What the Climate Mobilization Act Means for Developers, Designers, and Construction Teams

Image of central park and New York City buildigns

The construction industry has been increasingly focused on meeting ever-tightening codes and achieving higher ratings in sustainability certification programs (e.g., LEED, Passive House, etc.). These standards do a good job of raising the bar, but there is a new bar in town and we’re not talking about whiskey.

Local Law 97

NYC’s Local Law 97 of 2019 establishes carbon emissions limits for buildings 25,000 square feet and larger. These emissions limits, which are based on current building performance data, will begin in 2024 and will rachet down in 2030 and beyond. While we continue to work with building owners and portfolio managers of existing buildings (“What Does the Climate Mobilization Act Mean for Building Owners?”), we need to make sure that new buildings and major renovations are set up for success. Developers, designers, and construction teams must take LL97 into account during design, construction and turnover to protect the value of these new assets.

A developer or asset manager’s least favorite word is probably uncertainty, and now there’s a whole new host of uncertainties to think about:

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Electrify Everything? Part 2.

Heat Pump Water Heaters in Multifamily Buildings

In Electrify Everything? Part 1 that I wrote several months ago, I mentioned that integrated tank heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) can work well in single family homes — even in colder climates. For example, we see quite a few installed successfully in basements in the Northeast. These devices remove heat from the surrounding air, so there needs to be enough heat in the basement air for them to work effectively. During the winter, a home’s space heating system probably needs to work harder to make up for the HPWH. In the summer, the HPWH provides a bit of extra cooling and dehumidification. We put together some guidelines a few years ago on how to get the most from these systems in single family homes.

Image of heat pump

Some places where I’ve seen problems:

  •   Installing a HPWH in a basement closet. Even if a closet has louvered doors, there’s not enough heat/air for a HPWH to work well.
  • HPWHs are relatively loud. If there’s a finished part of the basement (e.g., bedroom or office), the noise can be disruptive.
  • Sometimes there is trivial heat gain to the basement (from outdoors, mechanical equipment, etc.). When a HPWH removes heat from the air, such a basement can quickly become too cold for the water heater to work efficiently (and too cold for comfort if someone uses the basement).

But overall, HPWHs in single family basements can work effectively.

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It’s Time to Focus on Our Schools

If you are a parent like me, I am sure you cherish your kids and seek to offer them the best opportunities in life. I even moved to a different school district. And, while the education is top-notch in my town, I have come to realize that it really doesn’t matter what school district you are in…all our schools need help. I am not talking about smaller class sizes, better pay for teachers, after-school programs, and more school supplies, although those are important. School buildings need attention. With budgetary pressures, a lot of maintenance and repairs are being deferred and schools are not aging well. Whether it is repairing existing systems, replacing systems at the end of their useful life, renovating, or building a brand-new school to service your community for future generations, advocate for your Board of Education (BoE) to think holistically about improving the conditions for our children.

Why My Call to Action?

This year I was asked to join our elementary school’s Tools for Schools committee, which is tasked with implementing an indoor air quality (IAQ) management plan. This experience gave me an opportunity to get involved and provided me insight into the school’s systems and the operations and maintenance (O&M) processes that were in place.

Unfortunately, at the start of the 2018 school year, mold issues were identified in our local middle school and the building was closed. In fairness, I quickly realized that buildings were outside the BoE members’ knowledge base. Afterall, they are educators, not facility managers or building scientists. They sought outside consultants but didn’t know the right questions to ask. After some time, the BoE decided to get input from local experts in the community. Fortunately, we have several experts (including me) who were willing to volunteer their time. As part of a task force, we laid out a strategy to remediate the mold issues in the school and to implement short- and long-term repairs to minimize/eliminate water incursion and elevated moisture issues within the building.

I am not saying you must get involved at this level, but I do encourage you to attend a BoE meeting and start asking questions related to IAQ. Ask if the school has deferred maintenance needs and if/when these are being addressed in the annual budget. Ask when (if) comprehensive physical needs assessments and energy audits were performed on all school buildings. Educate yourselves; then help educate your BoE and your community on IAQ guidelines for schools. Here are some great resources:

How Can SWA Help?

In working with schools, I have learned that one of the greatest challenges school decision-makers face is not knowing where to turn for support and guidance. Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) has been working to improve educational facilities for decades. Whether you have questions related to mold, moisture, comfort, absenteeism, accessibility, high utility bills…on up to zero energy design and progressive learning environments, SWA can support you. Here is just a sample of past school projects that SWA has worked on:

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Five Steps to Get Started with Net Zero Energy Buildings

Net zero buildings are becoming increasingly popular, and some jurisdictions, such as Washington, DC, are projected to become code within the decade. Massachusetts will also begin development of a net zero building code. Curious if your building is a net zero contender or what it would take to reach net zero targets?

What Does it Mean to be Net Zero?

The term “net zero” commonly refers to zero-energy buildings. In simple terms, a zero-energy building is one that produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. There can be nuances and caveats to this definition, but for now, we want to bring you up to speed on five key net zero energy strategies to consider if you’re interested in developing a net zero building.

1. Maximize space for on-site renewable energy.

How tall is your building?

  • Any building over five stories will be challenging, if not impossible, to achieve net zero with on-site renewable energy production alone because building energy demand will likely exceed available site area. Maximize your solar with a smart layout and consider if other renewables, such as geothermal, are possible.

    Image of roof layout

    Typical roof layout for multifamily building, including necessary setbacks for fire access, mechanical equipment access, and shading from bulkheads. Fire access is based on FDNY guidelines.

Do you have other spaces available for solar photovoltaics (PV)?

  • Your development may have a separate parking garage or parking lot on site. These are great places to install a PV system, which can significantly increase the amount of on-site renewable energy production and help make achieving net zero more of a reality.

Do I have to have all renewables on-site to be net zero?

  • If you don’t have enough room for on-site renewables, you can look into purchasing off-site renewable energy options, such as community solar, power purchase agreements, or renewable energy credits.

Now that you’ve considered renewables, let’s move on to net zero building design considerations.

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20 Years of Wintergreen!

A lot has happened since the start of the WinterGreen newsletter, which was first distributed 20 years ago via fax machine. From the inception of LEED, to the Climate Mobilization Act, WinterGreen has covered it all.

In honor of its anniversary, we are looking back at the milestones that occurred along the way and making predictions for the future…WinterGreen Banner circa 1999

1999 – Steven Winter Becomes Chairman of the US Green Building Council

Image of Steven Winter as USGBC ChairmanAs Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council from 1999 to 2003, Steven Winter helped guide the organization through a period of immense growth. This included the launch of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also known as the LEED® Rating System, and Greenbuild, the nation’s largest green building conference and expo.

 

2000 – SWA Receives NYSERDA Pioneer Award

Image of Steven Winter with NYSERDA AwardAt a gala event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Steven Winter Associates (SWA) was presented with the NYSERDA Pioneer Award for their extensive contributions to making buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.

 

2001 – Green Building Guidelines Book Published for Home Builders

Image of Green Building Guidelines bookIn conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), SWA staff collaborated to create “Green Building Guidelines: Meeting the Demand for Low-Energy, Resource-Efficient Homes.” The book provided green building techniques and strategies for home builders and residential construction professionals.

 

2002 – SWA Helps DEC Become New York State’s First Ever LEED Certified Building

Image of New York DEC Headquarters in AlbanyWorking with NYSERDA, Picotte Companies and WCGS Architects, SWA provided certification support to the design team, earning the project LEED V2.0 Silver. SWA’s services included initial LEED tabulations and goal setting, detailed LEED V2.0 evaluation reporting, and completion of the final documentation package, which led to the certification of New York State’s first ever LEED building.

 

2003 – The Solaire Declared Nation’s First “Green” Residential High-rise

Image of The SolaireNew York Governor George Pataki dedicated The Solaire as the country’s first “green” residential high-rise building, calling it “a benchmark for urban sustainable development and for green buildings worldwide.” SWA supported the design team on this project from conceptual design phase through construction administration. The Solaire, located in New York’s Battery Park City, was the first residential building to be completed in downtown Manhattan after the terrorist attacks of September 2001, and was the first beneficiary of Governor Pataki’s green building tax credit.

 

2004 – SWA Joins Project Team for Oculus Terminal at World Trade Center

Image of World Trade Center PATH TerminalLed by the joint venture of DMJM+Harris and STV, as well as the internationally renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava, SWA was invited to join the project team to provide energy efficiency and sustainable design consulting services for the new World Trade Center station, also known as the the Oculus. The rebuilt PATH terminal is incorporated into the design.

 

2005 – USGBC Announces LEED for Homes Pilot Program

Image of home under constructionExcited to announce the first ever LEED program for residential construction, the USGBC immediately began seeking applicants to test the effectiveness of the all new LEED for Homes through a Pilot Program. LEED for Homes, which is considered a green building milestone, was made possible by a passionate committee of industry professionals co-chaired by Steven Winter.

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