Access+Ability: An Evening at the Cooper Hewitt Museum

Students used props to simulate sensory and mobility disabilities.

As part of Cooper Hewitt Lab | Access Design Teen Program and the museum’s ongoing ‘Access+Ability’ exhibition (on view through September 3, 2018), the Design for Aging Committee of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), New York Chapter, was invited to facilitate a workshop with high school students to explore challenges experienced by seniors and people with disabilities. As an Accessibility Consultant here at Steven Winter Associates, Inc. and a member of the committee, I had the opportunity to attend the event.

Students at the hands-on workshop were challenged to develop design solutions to address the needs of a hypothetical group of older adults attending a lecture on the 3rd floor of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Included among the hypothetical attendees were people with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities and those with limited knowledge of the English language.

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Montgomery County Green Building Requirements


Montgomery County, Maryland recently passed new green building requirements, including adoption of the 2012 International Green Construction Code.  Montgomery County was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to enact a green building law in late 2007. Now, county officials have repealed the original law and replaced it with Executive Regulation 21-15 that will likely reduce requirements for many new buildings.

New Requirements

There are some pretty big changes brought about by the new law, which took effect on December 27, 2017 and includes a six month grace period for projects already under design. New projects permitted after June 27, 2018 will need to comply with the following:

  • Projects 5,000 gross square feet and larger must comply, lowered from 10,000 gsf.
  • Buildings must meet the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC), replacing the requirement that buildings must meet LEED Certified criteria.
  • Residential projects under five stories must use ICC-700/NGBS at the Silver Energy Performance Level.
  • R-2 and R-4 portions of Mixed-Use buildings may comply with ICC-700/NGBS and the non-residential portion shall comply with the IgCC or the entire building may comply with IgCC or ASHRAE 189.1
  • R-1, non-residential and R-1/Mixed-Use projects may select IgCC, ASHRAE 189.1 or LEED Silver with eight points or more under the Whole Building Energy Simulation path.
  • All buildings using the IgCC compliance pathway must achieve a Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI) score of 50 or lower.

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Multifamily Passive House Ventilation Design Part 1: Unitized or Centralized HRV/ERV?


Project teams pursuing Passive House frequently ask, “Where do we locate the HRV/ERV?” The answer is complex when the Passive House concept is scaled to a multifamily program.  While there are two primary arrangements for HRV/ERV systems, the trade-off is dynamic and needs to be carefully considered as multifamily Passive House projects begin to scale. A low volume HRV/ERV unit ventilating an individual apartment is a unitized HRV/ERV. High volume HRV/ERV units ventilating multiple apartments and often servicing several floors, is referred to as centralized HRV/ERV.

As Passive House consultants we can attempt to address the system arrangement question with building science; however, in New York City rentable floor space is very valuable, so considering the floor area trade-off is of particular interest to project teams. When a unitized HRV/ERV system cannot be located in a drop-ceiling due to low floor-to-floor height, it is placed in a dedicated mechanical closet. This closet is typically no smaller than 10 ft2 and includes the necessary ductwork connections to the HRV/ERV unit. The alternative solution is to increase the floor-to-floor height to accommodate the HRV/ERV unit and horizontal duct runs in the ceiling. Centralized HRV/ERV systems, however, allow short horizontal duct runs but require floor space to accommodate vertical shafts. With supply and exhaust ducts coupled together the required floor area is about 8-12 ft2. As a result, centralized HRV/ERV systems may actually require more floor area than a unitized system.

Example: In the case of Cornell Tech, vertical supply and exhaust duct work for the centralized HRV/ERV system required 222.5 ft2 per floor, or 13 ft2 per apartment (see image 1 below). Unitized HRV/ERV mechanical closets would have required an estimated 170 ft2 per floor, or 10 ft2 per unit (image 2 on right).

Comparison images HRV/ERV

Image 1 & 2:  These images compare the amount of floor area required for centralized and unitized HRV/ERV systems. Image 1 on the left, shows the 12ft2 floor area required for vertical shafts servicing the centralized ERV at Cornell Tech. Image 2 on the right is hypothetical, showing the typical location and 10ft2 floor area required for a unitized HRV/ERV mechanical closet.

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