Paris or Bust!

With the dramatic shift on climate policy announced recently by the federal government, many are wondering where we stand and where we are headed with greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). There is good news!

As an industry, the U.S. building sector is on track to not only meet, but exceed, the voluntary emissions reductions agreed to under the Paris climate accord.

Specifically, U.S. reductions were targeted at 21-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) 2017 projections, we are on track to reduce by 24.5% in that time frame, and 30.4% by 2030.


This is in stark contrast to the EIA projections in 2005 for building energy consumption and GHG emissions that had predicted an increase of 52.4% by 2030. 

Think about that – going from a projected increase of 50% to a decrease of 30%.

And according to the folks at Architecture 2030, who compiled much of the data for this post, consumption levels are dropping even though over 30 billion square feet have been added to our building stock. With an estimated $522 billion saved on energy costs so far, that’s money that can go back into funding green job creation, product development... and your summer vacation.

Keep up the great work everyone!

Induction Cooktops - Worth A Second Look?

Cooking over an open flame.  It’s primal, fast, and has become de rigueur for most new construction. But with growing interest in Zero Net Energy, is it time for gas cooktops to go the way of incandescent bulbs and gas-guzzling SUVs? 

Appreciated for offering quick heating and almost infinite, and instantaneous, temperature control, gas cooking has long been popular in both residential and commercial settings.  But with improved electric cooktops – namely induction models – the gap between electric and gas cooking is closing.

Glass-top electric stoves of the past used radiant heat passed through the glass to heat pots and pans.  This presented some predictable problems:  slow heating, hot cooktop surfaces, and lack of controllability.

The newest generation of electric stovetops, though, uses induction, or electromagnetic fields, to transfer energy.  This results in faster heating, greater control, and greater safety, as once the pot has been removed the energy transfer (aka heating) is interrupted.  Plus they look sleek, clean up easily, and don’t present the same indoor air quality issues that gas raises.  The improvements are sizeable enough that they have caught the attention of restaurateurs and Michelin chefs.

There are downsides, namely: cost – ranging from $1200 up to $5000; not all cookware will work on induction stoves; noticeable internal fan noise is not uncommon; and one still may need to choose between setting the heat at “3” or “4” when “3½” is what you really want. 

These are perhaps balanced out by the larger issue of climate action.  As prices for solar PV drop and California moves toward more production of electricity through renewable sources, all-electric homes become not only part of the solution for reducing carbon emissions, but also a way for developers to save on infrastructure costs by eliminating costly gas lines altogether. Unfortunately, old cooking patterns can be hard to break: we can efficiently design homes with electric space and water heating, but on a large housing project we recently worked on, the developer was reluctant to drop gas altogether due to market demand for a gas cooktop.

People, planet, and profit.  Perhaps induction cooking is worth a second look.

More pros and cons of induction cooking can be found here.


Century Center Towers Achieves LEED Certification

The City of San Jose has a new LEED certified building to celebrate.  The 422,863 SF mixed-use project offers two 12-story residential towers over commercial space, with a podium level pool and gym.

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The project benefits from savings on some key components:

Energy: Century Center Towers uses 34% less energy than a similar typical residential tower.  A cool roof and light colored pavers on the podium help reduce Heat Island effect (helpful around that pool!).  Additionally, all systems have been commissioned to ensure that they are working at optimal performance.

Water:  Through the use of water-efficient landscaping and xeriscaping, the project has reduced outdoor water use by a whopping 61%.  Indoor water savings are 22% over baseline.

Connectivity:  Century Center Tower’s location cuts down on carbon emissions from transportation.  Situated near bus lines, light rail, and the airport, it also provides ample bike storage for residents and visitors.  Eight EV-charging stations have been installed in the parking structure for those zero emissions-friendly commuters.

Materials: Over 30% of the materials used in the project are local/regional (produced within 500 miles).  Additionally, over 90% of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

Daylighting:  Just about every square foot of the spaces (91%) enjoys natural daylighting, providing a great environment for productivity and healthy living.

We’d like to congratulate all the members of the team on this well-deserved recognition:

Builder: Swenson

Architect: Swenson

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing: Emerald City Engineers

LEED Consultant: In Balance Green Consulting

Landscape: The Guzzardo Partnership

Civil: Kier & Wright

Hot Tips for Hospitality

As one of the greatest water-users, hospitality projects provide one of the greatest opportunities for water conservation. While an office building’s indoor water use is pretty small, once you fold showers and laundry into the water-use equation for a hotel, many possibilities open up. Here we focus on laundry solutions that can provide big operational savings and can make the difference in getting project approval in drought-conscious California.

How much water

Rule of thumb for laundry is 12 lbs of laundry per room per day, and 3 gallons of water per lb per load using conventional washing equipment. So, for a 100 room hotel, we’re talking 3,600 gallons per day, or 1.3 million gallons of water per year! Here are some great options that can be used individually or in combination.

Hilton Homewood Suites in Palo Alto appreciated the water savings from this ozone system, with the added bonus of longer linen life!


Laundry Options

·      Ozone – Injecting ozone gas into the wash water serves as a very effective cleaning agent with very little detergent needed and no bleach. Everything but restaurant linens can be washed in cold water, and without the chemicals, the rinse cycles are reduced, saving 30% on water overall. Check out WaterEnergy for more details.

·      High-efficiency washers – all kinds of equipment are designed to use less water. An intriguing one is the use of polymer beads such as Xeros. Small beads do the agitation work, reducing the water volume to about .6 gallons per load!

·      Laundry-to-landscape (L2L) – Depending on how much landscaping is in the project, laundry waste water can be used for irrigation. ReWater has a clever, low-cost system, and there are other products that have more sophisticated treatment and storage. We prefer ozone systems when using laundry-to-landscape to reduce chemical contamination.

·      Recycled Laundry Water – Recycling laundry water for re-use as laundry water has the best water savings. It does require some storage capacity and the current up-front costs warrant at least a 100-room hotel. Voltea and AquaCell have systems specific to commercial laundry.


Here is the comparison we developed for a 100-room hotel, assuming 80% occupancy and 12 lbs laundry per occupied room per day.

Next Steps

When comparing systems, several factors will weigh in – cost of water, cost of sewer, area of landscaping, space constraints for equipment, and, of course, up-front cost. Still, it’s likely at least one of these options will be a good match for your hotel, or even multi-family housing project.

And if you’re really looking to the future, check out this 1-minute video of a dryer that uses vibrations instead of heat to dry – all electric ZNE, here we come!


860 On the Wye Goes ZNE!

A new all-electric affordable housing project for veterans is set to open in San Luis Obispo next month.  The innovative Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo project will host residents in a 21-unit, two-story multi-family building with a common space, recreational facilities, a community garden, and onsite resident services from the U.S. Veterans’ Administration.

Early in the process, In Balance was contacted to consult on energy efficiency, inclusion of photo-voltaic panels (PV) in the design, and the possibility of making it a zero-net energy (ZNE) project.  There was no existing gas line to the property, an opportunity the owner seized upon to use savings from not extending services toward funding an all-electric development.

Jennifer Rennick, lead energy consultant on the project recalls, “A major challenge with all-electric multi-family housing is choosing a hot water system.  For 860 on the Wye, the team was able to identify a high-efficiency tank-style air source heat pump heater that could provide the volume needed without excessive energy loads.”  Additional efficiencies were gained through improved envelope construction, blown-in insulation, and integrating air-source heat pumps into the design to provide heating for the building. All available roof area now houses PV panels to achieve the ZNE goal.

In Balance also helped facilitate applications for incentives through the Multi-Family Solar Housing (MASH) and California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) programs, which helped the project meet basic cost requirements.

Congratulations to the whole team who made 860 On The Wye a success!

Changes at In Balance

We’d like to offer a formal (and long overdue) welcome to our newest staff member Beth Fillerup! 

Beth, a LEED Green Associate, brings her considerable expertise in marketing and client outreach to the In Balance Green Consulting team. When she's not producing first-class presentations and managing proposals, you might find her bravely immersed in LEED documentation, Cal Green code, and keeping up on the latest Zero Net Energy trends.

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We’d also like to congratulate Stephen Ames on his new job. Stephen, a HERS rater and LEED AP Homes, has taken a position as a Building Inspector with the City of San Luis Obispo. We look forward to working with him on great green projects in the future!

EV Charging Stations and ADA

In an unusual cross over between CALGreen and ADA, Electric Vehicle charging stations are triggering requirements for access compliance. 

How Many?

CALGreen mandatory measures require infrastructure for EV charging stations, including parking space(s), conduit, and room on the electrical panel (not the charging station itself). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that a certain percentage of EV stations be “accessible." In the following chart, we meld the two to summarize the quantity of each:

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*If by some crazy chance you are providing more than 25 EV charging stations (!), be sure to consult the Access Compliance Reference Manual for additional requirements.

Of course, if you do install actual charging stations, the chargers themselves must be accessible per the chart above.

Size and Dimensions

The key point is that even if you only have one EV charging space, that one must be van accessible, meaning 12’ wide and 18’ long, with a 5’-wide access aisle. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stations do not need be accessible, but a fifth station would need to be standard accessible, meaning 9’ wide and adjacent to the access aisle. Those spaces do not serve as your Accessible Parking Spaces, and should not be labeled as such.  Accessible charging spaces do need a path of travel to the building. The following diagram is provided in CBC Chapter 11B.

Figure 11B-812.9

Figure 11B-812.9

During the recent ADA Seminar sponsored by the Central Coast AIA and ICC Chapters, access compliance guru Greg Izor reviewed these important changes in the 2016 code. He also presented an alternate lay-out where the charging station is at the top of the access aisle, shared by two parking spaces, and the path of travel is behind the vehicles. In other words, there are lay-out options here depending on the site arrangement.

There are plenty more details in the code section, so be sure to check out CBC 11B-228 and 11B-812.


Congratulations to Caltrans on LEED Gold!

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in San Luis Obispo has recently been awarded LEED Gold certification.


The project located at 2885 S. Higuera Street involved a major renovation of and addition to an existing 35,000-square-foot structure.  Built in the 1960s, the space was originally used as a storage building and more recently a small viticulture processing plant, before it was remodeled for the new Caltrans offices. 

LEED certification was achieved through a variety of sustainable construction strategies including:  building and materials reuse; energy-efficient design; low impact development for stormwater; and reduced indoor and outdoor water use.

A summary of specific green features follows:


·      83% of the existing building was reused for the project.  Leaky doors and windows were replaced and a second floor of workspace was added to the lofty warehouse facility.

·      Exemplary performance was achieved for material reuse and regional materials, at 49% and 60% respectively.


·      A 40% reduction in indoor water use was achieved through the use of highly efficient flow and flush fixtures.

·      The landscape utilizes permeable pavers, bioswales and basins to efficiently filter and infiltrate stormwater, which reduces runoff and recharges groundwater.

·      Water-efficient plants and trees have been used throughout the landscape, reducing outdoor water use by 57%.


·      The building is expected to use 31% less energy compared to similar buildings.

·      35% of the electricity used in the first two years will be purchased from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.


·      The site design provided vegetated open space for 31% of the project site.

·      The project supports alternative transportation with a location that provides access to local services, extensive bicycle parking, employee showers, infrastructure for electric vehicles, and a comprehensive transportation management plan.

Regional Priority credits

·      Caltrans achieved four regional priority credits, the maximum available to projects.  These priorities emphasized water efficiency and a site selection that integrates new building into existing infrastructures.

View the Case Study. More details about the project are available at the USGBC project website.