Party Walls

Getting Ready for the 2024 IECC: The Requirements Proposed for Residential Buildings

Each state in the U.S. can adopt its own residential building code. States tend to use a specific edition of the IECC as their residential code (with the exception of California). And while 2022 is nearly over, only a few states have adopted the 2021 IECC.

However, several more states are likely to use the 2021 IECC given that under the Inflation Reduction Act, an additional $1 billion has been allocated to support jurisdictions in adopting the 2021 IECC or its zero-energy appendices.

Due to its lack of country-wide adoption, most building professionals might not be familiar with the 2021 IECC as it compares to the current codes in the states where they work. For example, there are significant increases in the minimum insulation requirements, changes to the air leakage test thresholds, and a new section, R408, with requirements to achieve “additional efficiency” through the selection of “packages.”


Designing for Equity in the Built Environment with Victoria Lanteigne

There is a lot of work ahead of us to advance equity in the built environment. As more project teams aim to impact equity, there are overarching questions that need to be answered: What design strategies will advance equity in the built environment? And how do we make equity part of building performance?

In this episode, Alex chats with Victoria Lanteigne, Principal of Research at Steven Winter Associates (SWA), about her expertise in equity, health, and inclusive design. Victoria shares how, through her research, she hopes to build on the way we measure building performance—from outcomes focused on energy and resource efficiency to those that include aspects of human experiences, such as the health, wellbeing, and sense of belonging of all building occupants.


Sustainable Buildings Are Healthy Buildings: How to Design and Maintain a Healthy Built Environment

What is a sustainable building? We know it must be an energy-efficient, high-performance building and emit as little carbon as possible to protect the environment. But a sustainable building must also be a healthy building that protects people and communities.

A building can’t be considered sustainable if it doesn’t sustain the physical and mental health of all its intended occupants and sustain the community around it.

Healthy buildings require a holistic approach that accounts for how every building material, system, and technology affects the wellbeing of occupants.

This is an important topic at SWA, so we asked our interns to explore it! They talked to our experienced building systems, sustainability, and Passive House consultants and put together this blog post as a resource on designing and maintaining a healthy built environment.

Keep reading to learn more about the following considerations for healthy buildings:

  1. Occupant comfort and productivity
  2. Optimal indoor air quality (IAQ)
  3. Ventilation system upgrades in existing buildings
  4. Healthy building certifications (Fitwel, WELL, etc.)
  5. Building operations and maintenance staff training


Top 10 Accessible Design Oversights: Hotels

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed more than 30 years ago, but architects and designers still struggle with misconceptions about complying with the accessible design and construction requirements included in the ADA.

Our accessibility team works on a wide variety of projects across the country to ensure that buildings are designed to comply with the ADA (and other regulatory and building code requirements). Each project comes with its own unique set of challenges, and it is common for even our most experienced accessibility consultants to encounter a design problem we have never seen before.

However, there are design issues that we see again and again and again; these common accessibility oversights are not difficult to avoid if they’re accounted for early enough in the design process.

In this post, we explain how to avoid the top 10 accessible design mistakes that our consultants find in…hotels.

This blog post was originally published on August 08, 2019. It was updated on October 20, 2022 to ensure that the guidance and design requirements provided are up to date. (more…)

Construction Diaries Part 2: Tips for Young Professionals

As a continuation of our last episode, Construction Diaries: Lessons Learned From SWA’s Inspection & Verification Experts, Dylan gears his questions toward young professionals – specifically, those just starting out in the field or those aspiring to work in the field as a construction inspector or verifier.

Throughout the episode, the group provides some words of wisdom, including how to handle intimidation and animosity in the field, how to maximize time spent traveling from site to site, and more. Lastly, each guest ends the episode by sharing a piece of advice that they wish they had when they started their careers.


Montgomery County, MD, Has a BEPS. What Do You Need to Do Now?

Montgomery County, MD, passed Bill 16-21, which creates a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) for buildings within the county. The law also expands benchmarking requirements within the county, requiring private and Montgomery County-owned buildings over 25,000 square feet to benchmark energy use no later than June 1, 2024, in advance of demonstrating energy performance in the future.

Montgomery County BEPS: What We Know

Montgomery County’s BEPS phases in across different groups of buildings between 2024 and 2027. Each group will have 10 years to meet the BEPS for their particular building type.

Most importantly, each building will need to demonstrate that it meets the BEPS. All but the highest-performing buildings over 25,000 square feet may need to take some action. (more…)

Construction Diaries: Lessons Learned From SWA’s Inspection & Verification Experts

One of the main drivers behind a successful building project is third-party inspection and verification. This critical, yet often overlooked, step in the construction process is designed to help buildings achieve a desired quality of performance and can also help save project teams substantial time and money along the way.

That being said, the role of an inspector or verifier is not for the faint of heart. They are often scrutinized and even blamed for “slowing progress” following a construction intervention. In reality, these dedicated professionals are actually looking out for the project’s best interest and save time in the long-run by preventing costly repairs. Without them, building performance and occupant health and comfort could be compromised.

On this episode, we invited three inspection and verification professionals from Steven Winter Associates to shed light on the challenges they face while inspecting construction projects. We learn what they look for when they are on site and how they reach solutions with project teams when standards are not being met. This engaging roundtable discussion is a great reminder of just how valuable a third-party inspector can be.


Trends in Healthcare: Accessible Controls for Window Treatments

Trends in Healthcare” is a recurring series that focuses on exciting new designs and technologies we’re seeing in healthcare projects and provides best practices on how to ensure that these latest trends are accessible to persons with disabilities. We build on the wealth of knowledge we gain from working with healthcare design teams, construction crews, and practitioners to provide practical solutions for achieving accessible healthcare environments.

Access to exterior views and natural light can influence outcomes in healthcare settings. Therefore, it is vital that window treatments available for use by patients and visitors are easily operable and accessible to people with disabilities.

As discussed in our last Trends in Healthcare post, visual access to nature is known to promote healing and improve mental and physical wellbeing. Access to natural light through windows in hospital lounges and sleeping rooms has also been linked to improved patient outcomes, including reduced anxiety, shorter length of stay, improved sleep, and lessened pain. (more…)

Practicing What We Preach: Everyday Solutions for Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

We talk a lot about sustainability at a large scale; this typically includes large building projects or grid-level issues, like energy affordability and access to renewables. But how about the small-scale? What type of sustainability initiatives are people passionate about in their everyday lives?

To answer this question, Robb assembled a group of sustainability professionals from Steven Winter Associates and asked them to share some best practices for living a more sustainable lifestyle. Each guest responds with one topic they are passionate about and explains how they turned a common challenge into a sustainable solution.

Here’s the breakdown of topics by guest:

  • Maureen Mahle – Eliminating combustion and going all-electric [0:03:25]
  • Andrea Foss – Water conservation in toilets [0:24:15]
  • Robb Aldrich – Walkability and proximity to transit [0:41:10]
  • Gayathri Vijayakumar – Duct sealing  [0:59:00]


Charlotte’s Web of Building Electrification Strategies …with Charlotte Matthews

It’s not every day we get to interview someone with such a diverse background of project experiences. Whether it was working for an architect, developer, construction manager, or tech startup, our guest for this episode has leveraged her passion and expertise as a sustainability professional to come up with some pretty impressive solutions for buildings.

On this episode, Robb and Kelly chat with Charlotte Matthews, Head of Affordable Electrification at Google. Charlotte reflects on her experience working for different firms as a sustainability professional and shares some of the challenges she faced when attempting to improve the operational efficiency of buildings. Throughout the episode, the group discusses why buildings don’t perform as expected, the importance of benchmarking and normalizing, and the impact of dynamic energy pricing.

This episode marks our first ever video podcast! Check it out on SWA’s YouTube page and let us know what you think.