Posts

Heat Pumps Are Taking Over

Air-source heat pumps are a booming business. In the Northeast, manufacturers report that sales of residential systems have increased by 25-35% per year over the past 5-10 years. We’ve seen more and more systems being installed in existing homes (to provide cooling while offsetting oil or propane used for heating) and into new homes (often as the sole source of heating and cooling).

We’ve looked into these systems often, and from many perspectives. I’m planning a series of posts, but, for now, here are the answers to some basic questions we receive from clients.

First, the basics: What is an air-source heat pump (ASHP)?

It’s an air conditioner that can operate in reverse. During the summer, it moves heat from indoors to outdoors. In the winter, it moves heat from outdoors to indoors. We helped NEEP (the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships) to put together a market assessment and strategy report on ASHPs. The early sections in this document (see p. 12) outline the different terms and types of heat pumps (ducted/ductless, split/packaged, mini-split, multi-split, central, etc.) Unfortunately, different people can use the same term to mean different things, but hopefully the NEEP Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Air-Source Heat Pump Strategies Report can help clarify things.

Indoor section of heat pump.

 

Outdoor section of a heat pump.

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Examining Green Building Rating Systems

SWA_GREEN_BUILDING

 

Earning a green building certification is a significant achievement for a project as it represents a strong commitment to sustainability principles. When pursuing certification, it is essential to select the rating system best suited to your project type and performance goals.

In this blog piece, we will examine the anatomy of five popular green building rating systems, including their applicability to building type and a brief summation of typical advantages and challenges faced by clients pursuing certification. Read more

Passive House Activist: An Interview with Lois Arena

SWA’s Senior Mechanical Engineer, Lois Arena, P.E., is one of the leading Passive House (PH) specialists in the country. Lois ArenaShe is regularly asked to speak about PH at conferences, after-hour educational events, and to firms seeking to increase their knowledge about the subject. For SWA’s clients, she provides a full suite of PH services including energy modeling and consulting to optimize energy efficiency and ensure that projects are designed and built to meet the rigorous Passive House Standard, as well as field testing throughout the construction process to aid the team in achieving the strict PH air leakage requirements.

In addition to working on multiple projects in the tri-state area, she is currently contributing to the groundbreaking Passive House project for Cornell’s new technical campus on Roosevelt Island. When completed, the residential tower will the tallest and largest Passive House building in the world!

The project has earned a lot of media coverage, from a groundbreaking ceremony that was attended by both NYC’s current Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to an article in the New York Times and other media outlets. And of course now, on our Party Walls blog, where I was able to get the inside scoop on the project straight from the source!

Was Passive House certification Cornell’s initial goal for this project or was it recommended based on efficiency goals set by the owner or developers? Read more

CT Zero Energy Challenge (Part 2) – An Alphabet Soup of Certifications

Earlier this week, we posted a video about the CT Zero Energy Challenge’s first-place winner, the Benker/Wegner Residence. Today we bring you the story of the third-place winner in this year’s challenge, the Taft School’s Residence. Aside from housing faculty members, the home is serving as a teaching aid for Taft students to study the design details of a high-performance home, and to understand the experience of living in one.

After installation of a 13kW photovoltaic (PV) system, the home achieved a HERS Index of -14! The SWA team is providing certification support for a slew of exciting green building programs including the stringent Passive House US™ Certification, LEED for Homes, Living Building Challenge™, and ENERGY STAR v3.1.

Check out the video featuring the project team members: Architect, Elizabeth DiSalvo from Trillium Architects; Builder, Chris Trolle from BPC Green Builders; and SWA’s Maureen Mahle.

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