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Posts by Steven Winter Associates

Getting Ready for the 2024 IECC: The Requirements Proposed for Residential Buildings

Each state in the U.S. can adopt its own residential building code. States tend to use a specific edition of the IECC as their residential code (with the exception of California). And while 2022 is nearly over, only a few states have adopted the 2021 IECC.

However, several more states are likely to use the 2021 IECC given that under the Inflation Reduction Act, an additional $1 billion has been allocated to support jurisdictions in adopting the 2021 IECC or its zero-energy appendices.

Due to its lack of country-wide adoption, most building professionals might not be familiar with the 2021 IECC as it compares to the current codes in the states where they work. For example, there are significant increases in the minimum insulation requirements, changes to the air leakage test thresholds, and a new section, R408, with requirements to achieve “additional efficiency” through the selection of “packages.”

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Sustainable Buildings Are Healthy Buildings: How to Design and Maintain a Healthy Built Environment

What is a sustainable building? We know it must be an energy-efficient, high-performance building and emit as little carbon as possible to protect the environment. But a sustainable building must also be a healthy building that protects people and communities.

A building can’t be considered sustainable if it doesn’t sustain the physical and mental health of all its intended occupants and sustain the community around it.

Healthy buildings require a holistic approach that accounts for how every building material, system, and technology affects the wellbeing of occupants.

This is an important topic at SWA, so we asked our interns to explore it! They talked to our experienced building systems, sustainability, and Passive House consultants and put together this blog post as a resource on designing and maintaining a healthy built environment.

Keep reading to learn more about the following considerations for healthy buildings:

  1. Occupant comfort and productivity
  2. Optimal indoor air quality (IAQ)
  3. Ventilation system upgrades in existing buildings
  4. Healthy building certifications (Fitwel, WELL, etc.)
  5. Building operations and maintenance staff training

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Montgomery County, MD, Has a BEPS. What Do You Need to Do Now?

Montgomery County, MD, passed Bill 16-21, which creates a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) for buildings within the county. The law also expands benchmarking requirements within the county, requiring private and Montgomery County-owned buildings over 25,000 square feet to benchmark energy use no later than June 1, 2024, in advance of demonstrating energy performance in the future.

Montgomery County BEPS: What We Know

Montgomery County’s BEPS phases in across different groups of buildings between 2024 and 2027. Each group will have 10 years to meet the BEPS for their particular building type.

Most importantly, each building will need to demonstrate that it meets the BEPS. All but the highest-performing buildings over 25,000 square feet may need to take some action. (more…)

Profile: Thomas Moore – Passive House Consultant in Toronto

Each day, SWA collaborates to create more sustainable, efficient, healthy, and accessible buildings. This holistic approach to the built environment necessitates talented teams with a wide range of specializations. (Want to join us? Check out the open positions on our Careers page!)

In this profile, we’re catching up with Thomas Moore, a Senior Building Systems Consultant located in Toronto, Canada.

Thomas developed a passion for the Passive House standard early in his career: “Simply put, I wanted to reduce the impact buildings had on the environment, and I saw Passive House as an actionable way of doing this,” he says. Thomas has been working on Passive House projects for more than 5 years on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

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What Would a Passive House New York City Look Like?

New York City: the city that never sleeps—and where buildings account for approximately two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2019, New York City Council passed Local Law 97 (LL97) to hold building owners responsible for carbon emissions. The goal is to reduce over time, eventually reducing emissions 80% by 2050. As it stands, the law applies to most buildings over 25,000 square feet, which is roughly 50,000 residential and commercial properties across the five boroughs.

One pathway to decarbonize New York City’s buildings is using the Passive House standard: a high-performance building standard that significantly reduces whole building energy consumption by up to 60-70% while providing superior comfort and indoor air quality. When coupled with renewable energy systems, Passive House makes net zero energy buildings more feasible. (more…)

Staff Profile: Michael Schmidt – Building Systems Consultant

Each day, SWA employees collaborate to create more sustainable, efficient, healthy, and accessible buildings. This holistic approach to the built environment necessitates talented teams with a wide range of specializations. (Want to join us? Check out the open positions on our Careers page!)

In this staff profile, we’re catching up with Michael Schmidt, a Building Systems Consultant on our Passive House team in New York City. Michael started his career as an intern with SWA, and upon graduation, joined the team where he has now worked for almost two years.
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Choose Your Adventure: Constructing New vs. Adapting Old

Carbon emissions from new construction graphTo meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, we must make decisions that will result in the greatest near-term carbon savings. This means taking into account both embodied carbon—those upfront emissions associated with the extraction, manufacture, transportation, and assembly of building materials—as well as the carbon that’s emitted over the course of the building’s operational phase.

We can build a high-performance building with very low operational emissions, but if its embodied emissions are so high that even if it’s a net-zero energy building (meaning it has net-zero operational energy consumption) it would take decades for the building to reach net-zero carbon (meaning it has net zero whole-building lifetime carbon emissions), we’re not actually helping to solve the critical issue of near-term carbon.

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Utilizing Enterprise Green Communities to Drive Equity in Affordable Housing

EGC logoIs Sustainability only for the wealthy? While staring at the double-digit price of organic tomatoes at the local farmers’ market I am inclined to think sustainable is synonymous with exclusive. Unfortunately, many things labeled “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” seem not to be within everyone’s budget. A society where the cost of a Tesla is the average annual income of a household easily convinces us that making sustainable choices comes with a cost many can’t afford.

The ”green” housing industry is no different. Walkable and well-connected neighborhoods, where residents can enjoy abundant services are often the pricey neighborhoods. Toxic-free natural materials, daylight, fresh air, and even living green walls fill the homes of the wealthier and healthier tenants, while high-efficient mechanical systems and solar panels provide (almost invisible) energy savings as compared to their sky-high rents.

On the other side, low-income families are often located in neighborhoods at the edges of cities where community services and fresh healthy food are out of reach except by driving, and where parks and options to catch some fresh air are far and rare. Here the apartments are more likely to be exposed to toxic materials, increasing chances to develop asthma or other diseases. Energy bills are often high with little opportunity to get any lower by using newer energy-saving appliances and equipment.

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Staff Profile: Minaiel Shoaib – Building Systems Analyst

Each day, SWA employees collaborate to create more sustainable, efficient, healthy, and accessible buildings. This holistic approach to the built environment necessitates talented teams with a wide range of specializations. (Want to join us? Check out the open positions on our Careers page!)

For our second staff profile, we interviewed Minaiel Shoaib, a Building Systems Analyst on our BODE (Buildings Operation, Decarbonization, and Efficiency) team. Minaiel is based out of our New York City office and has been at SWA for 1.5 years!

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Best Practices for Designing & Installing VRF Systems in Commercial and Multifamily Applications (Part 1)

With LL97 fines around the corner, building owners and managers are looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, building systems will need to rely on an increasingly green electric grid rather than fossil fuels.

And as we look to electrify our buildings’ heating and cooling systems, Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems have emerged as one solution. With buildings increasingly turning to this technology, we are sharing our current best practices for designing, installing, and operating VRF systems to help everyone — from design engineers and developers to installers and building operators — learn more about the nuances of VRF.

These best practices are based on manufacturers’ literature, ASHRAE and IECC standards, conversations with field technicians, design engineers, building operators, and manufacturers’ representatives, as well as Steven Winter Associates’ extensive functional testing experience. While the focus is intended to be large VRF systems ( >5 tons), many of the best practices are also applicable to smaller mini-split or multi-split systems.

Common terms used throughout this post are defined for those new to the topic and can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the blog.

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