe and reliable standards of practice in green electrical construction. Since as early as 1960, we have provide resources on energy efficiency and energy maintenance for our members and promoted the safe installation and maintenance of solar photovoltaic panels and other alternative power sources.
NECA Contractors and LEED Certification
NECA is proud partner of the U.S. Green Building Council’s and strives to assist its members with optimizing their work with the LEED rating system.
USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the premier metric when it comes to measuring a building’s environmental impact.
Over 40 percent of what LEED certification covers is the work that electrical contractors perform, including atmosphere and lighting control, on-site renewable energy generation and management, construction materials and lighting component selection, and light-pollution reduction. This means that when an owner decides to go for LEED certification, the electrical contractor will likely have the most influence on the project’s success.
What many building owners and managers are learning, even as LEED standards are being mandated in some areas, is that designing and building a LEED-certified building is not easy – they need the help of a energy solutions expert. This is where NECA can help.
NECA encourages and trains NECA member contractors to become adept in meeting LEED certification for new construction, auditing and retrofitting existing buildings to improve efficiency, and installing renewable energy technologies safely and efficiently.
NECA Contractors and Energy Audits
The greenest buildings are actually existing buildings that have gone through and energy audit and then retrofitted with electrical efficiencies. This practice keeps construction-related waste out of landfills.
Reducing the power it takes for a building to operate is usually the first step an owner can take to cut operating costs, while also reducing a building's environmental impact. Lighting and HVAC most often represent the biggest chances for savings, while integrating electrical and communication systems can save energy and money, too.
Energy audits detail the efficiency opportunities of a structure and its day-to-day operation. NECA contractors can work through a Total Energy Management checklist to help you analyze the best energy options, materials, fixtures and environmental controls to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. A credentialed auditing process can immediately help save money in operating costs, and implementing the audit’s recommendations may include access to federal energy tax credits.
NECA Contractors and Alternative Power Sources
As the financial and environmental costs of conventional power generation methods continue to grow, consumers are increasingly interested in alternatives like solar, wind, and biomass. Energy diversity is a key element in responsible and intelligent building operation.
Effectively using these alternative methods of power generation requires specific skills and experience with a wide array of new products, even as many of the new technologies are still emerging.
NECA is committed to ensuring our member contractors have access to the hands-on training, education, skilled workforce and product information necessary to meet the increasing demand for renewable energy solutions. NECA’s annual convention and trade show features the most significant gathering of alternative energy technologies specifically for electrical contractors, as well as programs for contractors to master green energy competencies.
NECA has also incorporated green technologies in its training and certification program investments, spending $100 million per year on its National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, a program run in conjunction with the IBEW. NJATC has implemented green training programs to ensure that new electricians, as well as the industry’s seasoned journeymen, have the skill sets necessary to operate in the increasingly green economy.