Pathways to Passive House Certification

Passive House logosDid you know that there are two pathways for earning Passive House certification? There’s Passive House International (PHI) and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS). Using an energy modeling software, both programs evaluate a building based on a variety of factors. Despite the misleading moniker, certification is not limited to just housing. In fact, building types from residential and commercial high-rises to industrial factories have earned Passive House certification around the globe. However, the two certification programs are run by separate institutions, using different energy modeling software and standards. However, both ultimately maintain the shared goal for high performance, low energy buildings.

Historically, around 2013, the PHIUS organization developed a new standard called PHIUS+ 2015 with a climate-specific approach and an alternate modeling software. Starting in March 2019, PHIUS projects will be held to updated requirements under the PHIUS+ 2018 program.

PHI also offers project and climate specific cooling demand thresholds, having previously begun offering alternate certification options in 2015. Additionally, PHI created a program called EnerPHit to provide more flexibility for retrofits. PHI recognizes buildings that exceed its standard certification by offering Plus and Premium certification, as well as a Low Energy Building certification pathway for projects that are near PH efficiency.

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Bridgeport, CT – A Model for Resiliency

The pattern along the water’s edge in Bridgeport, Connecticut presents a familiar scene to New Englanders: active harbors and historic homes interspersed with blighted buildings and weathered infrastructure. The city’s architecture suggests a prosperous past and a difficult present. But this city—prone to acute and chronic flooding, and facing the ills of climate change and sea level rise—will not leave its future to chance. The City of Bridgeport has a plan to survive and even thrive in the next decades of environmental change, and may position itself as a national leader in resiliency.

Map of the study area showing proposed floor barriers and low impact development

Map of the study area showing proposed flood barriers and low impact development

In this context, “resiliency” refers to adaptation to the wide range of regional and localized impacts that are expected with a warming planet. Last fall, David Kooris, former Connecticut Director of Housing, visited SWA’s Norwalk office and presented Bridgeport’s vision: Resilient Bridgeport. The project began in 2014 when the City assembled a multidisciplinary design team, led by New Orleans-based Waggonner and Ball, to prepare an integrated resilience framework for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rebuild by Design Competition. The following year, Connecticut was awarded a HUD grant of $10,000,000 to develop a plan for reducing flood risk, improving resilience for the South End and Black Rock Harbor areas, and building an ambitious pilot project in the South End that combines physical barriers and low impact development.

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Replacing Indian Point – An Update

Last year, we wrote about New York State’s plans for replacing the 2,000 megawatts of electricity provided by Indian Point. As of March 2018, Indian Point is still slated to close in April of 2021. The New York State Independent System Operator (NYISO) will reassess the plant’s retirement plan later this year and will continue reassessing this plan regularly to ensure that the state’s electricity needs are met. At the time of the initial closure announcement, the replacement plan leaned heavily on increasing transmission capacity to New York City, particularly via the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express. However, there were still some gaps between downstate’s power requirements and the total power available without Indian Point.

Indian Point Image

In December 2017, NYISO released an Indian Point retirement assessment report and concluded that downstate’s power requirements will be met, providing that three proposed power plant projects in New York and New Jersey are completed on time. The CPV Valley Energy Center will be a 680 MW natural gas-fueled combined cycle plant in Wawayanda, NY, opening later this year. The Cricket Valley Energy Center will be a 1,100 MW natural gas-fueled power plant in Dover, NY, and is slated to begin power generation in 2020. An additional 120 MW of capacity will be added in Bayonne, NJ. As of the end of 2017, NYISO has determined that all three of these projects must come online by 2021 in order for the Indian Point shutdown to go through.

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LEED v4.1 O+M is All-In!

Are you in? The US Green Building Council (USGBC) wants you to be. The “All-in” campaign has just officially expanded to include the new and highly anticipated LEED v4.1 for Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M).

Full disclosure: As a member of the Energy and Atmosphere (EA) Technical Advisory Group, I was involved in reviewing LEED v4.1 modifications. In the past, LEED had set significant barriers to entry for existing buildings. For example, LEED O+M EA Prerequisite Minimum Energy Performance set a baseline ENERGY STAR score of 75, which restricted certification to the top 25% of efficient buildings. This limitation often caused building owners to abandon LEED before even getting started, thus eliminating a key incentive for improving underperforming buildings’ environmental impact. LEED 4.1 has fixed this problem. The restrictive prerequisite for energy performance has been replaced with a voluntary credit, encouraging building owners to benchmark energy use and screen capital improvements against energy impacts.

The newest version of LEED O+M also incorporates Arc, USGBC’s performance tracking platform. In Version 4.1, the energy score is calculated based on two energy metrics:

  1. LEED v4 ImageThe traditional ENERGY STAR metric of annual Source Energy Use Intensity (kBtu/sf);
  2. The Arc metric of Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity (GHG/person).

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Tech Notes: Accessible Design Solutions for Protruding Objects

Limits of Protruding Objects
[US Access Board]

When most people think about accessible design, the first thing that comes to mind is designing for people in wheelchairs. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. Requirements in federal, state, and local accessibility laws and codes account for a wide range of disabilities, including vision impairments. One of the most important design considerations for people with vision impairments is eliminating projections into the circulation path. Objects projecting from walls or other fixed elements can pose a hazard if they do not meet certain requirements. Any object that extends more than 4 inches into the circulation path between 27 and 80 inches above the finished floor is considered a protruding object and must be protected by a fixed cane detectable barrier installed below the object.

There are many ways to provide adequate protection at protruding objects and our accessibility consultants are always keeping an eye out for accessible design solutions that look like they were an intentional part of the design, rather than an afterthought. Here are just a few of the more successful and aesthetically pleasing examples of cane detectable barriers that we have come across…

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