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Beyond Buildings

Creating the Foundation to Improve the Built Environment

From building science research and program development to championing best practices through public education, we are committed to a holistic approach to making buildings better.

Better Buildings Start with Better Science

Our research work includes analytical studies utilizing advanced modeling tools such as WUFI, Ecotect, and THERM, product development in conjunction with leading manufacturers, and field testing and monitoring of new and emerging technologies. These may be new residential products, new construction methods, or the integration of several technologies into a multifunctional system. Our focus is to provide a thorough understanding of how building systems operate under real-world conditions and why that may vary from initial expectations.

Our evaluation services include the development of test protocols, installation of dataloggers / sensors, analysis of field data, and technical reporting on research findings. Findings can be presented in different formats including written reports, seminars, quality installation guides for contractors, and educational brochures for consumers.

We have conducted numerous short- and long-term monitoring studies for the Department of Energy, NYSERDA, Long Island Power Authority, Connecticut Light & Power, National Grid, NSTAR, and others. Recent products and technologies have included:

  • Heat pump water heaters
  • Condensing boilers
  • Whole-house ventilation systems (exhaust-only, HRV/ERV, CO2 override)
  • Ground-source heat pumps
  • Advanced insulation systems
  • Solar thermal and solar electric systems
  • Pre-production HVAC prototypes

Contact us to discuss your next project

We use our firsthand experience to create well-informed, comprehensive programs.

Various public and private entities, from government and utilities to financing agencies, have taken the initiative to develop programs that promote energy efficient buildings. They often understand the positive economic and environmental impacts of these programs, and SWA has the expertise to help them develop and refine their programs to achieve their specific goals.

Whether you are looking to develop a program from the ground-up, or are just need to revise a current program to improve its effectiveness, our building system consultants draw upon their firsthand experiences to develop program documents and tools or to offer recommendations for improvement to existing energy efficiency programs.

Types of programs we help to develop include:

  • Green building program and rating criteria
  • Incentive programs
  • Funding initiatives and criteria
  • Student competitions

 

We are a national leader in training all members of building project teams, from architects, consultants, contractors, and developers, to owners, management and maintenance staff.

As an approved provider of continuing education, we offer accredited courses for the following programs: American Institute of Architects (AIA CES), Building Performance Institute (BPI), DC Real Estate Commission.

Energy / Sustainability

Solar in the City: Designing PV for High-Density Areas

The rapid decline in costs, paired with the availability of incentives at both state and federal levels, make going solar now better than ever. However, significant challenges remain for designing and constructing solar photovoltaic systems in high density areas.

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Achieving a Comfortable Home: The Roles of the Architect and HVAC Contractor

To achieve comfort in a home, the HVAC design needs to be considered during the initial design process and not simply field installed by an HVAC contractor once the building is framed. This session will explore the elements of sound building design that need to integrated into an architects vision at the onset of the building design/layout. We will discuss what architects need to consider to achieve a comfortable home and what the partnership with the HVAC contractor should be. Methods to evaluate HVAC contractors capabilities will also be discussed. Examples from recent projects will be presented as examples of good and bad practices.

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Rethinking HVAC for Low-Load Homes

There is not one right heating and/or cooling system that can be universally recommended as each home has different circumstances that must be considered. This is even more so in low-load home. This session will explore the fundamental concepts of selecting and properly distributing conditioned air throughout the home. The pros and cons of each system type will be considered in some detail, particularly with respect to first cost, energy performance, installation issues, and maintenance needs. Case studies and results from research projects conducted across the country will be presented to support the concepts discussed.

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Selecting Heating and Cooling Systems for Homes

There is not one right heating and/or cooling system that can be universally recommended as each home has different circumstances that must be considered. This session will explore the fundamental concepts of determining the peak design loads of buildings, selecting and sizing space conditioning equipment, and properly distributing the conditioned air throughout the home. The pros and cons of each system type will be considered in some detail, particularly with respect to first cost, energy performance, installation issues, and maintenance needs. Case studies and results from research projects conducted across the country will be presented to support the concepts discussed.

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Controlling Moisture in Homes

As homes continue to be built tighter, there is a lot of focus on minimizing the potential for moisture intrusion into building assemblies from the exterior. This is a critical detail, but often forgotten in the design is adequate means of minimizing or controlling interior moisture. Come hear about changes that you may need to make to your standard HVAC practices as a result of how homes are being built. Learn about important strategies to create a durable home that manages moisture and prevents opportunities for mold and deterioration.

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Cracking the Code – Not Just About Energy Efficiency

As building energy codes become more stringent, new building technologies and innovations are being incorporated into the building envelope. As these new technologies get incorporated, construction methods must be adapted to maintain adherence to basic best-practice principles of air-barrier continuity, moisture management and durability. This presentation will describe some of the challenges and choices that arise when increasing the thermal performance of the building envelope.

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LEED BD+C: Implementing the Building Design + Construction LEED Rating System

This full day program reviews unique aspects of the LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations rating system. Learn about how to apply and facilitate the LEED process with stakeholders, to apply LEED tools to a new construction or major renovation project, and to identify key green decisions throughout the process of earning LEED certification.

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Take Action: Tackling LEEDv4

This course will provide a detailed look at the changes to the LEED rating system and provide best practices to achieve certification for new commercial developments or those undergoing major renovations using the Building Design + Construction rating systems.

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Greening Your Architectural Services

This course is an introduction to methods for greening your architectural services.

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Sustainable Historic Preservation

A practical one-day program for architects, engineers, and contractors. Learn about the synergy of sustainable design and historic preservation.

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Raising the Bar with Passive House: Part 2

This course offers a more in depth look into the principles and practices of Passive House design and construction.

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Raising the Bar with Passive House

This course covers the basics of Passive House design and provide case studies on active projects in the New York area.

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Certification Options and Incentive Programs for Sustainable Homes

This one-hour presentation provides an overview of certification options to provide attendees with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about sustainable building.

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Make Up Air & Tight Houses

This course covers potential issues with and solutions for combustion air requirements for gas appliances, operation of open hearth fireplaces, exhaust ventilation for dryers, kitchens and baths, and more.

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Selecting Ventilation Systems for Homes

This session explores the fundamental concepts of whole-building, residential ventilation systems starting with a review of the needs for ventilation and the applicable codes and standards.

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Uncovering the Code: An Update on NYC’s New Energy Code

The 2015 New York City Energy Conservation Code was released and has been in use since January 1 of this year. The new code is an adaptation of the 2014 New York State Code, and varies from its predecessors in both substantial and subtle ways. This course highlights the new code changes & enforcement, applicability to repair & renovation projects, and minimum compliance vs. going beyond code.

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Ground-Source vs. Air-Source Heat Pumps

Covering common myths surrounding ground source heat pumps, a look at the newest technologies in air source heat pumps, and discussion on the cost-effectiveness of one versus the other.

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10 Steps to Ensuring Those Beautiful Custom Homes are also Comfortable, Long Lasting and Efficient

SWA has been called on to evaluate severe decay and mold issues, spaces that can’t be brought up to temperature, freezing pipes and extremely high utility bills – all in new, custom, multi-million dollar dream homes. Don’t let a few oversights turn it into a nightmare.

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Zero Energy Home Construction

A presentation of two single family homes in CT achieving net zero energy use.

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Local Law 87 & Local Law 88 Information Session

The presentation will provide property owners and managers with step-by-step instructions on how to comply with Local Law 87 (LL87) and Local Law 88 (LL88) and guidance for directing staff or consultants.

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Stuffed Cavities: An Unbiased View on Insulation

Arguably, selecting insulation is one of the most important decisions when designing a building assembly because of the many benefits these products provide in terms of service life, building durability, and energy efficiency. This presentation explores the characteristics, advantages, and cautions of the primary insulation for residential building assemblies (walls, roofs, and foundations), and then considers the installation methodologies that will optimize the building’s energy efficiency. Come hear an unbiased view on insulation.

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Accessibility

Accessible Design: A Necessary Basis for Sustainable Design

Buildings which are not accessible are not sustainable. Settlements and other legal agreements reached between developers and the courts have resulted in the substantial renovation of newly constructed buildings to incorporate legally required accessibility.

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From Plans to Practice: Best Practices in Accessible Site Design and Construction

The training will highlight common oversights civil engineers and landscape architects make when incorporating accessibility into multifamily plan development, followed by typical errors made on site.

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From Plans to Practice: Best Practices in Accessible Design and Construction

This training focuses on two critical areas of project development, design and construction. Cases involving complaints against architects for failing to design multifamily housing to incorporate access for people with disabilities are on the rise and are expected to continue.

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Accessible Design and Construction Requirements of Section 504

Federally funded design and construction triggers the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehab Act of 1973, an often misunderstood federal accessibility law which seeks to prevent discrimination, based on disability, under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

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Fair Housing – Are You Covered?

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA), among other federal accessibility laws, requires that newly constructed multifamily residential buildings be designed and constructed to provide access to people with disabilities. A violation of these federal laws perpetuates discriminatory housing practices. This presentation will showcase lessons learned as a result of the presenters real world experience working on thousands of dwelling units and common areas subject to the FHA.

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The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

On September 15, 2010, the Department of Justice published updated Title II and III Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and adopted the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This session will address substantive changes to the regulations and design criteria which became effective on March 15, 2011 and become the only enforceable regulations and design standards under the ADA on and after March 15, 2012.

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From Plans to Practice: Best Practices in Accessible Design & Construction for New York City

Cases involving complaints against architects and developers for failing to design multifamily housing to incorporate access for people with disabilities are on the rise and are expected to continue.

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Accessible Dwelling Unit Requirements in Affordable Housing in New York City

This course will help you navigate the accessible dwelling unit requirements for affordable housing. It is the follow up session to "Plans to Practice New York: Accessible Design and Construction in Affordable Housing."

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Hotels and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Design and Construction Compliance

Learn about the new 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design, which became mandatory on March 15, 2012, with a focus on the differences between the new design standard and the former ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) as they apply to places of lodging.

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ADA Tips for Designing Hotels in the Big Apple

This presentation will offer creative tips to help ensure ADA compliance within the smaller spaces that hotel designers are challenged with.

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Fair Housing: An Architect’s Guide

When designing and constructing accessible buildings, it’s all about the details. This presentation highlights common oversights architects can make when incorporating the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHA) into plan development.

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Fair Housing for Operations and Management

This training was developed to ensure you are prepared to offer buyers and renters with disabilities equal access to housing.
Credit: 3 AIA LU

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Why Choose Us?

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Top of the Class

We are the second largest LEED for Homes provider in the nation; having certified over 1,000 projects.

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Size

We offer a more comprehensive set of services than any competitor: Commissioning, ASHRAE 90.1 modeling, Accessibility Consulting and Passive House (PHIUS) certification.

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Building Science

Our residential offerings are founded in our history as building science research and consulting firm; originated out of HUD PATH and DOE Building America research, and that expertise is available to our Sustainable Housing projects.

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Established History

We have shaped the LEED, LEED for Homes, and the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Rating Systems from the ground-up.

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Leadership

We have won several awards for our work with ENERGY STAR Homes, ENERGY STAR Multi-Family High Rise (MFHR), EPA Indoor Air Plus, and National Green Building Standard (NGBS), as well as LEED for Homes.

Pioneering Accessibility

Our accessibility group is a pioneer in the field, executing HUDs first research on Universal Design in single-family homes published as Homes for Everyone: Universal Design Principles in Housing