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Finding Your Way: Third-Party Assurances for Your Properties

Over the last several months, experts in sustainable design related to human health and interior wellness have developed guidelines, protocols, and toolkits to adapt existing buildings to the ‘new normal’ caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These tools can be leveraged by building owners and property managers to enhance their healthy building strategies, ensuring their properties are mitigating risk with building wellness and safe building protocols. And, once implemented, building teams can earn recognition for their hard work with industry recognized organizations, which will build confidence for tenants and employees.

We’ll be highlighting three programs that complement your ESG and/or wellness goals across any portfolio or building typology. All three were created to be scalable, flexible, easily implemented, and cost-effective. Let’s get started.

WELL IWBI logoThe first program is the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations & Management created by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). Rooted in science-based practices and procedures, this rating is a short form of the WELL Building Program, one of the industry leading certification systems for health and wellness, and is focused on five core areas specific to viral response:

  • Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures
  • Emergency Preparedness Programs
  • Health Service Resources
  • Air and Water Quality Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

With this rating system, the IWBI provides both a list of immediate actionable viral response procedures, as well as prepare teams for a longer-term focus on health and safety for tenants and building staff. Customization within the system allows for project teams using this evidence-based framework to target features that are most applicable to their needs – supporting mental health, improving sick leave polices, mold mitigation, and air and water quality contaminant management improvements, to name a few. Unlike the WELL Building Standard, there are no preconditions within this rating. Projects must achieve a minimum of 15 points (out of 22) and showcase how plans have been implemented at the participating properties.

Enrollment can be pursued via two pathways. The first is at the standard location level for individual spaces and buildings. (Bulk pricing is available for this option as well for locations within one owner to streamline documentation.) The second is for high-volume, multi-use spaces designed to accommodate more than 10,000 people daily and have four or more distinct use types, such as stadiums, shopping centers and transit centers. Enrollment fees for a 100,000SF residential multifamily building are $4,200. This fee covers support and resources for the team as well as the project’s documentation review.

 

Fitwel Viral Response logoThe second newly created framework established in response to COVID-19 is the Fitwel Viral Response Module, developed by the Center for Active Design (CfAD). The CfAD has operated the Fitwel program on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US General Services administration (GSA) since 2016. The GSA provides developmental leadership to the Fitwel program and the CDC is Fitwel’s research and evaluation partner.

The Fitwel Viral Response Module is focused on three key topic areas to mitigate infectious disease transmission: Enhance Indoor Environments, Encourage Behavioral Change, and Build Occupant Trust. Unlike the IWBI rating, this module does have minimum requirements (MR), which are credits that must be achieved in order to be certified. These three key topic areas are then further divided into sub-strategies pertaining to topics such as establishing humidity control policies, green purchasing policies, PPE guidelines, supporting hand hygiene, and plans for business continuity and communication. To achieve certification at the Certified level, 70-89% of strategies must be achieved beyond the MR’s; to be Certified with Distinction, 90%+ must be achieved.

Fitwel Viral Response Module certification follows two key steps:

  • Step 1, Viral Response Certification pertains to entity-wide policies and practices.
    • This step has a one-time $500 registration fee per entity, such as a building or portfolio, and an annual certification fee of $4,500 ($3,500 until 11/1/2020).
  • Step 2, Viral Response Approval pertains to the asset level and is pursued after the entity has been certified at.
    • This step has a cost of $200 per asset. Assets must fully align with policies and practices within Step 1.

Arc reentry logoThe third and final framework we’d like to highlight is the USGBC’s Arc platform and its Arc Re-Entry toolkit. The USGBC originally created the Arc program in 2016 as a way for buildings to track and benchmark on-going performance data for specific O+M metrics such as carbon, water usage, and the human experience. Building off the progress made with this system, the USGBC has increased the breadth of the framework to assist projects responding to Covid. The Arc Re-Entry program focuses on three key strategy areas: Facility Management, Occupant Observations, and Indoor Air Quality. Within these three key areas, projects can document and benchmark infection-control policies and procedures, collect and analyze occupant experiences, and measure and track indoor air quality. The program can also be used as a steppingstone for implementing the newly created LEED Safety First Pilot Credits, as well as integrating the IWBI’s WELL Health-Safety Rating.

All projects that have been registered under any version of LEED will receive access to Arc automatically through LEED Online.– Registration is also free for projects. Certification fees can be found here: https://arcskoru.com/pricing and are subject to change by the USGBC.

When evaluating any of these programs, first consider  the progress your building team has already made: Are there already alignments with any of these programs? Does your building or portfolio already utilize LEED? Could certification be connected to a future goal related to your Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) Reporting?

  • The Arc Re-Entry Toolkit could be a good fit for any project previously certified or targeting LEED certification!
  • Are you interested in WELL Building Certification but hesitant about pursuing formal certification due to the performance verification requirements? The WELL Health-Safety rating may be a good way to introduce your team to the system with a lower barrier to entry.
  • If you are not yet ready for LEED or WELL, or new to building certifications, the Fitwel Viral Response Module, developed with the CDC and GSA, is a great option to demonstrate commitment to human health and well-being in your buildings.

If you are interested in learning more about any of these certifications or more about how SWA improves the built environment, please contact us. Let SWA assist with your re-entry needs, and help you achieve recognition for all of your teams’ efforts  to ensure that your spaces are healthy, safe, and ready for tenants and residents.

Additional resources on building certification post-Covid:

 

Sarah Nugent Headshot

 

Written by Sarah Nugent, Sustainability Director

 

 

 

Integrating Social Equity into Green Building – Part 2: Pre-Design Phase

The social and environmental context can vary greatly from one project to the next. To achieve social equity goals, a well-constructed plan for all project phases must be created and tracked. And, although the measures are not generally complicated, they can be numerous. In order to promote social equity, SWA has compiled this series of blog posts that teams can refer to as a guide to help facilitate the process. The goal is to help project teams understand, identify, and incorporate social and environmental goals and strategies into projects in a holistic and integrated way.

 

Image depicting equity vs equality

Image 1: – Credit: https://www.usgbc.org/resources/leed-project-team-checklist-social-impact

The following outline provides an overview of steps the design team can take in evaluating projects during Pre-Design. Throughout, references to LEED credits are cited.

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‘Back to the Basics’ of Affordable Housing with Les Bluestone

In a city as crowded and expensive as New York City, there is a growing need for access to safe and affordable housing. With this demand comes great innovation, as well as roadblocks and challenges between construction, financing, and policy.

In this month’s Buildings + Beyond episode, Robb sits down with Les Bluestone, co-founder of Blue Sea Development. Les has been leading the way in affordable, green building in New York City since the 80’s. He gives us a brief history lesson on affordable housing in NYC, and provides us with his outlook of what development and construction will look like in 5 years and beyond.

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AeroBarrier: A New Tool for Gut Rehabs?

Image of AeroBarrier eventAeroBarrier is touted as the best route to never fail another blower door test. The technology, which involves pressurizing a space with a blower door fan while misting a water-based glue into the air from multiple points throughout the space, is most often being used on new multifamily buildings after drywall is installed. SWA first experimented with the technique on the Cornell Tech high-rise building. Back in March, I reached out to Yudah Schwartz at SuperSeal Insulation, Inc. about a personal project, the gut rehab of a 2,500 SF detached single family home. While renovations aren’t something they normally do, Yudah and his team agreed to try a demo. Here’s what happened.

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Leveraging LEED for New Construction Post-COVID Part 2

LEED: Toolkit for a Healthy and Resilient Post-COVID Built Environment

At SWA, we have used LEED across a wide range of projects and contexts. We have seen firsthand its strength as an adaptable toolkit for guiding high performance building design, construction, and operation. The intent of each LEED credit category takes on a particular meaning, both locally and globally, in response to the emergence of such factors as global climate change and its associated consequences—including pandemics. In the post-COVID context, these intents will take on new meaning and new urgency. Read Part 1 of this blog here!

image of coal plant

Credit: Arnold Paul

The overall goal of the LEED rating system is to reduce the negative impacts of the built environment on environmental and human health. Ideally, this focus contributes to our general, overall resilience to public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing and mitigating various factors that make us more vulnerable to diseases. For example, we know that long-term exposure to air pollution and poor air quality dramatically increases the chances of dying from COVID-19 and that most of the same pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of death for COVID-19 are the same diseases exacerbated by exposure to air pollution. Anything we can do to improve air quality will also improve our resilience to disease. Most significantly, we need to move away from fossil fuel-based energy and toward clean, renewable energy—and a large portion of LEED is focused on doing just that.

As researchers have noted, many of the root causes behind climate change also contribute to a greater risk of pandemics. An example is deforestation and associated habitat loss, which forces wildlife to migrate, bringing novel viruses into closer contact with livestock and humans, and increasing the odds of disease transmission. On top of that, by altering temperature and rainfall patterns, climate change has created conditions that are more conducive to the spread of disease in general. So, the strategies we need to enact now to address the climate crisis—many of which are addressed in LEED credits—can also mitigate the occurrence, scale, and impacts of future disease outbreaks.

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Leveraging LEED for New Construction Post-COVID Part 1

In the post-COVID world, there needs to be a greater awareness that the built environment can protect and promote human and environmental health. Buildings can, and must, play a critical role in delivering a stronger, more resilient public health infrastructure that can help prevent and mitigate crises such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The good news is that we already have effective tools for designing, constructing, and operating such buildings—chief among them LEED and the WELL Building Standard.

We believe people are now more conscious of how the built environment affects their health. As a result, we’re likely to see an increase in investment in sustainable building design, construction, and operation and a corresponding increase in demand for green building rating systems such as LEED and WELL. We may also see the green and healthy building concepts that are included in these systems increasingly integrated into building codes.

USGBC plaque

[Credit: Blanchethouse (username) / Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org]

Certification programs (e.g., LEED and WELL) have been developed though collective effort. They are extremely effective and adaptable tools that project teams can use to ensure that their buildings achieve the best possible performance in terms of protecting environmental and human health. Importantly, these programs continue to evolve, offering ever more effective strategies for improving the built environment, ensuring that buildings adapt to whatever circumstances may arise in uncertain times. But right now, project teams can make immediate use of LEED and WELL, and similar tools, to start preparing for the new reality ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can project teams leverage LEED now? In this series, we’ve highlighted the LEED credits that can be used to guide efforts to make our buildings safe, healthy, and resilient. (In a follow-up series we’ll discuss the WELL features that can be used to guide our post-COVID building work.)

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Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) are Coming to D.C., Are You Ready?

In January of this year, the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 was signed into law, establishing minimum Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) for existing buildings. The law requires all private buildings over 50,000 square feet to benchmark energy use and demonstrate energy performance above a median baseline beginning January 1, 2021. If a building does not score above the median performance, it has five years to demonstrate improvement or face financial penalties.

While quite a few of the details on enforcement are still being worked out, the median scores will be based on 2019 building performance and there are actions you can take today to get ready for BEPS.

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Climate Week NYC: Seven Days of Climate Action and Discussion

 

Climate Week logoLast week, as I was writing this blog, I came across a New York Times article: “The Amazon, Siberia, Indonesia: a World of Fire.” By now, I’m sure most of us are aware that the Amazon Rainforest has been burning for weeks, but this deliberate act of environmental destruction will contribute to a feedback loop. These fires release carbon dioxide and kill the trees and species that not only remove greenhouse gasses from the air but are part of vital fragile ecosystems. As more climate-warming gasses fill the air, extreme weather patterns, drought, species loss, and global warming are exacerbated. These effects then accelerate the spread of infectious disease, global poverty, and human health defects. Overall, climate change and environmental degradation negatively affect both humans and the planet, which makes us less resilient and allows for climate change to accelerate even more aggressively. And the cycle continues.

So, for the sake of our (really wonderful) natural planet, and humankind, it is crucial that we try to hinder this feedback loop and make climate action a priority around the world. And, although individually we can try to have a more reciprocal relationship with the planet, our actions and voices carry more weight collectively, which is where Climate Week NYC comes in.

What is Climate Week NYC?

Organized by The Climate Group, Climate Week NYC is an annual week-long gathering for citizens and global leaders to join forces and take action to mitigate environmental harm caused by human activity. There will be a number of public events each day from September 23-29, including tours, film screenings, conferences, and more.

Fun fact: Swedish teenager and activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic all the way from England to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit, scheduled on the first day of Climate Week NYC!

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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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Rapidly Changing Brooklyn Neighborhood Welcomes Affordable and Sustainable Housing Development

image of Livonia Apartments

Courtesy of MAP Architects

The Livonia Apartments is Phase II of an affordable sustainable housing development in the rapidly changing neighborhood of East New York, Brooklyn. Through a partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and designed by Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP), BRP Companies and partners developed this mixed-use, four-building complex to provide 292 apartments of both affordable and supportive housing, including 10% of units specified for persons with disabilities and municipal employees. In addition, Livonia II provides 30,000 square feet of community and retail space for the neighborhood.

The size and density of The Livonia Apartments project represented an opportunity to set a higher benchmark in green design strategies. Mayor Bill di Blasio stated at the groundbreaking, “For decades these vacant lots have been a blight on this neighborhood. Today, we’re breaking ground on a project that will deliver the affordable housing, good local jobs and vital services this community needs. We believe in a city where every neighborhood rises together, and where we make investments that give more people a shot at a better life.” Although the development straddles the busy elevated L & 3 trains and the Livonia Ave. station, the buildings’ facades are angled to minimize the sound and rattle from the trains, while maximizing privacy and natural light.

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Multifamily Green Building Certification Program Comparison

If you’re designing and constructing multifamily buildings, chances are you’ve run into one of the many green building certification programs. Whether mandated by code, tax credits, your loan, or because you want to improve building performance, the differences between programs can be difficult to understand. One of the most frequent questions we help design teams answer is “which multifamily green building program should we choose?”

To help shed some light on the major green building standards, we’ve outlined some of the most important requirements for multifamily building performance that tend to differentiate the programs the most.

ENERGY STAR

Administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR is a free program that includes envelope, mechanical, and moisture management requirements. There are two pathways to certification – ENERGY STAR Certified Homes and ENERGY STAR Multifamily High-rise – based on the height of the building. In the near future these programs will merge into one Multifamily New Construction standard.

Although it isn’t considered a full green building program (it doesn’t address materials, site or water), ENERGY STAR is included in this comparison because several programs and standards reference it as a base requirement.

Energy Star comparison chart (more…)

Delos Headquarters Raises the Bar for Healthy Buildings

A team of SWA consultants recently had the opportunity to tour the newly constructed Delos Office Headquarters, located in the Meatpacking District of New York City. The office, which occupies the fourth and fifth floors of a ten-story building adjacent to the High Line, has obtained WELL Platinum certification through the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), Petal Certification through the Living Building Challenge, and is currently pursuing LEED v4 Platinum certification through the US Green Building Council (USGBC). From the inception of the tour, it was clear that the space had exceeded the expectations of these certifications, and more.

Overview

Delos entrance with monitor and greenwall

Beside the entrance, a monitor displays live building stats and company announcements

Stepping off the elevator, occupants walk over a large metal grate designed to remove debris from shoes, preventing dirt and other particles from contaminating the floor. Then, upon entering the office, visitors are immediately greeted with an abundance of natural light and sense of biophilia. The office is enclosed by large glass curtain walls and filled with an array of plant life. Next to the entrance, a large monitor displays office conditions, such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and other levels affecting tenant comfort.

The main office area is largely free address, which means employees can freely move to where they feel most comfortable. Each desk is adjustable and includes a monitor, a temperature adjustable task light, and many other utilities that foster productivity. There are greenwalls placed throughout the office (22 to be exact), which are used to purify the air. Clean air is also distributed through floor diffusers and dirty air is removed through the ceiling. Additionally, it is noticeably quiet in the office; the mechanical systems are well insulated and there is a low level white noise sound masking system that lessens harsh noises.  (more…)

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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Montgomery County Green Building Requirements

IGCC Logo

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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Which LEED Rating System Do I Use? NC versus Midrise (Part 2)

LEED midrise imageHere’s a question that we’re often asked by our clients: “I’m building a new residential building, should I use LEED for New Construction (NC) or LEED for Multifamily Midrise (MFMR)?” The answer isn’t exactly simple, especially with the introduction of new credit requirements in LEED v4 and the fact that USGBC allows project teams to choose between the two rating systems. Ultimately, it will come down to a difficult decision based on the goals and final design of the project. So, in an effort to help clear up the confusion and possibly make the decision a little easier for you, we decided to break down a few scenarios that highlight key differences between the rating systems that may not be apparent upon first glance.

In our first installment, we took a look at a four story multifamily building and highlighted many of the key differences between the rating systems; you can find that post here. In this edition, we will explore the options for a different building type.

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Arc – A Performance Approach

“What gets measured, gets managed” – Peter Drucker. This old management adage couldn’t ring more true in the world of sustainability.

The green building industry increasingly relies on the collection and analysis of data to inform a spectrum of building improvements, including monitoring and mitigating the impact of operations and management. The GBCI has embraced this new direction by developing and releasing a new online platform, called Arc, which collects, manages, and benchmarks building performance data as projects move toward LEED certification.

Screen shot of the Arc Platform

Screen shot of the Arc Platform

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Which LEED Rating System Do I Use? Part 1: NC versus Midrise

Here’s a question our clients often ask: “I’m building a new residential building, should I use LEED for New Construction (NC) or LEED for Multifamily Midrise?” The answer isn’t exactly simple, especially with the introduction of new credit requirements in LEED v4 and the fact that USGBC allows project teams to choose between the two rating systems. Ultimately, it’s often a difficult decision based on the goals and final design of the project. So, in an effort to help clear up the confusion and possibly make the decision a little easier for you, we decided to break down a few scenarios that highlight key differences between the rating systems that may not be apparent upon first glance. In this first installment, we’ll start with a smaller multifamily building to get a sense of the essential differences between the rating systems and begin to understand the critical decision-making points.

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Why the Whole Building Approach Matters

At Steven Winter Associates, Inc., we support the whole building approach to design and construction by doing our best to ensure that projects meet sustainability, energy efficiency, and accessibility requirements, among other design strategies and goals. From our perspective, accessibility compliance is a key factor in determining whether a project is truly sustainable and efficient.

The Whole Building Approach to Design (from the Whole Building Design Guide, “Design Objectives”)

As an example, I was recently contacted by a New York City-based housing developer. They received a letter from an attorney stating that three of their recently constructed projects in New York City were “tested” and found to be noncompliant with the accessible design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the New York City Building Code. SWA toured the buildings and confirmed that the allegations were in fact true. We identified issues such as excessive cross slopes along the concrete entrance walk, the presence of steps between dwelling units and their associated terraces, the lack of properly sized kitchens and bathrooms, the lack of compliant clear width provided by all user passage doors, etc. It quickly became apparent to us and to the developer that the cost of the remediation required to bring the projects into full compliance would be astronomical.

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The Value of Commissioning

Written by Jenny Powell, Energy Engineer

What is Commissioning?

Many energy and sustainability programs, standards, and codes require commissioning, including LEED, ASHRAE 90.1, NGBS, IECC, IGCC, the PSEG and NYSERDA’s commercial performance-based incentive programs (see glossary below). As states embrace these codes and enforce commissioning requirements you may ask yourself: what is commissioning and why is it beneficial?

Commissioning agents provide third-party quality assurance throughout the construction process. They review design drawings and submittals, periodically inspect construction progress, witness functional performance testing of mechanical equipment, and ensure that the building staff is trained and ready to operate the equipment after it’s turned over. Commissioning agents work on behalf of the owner to ensure that the owner’s project requirements are met. Most importantly, commissioning improves construction quality and reduces maintenance and energy costs.

The benefits of commissioning are never more apparent than during a retro-commissioning project. While commissioning involves a third-party review of operation during the construction process, retro-commissioning is a third-party review of operations well after construction is complete. Some difficult retro-commissioning projects have shown us how valuable it is to resolve issues when the design intent is still clear (or clearer) – and while the construction team is still onsite!

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Project Spotlight: 1115 H Street – Transforming the Neighborhood with LEED Platinum

1115hstreet_front_elevation

Front elevation of the building

The newly constructed five-story mixed-use building located at 1115 H Street, NE is raising the bar with a LEED for Homes Platinum certification in the works. Offering 16 high-performance condominiums with an array of sustainable practices, including environmentally preferable products, and water- and energy-conserving fixtures and appliances, the project is contributing to the rapid revitalization of the H Street Corridor neighborhood. Steven Winter Associates, Inc. supported the energy and green building goals for the project, including LEED certification.

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2016 New York Energy Codes: Commercial Edition

By Sunitha Sarveswaran, Energy Engineer

Multifmily Buildings

Multifamily buildings greater than three stories follow the commercial section

It has now officially been over one month since the 2016 NYS energy code went into effect. In a recent blog post, we covered some of the significant changes for residential buildings in New York. In this post, we will explore the substantive changes made in the commercial code section, particularly with respect to envelope and air barrier requirements.

As a reminder, in this post, we are referring to retail, commercial, or larger than three-story R-2, R-3, or R-4 buildings. New York buildings can choose between one of two compliance pathways: ASHRAE 90.1 2013 or IECC 2015, by applying the appropriate state and city amendments. Prescriptive as well as performance options are available, depending on the chosen pathway. (more…)

Don’t Be Scared of LEED v4

Written by Marina Dimitriadis, Sustainability Consultant

LEED v4 Changes and Updates

leedv4picleedarticleghostpicWe all knew the time was creeping up on us when LEED v2009, known as LEED v3,would no longer be an option. There are plenty of Halloween ghouls about, but LEED v4 shouldn’t give you a scare! We have a few key resources to help you understand the new rating systems and ensure a smooth transition.

LEED v3 Sunset and Registration Dates

All projects that wish to pursue LEED v3 must register  by October 31, 2016. Additionally, LEED v3 projects must certify by June 30, 2021. Projects that register now under LEED v3 can always transition to LEED v4 at no cost, but you can’t switch back to v3 after 10/31/16.

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Examining Green Building Rating Systems

SWA_GREEN_BUILDING

 

Earning a green building certification is a significant achievement for a project as it represents a strong commitment to sustainability principles. When pursuing certification, it is essential to select the rating system best suited to your project type and performance goals.

In this blog piece, we will examine the anatomy of five popular green building rating systems, including their applicability to building type and a brief summation of typical advantages and challenges faced by clients pursuing certification. (more…)

Transitioning to LEEDv4

LEED v4 transition

Written by Anna Speed, SWA Sustainability Consultant

After 61% of those surveyed at Greenbuild 2014 replied that that they were not prepared, or were unsure if they were prepared for the inception of LEED® version 4 (v4), the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that it would allow LEED users to register projects under the LEED version 3 (v3) rating system until October 31, 2016. The original date for LEEDv3 registration to close was June 27, 2015. The USGBC made their decision to extend the deadline based on their understanding that LEED users and members needed additional time to prepare for v4, which is more stringent and requires greater cooperation from manufacturers and suppliers.

As a result of the extended deadline, the USGBC offers projects the ability to pursue LEEDv4 credits while registered under the LEEDv3 rating system. One credit for example is Materials and Resources Pilot Alternative Compliance Path 84 where project teams can pursue the entire LEEDv4 Materials and Resources (MR) Category in place of the MR credits from LEEDv3. This includes Storage and Collection of Recyclables, Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning, Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction, Building Product Disclosure and Optimization (Environmental Product Declarations, Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredients), and Construction and Demolition Waste Management. (more…)

How to Get Started with LEED for Homes and Multifamily Midrise Certification

Step 1: Understand the LEED for Homes process

The U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes™ and Multifamily Midrise™ Rating Systems to assess and validate residential green building practices.

The LEED for Homes and LEED for Homes Midrise certification process is outlined in this video provided by USGBC.

In addition to meeting the rating system requirements, every LEED Homes and Midrise project is inspected and tested during site inspections by credentialed LEED Homes Green Raters. Steven Winter maintains a team of 11 credentialed Green Raters serving 20 states including New York, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. Massachusetts, and more.

How Does LEED Homes Compare to Other LEED Rating Systems? (more…)

SWA 2014: “By the Numbers” Infographic

Green Building Infographic

Lindenguild Hall: A Contemporary Approach to PV in Green Affordable Housing

Written by Katie Schwamb

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Katie Schwamb, one of the project’s contributing sustainability consultants

The Lantern Organization’s Lindenguild Hall is a 104-unit multifamily residential project that provides permanent shelter for under-served populations in the Bronx. On-site supportive service programming, open-use learning and activity rooms, and outdoor leisure space provide an enriched living experience for tenants. Contributing to the programmatic requirements of both LEED® for Homes™ and NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program (MPP), the building’s sustainable and energy-efficient design features include high-efficiency boilers, a high-performance envelope assembly, low-emission finishes, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a water-efficient landscaping and irrigation system. While all of these design elements contribute synergistically to high-performance operation, there is one feature that distinguishes Lindenguild Hall from many other affordable and supportive housing projects in New York…its extensive photovoltaic (PV) array.

Lindenguild Hall - Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Green Affordable Housing

Located on the building’s high-albedo roof, this 66-module solar electric array captures energy to help power lighting, heating, and cooling systems within the building’s common spaces, while reducing overall demand on the city’s electrical grid. An advanced feature of Lindenguild Hall’s PV system is its capacity for online monitoring, which provides building managers with real-time results, including metrics for solar generation in kW (kilowatts) and the overall kWh (kilowatt-hours) generated to date. Availability of this data enables management to assess the positive impact of renewable energy systems on their building’s performance. Long-term implications of alternative energy production on building stock include reduced life-cycle cost and protection against municipal energy uncertainties. Though less quantifiable , installation of innovative green technology adds momentum to standardizing sustainability in affordable housing design.

Lindenguild Hall - Solar Array for Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Solar Array

Lantern Organization, a not-for-profit housing developer and service provider, operates by actively addressing housing needs and offering social initiatives to strengthen disadvantaged NYC communities. SWA’s Residential Green and Multifamily New Construction groups helped Lindenguild Hall navigate the LEED for Homes program and secure NYSERDA MPP incentive funds. Committed to delivering the greatest benefit to their residents, Lantern acknowledges the added value of incorporating green building features into their affordable projects. Increased energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality potentially translate to lower energy cost burden and decreased susceptibility to disease for low-income populations.

Where is it now: Greenbuild’s LivingHome

We’ve talked about this conference already this month, but we couldn’t leave out one of the coolest parts that one of our own SWArriors, Maureen Mahle, got to participate in – a modular green home assembled on the showroom floor at the 2014 Greenbuild Conference and Expo. SWA is a partner of the Greenbuild LivingHome which was created in collaboration with Hanley Wood, LivingHomes, Make it Right, and the International Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute. This show home, which Greenbuild attendees got to tour, achieves an array of lofty goals that enable it to be supremely sustainable both for the environment and its owners.

Greenbuild LivingHome, led by California-based designer of green modular home, is the result of a unique integrated design process, utilizing designers, vendors, and building science know-how from all over the country. Today, vendors are using the home as an opportunity to showcase the latest and greatest in residential green building products, including Cradle to Cradle certified products and Forest Stewardship Council certified woods.

One of the stand-out LEED® features of the home is the commitment to durable, resilient construction. Other site features include:

  • Permeable paving to maintain an almost permeable lot for managing stormwater.
  • Framing was treated for pest resistance.
  • Termite barriers installed at base plates, and a non-toxic termite bait system surrounding the home.
  • Closed cell foam, used to insulate the elevated floor.
  • Continuous drainage plane directs bulk water down and away.

So where is the home now?
On its site in the Lower 9th Ward in NOLA, owned by the Make it Right Foundation, contributing to the city’s growing stock of green affordable housing. Make it Right is working to complete the home for occupancy in the next few weeks!

Here are some pictures of the construction of the modular home – gblh2014roughinsGBLH2014MainPorchgblhroofframing GBLH2014Firt2Modules

A virtual tour and more information can be found here: http://livinghome.greenbuildexpo.com/

Read more about the 2014 Greenbuild LivingHomes in our WinterGreen Newsletter.

Survey says.. Feedback is Fundamental.

While commissioning and utility metering provide quantitative building performance data, post-occupancy surveying qualitatively gauges tenant awareness, understanding, and appreciation of green features. Forego this step, and you miss a critical opportunity to engage end-users in the green building experience.

Recently, SWA launched an initiative to collect post-occupancy evaluations from certified projects. University Village on Colvin (LEED® for Homes™ Gold-certified, Syracuse off-campus housing) was the first to participate.

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Key Survey Findings from University Village Residents:
• 94% of respondents reported being conscious of energy and water conservation
• 77% of respondents were satisfied with the green features of the buildings. Green features were defined as those that save energy, water and natural resources, and promote indoor environmental quality.
• Favorite green features among the respondents were: air conditioning, recycling accessibility, low-flow shower and aerator, and ENERGY STAR® appliances
• 94% of respondents reported satisfaction with the general building site maintenance

Surveying is an essential touch-point coupling building, management, and resident. It forces both stakeholder groups to assess their relationship with the sustainably built environment. At University Village, tenants took stock of their green living area, assigned a personal value to green features, and considered ecological impacts of their behavior. In turn, property managers can discern how their investment translates to improved quality of life, which elements of their investment carry added marketability for luring prospective tenants, and how residents interact with green features to either maximize or minimize their usefulness.

Post-occupancy surveying humanizes green building through education and exposure, demystifying what would otherwise be overly esoteric or easily overlooked technology. In an industry largely under-discussed by a green-ho public, a simple measure that improves accessibility and relatability of green building is invaluable to mainstreaming our beloved practice.