I recently returned from Beijing, where NRDC and the Energy Foundation sponsored the “China US Building Energy Efficiency Evaluation and Labeling Summit” to talk about lessons learned in energy labeling of buildings in the US and China.  The Summit featured the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) and the Chinese Academy of Building Research (CABR).  I spoke at the Summit and my colleague and all around expert on Chinese building efficiency, Kevin Mo, was featured prominently (check out Kevin’s great blogs on building efficiency in China).

(Turns out it was a good time to be gone, as I was spared the shenanigans surrounding the passage of Home Star in the House of Representatives that left us all cheering and scratching our heads at the same time.  It’s great to be one step closer to such a strong policy becoming law, but what does home efficiency have to do with sex offenders?  Nothing except the opportunity for self righteous political grandstanding.  Slashing energy bills, cutting emissions, and creating jobs will have to wait while a few elected officials waste all of our time.  Oh well, now on to the Senate!)

Back to the topic of this blog, this was my first time in China and I was taken aback by the shear enormity of the Chinese cities.  In two weeks there, I came to the conclusion that all the contradictory things I heard about China before the trip were somehow completely true.  It is beautiful and polluted, chaotic and organized, simple and confusing.  It is impossible to visit China and leave without a greater understanding of the enormity of the challenges and opportunities presented by this amazing country.

Presentations on the American side covered US efforts on labeling in the past and current efforts, including the legislation from last year, the National Building Rating Program at DOE, and the Recovery Through Retrofit framework.  Technical issues surrounding the use of asset labels (like the HERS Index) and utility bill data were covered by Andrew Burr from the Institute for Market Transformation.  The newly developed and released Comnet guidelines for energy modeling (which will eventually standardize assumptions for use in an energy label for commercial buildings) were presented by Charles Eley.  As a former energy modeler of LEED buildings, this topic is close to my heart.

A picture from the event is below.  Guess which one is me?china summit pic.bmp






The Chinese label was also presented.  They utilize a five star system, where 1 star means code compliant and 5 star means very efficient.  In China, code compliance is considered 50% better than a building built in 1980, so a 5 star building must be 85% better than a 1980 building.  The label and a more detailed certificate are pictured below.

chinese label.bmp









 I wont go into technical detail on labeling, but the Chinese have taken an approach that is consistent with the many US labels, where the building is modeled using standardized assumptions about how it is used and then assigned a rating (like the HERS Index).  This is good for one year and should be joined by another rating that utilizes the actual consumption for the building after it has been operation for a year.  This is a very similar approach to the one we took in legislation last year and the approach of DOE in the National Building Rating Program.

Energy labeling of buildings is the glue that holds together the efficieny agenda of this century.  How will consumers stop letting dollar bills escape out their leaky windows if they don’t know they should be paying less?  How will we reward homeowners who pursue whole home retrofits if we can’t tell how much they improved the home?  How can we provide access to financing if the lenders can’t tell the difference between efficient and inefficent?  How can homeowners make sure their new home complies with the building energy code if the state is not enforcing it?  These are all variations of the statement that “you can’t change what you can’t measure” and it’s great to see both the US and China laying the framework for siezing the efficiency opportunities in buildings with robust building energy labels.

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