MENU

Party Walls

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.”

(more…)

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

(more…)

Top 10 Accessible Design Oversights: Hotels

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed more than 30 years ago, but architects and designers still struggle with misconceptions about complying with the accessible design and construction requirements included in the ADA.

Our accessibility team works on a wide variety of projects across the country to ensure that buildings are designed to comply with the ADA (and other regulatory and building code requirements). Each project comes with its own unique set of challenges, and it is common for even our most experienced accessibility consultants to encounter a design problem we have never seen before.

However, there are design issues that we see again and again and again; these common accessibility oversights are not difficult to avoid if they’re accounted for early enough in the design process.

In this post, we explain how to avoid the top 10 accessible design mistakes that our consultants find in…hotels.

This blog post was originally published on August 08, 2019. It was updated on October 20, 2022 to ensure that the guidance and design requirements provided are up to date. (more…)

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…)

Trends in Healthcare: Accessible Controls for Window Treatments

Trends in Healthcare” is a recurring series that focuses on exciting new designs and technologies we’re seeing in healthcare projects and provides best practices on how to ensure that these latest trends are accessible to persons with disabilities. We build on the wealth of knowledge we gain from working with healthcare design teams, construction crews, and practitioners to provide practical solutions for achieving accessible healthcare environments.


Access to exterior views and natural light can influence outcomes in healthcare settings. Therefore, it is vital that window treatments available for use by patients and visitors are easily operable and accessible to people with disabilities.

As discussed in our last Trends in Healthcare post, visual access to nature is known to promote healing and improve mental and physical wellbeing. Access to natural light through windows in hospital lounges and sleeping rooms has also been linked to improved patient outcomes, including reduced anxiety, shorter length of stay, improved sleep, and lessened pain. (more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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…)