Save with Solar newsletter, Spring 2000 Issue, Vol. 3, No. 1 Page: 2 of 8
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The Sustainable Buildings
Industry Council Creates a
Blueprint for Change
By Devin Schroeder, National Renewable Energy
Imagine you are planning to design and
build a new office complex for a Federal
agency or a new elementary school on
Native American land. You must make these
buildings look as modern and inviting as
possible while keeping your costs down.
Because new Federal construction must meet
certain goals for energy efficiency, the chal-
lenge is to integrate energy-reduction and
cost-savings measures into the building
At first, your dream of a low-cost yet
attractive and comfortable building might
seem to be disappearing. But take heart;
according to the staff of the Sustainable
Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) and other
experts, your building can be low-cost,
energy-efficient, and more attractive and
inviting than ever before-all at once.
For centuries, we have seen buildings
get bigger and bigger, and consume more
and more energy, so that, supposedly, the
quality of our lives can improve. We have
been willing to spend millions of dollars in
building and energy costs to create comfort-
able surroundings. But the cost to our health
and the environment has also been high. To
address this problem, the SBIC (formerly the
Passive Solar Industries Council) has been
changing conventional thinking when it
comes to designing buildings for more than
The council knows that there are many
ways to save money and energy by carefully
planning the essential elements of a build-
ing. For example, floors and walls can be
designed to collect and store solar energy for
extra heating and natural cooling. Energy-
efficient windows can be placed to bring
more sunlight into the interior, reducing the
cost of lighting the building. Simple solar
systems, such as solar water-heating units,
can be installed at minimal cost, and this
money can be recouped through energy cost
savings in the first few years of use.
The SBIC advocates the integrated use
of as many energy-efficient techniques and
materials as possible. Using sustainable
options also reduces maintenance costs as
well as adverse impacts on the environment.
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The SBIC trains others in designing energy-efficient buildings like the District Attorney Building in Jefferson County,
Colorado, a high-quality, 52,000-square-foot structure housing more than 130 judicial employees; this two-story
building was built with recycled materials.
Research has shown that these practices also
increase employees' and students' produc-
tivity, sense of well-being, and reported
The council is a nonprofit organization
whose mission is to "advance the design,
affordability, energy performance, and
environmental soundness of residential,
institutional and commercial buildings."
The group is accomplishing this by conduct-
ing professional training courses and work-
shops, educating designers and consumers,
and promoting the use of a range of energy
analysis tools. The council also provides
information on conservation measures,
energy-efficient equipment and appliances,
sustainable architecture, and software.
The SBIC also stresses how important it
is for people to not just focus on installing
a single new renewable energy system. That
one system won't make a significant differ-
ence if the building is poorly insulated or
doesn't make good use of natural cooling
and heating. A sustainable building requires
the integrated use of daylighting, thermal
mass, an efficient envelope (outer structure),
efficient glazing, and materials that are
appropriate for a given climate.
The SBIC specializes in teaching people
how to locate, design, and construct sustain-
able buildings. For example, the council
holds workshops that provide opportunities
for attendees to learn and utilize software
such as Energy-10, which was developed at
the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
to help design low-energy buildings. More
than 1100 users and 40 schools of architec-
ture are now licensed to use Energy-10.
Will Zachmann, Director of Communica-
tions for the SBIC, said, "Our biggest chal-
lenge has been - and continues to be -
overcoming resistance to change." Despite
the great technological strides that have
been made in recent decades, the building
industry has not experienced a significant
change in many years. However, a greater
interest in energy efficiency and concern for
the environment are knocking at the door of
President Clinton's Million Solar Roofs
initiative has also brought attention to the
importance of energy conservation and
environmental remediation through the use
of renewable energy. This renewed interest
is bringing new attention to SBIC's work
and its many partnerships, such as with the
Department of Energy's Building America,
Rebuild America, and Federal Energy
For further information, please see SBIC's
Web site at www.SBICouncil.org. U
2 Save with Solar Spring 2000 Vol. 3, No. 1
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Save with Solar newsletter, Spring 2000 Issue, Vol. 3, No. 1, book, April 21, 2000; Golden, Colorado. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc707301/m1/2/: accessed October 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.