SBIC as an Energy Resource

Now that sustainability has lost its ‘fringe’ status and has become accepted in the mainstream, building industry leaders are trying to deepen their awareness about the many diverse facets of environmentally responsible and energy efficient building design and construction. Energy efficiency stands out as one of the most important of these, as it not only allows the potential for reduced demands on the nation’s utilities, but it can also help building owners save money over the long term.

Design professionals—who rely on both traditional building products and modern green building construction materials such as plastics—need to know which industry groups they can turn to for guidance as they navigate the maze of sustainable green building strategies. One example is the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), an organization comprising architectural/ engineering (A/E) firms, contractors, consultants, manufacturers, utilities, universities, and organizations such as the Plastics Division of American Chemistry Council (ACC), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Whether it is modeling, policy, controls, or distribution, energy-related subjects are at the heart of Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC)’s three main activities: advocacy, education, and outreach.

At the time this article was written, Sustainable Buildings Industry Council and many of its trade association members were continuing to urge the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to implement Section 914 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005).1 This section calls for an assessment of the current voluntary consensus standards and rating systems related to buildings.

It is estimated there are more than 3000 standards governing the United States’ built environment. Nevertheless, with all this guidance, many new buildings still turn out to be poor performers in terms of energy consumption. Congress has recognized there is currently no overarching standard for measuring the various attributes even though owners are increasingly requiring guidance in reducing energy costs and improving occupant comfort, health, and security.

The assessment called for in Section 914 would identify any missing or incomplete elements. Then, in a second phase, the assessment would establish a science-based program to support the development of a unified standard that would address all the elements of a high performance building:

  • energy efficiency;
  • stainability;
  • safety and security;
  • durability;
  • lifecycle performance;
  • value; and
  • productivity.

Implementing Section 914 would build on DoE’s ‘High Performance Roadmapping’ activity in which industry participants recommended the development of building performance metrics.

Sustainable Buildings Industry Council’s commitment to education is clear. From the creation of software training tools to the development of Web-based learning programs, Sustainable Buildings Industry Council has been a leader in the whole building design movement.

In 1997, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Engineering Innovation and Criteria Office was looking for ways to leverage the shrinking technical and financial resources they used to update hundreds of paper-based criteria documents. Sustainable Buildings Industry Council’s members and staff helped conceptualize the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) website to help address this growing problem.2

This portal provides government and industry practitioners with access to updated information on a wide range of building-related guidance, criteria, and technology. Currently organized into two major categories—design guidance and project management—the portal includes ‘resource pages’ that are reductive summaries on particular topics. An advisory committee of representatives from federal agencies, private sector companies, and nonprofit organizations guides the development of the WBDG.

Sustainable Buildings Industry Council’s portfolio of training courses targets a broad range of users, including building professionals, students, consumers, and government decision-makers. For example, “Low-Energy, Sustainable, Secure Building Design for Federal Managers” is a two-day course covering security, water conservation, material selection, acoustics, and energy. (It can also be tailored to meet the needs of other audiences such as private sector developers.) Nearly one third of the course touches on various aspects of energy efficient design and use including daylighting, efficient HVAC and lighting, insulation, glazing, shading, and photovoltaics (PVs).

Another educational program is centered around the ENERGY-10 software, helping identify the best combination of nearly a dozen energy-efficient strategies.3 The software covers daylighting controls, passive solar heating, and high-efficiency mechanical systems, to name a few. Attendees learn it usually takes less than an hour at a project’s outset to produce a simulation, but that small investment of time can result in energy savings of up to 40 to 70 percent.

Norm Weaver, a professional engineer from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has been involved in the development of ENERGY- 10 since 1999, continually improving the software to keep pace with evolving technology and construction practices. “Among the many updates in Version 1.8, the biggest feature is the introduction of integrated PV and solar domestic hot water [DHW] modeling. With the growing interest in ‘zero-energy’ buildings, ENERGY-10 can be used to rapidly close in on workable alternatives.”

The software also:

  • allows users to integrate and assess dozens of energy-efficient design decisions;
  • quantifies and illustrates the impact of design decisions on first cost, operating expenses, and pollution prevention; and
  • helps a design team with the submission process for the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program via output reports for both daylighting and total-building energy-use.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) supported the addition of two modules in Version 1.8 of ENERGY-10: PV and solar water heating.

One outreach activity Sustainable Buildings Industry Council’s has championed for many years is the construction of highperformance schools. The council has created tools (such as the High-performance School Buildings Resource and Strategy Guide) as a means of educating design professionals and education professionals about the benefits of ‘whole building’ design for K-12 schools.

Among the many other valuable resources available through the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council’s site are two online training videos. The “High Performance School Buildings Video Series” provides an introduction to the necessary design components (including energy efficiency), while the “Circuit Rider Training Video Series and Presentation Tools” offers resources and tips to help local advocates bring high-performance school buildings into their communities.

For more than 25 years, Sustainable Buildings Industry Council’s has been bringing together unusual bedfellows—glass and mass, wood and steel, plastics and fiberglass, concrete and bricks—underpinned by an integrated ‘whole building approach to design’ and an unwavering commitment to reducing energy use in buildings.4

About the Author

Helen English is the executive director of the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC). She has more than 20 years of experience in management, training coordination, information dissemination, and technology transfer, specifically focusing on housing, construction, energy efficiency, and resource conservation issues. English was instrumental in the development of the Energy-10 software design tool, the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG), and various other initiatives. She can be contacted at


1 For more on the implications of EPAct 2005, see Jared Blum’s article, “Plastics and the 2005 Energy Policy Act,” in the June 2006 issue of Modern Materials.

2 Visit

3 ENERGY-10 Version 1.8 is currently available through SBIC at Upgrades, along with academic/professional licenses, can also be purchased at the site.

4 Visit for more information.