Smart thermostat swarms are straining the US grid

Source: https://www.theregister.com/2022/07/13/smart_thermostat_strain

Smart thermostats, those unassuming low-power gadgets designed to keep homes at comfortable temps, are having an impact far wider than most might have considered, according to recent data.

A paper from Cornell University brings bad news for renewable energy enthusiasts – smart thermostats are secretly taxing the grid.

Smart thermostats, which the paper said were present in around 40 percent of US homes in 2021, are programmed by default to have different night and day modes. In hundreds of thousands of homes across the US that means a sudden jump in electricity use right before residents wake up – if people aren’t changing default settings, which the paper suggests is the case. 

Those hundreds and thousands of smart thermostats, typically configured to switch to day mode around 6am, “can cause load synchronization during recovery from nightly setpoint setbacks, increasing the daily peak heating electrical demand,” the paper said. 

Cornell professor Max Zhang and PhD candidate Zachary Lee, the paper’s authors, wrote that most studies predicting electrical demand fail to account for smart thermostats and the stress they can place on the grid.

“As we electrify the heating sector to decarbonize the grid, this so-called load synchronization will become a problem in the near future,” Zhang said.

To address the problem, Zhang and Lee built a dataset from publicly available smart thermostat logs collected by EcoBee that contained anonymized temperature, set point, runtime, and home occupancy statistics.

They used the data to examine energy costs during a New York City winter, and found that load synchronization often occurs before renewable resources, like solar, have had a chance to kick in and take stress off the grid. That stress is actually aggravating peak demand by 50 percent, the paper said.

Zhang and Lee also found that energy-saving mechanisms built into smart thermostats are less effective than advertised, with most homeowners only seeing energy savings of 5-8 percent, as opposed to the 25-30 percent they’re capable of. 

Thinking outside the home

The world is electrifying at an ever-quickening pace, and environmental problems have cropped up along the way. Electric cars create battery waste, as do other electronics, and removing carbon emissions from homes doesn’t mean power plants have dropped coal and gas in favor of sustainable solutions. 

Those solutions, like solar and wind, “require a considerable amount of real estate, and the right weather, and as a result they’re typically located far from the cities they would serve,” the Washington Post‘s Will Englund wrote

Smart thermostats increase frequency and magnitude of peak energy demand, and without more tenable ways to store energy from renewables, Lee said, they could offset greenhouse gas reductions from electrification.

Energy Fairness, a nonprofit allegedly funded by gas and oil interests, thinks that the challenges of electrification require emphasizing energy reliability above all else. Zhang and Lee’s paper, while not arguing for the retention of fossil fuels to support grid reliability, does suggest that close monitoring will be key.

“Future energy system planning must consider the interaction of weather, generation capacity, and energy management tools, show a large performance gap between potential energy savings and actual energy savings,” Zhang and Lee wrote.

Zhang suggests there may be an easier way to ease grid stress from smart thermostats: educate consumers on how to use them so default settings are changed. Even that may have its limits of effectiveness, though.

“In the end… we have to make smart thermostats even smarter,” Zhang said.

Building Constructed from 3D Printed Soil in Dubai

Scientists create 3D-printed buildings from soil

Eco-friendly technology could potentially replace concrete and revolutionize sector

Scientists have developed a method to 3D-print greener buildings using local soil that they say has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry.

The technology is designed to be a sustainable alternative to concrete, which accounts for approximately 7% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Sarbajit Banerjee, a professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering at Texas A&M University, said 3D printing enabled a versatility that allowed them to print entire architectural facades, although getting such structures to meet existing building regulations remained a significant challenge.

Concrete remains the primary material used in many construction projects but it cannot be recycled and requires a lot of energy to mix and transport. The research team’s aim is to print structures using the type of soil that can be found in any garden.

“While the widespread use of concrete has democratised access to housing and enabled the growth of cities, this has come at a considerable environmental cost,” said Banerjee.

Full article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/21/scientists-create-3d-printed-buildings-local-soil

What is a Colloquium?

A small band of natural building enthusiasts and outlaws met in a field over 20 years ago at something they called a ‘colloquium’. The movement they created has grown uncontrollably ever since; reviving and innovating ancient building techniques and training thousands in the essential, empowering art of building.

Now, as the world faces resource scarcity, increasing climate refugees and 3 billion more people on the way, this tiny backwoods movement prepares for the mainstream. Join these merry pioneers as they celebrate their successes; sharing stories, techniques and wisdom as they brace to meet the needs of a world in crisis.

Thatch-covered Enterprise Centre may be the world’s greenest building

Prefab thatch wall panels (built indoors during the off season) and materials palette which the Treehugger writer calls ‘almost edible’.

“John French, CEO of the university’s Adapt Low Carbon Group and project director, … was eager that the next generation of buildings at UEA should move away from high thermal mass and a dependence on carbon-intensive concrete, towards natural and locally sourced materials.”

ThatchedPassiveHousePlus

“The building also features a wide array of other sustainable materials including recycled timber finishes, wood wool acoustic boards, spray-on cellulose, and wall coverings made from hemp, nettle fabric and reeds”

More at:

http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/thatch-covered-enterprise-centre-may-be-worlds-greenest-building.html

http://passivehouseplus.ie/magazine/new-build/is-this-the-uk-s-greenest-building.html

A 3D Printer that builds homes

Unlike earlier 3D printed houses which used plastic, this one uses clay.  Very cool!

The World’s Advanced Saving Project, or WASP, has just unveiled a giant 3D printer that – rather like a real wasp – can build a house out of the stuff.

The 3D printer, called BigDelta, works much like any other you may have seen – layering up a material into a pre-determined structure. The difference is that it stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall and claims to be the world’s biggest.

It was unveiled this weekend at the three-day “Reality of Dream” rally in Italy, where BigDelta was made. In a statement, WASP proposes that its technology could help meet the rising demand for housing, citing a UN calculation that over the next 15 years there will be an average daily demand for 100,000 new housing units.

It is thought the technology would be of most use in disaster or war zones, where the speed of production could help those who have become displaced. The use of natural materials could also benefit the environment by reducing cement – a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.

You can watch the journey of BigDelta from desktop prototype to field-dwelling giant here.

The project site:  http://www.wasproject.it/

Original article:  http://www.iflscience.com/3d-printer-so-big-it-can-print-houses

New LinkedIn “Tadelakt Professionals” group

Ryan Chivers of Atesano Plaster recently started a new LinkedIn group for Tadelakt Professionals.

This group is a forum for professional tadelakt applicators and those involved in tadelakt material sales and formulation. Discussions will focus on technical aspects of the craft as well as the business side of tadelakt installation.

Tadelakt, for those who are unaware, is a lime-based plastering technique which produces a beautiful water resistant surface with a high polish.

My lawn is dead. Because I care.

My lawn is totally dead. Because I care.
One of a series of badges promoting water conservation by Katie McKissick

It’s summer.  Here in the drought plagued Southwest US, it’s a badge of honor to not water your lawn.  It’s even more of a badge of honor to replace it with xeriscape, create water-retaining structures like a berm-and-swale system, and recycle your greywater onto your landscape where possible.  That’s what I do.

For more of Katie McKissick’s work, see: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/symbiartic/2014/06/24/dont-be-a-water-jerk/

Spread the word about Straw Bale Construction to Romania

UPDATE: The Indiegogo campaign has ended, and we heard today that our new Romanian friends managed to raise 1,266 – not all that they’d hoped for, but hopefully enough to do a lot of what they’ve planned.  I’ll update this post more as I hear news.

We recently got word of some people attempting to spread the word about strawbale construction and other natural building techniques in Romania.  They’re doing an Indiegogo fundraiser to get the funds together to attend and exhibit at the largest construction expo in the country.

They only have until midnight on Feb 14th to raise the needed money, so let’s show them some love!

In their words:

Last year we started a project called Earth Safe Design, aimed at building straw bale houses in Romania and raising awareness about straw bale building and natural building in general.

In April 2014 we want to attend Construct Expo, the largest construction fair in Bucharest. This event gathers 17000 visitors over a period of three days and gets coverage all over the mass media.

We are sure that this event would be a big step on the way to establishing straw bale building as an acknowledged building technique, one that will be embraced by more and more Romanians in the years to come.

Unfortunately, we cannot afford the fee for taking part in this fair, nor the other expenses involved in printing and buying building materials. Below you will find a detailed list of our expenses.

We are addressing our appeal to straw bale builders, straw bale house owner, and straw bale enthusiast who know and understand the benefits and the delight of living in a natural house.

We encourage you to donate to their campaign.  We have.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-spread-the-word-about-straw-bale-building-in-romania

Los Angeles is first major city to require Cool Roofs

The Los Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to require “cool roofs” for all new and refurbished homes, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so. “Cool roofs” incorporate light- and heat-reflecting building materials, which can lower the surface temperature of the roof by up to 50 degrees F on a hot day, according to Climate Resolve, the local organization that pushed for the ordinance. Such roofs do not necessarily need to be white, the Global Cool Cities Alliance says; they can also be shades of gray, or even red. Research suggests that by mid-century temperatures in Los Angeles will increase by 3.7 to 5.4 degrees F, with the number of days above 95 degrees F tripling in the city’s downtown. “The changes our region will face are significant, and we will have to adapt,” said UCLA scientist Alex Hall, who led the research. The cool roof mandate will not cost homeowners additional money because of expanded incentives.

Straw Bale Construction Building Code (2013 IRC Approval)

On October 3, 2013 the International Code Council (ICC) approved final action RB473-13 as a new Appendix R in the upcoming 2015 version of the International Residential Code (IRC).

The approval marks the latest advance of straw bale construction in the building codes and permitting process.  It is the highest approval to be granted for the construction method and will be adopted by thousands of jurisdictions around the United States in and after 2015.

The process of creating the IRC appendix was spearheaded by Martin Hammer of Builders Without Borders representing the California Straw Building Association, the Colorado Straw Bale Association, the Straw Bale Construction Association –New Mexico, the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition, the Development Center for Appropriate Technology and the Ecological Building Network.

Thousands of hours of work have been donated by Martin and various individuals within the straw bale construction community to make this milestone a reality.  We thank all of them for their hard work and look forward to even more widespread acceptance of straw bale building in the construction trades.

For details and a link to a copy of the appendix, visit TheLastStraw.org. A huge thanks to the hard-working bale heads that spent years making this happen!