MENU

Party Walls

About

Hi there people of the internet, I'm Heather, the current Director of Marketing for the wonderful world of SWA! I consider myself fortunate to spend each day working with a passionate, talented, and fun group of people. I earned a bachelor's degree in urban planning, but have pursued marketing in my professional career; my role at SWA has afforded me the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds to help make a positive impact on our buildings and communities. I hope you enjoy Party Walls!

Posts by Heather Breslin

Arc – A Performance Approach

“What gets measured, gets managed” – Peter Drucker. This old management adage couldn’t ring more true in the world of sustainability.

The green building industry increasingly relies on the collection and analysis of data to inform a spectrum of building improvements, including monitoring and mitigating the impact of operations and management. The GBCI has embraced this new direction by developing and releasing a new online platform, called Arc, which collects, manages, and benchmarks building performance data as projects move toward LEED certification.

Screen shot of the Arc Platform

Screen shot of the Arc Platform

(more…)

Green Homes: Consumers Follow the Money

Chris Kramer

Chris Kramer, Sustainability Consultant at SWA

By Chris Kramer, Sustainability Consultant

What Homebuyers are Looking For

A report published recently by Shelton Group has found that current and potential homeowners prioritize the value of energy efficient features over other luxurious amenities. In their annual Energy Pulse study, Shelton Group found that 85% of potential homebuyers would be willing to pay for an ENERGY STAR® Certified Home and that the ENERGY STAR appliances would be a more valuable addition to their home than a pool, state-of-the-art sound system, or home theater. These findings are illustrative of a growing trend in the homeowner demographic to seek new ways of cutting annual energy costs. With the average American household currently spending $2,150 on energy bills, upgrading old appliances and light fixtures to new ones that use less energy can go a long way in reducing this annual expenditure.
(more…)

Green Building Targets the Indoor Environment, as Health Becomes Top Priority

SWA_GreenEnergyTimes

In SWA’s second contribution to Green Energy Timeswe examine the certification programs, operational strategies, and occupant behavior trends that contribute to enhanced indoor air quality (IAQ). The full article is featured below, or on page 29 of the April-June edition of Green Energy Times.


(more…)

It Can Take Years – A Market Adoption Story

Earlier this year, at the AHR Expo in Orlando, the biggest trade show for HVAC professionals, Aeroseal’s duct sealing technology was declared the Product of the Year, the top honor of the Innovation Awards. Aeroseal was recognized as “a groundbreaking solution to an industry-wide problem.”

The unique appeal of the Aeroseal technology is that it seals ducts from the inside. Walls and ceilings do not need to be removed or damaged to gain access for traditional mastic sealing. Aerosolized vinyl polymer particles from 2 to 20 micrometers are injected into a pressurized duct system. The particles stay suspended in the air stream until they reach the leaks, where they are deposited and built up at the leak edges until the leaks are sealed.

The Aeroseal technology has been around for more than two decades. It was developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the early nineties and patented in 1997. It has received many awards over the years including the Best of What’s New award from Popular Science magazine in 1996 and the Energy 100 award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

So what’s the big deal?

(more…)

HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Update – Santa Barbara Site Visit

[av_slideshow size=’large’ animation=’slide’ autoplay=’false’ interval=’5′ control_layout=”]
[av_slide id=’1413′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1411′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1407′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1409′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1408′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1410′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1412′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[av_slide id=’1414′ slide_type=” video=’http://’ mobile_image=” video_ratio=’16:9′ video_controls=” video_mute=” video_loop=” video_autoplay=” title=” link_apply=” link=” link_target=”][/av_slide]
[/av_slideshow]

[av_textblock size=” font_color=” color=”]
On March 9, the four finalist teams from this year’s HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition (IAH) visited the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, California (HACSB) project site. Multi-disciplinary teams of graduate students are competing to develop a holistic solution that would allow the HACSB to meet its goal of offering safe and sustainable affordable housing to area residents. Teams are given the option of rehabilitating the current structure, or demolishing and rebuilding. The winning project proposal will thoroughly address design, community development, and finance in their solution.

(more…)

Hotels, Motels, Reining Emissions In

I’ll save the long-winded introduction and get straight to the facts. Based on New York City’s publicly available Local Law 84 (LL84) benchmarking data for 2015, hotels emit 32% more greenhouse gas (GHG) per square foot than the average for all buildings. I also want to qualify this by making a few statements about the data:

  1. There are 13,973 buildings on the Department of Finance list; of which 2,353 did not comply with LL84 or are not required to comply.
  2. We removed the outliers. Weather-normalized source energy use intensity (EUI) over 550 and under 100 (kBtu/ft2) typically indicates erroneous data. Most likely either the building’s benchmarking activities or report filed with NYC were completed incorrectly.
  3. A significant portion of the list comprises the buildings with erroneous data: 4950. Seems a little crazy, no? Leaving us with a good topic for another day….
  4. For clarity, that means we analyzed the remaining 6,654 buildings.
2016 Emissions Map

Click to View Interactive NYC GHG Emissions Map – via CityLab. Map credit: Jill Hubley

The good news – for the sake of this post – is that the hotel market had one of the higher rates of correctly reported compliance data. Out of 187 buildings, 143 reported with numbers that were in a normal range. The average for the sector however, reflects EUI and GHG emissions per square foot that are much higher than other similar building types. Multifamily buildings, for example, have an average of 42% lower GHG emissions/ft2 than hotels (see table below). (more…)

NYC Walks the Line Toward Hurricane Joaquin

Hurricane JoaquinIt’s October and a burgeoning category 3 hurricane is forecasted to make its way up the East Coast within the coming week. Somehow this all seems familiar.

It’s been 3 years since Superstorm Sandy came ashore in the New York Metro Area. Much of the damage has been repaired and structures rebuilt, but have we done enough to mitigate the impact of a similar catastrophe? I think we can all agree that likely, we have not. However, progress has been made, and at SWA, we have been working hard over the past 3 years to improve the strength of our buildings through providing resiliency assessments and remediation planning. It’s not a fix-all for the region, but it has helped some buildings to implement upgrades that might make a big difference in the next week. (more…)

Creating a Healthier Indoor Environment

Erica Brabon

Written by SWA Senior Consultant, Erica Brabon

When close to 90% of our lives are spent inside, you would expect extensive measures would be taken to ensure our buildings provide healthy environments in which to live and work. Unfortunately, more often than not, tested air quality inside buildings is much worse than outside.

Here are some common causes of these indoor pollutants:

  • Pesticide use during regular pest control treatments
  • Pollutants (asthma triggers) from cleaning products, smoking, pets, pests, fuel use, etc;
  • Inadequate ventilation;
  • Mold and moisture build up from water leaks and inadequate ventilation; and,
  • Carbon monoxide from appliances, heaters or other equipment.

This problem is made worse by the way in which the pollutants utilize air movement pathways throughout the building. Anywhere air can move, moisture can move and pollutants can move. This presents an intersection of energy efficiency and healthy buildings; air sealing these leakage pathways in the buildings stops pollutants from traveling and saves heating energy.

Let’s revisit the common pollutants and strategies for intervention and mitigation. You’ll notice a common theme of “find the source, stop the source, seal the holes.”

(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? (more…)

Innovation in Affordable Housing Competition Results in Bicoastal Winners

On April 21st the four finalist teams from the 2015 HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition gathered at the HUD headquarters in Washington, DC to take part in the Final Four Jury and Awards Presentation (you can read more about the competition here). There, the graduate student teams presented their final submissions to the jury and audience for either the rehabilitation or redevelopment of Bayou Towers, a 300-unit residential high-rise that is home to over 500 senior citizens of the Houma-Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana.

Wayne Thibodeaux

Wayne Thibodeaux, Executive Director of the Houma Terrebonne Housing Authority speaking at HUD in Washington, DC.

(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.

Question? Comment? Submit it below; we would love to hear from you!

CT Zero Energy Challenge (Part 1) – How Low Can You Go?

There were 11 projects entered into this year’s CT Zero Energy Challenge, sponsored by EnergizeCT.  The single- and multi-family homes taking part in this competition are designed and constructed utilizing innovative techniques in order to try and reach the illustrious goal of net-zero energy-use.

I’m excited to report that SWA worked with 4 of the homes entered into this year’s competition, including the first- and third-place winners! For each of the three winning projects, EnergizeCT has created a video to showcase the story behind the homes, and to highlight some of the most notable features.

Today’s video is about the first-place winner, a single-family home in South Glastonbury, CT, constructed by Glastonbury Housesmith. The owners, Carl Benker and Elizabeth Wegner are first-time homebuyers who wanted to be able to live as close to “off the grid” as possible. Check out SWA’s HERS-rater extraordinaire, Karla Donnelly, discussing the competition, and how this home came to achieve an amazing HERS Index Rating of a -23!

(Right-click and select “run this plug-in” if you cannot see the video below)

 

The project also won the 2015 RESNET Cross Border Challenge for lowest HERS score with photovoltaics (PV)!

You can read more information on SWA’s project here. 

What We’re Looking Forward to at Building Energy Boston ’15

Building Energy BostonBoston has been making national headlines a lot this winter, mainly due to the #snowpocalypse that they’ve been enduring.

Never fear, the first sign of spring is about to appear in Beantown! NESEA’s Building Energy Conference is just around the corner on March 3-5, bringing experts from around the country to share their knowledge about new trends and innovative solutions within the realm of building science and renewable energy.

Road? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Boston digs out in time for Building Energy 2015

We’re sure it will rejuvenate and reinvigorate Bostonians and all Northeasterners alike. Note: Northeasterners like the people, not northeasters like the storm, just to be clear.

As with most of the Building Energy Conferences, there will be many speakers from SWA there to lead workshops and sessions about improving the efficiency of buildings and their systems (You can read more about that here). Today though, we want to talk about the other presenters and topics that we’re excited to see!

Here are a few of our recommendations that we can’t wait to check out:

  • We have been preaching about addressing building resiliency and energy efficiency, want to hear it from another trusted voice? Attend Alex Wilson’s session Putting Attention Where it is Needed Most – Building Resiliency In Multifamily Affordable Housing.  March 4, 11am – 12:30 pm
  • Codes are raising the bar, owners are seeing the benefits of building more efficient housing and more owners are addressing energy use at the time of capital upgrades and refi, all great news. The next wave we will see is the increase in multifamily Passive House construction and renovation using techniques where possible. Want to know how to incorporate passive house to your next project, you can talk to SWA’s Lois Arena, and you can also hear it from Katrin Klingenberg at her session The Building Science of multifamily Passive House. March 4, 4pm – 5:30 pm
  • Water makes up a sizable portion of utility bills, we recommend attending Reinventing the Water Grid Part 1: Science, Behavior and Dollars. Water reduction strategies and monitoring can save money and reduce operations and maintenance costs through leak detection. We will be attending this session to reinforce what we are recommending and to see if there are new applicable techniques or recommendations we can incorporate into our projects. March 5, 10:30am – 12pm

To attend Building Energy 2015 in Boston, register here. We look forward to seeing everyone there!

SWA’s Holiday Video: Engineering Style!

Happy Holidays from the team at SWA!

 

SWA’s 2014 Holiday Video Message was created using a FLIR Exx-Series thermal imaging infrared (IR) camera.

SWA’s Tips for Giving the Gift of Green

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We asked a few of our green living gurus if they could share some tips on how we can reduce our environmental impact this holiday season:

Decorating:

  • Turn off your Christmas tree during the day. – Celeste M.
  • Use LED lights, and put them on timers. – Gayathri V.

Feasting:

  • Compost your leftovers from dinner. Celeste M.
  • Shop locally and bring your own tote bags to reduce packaging waste. I highly recommend local breweries and local farms. – Karla D.

Powering:

  • Make sure to unplug chargers, lamps, and other miscellaneous appliances when not in use. Always unplug electronics as soon as they are fully charged; never leave rechargeable electronics plugged into power when they are fully charged. Your brand new holiday gadgets as well as your electricity bill will thank you! – Carmel P.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in new toys. – Jordana V.

Giving:

  • Use recycled paper for wrapping. – Celeste M.
  • Recycle gift wrapping. – Jordana V.
  • Buy gifts without much packaging. – Jordana V.

stock-vector-recycling-snow-man-89830639
How are you going to make your holidays green? Do you have the ultimate green gift?

The Access Files – The Truth is Out There

Peter Stratton

Peter Stratton, SWA’s Director of Accessibility Compliance and Consulting

SWA Access is the quarterly publication created by SWA’s Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group to convey the importance of, and help  demystify the often complex world of accessible design, construction, and compliance. After all, as the group’s director, Peter Stratton, often says, “Sustainable Design is Accessible Design.”

Each edition of the newsletter features a section that answers specific questions asked during project work or public seminars. We will periodically post these items to Party Walls, but if there’s something you would like answered now, you can post your question in the comment section below and someone from SWA’s accessibility team will answer them (and in a timely manner!)

Q: Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, are multifamily housing developments that utilize valet parking still required to provide a total of 2% accessible parking spaces serving covered dwelling units?

A: Yes. the guidelines require that accessible parking be provided for residents with disabilities on the same terms and with the full range of choices that are provided to all residents. Providing valet parking in lieu of self parking does not change this requirement. A minimum of 2% of the parking spaces that serve covered dwelling units must be accessible. Local code requirements may be more stringent when it comes to requirements for accessible parking. Find more information by visiting:
Supplement to Notice of Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines.

Q: Is it true that HUD now accepts the 2010 ADA Standards (2010 Standards) as an alternative to the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) for compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)?

A: Yes. HUD issued a Notice, effective May 23, 2014, that permits recipients of Federal funding to use the 2010 Standards as an alternative to UFAS on projects subject to Section 504. However, HUD has deemed certain provisions of the 2010 Standards to provide less accessibility than is currently required by UFAS. So, be sure to learn about the exceptions if you choose to apply the 2010 Standards to your next project. HUD’s Notice remains in effect until the agency formally adopts an updated accessibility standard for compliance with Section 504.

Notes from Abroad: A SWArrior in Sweden

In October, NESEA awarded SWA’s Heather Nolen with a travel scholarship through the Kate Goldstein Fund for Emerging Professionals (you can read the announcement here). Heather joined four other scholarship recipients for a two week  journey to Denmark and Sweden to explore  innovative sustainability methods being used in their buildings. The following is blog entry written by Heather, describing her experience at a location outside of Stockholm. (This entry was reblogged from NESEA’s blog; you can find the original post here.)

We met with Björn Cederquist who was kind enough to tell us about Hammarby Sjöstad, a new sustainable district, which he is quite proud of.

Stockholm is a growing city, with a population of 1.5 million and a serious lack of housing. The city central is quite developed, outside the city there are the typical suburbs, it is the area between the city proper and the suburbs that Stockholm is looking to develop in a planned, sustainable manner. To meet the city’s housing needs Stockholm plans to construct 8,000 units per year, mind you they have only been building at 5,000 units/year of maximum. This is a large undertaking for the city which is being planned in a thoughtful way.

Despite the need for more units of housing there is a strong tradition in Stockholm of midrise buildings which accounts for the reluctance to build higher. Hammarby Sjöstad is mostly mid-rise with one exception, a single 12 story building.

Located in this prime area between the city and suburbs, Hammarby Sjöstad is located at an old harbor and landfill turned Brownfield site. To convert this piece of land into a residential community public transportation had to be extended, both the subway and train lines. The presence of transit shows a commitment to the area, a feeling of permanence which is required to build the community. 80% of residents commute by public transit.

To meet sustainability goals in a comprehensive way the district aimed to be a healthy place for people to live that stimulates the body and soul with opportunities for exercise, sports and culture. Design began in 1990 to construct an “Environmental and Ecological City District,” which includes 11,000 units housing over 25,000 people; an additional 10,000 are projected to work within this area. In addition to the housing and transit systems, power plants were constructed to provide district heating and cooling, waste removal including organic waste, public water supply and wastewater treatment.

Renewable energy sources, harvesting of energy from the areas wastewater system, burning of waste combustibles along with harvesting energy from the sewage system allow Hammarby Sjöstad to operate their CHP plant free of fossil fuels. Central heat pumps at the district plant operate year round to extract energy which allows for district cooling, planned for 10 years the plant is the largest in the world. The wastewater treatment plant harvests both bio-gas and bio-solids. Bio-gas is used to power buses, taxis and some individual stoves. Bio-solids are used as fertilizer in forest, filling mines and soon to be used for agriculture purposed. Combined with advanced waste collection and energy efficient construction Hammarby Sjöstad is a unique community which is a product of long-term planning and collaboration. Sites underdevelopment are learning from Ham Hammarby Sjöstad to further advance eco-districts for long-term success.

P1160311_web

Where is it now: Greenbuild’s LivingHome

We’ve talked about this conference already this month, but we couldn’t leave out one of the coolest parts that one of our own SWArriors, Maureen Mahle, got to participate in – a modular green home assembled on the showroom floor at the 2014 Greenbuild Conference and Expo. SWA is a partner of the Greenbuild LivingHome which was created in collaboration with Hanley Wood, LivingHomes, Make it Right, and the International Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute. This show home, which Greenbuild attendees got to tour, achieves an array of lofty goals that enable it to be supremely sustainable both for the environment and its owners.

Greenbuild LivingHome, led by California-based designer of green modular home, is the result of a unique integrated design process, utilizing designers, vendors, and building science know-how from all over the country. Today, vendors are using the home as an opportunity to showcase the latest and greatest in residential green building products, including Cradle to Cradle certified products and Forest Stewardship Council certified woods.

One of the stand-out LEED® features of the home is the commitment to durable, resilient construction. Other site features include:

  • Permeable paving to maintain an almost permeable lot for managing stormwater.
  • Framing was treated for pest resistance.
  • Termite barriers installed at base plates, and a non-toxic termite bait system surrounding the home.
  • Closed cell foam, used to insulate the elevated floor.
  • Continuous drainage plane directs bulk water down and away.

So where is the home now?
On its site in the Lower 9th Ward in NOLA, owned by the Make it Right Foundation, contributing to the city’s growing stock of green affordable housing. Make it Right is working to complete the home for occupancy in the next few weeks!

Here are some pictures of the construction of the modular home – gblh2014roughinsGBLH2014MainPorchgblhroofframing GBLH2014Firt2Modules

A virtual tour and more information can be found here: http://livinghome.greenbuildexpo.com/

Read more about the 2014 Greenbuild LivingHomes in our WinterGreen Newsletter.

Energy Codes: Who Needs ‘Em?

  • [av_image src=’https://www.swinter.com/party-walls/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/11/EnergyCode-copy-234×300.png’ attachment=’177′ attachment_size=’medium’ align=’left’ animation=’no-animation’ link=” target=” styling=” caption=” font_size=” appearance=”][/av_image]

Energy Code. We could use that term for many things: how you feel after a cup of coffee, before a dreaded workout, or even at 2am when you’re staring at your bedroom ceiling knowing you have to be up in 4 hours. But here we’re talking about buildings, specifically in NYC.

Apparently, nine out of every 10 buildings have failed to meet the energy code, a set of standards that have been in place for a whopping 30 years. Crain’s New York published an article about it, featuring the NYC DOB’s audit results of thousands of architectural plans for new and renovated office and residential buildings.

Worried that your building might fail? Don’t fret, SWA’s in-house energy code expert, Michael O’Donnell, answered a few questions for us. Get the low down on what the energy code is all about and what these results mean.

Party Walls: So tell us, what is the energy code? And what (or who) brought about the need to enforce an energy code?
Michael O’Donnell: The energy code contains the minimum requirements that buildings must meet with regards to energy efficiency measures. According to the Department of Buildings, to meet the City’s goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 30% by 2030, the New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) sets energy-efficiency standards for new construction, alterations, and changes to existing buildings. All new building and alteration applications filed on or after December 28, 2010 must comply with the 2011 edition of the NYCECC. The need to for an energy code has been around for many years but it is only really being enforced relatively recently.

PW: What are the benefits of a building meeting the energy code?
MO: Buildings that effectively meet the energy code will be better insulated, have better HVAC systems, and better lighting systems. As these systems are designed, implemented, and optimized, reduced operating costs for both owners and tenants will result. There are also environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions achieved by utilizing less electricity and/or heating fuel.

PW: What are the potential risks of not meeting the energy code standards?
MO: Potential risks of not meeting the energy code include tenant comfort complaints, higher operating costs for electricity and/or heating fuel, and, more recently, action by the Department of Buildings. Energy code audits of building plans have the potential to stop a project in its tracks as well as impose fines for constructed buildings that are not meeting the code.

PW: What are the biggest reasons buildings fail to meet the energy code?
MO: There are a few reasons buildings fail to meet the energy code. Specific details are often missed or not included in the construction drawings and specifications. If details are not included, the contractor will not incorporate these items into what actually gets built. Even if specific energy related items are incorporated, the contractor may not have the knowledge to properly install or execute what is shown. Finally, it takes a trained inspector to know what to look for to ensure buildings are compliant with energy code. NYC requires the large majority of projects to file a “TR8: Technical Report Statement of Responsibility for Energy Code Progress Inspections” form through which a licensed architect or engineer takes the responsibility of inspecting for energy code compliance. This form is required in NYC, but other jurisdictions, which do not require the progress inspection run the risk of having items overlooked or missed since there is not a third party inspecting specifically for energy code items.

Read the Crain’s New York article here:
http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140818/REAL_ESTATE/308179994/9-of-10-building-plans-fail-basic-test

Greenbuild Recap: Steven Winter Talks Building Science

As part of Hanley Wood’s Vision 2020 Sustainability Council, Steven Winter presented his thoughts on how building science can have a big impact on meeting 2020 energy efficiency targets.  The presentation took place on the first day of Greenbuild 2014 (10/22) in NOLA. (I should write out the city’s proper name, but it’s a fun acronym that I don’t often get to use!)

Some great themes to watch for: Thinking about large-scale impacts, the role that new technology will play, how to motivate change.

 

So, carrots or sticks? What do you think’s more effective?

Get This: Engineer Runs House with Car!

Gayathri Vijayakumar, a seasoned Buildings Systems Engineer at SWA ,took a unique precaution against future electrical power outages…

Gayathri connected her Toyota Prius to her New Haven home’s power system.

Gayathri and her Prius

How did she do that?

Gayathri took a special inverter and connected it to her hybrid car, which created a generator. This distinctive system works by connecting the inverter to a transfer switch and starting the Prius, generating enough electricity (1600 Watts) to run the critical circuits in her house, including pre-selected lights, refrigerator, and the electric ignition to the tankless gas water heater.

The inverter, purchased from ConVerdant Vehicles, was less expensive than a standard gas generator, provides electricity by using half the fuel, and is much quieter.

Inverter

 “We were not prepared for our first power outage in Connecticut, but we were able to use the gas stove for cooking and our gas fireplace kept the first floor at well over 70F. Being without a fridge and hot water was a challenge though. Now that we have the Prius, at $4/gallon of gas, generating electricity through the inverter is still more than twice as expensive as buying it from the utility. But in a power outage situation, being able to provide basic power for three days on one tank of gas is pretty amazing” said Gayathri.

Mother Nature is showing us that even though it is critical to focus on energy-efficient building designs and renewable systems, we must include storm resiliency as another component of designing truly sustainable buildings.

Have you taken any unique precautions to protect your home/building against future storms?

Make-Up Air or “Made-Up” Air?

In multifamily buildings, particularly in the Northeast, exhaust ventilation strategies are the norm as a method for meeting both local exhaust and whole-unit mechanical ventilation. We can easily measure that air is exhausted. What we don’t know is where the make-up air is coming from…

Is it “fresh” from outside, from the neighboring apartment, from a pressurized corridor, or the parking garage via the elevator shaft?
Well-intentioned design teams are providing fresh air in many forms, ranging from fully-ducted systems that deliver air directly to apartments, to more passive systems utilizing designed penetrations in the envelope such as trickle vents or fresh air dampers. With funding from DOE’s Building America program, SWA is conducting field research in several multifamily buildings with different types of mechanical ventilation systems to assess how make-up air is provided under the variable pressure conditions that can occur throughout the year.

The Approach
Even though it does not comply with fire codes in at least some jurisdictions, SWA‘s approach is to leave a gap under the apartment door to allow make-up air to enter from the corridor. The general strategy is to pressurize the corridor using outside air and depressurize the apartments through local exhaust. This strategy is being assessed in a 3-story, 78 unit building, where the design called for 5,250 CFM of supply air to the corridors and common areas and a total of 4,980 CFM of exhaust from janitor’s closets, and trash rooms, and continuous exhaust (30-50 CFM) from each apartment.

Measuring the Airflows
In order to extrapolate airflow measurements based on the varying conditions in the building, SWA measured airflows across the apartment door under normal operating conditions for eight apartments. Our team also monitored the pressure differential between the corridor and apartment over a two-week period for five apartments in the building.

Measurement system for determining air flow across door as a function of pressure difference.

Here’s a “Snapshot”
The measurements in the eight apartments showed that while exhaust fans were measured to continuously exhaust 30-40 CFM, the flow into the apartments through the doors ranged from 0 CFM to only 28 CFM. When bathroom exhaust fans in the apartments were activated to their “high” setting ( ~90 CFM each), the flow through the doors increased to an average of 37 CFM, still indicating that a majority of the make-up air is not from the corridor.

The long-term measurements in the five apartments showed airflow across the door into one apartment to max out at 24 CFM. The other four exhibited net airflow from the apartment into the “pressurized” corridor, as much as 40 CFM! Why?! One potential reason: measured supply and exhaust flows in the corridors showed that the supply systems were 25% lower than design and exhaust from the trash rooms was 25% more than design.

Stay tuned for a future post on our findings and recommendations.

Engineering – It’s Not Just a Job, It’s a Lifestyle

Having been in the energy efficiency industry for over a decade, it was always a sore point when SWA’s senior engineer, Srikanth Puttagunta, talked about his own home.  Built in 2003, the townhome was energy inefficient and uncomfortable. With the thermostats set at 70°, temperatures in individual rooms could be 5-10° colder or warmer than the setpoint.

What was the best solution?

Moving. This past year Sri purchased an older split-level home with upgrades to the kitchen and bathrooms. But, it was still energy inefficient. With the help of trusted SWA collaborators Preferred Builders Inc. and Controlled Temperatures Inc., Sri followed the same advice he’d been giving all these years.

Steps to Energy Efficiency

The first step was to insulate and air seal the building shell.  The  old fiberglass batts were removed from the exterior walls (a) prior to dense packing  the wall cavities with cellulose (b), taping all seams in the sheathing (c), installing a drainable housewrap (d), and re-siding (e) with fiber cement siding. After that came air sealing of the roof deck with closed cell spray polyurethane foam (f).

The Perks of Natural Gas

Taking advantage of the availability of natural gas, the old heating system – an oil boiler with an immersion coil for domestic hot water – was replaced with a natural gas, condensing tankless combi-boiler that feeds the existing baseboard radiators and provides domestic hot water.

Keeping it Cool

Cooling was previously provided by a through-wall air conditioner in the kitchen area and window air conditioners in the bedrooms. These were removed and a multi-head mini-split heat pump was installed that provides cooling and supplemental heating. Finally, a 5.2 kW  solar PV system was installed on the roof (g).

The Results

Based on the previous homeowners’ oil and electric bills, energy modeling and testing of the home (73% reduction in air leakage), and initial utility bills since moving in, the upgrades that were performed on this home should result in a nearly 70% reduction in annual energy costs. With about $3,850 per year in savings, the simple payback is less than 15 years. Now that is a home that anyone can be proud of!

Composting with Celeste

Composting

Sustainability Consultant and SWA’s Master Composter, Celeste McMickle, recently lead the workshop, “In-Home Composting” at the GreenHomeNYC Forum. Celeste discussed best practices for at-home (or in-office!) composting, as well as the tools and resources needed for the experienced composter and newbie alike.  For those of us who were unable to attend the workshop, we asked Celeste a few questions about one of her favorite topics.

SWA: What is compost?

CM: Composting is the process of speeding up natural decomposition through science.

SWA: How did you get into composting?

CM: I have always loved gardening and composting is a vital part of the gardening process as it provides nutrients and vitality to the soil and plants. I wanted to learn more and was thrilled to find out about the NYC composting initiatives and wanted to get involved.

SWA:  What are the greatest benefits of composting?

CM: It’s a great way to divert food waste from the overall waste stream. About 40% of household garbage is compostable. Think about what that can do for our ecological footprint, especially as many landfills are at or beyond capacity. We always think of trash and waste as a problem, and I love that compost can be a solution. It’s this marketable desirable product that we can create just be eating the foods we love and choosing to not put them in the landfill.

SWA: How do you use compost?

CM: I’m very fortunate to have a vegetable garden nourished by the compost I make at home (fueled in part by the efforts of team members at SWA!). If you don’t have a garden you can use compost for house plants, street trees, give it to friends, or donate it to a local collection site.

Have you tried composting before?  Let us know what you think!