The New Buildings Institute (NBI) recently announced that Ralph DiNola, a LEED Fellow, immediate-past board chair of the Living Future Institute, and founder and partner at Green Building Services in Portland, Ore., has been named as the organization’s new executive director. As DiNola settled into his first week in the new position in NBI’s headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., ecobuildingpulse.com caught up with him.
What are some of your goals coming into this position?
NBI has a really stellar reputation and a great body of work. [Outgoing executive director] Dave Hewitt has done a lot to grow the organization, and when I took a closer look, I thought it could continue to have a much bigger presence. I think we’re poised to have a lot of leverage in the building industry as the bridge between the energy sector and utilities and practitioners such as owners, facility managers, and the A&E community.
Are there any specific market areas you’re targeting? What are some of the hot areas of interest right now that people should be paying attention to?
Where NBI has clear leadership is with zero-net energy (ZNE)--or net-zero energy (NZE), depending on who you talk to. NBI is working to push policy and helping to influence code, while also providing the marketing with needed information via successful case studies. As a practitioner, I saw that there were few owners or developers who were willing to be the first to do something, and that makes these case studies so essential. We’re working on a September summit with NASEO [the National Association of State Energy Officials], and what we really want to do with that meeting is focus on ZNE and share case studies as they help bring about the education of practitioners.
We’re also continuing on-going work on codes: pushing for an evolution to the next iteration of performance. The third thing is product testing and research. We’re about to embark on HVAC testing and it’s an exciting place to be. In terms of technology and hardware, some people feel that we may be running out of options, but I think that there's a lot of excitement around testing technologies in markets where they might not be typically used.
A big piece of this is measured performance. It seems to me that the tide is turning from predicted performance to actual, measured performance. There is a push to really provide clarity and definition around this. How do you measure performance and how does that get baked into code work?
Developing tools and technologies have helped people get a quick understanding of how a building is operating and how you should derive baseline performance. The growing prominence of performance is because data is becoming more available. It’s why predicted or deemed savings have been so prominent in the past—that was all we had. The more the data becomes available, the more we can analyze it and the more we can understand how to establish baselines and methodologies for measuring performance. We will hopefully then give financial credit for that in a way that makes more sense than basing things off of predicted savings.
NBI’s most recent research report is part of the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER), which aims to improve measured energy performance of commercial buildings. The final program report, “Evidence-Based Design and Operations PIER Program: Improving the Real World Performance of Commercial Buildings” is available here.