2018 has been a year to remember for SWA’s Party Walls blog. Our consultants have shared their passion for high performance buildings by recounting stories from the field and providing information, new findings, and best practices to improve the built environment.
Whether discussing topics based in New York City or Southeast Asia, here are our fan favorites from 2018…
1. Multifamily Passive House Ventilation Design Part 1: Unitized or Centralized HRV/ERV?
Written by Building Systems Analyst, Thomas Moore on February 6.
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.
2. Over Pressure (Part One)
Written by Engineering Director, Jason Block on January 26.
Steam pressure gets a disproportionate amount of attention. That’s partially due to the common, but not necessarily true idea that higher pressure equals more fuel use. Remember, it’s not the steam’s pressure that heats the building; it’s the steam’s heat energy. In fact, you can heat a building with 0 psig steam. You can even heat a building with a boiler that’s too small and never builds positive pressure. You can’t do it well, but you can do it.
Thanks to the law of conservation of energy, we know that energy cannot be created or destroyed — it can only be altered from one form to another. In a steam heating system, the flow of energy goes like this…
3. The Energy Code of the Future: Modeling and Performance-Based?
Written by Director of Multifamily New Construction, Ryan Merkin on March 8.
It has been clear for some time that energy codes are on course to require carbon-free buildings by 2030. Adoption at the local level will see some areas of the country getting there even sooner. For example, California has set net zero goals for its residential code by 2020. These developments have accelerated the debate about the effectiveness of energy modeling versus performance-based approaches to compliance.
4. Multifamily Green Building Certification Program Comparison
Written by Sustainability Director, Andrea Foss on August 29.
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.
5. Just Your Typical Blower Door Test… in Sri Lanka – Star Garment Innovation Center
Written by Senior Energy Consultant, Mike O’Donnell on August 9.
As the number of projects pursuing Passive House certification increases, so does the demand for whole building blower door tests. And so, performance of recent blower door tests took us to uncharted territory, not only for SWA, but for the Passive House Standard.
Working remotely with a project team across the globe, the Passive House team at SWA was tasked with retrofitting an outdated factory in Katunayake, Sri Lanka, into a Passive House certified garment manufacturing facility. Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture (JPDA) recruited SWA to provide technical assistance to the project team. Responsibilities for this project included Passive House design analysis and recommendations, mechanical design review, energy and thermal bridging modeling, and the testing and verification necessary to achieve certification from the Passive House Institute (PHI).
6. Access+Ability: An Evening at the Cooper Hewitt Museum
Written by Accessibility Consultant, Sam Tellechea on February 28.
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.
7. Reducing Air Leaks in Multifamily Buildings (and why you should care)
Written by Sustainability Director, Andrea Foss on June 15.
If there was ever a silver bullet when it comes to best practices in multifamily buildings, air sealing would be it. Compartmentalization – or air sealing each unit to prevent infiltration between units and to the exterior – addresses many major issues we see in buildings, including health, comfort, and energy usage.
8. Ventilation Idyll
Written by Principal Mechanical Engineer, Robb Aldrich on January 8.
Residential ventilation is really a tricky topic. But if you’re looking for a practical, cost-effective, holistic solution, go somewhere else. This post offers none.
Hopefully I can dig into practical solutions in future posts, but I think it’s important to be clear about why we ventilate and what an “ideal” ventilation system might look like in a new, efficient home. My ideal system is similar for both single-family or multi-family (though practical issues can be very, very different).
Purpose of ventilation: Remove contaminants that can compromise health, comfort, productivity, durability, etc. I’m sure there are more rigorous definitions out there, but this will work for now. There are other ways to lower contaminant levels:
9. Foundation Waterproofing
Written by Senior Vice President, Bill Zoeller on June 27.
Designing buildings with water protection in mind is critical to protecting buildings from future damage, difficult/costly repairs, and potential litigation. Foundations are by necessity in the ground. So is water. Foundation waterproofing is intended to keep them separate, by providing a layer of protection between a below-grade structure and the moisture present in the surrounding soil and fill.
Waterproofing is especially important when the foundation lies below the water table or in a flood zone. Read on to learn about different approaches and materials used to waterproof foundation walls and slabs and specific detailing needed to provide a watertight enclosure. And, check out Part 2 of this series for specific guidance and examples to achieve a watertight enclosure.
10. Trying to Be Rational in an Irrational World
Written by Principal Mechanical Engineer, Srikanth Puttagunta on May 24.
Think about the last time you went looking for a new car. What did you look for? I am guessing you started with your needs for a vehicle. Are you looking for a large car/SUV to move a lot of people or equipment, a car for commuting to work, or something to enjoy on the weekends? Next you probably were interested in the looks of the vehicle because it is a large investment and you should like what you drive. I am guessing you glanced at the miles per gallon (mpg) of the car. You even likely went online to see reviews from others on the comfort, crash test rating, and typical maintenance issues of the car. Of course, you will need to look at the sticker price. I am even assuming you asked to test drive the vehicle to make sure that the information that you obtained aligns with how you perceive the vehicle.
Now, what if I told you that you must make that vehicle purchase decision only based on the dimensions of the car, the features (radio, A/C, seat controls, etc.) of the car, some pictures of the interior, and the price. Do you think you could decide on which car you would want? My guess is that you would say I am crazy and that you wouldn’t make the decision on such a pricey purchase with so little information. But, that is exactly what millions of people do when making a significantly more expensive purchase… a home.
Thank you for your support and continued readership over the past year. Stay tuned for more great Party Wall’s posts in 2019!