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Propane and green building

Commercial construction projects, interior work for tenants, renovations, and efficiency upgrades are often measured in their environmental effectiveness by standards such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1, and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). Propane can go a long way toward helping a project meet these green building standards. For example, in LEED v4, commercial building projects may be eligible for up to 28 points — mostly related to the Energy and Atmosphere provisions. The IgCC has a similar approach to voluntary green rating systems, but it makes many of the voluntary points in other rating systems mandatory in order to comply with the code. Here are some ways propane can help builders earn points toward LEED certification in these and other categories.

EFFICIENT HEATING

Energy and utility savings derived from propane-fueled furnaces, boilers, and water-heating systems can help designers and engineers exceed standard-efficiency systems.

TEMPORARY HEAT

Portable propane-fueled construction heaters can help meet LEED requirements for clean indoor air quality during the construction and preoccupancy phases of building.

METERS

Developers can earn one point toward LEED certification for installing propane meters for individual tenants or the whole building.

PROPANE AUTOGAS

A LEED credit is available for buildings that install alternative-fuel refueling stations or provide low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, maintenance vehicles, or buses, such as those fueled by propane autogas.

MOWERS

The use of propane-fueled mowers can help earn a LEED point by achieving emissions reduction requirements from site management equipment.

Propane furnaces produce fewer greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions than electric or heating oil in buildings such as restaurants. (Based on a building energy model for a 2,000-square-foot fast food restaurant, with an annual heating/cooling load of 420 MMBtu/413 MMBtu. GHG and Criteria Pollutant Emissions Analysis. Gas Technology Institute for PERC, 2017.)

Lowering emissions

In an effort to combat the challenge of global warming, architects and building owners are increasingly focused on reducing the carbon footprint of their buildings. Propane’s low carbon output is consistent with many of the design approaches the industry is taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On the continuum of energy choices, from clean to dirty, propane is closer to renewables than it is to coal, oil, and wood. Propane produces 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the U.S. grid. That’s because propane is used as a primary source of energy on site, whereas a significant portion of U.S. grid power comes from power plants fueled by high-emission coal, and power plants are, at best, about 40–50 percent efficient.

Propane-fueled technologies also produce fewer nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions than technologies fueled by electricity, gasoline, and diesel. Because NOx and SOx contribute to acid rain formation and cause respiratory ailments, manufacturers must comply with laws that set limits for these emissions.

A propane generator can provide auxiliary power to supplement a solar photovoltaic panel system when the sun doesn’t shine.

Supporting renewable energy

Propane can supplement renewable energy systems, due to its low emissions and ease of on-site storage. For example, a propane generator can provide auxiliary power to supplement a solar photovoltaic panel system or wind turbine when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind is still. Propane boilers or furnaces can also serve as auxiliary heating sources for systems fueled by biomass, solar thermal, or electricity from renewable sources. Having propane as a backup source often allows designers to downsize the renewable installation, reducing upfront costs and making the transition to renewable energy more affordable.

Renewable propane has a carbon intensity as low as 19.

Renewable propane

The propane industry is decarbonizing, as well. Renewable propane is produced by converting plant and vegetable oils, waste greases, and animal fat into fuel. It delivers a high energy conversion so Btus aren’t wasted, and it’s price-competitive. It can be used in the same applications as traditional propane.

Renewable propane has a low carbon intensity — it can be as low as 19, whereas conventional propane has a carbon intensity of 77. Agricultural byproducts such as biomass could be used to produce renewable propane at larger scale in the future.

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