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Posts by Steven Winter Associates

Access Earth: An Interview with Matt McCann

Matt McCann, CEO of Access Earth

We recently sat down for a conversation with Matt McCann, CEO and Founder of Access Earth – a new app that aims to promote accessibility through public and social participation.

Access Earth is a project that began when Matt took a trip to London in 2012. Matt has cerebral palsy, and had researched and chosen a hotel that, in addition to its desirable price and location, advertised itself as accessible. But, upon his arrival he had to navigate a series of steps to get to the reception desk. When he got to his room, he could not fit his rolling walker through the door. Ultimately, Matt asked for a refund and switched his accommodations – but it was remarkable to him that this first hotel was not nearly as accessible as it had claimed to be online. He also knew that his experience was not an anomaly, but rather something that people with disabilities face every day.

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Oh, the Weather Inside is Frightful!

Winter in the City

Wintertime in New York City: cold wind whips down the avenue and seems to follow you as you leave the frozen street and enter your building. The cold gust pulls the heat out of the lobby and even seems to follow you as you make your way up the building, whistling through the elevator shaft as it goes. The colder it gets outside, the worse it gets inside. Can’t somebody please make it stop? Is it too much to ask to be comfortable in your own lobby?

No, it is not too much to ask, and yes, we can help. It is 2016 and we have the technologies and expertise to better manage this all-too-common problem, but first we must examine what forces lay at the heart of the issue.

multifamily_ventilation_winter

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2016 New York Energy Codes: Commercial Edition

Multifmily Buildings

Multifamily buildings greater than three stories follow the commercial section

It has now officially been over one month since the 2016 NYS energy code went into effect. In a recent blog post, we covered some of the significant changes for residential buildings in New York. In this post, we will explore the substantive changes made in the commercial code section, particularly with respect to envelope and air barrier requirements.

As a reminder, in this post, we are referring to retail, commercial, or larger than three-story R-2, R-3, or R-4 buildings. New York buildings can choose between one of two compliance pathways: ASHRAE 90.1 2013 or IECC 2015, by applying the appropriate state and city amendments. Prescriptive as well as performance options are available, depending on the chosen pathway. (more…)

Don’t Be Scared of LEED v4

LEED v4 Changes and Updates

leedv4picleedarticleghostpicWe all knew the time was creeping up on us when LEED v2009, known as LEED v3,would no longer be an option. There are plenty of Halloween ghouls about, but LEED v4 shouldn’t give you a scare! We have a few key resources to help you understand the new rating systems and ensure a smooth transition.

LEED v3 Sunset and Registration Dates

All projects that wish to pursue LEED v3 must register  by October 31, 2016. Additionally, LEED v3 projects must certify by June 30, 2021. Projects that register now under LEED v3 can always transition to LEED v4 at no cost, but you can’t switch back to v3 after 10/31/16.

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SWA Helps Implement STEP, the Sustainable Technical Education Program

In a new and exciting opportunity, we’re partnering with Energize CT, the Connecticut Technical High School System, The Connecticut Light and Power Company dba Eversource, The United Illuminating Company, and The Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) Education and Workforce Partnership to help implement Green STEP (Sustainability Technical Education Program). This program will train CT technical high school students in a construction career track in energy, water, and resource efficiency.

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2016 New York Energy Codes: Residential Section

A week has passed since the new energy code went into effect in New York State and New York City. Did you miss it? Hopefully not, but we thought it might be helpful to review some of the new requirements in the residential section (stay tuned for future posts on the commercial section).

Attached Single Family

Attached single-family dwellings follow Residential section.

In case you need a refresher on what constitutes a residential building, we’re talking about “detached one- and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) as well as Group R-2, R-3 and R-4 buildings three stories or less in height above grade plane.” Here are the documents you’ll need:
1. 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)
2. 2016 Supplement to the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code (NYSECC)
3.2016 New York City Energy Conservation Construction Code (NYCECC)

New York City did us a favor and put everything into one document, but we weren’t so lucky with the state code – you’ll have to cross reference the supplement with IECC (links 1 and 2 above). All of the residential codes are now denoted with an “R” prefix (as compared to “C” for commercial).

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Passive House is Here to Stay and This is Why

In recent years, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have seen a tremendous increase in interest in Passive House buildings. It’s not only in the news; here at SWA we have experienced a dramatic increase in requests for Passive House. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority (PHFA) now includes a 10 point incentive within its Qualified Allocation Plan to developers of affordable, low-income tax credit projects that design to Passive House standards.

In New York City, public initiatives like SustaiNYC have spurred a mixed-use project that will likely result in the largest Passive House building in the world. Other public initiatives, like the reopening of NYSERDA’s MPP program, carve out funding exclusively for Passive House projects. The emergence of singular and iconic Passive House projects, such as Cornell Tech – which, upon completion, will be the largest and tallest building with this certification in the world – have also boosted interest.

Architectural Rendering of Cornell Tech Campus

Architectural Rendering of Cornell Tech Campus

It is clear that as code is made more stringent across the country, the gap between basic compliance and Passive House certification will shrink, making it more attractive for developers.

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It’s 2016. Do You Know What’s Going Into the 2018 IECC?

New Energy Code on the Horizon?ICC_Logo_Vert_PMS_7729

We’re already more than halfway through 2016, and many states are still enforcing energy codes from 2009. While a few have adopted 2012 IECC and even 2015 IECC, state adoption of energy codes tends to remain a few years behind the times and the code development process continues. In fact, the wheels are in motion to create the 2018 IECC. Hundreds of proposed changes were submitted and reviewed early this year.

Based upon the Committee Action Hearing in April, some proposed changes were preliminarily approved and some weren’t. The Public Comment period occurred in July, providing an opportunity for others to weigh in. So, while the 2018 IECC may not affect projects for years to come, SWA weighed in, advocating for changes we think would be good additions to the 2018 IECC.

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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.
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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.”

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