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.
Posts by Steven Winter Associates
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).
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).
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.
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.
It’s 2016. Do You Know What’s Going Into the 2018 IECC?
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.
Green Homes: Consumers Follow the Money
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.
Creating a Healthier Indoor Environment
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.”
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. She 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…)
Local Law 87 – What’s Happening and What’s Ahead
Calendar year 2015 marks the start of the third year of mandatory Local Law 87 compliance in NYC. The Law—which requires buildings over 50,000 sq ft to conduct an energy audit and retro-commissioning study once a decade—has, to date, been characterized by market uncertainty and a somewhat hesitant response from the real estate community. These conditions stem largely from an unclear expectation as to what the future will hold, and what, if any, blow back there might be for being the owner of a poor-performing building.
This lack of clarity has created a wide diversity in the approach that owners opt to take in complying with Local Law 87. A notable pool of building owners, for example, have viewed the law as a burden enacted by NYC, and have opted to take the cheapest available, low-bidder approach to compliance. A large number of newly formed energy consulting firms have popped up to provide “cheapest-in-class” services, this despite the fact that many of these startup firms lack the qualifications and experience necessary to actually perform a compliant Local Law 87 project. As is almost always the case, you get what you pay for. On the other hand, a different set of building owners have viewed the law as an opportunity to improve the performance of their buildings by engaging the service of discerning engineering service providers. These owners see the value in having a 3rd party vet the operation of their buildings, as they realize that operational cost savings drop straight to the bottom line, driving improved NOI, increased asset value, while guarding against the risk of future volatility in the commodity markets.
The real estate community has, by and large, accepted Local Law 87 as a fact of life, but the lack of a clearly demonstrated vision of future goals has created a deeply fragmented understanding of how the Local Law 87 process can and will impact a building’s operation. Signs, though, are pointing toward a clarification of what this process will require into the future, and there is reason to believe that the lay of the land will be quite different in years to come. For starters, the DeBlasio administration, in the fall of 2014, issued their One City Built to Last plan. This ambitious plan provides a policy framework for achieving 80% emissions reductions in NYC by 2050—no small task, to be sure. The aggressive nature of the plan requires that the city dig deep into the performance of the built environment in order to achieve these reduction targets, as buildings account for about 70% of NYC emissions. The DeBlasio administration has taken a “carrots and sticks” approach toward compelling change and ensuring adherence to their agenda: state and local incentives have been dangled in front of the real estate community to encourage proactive adoption of energy conservation practices by building owners, while the not-so-thinly-veiled threat of future mandates loom on the horizon for those actors that fail to take appropriate action. As DeBlasio was quoted in a September Real Estate Weekly article, “For private buildings, we’ll set ambitious targets for voluntary reductions, but if steady progress is not made, we will issue clear mandates,ˮ said deBlasio, adding, “Our long-term goal is bolder still — charting a path to a full transition from fossil fuels.” Again…not so thinly veiled.
Notable carrots include limited time incentive programs, such as the Demand Management Program offered jointly by NYSERDA and ConEd, and the forthcoming establishment of a retrofit accelerator program, which will scrub Local Law 84 (benchmarking) and 87 data to facilitate engagement between key stakeholders as the City attempts to play matchmaker in a Love Connection style game of emission reduction through market transformation. Many in the real estate and sustainability arenas see great promise and opportunity in these models.
Love it or hate it, the real estate community and others need to acknowledge that the landscape is changing, and the vision of the future—at least as how Mayor DeBlasio sees it—is taking shape.
Early adopters of emissions reduction practices—e.g., buildings that participate in voluntary programs such as the Mayor’s Carbon Challenge and those that take a more rigorous approach to the Local Law 87 process—stand a better chance of avoiding the “heavy hand of government” that DeBlasio so publicly campaigned on. And they might even get to munch on a few carrots along the way.