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SWA’s Preview of the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home

High-quality design, engineering, and construction; the guiding principles used to assemble a team of building experts tasked with creating a demonstration project embodying cutting edge sustainability. Led by the New Hampshire-based builder Unity Homes and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a hand-selected team of product manufacturers and technical consultants have collaborated to develop the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home. As the green building certification specialists, SWA’s Maureen Mahle and Karla Butterfield are managing the planning, design, construction, inspection, and testing of the modular home according to LEED BD+C Homes v4 Platinum, ENERGY STAR® v3, and EPA’s WaterSense and Indoor AirPlus certification program requirements. For last year’s conference, SWA provided similar services to verify the 2014 Greenbuild Living Home.
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How to Get Started with LEED for Homes and Multifamily Midrise Certification

Step 1: Understand the LEED for Homes process

The U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes™ and Multifamily Midrise™ Rating Systems to assess and validate residential green building practices.

The LEED for Homes and LEED for Homes Midrise certification process is outlined in this video provided by USGBC.

In addition to meeting the rating system requirements, every LEED Homes and Midrise project is inspected and tested during site inspections by credentialed LEED Homes Green Raters. Steven Winter maintains a team of 11 credentialed Green Raters serving 20 states including New York, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. Massachusetts, and more.

How Does LEED Homes Compare to Other LEED Rating Systems? Read more

Lindenguild Hall: A Contemporary Approach to PV in Green Affordable Housing

Written by Katie Schwamb

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Katie Schwamb, one of the project’s contributing sustainability consultants

The Lantern Organization’s Lindenguild Hall is a 104-unit multifamily residential project that provides permanent shelter for under-served populations in the Bronx. On-site supportive service programming, open-use learning and activity rooms, and outdoor leisure space provide an enriched living experience for tenants. Contributing to the programmatic requirements of both LEED® for Homes™ and NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program (MPP), the building’s sustainable and energy-efficient design features include high-efficiency boilers, a high-performance envelope assembly, low-emission finishes, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a water-efficient landscaping and irrigation system. While all of these design elements contribute synergistically to high-performance operation, there is one feature that distinguishes Lindenguild Hall from many other affordable and supportive housing projects in New York…its extensive photovoltaic (PV) array.

Lindenguild Hall - Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Green Affordable Housing

Located on the building’s high-albedo roof, this 66-module solar electric array captures energy to help power lighting, heating, and cooling systems within the building’s common spaces, while reducing overall demand on the city’s electrical grid. An advanced feature of Lindenguild Hall’s PV system is its capacity for online monitoring, which provides building managers with real-time results, including metrics for solar generation in kW (kilowatts) and the overall kWh (kilowatt-hours) generated to date. Availability of this data enables management to assess the positive impact of renewable energy systems on their building’s performance. Long-term implications of alternative energy production on building stock include reduced life-cycle cost and protection against municipal energy uncertainties. Though less quantifiable , installation of innovative green technology adds momentum to standardizing sustainability in affordable housing design.

Lindenguild Hall - Solar Array for Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Solar Array

Lantern Organization, a not-for-profit housing developer and service provider, operates by actively addressing housing needs and offering social initiatives to strengthen disadvantaged NYC communities. SWA’s Residential Green and Multifamily New Construction groups helped Lindenguild Hall navigate the LEED for Homes program and secure NYSERDA MPP incentive funds. Committed to delivering the greatest benefit to their residents, Lantern acknowledges the added value of incorporating green building features into their affordable projects. Increased energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality potentially translate to lower energy cost burden and decreased susceptibility to disease for low-income populations.

Survey says.. Feedback is Fundamental.

While commissioning and utility metering provide quantitative building performance data, post-occupancy surveying qualitatively gauges tenant awareness, understanding, and appreciation of green features. Forego this step, and you miss a critical opportunity to engage end-users in the green building experience.

Recently, SWA launched an initiative to collect post-occupancy evaluations from certified projects. University Village on Colvin (LEED® for Homes™ Gold-certified, Syracuse off-campus housing) was the first to participate.

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Key Survey Findings from University Village Residents:
• 94% of respondents reported being conscious of energy and water conservation
• 77% of respondents were satisfied with the green features of the buildings. Green features were defined as those that save energy, water and natural resources, and promote indoor environmental quality.
• Favorite green features among the respondents were: air conditioning, recycling accessibility, low-flow shower and aerator, and ENERGY STAR® appliances
• 94% of respondents reported satisfaction with the general building site maintenance

Surveying is an essential touch-point coupling building, management, and resident. It forces both stakeholder groups to assess their relationship with the sustainably built environment. At University Village, tenants took stock of their green living area, assigned a personal value to green features, and considered ecological impacts of their behavior. In turn, property managers can discern how their investment translates to improved quality of life, which elements of their investment carry added marketability for luring prospective tenants, and how residents interact with green features to either maximize or minimize their usefulness.

Post-occupancy surveying humanizes green building through education and exposure, demystifying what would otherwise be overly esoteric or easily overlooked technology. In an industry largely under-discussed by a green-ho public, a simple measure that improves accessibility and relatability of green building is invaluable to mainstreaming our beloved practice.