PATH Partners in Action
In spring 2001, the West Coast braced for an impending energy crisis, with rolling blackouts expected in the summer months ahead. Less than two years later, Nevada Power is driving one of the nation's most aggressive conservation and energy education campaigns, backed by a $9.2 million budget recently approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada. Another $2 million is earmarked for Sierra Pacific, Nevada Power's northern Nevada sister company.
Nevada Power's Department of Energy Efficiency and Conservation can count among its early achievements the rapid growth of the ENERGY STAR Homes program in Southern Nevada, where customers are increasingly issue-savvy. The Department also helped launch the NextGen Demonstration Home in Las Vegas during the 2003 International Builders' Show.
"Our focus is on encouraging the wise use of our product," says Bob Balzar, Director of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Department. "If we give consumers the tools to manage their energy well, they'll make better conservation choices than anyone could dictate for them."
Balzar credits much of Nevada Power's impact on energy awareness in the region to the residential building industry that developed a "market-pull" strategy. Homebuilders have used ENERGY STAR as a means of market differentiation. In surveys conducted by Marketing Solutions, a Las Vegas firm, exit polls at model homes in the region over the last two years reflect ENERGY STAR name recognition among 95 percent of visitors. And homebuilders are taking the rising energy efficiency awareness to the bank: of the 25,000 new houses built in southern Nevada in 2002, 25 percent were ENERGY STAR rated homes. More than 20 area homebuilders are now involved in the program. Balzar hopes homebuilders can replicate the program's success in northern Nevada this year, where some 6,000 new homes are built annually.
In the meantime, the utility is creating a stir with the unveiling of the NextGen Demonstration Home, a model of energy efficiency and advanced building science. As title sponsor of the Home and a partner with PATH in related outreach, Nevada Power is using the Demonstration Home to make a compelling point about optimized energy consumption.
"We're pleased that our partnership with PATH through this project brings together PATH's federal government partners with building community interests and the local utility," says Balzar. "It's exciting to work on a project that has stimulated such broad interest."
A longtime PATH partner, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has been an effective innovator in housing technologies. To help improved building technologies achieve market acceptance, NIST is pursuing two tracks of an integrated program that works on the producer side and the consumer side. The program combines fundamental research with economic analysis, and is a true partnership between different federal agencies and private industry.
When new building technology products are introduced, it takes a long time for them to be accepted in the commercial sector, partly because it is difficult to determine the service life of those products in different climates. Through a device known as the NIST SPHERE (Simulated Photodegradation through High Energy Radiant Exposure), NIST produces specific conditions indoors in order to test how elements of the climate affect the chemical and physical components of building materials. The NIST SPHERE program can quickly determine the damage to polymer coatings, materials and structures exposed to specific ultraviolet radiation, temperature, mechanical loading and humidity conditions. This device, unveiled in November 2002, will help redefine the method used to determine the service life of components exposed to outdoor environments, which will allow companies to formulate building products for particular environments. Learn more about the NIST SPHERE.
NIST has also developed a Web-based decision support system called the National Economic Service-life Tools (NEST). This collection of tools allows anyone to assess different properties of housing. For example, one tool allows homeowners and builders to assess the economic consequences of choosing different housing materials. When they pick a roof, paint, or siding, for example, they don't know how long it will last in a particular climate. Without this information, lifecycle costs cannot be analyzed. NEST combines economic data with service life data to estimate lifecycle costs. With such an analysis, builders and homeowners can determine the value of products that are more durable in particular climates. Other tools allow you to understand the types of hazards a house faces, such as wildfires, hurricanes, and hail. It then suggests measures you can take to help protect housing from these perils.
On September 1, 2002, NIST published "Baseline Measures for Improving Housing Durability" (NISTIR 6870). This report by Robert Chapman and Christine Izzo provides a detailed set of baseline measures for improving housing durability. The authors examine key sources of construction industry data, then extract from them a single, consistent set of baseline measures that can be used to monitor progress toward improving housing durability. Learn more about " Baseline Measures for Improving Housing Durability."
Thanks to Chris White, Research Chemist at NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory, for the information in this article. Mr. White may be contacted at email@example.com.
Content updated on 7/10/2003