Replies to Orrs Reply to Scofields Letter
would like to respond to issues raised by Professor Orrs letter
published in the Nov. 2 issue of the Review.
First, Professor Orr mentions the need to correct engineering and
control logic mistakes. Such mistakes need to be addressed, but
it would be incorrect to conclude that the inefficient building
design is the fault of the engineers. The decision to heat the atrium
and living machine with an electric rather than a gas boiler (or
steam from the College heating plant), the decision to use 100%
outside air, the extensive use of glazing, and the decision to incorporate
an oversized, living machine were not made by the engineers, but
rather by the design team which included Professor Orr, the architect,
and others. Moreover, all of the engineering and energy modeling
for the building were performed through the architect, part of the
more than $1M paid to William McDonough and Partners for this project.
Hence the architect is ultimately responsible for the energy projections
and the engineering design.
Second, Professor Orr expresses an interest in peer-review before
public dissemination of information. This seems to represent a last-minute
conversion to the peer-review process. The architect and Dr. Orr
have traveled world-wide describing this buildings design
and projected energy performance, published numerous op-ed pieces,
and provided information for dozens of newspaper and magazine articles,
most, if not all of which describe a 1997 design which was never
constructed, not the actual building. In the three years since the
building design was finalized I do not know of a single, peer-reviewed
article published by anyone associated with this project regarding
the actual building design, its projected energy performance, or
its actual performance. Dr. Orrs new-found interest in the
peer-review process seems to be driven more by his desire to delay
and control the dissemination of energy-performance data than a
desire for accuracy. If Dr. Orr has reason to believe that any data
I have disseminated is inaccurate I challenge him to publicly identify
And third, Professor Orr says that building energy information,
in an accurate context, will be available on a web site early next
year. As a scientist I have always been concerned about accurate
data the phrase accurate context is new to me.
We can get a clue as to what Professor Orr means by this phrase
by looking at how he packaged energy performance data in his October
2 presentation at Hope College. A Grand Rapids reporter who attended
his talk wrote that [Dr. Orr] spearheaded an effort to design,
fund and build a $7.4 million environmental studies center on his
campus that actually produces 25 percent more energy than it uses.
How did this reporter draw such an incorrect conclusion regarding
a building that has, on an annual basis, consumed 300-400% as much
energy as the PV-array produced? Turns out that Professor Orr presented
energy performance data for only three months, May, June, and July,
for which he claimed the building exported 25% more energy than
it used. He failed to mention that these spring/summer months are
those for which the photovoltaic array has maximum output owing
to the long daylight hours and the building has minimum energy consumption
because no heat is required. The NREL data monitoring system has
been in place since January, but Professor Orr chose not to present
data for January April for which the building consumed more
than 500% the amount of energy exported by the PV array.
And finally, it is my understanding that the contract with NREL
does not call for them to develop an energy-monitoring web site.
The NREL team has assisted in installing a data-logging system and
will be analyzing the data with regard to building performance.
Any web site to present building energy data will be an Oberlin
effort the accurate context will be determined
not by NREL, but by Environmental Studies faculty David Orr and
Professor of physics