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Accessibility Tech Notes: Emergency Eyewash Stations

Work equipment is exempt under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but it is important to find opportunities to make emergency equipment accessible to people with disabilities wherever possible. An eyewash station provided for worker safety is just one type of emergency equipment that should be accessible to all workers.

Under Title I of the ADA, workers with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations. As noted by the U.S. Access Board’s guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design: “Designing employee work areas to be more accessible at the outset will eliminate or reduce the need for more costly retrofits in providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.”

Below, we’re sharing the technical specifications for creating an accessible eyewash station. (more…)

Timeline: Celebrating 50 Years of Improving the Built Environment

On May 1, 2022, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. turned 50! Each day leading up to our 50th anniversary, we celebrated a year of our history with our “50 Years in 50 Days” campaign. We looked back on all the innovations, research, policies, and projects that have improved the built environment since 1972.

This campaign represents how far SWA and our industry have come in creating sustainable, accessible, healthy, and resilient buildings. Explore the 50-year timeline below.

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Fair Housing – What’s Your Safe Harbor?

This blog post was originally published on March 23, 2020. It was updated on April 24, 2022 to provide the latest, most accurate information on HUD-approved safe harbors for FHA compliance.

Compliance with the accessible design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal civil rights law, has significantly improved since the early 1990s when the regulations were promulgated. Unfortunately, a quick search of recent news articles will reveal that noncompliance with basic FHA requirements continues to be a problem in newly constructed multifamily projects nationwide. Owners, developers, architects, and others are still cited for noncompliance with the FHA’s seven design and construction requirements even though it has been more than 30 years since those requirements went into effect.

Based on our experience, one of the contributing factors in continued noncompliance is the common misconception that following the accessibility requirements of a building code will result in compliance with the FHA. It is important to note that if the accessibility requirements of one of the HUD-approved safe harbors are not incorporated into the design of a multifamily development, and the project complies only with the accessibility requirements of a building code, the risk of noncompliance exists. (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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Understanding Accessibility: 5 Significant Spatial Changes in ICC A117.1-2017

The 2017 edition of the A117.1 Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities comes with the most significant spatial changes that we have seen in any recent code cycle. As more states and local governments adopt A117.1-2017 as the technical standard of reference under Chapter 11: Accessibility of the International Building Code, builders, developers, architects, and agencies, among others, will be faced with some big changes when it comes to accessibility requirements.

Many of the basic building block clearances that have remained relatively the same since the 1986 edition of the standard have been expanded based on the findings of The Wheeled Mobility Task Group (PDF), a study of mobility device users conducted by The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA) out of the University at Buffalo, SUNY.

What has changed and how will designs be affected? Here are our top 5 spatial changes in A117.1-2017 and the impact those changes could have on building design: (more…)

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…)

Understanding Accessibility: Section 504 & Its Impact on Residential Development

Laws and codes governing accessibility ensure that the built environment is designed and constructed to serve its current and future occupants.

The first step in the design process is to determine which disability rights laws and building codes apply to your project. One such law is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. When does Section 504 apply and how do you ensure that your project meets all relevant requirements?

At Steven Winter Associates, our accessibility consultants help our clients comply with every regulation that applies to their project, whether it’s a new construction or a renovation. Below, we pooled our knowledge to answer the most frequently asked questions about Section 504 and how to apply it to residential projects. (more…)

Accessibility Tech Notes: Trash Chute Closet Design

As an amenity provided to building occupants, hoppers—otherwise known as trash chutes—are required to be accessible. Most commonly, hoppers are included in conventional trash rooms and not located in closets like the one depicted in the image below. The hopper/closet design is uncommon, but we do see it in a fair number of projects.

Evaluating the hopper/closet design to ensure that it’s accessible is more complex than one might imagine. Let’s go through how we would conduct an evaluation of the hopper/closet design.

How to Evaluate for Accessibility Compliance

Diagram of the hopper closet design.The image on the left depicts a trash chute closet (circled in red) in a residential building that’s accessed from a common hallway. The hopper is revealed when the conventional swing door is opened.

Step 1: Isolate the swing door

First, we’d think through how the conventional swing door is operated and used. We know that the door must be opened, which triggers requirements for maneuvering clearance on the common side of the door. Ample maneuvering clearance must be provided to support its use by those who might use a wheelchair or other mobility aid. (more…)

The DC Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) Compliance Rules Are Here. Are You Ready?

This blog post was originally published on September 11, 2019. It was updated on November 18, 2021 with new guidance in response to the DOEE’s final BEPS compliance rules. Click here to learn more.

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 was signed into law in 2019, establishing minimum Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) for existing buildings. The law requires all private buildings over 50,000 SF to benchmark energy use and demonstrate energy performance above a median baseline beginning January 1, 2021. The law also lowers the threshold for buildings that need to benchmark; buildings between 25,000 and 49,999 SF will need to benchmark energy use beginning in 2021. Buildings between 10,000 and 24,999 square feet will need to benchmark energy use beginning in 2024.

If a building does not score above the median performance of Washington, DC buildings, it has five years to demonstrate improvement or face financial penalties. By definition, 50% of the buildings required to comply with BEPS will fall below the median—even those just a point or two under. (You can download a list of property types and their medians here.) Building owners can use this map from DOEE to check if their building meets the BEPS.

This month, DOEE released the final BEPS compliance rules. These rules cover the different compliance pathways and the documentation required for each pathway.

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DC’s Green Building Requirements for Tax Credits and Funding, Explained

The District Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) recently updated their Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), which is required by the IRS for issuance of Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), and their Request for Proposals (RFP), a companion piece that governs all other funds, both federal and local.

While there has been a large public focus on the $400 million increase in Housing Production Trust Fund announced by Mayor Bowser, another major development has been the change in green building requirements. DHCD is now requiring that all applicants for any public funding for affordable housing achieve more stringent energy efficiency targets.

New Construction (larger than 50,000 SF)

For new construction projects 50,000 square feet or larger, buildings must meet Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) Plus certification. The Plus level requires deeper levels of energy efficiency by certifying with near zero or zero energy programs such as DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH), Passive House International (PHI), or Passive House institute US (PHIUS) among other programs. Currently ZERH applies to projects five-stories or less, with an expanded multifamily version expected to be released for public comment in early 2022. EGC Plus certification also requires dehumidification strategies to address potential humidity concerns.

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