Tag: Podcast

Air-Tightness Testing and Building Codes in Australia with Sean Maxwell

Standard construction (both in America and Australia) is sometimes a “race to the bottom” of who can satisfy the building code at the lowest cost. We know this doesn’t always result in better buildings, so we have to educate the industry and encourage a commitment to quality based on solid science. This is what our guest, Sean Maxwell, devoted his career to after moving to Australia and finding himself underwhelmed by the presence of building science principles in the local codes and standards.

This episode raises a few important questions: How do we improve the quality of construction? How does the effort differ in Australia vs. America? And how does the “carrots and sticks” approach to code enforcement relate to building performance, and is it effective? Listen and start thinking!


Transportation in Cities with Zak Accuardi

The transportation sector poses significant opportunities for and challenges to reducing US greenhouse gas emissions as the Country’s highest-emissions sector. As a result of stay-at-home orders issued in March and April in cities and states across the US, we’ve seen a visible difference in smog in part due to less driving. Streets in cities also comprise more than 30 percent of all land in many cities, and therefore more than 80 percent of public space. Yet for much of the past century, we’ve been designing them to prioritize moving cars quickly, which is neither safe nor efficient. What if we designed streets with different priorities and invested in high-quality public transportation?

In this month’s episode, Kelly and our guest, Zak Accuardi, discuss the attributes of public transit service that make it possible and desirable for people to use transit more, and why this can be so impactful in US cities today.


Training a Young Workforce to Operate Smart Buildings with Jonathan Spooner from Stacks + Joules

As technology in the built environment increases, the workforce demand for those who can properly operate these buildings also grows. On today’s episode, Kelly talks with Jonathan Spooner from Stacks + Joules, a nonprofit learning program in computer programming and wireless network management. Stacks + Joules helps train and employ young people to have careers in building automation and energy management systems. Kelly and Jon discuss a common gap in the industry – job training and workforce development, particularly for building operators. They consider how we can “leverage the genius that exists” in urban schools, lift out the digital gurus who know about networking and technology, and help transition them into the building industry where they can thrive.


Universal Design and Accessibility in Mexico City with Luis Quintana

April was Fair Housing Month – a time to recognize the importance of equal access to housing. As we celebrate the milestones we have made, we are committed to furthering equal access for every person – regardless of race, gender, nationality, socio-economic status, disability, etc. On this month’s Buildings + Beyond episode, we interview Luis Quintana to hear more about Universal Design and accessibility in Mexico City. We discuss who Universal Design is meant to help, and how Universal Design principles can allow equal access to buildings and products for everyone. (more…)

How Codes Get Made with Gayathri Vijayakumar

Curious about how building performance standards are decided upon?

The IECC, or “model code”, establishes the minimum requirements for building energy efficiency by specifying the performance levels for the building envelope, mechanical systems, lighting systems, and service water heating systems in homes and commercial businesses. This model code is updated every three years, and within those three years there is a LOT of behind-the-scenes work going on to determine the changes for the next version. In this episode, we learn all about the long and lengthy code development process from SWA’s own Gayathri Vijayakumar.


A Path to Zero Waste with Celeste McMickle

We often address large-scale sustainability issues by focusing on improving building energy use, material use, and accessibility. But what about waste? According to the EPA, the average American generates 4.51 pounds of trash each day.

To learn about strategies for reducing waste, we interviewed Celeste McMickle, Director of Client Solutions for TRUE Zero Waste certification with the USGBC. TRUE Zero Waste certification supports facilities and businesses in achieving their zero waste goals by providing a clear path to certification using a point-based rating system and educational tools, such as the TRUE Advisor program. Celeste shares what large-scale companies are doing internally to make an impact via the True Zero Waste certification, how zero waste solutions help save money, and even what “wishcycling” is.


Mission Critical: Embodied Carbon in Sustainable Design with Kai Starn and Catherine Paplin

For the past 30 years or more, when we’ve been talking about the carbon emissions of buildings, we’ve usually been talking about operational emissions – the carbon put in the atmosphere after the building is built.  We now know that 30-50% of a building’s total carbon emissions are already in the atmosphere before the lights are even turned on.  These emissions are referred to as embodied carbon.  There is an enormous, industry-wide effort underway to incorporate accounting for embodied carbon in construction, because the realization has dawned that you can’t build ‘green’ without it.

On this episode, Robb sits down with SWA’s Kai Starn, Senior Sustainability Consultant, and Catherine Paplin, Senior Building Enclosure Consultant to hear about WHY embodied carbon is becoming a larger part of the conversation.


The Keys to Commissioning with Kelly Westby

As code requirements become more stringent around the country, the process of commissioning is more valuable now than ever before. Acting as third-party quality assurance providers, commissioning agents help building owners by improving the quality of construction and reducing maintenance and energy costs in the long run.

On this episode, Robb interviews podcast co-host, Kelly Westby, who is also SWA’s Commissioning Director. Kelly explains the importance of quality control on any project and describes how commissioning has evolved into a process, rather than a one-off measure.


NYC: A Melting Pot for People of All Abilities with MOPD Commissioner, Victor Calise

Did you know that New York City is home to approximately one million people with disabilities? As we often discuss strategies for improving the built environment, it is critical that accessibility remains at the forefront of the conversation. So, in a city as big and dynamic as New York, who is tasked with ensuring that the spaces in which we live, work and play are fair for all?

On this episode, the Buildings + Beyond team had the privilege of chatting with Victor Calise, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities (MOPD). Commissioner Calise describes the actions that he and his team have taken to help NYC become one of the most accessible big cities in the US. In addition, the Commissioner reminds us that we need to take a human-centered approach, not just to design, but to life. (more…)

Passively Built with Jesse Thompson – A Look at Air-Sealing and Ventilation

As building professionals, we often ask ourselves, “what are the most critical components to a high-performance building?” Portland, Maine based architect and building science expert, Jesse Thompson, will tell you it’s air-sealing and ventilation.

On this episode of Buildings and Beyond, Jesse explains the importance of incorporating as many Passive House principles as possible when designing multifamily buildings. His focus on air-sealing and ventilation allows him to effectively maximize building performance, reduce energy use, and increase comfort. Leveraging those strategies, Jesse and his team have completed many noteworthy high-performance buildings in some of the most challenging climates.